How to Begin Healing After Personal Trauma


No one is ever prepared for a tragedy. In fact, most of us go through our lives believing that tragedies happen to other people.

When people do experience a distressing or life-threatening event, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack, they often develop extreme anxiety or PTSD. Many develop ongoing problems with their personal relationships and their own self-esteem.

Everyone deals with trauma in their own way. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to respond to a tragic or terrifying event. Don’t let anyone, not even yourself, tell you that you should respond in a certain way.

Having said that, there are steps you can take to begin to heal and regain control of your life.

Accept Your Feelings

Ignoring your feelings of fear, shock, rage, terror, confusion, or guilt will only slow your recovery. In the moment, you may feel you must avoid your emotions. But, whether you accept or push them away, your feelings are real, and feeling them is necessary for healing. The good news is, even intense feelings will pass if you simply allow yourself to feel them.

Reframe Your Identity

After experiencing a traumatic event, it is common to feel helpless and out of control. To fully recover from the event, it is important that you eventually reframe your identity and challenge your feelings of helplessness. You can do this by taking action. Being proactive – even in small ways – will help you overcome feelings of fear and helplessness.

Consider volunteering for a cause that’s important to you. If that is too much of a time commitment, you could simply focus on helping a friend or neighbor. This will help you feel more powerful and in control of your environment.

Reach Out to Others

It is common for people to want to withdraw from loved ones and social activities following a tragic event, but connecting with others is necessary for recovery. Though you may not feel up to taking part in huge gatherings like you once did, a simple face to face conversation with a close friend or relative can trigger hormones that relieve stress.

You needn’t talk about the event with your loved ones, just simply spending time with them will help you feel more “normal.” Of course, if you feel like you need to talk about your feelings, reach out to those you know love and support you. You may also want to look into support groups in your local area so you can be around others who know what you are going through.

And finally, you may want to consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who is trained in helping people who have experienced a traumatic event. They can help you navigate your emotions as well as give you tools to get back on your feet.

If you have experienced a traumatic event and feel you could use some guidance on your journey back toward peace and joy, please get in touch with me. You don’t have to suffer with your burden alone.

Strategies for Talking to an Abused or Neglected Child

For many of us, we remember our childhood fondly with images of birthday parties, family holidays or playing in the park with friends. But for approximately 6 million children in the United States this year, their childhood will also include memories of abuse.

It’s impossible to understand why anyone would want to harm an innocent child, yet every year approximately 3 million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in the United States. When you’re in contact with children, whether they’re children of your own, children in your extended family or children you interact with through the course of employment or volunteer work, a child that’s been a victim of abuse may decide to divulge to you their experience of abuse or neglect.

Listen

As the child is talking to you, be silent and listen. Let them talk freely. When they pause or stop talking, your calm silence and attention may prompt them to say more.

Calm

As the child is talking, it’s important to stay calm and steady, yet caring. Don’t cry, get upset or display any negative emotion as they may feel they’re being punished or shamed. It’s natural for you to feel upset or angry, but be sure to express your anger or upset to the appropriate people.

When you speak or ask questions of the child, be aware of your tone. Ask questions for the purpose of reporting pertinent details to the proper authorities, and avoid leading questions. Open-ended questions are best.

Believe

Believe the child’s report, and let them know they are believed. Now is not the time to assess validity, determine details or do detective work. You might want to say something such as, “I believe you. It’s good that you told me.”

Reassure

Re-establish safety with the child by reassuring them that they are loved and cared for, and that they did nothing wrong and are not in trouble. Free them from self-blame by letting them know it isn’t their fault. You can say something such as, “Nothing that happened is your fault” or “You did nothing to make this happen.”

Don’t restrict the child from play or fun activities unless necessary for their safety. They may see restrictions as punishment.

Get Help

Do not alert or confront the alleged offender. Call the local police or Child Protective Services/Department of Children and Family Services in your area as soon as possible to make a report.

Above all, it’s important that the child receives support and assistance immediately. If your child or a child you know has been the victim of abuse and you need the help of a licensed professional, please contact me today to set up an appointment.

Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Dealing with grief is one of the most devastating things in life that we must unfortunately experience. The finality of losing someone we love can cause us to feel angry, anxious or depressed.

When dealing with grief, it may feel like you can’t move forward, or you don’t know how you can continue living in a world without your loved one in it.

To help deal with these intense and overwhelming emotions, turning to meditation can help. Meditation is a practice of calm and silence, where the frenetic thoughts and worries in your mind are quieted for a moment of reflection or mindfulness. Through meditation, you can begin to calm your emotions, assess your feelings, and come to a place of acceptance and peace.

A Meditation to Cope with Grief:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable space to sit where you can be alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Play some soft ambient music if you like.
  • Close your eyes and begin by taking slow, mindful and natural deep breaths: in through the nose, then slowly exhale.
  • Try to push away any thoughts or worries and concentrate only on being in this moment.
  • Think of the face of the person you’re missing, and imagine them before you, now. You can imagine that their spirit is there with you, or you can simply envision their face.
  • Express anything you’d like to them. Focus on making the conversation loving and compassionate. If you’d like, you can reimagine a memory. Put yourself back in time with your loved one and imagine experiencing everything in that moment.
  • Thank your loved one for coming to visit you. Imagine a peaceful and gentle goodbye.
  • Slowly bring your awareness back to the room. Feel the energy of yourself from the top of your head to your toes as you take slow and natural deep breaths.

Try this meditation any time you feel the need to do so.

There are apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet to help guide you through different meditations; just search for “meditation” in the App Store. You can also search YouTube for “meditations for grief” and try the guided meditations available there for free.

There is no one way to grieve; everyone grieves differently. There’s also no time table or deadline. The journey of grief is a very personal one, and the only way to get through it is to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing as they come.

If you’re having trouble moving forward after losing someone you love and would like some help, please give me a call today so we can set up an appointment.

Treat Yourself: The Importance of Putting Yourself First & Self Care

If I asked whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Probably not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefor, misdiagnosed.

Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents and other adults that is required to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy self-esteem. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm.

Symptoms of CEN

In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb outlined some of the most commonsymptoms of CEN:

  • Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
  • Feeling like something has always been missing
  • Feeling hollow
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Feeling the need to be perfect
  • Being overly-sensitive
  • Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else

That last symptom is a biggie. Have you found that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:

Take Baby Steps

You’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.

Ask Yourself What You Need

If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware you even haveneeds, so you probably won’t be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen!

Stay Healthy

You have a big and exciting journey ahead of you, one in which you will be exploring your inner world and getting to finally know yourself. This is going to require strength and energy. Be sure to avoid processed foods and opt instead for whole foods focusing on fruits and veggies.

Also, be sure to get plenty of exercise and enough rest. Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so don’t cheat your body. And avoid using the TV, computer, or your smartphone before bed.

Learn to Say No

Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.

Get Support

As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, it will be fraught with bumps in the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.

Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you on your journey.

How to Support LGBTQ Teens Coming Out

The LGBTQ movement has made some landmark strides in the past decade. The “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, health insurance discrimination has been prevented, and same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. This, in combination with greater awareness and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in society and the media, has helped LGBTQ teens find the courage to come out to their families and friends.

Though it is easier for teens to come out today than in generations past, that does not mean they do not need support, and plenty of it. Here are a few important ways you can support LGBTQ teens in coming out:

1. Encourage Authenticity

There are different levels of coming out. Some teenagers may find the courage to say the words, yet still have a hard time fully expressing themselves. If left unchecked, this muted self-expression can lead to anxiety and depression down the road. Try to find ways to let young people in your life know they can be 100% authentic around you.

2. Help Create Safe Spaces

Take a look around your local community to see if there are safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. If not, what can you do to change that? You might want to consider contacting school board officials and encourage them to adopt inclusive policies. Another way to ensure your community is safe for LGBTQ teens is to not tolerate hate speech. There are also many resources online that offer the best practices in creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.

