Saturday, November 20, 2010


What Are You Grateful For?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, even though I know that November also heralds cold weather and the possibility of snow-ugh! It’s a real Catch-22 for me. I love the family get togethers and the idea of a special day (or month) set aside to ponder and be grateful for our blessings, yet I hate being cold, wearing coats, and driving in the snow and ice.

I decided this year that my goal will be to stay in the moment as much as possible, being grateful for a wonderful life, without straying into the future, worrying about the temperature, or wishing the sun would stay in the sky longer.

So you’re probably wondering how I intend to accomplish this lofty goal! Well lately I’ve been running into the concept of ‘mindfulness’ everywhere I go. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of “Full Catastrophe Living”, mindfulness is as simple as being aware of what you’re doing while you’re doing it. He also uses an image that I really like-creating an island of being in the sea of constant doing. But, how do I manage to be instead of do? paying attention to my breath.

Most of you are probably familiar with meditation, and may even have a daily practice. Kabat-Zinn teaches us to meditate by focusing on the breath, noticing how each inhale fills our belly, and how the exhale leaves it. See, I said it was simple, but I didn’t say it was easy! Most of us are very invested in our thoughts. We believe them and become driven by them. In meditation, we learn to observe them and let them go, returning our attention to the breath each time we realize we’ve given the attention to our thoughts.

For the month of November, I plan to take mini breath-breaks throughout the day. Each time I come back to the present moment through my breath, I am prolonging and enhancing the experience of the month of Gratitude. Not to mention that I’m not dwelling on how cold I am or may be soon!

Join me in January for a mindfulness experience at Healthy Mind Counseling Services - details coming soon!

Contributed by Dr. Annie Wills

Thursday, September 23, 2010


One of the key themes with the parents who come to see me is responsibility. I admit as a parent this is also a personal theme in my home. How do we teach our children to be responsible?

I believe we teach responsibility when we can get out of the way, stop owning our children’s problems, and allow consequences to occur in their lives. Of course this is easier said than done sometimes! My daughter went to a local shop with twenty dollars burning a hole in her pocket. As many children do, she made an impulsive purchase and by the time she reached the door reconsidered and wanted to return the item. When she went make the return approximately five seconds later, the clerk stated she could give her store credit, but she could not return the cash. There is a no refund or returns policy in the store. My daughter was devastated.

My daughter is young and unaware of refund policies. It would be easy to use this as justification to “fix” this problem for her. It is our own emotions that usually prevent us from taking advantage of these teaching moments. So how do you help your child and take advantage of these moments? It is important to comfort and validate your child’s feelings about the experience. Sit, listen and provide support. Validating does not mean you agree with anything he or she is saying! The key is to listen without judgment. The consequence does the teaching and you get to sit back and provide support.

If I rescued her from this experience she would not have learned to check out the refund policy before making a purchase. If I want her to be responsible with money then she needs to think through her purchasing decisions. If I bail her out, who is struggling with responsibility? She learns that she does not have to worry about her money decisions because I will always be there to “help.”

Do your emotions get in the way of allowing your children to take advantage of these “teaching moments?” Do you find yourself complaining about your child’s lack of responsibility and you do not know what else to do? Sometimes talking to someone else can help to identify barriers and solutions. In addition, I personally recommend the Love and Logic Series. Love and Logic is a philosophy founded in 1977 by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. I use their books regularly in my practice.

Post contributed by Bonnie Barclay, LCSW

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Many of us have experienced the joy of the birth of a child--be it a mother or father.  It is an exciting occasion but it can be a difficult time for the mother.  Everyone keeps telling her that this is the happiest time of her life yet internally she realizes that something is very wrong.  And because everyone tells her this she feels guilty and inadequate when the "joy" is escaping her.  Sometimes it can be so severe that she loses interest in caring for her baby, may fear she may harm her baby, or becomes over anxious or hypervigilant around the baby. 

So, what is "this"?  It may be postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.  These feelings may occur immediately--sometimes even start during pregnancy--or it may be months after the birth when she recognizes that it is not as it should be.  Her spouse may recognize that she has changed and is troubled by her behaviors.

So, what should we do?

First, you should know that there are different levels of postpartum depression--from "baby blues" that normally resolve themselves to serious psychotic episodes.  Most importantly, the mother can see a therapist that will confidentially talk with her about how she is and has been feeling.  The therapist will do an evaluation of her situation and then help her to make the decision that works best for her to get her to becoming the happy, healthy mother that she wants to be.

Please don't suffer in silence!  In the words of Adlai Stevenson, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional".

Friday, September 3, 2010