Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, and Toolkits for Providers Who Work with Children, Adolescents, & Families

A resource list for providers who work with youth and families. Free PDF manuals for clinicians and handouts/guides for families.

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Updated February 10, 2020

The original source for this list is my post, Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, and Self-Help Guides. However, the “Children, Youth, & Families” section was becoming too lengthy. The purpose of this post is to organize the youth and family resources so you can quickly find what you’re looking for. This post is divided into two sections: one for providers and one for families.

For Providers

Treatment Manuals/CURRICULUMs & Workbooks

Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Adolescent Coping with Depression Course: Leader’s Manual for Adolescent Groups (321 pages) | Student Workbook (199 pages) | Leader’s Manual for Parent Groups (139 pages) | Parent Workbook (73 pages) (Source: Kaiser Permanete for Health Research) (Find more information here)

The Adolescent Coping with Stress Course: An Eight-Session Curriculum Developed for the Prevention of Unipolar Depression in Adolescents with an Increased Future Risk: Leader Manual (118 pages) | Adolescent Workbook (79 pages) (Source: Kaiser Permanete for Health Research) (Find more information here)

The Adolescent Coping with Stress Course: A Fifteen-Session Class Curriculum Developed for the Prevention of Unipolar Depression in Adolescents with an Increased Future Risk: Leader Manual (112 pages) | Adolescent Workbook (82 pages) (Source: Kaiser Permanete for Health Research) (Find more information here)

Break Free from Depression: A 4-Session Curriculum Addressing Adolescent Depression (Source: Suicide Prevention Resource Center)

Managing Depression: A Facilitator’s Guide for Working with Groups of Women Living with Depression During Pregnancy, After Delivery and Beyond (Source: Best Start, 42 pages)

STEADY: Intervention Manual (107 pages) | Adolescent Workbook (87 pages) (Source: Kaiser Permanete for Health Research) (Find more information here)

Substance Use Disorders

Matrix Series (Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People with Stimulant Use Disorders): Counselor’s Family Education Manual (Source: SAMHSA, 176 pages)

A Modified DBT Group Therapy Manual

Partners In Parenting: A DATAR/FIRST CHOICE Treatment Manual (Source: Texas Institute of Behavioral Research at TCU, 294 pages) 2002

Trauma & Related Disorders

Dealing With Trauma: A TF-CBT Workbook for Teens (Source: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Medical University of South Carolina, 35 pages) (Link to facilitator training here)

The T.O.P. Workbook for Sexual Health: Facilitator’s Manual (Source: Resources for Resolving Violence, Inc., 87 pages) 2010 (Purchase additional workbooks/manuals here)

Triad Girls’ Group Treatment Manual (Source: The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, 201 pages) (More information on the Triad Project here)

Anger

Getting Along and Keeping It Cool: How Anger Works (Therapist Group Manual) (Source: Centre for Clinical Interventions with YouthLink, 79 pages)

Self-Esteem

On My Own Two Feet Series: Identity and Self-Esteem (76 pages) | Understanding Influences (103 pages) | Assertive Communication (121 pages) | Feelings (83 pages) | Decision Making (113 pages) | Consequences (81 pages) | Work Cards (129 pages) (Source: Department of Education and Skills and Professional Development Services for Teachers) (Find more information here)

LGBTQ Youth

Growing Up Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (Source: Department of Education and Skills and the Health Service Executive through the Social, Personal and Health Education Support Service, in conjunction with GLEN [Gay and Lesbian Equality Network] and BeLonG To Youth Services; and Professional Development Services for Teachers, 82 pages) (Find more information here)

It Gets Better: A Group Experience for LGBTQ Youth (Group Curriculum Outline) (Source: Catherine Griffith, Ph.D., 13 pages)

Latinix Youth

Latino Multifamily Group Program Manual, (Source: Valley Nonprofit Resources, 64 pages)

Health & Wellness

Be Real. Be Ready. (A comprehensive relationship and sexuality curriculum for high school students) (Source: Adolescent Health Working Group)

Healthy Living, Healthy Minds: A Toolkit for Health Professionals (Promoting Healthy Living in Children and Youth with Mental Health Challenges) (149 pages) | Healthy Living… It’s in Everyone (A Companion Workbook, 82 pages) (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services)

