Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals

The following list is comprised of links to over 200 free PDF workbooks, manuals, toolkits, and guides that are published online and are free to use with clients and/or for self-help purposes. Some of the manuals, including Individual Resiliency Training and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychotic Symptoms, are evidence-based.

Please repost this and/or share with anyone you think could benefit from these free resources!

Disclaimer: Links are provided for informational and educational purposes. I recommend reviewing each resource before using for updated copyright protections that may have changed since it was posted here. When in doubt, contact the author(s).


For free printable PDF workbooks for youth and family, click here.

For additional free printable resources for mental illness, substance use disorders, and self-improvement, see Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts and Free Printable Therapy Handouts & Worksheets.


Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, & Self-Help Guides

UPDATED MAY 22, 2021

For Mental Health Professionals & Consumers

Jump to a section:


Substance Use Disorders & Addiction

A collection of free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, toolkits/self-help guides for substance and behavioral (i.e. food, gambling, etc.) addictions and recovery

There are several SAMHSA workbooks listed below; you can find additional free publications on SAMHSA’s website. For printable fact sheets and brochures, go to the National Institute on Drug Abuse website or the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If you’re looking for 12-step literature, many 12-step organizations post free reading materials, workbooks, and worksheets; don’t forget to check local chapters! (See 12-Step Recovery Groups for a comprehensive list of 12-step and related recovery support group sites.) Other great places to look for printable PDF resources for addiction include education/advocacy and professional membership organization sites. (Refer to the Links page on this site for an extensive list.)


💜 = Resource for Veterans
🏳️‍🌈 = LGBTQ Resource

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Anxiety & Mood Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks and other resources for anxiety (generalized, social phobia/anxiety, panic attacks), depressive and bipolar disorders, and prenatal/postpartum anxiety and depression

For additional PDF printable factsheets, brochures, and booklets, see SAMHSA, National Institute of Mental Health, NHS UK, CMHA, and education/advocacy sites listed on the Links page on this site.


💜 = Resource for Veterans

Anxiety Disorders
Depressive & Bipolar Disorders
Postpartum Anxiety & Depression

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Schizophrenia & Psychotic Disorders

A small collection of free printable PDF manuals, toolkits, and guides for schizophrenia spectrum and related disorders

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Obsessive-Compulsive & Hoarding Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for obsessive-compulsive, hoarding, and related disorders and issues

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Trauma & PTSD

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for trauma (including vicarious trauma) and PTSD

💜 = Resource for Veterans

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Eating Disorders

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guides for anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders

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Suicide & Self-Harm

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guide for suicide prevention and recovery and for non-suicidal self-injury

For additional resources for suicide, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

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Grief & Loss

Free printable PDF workbooks and toolkits/guides for grief and loss

For additional resources for grief and loss, see Resources for Grief & Loss.

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Anger

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for coping with anger

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Self-Esteem

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Healthy Relationships & Communication

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Meditation & Mindfulness

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Resiliency, Personal Development, & Wellness

Forgiveness
Sleep
Stress

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Self-Care

Free printable PDF workbooks, toolkits, and guides for self-care

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Nutrition & Exercise

Free printable PDF workbooks, manuals, and guides for diet, physical activity, and health

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CBT, DBT, & MI

The free printable PDF workbooks and other resources listed in this section may also be included in other sections of this post.


CBT Manuals & Workbooks

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DBT Manuals & Workbooks

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Motivational Interviewing

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Additional Free Printable PDF Workbooks, Manuals, & Self-Help Guides

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Please comment with links to additional PDF resources for therapy or self-help!

25 Mental Health Blogs to Follow

(Updated 11/1/20) A list of 25+ mental health, wellness, and personal development blogs

Creating Mind ReMake Project opened my eyes to a whole world of blogs! There are tons of informative and thought-provoking sites out there that share my “niche.”

This post is a list of the best mental health blogs as well as sites about wellness and personal development.

25 Mental Health Blogs to Follow

1. ACA Counseling Corner Blog | “Thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and strategies for helping you to live a happier and healthier life”

2. Aim Hypnotherapy & Counseling Blog | A blog by therapist Aigin Larki about anxiety, addiction, stress, and related topics

3. Anxiety Free World Blog | A mental health blog about coping with anxiety (by a writer with anxiety)

4. Brave Over Perfect | A blog about personal growth topics by Dr. Christine Carter and Susie Rinehart

5. Brené Brown Blog | A personal growth and development blog

6. David’s Blog | A pharmacology and mental health blog by Dr. David Healy, psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, scientist, and author

7. David Susman, Ph.D. | A blog with resources and inspiration for better mental health by Dr. Susman, clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, professor

8. Dr. Melissa Welby | A blog about psychiatry and wellbeing by Harvard-trained psychiatrist, Dr. Welby

9. Dr. Sarah Ravin | A professional blog about psychological issues and evidence-based treatments by Dr. Ravin, a licensed psychologist