3. Join the Fight

Though the LGBTQ movement has come a long way, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure full LGBTQ equality. You can join the fight and stay up-to-date on local, state and federal advocacy.

If you know an LGBTQ teen who needs some extra support and encouragement while coming out, you might suggest they speak with a professional counselor who can facilitate communication with family members and also offer coping tools and strategies.

Treat Yourself: The Importance of Putting Yourself First & Self Care

Most children are brought up to be kind and respectful of other people. They are taught to consider others’ feelings and help those in need. But when it comes to taking care of themselves, many people lack the ability to put their own needs first.

To some, the concept of self-care is as foreign as the language and customs of far away lands. The idea of putting their own needs first feels somehow wrong, or even selfish.

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn to treat yourself as you do others; to put yourself first in a healthy, energizing way. Here are some ways you can rewire your brain so it becomes increasingly easier to put yourself first, thereby recharging your life.

Learn to Say No

Being a caring and compassionate person is wonderful, but sacrificing yourself by saying “yes” all the time to other people’s needs will deplete your energy. Learning to set boundaries and say no is not only your right, it’s your responsibility. Try to start saying no more often, free of guilt.

Ask for Help

When you’ve taken on the role of helping others, it can feel uncomfortable asking for help when you need it. After all, you’re the one people go to when in need.

The thing to remember is, all of these people who come to you for help feel no shame or discomfort in asking for it. They need help, they ask for it, they get it. Try to do the same. As soon as you release the pressure you’ve put on yourself to handle everything alone, you will feel a tremendous weight lifted.

Get to Know Yourself!

Do you know what makes you tick? What do you like and dislike? People who are wired to neglect their own needs don’t typically know themselves very well. Knowing oneself is seen as a luxury they can’t afford.

Self-love and self-care require you get to know your SELF. Take some time to discover what you enjoy. Once you find what it is that pleases you, commit to doing it more often. Having more pleasure in your life will make you a happier person.

Taking these actions will have a tremendous impact on your life. As you get better and better at putting your needs first, you will feel happier and more empowered. You will know, deep down, that your own needs matter and you are worth the effort.

Some people have a tremendously hard time with these exercises because they have a very low self-esteem. And the longer you have lived with a low self-esteem, the harder it is to make positive changes.

In these instances, seeking the guidance of a trained therapist can be incredibly beneficial. He or she can help you work through any childhood trauma and provide tools to manage any anxiety or depression that often accompanies a low self-esteem.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

6 Great Ways to Deepen Your Relationship Bond

Love is a beautiful thing, and there’s nothing more amazing than feeling the bond you share with your partner get stronger. If you’re in a happy relationship, you can keep it that way by introducing a few new things into your relationship. Here are 6 evidence-based approaches that will help you enjoy a more fulfilling connection.

  1. Listen- Listening is a great way to boost intimacy. Make a sincere effort to always listen to your partner, especially when they’re talking about something that relates to your relationship. Listen to understand what they’re saying not just to give a response. This helps your partner feel like you value the relationship and care about them deeply.
  2. Appreciate your partner- Think about something your partner does that makes your life easier, especially something you view as their responsibility, such as paying their share of the bills. Thank them sincerely for it. This might feel weird since it’s something they should do anyway, but it makes them feel good and your relationship more satisfying. So take 5 minutes to say something like ‘I appreciate you for working hard so you can afford to help pay the bills’ and watch out for the huge smile on their face afterwards.
  3. Schedule quiet time– In today’s world it’s incredibly hard to focus on one thing. At least once a week, turn off all electronic devices and participate in an activity you both enjoy. You could watch your favorite movie, massage each other, or play a board game. This gives you time to enjoy each other and connect on a deeper level.
  4. Do random acts of kindness often- Do things that will make your partner feel important and loved often. It can be as simple as making their favorite breakfast, creating a playlist or sending them a love note via email. Research shows that these little ways of showing affection accumulate and have a bigger impact on couple happiness than infrequent grand gestures.
  5. Show empathy- Always take your partner’s feelings seriously, even when you feel like they’re irrational. When you find it difficult to empathize, take a deep breath and remind yourself that their feelings are important.
  6. Communicate healthily- Communication is key. Good communication skills help your relationship thrive. This means, asking your partner what they need, and telling them what you need as well. Check in with them regularly to ensure they’re feeling good, and learning to argue in a way that doesn’t hurt your relationship further.