TRUST (Talking. Relationships. Understanding Sexuality. Teaching Resource.) Workbook (Source: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; Department of Education and Science, the Health Service Executive, and Crisis Pregnancy Agency; and Department of Education and Skills and Professional Development Services for Teachers, 126 pages) (Find more information here)

Group Counseling Resources

A Collection of Icebreakers and Connection Activities (33 pages)

Favorite Therapeutic Activities for Children, Adolescents, and Families: Practitioners Share Their Most Effective Interventions (Source: Edited by Liana Lowenstein, MSW, 119 pages)

Group Counseling Guide (Group activities for children) (Source: Rita Zniber Foundation, 45 pages)

Toolkits & Guides

Alcohol Problems in Intimate Relationships: Identification and Intervention (A Guide for Marriage and Family Therapists) (Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 83 pages)

Behavioral Health: Adolescent Provider Toolkit (Source: Adolescent Health Working Group)

Body Basics: Adolescent Provider Toolkit (Source: Adolescent Health Working Group)

Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators (Source: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 21 pages)

Community Reinforcement and Family Training Support and Prevention (Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 103 pages)

A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LBGT Children (Source: SAMHSA, 18 pages)

Promoting Emotional Resilience: Helping children to find ways to function in a world where bad things happen – A Resource Pack (Source: West Sussex CAMHS and School Attendance Project, 141 pages) 2008

Sexual Health: Adolescent Provider Toolkit (Source: Adolescent Health Working Group

Stress Lessons Toolkit (Source: Psychology Foundation of Canada in partnership with Pfizer Canada, 52 pages) 2012

Trauma & Resilience: Adolescent Provider Toolkit (Source: Adolescent Health Working Group)

The Use of a Full Family Assessment to Identify the Needs of Families with Multiple Problems (Source: UK Department for Education, 105 pages)

For Families

Workbooks For Children & Adolescents

Anxiety Toolbox: Student Workbook (42 pages)

COPE (CAPS COPING SKILLS SEMINAR): Student Workbook (Source: West Carolina University Counseling and Psychological Services, 28 pages)

Dealing With Depression: Antidepressant Skills for Teens (Source: Vancouver Psych Safety Consulting Incorporated, 68 pages)

Just as I Am Workbook: A Guided Journal to Free Yourself from Self-Criticism and Feelings of Low Self-Worth (Source: Queen’s University, 56 pages)

Lemons or Lemonade? An Anger Workbook for Teens (Source: Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW, Education4Health, 38 pages)

Mighty Moe: An Anxiety Workbook for Children (Source: Lacey Woloshyn, 79 pages)

Safe Spot Stress Management Series

Safe Spot: Stress Management Workbook 1 – What Is Stress? (45 pages)

Safe Spot: Stress Management Workbook 2 – Behaviour and Stress (27 pages)

Safe Spot: Stress Management Workbook 3 – Thought Patterns and Stress (29 pages)

Safe Spot: Stress Management Workbook 4 – Problem-Solving and Well-Being (27 pages)

Your Best You: Improving Your Mood (Source: Queen’s University, 103 pages)

Your Best You: Managing Your Anxiety (Source: Queen’s University, 169 pages)

Youth Transition Workbook (Source: Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network/The Rhode Island Transition Council/The Rhode Island Department of Health Youth Advisory Council, 68 pages) 2017

Toolkits & Guides

For Parents & Caregivers

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Information for Families) (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 12 pages)

After an Attempt A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member after Treatment in the Emergency Department (12 pages) | Spanish Version (14 pages) (Source: SAMHSA)

After a Loved One Dies – How Children Grieve and How Parents and Other Adults Can Support Them (Source: New York Life, 24 pages)

Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide (Information Booklet) (Source: National Institute of Mental Health, Hosford Clinic, 27 pages)

Bipolar Disorder: Parents’ Medication Guide for Bipolar Disorder in Children & Adolescents (Source: American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 63 pages)

Borderline Personality Disorder: An Information Guide for Families (Source: CAMH, 72 pages)

Coping with Anxiety During Pregnancy and Following the Birth: A Cognitive Therapy-Based Self-Management Guide for Women and Health Care Providers (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 178 pages)

