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  • Hey, This Is A Blog, Not A Therapy Session!

    I post insights that I have here about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and various techniques that I've used to help people. Cool as that is, you gotta make your own choices. Its no replacement for professional advice or counseling, so just bear that in mind before you go taking my advice.
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Bottle Up Your Feelings

Bottling things up. When you hear someone say this, its usually perceived negatively. After all, you can’t bottle up your emotions, right?

Well, to make this a little easier to understand, and less boring, I’ll tell you a little story that I learned from therapy school.

In order to listen to people’s problems every day, and not go insane, you have to set some sort of boundaries with your emotions. Sometimes you have to do this on the fly, because you might get a phone call from a family member or something that could throw you off your game. If you have to work with someone in the next few minutes, and you don’t have time to manage your issues at the time, you gotta figure out a way to put those problems aside and help someone.

So I created the Bottle. But its not like your usual bottle…its a special bottle.

See, this bottle allows you to manage the boloney you’re dealing with in a way that encourages you to deal with the problem before you go to sleep. It takes a bit of discipline, but if you do the technique right, it should work for you too.

So without further ado, and so you know what the heck I’m talking about, I’ll share this simple technique with you:

1. Take the issue you’re dealing with and put them in an imaginary bottle. After I wrote that, I think I sound a little crazy, but just humor me for a moment. Whatever it is you’re dealing with in the moment, take that issue and throw it in the bottle. Don’t worry, its not going to stay there too long.

2. Put it on a shelf. You’re putting the issue aside temporarily, with the purpose of going back to it when you don’t have to save the world or something. Visualizing the shelf allows you to recognize that bottling the problem is temporary. Most people skip this step, bottle the problem, and try not to think about it or try to forget it. This doesn’t work, as you need time to process the issue.

3. When you have time, take the bottle down. Take the bottle down off the shelf, open it up, and deal with the issue before it gets buried with all the other nasty stuff you may have buried in your life. If you don’t have the time, make the time to deal with these things before they affect the other areas of your life.

See! Bottling things up isn’t as bad, so long as you take whatever’s in the bottle out, and manage it at a later time. Keeping it bottled up is usually a bad idea, so you have to find time to let the issues out of the bottle.

What do you think? Can you put the issue aside and take the time to manage it? Talk to me people.

Like The Flu, Emotions Can Be Contagious

With all the talk about the H1N1 virus, people are being more careful than they ever been about trying to stay healthy. Its at a point now where the wipe-grabbing behaviors of Adrian Monk don’t seem so out of the ordinary, when everyone is worried about getting sick. However, its a very real fear. People are getting sick, getting in contact with other people, and then those people become sick. Contagious sickness is like that.

What about emotions though? Have you ever thought about the people you spend time with? What kind of attitude do they have? Are they positive or negative and how does that affect your day? I’ll give you an example of how I “caught” an Emotional Cold.

One day my wife and I were just hanging out. It was your normal day off, and we had a ton of things we wanted to do. With a list as long as our arm, we figured the best thing to do would be to start with breakfast. So we hit our favorite pancake joint, grabbed some pacakes (you know the kind I’m talking about: strawberry syrup, whipped cream, etc.), some coffee and figured we’d be all set with our day.

Then something strange happened. We got home, and my wife was suddenly really tired. I, who is all about being flexible when it comes to days off, shrugged it off and suggested that she take a nap. Before I knew what hit me, I was right there next to her taking a nap. We woke up hours later with the sun down, and a list still as long as our arms that needed to be done.

I could have just gone and done my own thing, but I was open to her emotional state. I caught an Emotional Cold, and let it get the best of me. This has much to do with boundaries, but it also has to do with social conditioning.

See, we want to do what everyone else is doing in a group setting, even if the group setting is small. Sure, there are times when we want to go against the grain, but for the most part, as a society we value a cohesive group think, so we don’t have confrontations (because those are bad after all).