10. Everything Matters: Beyond Meds | An award-winning mental health blog on topics related to psychotropics and mental illness by Monica Cassani, ex-patient and mental health professional

11. Gardening Love | A unique wellness, ecotherapy, and lifestyle blog about enhancing mental health through gardening

12. Info Counselling: Evidence Based Therapy Techniques | A blog by a professional counselor with the latest evidence-based treatments and downloadable therapy worksheets

13. Love and Life Toolbox | An award-winning blog about relationships and emotional health by Lisa Brookes Kift, marriage and family therapist

14. Mindcology | A blog with mental health and self-help posts written by psychologists, counselors, and other mental health practitioners

15. The Mighty | “A digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities”

16. Momentus Institute Blog | A blog dedicated to building and repairing the social emotional health of children

17. MQ News and Blog | A blog about transforming mental health care through research

18. My Brain’s Not Broken | A blog about personal experience with mental illness and reducing stigma

19. NAMI Blog | An advocacy blog from the National Alliance on Mental Illness

20. Our Parent Place: Where Mental Health and Parenting Meet | A place for parents with mental illness to connect and learn

21. Psych Central Network Blogs | A list of mental health blogs by experts, professionals, and ordinary people who share their insights on a variety of mental health topics

22. Psychology Today Blogs | A large collection of blogs on psychology-related topics, including creativity, intelligence, memory, parenting, and more

23. SAMHSA Blog | “A place where up-to-date information including articles from SAMHSA staff, announcements of new programs, links to reports, grant opportunities, and ways to connect to other resources are located”

24. A Splintered Mind | A blog by Douglas Scootey about “overcoming ADHD and depression with lots of humor and attitude”

25. Thriving While Disabled | A blog about living with a disability

Additional Blogs to Follow

Blunt Therapy | “Tips, advice, and analysis from a licensed therapist who’s been there”

Healthy Place Blogs | A page with links to other mental health blogs

Janaburson’s Blog | A blog created to help people better understand the medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction using either buprenorphine (Suboxone) or methadone from a physician, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine

Pete Earley | Advocacy blog for mental health reform

Your Brain Health | A blog about topics related to mental health and neurology by Dr. Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist


Know of a great mental health blog? Post in a comment!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

4 Strategies for Better Decision-Making

Individuals with “big picture” styles of reasoning make better decisions. Learn four strategies for “big picture” thinking to get optimal results.

A recent study found that a “big picture” style of thinking led to better decision-making. (“Better” decisions were defined as those resulting in maximum benefits.)

If you took the Myers-Briggs (a personality assessment), and fell on the “Intuition” side of the spectrum (like me!), it’s likely you’re already a “big picture” thinker. If you’re on the “Sensing” side, you’re more apt to examine individual facts before considering the sum of all parts.

“Big picture” thinking is a practical and balanced method of reasoning. It suggests taking a step back (zoom out!)… and looking to see how all pieces fit together for more effective decision-making.

The following strategies promote “big picture” thinking for better decision-making:

1. Get a good night’s rest

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that sleep is essential for “relational memory” (or the ability to make inferences, i.e. “big picture” thinking).

Before making a tough decision, sleep on it; you’ll wake up with a new perspective! In addition to healthy sleep hygiene, the following strategies have been found to improve sleep:

2. Don’t deliberate for long

Research indicates that when weighing out options, it’s ideal to take small breaks. For more effective decision-making, don’t deliberate for long periods of time or you’ll start to lose focus. If things become fuzzy, you won’t see the big picture.

3. Bay day = bad decision

One study found that a positive mood is related to a “big picture” thinking style. Good moods are associated with broader and more flexible thinking. A positive mood enables someone to step back emotionally, psychologically distancing themselves from the decision at hand.

If you’re feeling salty, hold off on making that decision. Instead, try one (or all!) of the following research-based techniques for boosting your mood:

4. Get a second opinion

Ask around to learn how others’ view your situation. Every perspective you collect is another piece of the “big picture” puzzle.

Seek opinions from those you trust (only those who have your best interests in mind). Make sure you ask a variety of people (especially those with whom you typically disagree). The end result is a broader and more comprehensive awareness of what you’re facing.