Coping with Depression During Pregnancy and Following the Birth: A Cognitive Therapy-Based Self-Management Guide for Women (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 118 pages)

Coping with Separation Anxiety Handbook (Source: BC Legal Services Society, 24 pages)

Emotional Intelligence Activities for Teens Ages 13-18 (Source: The Ohio National Guard, 34 pages)

Families in Transition: A Resource Guide for Families of Transgender Youth (Source: Central Toronto Youth Services, 56 pages)

A Family Guide to Concurrent Disorders (Source: CAMH, 222 pages)

Gaining Control of Your Life After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Workbook for Post-natal Depression (Source: Maternal Mental Health Alliance, 38 pages)

Managing Depression: A Self-Help Skills Resource for Women Living with Depression During Pregnancy, After Delivery and Beyond (Source: Best Start, 57 pages)

The Mind Body Connection and Somatization: A Family Handbook (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 46 pages)

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: A Guide for Families by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (18 pages)

Patient & Family Guide to Second-Generation Antipsychotics (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 44 pages)

Postnatal Depression and Perinatal Mental Health (Source: Mind UK, 31 pages)

Recognizing Resilience: A Workbook for Parents and Caregivers of Teens Involved with Substances (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 104 pages)

A Resource Guide for Families Dealing with Mental Illness (Source: Michigan National Alliance on Mental Health, 40 pages)

Suicide Prevention for Consumers and Family Members (Source: Montgomery County Emergency Service, Inc., 26 pages)

Tools & Resources (Toolkit for Families) (Source: Kelty Mental Health, 25 pages)

What Community Members Can Do: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters (For Teachers, Clergy, and Other Adults in the Community) (Information Booklet) (Source: National Institute of Mental Health, Hosford Clinic, 20 pages)

For Youth & Adolescents

Healthy Living for Teens (Source: BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, 23 pages)

A Sibling’s Guide to Psychosis: Information, Ideas, and Resources (Source: Canada Mental Health Association, 34 pages)

Student Life (Source: Mind UK, 22 pages)

Unconventional Coping Strategies

A list of uncommon strategies for coping with stress, depression, and anxiety. Includes a free PDF version of the list to print and use as a handout.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

With Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Contributor)

Effective coping skills make it possible to survive life’s stressors, obstacles, and hardships. Without coping strategies, life would be unmanageable. Dr. Constance Scharff described coping mechanisms as “skills we… have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.” Healthy coping strategies promote resilience when experiencing minor stressors, such as getting a poor performance review at work, or major ones, such as the loss of a loved one.

Like any skill, coping is important to practice on a regular basis in order to be effective. Do this by maintaining daily self-care (at a minimum: adequate rest, healthy meals, exercise, staying hydrated, and avoiding drugs/alcohol.)

As an expert on you (and how you adapt to stressful situations), you may already know what helps the most when life seems out-of-control. (I like reading paranormal romance/fantasy-type books!) Maybe you meditate or run or rap along to loud rap music or have snuggle time with the cats or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Having insight into/awareness of your coping strategies primes you for unforeseeable tragedies in life.

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Virginia Satir, Therapist (June 26, 2019-September 10, 1988)

Healthy coping varies greatly from person to person; what matters is that your personal strategies work for you. For example, one person may find prayer helpful, but for someone who isn’t religious, prayer might be ineffective. Instead, they may swim laps at the gym when going through a difficult time. Another person may cope by crying and talking it out with a close friend.

Note: there are various mental health treatment approaches (i.e. DBT, trauma-focused CBT, etc.) that incorporate specialized, evidence-based coping techniques that are proven to work (by reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing) for certain disorders. The focus of this post is basic coping, not treatment interventions.

On the topic of coping skills, the research literature is vast (and beyond the scope of this post). While many factors influence coping (i.e. personality/temperament, stressors experienced, mental and physical health, etc.), evidence backs the following methods: problem-solving techniques, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques, reframing, acceptance, humor, seeking support, and religion/spirituality. (Note that venting is not on the list!) Emotional intelligence may also play a role in the efficiency of coping skills.

