March 2016 Quote of the Month

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

Defining ourselves by and for ourselves can be a difficult task.

There is constant external pressure which tries to shape our opinions, beliefs, and sense of self.

Not all pressure is bad pressure. Looking at the microcosm of family, I must say my parents have always held all their children to a high moral standard starting at a young age. Their influence (the pressure for me to “be good to people”) served to shape me into a very kind conscientious human being!

However, even as incredible as my family is – I still became intensely motivated to seek identity and value outside of their eyes during young adulthood. I had to make my own opinions of how to best live life. After all, at the end of this crazy ride only I would be accountable for the choices I made. Now that I’m more established in my “adulthood” , I realize that some of my views do not mesh seamlessly with those that love me most. To be honest – a handful of my opinions are in direct opposition of what they believe! But that’s OK. Even through differences we can still be united through love and respect without being identical.

There are many systems that humans developed to make sense of the world around them. At birth we are handed a certain worldview; we inherit our family/community views on everything from money, race, education, politics, food, dating, gender and religion. We pick up on how our families fight, how they interact with others, and what type of people they believe are “good” or”bad”. This slowly becomes our “normal” during the most formative years of our lives. Most people don’t give second thought to their “hand-me-down” views, yet alone question them. But it’s important to critically evaluate your beliefs and figure out if they improve your life or hinder your growth. Do the systems you subscribe to make you a better person? Do your views help enrich your life and the lives of those around you? Does anyone other than yourself ultimately profit from your belief in  a particular system?

Life presents endless opportunities to grow, experiment, win, lose, test, learn, hurt, and heal. And once you venture outside of your family, your home town, your first circle of friends – you’ll find that some of those views you grew up with will be challenged. During those times you may realize that deep inside you don’t believe everything you were taught about a certain group of people, a certain lifestyle, a certain belief system. At that moment you’ll have to decide if the safety of familiarity is worth denying your own inner voice.

I don’t know for certain but I’m willing to bet no one gets prizes at the end of all this for being the best rule-follower. You are equipped with a compass and map inside of you that’s meant lead you where you really want to be.

Cheers to a unique journey for us all,

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Psychiatrist or psychologist? Therapist, counselor, or coach?

Your car is sputtering around – not getting up to the same speeds it used to. It makes a squeaking noise every time you make a sharp turn and sometimes the steering wheel shakes when you accelerate.

You try to ignore it to see if it’ll get better on it’s own, but the issues get worse and worse.

How long would it take you to drive it into a shop? Would you have anxiety letting a professional diagnose the problem? Would you hesitate to mention your car troubles with friends or family?

Think of your mental health as that car. Our thoughts, personalities, and beliefs drive us through life and affect what we achieve and how we interact with everyone around us.

When your emotions or beliefs start to negatively impact your daily life – it might be good to check in with a professional.

But who do you go to? What’s a psychiatrist? Is that the same as a counselor or life coach? Do all psychologists make you lay on a couch and talk about your past?


The familiar image of the Freud style therapy session!

When picking a mental health professional – there’s no one size fits all approach. The type of professional that works best for you can depend on your specific needs and experience.

Psychiatrists are doctoral level practitioners. They are medical doctors (M.D.) and they can prescribe medication to help minimize and control unwanted mental symptoms. Their treatment plans usually involve long-term assessment and reassessment of how patients adjust to medication.

Psychologists are doctoral level practitioners (Ph.D. or Psy.D.).  Psychologists can work in a wide range of fields. When providing mental health services they focus on correctly diagnosing disorders, understanding behaviors and their triggers, and minimizing negative symptoms.

Therapists are master’s level health professions with additional licensing in their given specialty. Therapists can specialize in substance abuse, sexual trauma, children and adolescence issues, family or marital therapy, etc. They can focus on smaller behavior goals or delve into deeper issues for longer treatment plans.

Counselors and/or life coaches can be licensed or unlicensed; the use of these terms is not regulated in the U.S. That doesn’t mean counselors or coaches are poor quality – they could be a great fit for you! Typically counselors and coaches have licensing and training in social work, psychology, and/or health. They may have a master’s or bachelor’s degree. They usually work alongside a psychologist/psychiatrist and can be great in helping you achieve concrete goals like stress management or anger management. Be mindful when choosing because there is no governing body that controls who calls themselves a counselor or coach.

So now that you know the different types of professionals, what sort of therapy is best for you?

Counseling is usually focused on shorter term goals. For example, as a counselor I may help a client reach a goal of reducing stress eating episodes. This would involve helping them understand the source of their stress eating – what is causing the stress? Are they eating junk because they don’t know it’s bad for them? I may educate them about nutrition and what bad food does to their body. Their homework might be to write a list of things they like about themselves and place it on their fridge to look at before they reach for foods that will harm their health. Together we’ll determine “triggers” (things that compel the unwanted behavior) like watching too much TV or having bad day at work. I’ll go grocery shopping with them and help them find healthy foods to snack on when the urge kicks in. We will clean the kitchen together of unhealthy foods, when they are ready. Their stress eating can involve larger issues like anxiety, self esteem, and depression so we address those as they surface. But I am more focused on helping them change the unwanted behavior. I cannot diagnose any mental illness or disorder.

Psychotherapy is more long term and focuses on a wider range of issues, sometimes more severe. A psychotherapy plan can cover helping someone feel better equipped to handle ALL stresses (grief, rejection, physical pain) as well as recognize behavioral patterns that prevent them from reaching their personal goals. Sessions may focus on enriching relationships by managing negative thinking, reducing feelings of low self-esteem, and ending self-isolating behaviors. A psychotherapist can help someone who has experienced childhood trauma and abuse recognize (and change) patterns in their adult relationships that attract more trauma and abuse. Psychotherapists like Psychiatrists and Psychologists can officially diagnose disorders like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

These branches can be broken into dozens of smaller techniques. Some people feel their symptoms are manageable with talk therapy – sometimes it takes talking and medication to feel your best. Sometimes you may just need a life coach or counselor to get you out of a specific rut in life.

Remember: the road to becoming your best self doesn’t have to be lonely. There are plenty of people to love and support you!

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