“Finding Your Parts”

Ever hear yourself say, “A part of me just wants to …. But another part of me wants to….”

Maybe you feel an inner conflict about an event or decision. Perhaps you sometimes feel as if you don’t know who is in the driver’s seat calling the shots.

Take a look at this 8 minute video to find out why you feel this way.


Mindfulness and All That Jazz: getting control of anxiety





Whether we admit it or not, we all worry.  Big things, like your job, your relationships, or missed opportunities.  Small things like your to-do list or the stupid thing you think you just said.  A certain amount of worrying is completely normal and expected, but when your worries take over, it can stop you from enjoying what’s happening in the present moment.   When worries feel overwhelming, it can become anxiety or even cause a panic attack.

Do you find that you spend most of your day in your head, thinking, analyzing, planning?    When you’re lost in worry, it’s easy to mistake your fears and worries for facts, instead of recognizing that they are just thoughts.  Feeling anxious in response to these thoughts can make your stomach tighten, your breathing faster and shallower and your heart begin to pound.  Your fingers and toes may feel tingly or numb and you may even feel lightheaded.  This pattern can interfere with your sleep, hamper your body’s ability to digest and repair, and leave you feeling strung out and exhausted.

Many people experience this at times. You are not alone.

What to do when you notice yourself getting lost in worry, having repetitive thoughts, or feeling sensations of tightness or nervousness in your body.  Many people get upset with themselves for feeling worried, anxious or panicky, and try to fight it.  This actually intensifies the anxiety and makes it worse.  Rather than telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling or trying not to feel upset, it’s important to allow yourself to feel however you are feeling.  If you can learn to tolerate some uncomfortable feelings, those feelings are more likely to settle down and pass.

Here are three simple and quick mindfulness techniques you can use to help break free from worry and away from anxiety.

1.     Grounding

One of the best ways to calm yourself down is to anchor yourself by directing your attention into the lower half of your body. Begin by focusing on your feet and how they feel inside your socks or shoes and against the ground. Wiggle your toes. Notice the sensations in your lower legs and then in your upper legs.   Do they feel heavy or light? Warm or cool? Tingly or numb? Now include the sensations of your breathing, really relaxing as you breathe out. Use this to anchor yourself, with your eyes open or closed, while sitting or while walking around.  Then breathe.

2.     Breath counting

This technique can be used in conjunction with grounding or on its own. On your next in-breath, count up to 4 as you breathe all the way in, and then on the out-breath, count up to 6 as you breathe all the way out. This technique slows down your breathing. It also forces you to release more carbon dioxide, slowing your heart rate, calming you down and restoring emotional equilibrium.  If you choose to slow your breath even more, make sure that the out-breath is at least two counts longer than the in-breath.   Aim to continue for 4 minutes or as long as you need.

3.     Finger breathing

Finger breathing is another version of breath counting. Hold one hand in front of you, palm facing towards you. With the index finger of your other hand, trace up the outside length of your thumb while you breathe in, pausing at the top of your thumb and then trace it down the other side while you breath out.  That’s one breath. Trace up the side of the next finger while you breathe in, pause at the top, and then trace down the other side of that finger while you breathe out.  Keep going, tracing along each finger as you count each breath. When you get the end of the last finger, come back up that finger and do it in reverse.       This practice gives you something visual to focus on and something to do with your hands as well as focusing on counting and your breathing. It’s very useful when there is a lot going around you and it’s hard to just close your eyes and focus inwards.


These mindfulness techniques are not new.  Try them and notice what happens.

Holiday Anxieties


Noises from Inside the Anxiety Closet: The Holidays are here!

Christmas! New Years! Hanukkah! Kwanza!

Holidays are supposed to be many things: fun, family, warmth, togetherness, celebration.  Everyone who is living a Hallmark commercial like this, raise your hands.  Not so many. Not meeting our expectations? Another let down?

The holidays can be troublesome: frustrations erupt, tempers flare, feelings of sadness and being alone in this misery.  Comparisons in our anxious minds about all the perfect picture postcard families with whom we compare ourselves. Mental energy goes into overdrive: so many “shoulds:” shopping cleaning, cooking, hosting duties.  Or the opposite – insensitive family members, family conflict, or being alone.

What Can You Do to Help Yourself?