Current research

In 2011, researchers found that positive reframes, acceptance, and humor were the most effective copings skills for students dealing with small setbacks. The effect of humor as a positive coping skill has been found in prior studies, several of which focused on coping skills in the workplace.

A sport psychology study indicated that professional golfers who used positive self-talk, blocked negative thoughts, maintained focus, and remained in a relaxed state effectively coped with stress, keeping a positive mindset. Effective copers also sought advice as needed throughout the game. A 2015 study suggested that helping others, even strangers, helps mitigate the impact of stress.


Examples of coping skills include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, talking to a trusted person, journaling, cleaning, and creating art. However, the purpose of this post is to provide coping alternatives. Maybe meditation isn’t your thing or journaling leaves you feeling like crap. Coping is not one-size-fits-all. The best approach to coping is to find and try lots of different things!

The inspiration for this post came from Facebook. (Facebook is awesome for networking! I’m a member of several professional groups.) Lauren Mills sought ideas for unconventional strategies via Facebook… With permission, I’m sharing some of them here!    

Unconventional Coping Strategies

1) Crack pistachio nuts

2) Fold warm towels

3) Smell your dog (Fun fact: dog paws smell like corn chips!) or watch them sleep

4) Peel dried glue off your hands

5) Break glass at the recycling center

6) Pop bubble wrap

7) Lie upside down

8) Watch slime or pimple popping videos on YouTube

9) Sort and build Lego’s

10) Write in cursive

11) Observe fish in an aquarium

12) Twirl/spin around

13) Solve math problems (by hand)

14) Use a voice-changing app (Snapchat works too) to repeat back your worry/critical thoughts in the voice of a silly character OR sing your worries/thoughts aloud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”

15) Listen to the radio in foreign languages

16) Chop vegetables

17) Go for a joy ride (Windows down!)

18) Watch YouTube videos of cute animals and/or giggling babies

19) Blow bubbles

20) Walk barefoot outside

21) Draw/paint on your skin

22) Play with (dry) rice

23) Do (secret) “random acts of kindness”

24) Play with warm (not hot) candle wax

25) Watch AMSR videos on YouTube

26) Shuffle cards

27) Recite family recipes

28) Find the nicest smelling flowers at a grocery store

29) Count things

30) Use an app to try different hairstyles and/or makeup

31) People-watch with a good friend and make up stories about everyone you see (Take it to the next level with voiceovers!)

32) Wash your face mindfully

33) Buy a karaoke machine and sing your heart out when you’re home alone

34) On Instagram, watch videos of a hydraulic press smash things, cake decorating, pottery/ceramics throwing, hand lettering, and/or woodwork

35) Shine tarnished silver

36) Create a glitter jar and enjoy

37) Tend to plants

38) Color in a vulgar coloring book for adults


Download a PDF version (free) of “Unconventional Coping Strategies” below. This handout can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain. Please modify as needed.


Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Supervised by Mary Ann Satori, LPC-S) is a therapist in Texas and a current resident in counseling.     

I’d like to acknowledge all members of Therapist Toolbox – Resources & Support for Therapists who submitted ideas!

If you have an uncommon coping skill, post in a comment!


References

Association for Psychological Science. (2015, December 14). Helping others dampens effects of everyday stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 13, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151214084744.htm

Canisius College. (2008, January 26). Laughter is the best medicine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 13, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080124200913.htm

Loyola University Health System. (2018, September 21). Boosting emotional intelligence in physicians can protect against burnout. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 12, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921140200.htm

Scharff, C. (2016). Understanding and choosing better coping skills: You can change your mood without drugs. Psychology today. Retrived from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201609/understanding-and-choosing-better-coping-skills

University of Alberta. (2005, June 18). A good game of golf: Mind over matter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 13, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050617235448.htm

University of Kent. (2011, July 14). Positive reframing, acceptance and humor are the most effective coping strategies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 12, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110704082700.htm

Wiley-Blackwell. (2008, April 9). Humor plays an important role in healthcare even when patients are terminally ill. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 13, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408112104.htm

Daily Self-Inventory for Mental Health Professionals

Regular self-evaluation is essential for mental health professionals. Use this daily assessment tool (downloadable PDF) to evaluate your ethical and self-care practices.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

The 10th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) suggests taking daily inventory: “A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real desire to learn and grow.” The founders of AA recommend that a person in recovery both “spot check” throughout the day in addition to taking a full inventory every evening, preferably a written one. An honest self-evaluation can assess for resentment, anger, fear, jealousy, etc. According to the principles of AA, self-inventory promotes self-restraint and a sense of justice; it allows one to carefully examine their motives. Furthermore, it allows one to recognize unhealthy or ineffective speech/actions in order to visualize how they could have done better.

