Guest Post: A Veteran’s Thoughts on “Thank You for Your Service”

When people find out I served in the military, their usual response is, “Thank you for your service.” This is popular on Veterans Day.

Honestly, I never know how to respond. I typically say ‘thank you’ back. I never say, “You’re welcome.” Something meant to be pleasant sometimes becomes an awkward exchange. It’s not like other holidays when I can confidently reply ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or ‘Happy Holidays.’

I reflected on why I have such a hard time accepting credit for my service – and I found two major culprits.

The Glorified Soldier

Firstly, when I hear the word “veteran,” it conjures up images of classic war movies with brave heroes like John Wayne in The Green Berets or Charlie Sheen in Platoon, engaging in jungle warfare in Vietnam.

I also think about the men of WWII considered ‘The Greatest Generation’ with their elegant olive drab green uniforms and Jeeps; one of my favorite shows is Band of Brothers on HBO.

Although I tried my best to do my job everyday, I couldn’t relate to nor live up to those expectations. Those men jumped out of airplanes into aerial artillery to fight off the Nazis.

But every Veteran has their own story – and this one is mine.

Combat, Coffee, & Staying Sane

My first combat tour was Operation Iraqi Freedom from the year 2004 to 2005. I remember one long year of staring at a computer, daily gym workouts, and running on the treadmill.

We came under attack several times, and it was dangerous; however, the hardest part of the deployment was keeping our minds busy and sane. The best medicine for my mental health was coffee, music, workouts, bootleg movies, and books. Care packages and letters were a rare treat.

A prominent memory I have is when the helicopters landed on our last night to take us to the airport to start our long journey back home. The memory of that night has remained vivid in my mind for over 17 years.

PTSD

I think the second reason I find it difficult to respond to ‘thank you for your service’ is that I try to avoid traumatic memories. For a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is typical to steer clear of conversations that may trigger unwanted memories.

Recently, I reflected on a memory I had been avoiding for quite some time. I was attached to a unit in Herat, Afghanistan in 2009, co-located with our Italian NATO partners. I remember the first day I landed. It was a cold morning, about 3 a.m., and I was transported alone by a cargo plane. All I could see was shadows of tents and huts and the silhouette of the mountains. I remember the stars shined like bright diamonds like I had never seen before in the United States.

I would spend four months at that location. It was difficult at first; however, we gained momentum and accomplished several missions.

Our base was attacked late one night; most of the staff had already gone to bed. I heard the first explosion from a distance. Several explosions followed, and they kept getting closer.

The enemy was creeping Rocket Artillery from the mountains. We were extremely vulnerable because we lived in tents and worked out of wooden huts. There were several concrete bunkers spread throughout the base for added protection, so my first reaction was to put on my gear and go wait it out in the bunker.

I was the first one there and I waited for everyone to follow. I was safe but I was alone, and I was worried about the others. No one joined me. I left the safety of the bunker and went to check on one of my friends. He was dead asleep. I remember waking him to the sound of explosions. “We are being attacked,” I said. He woke with a start and put on his armor vest and helmet and set off to check on the others.

The rest is a blur. I remember we split up to wake everyone, directing them to the bunkers, while the reaction team set out to take care of the shooters. By the time I made it back to the bunker, it was full. I crammed in at an exposed end. The explosions kept getting closer and started to hit some of our tents and equipment.

I remember feeling terrified from the uncertainty and the deafening explosions. We were lucky we did not lose anyone that night.

Thinking back on this memory, I realize I didn’t think twice about risking my safety to help my fellow soldiers. It’s what I would expected from them as well.

Normally, when people say “thank you for your service,” they don’t know why they are actually thanking me, and honestly, until recently, neither did I.

The Aftermath

The things I experienced while serving have been the source of nightmares, anxiety, and depression. What’s more, when I returned from deployment, I had to face life, new careers, civilian culture, housing, anger, marital problems, and financial stress without the moral support I used to get in the military.

I actually missed the life purpose supplied by combat and the need to feel needed by my band of brothers. At first, I tried to cope with alcohol, as many veterans do, but I realized it was not the answer. I eventually sought expert help from the Veterans Affairs. Today, part of the way I cope is by helping others as a mental health counselor.

Conclusion

After much thought and self-reflection, I am finally able to accept the great complement, “Thank you for your service.”

This is what you are thanking me for: I chose a timeless and noble profession. I chose to serve. I left the comfort of my family and my home to follow through with a commitment, to make good on an oath I made when I was a skinny 18-year-old fresh out of high school. I chose to stay drug-free and obey all the laws, to lead an honorable life to be fit for duty and able to serve. I chose to risk my safety for the benefit of the greater good. So, thank you for acknowledging my service.

And to all my fellow veterans: Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines, “Thank you for your service.”


According to the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report: In 2020, there were 6,146 Veteran suicide deaths.

To get help from a Veterans Crisis Line:

  • Call 988 (press 1)
  • Text 838255
  • Call TTY if you have hearing loss at 1-800-799-4889

If you are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, visit VeteransCrisisLine for more resources.


About the Author: Seferino Martinez is a Texas native who joined the military after graduating high school. He is a veteran of both the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). He has a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Liberty University and is a Licensed Mental Health Professional in the state of Virginia.


50 Unique Gift Ideas for Therapists in 2022

This is a list of 50 fun and creative gift ideas for therapists in 2022. (See 50 Unique Gift Ideas for Therapists for last year’s top picks!)

Disclaimer: Some posts contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.


GIFTS UNDER $10

1. BIC Gel-ocity Gel Pen Set

$9.32 on Amazon

Every therapist needs a set of quality pens. These gel pens are great for taking notes, color coding, and staying organized in the office.

2. You Are a Badass® Talking Button: Five Nuggets of In-Your-Face Inspiration

$6.29 on Amazon

Amazon: “In her refreshingly blunt #1 New York Time’s bestseller, You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero served up hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, and the occasional swear word, all with the goal of helping readers reverse self-sabotaging behaviors and create a life they love. You will love this badass kit, which includes an 88-page mini abridgement of Sincero’s irreverent guide and a Badass Button for your desk, kitchen, or bedroom that spouts inspiring messages in Sincero’s own voice. It’s the perfect anytime reminder that ‘You are a badass!'”

3. Mental Health Stickers

$5.99 on Amazon

A 50-piece set of mental health awareness stickers.

4. Stone Stacking: Build Your Way to Mindfulness

$9.95 on Amazon

This mini desktop calming kit includes:

  • 9 hematite stones
  • Beechwood tray
  • Bag of sand
  • 32-page book on the art of stone stacking

5. Couch Business Card Holder

$6.69 on Amazon

What comes to mind when you hear the term psychotherapy? Lying on a couch and recounting the details of a dream you had while being psychoanalyzed by a man who silently takes notes? This sofa-shaped business card holder is the perfect gift for any therapist or psychologist, regardless of their theoretical orientation!

6. Sunflower Starter Kit

$9.98 on Amazon

A sunflower grow kit for the therapist with a green thumb!

7. Memory Foam Wrist Rest & Mouse Pad Cushion

$9.99 on Amazon

A highly-rated 2-piece set from Gorilla Grip; available in other colors too!

8. ‘Lets Taco Bout It’ Sticker

$4.49 on Amazon

The perfect gift for the therapist in your life who loves tacos. For more taco-themed therapy stickers and gifts, check out what Etsy has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:

9. Glitter Wand

$8.99 on Amazon

A fun prop for asking variations of “the miracle question.” (You may be unfamiliar with this concept, but every counseling grad student or master’s-level counselor knows the miracle question!)

10. “What the F*ck Is My Password?”

$6.39 on Amazon

A bawdy password tracker for the bawdy therapist in your life.

11. Mini Art Therapy Coloring Kit

$8.84 on Amazon

Amazon: “From the bestselling international coloring book series, Color Yourself Calm. Creating beautiful art can be a positive and relaxing experience. This kit includes 10 colored pencils and 50 illustrated cards with detailed designs to complete. Lift your mood and focus your mind – no drawing skills required!”

12. Motivational Words Wall Decal

$9.98 on Amazon

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Easy to peel and stick vinyl; perfect for the office, group room, or classroom.

13. ‘Make It Happen’ Notepad

$6.22 on Amazon

A fun, 50-sheet pad for creating daily to-do lists.

BOOKS & EDUCATIONAL GIFT IDEAS FOR THERAPISTS

14. Psychology Today Subscription

$19.97 for a one-year subscription on Amazon

Psychology Today publishes content written by clinicians, experts and researchers from across the fields of behavior and psychology. It is the original and largest publishing enterprise that is exclusively dedicated to human behavior. The magazine has received numerous awards for both editorial and design, and is published six times a year.

15. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR)

$150.81 on Amazon

It’s here! The long-anticipated revised text of the DSM-5 arrived this year, and it includes a new diagnosis – prolonged grief disorder – as well as new diagnostic codes for suicidal behavior, plus much more. Every therapist needs a copy of their own!

16. Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5-TR

$47.88 on Amazon

If the DSM-5-TR isn’t in your budget, consider this handy, spiral-bound desk reference for a third of the price.

Amazon: “The Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5-TR is a concise, affordable companion to the ultimate psychiatric reference, DSM-5-TR. It includes the fully revised diagnostic classification, as well as all the diagnostic criteria from DSM-5-TR in an easy-to-use format. This handy reference provides quick access to the information essential to making a diagnosis. Designed to supplement DSM-5-TR, this convenient guide will assist all mental health professionals as they integrate the DSM-5-TR diagnostic criteria into their diagnoses.”

17. Pocket Psych Drugs

$41.95 on Amazon

A handy spiral-bound guide to serve as a quick reference on psychotropics, including various classes and their side effects.

NOVELTY GIFT IDEAS FOR THERAPISTS

18. Jar of F*cks

$16.99 on Amazon

A jar of f*cks to give. (Buy on Amazon, or even better, DIY with a mason jar and wooden cutouts!) This is the perfect tool for illustrating the concept of how in life, there are only so many things we can give a f*ck about – it’s important to figure out which ones matter the most. (A great companion to the #1 New York Time’s bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.)

19. Sigmund Freud’s Oral Fixation Lip Balm

$5.95 on Amazon

“So you have chapped lips. Stop blaming your mother.” Freudian slips… and eucalyptus… for the lips! Oral fixation lip balm with all natural ingredients.

20. Brain Bookends

$25.98 on Amazon

A must-have for the brainy, book-loving therapist!

21. Famous Male Psychologists Magnets

$26.00 on Amazon

Set of 7! (Alternatively, consider this tote bag for $15.00 on Amazon that pictures famous female psychologists as well as male.)

22. Dinosaur Therapy: THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

$11.39 on Amazon

Amazon: “A wistful, honest and highly relatable account of modern life. Dinosaur Therapy is a book of cartoons for grown-ups from the very successful web comic @dinosandcomics. In each comic, dinosaur characters grapple with questions around the meaning of life and mental health, trying to make sense of the world and cope with their own place in it.”

23. Sigmund Freud Bust Succulent Planter

$14.95 on Amazon

More Freudian fun!

24. Psych Experiments: From Pavlov’s Dogs to Rorschach’s Inkblots, Put Psychology’s Most Fascinating Studies to the Test

$13.99 on Amazon

Amazon: “Guided by Michael A. Britt, creator of popular podcast The Psych Files, you can conduct your own experiments when browsing your favorite websites (to test the “curiosity effect”), in restaurants (learning how to increase your tips), when presented with advertisements (you’d be surprised how much you’re influenced by the color red), and even right on your smartphone (and why you panic when you can’t find it). You’ll even figure out how contagious yawning works!”

25. Funny Pavlov’s Dog Psychology Mug

$19.99 on Amazon

Microwave and dishwasher safe! (Alternatively, consider this ‘Don’t Make Me Use My Therapist Voice’ mug for $19.95 on Amazon.)

THERAPY TOOLS & GAMES

26. The Live Your Values Deck: Sort Out, Honor, and Practice What Matters Most to You

$17.06 on Amazon

An Amazon bestseller! “Living your values increases your compassion, reduces your stress, enhances your confidence, and allows you to experience more intimacy in your relationships. These 78 cards offer you a practical set of tools for determining your core values and practicing them in your daily life. Start off with a simple sorting exercise, then dive deeper into your highest values with the prompts and activities listed on each card.”

27. Toss ‘n Talk-About Anger Management Ball

$11.44 on Amazon

A 24″ inflatable ball that features questions, quotes, and positive affirmations to help clients to open up; this therapy tool inspires new ways of thinking about coping with anger. (Alternatively, you may want to consider the Toss ‘n Talk-About Addiction Ball for $22.99 on Amazon.)

28. Me Magnets

$22.95 on Amazon

A tool for exploring identity, personal values, personality traits, and characteristics.

29. Social Emotional Game for Kids

$29.90 on Amazon

Amazon: “Help young kids talk about their own feelings and learn to empathize with others. This learning faces toy is fun to play with and a great conversation starter. Children can play independently, recreate a story, or describe their own feelings.”

30. Recovery BINGO! Game for Adults

$42.95 on Amazon

Great for group therapy. Includes laminated game cards, calling cards, chips, reproducible handouts, and instructions. (Wellness Reproductions & Publishing also offers bingo kits for coping skills, stress management, social skills for teens, and more. If you’re looking for something fancier, check out The Coping Game from Wellness Reproductions & Publishing for $59.95 on Amazon.)

31. GIANTmicrobes Deluxe Brain with Plush Neurons and Neurotransmitters

$43.95 on Amazon

An adorable plush brain with neurons and neurotransmitters for illustrating how mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD disrupt mental functioning.

Also available from GIANTmicrobes: Depression Plush for $13.95, Anxiety Plush for $13.95, Dopamine Plush for $15.95, and Serotonin Plush for $15.95.

32. “Which Would You Choose?”

$8.95 on Amazon

A fun icebreaker activity for groups. Perfect for the therapist who works in a hospital or residential setting, or who does group therapy. “This cute, compact tin is filled with 50 hilarious and thought-provoking questions asking players to choose between two equally good, unpleasant, or absurd scenarios.” (Alternatively, consider Googling “would you rather” scenarios and make your own cards or worksheets!)

33. Totika Therapy Game Cube

$49.95 on Amazon

Amazon: “Includes one Totika Therapy Game Cube and six decks of Totika question cards, each deck with 150-188 questions, prompts and scenarios for a total of more than 1,000 interventions. The Early Childhood Social Emotional card deck is for ages 4-7 and the Teen-Adult Principles/Values card deck is for ages 13 to adult. The Anger, Resilience, Bullying, and Icebreakers cards are for ages 8 and up.”

34. Kinetic Sand Kalm

$29.99 on Amazon

Amazon: “With 2 pounds of kinetic sand and 3 tools, immerse yourself in a soothing and mesmerizing sensory experience! This fidget box is perfect for stress relief – play, relax and unwind!”

35. A Little SPOT of Emotion 8 Plush Toys with Feelings Book Box Set

$30.27 on Amazon

Amazon: “This set is a companion to the bestselling books ‘A Little SPOT of Emotion Books Box Set!’ This set comes with a newly released hardcover special edition ‘A Little SPOT of Feelings‘ book with all 8 Emotion plush toys! The PLUSH TOY EMOTIONS included are: Anger, Anxiety, Peaceful, Sadness, Happiness, Love, Confidence and Scribble (Tangled). The book included features a bonus mirror in the back of the book along with a FEELINGS POSTER that is printed on the inside of the dustjacket. The poster and mirror were added to help children identify facial expressions.”

OFFICE ACCESSORIES & DECOR

36. 3-Tier Relaxation Tabletop Fountain

$29.70 from Amazon

Currently on my own Amazon wish list! Both soothing and decorative, a great addition to any office space. (Hint: Watch the price on this one! While working on this post over the course of a few days, the price increased from $22.99 to $29.70.)

37. ‘What You Say In Here Stays In Here’ Canvas Wall Art

$19.99 from Amazon

For a cheaper version, create your own sign using Canva – then print and frame! Alternatively, try making a sign with sticker letters from Dollar Tree.

38. Mini Label Maker

$36.99 from Amazon

A mini label making machine for the therapist who loves staying organized! (Another item to watch for price changes; it went from $30.59 to $36.99 in one day. Alternatively, there are plenty of cheaper label makers that also have high ratings on Amazon.)

39. Himalayan Salt Lamp Bowl with Natural Crystal Chunks

$33.95 on Amazon

Amazon: “Himalayan salt lamps give your home, business, store or lounge a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere. Not only does it help enhance the mood, its amber glow gives the ambience a special interior design experience.”

40. Therapy Office Desk Décor: Things I Can Control

$15.98 on Amazon

Amazon: “This desk décor item will remind you to focus on what you can control and stop worrying about things you can’t control. Perfect office décor for any psychologist, counselor, social worker, teacher, or therapist!”

41. Cinema Style Light Box

$15.50 on Amazon

Perfect for creating your own inspirational message to display in the office! (Click here for a mini version for only $12.95!)

42. Single Serve K-Cup Pod Coffee Brewer

$49.99 on Amazon

The perfect space-saving Keurig for any office for the coffee-loving therapist!