Employ all four strategies to optimize your thinking style and decision-making skills!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


  • References
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2010, April 4). Maintaining regular daily routines is associated with better sleep quality in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100401085336.htm
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008, June 12). Moderate Exercise Can Improve Sleep Quality Of Insomnia Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611071129.htm
  • American Chemical Society (ACS). (2012, August 19). Good mood foods: Some flavors in some foods resemble a prescription mood stabilizer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 10, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120819153457.htm
  • American Psychological Association. (2018, April 23). Let it go: Mental breaks after work improve sleep: Repetitive thoughts on rude behavior at work results in insomnia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423110828.htm
  • Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. (2012, May 14). A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120514134303.htm
  • Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I. H., & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.012
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. (2007, April 21). To Understand The Big Picture, Give It Time – And Sleep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 17, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070420104732.htm
  • Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances. JAMA Internal Medicine, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081
  • Curry, O., Rowland, L., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., & Whitehouse, H. (2016). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Open Science Framework
  • Demsky, C. A. et al. (2018). Workplace incivility and employee sleep: The role of rumination and recovery experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, DOI: 10.1037/ocp0000116
  • The JAMA Network Journals. (2015, February 16). Mindfulness meditation appears to help improve sleep quality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150216131115.htm
  • Labroo, A., Patrick, V., & Deighton, J. served as editor and Luce, M. F. served as associate editor for this article. (2009). Psychological distancing: Why happiness helps you see the big picture. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(5), 800-809. DOI: 10.1086/593683
  • Northwestern University. (2017, July 10). Purpose in life by day linked to better sleep at night: Older adults whose lives have meaning enjoy better sleep quality, less sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710091734.htm
  • Ohio State University. (2018, July 13). How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180713111931.htm
  • Spira, A. P. (2015). Being mindful of later-life sleep quality and its potential role in prevention. JAMA Internal Medicine, DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8093
  • Stillman, P. E., Fujita, K., Sheldon, O., & Trope, Y. (2018). From “me” to “we”: The role of construal level in promoting maximized joint outcomes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 147(16), DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.05.004
  • Turner, A. D., Smith, C. E., & Ong, J. C. (2017). Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults? Sleep Science and Practice, 1(1), DOI: 10.1186/s41606-017-0015-6
  • University of Michigan. (2009, June 3). Feeling Close To a Friend Increases Progesterone, Boosts Well-being and Reduces Anxiety and Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090602171941.htm
  • University of Oxford. (2016, October 5). Being kind to others does make you ‘slightly happier’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2018 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm
  • Zisberg, A., Gur-Yaish, N., & Shochat, T. (2010). Contribution of routine to sleep quality in community elderly. Sleep, 33(4), 509-514.

11 Self-Care Ideas You May Not Have Considered

(Updated 1/13/20) Self-care is a vital piece of the wellness puzzle. This post is intended for the well-informed “self-carer,” who already knows about (and maybe even practices) deep breathing, massage, aromatherapy, etc. and wants to expand their horizons. This is also for people (like me) who don’t get much from your typical self-care practices (i.e. lighting a scented candle).

Self-care is a vital piece of the wellness puzzle. As a mental health professional, I practice self-care to prevent burnout. (Once a counselor reaches burnout, he/she is no longer able to fully meet a client’s needs; if you’re not taking care of yourself, how are you going to help someone else?)

To illustrate the importance of self-care, consider a vehicle; it requires ongoing maintenance for optimal performance and safety. Similarly, we require self-care. It’s a concept that encompasses a variety of needs, including health, solitude, human connection, self-love, spiritualty, and more.

I’ve read many articles, posts, and books on self-care; there’s a wealth of information out there. Commonplace self-care tips, such as taking a bubble bath or meditating, make up the majority of posts on the topic; but unoriginal content has no place here. And to be honest, some (okay, a lot!) of the ideas make me want to roll my eyes. (Lighting a scented candle? Nope, not gonna do it for me.)

This post is intended for the well-informed “self-carer,” who already knows about (and maybe even practices) deep breathing, massage, aromatherapy, etc. and wants to expand their horizons. This is also for people (like me) who don’t get much from your typical self-care practices.

Here are 11 unique ideas:

1. Create an inspirational scrapbook or a “bliss book” 

Any time you happen upon something that makes you smile, inspires you, or motivates you, add it to your scrapbook (or journal or binder). Maybe it’s a photo, a happy thought you jot down, or a magazine article. Alternatively, you could create a “bliss board” on Pinterest.

Creating a bliss book (or board) has the potential to generate positivity and compassion. Whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up, flip through your scrapbook. Share it with others to generate a double dose of cheer!

2. Plan a trip 

If you can’t take a vacation, you can at least plan! Preparation is half the fun (for me, at least)! Look up places you’d like to travel and research things to do there. Create an itinerary. Set a tentative travel date (even if it’s years from now) so you have something to look forward to.

3. Poop in public bathrooms (without shame)! 

If you’re one of those people who avoid going number 2 in public bathrooms, stop. Holding in your poop is uncomfortable and may result in constipation. If you’re embarrassed about the smell, carry a travel-sized container of Poo-Pourri. If it’s the sound that makes you anxious, run the water or flush as you go. When your body tells you it’s time to go, listen! 

4. Treat yourself to a monthly subscription box 

I love getting mystery packages in the mail! It’s akin to receiving a care package when you’re a kid at summer camp. And when it comes to subscription boxes, there are many to choose from. Currently, I subscribe to four: Ispy (5 makeup samples in a cute makeup bag for $10), PLAY! by Sephora (5-6 makeup samples for $10), Trendsend (5-8 clothing items and no styling fee!), and StitchFix (a mix of 5 clothing items, shoes, and accessories with a $20 styling fee – fee is deducted from total).