Similarly, for best practice, self-evaluation is essential for anyone who works in the mental health (MH) field. It doesn’t have to take place daily, or even weekly, but it’s a necessary measure for any active MH worker. If we don’t regularly examine our motives, professional interactions, and level of burnout, we could potentially cause harm to those we serve.

“As important as it is to have a plan for doing work, it is perhaps more important to have a plan for rest, relaxation, self-care, and sleep.”

Akiroq Brost

Much of the self-inventory I created is based on the 2014 ACA (American Counseling Association) Code of Ethics and related issues. According to the code, the fundamental principles of ethical behavior include the following:

Autonomy (self-sufficiency), or fostering the right to control the direction of one’s life;

Nonmaleficence, or avoiding actions that cause harm;

Beneficence, or working for the good of the individual and society by promoting mental health and well-being;

Justice (remaining just and impartial), or treating individuals equitably and fostering fairness and equality;

Fidelity (integrity), or honoring commitments and keeping promises, including fulfilling one’s responsibilities of trust in professional relationships; and

Veracity (genuineness), or dealing truthfully with individuals with whom counselors come into professional contact


The following is a format for MH professionals to evaluate both ethical and self-care practices. It’s meant to be used as a daily assessment tool.

Daily Self-Inventory for Mental Health Professionals

1. Did I cause harm (physical or emotional) today, intentionally or unintentionally, to self or others?

Yes                         No

2. If so, how, and what can I do to make amends and prevent reoccurrence?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. Have I treated everyone I’ve come across with dignity and respect?

Yes                         No

4. If no, how did I mistreat others? What were my underlying thoughts/feelings/beliefs? How can I act differently in the future?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. Have I imposed my personal values on a client (or clients) today?

Yes                         No

6. If so, which values, and what steps can I take to prevent this? (Note: professional counselors are to respect diversity and seek training when at risk of imposing personal values, especially when they’re inconsistent with the client’s goals.)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7. Currently, what are my personal biases and how can I overcome (or manage) them?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

8. Have I done anything today that has not been in effort to foster client welfare (i.e. self-disclosure for self-fulfilling reasons)?

Yes                         No

9. If so, what were my motives and how can I improve on this?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

10. On a scale from 1-10 (1 being the least and 10 the greatest), how genuine have I been with both colleagues and clients? ________

11. On a scale from 1-10, how transparent have I been with both colleagues and clients? ________

12. What specific, evidence-based counseling skills, tools, and techniques did I use today? Am I certain there is empirical evidence to support my practice? (If no, how will I remedy this?)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

13. Have I practiced outside the boundaries of my professional competence (based on education, training, supervision, and experience) today?

Yes                         No

14. What have I done today to advance my knowledge of the counseling profession, including current issues, evidence-based practices, relevant research, etc.?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

15. What have I done today to promote social justice?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

16. Have I maintained professional boundaries with both colleagues and clients today?

Yes                         No

17. Did I protect client confidentially to my best ability today?

Yes                         No

18. To my best knowledge, am I adhering to my professional (and agency’s, if applicable) code of ethics?

Yes                         No

19. On a scale from 1-10, what is my level of “burnout”? ________

20. What have I done for self-care today?

  • Self-Care Activities I’ve Engaged In:
    • Exercise
    • Healthy snacks/meals
    • Meditation
    • Adequate rest
    • Adequate water intake
    • Regular breaks throughout the workday
    • Positive self-talk
    • Consultation
    • Therapy
    • Other: ________________
    • Other: ________________
    • Other: ________________

Areas for Improvement:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Areas in Which I Excel:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Download a PDF version (free) of the self-evaluation below. This assessment can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain. Please modify as needed.