43. Wheel of Emotions Pillow Set

$18.99 on Amazon

Great for the office or waiting area! You may also want to consider these wheel of emotions coasters for $25.98 on Amazon.

44. LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine

$49.99 on Amazon

A highly-rated, #1 bestseller on Amazon; this white noise machine is perfect for protecting privacy and minimizing disturbances in the office.

WELLNESS & SELF-CARE GIFTS TO PREVENT BURNOUT

45. Stress Less Card Deck

$14.35 on Amazon

Amazon: “This unique Stress Less Cards deck contains 50 extremely effective exercises to help you relieve stress and deal with anxiety whenever you need it the most. Easy for everyone to use, these powerful techniques can be quickly memorized and used in any situation; on the bus, at work, at your desk, while queuing at the supermarket or before going to bed at night. These exercises are designed to stop that stress reaction and help you relax.”

Alternatives to consider: Stress Less and Self Care Cards and Empowering Self Care Questions. (Or, if you’re feeling creative, create your own deck of self-care cards or design a self-care calendar for 2023!)

46. BodyRestore Shower Steamers

$22.50 on Amazon

The #1 bestseller in bath bombs, 12 aromatherapy shower steamers in citrus scents to revitalize and restore.

47. Only Good Vibes Positive Thinking Jar

$19.99 on Amazon

Amazon: “This gift is an encouragement not only to believe in oneself more, but to do more and be more of what you want to be in your life. Love yourself, embrace yourself and never stop moving forward.”

48. Deodorant Wipes

$12.74 on Amazon

50 individually wrapped wipes for feeling clean and refreshed throughout the day! (For the “man’s man” counselor, consider these Dove Men+Care Deodorant Wipes for $12.99 on Amazon as an alternative.)

49. Anxiety Blob

$25.00 on Amazon

This guy goes with the book, Affirmations for Anxiety Blobs (Like You and Me): Gentle Thoughts to Keep You Centered, Focused and Hopeful for the Days Ahead. A perfect gift for the anxious therapist in your life.

50. Shiatsu Neck & Back Massager

$180.00 on Amazon

Another one from my own Amazon wish list. It’s a little pricey, but top-rated! “The massage chair utilizes innovative 2D/3D finger pressure shiatsu, rolling, compression, vibration and heat functions to provide you an omni comfortable massage to the back like a spa massage.”


What are some of your unique gift ideas for therapists? Post in a comment!


6 Ways I Experienced Depression

True to my vision, Mind Remake Project features real-life experiences about living with mental illness and/or addiction. To date, a handful of guest writers have courageously shared about how they experienced depression or battled with alcoholism. On an even grittier, soul-baring level, an anonymous person, impromptu, shared in a comment about being homeless and addicted to drugs.

Meanwhile, when it comes to my mental health and personal experiences, I’ve disclosed very little. Talking about this isn’t something I shy away from, but I find the subject rarely comes up. Polite exchange in social settings allows for topics limited to the weather, current events, career, physical health, etc. To openly discuss a mental condition is too taboo for the office watering hole or cocktail hour.

In the event that mental illness is mentioned, it brings about a palpable shift, an undercurrent of tension to the room. (I witnessed this phenomenon when I single-handedly [mouthedly?] shut down a lively group conversation; someone asked me how I got the scar on my ankle, and I answered honestly.) In response to the discomfort, some use humor to lighten the mood while others quickly change the topic; some become quiet, shifting nervously, while others exit the conversation.

Meanwhile, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about, say, a colonoscopy, which is a medical procedure involving someone (a doctor, ideally) putting a scope up your butt. This takes place only after you’ve cleared out your bowels, a feat accomplished via pharmaceutically-induced diarrhea.

The above shows how stigma, even in a passive role, persists.

The absurdity of it is that in today’s society:

  • Explosive poops and scope up your butt = okay to talk about
  • Your mental illness = not okay to talk about, absolutely not!

And if someone feels uncomfortable (or fears making others uncomfortable) when talking about their depression experience, imagine how difficult it would be to seek treatment!


Thus far, as this site’s creator (a mental health professional who has struggled with depression and anxiety in the past), I’ve posted only research findings, information/resources related to mental health topics, and guest contributions, but have not shared my own experiences, including the very ones that influenced my career path while fostering empathy. That’s about to change.

I’m writing this post, not to provide resources or clinical tools, but to be transparent with readers about my own mental health and how I experienced depression. Also, this is to take a healthy risk while taking a stand against stigma, and, as always, in the hopes of helping anyone out there feel a little less alone.

How I Experienced Depression: Tears, Poetry, & Pain

In my teens and early 20’s, I experienced depression, including several episodes that were severe. And while nearly two decades separate me from those times, the memories can come back in a rush if, for example, I’m working with a client who is severely depressed, and I recognize the all-too-familiar signs. It attests to how powerful depression is.

This post is not to advise or offer tips for healthy coping; it’s simply to share my experience. The following are some of the ways I experienced depression and how I coped with it:

1. I cried

So much. Nearly every night, I sobbed myself to sleep. Life hurt so, so bad.

I cried during the day too, sometimes in the bathroom at school. Once, I couldn’t stop crying and I had to go home.

I took walks in the rain and wept with the sky. Other times, I would sob in the mirror, and it would make me cry harder because of how ugly I looked, red-faced and nose streaming. My puffy eyelids would be pink and swollen, like two fat earthworms.

Alone, I would sob aloud. When I thought others might be within hearing distance, I’d muffle my cries, hyperventilating into my pillow or a wad of tissues.

Supposedly, the tears produced by emotional pain contain a chemical (oxytocin) not found in the tears that spring from your eyes when you stub your toe or chop up an onion. The idea is that the release of oxytocin brings about a sense of relief and calm.

However, when a person is depressed, the crying persists, but without any sense of relief. My tears only brought headaches and more tears, a faucet I couldn’t shut off.

2. I skipped class

It’s possible my teachers wrote me off as a delinquent. I was regularly late to class, or I would leave early. In college, I sometimes didn’t go at all.

The teachers, professors, and pastors placed in my life to guide and mentor me ascertained that if I was serious about my studies, I would be on time, engage in class, or at least not have so many absences. I was reprimanded as they saw fit. But it’s hard to focus on school when you don’t want to be alive.

My reality was that I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings because I didn’t want to live – I woke up feeling disappointed that I was still alive, dreading the day. What’s more, being around others, attempting to hold it together, was too much to endure. I could barely function, and being surrounded by seemingly happy-go-lucky, oblivious classmates and teachers made it worse.

The pain of depression is all-encompassing and emotionally draining; to have to pretend to be okay on top of it devours whatever’s left. When I could no longer hold together the façade, I escaped.

3. I self-injured

The previously mentioned scar on my ankle is from a burn. I used a cigarette lighter to singe my own flesh. (The scar is still there, but today completely covered with a tattoo.) And my conversation-stopping response? It was just the truth, which was, “I was really depressed when I was younger so I would cut myself and burn myself with lighters.”

I even wrote a poem about self-mutilation (titled ‘Self-Inflicted Relief’) in which I graphically described self-harming, how Gillette became a weapon, and how the pain on the outside matched what was within.

Did it help to self-harm? Yes. It allowed me to express myself as well as punish myself. What’s more, it provided me with a sense of control.

Did I do it for attention or was it a cry for help? Not consciously, but maybe on a subconscious level? Self-harm is counterintuitive to one of our most basic, primitive drives: survival.

To purposefully hurt oneself goes against the self-preservation instinct. Due to this, when self-harm occurs, it means something is very wrong, and some form of ‘attention’ or help (i.e., intervention, treatment, etc.) is needed. In a roundabout way, a person who self-harms is getting their needs met by doing whatever it takes to survive.

4. I wrote

Trapped in a classroom, in my bedroom, or in my own head, alone with my pain, I wrote. In my depression, I journaled and I wrote poetry – lots and lots of poetry. It helped.

I also wrote notes and letters to friends. I wrote about boys and homework or drew peace signs or copied whatever the girls in the grade above me were scrawling on the covers of their composition books. The notes and letters I wrote served as distractions.

What I never wrote about to my friends was how sometimes, I wanted to die, or how I would feel paralyzed, turn bright red, and be irrationally embarrassed every time a teacher called on me in class (which I later learned was social anxiety). Those types of things were my deepest secrets, secrets I guarded with my life.

5. I ate and slept

If my depression had been a starving beast, and all I had to do to appease it was feed it, I would have conquered that monster the day I started college.

My first year at the small, private university I attended, I gained the ‘freshman 15’… each and every month. I worked in the cafeteria and, after serving lunch, I’d make myself a to-go box filled with double (sometimes triple) portions of everything. (Due to my social anxiety, I was never able to face the dining room alone. I would rather have all my fingers cut off – slowly – with a rusty tomato knife, than walk into the vast sea of students eating and socializing.) I’d take my cafeteria carryout back to my dorm room and eat by myself.

