Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I recommend filling this worksheet out for any single person. Thinking about these things ahead of time will protect you from the hurt and pain that can come from being in a bad relationship. Who you choose to date matters. Take some time to prepare and protect yourself. 







Tuesday, October 15, 2013

5 Ways to Shape Behavior

Shaping Procedures:
Shaping means you are gradually building up to your end goal behavior. There are many methods of doing that. Here are some examples.

 Differential Reinforcement of Higher Rates of Behavior (DRH) 
With DRH you pick a target behavior to increase. You are reinforcing the increase in this positive target behavior. The goal is this behavior will be happening so often that there is not time for the child to do the undesirable behavior. You should see an increase in the positive behavior and at the same time a decrease in the negative behavior.

 Differential Reinforcement of Lower Rates of Behavior (DRL) 
With DRL you are rewarding a child when his negative target behavior is happening less often.
For example:
Week 1: "You pooped your pants 3 times this week instead of 5? Great job. Here is a candy bar."
Week 2: "You pooped your pants 2 times this week instead of 3? Great job. Here is a candy bar."

Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior (DRO) 
With DRO reinforcement is given only if the target behavior does not happen during a certain period of time.
Ex: "You did not poop your pants at school?" Great job. Here is a candy bar."

 Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior (DRA) 
With DRA reinforcement is given when a child uses a more appropriate behavior in place of the target negative behavior.
Ex: A child asks nicely for food instead of demanding mom to get him the food for him.

 Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI) 
With DRI you are reinforcing when a child does a positive behavior that is incompatible with the target negative behavior.
Ex: If you are trying to decrease running the child gets reinforced when they are sitting, coloring, or reading a book. Non compatible behaviors get reinforced.

Choices and Chains

We always have a choice. Most of us, including me forget that choice. We feel that we are in chains to certain things. Just yesterday I threw out some chocolate because I felt like I didn't have a choice but to eat it if it was in my house. It was as if I didn't realize despite my desire (albeit strong) I could still say no.

Admit it. You are chained by something too. It might be chocolate. It might be caffeine. It might be something more serious. Maybe your chains are an abusive relationship that you feel you cannot get out of. Maybe your chains are drugs and alcohol. Maybe your chain is you just cannot help being a jerk.

Well there are three truths here.
1. You can ALWAY choose.
2. It might be REALLY difficult.
3. No matter how difficult you ARE CAPABLE of that change.

There comes a point when you have to accept that you are not the victim and it's time to make a choice. Are you going to stay in this relationship and endure the abuse or are you going to leave. Are you scared for your safety? Are you afraid you cannot make it on your own? You still have a choice. The human mind and body is capable of incredible feats when determined.


Once you have accepted that you are determined to do something at ALL costs you can succeed. Every time you struggle or fail, you adapt. You get help. You make plans. You figure out how to protect yourself from the temptation.

You are NEVER stuck. There is ALWAYS a way.

You might be thinking, "You don't know my situation." My response to that is keep looking for ideas! If you feel stuck and cannot think of any other way to get out seek help! There is always a way if you look hard enough. I am not promising it will be easy. You might feel discourage, depressed or even suicidal as you go through it, but it's worth the fight. You will never regret the battle unless you give up.


How do you think hardcore drug addicts feel when they decide to give up their drug of choice. The withdrawal has severe side effects. Yet with determination and support many people have recovered from EXTREMELY DIFFICULT situations. You can too. No matter what your situation is, your can choose.

What kind of choice do you need to make today?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Susie Story: Filling the Depression Void

Are you depressed, anxious or angry? Are you trying over and over again to fill it will superficial things? Let me tell you a typical story.

Susie was depressed and anxious about her future. She was also uncomfortable with feeling this way. To mask her feelings she would eat chocolate and ice cream. In the moment this made her feel ok and made her not think about her stress, but soon she would feel guilty because she wants to be thin and this is not helping her goal. So feeling depressed again about the poor decision she just made, she decided to go shopping. She bought a few items that she felt good about and again felt ok. Hours later the anxiety and depression came back. It is now the evening and she decides that she wants a break from her emotions and wants to just relax. Susie then enjoys several glasses of wine. Wine of course is a depressant and caused a hang over for her. The next day she woke up feeling even worse.

At this point Susie is feeling discouraged and down. She is starting to lose motivation because she feels like she has no control over her emotions. Susie spends the day doing nothing then feels guilty about how little she accomplished. The next day Susie feels even worse but realizes she needs to pump herself up because she works on Monday. So Susie gets the ice cream out. On the cycle goals.

Many of us follow this same cycle! It's depression, smothering and did I mention it makes you feel like crap.

Do this instead:

1. Pray or journal about your stress.
This can help you identify your stress and even possibility come up with a solution.