5 Instant Mood Boosters

Discover five ways to instantly boost your mood and uplift your spirits.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Need a boost? Here are five quick (evidence-based) fixes for when you’re feeling down.


Listen to music

Turn on the radio or search for your favorite song on YouTube. Music can evoke a powerful emotional response. Listen to something upbeat with a positive message. Music activates areas in the brain that are responsible for processing emotions.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 

Confucius

Be mindful while listening to a happy tune; pay attention to your emotions and challenge yourself to feel happier. In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music experienced improved mood as well as increased happiness over the next two weeks. A 2017 study indicated that listening to your favorite songs impacts the brain circuit involved in internally focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of music you choose; the effect is consistent across genres. Music may play a role in restoring neuroplasticity or as a therapeutic intervention. In 2013, researchers found that listening to uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was linked to enhanced cognitive functioning. An additional benefit to listening to music is improved mental alertness; memory and attention in particular may be enhanced.

Find a green space

Go hiking, find a sunny spot to sit outside, or simply open the window and listen to the sound of the rain falling. According the U.S. Forest Service, spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, reduce anger/aggressiveness, and increase overall happiness. If you’re upset or frustrated, you’ll recover more quickly in a natural setting, such as a forest. Alternatively, consider a stroll in the park for a boost. Researchers found that individuals with depression who took an hour-long nature walk experienced significant increases in attention and working memory when compared to individuals who walked in urban areas. Interestingly, both groups of participants experienced similar boosts in mood; walking in an urban area can be just as effective!

More recently, researchers found that people who regularly commute through natural environments (i.e. passing by trees, bodies of water, parks, etc.) reported better mental health compared to those who don’t. This association was even stronger among active commuters (walking or biking to work). If you commute through congested or urban areas, consider an alternate route, especially when you’re feeling down.

Spending time outside does more than just improve your mood. A 2018 report established a link between nature and overall wellness. Living close to nature and spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Exposure to green space may also benefit the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase sleep duration.

Read/view something inspiring or humorous

Do you have a favorite inspirational book or collection of poems? Do you like viewing motivational TED Talks? Do you enjoy comedy shows? Maybe you like watching videos of baby goats or flash mobs on Facebook. (I do!) One study found that viewing cat videos boosted energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (such as anxiety, annoyance, and sadness). Internet cats = Instant mood boost. However, if Internet cats are not your thing, search around to find something enjoyable to read or watch for your happiness quick-fix.

Plan your next adventure

I’m happiest when I’m traveling the world. Unfortunately, I have limited vacation days (as well as limited funds), which means I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Happily, planning a trip may produce the same mood-boosting effects as going on a trip. In 2010, researchers found that before taking a trip, vacationers were happier compared to those not planning a trip. A 2002 study indicated that people anticipating a vacation were happier with life in general and experienced more positive/pleasant feelings compared to people who weren’t. In both studies, researchers attributed happiness levels to anticipation. (The brain releases dopamine during certain activities, causing us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is also released in anticipation of a pleasurable activity.) To increase happiness, start planning!

Cuddle a pet

Spending time with your fur baby will instantly boost your mood. According to research, pets are good for your mental health. Teens undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse experienced improved mood, positive affect, attentiveness, and serenity after brushing, feeding, and playing with dogs. A 2018 study indicated that dog therapy sessions reduced stress and increased happiness and energy in college students. Earlier this year, researchers found that just 10 minutes of interaction with a pet reduced stress by significantly decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels. Other studies suggest that animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety and loneliness and combats homesickness.

Research indicates that pets help seniors and older adults cope with physical and mental health concerns. Dog ownership is also linked to better cardiovascular health and a longer life.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shultz

The next time you’re having a bad day, listen to your favorite song, go hiking in the woods, watch a TED Talks, start planning your next vacation, or spend some quality time with a furry friend… you’ll feel better!

From Survival to Endurance to Fulfillment: How I Found Meaning in Life

“I gave up on having a future. And I was strangely okay with it.”

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Without delving too deep into my past, I will tell you that my late teens and early to mid 20’s were not the best of times. They were dark. Lonely. Depressing. I was living a life of chaos and hopelessness. At one point, I didn’t think I was going to survive; I gave up on having a future. And I was strangely okay with it.