What’s more, I had round-the-clock access to junk food: chips, candy bars, milkshakes, etc. Eating was my main (sometimes my only) source of pleasure.

Along with the gluttony and lack of a social life came excessive sleeping. I’d go to bed early (as in, before 9’o’clock) every night and sleep until I had to be up the next morning.

In fact, my sleep habits were such a sure bet, the one night I stayed out past curfew, it went unnoticed by the resident assistant who did bed checks. She must have assumed that the dark lump of pillows on my bed was me because: when I had never not been in bed by 9:00 p.m.? And figuratively, I was a lump – a depressed, food-devouring lump of pillows and pain.

6. I tried to kill myself

What if you know with a certainty that things won’t change? What happens when you’re hopeless, drowning in your misery, and death starts to look more and more appealing? Sometimes, the only way to end the pain is to end yourself.

At least, that’s how I felt when I was severely depressed. That’s what the suicidal mind feels, thinks, and believes. But that isn’t (and wasn’t my) reality. Depression has a way of dimming your vision, making you forget that the world was once bright or that you’re not actually going blind.

For me to see the light, I had to stop viewing darkness as my fate, my friend… a long-term solution to my short-term pain. It never was. I wanted the pain to end, but I didn’t want to die. So, I lived. I learned to endure, and eventually, learned to love my life.

Conclusion

To conclude… depression really f***ing sucks. And it’s so lonely, bearing that heavy burden by yourself. And it gets so old, having to hide the pain all the time.

At least, that was how I experienced depression. It took me too long to learn that while it sucked, I didn’t have to deal with it alone or hide it. I only wish I had known sooner; I would have reached out and found the support and care I needed.

If you can relate to feeling depressed but think you can’t speak up or that no one will understand, you don’t have to go through this alone! Help is out there. It gets better. It will be better, you will feel better, and you will be better… I promise.


Guest Post: Do You Need Counseling?

Our world has become tougher to navigate. Our jobs are becoming too stressful, and our relationships with our family, friends, and special ones are becoming fraught. We have to make sure our bills are paid on time every month or else we’ll land in a debt trap.

Accidents can happen, or we can get sick and be hospitalized. Our friends and families can also get sick and may die, leaving us with a hole in our hearts that can never be filled.

Every day we feel this existential dread of experiencing another pandemic and feel the slow but inevitable demise of our world because of the climate crisis. All the while feeling the loneliness, hopelessness, and that crushing feeling that no matter what you do, things will never be alright. It’s relentless.

Counseling: What Is It and Why Do You Need It?

Are you experiencing any of the things mentioned above? Have you had an experience that deeply traumatized you? Do you feel your family or friends are unable or unwilling to understand you and your concerns? 

What is counseling exactly and what should you expect?

Counseling is a form of therapy guided by a trained and certified professional, specifically a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Keep in mind that counseling requires your participation. A clinician might hold your hand and guide you, but ultimately, you will be the one to take the first step on the path you mapped out with your counselor.

The counseling process is structured and involves multiple stages that could take months or years depending on the severity of the issues you are dealing with.

Counseling is more than just venting your frustrations to someone you paid to listen to you. As mentioned, it’s a process. A journey. Take a look at the stages of the counseling process below.

1. The intake stage

This is the stage where the counselor tries to get as much information as they can about your concerns.

Some of the relevant information required includes the symptoms you are experiencing, your lifestyle, your medical history, and your immediate concerns. All the information can be gathered during the first session, or sometimes during the succeeding ones as well.

This is also the stage of the process wherein the counselor tries to build rapport with you so everything will sail as smoothly as possible.

2. The assessment stage

After collecting relevant data and establishing rapport, the counselor then proceeds to assess your issues and how these issues affect you and the people around you. This is also the stage when a diagnosis is usually made.

3. Planning the treatment

Once the assessment is made and the diagnosis is done, the counselor will work with you to design a roadmap to address the issue(s) at hand. The counselor will also work with you and help you implement the treatment plan.

4. Therapy

Now that you have a roadmap, the actual therapy session can begin. During the therapy sessions, you are encouraged to discuss your feelings, past traumas, hopes, relationships, the things you’re anxious about, etc.

If you think something’s too trivial, then stop that line of thinking immediately. Nothing is too trivial for your counselor, and the information might even help your provider as they chart the next course.

This is also the time for you to learn new things or improve on what’s already there with the help of your counselor. Sessions can take months or years depending on the severity of the problem.

5. Termination

Once everything is sorted out and you’ve achieved your goals, it’s time to terminate the counseling process. If you believe you still need help or if you feel that your clinician has not addressed your issue properly, then feel free to ask for a referral.

When it’s time to seek counseling

Have you been experiencing emotional or mental distress lately? Have you been sad, anxious, fearful, or angry for an extended period? Do you feel empty or have your relationships been suffering?

Don’t wait; seek counseling right away. It’s better to address the problem now than let it fester and become a bigger problem later on.

Keep in mind that counseling is not just for people who are dealing with personal problems. You can also seek counseling to improve a specific aspect of your life.


This guest article was written by contributors from Voxen Counselling on the Gold Coast.

Counselling @ Voxen offers a variety of counselling services to help the client get through life’s hurdles – from trauma counselling, anger management, anxiety and depression counselling, relationship counselling, specialising in children, family, relationships and couples therapy. Not only will your counselling sessions be handled professionally – but with respect, dedication, care, empathy, warmth, and without any prejudice. These qualities help build an environment that is compassionate, supportive, and safe – all of which supports and contribute the healing process.


12 Hilarious Responses to Guests’ Negative Hotel Reviews

First, let me say this post falls outside my site’s niche… but I was so entertained when I read these responses to negative hotel reviews, I felt like this was too good to not share. (That said, humor is an important coping tool… laughter is great for mental wellbeing!)


In preparation for a weekend trip to Cancun, I started reading reviews for the hotel I booked, paying special attention to the bad ones. At first, I didn’t bother to read the hotel’s responses until this sentence caught my eye:

“I am sorry that you were not able to reach your desired alcoholic state, but your health is very important to us.”

Warmest Regards, Guest Experience Manager

This cleverness was in response to a reviewer who complained about not being able to get drunk (insinuating that the drinks were watered down).

I began reading not only the negative reviews, but the corresponding responses from the hotel. Not only does an elusive guest experience manager politely respond to every single review, his responses are artfully crafted, a delicious concoction of apologetic concern and tact, perfected with a splash of snark (always closing with the salutation, “Warmest Regards, Guest Experience Manager”).

So subtle is the sarcasm, it could potentially be attributed to a language barrier, but I’m convinced that’s not it, and that the guest experience manager is a mastermind (with a great sense of humor!)

Read the responses and decide for yourself!


Beware bad reviewers: the guest experience manager at Hotel NYX is not afraid to call you out on your own bad behavior!

Responses to Negative Hotel Reviews on TripAdvisor

1) To ronX4715NF, who left two stars because he asked to remain parked in the lot for a few hours after checking out and was told no, and then also asked to take a few items from the breakfast buffet to-go and was told no:

Thank you for sharing your review. Unfortunately, when you requested to use our parking lot, it was not at your check-out; rather, you informed us that you had been a guest of the hotel a few days ago and wanted to go to Plaza La Isla, but did not want to pay for parking at the mall. Since you were no longer a guest a few days ago, we cannot allow you to use our limited parking space, which our current guests need. I am sorry if that experience outside your stay has affected the good service you mentioned you enjoyed. We hope you will be able to visit us again and make use of all our facilities, and we look forward to welcoming you back.

2) To 933yushanh, who left two stars because there was a leak and no hot water in their room:

Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable review. I am sorry that your room had a leak during the raging [storm] that we had. In that type of situations, we definitely change the room in order to offer you better experience. However, we don’t have any information of requesting a change of room or informing the situation regarding the hot water. We really encourage our guest to inform front desk in order to assist them properly. We hope you can give us the opportunity to welcome you again and offer you a better stay.

3) To hectorh831, who left one star for the staff who were “unhelpful, unorganized, and not professional.” He also accused the hotel of not being gay-friendly.

Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable review. I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy your short stay with us. As your records informs, you did not appreciate the fact that our restaurants have a dress code. Gentlemen must wear a sleeve shirt. I am sorry if you perceive it as a personal attack. I am also aware that we gift you a NYX sleeve shirt in order to avoid any inconvenience with the restaurants, as you state that you had no other shirt than sleeveless. We can assure you that our hotels do not make any type of discrimination or difference regarding your personal preference. As a matter of a fact, we have many groups, events, and weddings of all genders, ethnicities, and nationalities. Therefore, your complaint is misplaced. We will always be glad to welcome you again, in order to pamper you.