Subscription boxes are fun and a great way for me to build a professional wardrobe and to try new makeup products. (Disclaimer: I receive a referral bonus if you sign up for a subscription service via one of my links.)

5. Sort through childhood toys or photos

Allow yourself time to reminisce. My sister and I recently went through a box of old dolls and stuffed animals; it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It released a flood of happy memories and it felt great to laugh. (We chuckled over my Barbie dolls, which all had short, spiky hair; I was a very literal child, so when my sister declared “Barbie haircut day,” I took it to heart. My sister, on the other hand, only pretended to snip her Barbies’ hair. I cried rivers that day.)

I also enjoy looking at old family photos. See below for a pic from the year my mom went on a mission to create the perfect Christmas photo letter (the kind moms send out to impress relatives and old friends). “Fred the Christmas Goose” didn’t make the cut.

6. Create something

Practicing holistic self-care means stretching your mind; you benefit from the challenge. Avoid stagnation by stepping outside your comfort zone. Feed your creative side by building a chair, writing a song, painting a picture, knitting a scarf, or putting together a model.

Personally, I enjoy creating art; while not entirely lacking in talent, I’m no Picasso. Most of my projects are equivalent to the work one would accredit to a moderately talented 8-year old. Every once in awhile, I’m pleasantly surprised. (See below for a sketch I posted on Instagram.) Drawing or painting elicits a sense of accomplishment; it’s something I feel good about. Acknowledging your contributions builds self-esteem and confidence.

7. Engage with a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, or a family member

Establishing meaningful human connection is essential for wellness. To make the most of this tip, try something you normally wouldn’t. (For example, chatting with a stranger is not my norm. To practice this tip, I’d strike up a conversation with my seatmate on a plane [providing, of course, that they’re open to friendly conversation.) Practicing self-care means building (or strengthening) connections. 

8. Go exploring 

As a child, nothing thrilled my soul quite like adventure; I explored by trampling through the woods behind my house, traversing streams and following hidden trails. My adventures often involved the discovery of “treasure,” an odd rock or ruins of some sort. Today, I’m just as adventurous; however, I spend less time crashing through woods and more time traveling the world.

Exploration promotes curiosity, which is essential for growth. If you’re not a fan of outdoor activities like hiking or backpacking, try exploring a city or neighborhood. Consider driving through unfamiliar developments. Explore restaurants or shops in your town. Whatever you decide, pursue it with the enthusiasm of the 6-year old adventurer you once were.

9. Redecorate your office or a room in your home to make it soothing, energizing, or inspiring

Every time you’re in the room, you’ll experience positive vibes. Paint the walls, add plants, declutter, hang a portrait, change the curtains, create a rock garden, etc. – whatever promotes positivity.

10. Change something about yourself

There’s a lot to be said for loving yourself, flaws and all. On the flip side, if there’s something you’re extremely unhappy with, consider changing it. If you’re overweight and have tried every sort of diet, but still can’t shed those pounds, talk to a doctor about weight loss surgery or schedule an appointment with a plastic surgeon. If you’re tired of feeling sluggish and lacking energy, adjust your sleep schedule, diet, and exercise routine (and make sure you see a doctor to rule out a medical issue). If you’re constantly broke, get a second job or find another way to bring in income; enroll in financial courses or schedule an appointment with a financial advisor.

Sometimes, self-care involves drastic change. If you’re deeply troubled over some aspect of your life, and it’s something you’re unable to accept, change it (while recognizing it will require work!) This is your life; take action.

Note: This tip is only for things you have control over; recognize what you can and cannot change. For example, I don’t like my flabby arms; if this bothered me enough, I could lift weights to develop muscle tone. I also dislike my neck; it’s not long enough. Unfortunately, short of brass neck coils (which border on self-harm), there’s nothing I can do. It’s not worth brooding over. (That being said, when contemplating any major change, especially ones involving surgery or substantial amounts of money, ask, “Is this change for me alone or am I seeking outside approval?” The essence of self-care is the self; it’s for you and you alone.)

11. Adopt a healthy habit (or quit a bad one) 

This idea embodies delayed-gratification self-care vs. instant-gratification self-care (i.e. sipping a mug of tea or gazing at the stars). And while both types of self-care are important, the rewards associated with a healthy habit are life-changing (vs. “mildly pleasant”).

According to research, there are five lifestyle habits associated with a low risk of illness and longer life expectancy. If you’re serious about self-care (and want more bang for your buck), adopt one (or all) of the following practices:

Eat a healthy diet

Exercise regularly

Maintain a healthy body weight

Drink alcohol in moderation (or not at all)

Don’t smoke

A healthy lifestyle is the foundation of self-care!

Share your favorite strategies for self-care in a comment!


