My earliest experience as a counselor was as a grief counselor. I continue to do a lot of grief counseling and bereavement work. And I feel honored to be able to sit with people during this profound time. Inevitably during the course of the therapy, people tell me about the things people say that are better left unsaid.Read More
In this culture, grief is a taboo. We don’t talk about death and dying and we don’t talk about grief. So I’ve noticed over my years offering therapy and grief counseling that people find grief mystifying, confusing and often frightening.
A lot of my work as a grief counselor has been to help people demystify their experiece, to help people recognize that grief is a normal response to loss, intense though it may be, and to find a way back to a balanced life. To that end, I’ve put together this Q&A on grief for anyone who needs it. Feel free to pass it on. You can also download a copy here.Read More
Since my last blog, some people have asked about the possible warning signs that a child bay be being abused or is at risk. Children and adolescents may show signs they are being sexually abused. No one sign means a child was sexually abused. But if several appear, it may be time to ask questions or seek help. It’s also important to remember that some of these signs can show up as a result of other stressors in a child’s life, including parental divorce, death of someone close, or other anxiety-provoking or traumatic events.Read More
Sexual abuse was in the news again last week. A parade of remarkably courageous women testified in the sentencing hearing of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexually abusing scores of teenage and pre-teen female athletes over decades. Nassar also worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and his victims included Olympic Gold Medalists...Tragic though it is, this is not an unusual story...With the rise of the #MeToo movement, we’re beginning to witness just how prevalent this social epidemic really is.Read More
The holiday season can be a great time to reconnect with family and friends. But the holidays can also be a stressful time for some people. This is especially true for recovering addicts, alcoholics and their families during the early days of sobriety. The office Christmas parties and family gatherings can present unique challenges for people navigating the stresses of early recovery and sobriety. So, I’m offering a Clean and Sober Holiday Recovery guide to help recovering addicts, alcoholics and the people who love them keep on track, minimize stress and enjoy the holidays.Read More
Well, it's that time of year again. The holidays are fast approaching. You probably don't need me to tell you that. Personally, I enjoy the holidays. I also know many people find them stressful. I spend a fair amount of time in therapy sessions, helping people deal with the stress and anxiety of the season. So, I've put together a list of suggestions to help you enjoy the holidays without the stress and anxiety. I first published these suggestions a couple of years ago, and several people said they found them helpful. So I thought I'd pass them along again.Read More
Domestic violence cuts across all social and economic groups. It affects married and unmarried couples, gay or lesbian couples, heterosexual couples, and where a couple is either living together or separately. One in four women and one in seven men have been victimized by domestic abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). By the time you finish reading this article, about 75 people will have experienced domestic violence in the United States.Read More
So, here’s the question: If someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, falling short of their own expectations, would you offer that person compassion? Might you offer something like, “you’re doing the best you can, it’s ok. I’m here for you.” But what if you're the one who's having a difficult passage. Can you offer yourself the same compassion and kindness you would offer to anyone else? What would that be like?Read More
Let’s start by being kind to ourselves, by remembering that we are good people. Perhaps we have been wounded somehow. That is not a referendum on our character or ourselves as human beings. The negative thoughts we have about ourselves are simply the waste byproducts of difficult or traumatic experience. We can train ourselves, train our minds to remember we are good and whole and well, even when we don’t feel that way. We can start by directing our thoughts to our wellness and affirm that we are good people.Read More
Mindfulness is the art of focusing on your experience in the present moment, without judgment — just being with what is. It's about accepting ourselves, our feelings, our experience, and knowing that we're okay. Sure, sometimes our experience is uncomfortable. But it’s possible to be still in the present moment, where everything is generally ok, even when we're uncomfortable. Mindfulness can go a long way in helping to reduce stress and heal our emotional wounds.
I’ve always been a big proponent of self-care. And this is especially important if you are close to an addict or alcoholic.
The sad truth is that there is nothing we can do to get someone else to stop using drugs or to get sober from alcohol. We can’t control people’s behavior or the choices they make. That being the case, the question is no longer, ‘what am I going to do about this person.’
The real question is: How am I going to take care of myself given the way things are.
To help with that I’ve put together a list of Ten Strategies for Self-Care for families and friends of alcoholics and addicts:Read More
In my last blog, Healthy Boundaries – Healthy Relationships, I wrote about boundaries and why they’re important. And I promised that in my next blog I would offer tips on healthy ways to set healthy boundaries. If you’re not used to it, setting boundaries can be difficult at first. Many people simply don’t know how. So, here are nine ways to set healthy boundaries:Read More
Boundaries are important. They are a vital component of healthy relationships. When a boundary is crossed, it’s important to provide feedback, saying it’s not okay. It's also helpful to say what you need. You also must be willing to enforce your boundaries in relationships – whether it’s in relationships with family members, neighbors or friends.Read More
I do a lot of work with addiction and the families of addicts. So I thought I’d write about how addiction affects families and offer more tips on self-care...So I’ve put together a list of eight strategies to stop enabling an addict or alcoholic. Only by getting out of an addict’s way can we actually help someone get clean or sober:.Read More
During a meditation retreat I attended, one of the teachers read a teaching in which the Buddha reminded us to "breathe easy."
It's easy to forget about our breathing. In fact most of us never think about it at all, unless we're having trouble with it. But if you pay attention to your breath, you may be surprised by how much it changes as your state of mind changes. You might also notice that you can change your state of mind by changing the way you breathe.Read More
Dave had been clean and sober for 17 years when his father died of alcoholism. He’d been through addiction counseling and psychotherapy. He regularly attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, stayed in touch with his AA sponsor and diligently took the necessary steps to stay sober. In fact, it had been more than ten years since Dave had felt the urge to drink or use drugs.
Dave's father was a maintenance alcoholic. He lived alone in a one-room apartment with a bed, a chair, a television and his collection of empty bottles. He drank himself to oblivion every day. Eventually, he drank himself to death.Read More
Are you making sacrifices for someone else’s happiness and not getting much in return? Are you so focused on taking care of other people that you are sacrificing your own physical, emotional or financial well-being? Are you afraid that people won’t love you unless you take care of them?
If the answer is yes to any of these, you may be codependent.Read More
My old friend Chris Primesberger posed an interesting question recently in a post on Facebook:
“Not a big deal,” Chris wrote, “but why can't we say someone died anymore? Passing is what someone does to overtake a slower driver on the freeway.”
I’ve actually pondered this question quite a bit. I’m a grief counselor, and I rarely hear people say someone has died. It’s usually that someone has “passed,” or “transitioned,” or “crossed over.” It seems that in this culture, we’ll do almost anything to avoid using the “d” word, like a name that must not be spoken.Read More
Anxiety and other symptoms that accompany trauma and PTSD come in many forms - from manageably low levels of agitation to high levels of stress, intrusive memories, panic attacks and flashbacks that can make life feel unmanageable. Mindfulness can be an effective tool in trauma treatment to help manage these difficult episodes, and help sufferers learn to stay grounded and recover more quickly.Read More
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive approach to trauma treatment. People who have been traumatized experience profound and disturbing symptoms, including anxiety, depression and disturbing and disruptive memories. The relationship between trauma and memory can be difficult to navigate. We don’t always know what triggers a traumatic memory. But for trauma survivors, such memories can feel intrusive and re-traumatizing. It can feel as if the traumatic incident is happening again.Read More