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The Best Support and Practices For Your Mental Health

A psychologist shares tips on how to find and maintain the mental health support you need.

Mental health struggles can affect anyone. Even high-profile celebrities put on a brave public face to hide their struggles, and no one (not even Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade, who both died by suicide in June 2018) is immune.

But the reality is many people living with mental health issues and other invisible conditions still sweep internal despair under the rug instead of opening the curtain of their own psyche to find answers. This has largely to do with the continued stigma of seeking out mental health support. Sheryl Blum, a Montreal-based psychologist, says the reason many hesitate to get help is due to “discomfort in having to admit there’s a problem and needing outside assistance; shame; and being scared about what they’ll uncover if they come to therapy.”

If you need help, know you are not alone; research has shown that one in five Canadians experience a mental health problem in any given year. Overcoming the long-held stigma against talking to a mental health professional by seeking therapy isn’t an admission of fault—it’s an admission of the desire to be happier, less anxious and more at ease.

Here are a few tips to help you determine if seeking mental health support is right for you, and if so, the next steps you can take.

1. LOOK FOR WARNING SIGNS
Everyone experiences periods of sadness, stress, anger and confusion, but when certain feelings start to take over your life and debilitate you, those are warning signs to get help.  Blum recommends looking for significant changes in behaviour. “One of the things I do when someone first comes to see me is what I call ‘back to basics,’” says Blum. “I ask: How are you sleeping? How are you eating? Are you doing exercise? Are you seeing friends? Are you doing work? I look for the balance, and if there’s an upset in the balance, that’s where I want to start. Those are important signs to look for.”

So how do you know if there’s an imbalance before you talk to a professional? Trust your gut. “If your gut is telling you, I just don’t feel right, something is off—even if you can’t pinpoint what exactly it is—that merits watching, documenting, and noticing if it’s affecting your sleep and your appetite,” says Blum. She also recommends being mindful of an unusual drop in your functioning at school, work and social activities.

2. ENGAGE WITH THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
There have been many campaigns, like #EndtheStigma and Canada’s very own #BellLetsTalk and #OneBraveNight, that have fought head-on to bring the topic of mental illness to the forefront and provide courage to the public to take care of themselves.

Yes, social media has gotten a bad rap over the years, and there are definitely negative aspects—just as with almost everything in life, there can be cons—however, the creation of mental health initiatives through social hashtags promotes open discussions and enables individuals from all over to bring personal journeys into the public domain. This, in turn, helps normalize the conversation, lets people connect with others struggling, and can act as a medium for discovering recovery resources and support.

3. CONSIDER CHECKING IN WITH YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR FIRST
A primary care doctor can play a critical role in one’s mental health journey. “I think they are the first step,” says Blum. “If somebody comes to me and they have not gone for a physical checkup, I actually will request they do.” She further explains that many medical issues can cause psychological issues. “For example, a thyroid imbalance can cause anxiety or depression, so maybe you need something to regulate your thyroid instead of spending a year in therapy.” And unlike a psychologist, a family physician is able to prescribe and monitor medication if needed. “I think they’re hugely important so that you can rule out anything medical.”

 

mental health tips

4. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS
With over a half-dozen different professions that provide services that focus on helping a person overcome a concern (like psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed counsellors, and clinical social workers), choosing the right therapist to connect with can seem like an overwhelming hurdle to surmount. Blum describes the process much like dating; you may have to meet a few different ones before you find your perfect match.

Knowing where to look for a mental health professional is a helpful start. Blum recommends online resource Psychology Today, which has an extensive directory of therapists, treatment centres, and support groups. Visitors are able to filter their search by location, insurance, faith, sexuality, age, treatment approach and desired language. Opening up to supportive friends and family about what’s going on is also good. Not only are you allowing them to be part of your support team, but it’s also possible they can share recommendations or experts that have worked for them personally.