 

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

What Counseling Taught Me (Part One)

Counseling is generous in that it’s supplied me with the tools needed for not only professional growth, but personal success, emotional well-being, personal development, and effective communication. It’s also taught me about various aspects of human nature, from the brightest to the murkiest.

In grad school, I learned theories and techniques of counseling. I learned basic and advanced counseling skills; I practiced various interventions and methods. My professors taught developmental theories and multicultural competence. I took classes in career counseling, family counseling, and couples counseling; I studied research and ethics.

And when I accepted a substance abuse counselor position at a drug and alcohol treatment center… I had no clue what I was doing… or how to be a counselor. I went into my first year as a clinician with self-doubt and uncertainty.

Negative thoughts consumed me. I questioned myself and wondered if I was in the right field.

“Do I have what it takes to be an effective counselor?” 

“Should I have pursued a career in research instead?” 

“Should I have pursued anything instead?” 

“Am I capable of helping others?” 

Furthermore, social anxiety crippled my ability to relate to clients; being genuine was difficult. I couldn’t stop comparing myself to other “seasoned” clinicians, which only made things worse.

Gradually, my doubts and fears subsided; I felt more comfortable in my role. I accepted and settled into my new identity as a professional counselor; it was a good fit. I stopped trying to “fix” or control clients.

Anxiety no longer dictated my actions; I found a way to take ownership of my mistakes and accomplishments. Moreover, I learned to be okay with making mistakes. I accepted that I would never have all the answers. I let go of irrational beliefs that had previously plagued me. I thrived.

Today, I can reflect on my journey and on the positive changes I’ve made throughout the years. My chosen career is generous in that it’s supplied me with the tools needed for not only professional growth, but personal growth — success, emotional well-being, personal development, and effective communication.

I’ve learned a lot the past ten years. This post explores the discoveries I’ve made and how I apply that knowledge to my life. But before delving into what I’ve learned, here’s what a few other clinicians have said on the topic:

Nancy Lee, MA, LPCC, Psychotherapist in Aurora, CO

“Being a counselor has shown me that it’s possible to live on the edge of what I know and don’t know. In a single moment, I can feel strong and confident, yet small and humble. Counseling isn’t about fixing problems. It’s about believing in my client’s capacity to connect with their own solutions, insight, and growth.”

Robert Martin, M.Ed Early Childhood Education & Counseling, Francis Marion University

“There is no learning … if there is not a relationship… The foundation of counseling and teaching is [the] relationship. There must be a connection. The student must know that you care about them personally and it is ok to make a mistake … Consequences and corrections can be given, but always directed at the behavior [and] never the person … That you are only talking about their behavior when you correct them … and not them. They must feel that you respect them … and if you make a mistake say, “I’m so sorry. I made a mistake.” … [Always respect] their differences, their hopes and weakness, their failures, their dreams, their divinity. There is nothing more important than this…”

Bridget Cameron, Artist, Depth Psychologist, Stress Counselor (1992-present)

“To accept people as they are, to be non-judgmental, to be directed by compassion, and to know how to be impartial so that I am fair-minded with all people and do not project any of myself into my client’s history and am non-attached to the outcome.”

In comparison, while I’ve learned much about compassion, connecting, and being okay with being wrong, I’ve also learned how to use counseling to be effective, both personally and professionally… and I’ve learned to be more guarded due to the darker aspects of human nature.


Here’s my list of small wisdoms, or, what counseling has taught me (the first installment):

1. How to remain calm

Emotion regulation was difficult for me as an adolescent and young adult. My emotions ruled me – lorded over me, even! Then, as a counselor, I observed emotion disregulation in clients. I realized how truly counterproductive (and ridiculous-looking) it can be.

I made a choice to stop engaging in negativity, with both self and with others. Feeding into an argument solves nothing, but the effort leaves you emotionally and physically drained. Luckily, my personal transition from chaos to calm was painless. By the time I learned how to remain calm, I was in my mid-20s; the intensity of my emotions had already naturally subsided. Today, calmness is my natural state.

2. Comfortable silence

In grad school, I learned to use silence as a counseling technique. Instead of filling up every minute of a session with reflections, open-ended questions, and paraphrases, we were encouraged to use “comfortable silence.”

Silence allows the client time to process and/or collect their thoughts. To me, it always felt horribly awkward (remember, social anxiety!) and wrong. I wanted to rush on to the next topic or to ask a question or… anything.

I’m not sure when it finally stopped feeling awkward. I just knew that one day I was sitting in silence with a client and it felt natural. Today, I use silence in my professional and personal life all the time. It feels nice to sit quietly and not feel pressured to talk.

3. Active listening

Counseling taught me to really listen. I learned to quiet my internal dialogue to hear and comprehend what’s being said. Instead of thinking about how I’m going to respond, I give my full attention to the speaker. I’m aware of body language and other nonverbals. Counseling has strengthened my communication skills.