2. Change your thoughts about your stress.
Is it really the end of the world? Do you have other good things to focus on. Challenge your thinking!

3. Talk to someone.
Sometimes emotions are so strong that you cannot see clearly enough to change your thoughts to something more healthy. Find a healthy person to talk about your stress with. Be open to changing your perspective.

4. Take action to make your life better.
Don't just sit around feeling bad about your situation. Do something to make it better. No matter how bad a situation is, there is always something you can do to improve it.

5. Do things that line up with your values.
Put positive things into your life so you have things to feel good about. These positive things can distract you from your emotions or help you to realize your situation isn't as bad as you thought.

Moral of the story: Don't cover your emotions up. Do something about them.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Social and Self Help Adult Checklist

This list is meant to be used as a check list to help people identify areas needed for adult independence.


  • Pick out socially appropriate clothes
  • Age appropriate interests
  • Shows up places on time / reliable
  • Understands social consequences of being a poor friend
  • Can define and recognize good and bad friends
  • Can set personal boundaries
  • Has refusal skills to peer pressure
  • Uses good listening skills
  • Able to have a full conversation back and forth
  • Displays social flexibility 
  • Recognize safe and unsafe places/people
  • Able to read people's non verbal cues
  • Understanding of appropriate behavior in certain environments (church vs bar scene)
  • Has appropriate conflict resolution skills
  • Can take ownership in actions good or bad
  • Has an appropriate self esteem
  • Understands when to give advice and when it will not be received well
  • Can recognize the line between being too needy and too distant as a friend

Self Help

  • Brush teeth
  • Comb Hair
  • Shower (all steps included in showering)
  • Toilet needs 
  • Pick out weather appropriate clothes
  • Able to drive or navigate bus system 
  • If able to drive, have understanding of what to do if in a car accident or if broken down, how to get gas, how to tell if something is wrong with the car and insurance coverage.
  • Able to cook basic meals
  • Able to go grocery shopping
  • Able to manage money and budget
  • Able to pay bills on time
  • Able to treat minor aches and pains
  • Able to force self to do things when not in the mood
  • Able to prioritize responsible choices vs wants
  • Can set appropriate personal goals for self
  • Time management skills
  • Understanding of appropriate work behavior
  • Has appropriate emotional management skills
  • Understanding of what is against the law
  • Keeps space mold free and excessive clutter free
  • Is able to identify what to throw away and what to keep
  • Understands how long food can be kept before it is unsafe

If you or some one you love struggle with some of the above listed items contact a therapist. These items can all be taught. Each of them are important for fully functioning in society. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Basic Summary of Sex Crimes

Harassment is:
Any sexual comment or action that makes another person uncomfortable. The comment or action does not need to be directed at that person.
Consequences for Sexual Harassment:
Job loss
Jail time
Restricted from certain places (kicked out of a bar, restaurant, library etc… where harassment occurred)

Statutory Rape is:
Having sexual intercourse or sexual contact with someone who is not of the age of consent. Legal age of consent in Wisconsin for sexual intercourse is 18. Legal age of consent for sexual contact is 16. Even if both parties are willing to have sex it is still a criminal offense.
Consequences for Statutory Rape:
Jail Time
Listed as a Sex Offender

Date Rape is:
The use of a drug like GHB or Rophinol to have sex. It is considered 2nd degree assault and is a felony.
Consequences for Date Rape:
Location Restriction
Listed as a Sex Offender

Rape is:
The use of force or manipulation to have sex or having sex without the consent of the sexual partner.
Consequences of Rape:
Location Restriction
Listed as a Sex Offender

Consent is:
Freely given permission to engage in sexual activity and the person must be of legal age to give that permission. Extra caution must be used when there is a power imbalance such as age, or employer/employee.
Consent can end at any point in sexual activity.

Sexual activity is only ok when consent is given for each act that takes place without the influence of manipulation, force or blackmail.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Team Building Activities for Adults or Teens

Create Community and Increase Confidence:
Affirmations game: Everyone writes their name on a piece of paper and you pass it to the right. Each person writes one nice/positive thing about each other person. No negative comments aloud. You keep passing the pieces of paper around the room until it gets back to the original person. 

Get to Know You 
- helps people feel more comfortable and familiar with each other:
2 truths and a Lie: Tell the group that each person will introduce him- or herself by stating two truths about their life and one lie. The rest of the participants will guess which statement is the lie by a holding up a piece of paper that says lie or truth. 

"I have never" Have everyone sit in a circle around the room. Start with one person and then go in order around the circle over and over until the game is over with only one person left with one or more tokens. Have each person, when it is their turn, say something they have never done (or had done to them), but which they think or know others in the circle have. All those in the circle who have done what the person names must put one token in the center of the circle. Once someone turns in their last token they are out of the game.