However, this can also be a good thing! Because you can make your emotional state contagious as well. Consider how you can influence someone in a positive way with your own attitude. Let me give another example, this time of someone giving a Positive Emotional Cold.

I worked with a client who’s boss would emit anxiety toward this person. As a result, my client picked up her anxious behavior and state, and it made my client more and more anxious as the days went on. We talked about setting emotional boundaries, and how her anxiety is hers, and my client’s Emotions were my client’s.

The next week, my client came in all excited, because after we had discussed setting those emotional boundaries, the boss’s anxiety stayed where it was…with the boss. My client envisioned making a protective bubble, and behind that bubble, my client was safe. Outside of that bubble, the boss did her own thing. Eventually, my client became emtionally assertive, and was able to transfer their calm state onto the boss!

So by choosing to be calm, the boss picked up on this, and started to calm down as well.

So what’s the bottom line? Here’s the breakdown:

1. People are social animals: We’re going to pick up on each other’s stuff whether we like it or not.

2. Recognize where you’re catching a cold: Decide if you want to pick up on someone else’s emotional state or not. Also, decide if you want to continue hanging with people who continue to give you an Emotional Cold.

3. Decide if you want to feel something different. You can always feel differently than those around you.

4. Do you want to be contagious? How can you pass on your state to others?

5. Should you catch a positive cold? Maybe you’re a Negative Nancy and its time you hung around people who were passing on positive Emotional Colds.

So consider how emotions can be contagious in your life. Are you a carrier or a reciever? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Why Coaching Rules and Counseling Drools(?)

TonyAndSiggy

As Bob Dylan used to say, “and the times they are a changin’!” The climate is changing (no matter what your perspective is on who’s fault it is), the economy is changing (or is stagnantly bad, depending on your perspective), and in many respects, we seem to need to constantly be in tune with how times change.

Let’s face it, if you want to get a job now, you have to work substantially harder now than you used to in order to get it. Raising children is different than it used to be and seems to get more difficult. Technology seems to change rapidly, and despite our economic state we seem to continue to be obsessed with what’s next with regard to technology.

You know what else has changed? The desire for therapists to stay in the Mental Health profession.

A lot of therapists are ditching their previous career in exchange for the lucrative profession of “Coaching”. And why wouldn’t they?! After all, being a coach means you join the likes of Tony Robbins, Larry Winget and other “success coaches”. You can charge what you want, say what you want, work with whoever you want. Your previous counseling niche can be your “coaching specialty” and you can work with people who are “less crazy.”

By the way, every time I use quotes, just picture me doing finger quotes. Its much funnier that way.

Who wouldn’t want this job? Especially as therapists, working with people who are considerably healthier than most counseling clientelle seems really sexy. Not having to worry about insurance companies, and jet-setting across the country and around the globe to speak with hundreds of people seems like a really great idea.

There’s just one problem with that.

Anyone can be a coach. Anyone.

Hell, I’m a coach. My name’s coach Jim, and welcome to my coaching website! You don’t need to be certified and if you have good life experience, you can pretty much work with people. Whereas therapists have to go through 7 years of school, 3 years of additional work before you’re licensed, and then continued maintenance of that licensure in order to keep it in check.

I’m not knocking the coaching profession at all, as I think there is real value in the coaching process. My big issue is with therapists converting to coaches because its “quicker, easier and more seductive.”

So what’s the big deal? How does this affect you? Well it certainly doesn’t help if you are looking to get treated for Anxiety or Adjustment Disorder, ADHD or Depression.  But those are those really bad mental illnesses aren’t they?

So what’s the point? The point is that I got into the counseling gig because I wanted to help people. If I got into the coaching profession, I’d still be interested in helping people, and would probably use much of the same, if not exactly the same methods I use when I work with people. How is that possible? Because instead of doing the “And how do you feel about that?” gig, or the “tell me about your mother” gig, I do the, “how the heck can I get you feeling better and living better as soon as possible” sort of gig, and I do that now, with my counseling clients.