– not just survive the season – but actually enjoy it?    Even if just a bit.  Start here: reflect on giving yourself permission to adjust and adapt according to your needs.   (If it seems impossible that you can choose to make your needs a priority, then consider it’s not just the holiday stress; it’s a life satisfaction concern.)

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If you have suffered a loss or are separated from loved ones, feeling sad and grieving is normal, to be expected. Take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force happiness.
  2. Don’t micromanage anything or anyone. You have the right to say no to anything that will take the joy out of the season for you.  Allow yourself to respectfully decline invitations for uncomfortable situations.  Create new traditions that bring you joy. Protect your own peace of mind during the season of peace. You are entitled to peace.
  3. Instead of being overwhelmed by what seems to be lacking in your life, ask yourself, “What do I have right now?” We tend to worry about the future and neglect appreciation of the moment. Reflect on the food you are eating, a good friend or family member you appreciate, and the small comforts in your life.  Shift the way you look at things.
  4. See family members for who they are, not as they “should” be. You can’t control others. You can learn to control yourself. Choose your reaction or choose to let it go.  Who says you have to spend all day with your family when you can only tolerate two hours with them.   Call a truce on your differences for today.    There are actually few families in which everyone gets along with no friction between some members.
  5. Be realistic. Families do change and do grow. Traditions and rituals need to accommodate those changes. Hold on to the ones that make sense for you, and consider creating new ones. Find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Bring the family together to celebrate at a less intense and stressful time.
  6. Reach out. Focus on what you can do and who you know that would appreciate your attention. Volunteering your time to help others is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships

More Kindness Please!



Bullies are a hot topic these days. Cyber bullies! School bullies! Political bullies! We have all known one, seen one, maybe been on the receiving end of one. Images pop easily into our minds. But the most insidious and lethal bully of all – the one that lives in your head.

Stop being so mean to yourself!

Come on now. You know how you talk to yourself when no one is listening or even when they are.  I can’t believe I did that again. I never get it right. What a slacker I am. I’m so fat I’m disgusting. I’m a horrible mother/father/son/friend! Every day is a bad hair day for me.

Those brains, our brains, just go on and on, punishing us, insulting us, taunting us. The judgements and put-downs that we would never do to someone we love or respect.  Our brains sometimes hijack our good mood, sometimes lay traps, and often ambush us.

What’s wrong with us and what to do about it.

It’s the misguided child of survival. This negativity is the descendant, the great-great-great-great grandchild, of a life and death survival strategy. Who survived when we lived in caves and hunted the bison and gathered the berries? Not the jolly carefree fellow who never looked over his shoulder to see the approaching saber-tooth tiger. Not the mother who disregarded the snake among the berries. Vigilance and hyperawareness allowed our cave moms and cave dads to see another sunrise. Their legacy is our internal dialogue and search for possible pitfalls.

But how can we be happy, or even just ok, in present time when our eyes are always focused on the shadows and never the sunshine?  It is time to learn refocusing, self-soothing. Start today. Start practicing.

Self-Soothing Activities: get out of your head and into your senses. Also, this means putting down your phone, looking up from your computer, turning off the TV to be present with these.

  • Touch – rub your fingers over your pet’s fur or a soft blanket or a hard rock, squeeze a stress ball, soak your feet in warm water, rub on scented lotion. Drum with wooden spoons. Massage the back of your neck. Splash cold water on your face. Take a hot shower.
  • Smell – a ripe piece of fruit, bubblegum, your cup of coffee, a scented candle, a warm piece of bread, vanilla.
  • Listen – music from your teen years, birds singing, the rhythm of a fan, a book on tape.
  • Taste – a piece of chocolate, a salty chip, a piece of gum, a cup of spicy hot tea
  • Experience – make your favorite meal, reach out to a caring friend, watch a sunset, perform an act of kindness for someone, organize your closet or a drawer, notice the intake of a full, deep breath and your slow exhale.

Some may be best soothed by focusing on a specific sense.  Some people are more visual than others and some are more auditory. Experiment with the different senses to see what works best for you. You may want to create a self-soothing box full of options that you know are effective for you. Put a list of your self-soothing activities in the box along with some of the objects you might need.

And start practicing kindness with yourself. Send the inner bully to a time-out.

Finally, remember: Every day is a new opportunity to start anew. Your past does not define you. Your future cannot hurt you. Only your present matters. Take a moment, and feel it.





Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped over an estimated two million people of all ages relive many types of psychological distress.”