-Help people communicate and listen better:
Pair up with someone you do not talk to a lot. Sit back to back. One person is handed a picture and has to describe it to the other person without them seeing it. The other person draws what is described. The goal is to get the drawing as close to the original as possible. 

One person gives a 30/60 sec speech about anything or you can pick a topic. They have to talk non stop for 30/60 seconds. The next person in line has to speak for 30/60 seconds describe what they just said. Only talk about positive things. Go around the room until everyone has had a turn. The goal in this is to develop good listening skills. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dealing with Trauma

The Betrayal Bond 
Any therapist or person who has gone through any kind of trauma should read this book. This book walks you through how deal with your trauma, common responses to trauma, and gives you assessments to help identify your particular type of trauma. The author writes in an engaging way that isn't way over people's heads. I would find it hard to believe some one reading this book and not benefiting from it in some way. The book is educational and interactive. It includes stories as well to help you understand the concepts. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anger Management

If you or someone you love has an anger management issue there are a few pieces of information you need to understand. 
1. It is hard to change so you need to be dedicated and serious about making this change. 
2. No one can do it for you. 

Lets look what needs to happen to manage anger. 

1. You need to be able to identify your triggers. If you know what sets you off you can plan for it and prevent it. Prevention is easier that responding afterwards. 

2. You need to know how to calm yourself down once you get there. 
Some techniques include but are not limited to:

·         Deep breathing
Deep breathing is often the keep to calming down and refocusing. Taking a few deep breaths can calm your nerves enough to manage your emotions. 
  Going to a “happy place”
When breathing and counting isn't enough sometimes thinking of a peaceful place will do the trick to calm you down. 
·         Mantras
Mantras can be helpful when you need to convince yourself it is worth it to say no to your anger. Telling yourself things like "I don't want to hurt people.", "I want to stay out of jail.", or "I don't want to lose this relationship." can help you refocus and regain the strength to tell yourself no.  
·         Leaving the scene until you are calm.
Sometimes we just need to walk away and calm down before it escalates into something bad. This has been the key for many people in managing their anger. 
·         Anger out peace in breathing
Take a deep breath in a picture inhaling peace into your body and then take a deep breath out imagining breathing the anger out as if it is leaving your body. This can help you calm and make you feel like you have the strength to manage this. 
·         Prayer
Praying "God help me please!" is often enough to get through your outrage. People often report their faith or belief in a high power is what got them through difficult life changes. 
·         Distraction
When we obsess about what is making us angry it often grows. Focusing on something else will help us to focus that energy else where so it does not grow. 

      3. Remember the rules of conflict resolution. 
       Stick to the problem at hand. 
       Get on the same side of the argument. Work toward a solution.
       Don't be a mind reader and don't expect your partner to be either. 
       Do not move on until you have resolved the conflict. 
       Avoid name calling or blaming. 
       Win the relationship not the argument.
       Apologize for something at the end of an argument if need be. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Conflict Resolution Rules (updated)

  • Stick to the problem at hand. Stay focused on the current problem, and don't accuse your loved one of “always" or "never" behaving a certain way. Putting your partner on the defensive is never productive.

  • Get on the same side. Rather than attempting to resolve an issue "my way" or "your way," work toward a solution that represents "our way." Working on a new shared solution is more productive than trying to get your significant other do it your way.

  • Don't be a mind reader and don’t expect your partner to be. Discuss your beliefs and expectations openly. Don't try to interpret your spouse's thoughts or motives from his or her behavior; instead, ask direct questions. Likewise, don't expect your spouse to know what you are thinking. This alone will avoid a lot of fights.

  • Do not move on until you resolve your conflict. Settling arguments takes hard work and can also take time. It is okay to take a break to calm your emotions down and think, but if you haven't reached an agreement by bedtime, put the matter aside with the understanding that you will resume discussion the next day. Don't leave yourself (or your relationship) vulnerable.

  • Avoid name calling or blaming. As you work to resolve conflict, it's okay to talk about circumstances and behavior. However, attacking your partner's personality or character is never acceptable. Use statements like:  “I feel _______ when ________ happens. Could we work together to find a way to solve that?”  If you make it about you, your partner will feel less defensive and more likely to work with you to find a solution.

  • Win the relationship not the argument.  When you are motivated to win the relationship rather than the argument you are much more likely to resolve the argument and not do any damage to the relationship.  

  • Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs. Be quick to forgive, quick to admit your own mistakes, and quick to move on from the conflict. Do not bring up old conflicts or mistakes your spouse has made. Let the past be the past and work to make a better future.

  • Keep your emotions under control. Take a break from the argument if your emotions are at a high intensity. Continue resolving the conflict when you can be calm.  When emotions are too high it is very difficult to solve problems rationally and you are likely to do something you will regret.