My turning point was a spiritual awakening of sorts. A near-death experience led to a realization that I didn’t want to die; and it was either die or change my life. I picked change.

What helped me to live again (and ultimately find fulfillment)? You might guess family or a relationship or God. But at the time, I wasn’t close with my family, I didn’t have any significant relationships/friendships, and God wasn’t a part of my life. It was the following that helped me become the person I am today:

A Therapist

Having not a single shred of self-esteem, I went to see a counselor. She created a safe space and then uplifted me, making me feel worthwhile. She normalized what I was going through; I felt less alone. She affirmed me for positive choices I made. She initiated the mending of my fragile self. I gradually gained confidence, not only in myself, but in the idea that I could live a better life.

My Dog

She loved me unconditionally… and she depended on me fully. If I died, she would think I purposely left her. I couldn’t bear the idea; I wouldn’t do that to her. She played a huge role in my recovery. I sometimes think she saved me.

My Potential

I’ve always known I have potential. I’m smart and creative. I’m motivated and driven. But that potential died somewhere along the way in young adulthood. In moments of clarity, I mourned my lost potential. I wanted to be better and to do better with my life. I was meant, maybe not for great things, but for better things than living out of my car, broke and friendless. When I decided to live, my potential reawakened; it became a driving force – a bright, glowing beacon that revitalized and inspired me.

“You have to forgive yourself.”

Self-Forgiveness

I couldn’t bear to tell my therapist about some of the things I’d done. I was ashamed; late at night, lying in bed, I would think about past events. I’d feel sick to my stomach – then, an unpleasant head rush heart racing not able to get enough air… (That’s the feeling of shame seeping from your mind into your being.) My therapist didn’t push me to share; instead, she said, “You have to forgive yourself.” It became my mantra, quietly uttered in the dark. I would repeat, “I forgive myself, I forgive myself, I forgive myself…” until I internalized it. (That being said, it didn’t happen overnight… it took weeks, months, years. But all was set in motion with that one simple statement.)

Education

I went back to school and was able to fully immerse myself in my studies. As a naturally curious person, learning is a sort of fuel for me. The more I learn, the thirstier I become. My classes provided me with not only knowledge, but with a spark that generated purpose.

Passion

While in school, I discovered a new passion; I fell in love with research. (#nerd) I thrived in my research/statistics class; my undergraduate study was even published in a national journal. It felt good to be passionate about something again; it stirred up (from the dust) long-forgotten loves, like reading and writing – passions I thought I’d left behind in childhood.

A Meaningful Career

After finishing college and starting graduate school, I became a counselor… and found meaning in helping others. My first job in the field was tough, heart-breaking at times, and deeply fulfilling. It solidified what my education had started to shape – I no longer needed to survive or endure life; I found my purpose for living.

Feed Your Mood: The Link Between Diet and Mental Health

What foods are associated with increased psychiatric symptoms? What should you eat if you want to boost your mood? Learn what researchers have found when it comes to diet and mental well-being.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

You may have heard of the “food-mood connection.” Research indicates that our food choices greatly impact not only physical health, but mental well-being. Some foods seem to boost mood and reduce psychiatric symptoms while others are linked to depression and anxiety.

Mood Thugs

Sugar negatively impacts mood and slows memory and learning. High-sugar diets are associated with smaller brain volume. Furthermore, sugar will make you less alert and more tired. A recent study found that the idea of a “sugar rush” is myth.

Sugar is not the only villain; fat can be just as harmful. One study found that a high-fat diet may lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, trans fat may lead to poor memory function.

If you have bipolar disorder, avoid processed meats such as jerky, hot dogs, etc. Researchers found that nitrates in processed meats are associated with mania.

Mood Champions

A diet high in fiber and vegetables (with limited added sugar) has been linked to improved mood and a reduction in depressive symptoms. Interestingly, women seem to benefit more than men, and the effect is even greater when exercise is added. A vegan or plant-based diet is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Fruits and vegetables are good for mood, but raw fruits and veggies are better. A raw diet is associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing and lower levels of psychiatric symptoms. According to a recent study, the top raw foods associated with mental wellness are apples, bananas, berries, carrots, citrus fruits, cucumbers, grapefruit, kiwi, lettuce, and dark, leafy greens.