In case you didn’t know, this is a coaching approach, and not a counseling approach. 

This isn’t just about me. This is about you. Would you feel more comfortable going to a therapist/counselor? Or is it more hip and cool to go to a “success coach” or a “stress management coach”?  I think its important to understand this, because if the times truly are changing, and people are feeling less comfortable admitting that they need a “counseling”, then perhaps a change of a different kind is in order.

What do you think? I’m going to put in a poll for this too, because I think its important to have a conversation about stigmas, the process of therapy vs. coaching, and what that means to you. Talk to me people.

Joe Pantoliano Goes Live To Reduce The Stigma Of Mental Illness

 NKM2

In case you didn’t know, the guy in the pic above is Joe Pantoliano, more commonly known as Joey Pants (though I remember him best as Cypher from the Matrix).  Now this post isn’t about me being a fanboy, because there are plenty of other people I could be a fanboy about (like Johnny Depp, Jason Statham or Ray Park). Fact is, he’s doing something very cool.

He’s using his celebrity status to try to reduce the stigma of mental illness through his website NKM2.org. For those of you who don’t know what celebrity status can do for…well anything…just look at Twitter (Ashton Kutcher, anyone?). He’s also doing something else that I didn’t expect.

He’s video chatting with the folks: people like you and me who have some history of mental illness (personally I had an anxiety disorder and an internet addiction). Last Saturday he did a live chat where he answered questions, and got really specific about how mental illness affected him, and how he plans to remove the stigma through his documentary.

If you don’t have time to view it, that’s cool, but you’d be missing out. I have a few of his quotes from the chat that I thought were pertinent (shown in italics).

“I had stuff going on in my head that was really bringing me down. I was ashamed of those feelings. Those feelings made me feel like I was being selfish and inadequate. I thought if I could accumulate more things, then maybe that would make these feelings go away. The more I got, the worse I felt.”

I thought this was very cool, because how many times have you said, “If I could just have this, I’d feel better.” Clearly, his experience is case in point that possessions have nothing to do with happiness or mental wellness. You can’t shop your way to feeling better (I’m looking at you, shop-a-holics).

He went on to talk about the documentary he made (No Kidding, Me Too, Premiering in New York on October 19th), about his experiences with AA and how he worked on his emotional state through therapy and 12-Step Programs.

“If you have a mental illness…and you’re not sharing with anyone, you’re going to make yourself sicker.”

This is why therapy is necessary to begin with. Because sometimes, you don’t have someone to talk to about your problems. Without someone there to empathize or understand where you’re coming from, and work with you toward managing your problems, you only have your own head to work out your stuff. Hence why I think he opened up the dialogue about making mental illness cool to talk about. He shared his personal experience, his own trials and how his life has been dramatically improved through use of counseling and medication.

“See that’s the whole point of this, is that I want to share the fact that I got better. I surrendered to the noise in my head. I have solid means to get better.”

I can resonate with this, and that’s why I feel like I’m an expert in Anxiety Management: because I’ve been there with the Panic Attacks and the difficulty breathing, and I found a way to work through it. That method has helped a lot of the people I work with today. Same thing with Internet Addiction. It ate up hours and hours of my life, and I’m currently working on a plan to help people with that too (that doesn’t involve the internet…its harder than it sounds).

Another part about that statement is getting better. I can’t tell you how many therapists talk to me and tell me that their clients are never going to change. How sad is that? The one person who could be a bastion of hope for a client, and even that person doesn’t believe that they’re going to get better. That’s why my approach is all about improving and getting better. Some clients don’t like this, but that’s ok, because perhaps they’re not ready for that change yet.

So what’s the point of this post? The point is that sometimes you need to hear the message from the right messenger in order to hear it right. If this guy, who’s a Hollywood actor, can sit there and talk about his mental illness…

…then what the heck is stopping you?