  • Each partner should apologize for something. No fight is just one person's fault. There is always something to say sorry for and this can have a very healing effect on your relationship. Use this format to say sorry and MEAN THE WORDS YOU SAY:
    • "I am sorry for_____________. It was wrong and I will try not to do it again."  When saying sorry never use "but" or any excuse.  
      • Ex: "I'm sorry I didn't communicate my hurt feelings in a more respectful way. It was wrong. I will try to do better next time." 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How do you talk to yourself?

Transforming Negative Self Talk With Positive Affirmation

Posted on Mar 14, 2012
from http://refugecenter.org/2012/03/transforming-negative-self-talk-with-positive-affirmation/

Self talk is the internal dialogue within the subconscious mind of an individual. Self talk is the manifestation of our thoughts and beliefs. This habit starts right from the childhood and impacts our various life experiences. Research reveals that 70% of our self talk is negative or self-critical. Negative self talk breeds negative responses and behavior. However, negative self talk habits can be altered for positive changes in life. Positive affirmations are the extraordinary tools to counteract negative beliefs, thoughts and self talk.
A conscious effort must be made to relinquish negative self talk habits and positive statements provide the revitalizing energy. Positive affirmations are the personal short statements that help to derive desired outcomes. They are quintessentially the positive self talks. Our subconscious mind does not recognize the difference between positive and negative thoughts. Thus it can be re-programmed to eliminate negative or self limiting thoughts through feeds of positive statements. Below is a list of positive affirmations that will help you get started. We also encourage you to create your own to be specific to your needs.
•    I love myself for who I am
•    Fear is only a feeling; it cannot hold me back
•    I know that I can master anything
•    Today I am willing to fail in order to succeed
•    I have the strength to make my dreams come true
•    I trust in myself
•    I am proud of myself for even daring to try
•    Today I put my full trust in my inner guidance
•    I grow in strength with every forward step I take
•    I release my hesitation and make room for victory
•    I can do anything I set my mind to do
•    I like myself better each day
•    I am capable and strong
•    I am a winner
•    I am a deserving human being
•    I am able to easily handle any problem I face
Healthy Body
•    I enjoy exercising more each day
•    I choose to eat healthy food
•    Each day I move closer to my ideal weight
•    I deserve a trim, beautiful, fit & healthy body
•    Today I love my body fully, deeply and joyfully
•    My body has its own wisdom and I trust that wisdom completely
•    My body is simply a projection of my beliefs about myself
•    I am growing more beautiful and luminous every day
•    I choose to see the divine perfection in every cell of my body
•    As I love myself, I allow others to love me too
•    Flaws are transformed by love and acceptance
•    Today I choose to honor my beauty, my strength and my uniqueness
•    I love the way I feel when I take good care of myself
•    Today my own well-being is my top priority
•    I state my feelings with confidence
•    I am always treated with consideration and respect
•    I believe in and trust myself
•    I choose to respond to criticism in a constructive way
•    I see criticism as information that empowers me
•    I always feel safe and secure on the inside
•    I graciously accept compliments from others
•    I express my feelings and opinions honestly and openly
•    I have a powerful positive mental attitude
•    I allow others to make their own choices
•    Others may influence my decisions, but the final choice is mine
•    I feel powerful and confident
•    I know that my potential is unlimited
•    My assertiveness enriches my relationships
•    I feel comfortable with the decisions I make
•    My feelings of self esteem are strong
•    My feelings of self worth are strong
•    I have high self confidence
•    I realize I have the right to change my mind
•    I easily achieve my goals
•    I have absolute faith in my success
•    Success in mine to be enjoyed
•    I am successful in all that I do
•    I have everything I need to succeed
•    I am living my dream
•    I am experiencing fantastic success
•    Today I open my mind to the endless opportunities surrounding me.
•    I boldly act on great opportunities when I see them.
•    My intuition leads me to the most lucrative opportunities.
•    An opportunity is simply a possibility until I act on it.
•    Today I see each moment as a new opportunity to express my greatness.
•    I expand my awareness of the hidden potential in each experience.
•    Each decision I make creates new opportunities.
•    I am filled with light, love and peace
•    I treat myself with kindness and respect
•    I give myself permission to shine
•    I honor the best parts of myself and share them with others
•    I am proud of all I have accomplished
•    Today I give myself permission to be greater than my fears
•    I am my own best friend and cheerleader
•    I have many qualities, traits and talents that make me unique
•    I am a valuable human being
•    I love myself just the way I am
•    I love and forgive myself for any past mistakes
•    I look in the mirror and I love what I see
•    I recognize my many strengths