4) To carolinaei13, who left one star because she was robbed of a small amount of money left in her backpack and then staff were unhelpful and not empathetic to her situation:

Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable review. I am truly sorry that you weren’t able to fully enjoy your stay with us. The first time that you report the situation to front desk, our receptionist explain to you the process when something is lost. After that, a security agent is in charge of taking the report, looking into the system to see who enter to the room, check the room and if you allow it, to make a thorough search of the room and your belongings, either to verify that the object or money is not there, or to find it, as it is often found among the belongings. Our receptionist has to translate everything to the security agent, I am sorry if you find her services as rude. Regarding the security report, our security supervisor accompanied you to your room to check your room badge and do the searching in your room, however, right there you decided that you would not let him in to do the check after he explained to you again about the process, refusing his services. By interrupting and rejecting the investigation, we cannot assist you further than that. It was also explained to you that you should make use of the safe box to store important items and/or money, otherwise the hotel cannot be held responsible. At the end, you were told to see a manager the next day. The room badge shows us that no staff enter the room because you left the “do not disturb” sign. Then you conjectured that someone may enter through the window. Security did check on the outside area of your room, however, there was no evidence to show that anyone tried to enter through the window, and most likely it is not possible without leaving traces or footprints. Your case was dismissed for lack of evidence and because you refused the entire security process. However, you were offered the necessary reports, so that if you wished, you could file a report with the police. Nevertheless, the manager did change your room and give you a free upgrade in order to make you feel safer, even thought there was no evidence. We regret the situation, however, we will always keep our arms open to welcome you back and pamper you.

5) To Bethany G, who left one star with her review, ‘WORKERS ARE THEIVES,’ in which she accused staff of stealing:

Thank you for taking the time to share with us your experience. We have taken all your feedback on board and this will be used constructively to perfect our future guests’ experience. We would like to comment that at no time were your belongings stolen, when you reported it, our staff found your belongings in the suitcase in front of you and after a day, you called the hotel to report that you forgot a hairdryer, when in fact there was nothing in the room. However, we appreciate your sincere feedback and it will be channeled to the relevant departments for follow-up.

Responses to Negative Hotel Reviews on Travelocity

6) To Charles, who commented on front desk staff and being given a hard time for not wearing a mask and was “kicked out” of the line while waiting to make dinner reservations by a rude staff person:

Thank you for sharing your kind review. We are really glad that you had enjoyed your stay with us, moreover, that you had enjoyed our food quality of our restaurants the attentive services that our staff offered you. I am sorry that you perceive her services as rude. Currently, all over the [world] we are facing a new COVID spread, and the reservation area is a very close environment where a lot of people gather in order to make reservations, as you known we have a policy at the hotel that in close areas and restaurants it is necessary to wear a facemask not only for our guest, for our staff as well. Nevertheless, checking our cameras, it is shown that you were kindly asked to wear a facemask, you said some unpleasant words and leave, at all time you were kindly a polite treated. We understand that waiting is not the best of the experiences, however, we are in a high season. I am sorry if that was an inconvenience. We hope you can visit us again, to pamper you even more.

7) To Aleksey, who commented on there being no amenities for kids, bad food, and disrespectful staff, and won’t be back:

Thank you for sharing your valuable review. We are really glad that you had enjoyed the good quality of our restaurants and bartenders, as well as the good services that our waiters offer you. I am sorry that you didn’t enjoy our Chianti restaurant, normally we have wonderful comments about it. Our is a family hotel, however we do not have a kids club, you can verify the information on the web. I am sorry that you perceive that our staff weren’t trained properly. As our report inform, you bring ya babysitter; for someone to enter the hotel, being a guest must register, if you are not a guest, you must pay a daypass, at the moment we do not have daypass due to high occupancy, so you were offered the rate of the extra person, you inform that was quite expensive, and we made an exception to give you the rate of the daypass, it was still not to your liking. We have to remember that this is high season and unfortunately no one enters the hotel without paying. I am sorry that this was an inconvenience. We hope you will give us the opportunity to serve you again, to offer you a better experience. Warmest regards.

8) To Dianko, who left one star due to the hotel having lots of stairs, and when his wife fell on the stairs and he reported it, no one showed up:

Thank you for take the time to share your valuable review. We hope that you were able to enjoy most of the good services that we have to offer. I am deeply sorry to read that your wife fell on the stairs close to your room on the 1st floor. Indeed, you report it, and in our records our front agent offer you assistance and first aid assistance from our security department in order to check your wife’s elbows and knees. However, you refuse the attention because you had dinner at Umami. She may assume that everything was fine. I apologize for the inconvenience. Nevertheless, we hope you can give us the opportunity to welcome you again in order to give you an even better experience and create better memories.

Responses to Negative Hotel Reviews on Booking.com

9) To Tracie, who commented on having issues with her room and there being invasive seaweed:

Thank you for sharing your kind review. We are really glad to read that you had a good stay in general, specially that you had enjoyed the quality of our breakfast. I am sorry if you had issues with your room, we always recommend informing front desk, so they can assist you and give you a proper solution. Unfortunately, we do not have any information regarding these issues. Unfortunately we cannot control the seaweed, we only can clean our beach area, however due to the hot season, the seaweed appears. Your comments are really important to us because it helps us to improve our services. We hope you can visit us again and offer you a better experience.

10) To Reico, who commented on the front desk staff being rude, having to ask them 5 times to fix the AC in the room until they were finally moved to a new room:

Thank you for sharing your valuable review. We are glad that you had enjoyed your comfortable room and the view, as well as the attentive service that our staff offered you. As our system reports shows, you were originally in a Deluxe Room. Our front agent sent several times a maintenance agent, regarding an issue with the thermostat of your room. Our technician were able to fix it, leaving the standard temperature of 21 °C, however, it seems it was not cold enough for you. Our front agent gift you a free upgrade to a Junior suite, that has an ocean view, in order to give you a better solution. I am sorry if you perceive a lack on their service. We hope you can visit us again to pamper you again.

11) To Saif, who left a poor rating because he did not enjoy anything at the hotel and commented that the beach was bad, and the manager was rude and had a horrible attitude:

Thank you very much for sharing your valuable comment. I am very sorry that you did not enjoy your stay. Normally, we have excellent feedback regarding the beauty of our beach, during the warm season the sea produce a lot of seaweed; we cleaned it every day. Nevertheless, we cannot control its growth. You booked a Deluxe room for 2 adults and 1 child; however, you arrived at the hotel with 6 people. We supported you by checking to see if you had another reservation, unfortunately, you only booked that room. Our manager gave you a special rate for the second Deluxe room, despite the high occupancy. Since you came with minors and for your convenience, you were given 2 free upgrades to a Junior Suite with ocean view for both rooms, in order to keep the 2 rooms together. Thus saving you $120 USD per day per room. I regret if you perceived this as a bad attitude from our management, however, at all times you were treated with respect and given the best options from the goodwill of our management. Unfortunately, we cannot give rooms for free. Even less if it is not the hotel’s responsibility.

12) To Lidia, who left one star in her review titled, ‘Horrible customer service,’ because they didn’t give her a king suite and instead put her in a 3-bathroom, 2-bedroom suite:

Thank you for taking the time to share with us your experience. We have taken all your feedback on board and this will be used constructively to perfect our future guests’ experience. We know that our colleague Estela from reception offered you a room with a single bathroom, a king size bed and a room for yourself but, unfortunately, you did not want to change your room. Our staff was attentive to all your needs and we regret that it was not enough. We hope you give us the chance to demonstrate you that our main goal is to create good experiences.


So, after reading, what do you think? Is the snark intentional, a little passive aggressive even… or not?

Either way, I hope you enjoyed reading the guest experience manager’s responses as much as I did!


Guest Post: Addiction, Family, and Healing

The battles that come with loving a person who struggles with addiction can be extremely painful. One such battle is having to face the dishonest words and behaviors of your loved one.

When Trust Falls Apart: A Look at Addiction, Family, and Healing

Families will often come to me, astounded by how their addicted loved one can look them right in the eye and calmly lie that he/she is not drunk or high, when it’s evident that he/she is. This type of interaction feels so very personal to the family.

It can leave the family feeling hurt, disillusioned, or downright furious. We think, “How could they do that to someone they love?!”

In a healthy brain, one that is unencumbered by the highjacking of addiction…they likely wouldn’t. That’s why it’s so confusing and painful. Many families will report that the dishonesty about drug and alcohol use causes more wounds to the relationship than the use itself!

However, with education about how addiction works, we can come to understand how the bizarre nature of this disease can actually be fairly predictable – and why our loved one has deviated in this way from values we hold dear (and maybe they once did too).