4. Partial truths

Counseling taught me that people don’t always say what they mean. They often tell partial truths. There are many reasons for this: Fear of being judged, not fully trusting the therapist, feeling embarrassed, etc.

For example, a client who isn’t ready to change their drinking probably wouldn’t tell me they drink three bottles of wine every night. Instead, they’d offer a partial truth. “I usually drink a glass of wine with dinner, but that’s it.”

Partial truths are not lies; they allow for a certain measure of comfort. (A lot of people feel uncomfortable with lying because they were taught it was wrong, or possibly because they view themselves as honest – and honest people don’t lie.) Partial truths, on the other hand, don’t feel wrong (or less wrong, at least). Plus, they’re safe. A person can be partially truthful and still protect their secrets.

When I realized how common partial truths are, I changed the way I listened to clients… and to everyone. Instead of taking things at face value, I listen to what is being said while recognizing that much more is not being said.

5. Hidden agendas

I also discovered that there are plenty of people out there who seek counseling with hidden agendas. For example, a man sees a therapist, stating he wants to learn anger management techniques. What he doesn’t reveal is that he’s abusive to his wife. He recently lost control in an argument and pushed her down the stairs. She gave him an ultimatum: Therapy or divorce. He doesn’t believe he needs counseling, but he’ll do it to save his marriage. And he doesn’t tell his therapist this (of course). Why would he? It’s none of her business.

Both partial truths and hidden agendas happen outside of therapy (and for similar reasons). Words paint a very limited piece of the entire picture. People often show only what they want others to see while keeping their true motives hidden.

Because of counseling, I have a better awareness and understanding of why hidden agendas (and partial truths) exist. It’s not cynicism, but a form of acceptance. I recognize that half truths and hidden agendas serve a purpose. While I may never understand their purpose, I’m okay with it.

This awareness fosters caution; I’ll never be caught off guard.


There’s more to tell, but for the sake of keeping this post to a reasonable length, I’ll save my remaining insights for the second installment of this post (in which I’ll discuss giving money to the homeless and demanding respect, among other “lessons” from counseling).

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Free Online Education for Therapists

(Updated 5/15/21) A list of online education courses and trainings for mental health clinicians (some offering free CEs!)

Free online education
Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Free Online Education for Mental Health Professionals

Are you looking to expand your clinical knowledge or need CEs to renew your license? In-person workshops and seminars are ideal for learning up-to-date practices and the latest research, but the are often expensive and/or require travel. And while there are plenty of online education programs that offer CEs, most charge a fee.

This is a list comprised of over 50 sites that provide free online education, including training courses and webinars, some offering CEs.

Please share this resource for free online education with anyone you think might benefit!

For additional resources for professional development, click here.


Free Online Training Courses and Webinars

  • 6-Module DBT Course | An educational course designed for professionals to learn the basic principles for the diagnosis and treatment of borderline personality disorder. There are six 20-minute modules.







  • Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation: Webinars for Professionals | Online learning on topics related to substance use and behavioral health
  • Health eKnowledge | Free online courses on a variety of topics including clinical supervision, substance use, and behavioral health. You must create a free account and login to access the courses.
  • Healthy Minds | A public television series on mental health (and ending stigma)
  • Honor Our Voices | A learning module that allows you to see domestic violence through the eyes and voices of children, includes a printable guide










  • VHA Train | Register for a free account to access on-demand trainings, some free CEs available for counselors and social workers

  • YMSM & LGBT | Archived webinars on topics related to treatment services for the lesbian, gay, and transgender population. You can also access a monthly webinar series held on the 4th Friday of each month. CEs offered


Free Online College Courses


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

19 Unique Ways to Be More Charitable

(Updated 6/22/18) Ideas for charity contributions that are easy, cheap (or free!), and fun. An awesome list for people who may not have a lot of money or time, but still want to give back.

To build self-esteem, one must do “esteemable” acts.

Charitable acts help to build self-esteem; it feels good to help others. As a substance abuse counselor, I worked with adults who were worn down or broken from their battle with addiction; an individual with a substance use disorder often feels tremendous guilt and shame.

One of the best things a person can do to build self-esteem or live a more meaningful life is to help others…

I taught my clients to cherish themselves, to forgive, and to find a purpose in life. One of the best things a person can do to build self-esteem or live a more meaningful life is to help others; random acts of kindness, volunteering at a homeless shelter, reading to children at a library, donating toiletries or blankets to someone who has lost their home in a fire… There are countless ways to help. Research indicates that practicing compassion and volunteering build self-esteem.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the time to volunteer (or the resources to donate). The purpose of this list is to provide ideas for charity contributions that are easy, cheap, and fun. I created this list for people who may not have a lot of money or time. I found some awesome ways to give back that aren’t time-consuming; many of the ideas require minimum effort and/or are 100% free. Build them into your life and feel happy about helping those in need!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

UNIQUE AND FUN WAYS TO BE MORE CHARITABLE

1. Purchase Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. 

Products are environmentally friendly and 50% of profits go to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.