5. DO AN INTERVIEW
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few therapists who look promising, opt for a quick consultation call before committing. “I’ll always chat with people for 15 to 20 minutes, no charge,” says Blum. “You can get a feel for what the [therapist] is like, and it also helps me because maybe there’s a problem [somebody] tells me about that’s not my specialty. I wouldn’t want to waste their time, and then I can refer them to a colleague or somewhere else.”

6. MEET THE THERAPIST OR PSYCHOLOGIST BEFORE FIRMLY DECIDING
“You want to try the person out,” says Blum. “Somebody can look really good on paper, but I don’t think reading someone’s bio necessarily gives you a sense of what’s going on.” By going in and actually sitting with and talking to someone, you can get a better feel for whether it will work for you. Then you can ask yourself: “Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do I think that I might be able to trust them as the sessions move on? Do they appear confident? Are they reviewing things like consent? Are they telling me what to expect? Are they answering my questions? Do they have a diploma on the wall? Do I feel safe and comfortable on their couch or in their chair?”

7. TALK IT OUT
Finding the right therapist is one thing, but often an even bigger hurdle is trying to decide which type of support you should receive. It really depends on what your mental health struggles are, and “you might not know what your problem is until you go for help,” says Blum. Her advice? Just begin. If upon talking to a therapist, you both decide that there is another professional better suited to address your mental health concerns, your therapist will be able to refer you to the appropriate person.

Choosing a therapy type, from psychoanalytic therapy to behavioural and cognitive therapy, also comes down to a personal call. “You’ll know,” says Blum. “If nothing is changing or things are getting worse, then it’s the wrong approach.”

MOST IMPORTANTLY, TALK TO SOMEONE YOU CAN CONNECT WITH
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of therapy is the relationship you have with your therapist, despite the treatment approach. “There’s nothing that replaces what we call the therapeutic alliance, which is the connection between the therapist and the client,” says Blum. “That alliance is where the magic happens and is the biggest predictor of someone making an improvement.”

It’s often spoken about in hushed tones, but seeing a therapist can make a world of difference for anyone who struggles with mental health issues.

This article is featured on:Mental health in Canada
BY: NATASHA BRUNO
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Experts Urge Huge Expansion of Online Therapy For Mental Illness

A “massive and growing” mental health burden across the world can only be tackled successfully with a major expansion of online psychiatric resources such as virtual clinics and web-based psychotherapies, specialists said on Tuesday.

With resources tight and the global mental health system only serving around 10 percent of patients even now, specialists speaking at the European Congress on Psychiatry (ECP) said the web is the only option for significant extra treatment capacity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week mental disorders – in particular depression – are now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 percent since 2005, the WHO says, and a lack of support for mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many do not get the treatment they need. [L2N1H70MW]

Michael Krausz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and a leading specialist at the World Psychiatric Association, said “E-mental health” should be a major part of the answer.

“Through a proactive approach we can create an additional virtual system of care which could build capacity, improve the quality of care and make mental health care more effective,” he told the ECP.

Web-based psychological treatments such as online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) have proven effective in several conditions including depression and anxiety. Krausz said there is also potential for online CBT to be modified for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“Online assessments, web-based psychotherapies,… and online research strategies will significantly change the field,” he told the congress.

Technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence can also be used in certain therapies for anxiety, and various online games and apps are being developed to support treatment of depression in children.

In another example, scientists at King’s College London have developed an avatar-based system to help treat people with schizophrenia who hear distressing voices.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland,; Editing by Stephen Powell)         Mon Apr 3, 2017


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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.

The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

work-life-balance

 

6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.

Jul. 9, 2015     Anna Borges     BuzzFeed Staff
 


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Can We Ever Really Change Who We Are?

As a psychiatrist and novelist concerned with people’s inner conflicts, I’m often asked whether people can truly change.

The answer is: yes, and no.

Most mental health professionals agree that our deeply embedded traits and tendencies are ingrained by the time we’re adolescents. Yes, there can be some minor modifications after that, but our basic way of interacting with others is pretty much set by the time we’re 17 or 18. We interact with others in a fairly inflexible and deep-rooted manner. It’s our “way of being.”