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Defense Mechanisms

Many of us have heard of defense mechanism but aren't really sure what they are or how they apply. At times they can be useful to protect us but often we over compensate and use them to the point of pushing people away. 
  • Denial: claiming or believing that what is true is actually false.
    • At times this can take the form of acting like you just don't know what someone is talking about or claim confusion. Really what is going on underneath the surface is that something triggered an anxiety response and instead of facing it you dodged it with some form of denial. 
  • Displacement: redirecting emotions to a replacement target.
    • An example of displacement is when you have a bad day and come home and kick the dog. Unfortunately this often takes the form of taking your stress out on your loved ones. This particular defense mechanism breaks up many marriages. It is very important to be aware if you are at risk of doing this so you can be proactive about not unintentionally pushing people away. 
  • Intellectualization: taking an cognitive viewpoint.
    • Some people using this to block their emotions. They keep things theoretical or they over analyze something just so they can keep it "heady" instead of emotional. It is a way to protect themselves from being vulnerable. This often hurts relationships because these people don't show their emotions often and it can make their partners feel unconnected. 
  • Projection: attributing your feelings to others.
    • When people use projection it is typically because they are not at peace with what they are feeling. This is done on an unconscious level until you start consciously looking for it. An example of this could be having thoughts of an affairs and then accusing your spouse of cheating on you. 
  • Rationalization: creating false but credible justifications for our actions.
    • Rationalization is a very powerful and dangerous defense mechanism. Once we justify something, we give ourselves permission do it no matter how bad it is. "It's ok for me to be mean because he's been mean to me all week." Some people are pros at rationalizing their actions. This can be very dangerous. 
  • Reaction Formation: overacting in the opposite way to the fear.
    • This is a way we try to convince ourselves to feel something we don't. An example of this would include if you hated your co worker but then went out of your way to be very nice and spend a lot of time with them. It is overcompensating in the opposite way that you feel. 
  • Regression: going back to acting like child.
    • This often shows up in children. In a divorce situation a child who is potty trained may start having accidents or sucking their thumb again. In adults issues you have already overcome maybe become a struggle again in response to a large stressor. 
  • Repression: pushing uncomfortable thoughts or blocking them out.
    • Many people use this defense mechanism. The belief is, "if I don't think about it, it doesn't hurt." The unfortunate thing about that belief is that is just not true. If you do not deal with your emotions they will come out in another way. Examples include head aches, back aches, high blood pressure, anger issues, depression and anxiety. 
Defense mechanism are important to be aware of because often they are harmful to our relationships. We can start by being conscious of them and then once we recognize them we can change them. Defense mechanism often start because of pain or trauma. Don't be afraid to seek counseling to work through past issues that may be contributing to your defensiveness. There is hope in healing. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Is Your Relationship Ready for Marriage?

Relationships can be extremely difficult but they can also be very fulfilling. If you want your relationship to be fulfilling you HAVE to do it right. Cutting corners in relationships only leads to conflict and drifting apart rather than toward each other.  Below is a list of things to consider before you get married.

1. Are you faithful to each other?
It may sound obvious but you would be shocked at the number of people who say their vows while being unfaithful. So get this one right, no exceptions. "Open" marriages are not made to last.

2. Have you discussed your expectations for marriage and life together?
Many people picture marriage different than their spouses do and then get married and are severely disappointed. Communicate your expectations before you even get engaged. Make sure your expectations are compatible. If they are not try to find middle ground that works for both of you. If you cannot do that do not get married.

3. How well can you communicate?
Marriage REQUIRES good communication. Throw away guilt trips, passive aggressive behavior and assumptions. If he/she does something right, tell them. If you have hopes for an anniversary tell them. If you are upset, tell them and don't just expect them to figure it out. TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK. Do not blame. Fight for the relationship, not to win the argument.

4. Have you figured out how to manage your money?
Money can be a huge source of conflict. It is stressful if you don't have an effective plan or if you are not on the same page. See a financial counselor if you are not able to figure out a solid plan on your own.

5. Are you closer to your parents that your potential spouse.
The bible was on to something when it said you should leave your parents and attach to your spouse. It causes huge marital issues when you go to your parents for companionship and help more than your spouse. Make sure your spouse is your best friend, not your mom.

6. Have you worked through any trust issues?
Trust/insecurity issues can put big wedges in relationships. Make sure you are working toward solving this before you get married. If your marriage starts with trust issues and you are not working on it, it is not likely to last. A good marriage requires trust.

7. Can you communicate about sex?
Sex, in laws and money are the top three biggest marital issues. Make sure you can communicate about sex. It can be amazing or it can be horrible. Communication around this topic will help lead which direction your sex life will go. Don't be afraid to see a counselor if you have been sexually abused in the past and are struggling in the area. Make sure your sex life is love/each other based not lust based.