Are you worried about what people will think? Guess what? You can’t change what people think (unless they’re open to that change). The first step of managing any problem is accepting the fact that you have one. Its ok, everyone has problems from time to time.

But the key is to get the help you need.

“You have an 80% recovery rate with all mental illness…you gotta find a good clinician that will listen to your situation, diagnose you appropriately, and then find a plan to action that you both agree with and get your life back.”

Exactly. I just so happen to be a clinician. You know, in case you’re interested.

Joe is now off doing a NKM2 tour in Iraq and Kuwait to show the movie to the soldiers there, to help them open up about possible mental illness as a result of being in combat. That relates to me too, because Tricare (the health insurance for the Millitary) just put me on the fast track so I can be on their telemedicine program, which allows me to do therapy with troops over video chat.

Can I tell you the geek in me is doing a freaking happy dance over the idea?

He’s not the only one trying to make mental health mainstream. Stop And Think Radio is trying to do a similar thing with recovery and addiction, only they’re doing radio and TV stuff instead (they interviewed a really cool therapist by the way  😉  ).

Anyway, I just thought you might find this interesting, and maybe it will get you to think about starting a discussion as well.

Like down here, for example, in the comments section. Talk to me about what you think, and if you think we can reduce this stigma. What has to happen? Can mental health be cool? Talk to me people.

P.S. – Seriously check out the NKM2 site and the video chat. Informative and entertaining at the same time.

Managing Anxiety and Depression: Being Grateful

Everything’s Amazing, and We’re Still Unhappy.

LouisCK-Conan

The guy you’re looking at above is a comedian named Louis CK, and if you click on the pic above you’ll get sent to NBC’s website, and the video that this blog is about. So go check it out and then come back (and don’t get sidetracked watching more movies  :).  )

OK, so basically Louis goes on a rant about how everything is amazing, and yet, no one is happy. Despite the fact that this show was done almost a year ago, this actually holds true for today. Think about all the stuff we have: iPhones, personal vehicles, computers, high speed internet, plane flight, and all the other ammenities we have. We’re still unhappy aren’t we. He calls this generation “the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.”

Are you in this category? I know I am from time to time. Complaining about how slow my internet is; or how long I have to wait in traffic; or how annoying my Blackberry can be from time to time. Sometimes I snap myself out of it, and realize that I actually HAVE a Blackberry, and I remember a time when I didn’t have it, and suddenly I’m thankful for it.

So how do we ensure that we’re not a bunch of spoiled idiots? By being thankful for what we have, and being patient with what’s to come. How do we do that? First, think about how much we complain about how things aren’t going our way, or how we are so annoyed with things not going as fast as we’d like. We don’t even take into account the idea that the world really doesn’t revolve around us or our time schedule. Seriously think about what you take for granted, and write them down if you have to so you can remind yourself about what you have . Bear in mind, these do not have to be materialistic…they can be family, friends, pets, and other greatness in your life.

Second, use this list to counter any thoughts of self-pity when you think about what you don’t have. Seriously, life could be so much worse for you, and sometimes you need to take these ideas into consideration in order to change your state about your life. So many times I’ve run into people with depression who had a lot, but because certain exceptions or conditions weren’t met in their life, they feel as though they’re a failure, or that life isn’t good for them. I usually encourage them to think about what they have and what’s good about their life. By changing your perception of your life, you can change your feelings about your life as well.

This isn’t anything new. The Secret goes into this kind of thing with the Law of Attraction. Now I’m not a big Law of Attraction nut, because I think you get what you get by working hard, not by asking Santa Claus for it and wishing really hard. But being grateful for what you have is an idea that’s older than that: A La Counting Your Blessings (for the Christian readers, this is along the lines of Phillipians 4:8).

I guess my bottom line is, if you can use what you have as a way to take your focus off what you don’t, then you may end up being happier in the long run. Don’t wait for someone else to make you happy, find the areas in your life that are already good, and  think about that stuff. Comment welcome.