Getting High to Survive

As addiction progresses, the addicted person becomes more and more captive to the demands of the disease. Because the disease greatly impacts the “survival circuitry” in the brain, the perceived need for the drink/drug becomes a profound compulsion.

The logic that an addicted person would follow is similar to that of a starving man who easily justifies the theft of a loaf of bread, “I gotta do what I gotta do. I’ll deal with the consequences later.”

Stuck in the Middle

I often envision an addicted person in a tragic tug-o-war. On one team is the Disease, fierce and manipulating them into submission. On the other team are Societal Expectations: the shared belief structure of right vs. wrong, laws, and norms.

The notion of a healthy family structure falls under the umbrella of this second team, holding expectations of mutual respect, consideration, honesty, and the like.

While most addicted people never fully abandon these values in their heart of hearts, the pull of the disease tugs progressively stronger until the person is being yanked between others’ expectations and their own compulsions.

At this point, it can feel to the addicted person that the most adaptive solution is… lie like your life depends on it.

In other words, the addicted person attempts to keep society/family satisfied (or at least at bay) while keeping the disease satisfied by continuing to feed it.

It’s Not Because They Don’t Love You

As personal as the dishonesty can feel, this was never about love. I have come to consider dishonesty as an actual symptom of substance use disorder. It’s an adaptation the addicted person makes to continue surviving in “normal life” in spite of the profound changes that have occurred in their brain.

To be clear, I do not share the above explanation as a justification of hurtful behavior. I share it as a clinician who happens not to have a personal history of addiction.

In my early years as a provider for the substance-misusing population, I too, struggled with the bewilderment, and at times admittedly hurt feelings, when my addicted clients would lie to me about their recent use. After all, I was there to help them, right? Why would they lie to ME?

I’ve come to truly understand however, that dishonesty serves as an odd… but reliable ally that shields the addicted person from their shame, consequences, and need to explain their actions.

While a growing body of neuro-scientific understanding continues to shed light on the “WHY?” many of my clients would admit that on a personal level, they truly don’t understand why they do what they do.

What they do know however is that in order to get to their next fix, they need to evade those that love them the most. A loving family who wants to save you from addiction is the greatest threat to your next high.

Breaking Up and Waking Up

That powerful allegiance between the addicted person and their drug/drink seems only to be broken when they themselves come to understand that this intimate affair they’ve had with their substance has become a nightmarish relationship with a toxic abuser, the kind of abuser that controls their life and takes everything else they love away.

At that point, we hope they can finally reconsider their allegiances.

Recovery: Not Just for Substance Users

When a loved one enters recovery from addiction, it often takes the family a very long time to trust again. Understandably there is skepticism and disillusionment. After all, if a person has looked us in the eye and lied so calmly to us during active addiction, what is our barometer for honesty now?

The notion that “time takes time” is a reality that a recovering person must humbly accept. The addiction caused great damage, and that will take time to heal.

But as the family nurses its wounds, they must also understand that trust-building is a two way street. We must accept that our loved one lied to us because they didn’t trust us to understand the tug-o-war in which they were trapped.

The only way to become a trusted ally is to begin listening and trying to understand. In this, we also hopefully set the stage for them to eventually hear and understand our pain as well.


About the Author: Karen Perlmutter, LISW-CP, has worked as a therapist in clinic, hospital, and private practice settings for 15 years. She specializes in the treatment of substance abuse and mental illness, with a particular interest in supporting the entire family system through the complex journey of addiction. She has developed an evidence-based course for families coping with a loved one’s addiction.  Karen also aims to share education, support and hope with the community through a variety of speaking forums which have included universities, treatment programs, support groups, National Public Radio, professional development events, and an upcoming Tedx Charleston talk.


Guest Post: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Times are tough for therapists. Providing mental healthcare these days is challenging. Therapists find themselves in the midst of many perfect storms. Global changes, social unrest, tremendous upheaval, and trauma in the lives of their clients can mirror the struggles in their own lives, potentially leading to burnout.

Being a therapist is a beautiful, noble, and worthwhile undertaking. It is our life’s work. Yet often it is a slog. Clients may report a bit of progress, but then things fall apart. Our efforts to get through to them come up short. We can become lost and hopeless ourselves, watching people we have grown to care about continue to suffer and struggle.

In these situations, compassion fatigue and burnout can become a real risk. When we are worn down and exhausted, it can be difficult to give to our clients. The work that once inspired us can become draining to the point that it impacts our own wellbeing. When we feel burnt out, we need to find inspiration and reconnect to what it means to be a therapist.


Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: 4 Steps to Avoid Burnout

Here are 4 accessible steps for therapists to avoid burnout and compassion fatigue during challenging times:

1. Practice Real Self-Care

Self-care is vital for therapists. We learn from very early on in our training that we need to take care of ourselves to care for others. Yet what does self-care look like when you are at a level of weariness and burnout?

When we are in a lot of pain, our output to input ratio changes. If we are guilty of giving too much to our clients and not receiving enough from our lives, then we need to change the way we think about healing so that we do not give more than we take in. We must be okay with simply being present with our clients. We do not need to move mountains or do the work for them. As a therapist, you have to care for yourself too. We must strive for a healthy work-life balance to feel whole and avoid burnout.

Practicing self-care and attention, even in session, can help avoid burnout. Have a coffee in session. Sip it slowly. Take in the light that’s streaming through the window. Our clients need us to be present and alive when we’re meeting with them.

2. Practice Presence

What do you need to be present in session even in the face of others’ pain? Will always having food or tea with you help? Do you need different cushions on your chair? How about comfy clothes? A fan in the heat of summer? You may need a whole little apothecary on the table next to you to symbolize that you are present and caring for yourself while you care for your client.

Contrary to what we may have been taught, we do not need to hide our pain from our clients. We can let them know what we are going through. Clients benefit from having a full human being with them who is giving, receiving, experiencing joys, struggling, and even suffering themselves. Giving yourself permission to be a full person that is comfortable in the therapy room allows you to be truly present.

We need not clear everything out of our mind, be totally empty, and have no distractions in order to be present. I have seen new therapists who won’t remove their gaze from the client in session. That is too rigid. Instead, to avoid burnout, it helps to stay relaxed and open. We don’t need to override being human to be present in session.

3. Receive Care

Giving and receiving are connected. To effectively give to our clients and avoid burnout, we need to be adept at receiving. Receiving a breath, receiving a hug, receiving food, receiving sunlight, receiving sleep, and receiving company with people are all simple ways of taking in life so that we have more to give. Excessive giving can be a defense against receiving, as it can sometimes feel vulnerable to receive. To be impactful at giving to our clients, and to understand the control and power we have as therapists, we need to work on our ability to receive, and remove any barriers to taking in life.

For instance, how do you receive gifts from clients when they give you a present to express their gratitude? We are supposed to give to our clients, but the tables turn when they give to us. It is important for us to be open in those moments and receive the gratitude being offered. Instead of saying, “Oh, thank you very much,” and then putting the gift away, we might instead make a show of it, and ceremonially receive what they bring. Being fed by them in some way might help us be even more effective at feeding them overall and help to avoid burnout.

4. Embrace Your Humanity

Therapists are human too. When we are in pain, we need to be able to embrace our humanity and care for ourselves. To be effective at managing our clients’ pain, we must respond to our own suffering with warmth and self-compassion. Otherwise, we cannot practice real, deep compassion for others. When you give others a break for being a certain way, but won’t let yourself be that same way, it is not real compassion. It is unnecessarily beating yourself up, thinking that you need to be strong to help.

It is human to be weak. I have been surprised when I start hinting to clients that I don’t have it all together, they respond more effectively to treatment. When we are vulnerable with clients, we are sharing with them what it is to be human – that we are not always doing well. We acknowledge that the human experience is varied, that we are not ideal, but instead very human.

To avoid burnout, may the person you are be the same as the therapist that you are. May who you are in the therapy room be the same as who you are outside the office. You will feel way more at ease. Let your clients see you. They want to be seen and they want to be able to see you. Remember that your ability to see others only goes as far as your ability to be seen.


About the Author: David Klow, founder and owner of Skylight Counseling Center and Skylight Healing Center, is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). He is the author of the new book, Inspiration for the Weary Therapist: A Practical Clinical Companion, from Routledge Press.


Guest Post: How CBT Can Heal Mental Illness

Choosing a therapist is difficult enough, but it becomes perplexing when you see a long list of acronyms following their name. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of those acronyms.

CBT, founded on the notion that our ideas create our reality and behavior, may be just what you need, whether you’re seeking assistance for mental health concerns or need a little additional support.

Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy are two distinct therapy modalities combined in CBT. Cognitive therapy focuses on how ideas and beliefs lead to unfavorable feelings and behaviors. Behavioral therapy emphasizes the causes of behavioral patterns and how they can be changed to impact mood positively.

What is CBT?

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that uses solution-based techniques to heal dysfunctional emotions, ideas, and behaviors. It is helpful for various issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, problems with alcohol and other drugs, general stress, managing one’s anger, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental disease.

Establishing new, healthy behavior patterns motivates patients to confront unhelpful and misguided thinking. With CBT, it is hoped that harmful behaviors can be modified and rerouted by rewiring cognitive pathways based on the theory that our ideas and perceptions influence human behavior.

It is essential to highlight that improvements in CBT have been made due to clinical and research-based work. A wealth of scientific evidence supports CBT, demonstrating that the techniques used indeed result in change. CBT is distinct from many other types of psychiatric therapy in this way.

How is CBT practiced?

According to Mary Heekin, a therapist at CBT Denver, “CBT is a practical, results-based, evidence-tested approach. It teaches people how thoughts and actions influence mood and other aspects of mental and physical health. People are given strategies to overcome challenges daily. CBT is very flexible and can benefit people with mental health conditions.”

CBT is based on several fundamental theories, such as:

  • Psychological issues stem from flawed or harmful ways of thinking.
  • Learned undesirable behavioral patterns can evidence psychological problems.
  • People with psychological issues can develop more robust coping mechanisms to help them manage their symptoms and improve their effectiveness.

In CBT, efforts are made to alter thought processes, such as:

  • Recognizing one’s thinking patterns that are problematic and then reevaluating them in the context of reality
  • Improving one’s knowledge of other people’s motivations and behaviors
  • Use problem-solving techniques to deal with challenging circumstances
  • Increasing one’s self-assurance as one grows in confidence

CBT treatment attempts to alter behavioral patterns. Such strategies include:

  • Confronting one’s fears without ignoring
  • Using role-playing to get ready for possibly awkward social interactions
  • Learning how to relax one’s body and mind

Not all CBT will implement each of these techniques. Instead, a collaborative effort between the psychologist and patient/client is used to analyze the issue and develop a treatment plan.

The goal of CBT is to assist people in becoming therapists. Patients and clients are assisted in developing coping skills to learn to alter their thoughts, disturbing emotions, and behavior through activities done both during and outside of sessions.

Instead of focusing on the circumstances that lead to the client’s problems, CBT therapists highlight what is happening in the present. Although some knowledge of one’s past is necessary, the goal is to move forward in time and create more useful coping mechanisms.

What conditions respond well to CBT?

Many mental ailments such as mood, anxiety, eating disorders, insomnia, and substance use disorders respond well to this therapy. While CBT is beneficial for people with mental health concerns, it can help anyone improve their quality of life.

Here are three common mental health disorders that are treated with CBT:

Bipolar disorder

CBT is helpful for bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, dysthymia, and depression. If you have one of these disorders, it might be beneficial to recognize thought patterns contributing to mood problems and confront them by adopting a more realistic and positive perspective on your environment. In contrast to other treatment modalities, CBT emphasizes collaboration and goal-oriented therapy sessions.

CBT teaches several essential skills that target the core ways bipolar disorder affects you. These include:

  1. Acknowledging the diagnosis. The first step is to understand and admit that your disorder is causing your symptoms. For mental health practitioners, teaching about the condition’s indications, symptoms, causes, and progression is crucial because it may be challenging for individuals with bipolar disorder to accept their diagnosis. Psychoeducation empowers people to receive needed assistance while also realizing they are not alone.
  2. Monitoring overall mood. This is frequently accomplished by keeping a worksheet or notebook between sessions, which is then evaluated with your therapist. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 equals “depressed,” 5 equals “feeling OK,” and 10 equals “very irritable or heightened mood,” patients are asked to rate their mood daily. The goal is to increase awareness of mood shifts and triggers.
  3. Restructuring cognitive processes. A patient can fix incorrect thinking patterns by learning to become more conscious of the impact that thoughts have on their mood, how to recognize problematic thoughts, and how to change or correct them. The therapist shows the patient how to analyze their thoughts, seeing errors like ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking and coming up with more reasonable ideas.
  4. Frequently solving problems. This stage teaches you how to recognize a problem, devise potential solutions, choose one, try it out, and assess the results. Problem-solving is typically first introduced in therapy and then practiced in-between sessions. Problems arise in all life areas, including relationships, jobs, and finances. If none of these stressors are addressed, you risk experiencing a lapse more frequently.
  5. Improving your social abilities. Some people living with bipolar disorder struggle socially, making them feel like they aren’t in control of aspects of their lives. You may improve how you manage interpersonal relationships by developing skills like assertiveness.
  6. Making routine changes. Establishing a rhythm to your day through regular, scheduled activity helps to stabilize your mood. Examples include:
    1. Working out in the early afternoon
    2. Maintaining regular sleep and mealtime routines
    3. Scheduling social activities
    4. Performing household duties

Anxiety disorders

Patients who suffer from anxiety disorders benefit from CBT’s attention to thoughts and behaviors. CBT assists patients in experiencing fewer and less intense symptoms of dread, anxiety, and panic, as well as avoiding being controlled by their fear by identifying habitual thought patterns that result in the sense of danger.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for issues with a physical foundation. It is founded on the idea that our negative thought patterns influence or even drive our behaviors and impulses.

CBT professionals use common techniques to help you manage anxiety and change your behavior.

1. Restructuring or reframing of the mind

Examining negative thought patterns is a necessary step in this process. People may frequently:

  • Overgeneralize
  • Believe the worst will occur
  • Give excessive weight to minute details

This thinking could influence human actions and, in some cases, might become a self-fulfilling prediction. The therapist will inquire about one’s mental processes in certain circumstances so one can spot negative patterns.

Once the patient becomes conscious, they can learn how to change them into more optimistic and useful ones.

2. Thought challenging

By using concrete examples from our daily lives, patients may challenge their thoughts and look at something from multiple aspects. Instead of simply accepting their beliefs as the facts or the truth, thought questioning might help people view things more objectively.

A person can attempt to rectify the unhelpful beliefs with more balanced and factual ones by becoming aware of when a cognitive distortion is present in their thinking after receiving education about them.

People with anxiety may find it difficult to reason through the issues. They may experience anxiety but be unable to pinpoint its source. Or they might fear things like social gatherings but not understand why.

3. Behavioral activation

You can plan an activity if anxiety prevents you from doing it by placing it on your calendar. Doing this lets you set up a strategy and stop worrying about it.

For instance, you might plan a meet-up with a friend in the park if you’re worried about your kids’ safety at the same place. The techniques you practice in CBT will inspire you to take action and deal with the situation.

4. Maintaining journals

You can connect with and become aware of your thoughts and feelings via journaling, also known as a thought recorder. It can also facilitate cognitive organization and clarity.

You may list the negative and uplifting thoughts you can replace them with. Your therapist could encourage you to keep a journal of the new abilities and habits you practice outside of therapy sessions.

5. Behavioral research

These are frequently employed when you have devastating thinking, which is when you predict the worst.

Like in a scientific experiment, we make assumptions about the possible activity results and write down what we believe will occur and what we fear may happen.

Discussing your predictions and whether they came true with your therapist may be a good idea. You’ll eventually realize that your worst-case situation is unlikely to occur.

6. Calming methods

Relaxation methods ease tension and improve your ability to think correctly. These, in turn, can assist you in regaining control of a circumstance. These methods could consist of:

  • Activities for deep breathing
  • Progressively relaxing the muscles
  • Meditation

You may apply these techniques whenever you’re anxious because they don’t take much time, like in the checkout line at the grocery store.

OCD

Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder use particular compulsions to escape their distressing obsessive thoughts temporarily. The automatic connection between obsessive thinking and ritualistic compulsive conduct is broken through cognitive behavioral therapy. Additionally, CBT teaches patients not to engage in rituals when they are worried.

The following methods are frequently employed in CBT to assist in treating OCD patients. Along with treatment sessions, calming techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can be used to reduce anxiety.

Here are some CBT techniques that are commonly used to treat OCD:

1. Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP)

Exposure and response prevention therapy is the most beneficial CBT technique for treating OCD. The patient is exposed to the anxiety-inducing obsessive thought during this procedure, but they are not permitted to engage in the compulsive action. They must deal with their anxiety until it subsides, and they get numb to it by doing this to avoid the brief relief that comes with the compulsion.