Cited as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs and Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The validity and reliability of EMDR has been established by rigorous research.

There are now nineteen controlled studies into EMDR making it the most thoroughly researched method used in the treatment of  trauma.                                                                    

EMDR was developed 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro to treat major trauma, but it has since been used effectively to treat:

  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • depression
  • phobias
  • eating disorders
  • complicated grief
  • addictions
  • self-esteem and performance anxiety

Most people feel significant relief of distressing feelings more quickly than with traditional psychotherapies.  EMDR can be a brief focused treatment or part of a longer therapy program.

Why it’s ok to enjoy life when things get hard

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You lost your job and the bills are overwhelming, your partner just received a scary diagnosis from the doctor, your child is in big trouble with a capital T, again!  There is a dark cloud hovering over you.  Your mind seems stuck on a track that screams “Disaster,” and it is impossible to understand how people around you are fussing about their neighbor’s dog, their boss’s irritating habit, or how they are too busy to get an oil change. 

The idea that life will return to normal, that you might actually find something funny or be able to relax at a movie seems preposterous. 

Your mind says, “I must find a job today; my electricity is going to be turned off; my partner might die; the medical bills are going to send us into bankruptcy; how do I fix my child.”  

It may feel wrong to suggest that this is exactly the time when you must reach for normalcy, to indulge in pleasure, to laugh out loud. But human BEINGS (not human DOINGS) cannot thrive on an unending diet of non-stop thinking/searching/fixing a big problem. Exhaustion sets in, mental and physical, hitting-the-brick-wall-melt-into-a-little-puddle can’t sleep or get out of bed type of exhaustion. 

Your search for financial stability, for parental peace of mind, for the calm in the storm is not reached without the inner strength that comes from nurturing the body and soul.

Do something fun, recharge the battery. Go to a movie and lose yourself. Play your favorite music. Dance to it. Do something frivolous in the world with your tribe. Play like a child or with a child.  Give yourself something to think about besides your sad, worried feelings. 

When you do something out in the world, with other people, even when you don’t want to, you remember there is a world of possibility.

Pills not helping your pain?


I am a trained EMDR therapist (member of EMDRIA, the world governing body for EMDR practitioners) and happy to explain to you how this therapy can help you with many different types of problems.

EMDR has been recognized as a scientifically effective and evidence-based treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of health and Human Services and many more.

What Can EMDR Do for You: Managing Your Pain Better with EMDR

The impact of EMDR on emotional distress of all varieties has been well researched.  It can help you if you are suffering from trauma, anxiety, depression, phobias and so on. All of this has been documented in the literature for decades now.  But not many people are aware that EMDR has been successfully shown to help people trying to cope with chronic or recurring pain. How can a non-medical therapeutic technique relieve a physical sensation?!

Physicians treat pain in a variety of ways: oral medications, surgery, AND with alternative procedures such as biofeedback, hypnosis, massage therapy, and acupuncture.

What may not be widely known is that pain is something felt and perceived in the brain.

Consider, suppose you stub your toe on a chair or whack your elbow on a table. Ouch! The part of your toe or your elbow that is hurt has nerve endings in it that detect all sorts of things both bad and good, such as heat, cold, a light breeze on your skin, pressure from a touch, and big time shocks such as ramming furniture with a body part.

But does a patient knocked out by medicine for surgery feel pain? Tissue is definitely being damaged, but the patient feels nothing. Because, unless your brain is able to process information from the tissues, there is no pain.  It is a conscious experience. We become aware of pain by messages sent from our brain. They tell us where the pain is located and begin the process of attaching meaning to the pain such as “will I be able to work” “is this return of the cancer?”  And you are motivated to do something: grab some ice, put a dressing on the injury, or call 911 because of these messages.

However, the brain sometimes gets tricked and thinks the body is in danger even when it isn’t. While working in a hospital I witnessed this with amputees. A painful limb may have been removed years ago, but pain is still being felt where the leg or arm used to be.

Or sometimes, we become more sensitive to the same amount of pain, like when you wear a path going back and forth to your neighbor’s house. The more times we feel a certain type of pain, the easier it is to feel it, like a groove being worn into the fabric of your brain.

You may have heard the phrase that neurons that fire together wire together.  This is like when your mouth begins to water when you see a picture of your favorite food. No food is present, no delicious aroma, no option to put it in your mouth, but your body reacts as if all that is possible.