So what about someone seeking psychotherapy because of unhappiness with relationships and how life is going? What about the person who repeats endlessly the same maladaptive patterns of behavior leading to frustration, failure, unhappiness, and even depression? Or the person whose relationships are tainted by neediness, or dependency, or the wish to dominate others; or any other traits that make for problems interacting with people?

You’ll notice these aren’t symptoms such as a phobia, or panic episodes, or an onset of a symptom causing psychic distress. Rather, these are enduring personality traits, not temporary states of being.

The goal of any psychotherapy is to help a person develop a better understanding of one’s self. It’s called insight. Hopefully, by developing an awareness of personality flaws, a person can recognize them, and nip them in the bud before they exert themselves and ruin relationships. If this can be accomplished, the person may experience less conflict or tension with other people, and lead a more fulfilling life.

For example, a man comes for counseling because he’s been fired from three different jobs. During sessions (to which he always arrives late), he realizes that as far back as elementary school, he undermined his own success by tardiness and by not completing tasks on time. In high school, he received Cs instead of As because he never submitted his work by the stated deadline. In business, he repeated the same pattern.

masks

He also learns in the psychotherapy sessions that as a child, being late or dawdling was a way to get much-coveted attention from his parents. Without realizing it, throughout his adult life, he’s been repeating this pattern with every authority figure. This has been the source of conflict, failure, firings and general unhappiness throughout his adult life.

With awareness of this tendency, he can begin working to change this maladaptive and self-destructive behavioral pattern — this deeply ingrained trait. He may not always be successful in this effort, but some positive and adaptive changes in his behavior can occur.

While his trait may not have been eradicated, his behavior and interactions with others can begin to change for the better.

I like to think of it in this simple way: Imagine personality style as a 90-degree angle. If a person can move that angle a mere three degrees, then a significant change in how one interacts with other people is surely possible. This can lead to positive changes.

So once again, can people change their basic personality patterns?

Yes, and no. While they don’t alter their basic personalities, through insight, they can change their behavior and become more skillful in their interactions.

 By Mark Rubinstein, MD 
 
Mark Rubinstein, M.D. is an award-winning novelist, physician and psychiatrist. 
He’s the author of Bedlam’s Door: True Tales of Madness and Hope,
a non-fiction memoir with actual patients’ stories that read like fiction.
For more information, please visit www.markrubinstein-author.com
 


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6 Things You Should Not Ignore In Mental Health Care

By Támara Hill, MS, NCC, LPC 

Do you have a therapist? What about a psychiatrist to prescribe medication? How do you feel about them? Mental health care has become a controversial field for many reasons but most clients and families are fearful of being mistreated, misdiagnosed,  used, misunderstood, controlled, and mistreated. It is a sad reality that fearful and uncertain clients drop out of therapy completely. Others may self-medicate or speak to and learn from family and friends who can offer suggestions or “therapy” for free. In my sessions with clients, I often remind parents and families that they have, what we can conceptualize as,  50% control over their treatment. For example, clients can decide who to see for therapy or medication management, refuse to pay for services that they are not satisfied by, file a grievance if they are not satisfied with their service, among many other things. This article will review and discuss some of the things that you should keep in mind while seeking mental health care for yourself or someone you love.

It is important that we all research what we are being told by a healthcare professional and research the type of medication being prescribed, the diagnosis, and other important factors involved in healthcare. I often provide http://www.drugs.com to my client’s and their families to research medications prescribed. But there are many other sites that can offer education and insight into mental health challenges.There are also thousands of websites, apps, and articles on everything from depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts to sleep disorders, personality disorders, and impulse control disorders. Social media provides  multiple avenues to research and confirm a diagnosis. Unfortunately, there are some clients who simply rely on the knowledge and experience of the therapist or mental health professional treating them. This is not the route to take as independence and self-knowledge will  be the most important tool when pursuing mental health services. Independence begins when you take control of your treatment. Some things to remember to kick-start the process include:

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  1. You (or those close to you) truly do know you better: It is often very disappointing to hear my client’s discuss how overly confident, arrogant, and self-assured their previous therapist or psychiatrist was while treating them. It is even more disappointing to find out that every decision that has been made in the life of a client was influenced by the healthcare professional and not the individual client or those close to the client. Many of my teen clients seek outpatient care hoping that they will once again regain their level of independence in making decisions on the type of medications they would like to try and the type of providers they hope to see. Unfortunately, there are some providers who will take the reigns and do whatever they see fit for a client without truly listening to the needs of the client and family. Don’t forget that you (and those you designate) should be making the ultimate decisions on your healthcare. Recommendations or suggestions by healthcare professionals are just that, recommendations or suggestions but they should never take your freedom to make the final decision.
  2. Professionals don’t always know how to correctly conceptualize your  illness: It is a known fact that the field of psychology is not an exact science. We have come a very long way in studying, diagnosing, and treating certain mental illnesses. We have also come a long way in identifying illness. But this does not mean that we always know what something is,  we always know how to treat  something, or we always know how to make sense out of symptoms. If you haven’t noticed already, the DSM (and its many revisions) is simply a guide to mental health professionals and an organized way to communicate with other professionals and patients/clients who are seeking care. The best way to conceptualize the DSM is to see it as a manual that guides mental health professionals in making sense out of symptoms but does not, in any way, always accurately describe an illness. This is why so many people are misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and are unable to obtain necessary services to treat symptoms. For example, depression symptoms (low level of motivation, anhedonia, depressed or sad mood, delusional thinking or other psychotic features, confusion, appetite difficulties, sleep difficulties, and suicidal thoughts) can be very similar to the negative features of schizophrenia or a personality disorder such as borderline personality disorder. It is likely that a mental health professional (or even professionals) can misdiagnose you or someone you love. This is not unheard of. Motivation to learn about, research, confirm, and even questions symptoms/diagnosis will help you or a loved one avoid confusion and obtain the services that can be helpful in recovery.
  3. Some healthcare professionals are motivated by selfish gain: It is also a known fact that some mental health professionals are in the field for personal reasons. Those personal reasons can include but are not limited to: attention, a certain level of power (through authority as someone who can make decisions on someone’s life, supervising, or making organizational changes within an agency), personal challenges with mental health (one’s own illness, a friend, or family), financial freedom (primarily for those individuals who obtain a doctorate in psychology and can teach at Colleges, write prestigious books, etc.), independence (by having one’s own business or practice) among many other reasons. It is important to add that many mental health professionals are not in the field for financial gain or any other reason than to help and make necessary changes in the field. But it is also reality that some seek internal gratification by becoming a part of the field. That being said, you should question the motivation of a mental health professional and seek someone who truly wants to help.
  4. Everyone with a shingle/degree/certification is not always informed or helpful: It is important to research your healthcare professional before you meet with them. There are all kinds of rating sites that help you determine if you should meet with or continue to do business with a mental health professional. Some ratings can be biased, while others are very helpful. Choose your information wisely and ask around your local area. Word of mouth is sometimes useful in helping you make decisions. It is also important to keep in mind that not every professional with a certification or degree can understand your needs. Finding a competent mental health professional can take time so do your best to research, evaluate, and determine what you need.
  5. Most people know themselves best: Believe it or not, many of us can be our own mental health therapist by engaging in introspection (looking within). This, of course, is not always possible due to the fact that some illnesses are very severe and require professional attention. It is important to avoid self-diagnosis because sometimes it can cause more problems than you think. However, we often know ourselves well and can typically make decisions for ourselves. That being said, it is okay to be the judge of what you need sometimes. A mental health professional will assist you (when appropriate), support you, and offer treatment but they should not make decisions for you, tell you how to think or feel, or control your life.
  6. Arrogance, complacency, popularity, favoritism does not = professionalism: It is sad but a lot of people believe that if someone is overly confident, complacent or comfortable in the work they do (i.e.,their profession), popular, and appears to be favored by reputable people that the person must be competent, friendly, and caring. Think again. We should all aim to avoid judging people based on their status alone. My experience over the past 6-7 years has been that each therapist has a different clinical style, life goals, perspectives on life, trainings, different values and morals, etc. that influences not only their personal life but their job. If you sense the slightest amount of arrogance or notice any negative traits, move on and start researching. You deserve more than that.