Among the elements of ERP are:

  • In vivo exposure – Sometimes known as “real-life exposure,” involves regularly exposing a subject to feared stimuli for a long time.
  • Imaginal exposure – The mental representation of a feared stimulus and the effects of exposure to the stimuli is known as imaginary exposure.
  • Ritual or response prevention – Avoiding ritualistic behavior after exposure to the feared stimuli is known as ritual or response prevention.
2. Exercises for deep breathing

Exercises focusing on breathing are pretty effective at reducing OCD-related anxiety and can be used during ERP. Deep breathing exercises come in various forms, but they all have the same goal of soothing the body by lowering the breath and pulse rate.

3. Progressive relaxation of the muscles

People can physically contract and relieve tension throughout their bodies via progressive muscle relaxation. Our bodies may activate the fight-or-flight reaction when we are under stress or anxiety, which frequently results in muscle tightness throughout the body. You may easily manage your stress by preventing your body from activating this response.

4. CBT and cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is a method of confronting irrational thoughts or cognitive patterns. This way, patients may replace these patterns with logical, sensible thoughts. The idea is to utilize facts to refute arguments founded on emotional reactions.


By recognizing the beliefs that lead people to turn to food, drugs, or impulsive behavior, these disorders can be treated. CBT teaches patients the skills to recognize the circumstances that could lead to bingeing on substances or acting impulsively, and it also helps to find alternate, healthier ways to cope.

How to find a CBT professional

Finding a competent therapist can be difficult. Though it may seem overwhelming to know where to begin, you can find a counseling practice that is ideal for you. Here are some things to consider when searching for a CBT expert.

Initiate your search

Ask friends and relatives for ideas. Online searches are a further resource for finding a CBT therapist. You can search a database on the Psychology Today website by state. Additionally, you can look through the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists‘ directory.

Identify the characteristics you’re looking for in a therapist

Identifying the kind of therapist you would feel at ease with is helpful. Your ability to regain mental health will depend on how well you get along with your therapist. Ask yourself:

  • Who are you looking for in a therapist?
  • Do you prefer working with a particular gender?
  • Do you want an older or younger therapist?
  • Do you desire a spiritual component to your therapy?

Don’t compromise

It’s vital that you feel at ease with your therapist. It’s acceptable to look for a better match if they aren’t a good fit. Not everyone will be a good fit, and various therapists can address multiple concerns.

Online or in-person consultation

When you visit a therapist in person, you sit on sofas or chairs in their waiting room or office. However, as more therapists see their patients virtually, clinics now provide a more comprehensive range of possibilities for online therapy. You could discover that virtual counseling is more comfortable for you.

Certain businesses, like Online-Therapy, specialize in CBT. In addition to treatment sessions, they may provide you with additional beneficial materials like workbooks and live sessions.

Group or individual therapy

You may opt for CBT in a group therapy setting or individual counseling. In a group therapy session, a facilitator, typically a mental health professional with a license, works with a small group of persons experiencing related problems. The patient can get a one-to-one consultation with the doctor in an individual counseling session. 


Conclusion

It might be challenging to deal with mental illness, but fortunately, there are actions you can take to get through them. CBT is a means to alter your negative thought patterns so that they have a positive impact on how you react to circumstances.


About the Author: Dr. Joann Mundin is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been in practice since 2003. She is a Diplomate with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and a Fellow with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Currently associated with Mindful Values, she provides assessments and treatment for patients with severe mental illness.

Guest Post: Can a Plant-Based Diet Impact Your Mental Health?

According to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life. Depression and anxiety are among the top conditions that people suffer from.

As our society becomes more aware of mental health and more attuned to improving it, a number of potential solutions and aids have come to the surface.

One of the most recent theories is that a plant-based diet could help improve your mental health and reduce the effects of anxiety and depression. Today, I’ll examine this theory and show you some of the top research-based evidence so you can decide for yourself!

Can a Plant-Based Diet Improve Your Mental Health?

Obesity and physical illness aren’t the only drawbacks of an unhealthy diet. It’s no secret that our dietary choices have a huge impact on our mental health.

Our body needs specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to support optimal hormone production and healthy brain function. Without them, our hormone levels can fluctuate drastically, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • And more…

Simply put – when we’re not eating healthily, our bodies will ultimately suffer, both physically and mentally.

Plant-based diets tend to be a lot healthier, compared to the average American diet that’s full of meat, sugar, and highly-processed foods. As a result, plant-based eaters tend to consume more plant-based nutrients than meat-eaters.

Meat does contain some essential nutrients. However, as long as vegans are supplementing with the best plant-based trace minerals to make up for this, they shouldn’t be negatively affected by the lack of meat in their diet.

Can a Plant-Based Diet Help Depression & Anxiety?

A growing body of evidence points towards the idea that a plant-based diet could improve your mental health. A recent study of 219 individuals revealed that those who adhered to plant-based diets were around 6% less likely to suffer from depression.

Six percent may not seem like a huge difference, but it’s certainly relevant. For those who suffer the daily effects of a mental health condition, a pharmaceutical-free solution (no matter how small the chances are) is certainly worth looking into.

Cognitive Dissonance & Plant-Based Eating

It’s easy to see how proper nutrient levels can correlate with healthier brain function. However, there’s a deeper aspect that’s just as relevant.

The American Psychological Association (APA) published a paper showing that many who suffer from depression also suffer from cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that occurs when an individual’s beliefs about themselves don’t line up with the life that they actually live. It can also happen when an individual holds two conflicting beliefs at the same time.

For example, a part of you might really want to change your diet, improve your health, and start a plant-based lifestyle. The other part of you might also really enjoy meat, junk food, and other unhealthy things in your life.

Until you make a solid decision to follow one path or the other, you’ll likely feel uncomfortable. Sustained over long periods of time, these feelings can develop into depression or anxiety.

Once people commit to living a healthier lifestyle (which may include a plant-based diet), the positive decision can often feel like a weight lifted off of the shoulders. Stress, guilt, and indecision are replaced by focus, positivity, and clarity, which are naturally healthier emotions.

Not All Vegan Food Is Equal

When considering a plant-based diet to improve your mental health, it’s important to keep in mind the type of vegan food that you’re eating.

Not all vegan food is healthy.

Unfortunately, there are lots of unhealthy, highly-processed vegan foods that can be detrimental to your health.

I always recommend that plant-based eaters stick to natural, healthy whole foods, whenever possible.

Vegan Probiotics & Mental Health

Gut health often correlates with mental health. The healthier your gut biome is, the less likely you are to suffer from conditions like depression and anxiety. When your stomach is healthy, it’s able to absorb more of the nutrients it needs. Probiotics can even improve your body’s ability to create and absorb serotonin!

While vegans may not be able to consume yogurt (which is the biggest source of probiotics), the best vegan probiotics contain all of the essential bacteria needed to support a healthy gut!

Conclusion – Can Going Vegan Improve Your Mental Health?

As long as you’re consuming healthy whole foods and vegan nutrient supplements, then you may see improvements in both your physical and mental health! Vegan diets tend to be healthier than non-vegan diets and are more positive and ethical.

Combined, all of these things can lead to a happier state of mind, which can reduce the effects of depression and anxiety.


Guest author Emma Wilson is the creator of Vegan Calm, your guide to everything vegan!

A Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Perfectionism

This guide has 50+ free resources for overcoming perfectionism including assessments, worksheets/handouts, workbooks, guides, videos, articles, and more.


Do you hold yourself or others to unrealistic standards and find yourself defeated or frustrated when those standards aren’t met? Are you sensitive to criticism and have a fear of making mistakes? Do you have a tendency to procrastinate? Are you driven by fear or have an intense fear of failure? If so, you may be a perfectionist. And it may be hindering you instead of helping.

The Dictionary.com definition of perfectionism is “a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less.” The American Psychological Association further defines perfectionism as it relates to mental health as “the tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.”

Perfectionism can be unhealthy – harmful even – and is associated with depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.


This beginner’s guide to overcoming perfectionism provides free resources for assessment, exploration, education, and motivation.


Assessment & Screening

How much of a perfectionist are you? Take a test!

Worksheets & Handouts for Overcoming Perfectionism

Use the worksheets below to learn more about perfectionism and to do some self-exploration.


For additional worksheets and handouts see 200+ Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts.

Workbooks & Guides for Overcoming Perfectionism


For additional PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides see 500 Free Printable Workbooks & Manuals for Therapists.

Videos for Overcoming Perfectionism

Podcasts About Perfectionism

Articles & Research About Perfectionism

Increase your knowledge and find out what research tells us about perfectionism.

Quotes for Overcoming Perfectionism

“Perfectionism is the art of never being satisfied.”

Unknown

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

Salvador Dali

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to do our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.”

-Brené Brown

“Have the courage to be imperfect.”

Alfred Adler

“Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

Winston Churchill

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

— Leo Tolstoy


Additional Resources for Overcoming Perfectionism

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.