Pain can be caused in the same way. Maybe your work has triggered pain in the past, by lifting boxes or being hunched over a keyboard. At some point, your brain associates work with pain so that you might start to feel pain just by arriving at work or thinking about going to work. Job dissatisfaction is a huge predictor of back pain. Plus, strong emotions such as anger and anxiety will reduce pain tolerance. How much pain you can bear goes down.

What does this have to do with EMDR? It is now generally accepted that chronic pain is caused by a combination of physical and psychological factors and that the best approach is multidisciplinary and includes psychological treatment (Fordyce, 1976; Gatchel & Turk, 1996; Turk & Meichenbaum, 1989).  Research over the past 20 years indicates an approach combining traditional treatment with EMDR can be very effective at improving quality of life and decreasing perception of pain. (J Clin Psychol. 2002 Dec;58(12):1505-20.)

Want to talk about whether you are a good candidate for this? Call for a free 15-minute phone consult.




Taking the Long View: Psychotherapy


My daughter asked me what I was thinking about as we both sat at the kitchen table on a Sunday afternoon. I stared out the window. “Taking the long view” I said.

“And what does that mean?” she rightfully asked.

A year ago this month, I was contemplating my mortality after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Same month, a year later, I am struggling with a mobility problem after an area rug ambushed me, leaving me with a swollen, painful, non-functioning foot. Obviously a much better problem to have than cancer, yes?!

Except that my new independent psychotherapy practice is just getting started. This ambulatory issue forced me to cancel 7 appointments last week. Does that suggest a mental picture of money blowing out the window? Yes, but, more importantly, it’s a pothole on my road to success. Success involves building relationships and trust with clients and with my referral sources. At least that is how I initially considered it.

But then I considered where I want my practice to be in three years.   I am not here to scoop up every possible client looking for a therapy home. Rethinking my current situation, I realized this is about crafting and shaping a practice which works for me, because only then can I provide the quality service which every client seeking help deserves.

Therapy is not or should not be built on a fast-food-drive-through model. MacDonald’s may have a bit of everything to meet the flavor profiles of the masses, but where is their area of expertise? Hamburgers and fries. Every therapist does not have expertise with every client population and each type of issue.

Some therapists love working with kids. Some trained specifically to work with couples. Some, having soooo much patience, work with substance abuse. You should really find those professionals for those specific issues. I’ll help you find them! But I don’t have the background or the training to provide best service for each and every issue. And I won’t pretend – or try to learn on the job – just to add another client to my caseload.

I know where I want to be in three years. That’s taking the long view. Where are you going to be in 2019?

Where’s My Magic Wand?!

therapy is


What comes to mind when you hear  someone is told, “go get professional help” or if your doctor suggests that “you should see someone”?  Maybe you have a picture in your head, born from a TV show or a movie of what therapy is.  The professional sits behind a desk. The client lays on a couch (if it’s an old movie) or squirms in a chair. Usually, somewhere along the way, magic happens. The client is fixed. Must be that Magic Wand that the professional keeps in his big desk drawer.

If you are ready to make that phone call and “see someone,” it’s only because all the ways you have tried to make yourself feel better have failed, or failed to make your life go the way it is supposed to, and you have had it with feeling so miserable.

So you pull out the insurance card and wait for the appearance of the Magic Wand which will fix you or fix that person in your life who is causing you trouble. Sad to say that Amazon.com is all out of Magic Wands and graduate school does not teach any incantations.

Our job is not to fix people; it is to support people who want to heal by using the best tools to find their strengths.  Having friends to talk to is so important, but a therapist is trained to offer more than just good advice. Life gets messy and complicated and a co-pilot may be in order to navigate through and beyond the current situation.  Therapy is not about blaming parents or staying stuck in the past. It’s about an increasing awareness of how these previous life circumstances impact you right now and with regard to the issue at hand.

Therapy is often about learning to cope better with all the usual stuff: relationship frustration, losses, anger, uncertainty over the future, transitioning from one situation to another, etc.    Therapy can help you navigate these rocks in the road more smoothly and set you up for success on the other side of it.

It is about building trust and safety by talking to someone else about your problems, someone who provides unconditional positive regard and support.  You come to see that a.) you aren’t insane b.) lots of other people share your issues and c.) things can be better. One of the things that a good therapist can offer is a way of changing the way you see a problem. Sometimes, doing that will allow you to find other solutions to a problem you previously thought was insurmountable.