 


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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

Jul. 9, 2015      Anna Borges

It’s pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because…well, who doesn’t? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

Of course, everyone brings their own set of experiences to the table and some people might be living with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety that make things more complicated. But hopefully you might be able to find a few pieces of advice here that can help life feel a little easier.
Heads up: Responses were edited for length.

1. Realize that happiness doesn’t mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

“We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of ‘Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?’ then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.
The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful.”

—Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut “should” from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think “should” happen, won’t.

“When we use the word ‘should,’ it’s like this big, judgmental finger wagging at yourself. ‘I should work out more, I should be happier, I should be more grateful.’ It causes us to feel guilt and shame. It depletes our happiness. It causes us to engage in behaviors that are completely against what we want.
Instead, replace ‘should’ with ‘I would like.’ For example, ‘I’d like to lose weight, because I want to have more energy and be a role model.’ That is more motivational, it’s more based on passion rather than the fear and judgment of ourselves that prevents us from being the people that we want to be.”

—Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They’re just thoughts.

“Sadly, many people make the mistake of believing the negative things that their ‘inner voice’ tells them, often without even being aware of their right to question whether these things are accurate! When it comes to mental health care, many people still think you will need to spend years exploring your childhood or past in order to get better. That’s simply not the case nowadays. Catch, challenge, and change negative thoughts.”

—Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

“This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the ‘happier’ thoughts and realities.”

—Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

“There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. ‘They must be an emotional wreck,’ or ‘they can’t take care of their own problems,’ or ‘they must be crazy.’ That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!
It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It’s all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be.”

—Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

woman-talking-with-therapist

 

6. Don’t think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

“Be present when present, which requires dropping the guilt. Guilt has no benefits for anyone. When you are at work, stay focused, when you are home, give [it] your undivided attention. Doing your best in each place will keep you sane and feeling good about your output.”

—Samantha Ettus, work-life balance expert

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

“Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).
Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention.”

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

“People think that when work or school or family responsibilities get busy, then hanging out with your friends becomes a luxury that has to be cut. It’s often the first thing to go, even if people are still going to the gym or binge-watching whatever’s new on Netflix. In reality, making sure to spend time with your friends has enormous mental health benefits, and keeps your stress level in check. It’s a great coping mechanism and a necessity for your health that should not be cut when things get tough — on the contrary, you need it more then than ever.”

—Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, clinical psychologist

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

“A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we’ve periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we’re facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.
As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, ‘When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.’
Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term.”

—Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

“People believe that self-care is selfish, so they avoid doing things that are actually necessities. Self-love, self-care, and self-fulfillment. It’s a lot of self, because happiness starts from within. Self-love includes eliminating negative self-talk and accepting yourself, flaws and all. Self-care means setting boundaries and taking time to refill your energy. Self-fulfillment is all about living your values and having authentic relationships.”

—Rachel DeAlto, communications and relationship expert

11. Don’t forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

“Some physical things you can do to create a habit of happiness:
—Honor your circadian rhythm by waking shortly after sunrise and going to sleep a few hours after sunset. Not only do we need seven to nine hours of sleep in order to be happy, but our brain functions better by sharing the rhythm of the sun.
—Incorporate play into your life: Some easy ways to this are when you exercise, do something that makes you laugh, like a dance class, jumping on a trampoline, or playing a group sport.
—Meditate. This can be as simple as an app [like] Headspace.”

—Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., clinical psychologist

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

“The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you’re breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you’re OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, ‘I’m all right, right now.’
Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you.”

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

“Too many people neglect to make their mental health a priority! And so it gets forgotten about and put in the ‘too-hard’ or ‘too-busy.’ But just like physical health, mental health really should be considered non-negotiable because without it, we have nothing else.
If I had to limit the key ingredients to happiness and good mental health to just a few I’d say good quality relationships and connectedness, good physical health and well-being, living a life with meaning and purpose, loving oneself and others, and having a sense of hope and optimism for the future.”

—Timothy Sharp, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide for Busy People.


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The 12 Things Sigmund Freud Got Right

May 6 was Sigmund Freud’s birthday (born in 1856). It has been more or less 100 years since Freud wrote many of his groundbreaking books and papers on the human mind – exploring and theorizing about dreams, culture, childhood development, sexuality and mental health. And while some of his theories have been discredited, many major ideas have been borne out and are still relevant today, according to Discover Magazine. They are a roadmap to our minds and are still useful and accepted – in one way or another – by all educated people, who grapple with the issues of self-knowledge and human motives.

Freud tells a story that few of us want to hear: We do not know ourselves. We do not really know what motivates us or why we do what we do.

Our conscious thoughts are just the tip of our mental iceberg.

In commemoration of Mental Health Awareness month this May, the following list, compiled with help from the American Psychoanalytic Association, are 12 examples of the gifts Freud left to us.

1) The Unconcious. Nothing Comes “Out of the Blue”: Freud discovered that there are no accidents and no coincidences. Even “random-seeming” feelings, ideas, impulses, wishes, events and actions carry important, often unconscious, meanings. Anyone who has ever made a “Freudian Slip” that has left them embarrassed or baffled will attest to the importance of the unconscious meanings of the things we do and say. That time you “accidentally” left your keys at your lover’s apartment may have been an accident; but more likely, at least unconsciously, you wanted to go back for more. From dreams, to Freudian slips, to free association — delving into one’s unconscious as a means of unlocking often hidden or denied fantasies, traumas or motivations is still crucial to gaining the whole truth about human behavior.

2) Sexuality is Everyone’s Weakness-and Strength: Sex is a prime motivator and common denominator for all of us. It is not a message many want to hear. So high is our disgust for these elementary Darwinian principles – that led to human triumph over all other living things — that we spent much of our time denying the dark side of our lives. Even the most prudent, puritanical-appearing individuals struggle greatly against their sexual appetites and expression. One need only look to the many scandals that have rocked the Vatican, fundamentalist churches, politicians and celebrities alike. Freud observed this prurient struggle in men and women early on in Victorian Vienna and extrapolated easily from there.

3) A Cigar is Never Just a Cigar (except when it is): It is a commonly accepted idea in contemporary psychology that everything is determined by multiple factors and also idiosyncratic to the individual. So, nothing is so simply determined. So is it a pacifier? Okay. A penis? Perhaps. A cigar? Sure. However, few would argue that all meanings have profound implications. No controversy here. So go ahead, have a cigar.

4) Every Part of the Body is Erotic: Freud knew that human beings were sexual beings right from the start. He took his inspiration from the baby nursing at the mother’s breast to illustrate the example of more mature sexuality, saying, “No one who has seen a baby sinking back satiated from the breast and falling asleep with flushed cheeks and a blissful smile can escape the reflection that this picture persists as a prototype of the expression of sexual satisfaction later in life.” He knew, too, that sexual excitation is not restricted to genitalia, as pleasure is achieved through erotic attachment to potentially any idiosyncratically defined area of the body, and most definitely not limited to genital intercourse between a male and female. Even today many people have great difficulty accepting this idea.