8. Are you committed?
Couples that view marriage as a life long commitment are more likely to work through issues than couple who view divorce as an option. As un-romantic as it sounds, being stuck with someone for the rest of your life is motivation to be nice to them. It is a rather simple concept with big implications.

If you feel like you are solid in all of these areas you might be a great candidate for marriage. Marriage should be taken seriously. I strongly recommend every couple going through pre marital counseling to make sure there are not any issues left un-turned. If you do struggle in some of the above stated areas it doesn't mean you cannot get married, it just means you have some things you should work on first. Working on  your relationship is the best gift you can give to each other. Do it right and reap the benefits.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Ways People Screw Up Valentines Day

1. Do not communicate your expectations.
Are you hoping for flowers and going out to eat but never tell you man! DO NOT ASSUME HE KNOWS YOUR EXPECTATIONS! If you communicate them to him your chances of getting your hopes met are much higher. Throw away the idea that it is more romantic if he thinks of it on his own. It's not fair to expect your partner to know what you hope for if you never tell them.

2. Use it as a pity day.
Are you single and depressed because you don't have a date? Instead of having a miserable day, why don't you use this as a day to show friends and family that you care about them. You don't have to be romantically involved to show love on valentines day!!

3. Don't plan in advance.
Do your plans usually get screwed over last minute because the wait is too long or child care fell through. You knew valentines day was coming for all of your post adolescent life. Plan for it in advance  so your day doesn't have to have unnecessary screw ups. (I know, helpful info from a post a day before valentines day :/ )

4. Go through the Motions.
Do you do the same thing every year and it's starting to get boring? Be creative. Find a way to celebrate your love in a unique way that fits you and your significant other. It doesn't have to be dinner, flowers and movie. It can whatever you make it!!

5. You ruin your night with bitterness.
So you wanted to go on cruise for valentines day and you guys are going on a walk instead. You have a choice. You can be angry and disappointed or you can choose to have a good time anyway. Make the most of what is in front of you and don't let bad attitudes ruin your day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How to Improve Your Child's Self-Esteem

1. Teach the value of mistakes.
When your child makes a mistake help him or her understand that mistakes are helpful for learning.  Do not bring up past mistakes as a way to humiliate or punish them.

2. Point out specific behaviors or actions that your child does well.
Children especially do not see on their own what they are good at. An adult, especially their parent, is the most powerful tool in helping children see their strengths. Remember do not say, "Good job." but rather, "You colored in the lines very nice.".

3. Do not do everything for your child.
You might feel like you are loving parent for doing every little thing for your child. Unfortunately, truth be told, this sends the message that your child is not capable of doing it themselves. They hear this message loud and clear.

4. When you see a strength give your child more opportunities to use it.
If your child is good at sports, put them in sport. If they are caring call on them when a child is sad.  Take advantage of utilizing a child's strength. Nothing boost a child's self esteem more than if an adult needs their help!

5. Quality time sends a powerful message.
Simply spending quality time with your child sends a very powerful message that they are lovable, and worthy of another person's time. This is no small task. Children will carry this message into adulthood- good or bad.

Children's self-esteem can be very fragile but it is something to take very seriously. How we view ourselves shapes our ambition,  spouse choice, and future success. If we think we are an incapable loser, why would we try for things outside of that category? Many people break up with significant others because they feel like they are not "good enough" for them. Prevent this kind of future for your child. Parents have the most influence over this, but start young! It is easier to build  on a solid foundation than to try and build on a rocky one.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Deal with Valid Anxiety

Ok so no one likes anxiety. What if you have legit anxiety in your life and you don't want to have a nervous break down? Just this week I talked with some one who will remain homeless until some unknown date when his disability gets processed and approved. That is a valid reason to be anxious. Another person I talked to has muscle spasms so bad he blacks out at random times that he cannot predict. That is another valid reason to be stressed. Maybe you have to send your kids to a verbally abusive ex. That's a good reason to be anxious.

So what do with do with this anxiety when it is REAL?

1. Recognize that it is real and valid to be worried about.
2. Talk to someone about it.
3. Look and look and look for the silver lining. (It really does help!)
4. Look for what is good and enjoyable in your life. Do your best to think about that.
5. Meet your basic needs. Eat, and sleep well.
6. Write it out, sing it out, or art project it out! Get it out in some expressive way.
7. Exercise on a regular basis.
8. Do your best to plan around it to minimize it's negative effects on your life.
9. Find something else to focus on and find value in. Distract yourself.

Those nine steps are backed in research. They help. They can help you if you really try them. It's hard to get rid of anxiety but it is miserable to live with it. Commit to these steps and you will see a reduction in your anxiety. If you do not talk with a counselor and/or a doctor.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


From: http://cmhc.utexas.edu/selfesteem.html

What is Self-Esteem?