So how many servings of fruit/veggies should you eat per day for optimal mental health? At least 8, according to one study that found happiness benefits were evident for each portion for up to 8 servings per day.

What nutrients should you include in your diet for improved mental health? Research indicates the following are important for mental wellbeing:  Omega-3 fatty acids (fish, flaxseed, walnuts), phospholipids (egg yolk, soybeans), niacin (liver, avocado, brown rice), folate (legumes, beets, broccoli), vitamin B6 (chickpeas, tuna), and vitamin B12 (sardines, fortified nutritional yeast).

In sum, skip the fast food and soda; head to the salad bar instead to feed your mood and your belly!


References

Bonnie Beezhold, Cynthia Radnitz, Amy Rinne & Julie DiMatteo (2015) Vegans report less stress and anxiety than omnivores, Nutritional Neuroscience, 18:7, 289-296, DOI: 10.1179/1476830514Y.0000000164

Boston University. (2017, April 20). Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?): Both sugary, diet drinks correlated with accelerated brain aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420162254.htm

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2018, July 18). Beef jerky and other processed meats associated with manic episodes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180718082225.htm

Knüppel, A., Shipley, M. J., Llewellyn, C. H., & Brunner, E. J. (2017). Sugar intake from sweet food and beverages, common mental disorder and depression: prospective findings from the Whitehall II study. Scientific reports7(1), 6287. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05649-7

Lim SY, Kim EJ, Kim A, Lee HJ, Choi HJ, Yang SJ.   Nutritional Factors Affecting Mental Health.   Clin Nutr Res. 2016 Jul;5(3):143-152. https://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2016.5.3.143

University of California, Los Angeles. (2012, May 15). This is your brain on sugar: Study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120515150938.htm

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. (2015, June 17). Dietary trans fat linked to worse memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150617144237.htm

University of Manchester. (2019, February 5). Healthy diet can ease symptoms of depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190205090511.htm

University of Otago. (2018, April 16). Raw fruit and vegetables provide better mental health outcomes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180416101403.htm

University of Warwick. (2016, July 10). Fruit and veggies give you the feel-good factor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160710094239.htm

University of Warwick. (2019, April 4). No such thing as ‘sugar rush’! Sugar worsens mood rather than improving it. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404104345.htm

Wiley. (2015, October 19). High-fat diet may cause changes in brain that lead to anxiety, depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151019123204.htm

Sites with Helpful Resource Lists

A list with links to other sites’ resource pages

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

I have a knack for finding resources. To compile the lists for this blog, I spend countless hours searching the Internet.

My main resource list has grown tremendously since I started blogging. In my quest to compile the most comprehensive resource list ever, I came across a few lists that rival my own.

This post will link you to a variety of resource pages (in case you can’t find what you’re looking for on this site!) If a link isn’t working, try going to the site’s homepage or sitemap to look for the resource section.


Community Resources (ADAA)

From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

DISCOVER AND RECOVER: Resources for Mental and Overall Wellness

A blog with tons of resources

Expert Resources from JED and Others

Resources for teens and young adults

Find Resources (CADCA)

An extensive searchable resource list from CADCA (for substance use disorder-related resources)

Free Mental Health Resources

A list compiled by blogger Blake Flannery (last updated 2015)

Links (Sidran Institute)

From the Sidran Institute… tons of sites I’d never heard of!

Links to Other Empowering Websites

From the National Empowerment Center

Mental Health and Psychology Resources Online

A list of online resources from PsycCentral

Mental Health Resources for Therapists and Clients

From the blog: Info Counselling – Evidence based therapy techniques. Compiled/last updated 2017.

Mental Health Resources List

A fairly comprehensive list similar to mine. Updated 2018.

Resources

Resources for child sexual abuse

Resources (Veto Violence)

A searchable resource database from Veto Violence (a CDC organization)

Self-Injury and Recovery Research and Resources

Resources for those who self-injure, their loved ones, students, and health professionals

Sites We Like

From S.A.F.E. Alternatives – Resources related to self-harm

Veteran Resources

A resource list from Lifeline for Vets (National Veterans Foundation)