5) Thought is a Roundabout Way of Wishing: Freud discovered that the mere act of thinking (wishing and fantasizing) is itself gratifying. In fact, what therapists and psychoanalysts commonly observe is that the fantasy is more mentally and physically stimulating fulfilling than the actual, real life action the fantasy is organized around. Is it any wonder that reality doesn’t measure up to the intense, vivid fantasy? Freud’s observation that humans’ attempt to fantasize things into reality is today fully accepted by neuroscientists as the basis for imagination.

Freud

6) Talking Cures: “If someone speaks, it gets lighter” From Freud’s introduction lecture XXV.

Whether an individual’s therapy is based in Freudian psychoanalysis or some other form of talk therapy, the evidence is clear that talking helps alleviate emotional symptoms, lessen anxiety and frees up the person’s mind. While medication and brief therapy can often be effective in alleviating symptoms, talk therapy uses the powerful tool of the therapeutic relationship. The whole person is involved in the treatment, not just a set of symptoms or a diagnosis, therefore deeper and more lasting change becomes possible.

7) Defense Mechanisms: The term “defense mechanism” is so much a part of our basic understanding of human behavior that we take it for granted. Yet, this is another construct developed and theorized by the Freuds (Sigmund and his daughter, Anna). According to Freud, defense mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play by the unconscious mind to manipulate, deny or distort reality in order to protect against feelings of anxiety and/or unacceptable impulses.

Among the many types of defense mechanisms coined by Freud, i.e. repression, rationalization, projection, denial is perhaps the most well known. Denial is an outright refusal to admit or recognize that something has occurred or is currently occurring. Denial can be personal-for example denying an addiction or denying a painful life experience-but it can also take the form of denying scientific, social and cultural phenomena – for example, the reality of climate change or the Holocaust.

8) Resistance to Change: Our minds and behavior patterns inherently resist change. It’s new, it’s threatening and it’s unwelcome – even when it’s a change for the good. Psychoanalysis got this ubiquitous principle of resistance right, and found tools to bring it to consciousness and defeat its stubborn ability to create obstacles to forward movement, both of individuals and groups.

9) The Past Impacts the Present: This might seem like a no-brainer to most of us in 2015, but more than 100 years ago, this was an “ahh-ha” moment for Freud. Today, many of Freud’s theories on childhood development and the effects of early life experience on later behavior contribute greatly to helping and treating patients whose lives are stuck in repetitive patterns.

10) Transference: An example of the past impacting the present is the concept of transference, another Freud construct that is widely understood and utilized in today’s psychology practices. Transference refers to very strong feelings, hopes, fantasies and fears we have in relation to the important relationships of our childhood that carry forward, unconsciously, and impact present day relationships.

11) Development: Human development continues throughout the life cycle; a successful life depends on adaptability and mastery of change as it confronts each of us. Every new stage of life presents challenges and provides the opportunity to reassess our core personal goals and values.

12) The Price of Civilization is Neurotic Discontent: Freud stated, “The inclination to aggression constitutes the greatest impediment to civilization.” Few thinkers have looked so unflinchingly at human aggression as Freud. While the guns of August still echoed and European anti-Semitism grew rife, Freud wrote Civilization and Its Discontents (1929), declaring: “Man is wolf to man. Who … will have the courage to dispute this assertion?” “Men are not gentle creatures who want to be loved,” Freud wrote in 1929, using words as relevant today as then, “but rather, (are) creatures whose instinct (is) aggressiveness.” We continue to meet the enemy…and it is us. Yet if we cannot change, what will happen to our civilization?”

The Nazi invaders in World War II banned and attacked Freud, as did the Communists afterwards. New Yorker editor David Remnick quotes a Hamas leader saying that Israel must be destroyed because “the media – it’s controlled by the Jews. Freud, a Jew, was the one who destroyed morals.”

But Freud did not like America. He thought that Americans had channeled their sexuality into an unhealthy obsession with money.

He wrote to a German friend after World War I, “Is it not sad, that we are materially dependent on these savages, who are not a better class of human beings?”

Ironically, America, in the end, turned out to be a most favorable repository of Freud’s exquisite legacy of ideas.

Posted: 05/07/2015