Image by lyperzyt from Pixabay

2. Donate your wedding dress to a charitable cause.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Wish Upon A Wedding: A nonprofit organization that grants weddings and vow renewals for couples facing serious illness or a life-altering circumstance.

Adorned in Grace: All proceeds are used to promote awareness and prevention of sex trafficking as well as crisis prevention for trafficked victims.

Cherie Amour: Proceeds from dress sales help low income individuals get jobs.

Fairytale Brides: Net proceeds from all sales are donated to charitable organizations supporting women’s empowerment programs.

3. Save a life by joining a marrow registry such as Be The Match or Gift of Life. 

Your donation may save the life of a person with a blood cancer like leukemia and lymphoma. You must be in good health and you must be prepared to spend 20-30 (non-consecutive) hours of your time if you are chosen. Not everyone is chosen; according to Be The Match, about 1 in 430 members goes on to donate marrow or peripheral blood stem cells. If you join Gift of Life, you have a 1 in 250 chance of being a match, but then only a 20% chance of donating.

You can also donate blood at a blood drive. O-negative is the universal donor type because it is compatible with any blood type, but only about 5% of the U.S. population have this blood type. There’s a great need for O-negative donations (Source: https://www.redcrossblood.org/learn-about-blood/blood-types.html)

4. With Kiva, lend as little as $25 to help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. 

100% of every dollar goes to a loan. You can browse through different categories and attributes. According to Kiva, 97% of loans are repaid, but there’s no guarantee. You can read the borrower’s story before you submit your loan. (I loaned $25 to a woman in El Salvador to help her buy a sewing machine. Update: I received full repayment within three months.)

Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay

5. Help the homeless.

Keep a pack of bottled water in your car. Alternatively, you can provide someone in need with a small bag filled with toiletry items, socks, tissues, granola bars, etc. (Take the extra shampoo, lotions, and soap when you’re at a hotel and put them to use!) If the weather is cold, buy gloves or hats from the dollar store to hand out. Give $5 gift cards for Burger King or Taco Bell. Personally, I choose to not give cash. (Many of the “homeless” individuals you see are panhandlers.) However, if I’m in an area with a large homeless population, I buy a pack of cigarettes; when someone asks for change, I offer a cigarette instead. Lastly, because of the work I do, I have business-sized cards with a crisis line, a phone number for local resources (including shelters), and a number for a substance use program, which I pass out if needed.

6. Host a closet swap party!

Exy Castellanos, a social worker from Chattanooga, Tennessee, provided this idea. “My friends and I have a closet swap party. We swap clothes and stuff and whatever is left over we donate to a local thrift store (not Goodwill).”

7. Volunteer with Idealist.

It’s free to sign up, to search for opportunities, and to connect with others. Idealist is a global network of people and organizations that connects individuals with advantages to work, volunteer, or intern. To give you a better idea, here are examples of some volunteer opportunities: Reading partner at an under-resourced elementary school, judging a local competition, playing with homeless children one night a week, coaching a sports team, volunteer zoo guide, volunteering at a museum, cleaning up a national park, and interpreter.

8. Run (or walk/march/bike) for charity!

Pick a cause and raise funds.

9. An Internet search led me to Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, which helps adults with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments in the U.S. to live more independent and engaged lives. 

This is accomplished by providing the individuals with unique service animals (at no cost): Highly trained service monkeys to help with daily tasks.

10. Janelle Bennett from Michigan suggested Charity: Water, a great organization bringing people clean water. 

100% of donations go to actually helping people. You can start a fun campaign to raise funds; one guy actually rented his face and let a stranger shave his beard on the street to raise money.

11. Every time you buy concert tickets, donate to charity.

At one point in my life, I decided that if I could afford concert tickets, I could afford a small donation ($25) for a good cause. (And it doesn’t have to be concert tickets; it can be anything you want! Buying a piece of jewelry, purchasing an electronic device, dinning out, etc.)

EFFORTLESS WAYS TO BE MORE CHARITABLE

12. Instead wedding favors, make a CHARITABLE donation TO YOUR FAVORITE CAUSE for each guest. 

At my wedding, my husband and I picked a lung cancer nonprofit to honor his father, who passed away from lung cancer. You can buy cards on Etsy or, just make them yourself with pearl cardstock paper!


13. Tabs for a Cause is a free browser extension.

Every time you open a new tab, a donation is made to your favorite charity.

14. Lyft has a “round up and donate” setting; opt in, and your fare will round up automatically with each ride. 

There are a variety of causes to choose from.

15. “Click to give” at GreaterGood. 

It’s completely free. You can click once per day, and there are multiple causes to choose. I first discovered GreaterGood through The Animal Rescue Site; a single click helps to provide food and shelter to animals in need. (You can also do some shopping and a percentage of the item’s retail price is donated to a cause. I bought a beautiful handbag with a jungle print!)