Most people's thoughts and feelings about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. The grade you get on an exam, how your friends treat you, ups and downs in a romantic relationship can all have a temporary impact on how you feel about yourself.

Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes. For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves. 

Poor vs. Healthy Self-Esteem

People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present to determine how they feel about themselves. They need positive external experiences (e.g., compliments from friends) to counteract the negative feelings and thoughts that constantly plague them. Even then, the good feeling (such as from a good grade or compliment) is usually temporary.

Healthy self-esteem is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately and still be accepting of who we are. This means being able to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses (we all have them!) and at the same time recognize that we are worthy and worthwhile. 

Quick Jump

Where Does Self-Esteem Come From?

Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of self-esteem. When we were growing up, our successes, failures, and how we were treated by our family, teachers, coaches, religious authorities, and peers, all contributed to the creation of our self-esteem.

Childhood experiences that contribute to healthy self-esteem include:

  • Being listened to
  • Being spoken to respectfully
  • Getting appropriate attention and affection
  • Having accomplishments be recognized and mistakes or failures be acknowledged and accepted

Childhood experiences that may lead to low self-esteem include:

  • Being harshly criticized
  • Being physically, sexually, or emotionally abused
  • Being ignored, ridiculed, or teased
  • Being expected to be perfect all the time. People with low self-esteem were often given messages—from parents, teachers, peers, or others—that failed experiences (losing a game, getting a poor grade, etc.) were failures of their whole self

What Does Your "Inner Voice" Say?

Our past experiences, even the things we don't usually think about, continue to impact our daily life in the form of an "inner voice." Although most people do not hear this voice in the same way they would a spoken one, it acts in a similar way, continuously repeating childhood messages to us.

For people with healthy self-esteem, the messages of the inner voice are usually accepting and reassuring. For people with low self-esteem, the inner voice becomes a harsh critic, punishing one's mistakes and belittling one's accomplishments.

Three Faces of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is not always easy to recognize. Here are three common faces that low self-esteem may wear:
  1. The Imposter: acts happy and successful, but is really terrified of failure. Lives with the constant fear that she or he will be found out. Needs continuous successes to maintain the mask of positive self-esteem, which may lead to problems with perfectionism, procrastination, competition, and burn-out.
  2. The Rebel: acts like the opinions or good will of others—especially people who are important or powerful—don't matter. Lives with constant anger about not feeling good enough. Continuously needs to prove that others' judgments and criticisms don't hurt, which may lead to problems like blaming others excessively, breaking rules or laws, or opposing authority.
  3. The Victim: acts helpless and unable to cope with the world and waits for someone to come to the rescue. Uses self-pity or indifference as a shield against fear of taking responsibility for changing his or her life. Looks repeatedly to others for guidance, which can lead to such problems as unassertiveness, underachievement, and excessive reliance on others in relationships.

Consequences of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can have devastating consequences. It can:
  • create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression
  • cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships
  • seriously impair academic and job performance
  • lead to increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse
Worst of all, these negative consequences themselves reinforce the negative self-image and can take a person into a downward spiral of lower and lower self-esteem and increasingly unproductive or even actively self-destructive behavior. 

Three Steps to Improved Self-Esteem

Change doesn't necessarily happen quickly or easily, but it can happen. You are not powerless! Once you have accepted, or are at least willing to entertain the possibility that you can change, there are three steps you can take to begin to improve the way you feel about yourself:

Step 1: Rebut the Inner Critic

The first important step in improving self-esteem is to begin to challenge the negative messages of the critical inner voice. Here are some typical examples of the inner critic and some strategies to rebut that critical voice.
  • Unfairly harsh inner critic: "People said they liked my presentation, but it was nowhere near as good as it should have been. I can't believe no-one noticed all the places I messed up. I'm such an imposter." Acknowledge strengths: "Wow, they really liked it! Maybe it wasn't perfect, but I worked hard on that presentation and did a good job. I'm proud of myself."
  • An inner voice that generalizes unrealistically: "I got an F on the test. I don't understand anything in this class. I'm such an idiot. Who am I fooling? I shouldn't be taking this class. I'm stupid, and I don't belong in college." Be specific: "I did poorly on this test, but I've done O.K. on all the homework. There are some things here that I don't understand as well as I thought I did, but now I have a better idea of how to prepare and what I need to work on. I've done fine in other tough classes; I'm confident I can do this."
  • An inner critic that makes illogic leaps: "He's frowning. He didn't say anything, but I know it means that he doesn't like me!"
    Challenge illogic: "O.K., he's frowning, but I don't know why. It could have nothing to do with me. Maybe I should ask."
  • An inner voice that catastrophizes: "She turned me down for a date! I'm so embarrassed and humiliated. No one likes or cares about me. I'll never find a girlfriend. I'll always be alone." Be objective: "Ouch! That hurt. Ok, she doesn't want to go out with me. That doesn't mean no one does. I know I'm a nice person. I'm confident that in time I'll find someone who's as interested in me as I am in her."