If you would like to improve your relationship and strengthen the bond between you and your partner, even more, you can book a relationship counseling session with me.

5 Ways to Learn to Like Yourself Better

Quick question: Do you like yourself?

When asked this question, most people respond by saying something like, “Of course I like myself.” While their words say they like themselves, what do their actions say?

Are you someone who’s comfortable in their own skin? Are you happy with your appearance, or are you constantly comparing yourself to others, wishing you could be more like them? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A superstar, or someone who doesn’t quite live up to your own expectations?

The thing is, our self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves, right now in this moment. Sure, it’s okay to strive to become a better version of ourselves, so long as we accept this current version, flaws and all.

If you’re someone who is overly self-critical, here are 5 ways you can learn to like yourself better:

1. Enjoy Your Accomplishments

Some people are so focused on everything that’s wrong with them, they never take a look at what’s right. When you’ve done something well, it’s important that you admit this success and enjoy it.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, either. It could be that you made a really delicious lasagna. Allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying every single bite, and happily receive any compliments from those you cooked for.

2. Understand That No One is Perfect

If you’ve been comparing yourself to other people, it’s time for you to stop and realize that no one is perfect. Not the models you see on the cover of magazines, nor the actors in the movies. They have professional makeup artists and are lit perfectly Heck, most of them have been photoshopped.

Not even the so-called perfect among us are actually perfect. The sooner you can accept this fact the sooner you can relax and like who you are.

3. Have Patience with Yourself

Perhaps there are things about yourself that you would like to change. Do you want to lose weight, get healthier, learn a new language?

Often we hate ourselves for not reaching impossible goals we have set for ourselves. If there are goals you would like to reach, be realistic in setting timelines and be patient with yourself.

4. Look at Your Past with a Kind Eye

Sometimes we don’t like ourselves because of past actions and behaviors. It’s important to give yourself some slack. When you were young, you may not have always acted kindly toward loved ones or strangers. Maybe you acted selfishly more often than you care to admit. But this is a part of being young.

The best thing to do is embrace your past, warts and all, and see what you can learn from your actions and behaviors.

5. Like “Most” of Yourself

You may never like 100% of yourself, and that’s okay. Strive to like 80% or 90%. You can still live an incredibly happy life when you think ‘only’ 85% of you is awesome.

A healthy self-esteem is important to our overall well-being, but getting there can be difficult, especially if you’ve suffered from a low self-esteem your entire life. Working with a therapist can be very beneficial. Someone who is impartial and completely new to you can help you gain clarity and a new perspective on yourself and your life.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

3 Things Happy People Do Differently

Do a search right now on Amazon books on the topic of “Happiness” and you will be returned page after page of titles, all claiming to have the secret to finding it. Why our obsession with happiness? Maybe the better questions is, why does happiness seem to elude so many people?

At one time, humans were too busy running from Sabre-Tooth Tigers and searching for food to be concerned with whether or not they were happy. But, thanks to drive-thru windows, penicillin and financial security, modern man has extended his mortality and now has the time to focus on self-growth.

An expanding body of research has also suggested that happiness doesn’t just feel good, it is linked to other benefits such as better immune-system function and higher earnings. No wonder so many of us pine for it.

But what is happiness exactly? We feel happy when we are with the people we love. We feel happy when we’re watching a funny movie or eating our favorite pasta dish. But happiness seems more than just an emotion because emotions are fleeting and transient.

So, what is it then?

Happiness is a state of mind, and as such, can be intentional and strategic. This is good news because it means we can intentionally make choices that lead to a positive state of mind – AKA happiness. We can look to the people who seem naturally happy and copy what they do.