Step 2: Practice Self-Compassion

Rebutting your critical inner voice is an important first step, but it is not enough. Practicing self-compassion (hyperlink self compassion to http://www.self-compassion.org/) means treating yourself with the same empathy you would show others. If a friend were having a hard time, you'd be likely to be extra caring and supportive. You deserve the same treatment! Rather than focusing on evaluating yourself, instead you can acknowledge when things are difficult and try to nurture and care for yourself in these times especially. For example:
  • Forgive yourself when you don't do all you'd hoped. Try to be gentle with yourself rather than critical of yourself when things don't go as you had hoped. This can be surprisingly hard if you are not used to doing it, but recognizing that such experiences are inevitable can help.
  • Recognize your humanness. As humans we all make mistakes, and we are all impacted by external factors that we can't control. Accepting our "humanness" helps us to feel more connected to others rather than feeling we are enduring these types of experiences all alone. Recognizing that mistakes are an inevitable part of being human helps us to be more compassionate with ourselves and others.
  • Be mindful of your emotions. If you do feel upset about a situation, try to allow yourself to experience that emotion in a balanced way, without suppressing it or getting completely swept up in the feeling. When practicing mindfulness, try not to judge yourself for having negative emotions. If you can remember that emotions come and go and eventually pass, it will help you to not become overwhelmed by your feelings.

Step 3: Get Help from Others

Getting help from others is often the most important step a person can take to improve his or her self-esteem, but it can also be the most difficult. People with low self-esteem often don't ask for help because they feel they don't deserve it, but other people can help to challenge the critical messages that come from negative past experiences. Here are some ways to reach out to others:
  • Ask for support from friends. Ask friends to tell you what they like about you or think you do well. Ask someone who cares about you to just listen to you vent for a little while without trying to fix things. Ask for a hug. Ask someone who loves you to remind you that they do.
  • Get help from teachers & other helpers. Go to professors, advisors, or tutors to ask for help in classes if you need it. Remember: they are there to help you learn! If you lack self-confidence in certain areas, take classes or try out new activities to increase your sense of competence. For example, take a math class, join a dance club, take swimming lessons, etc.
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor. Sometimes low self-esteem can feel so painful or difficult to overcome that the professional help of a therapist or counselor is needed. Talking to a counselor is a good way to explore these feelings and begin to improve your self-esteem.

Further Resources for Improving Self-Esteem

Reading Materials
Self-Esteem: A Proven Program of Cognitive Techniques for Assessing, Improving and Maintaining Your Self-Esteem by McKay, Matthew and Patrick Fanning. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 2000.

Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments by James, Muriel and Dorothy Jongeward. Perseus Press, 1996.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by C.K. Germer. New York: Guilford Press, 2009.

Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurities Behind by Kristen Neff.Harper Collins, 2011


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Coping with a Loved One with Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) deals with more than just the person with the disorder.  A big part of this disorder has to do with how a person handles relationships. So that means if you love someone with BPD, you most likely experience some challenging behavior patterns. Many people with BPD manage it very well and you would never know they have it, but some people have it more severely. Those people's symptoms are much easier to see.  

Common symptoms of BPD include:

  • Strong fears of real or imagined abandonment
  • Low self esteem
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate or unnecessarily strong emotional responses 
  • Emotional unpredictable
  • Impulsiveness
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships
If someone you love has BPD please understand that much of this disorder is based in fear and insecurity. They are not trying to make your life hard or be difficult. They will often see insult and rejection where there isn't any. Because of this they may respond extremely emotionally. A person with BPD has an exaggerated fear of abandonment. To them this emotional response seems rational because their fear is very real to them. 

Showing some one with BPD empathy and patience can go a long way in calming their fears. Do not respond emotionally to their exaggerated fears or this could make matters worse. Keeping your emotions in check will help. Preparing yourself mentally that they are likely to be emotional can help you respond better in the moment. 

Set boundaries to help protect yourself. BPDabout.com (2013) suggests, "You may decide that you will not tolerate your loved one telling you that they hate you, and that if they do that you will need to take a break from communicating with them for a predetermined amount of time. Communicate your expectations about this.It is also important to set good boundaries and not become so involved in your loved one’s struggles that your own health suffers."

So to conclude, be understanding, patient, and calm. This pared with good boundaries should improve your relationship with your loved one. If this isn't enough don't be afraid to get relationship counseling from a professional. 

New CEU now ready!!

  Objectives:  Participants will gain an understanding of common comorbid diagnoses associated with Autism (ADHD, Depression, and ODD).  Par...