And here’s what they do:

They Understand Growth is Painful

Many people play life safe. They eat at the same restaurants, vacation at the same place every year and spend time with the same people. But sustained happiness is not about being safe and settled. It’s about discovery and growth, which require life lived outside of your comfort zone.

They Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff and they are not perfectionists. Rather, they possess a devil-may-care attitude about their performance. A review of research literature found that the happiest people, those who scored a 9 or 10 out of 10 on measures of life satisfaction, typically didn’t perform as well as moderately happy people in accomplishments such as grades, class attendance or work salaries.

This is not to say that we should all stop trying our best. But it does suggest that it’s okay to sacrifice some degree of achievement if it means we don’t have to sweat the small stuff and worry ourselves into glumness.

They Feel Their Feelings

You would think that really happy people are happy all the time, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Psychologically healthy people are those that understand the importance of letting some things roll off their backs as well as feeling their genuine emotions. Happy people don’t deny their distasteful or uncomfortable emotions, they don’t sweep them under the rug. They instead use their negative emotions as signals so they can make different choices in the future.

For instance, a happy person might feel jealous because a coworker got a promotion and they didn’t. These people don’t wallow in the feeling of jealousy. They see this emotion as a signal that they could have done something differently to achieve a more desirable outcome.

If you don’t think you are as happy as you should be, try to take more risks, don’t sweat the small stuff and feel out your feelings while looking for ways to make better choices.

If you’ve always been someone who shies away from their emotions, it may be difficult to feel out your feelings. A therapist can help you get acquainted with your emotional life and offer tools so you can navigate your emotions in the future.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

When was the last time you heard from your inner critic? You know, that voice in your head that constantly judges you, puts you down and compares you to others. The one that tells you you’re not good enough or smart enough and says things you would never dream of saying to another person.

Now you may think this inner critic, while annoying, is relatively harmless. But this is simply not the case. This inner critical voice limits you and stops you from living the life you truly desire. It hinders your emotional well-being and, if left unchecked, can even lead to depression or anxiety.

Here are some ways you can silence that inner critic and stop beating yourself up.

  1. Give it Attention

That’s right, in order to gain control over your inner critic you have to know that it exists. Most of our thinking is automatic. In other words, we don’t give our thoughts much thought. We barely notice a critical thought has passed. Give attention to your thoughts, all of them. This will help you recognize the critical voice.

Here are some emotional clues the critic has reared its ugly head: whenever you feel doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. These are almost always signs of the critic at work.

  1. Separate Yourself from Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic is like a parasite, feeding off you. You were not born with this parasite but acquired it along the way. Your inner critic hopes it can hide and blend in, and that you’ll think ITS thoughts are your own.

You have to separate yourself from this parasite. One way to do that is to give your critic a name. Have fun with this naming. You could call your inner critic anything from “Todd” to “Miss. Annoying Loudmouth.” It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you learn to separate it from your authentic self.

  1. Talk Back

In order to take the power away from your inner critic, you’ve got to give it a taste of its own medicine. As soon as you recognize your inner critic is speaking to you, tell it to shut up. Tell it that the jig is up, that you know it is a big, fat liar, and that you want it to go away. If you want to really make this voice recoil, tell it you are choosing to be kind to yourself from now on.

Self-compassion to an inner critic is like garlic to a vampire.

  1. Create a New Inner Voice

If you want to defeat an enemy, you need to have a powerful ally on your side. It’s important at this juncture to create an even more powerful inner voice. One that is on your side and acts as your BFF.

To create this new voice, start noticing the good things about yourself. No matter what that nasty critic said about you, the truth is you have fantastic traits and abilities. Start focusing on those. Yes, it will be hard at first to let yourself see you in a positive light, but the more you do it, the easier it will get.

Life is short. To have the most fulfilling one possible, we have to stop wasting time on beating ourselves up. Take these 4 steps and learn to quiet that inner critic. Your best you is waiting to be celebrated.

Some people’s inner critic is stronger than others. Sometimes the greatest ally you can have in your corner is an impartial third party, a therapist who can see you for who you really are.

If you or a loved one could use some help defeating your inner critic and would like to explore therapy, get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.