16. Shop at AmazonSmile at no extra cost, and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization.

You can choose from nearly 1 million charities, including local charities.

17. If you use Swagbucks, you can donate your Swagbucks to various charitable causes instead of redeeming for a gift card or cash. 

Similarly, some airlines will allow you to donate your miles to a cause.

18. If you’re a runner, download the Charity Miles app to earn money for charity for the miles you run. 

You can also earn money for walking and biking.

19. Play free vocabulary games at Free Rice and for each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to World Food Programme to help end hunger.

Free Rice has two goals: To provide free education and to end world hunger

Additional Charitable Ideas: 

Wands for Wildlife: Donate old mascara wands! They’re used to gently remove fly eggs and larva from the fur of wild animals. (Wash in soap and warm water before mailing.)

Coin Up: Download the app to round up on credit or debit card transactions. Your “spare change” is then donated to the charity of your choice each month.

CoinStar Coins That Count: Take your change to a CoinStar kiosk to donate to a charity of your choice. A printed receipt will be provided.

Rake a neighbor’s yard or shovel their driveway. 

Pay for a stranger’s coffee, dinner, grocery item, etc. 


Before making a donation, you can check a charity’s credibility (including a financial breakdown of funds) at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Alternatively, you can use Charity Watch, which grades charities and includes “red flag” information. The site also provides a list of the top charities. Also, Charity Navigator, which includes guides and tips for donating items, volunteering, informed giving, and more.


What are some creative and unique ways to donate to charity? Leave an answer in the “Comments” section!

Updated June 22, 2018



Karche, M. (2009). Increases in academic connectedness and self-esteem among high school students who serve as cross-age peer mentors. Professional School Counseling, 12(4), 292-299.

Mongrain, M., Chin, J., &, Shapira, L. (2011). Practicing compassion increases happiness and self-esteem. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(963).

von Bonsdorff, M.B. &, Rantanen, T. (2011). Benefits of formal voluntary work among older people: A review. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 23(162).


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC

161 Questions to Explore Values, Ideas, & Beliefs

Open-ended questions are important in therapy. They allow a client to explore his/her values, ideas, and beliefs. This is a list of 161 questions for group therapy, journal prompts, conversation starters, and/or icebreakers.

The questions in this post ask about recovery, spirituality, personal growth, and other relevant topics. As a counselor, I’ve used the questions with adults who struggle with mental illness and addiction, mostly in a group setting.

Asking open-ended questions is a basic counseling skill. Open questions invite the client to explore his or her thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. In contrast, closed questions can be answered with a yes or no.


The first section, “Conversation Starters,” is comprised of questions that can be used as icebreakers, at a party, or even on a date.  In a clinical setting, use a “Conversation Starter” as a group check-in. It provides an opportunity for group members to engage and to learn about their peers.


Click below to download a free printable handout that includes questions from each category:

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Conversation Starters

  1. What is the most interesting thing you heard this week?
  2. What’s the one thing you really want to do but have never done, and why?
  3. Would you take a shot if the chance of failure and success is 50-50?
  4. Which one would you prefer; taking a luxurious trip alone or having a picnic with people you love?
  5. If your life was a book, what would the title be?
  6. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
  7. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
  8. What do you do when you’re bored?
  9. Shoe size?
  10. Favorite color?
  11. Favorite band (or artist)?
  12. Favorite animal?
  13. Favorite food?
  14. One food you dislike?
  15. Favorite condiment?
  16. Favorite movie?
  17. Last movie you saw in a theater?
  18. Last book read?
  19. Best vacation?
  20. Favorite toy as a child?
  21. One item you should throw away, but probably never will?
  22. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or Wonder Woman?
  23. Chocolate or vanilla?
  24. Morning person or night owl?
  25. Cats or dogs?
  26. Sweet or salty?
  27. Breakfast or dinner?
  28. Coffee or tea?
  29. American food, Italian food, Mexican food, Chinese food, or other?
  30. Clean or messy?
  31. What is your favorite breakfast food?
  32. What vegetable would you like to grow in a garden?
  33. Tell about a childhood game you loved.
  34. What’s your favorite dessert?
  35. What’s your favorite month of the year and why?
  36. Who is your favorite celebrity?
  37. Which celebrity do you most resemble?
  38. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  39. Share about one of your hobbies.
  40. What’s a unique talent that you have?
  41. Introvert or extrovert?
  42. Describe yourself in three words.
  43. Tell about a happy childhood memory.
  44. Name three things (or people) that make you smile.

Mental Health & Addiction

  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, where are you at in your recovery and what does that number mean to you?
  2. Tell about a healthy risk you have taken this week.
  3. What brought you to treatment?
  4. How has your life changed since getting clean and sober?
  5. What do you miss the most about drug/alcohol?
  6. What would your life be like if you weren’t addicted to something?
  7. What makes your addiction possible?
  8. What are your triggers?
  9. Name at least three ways you can cope with cravings.
  10. Name three of your relapse warning signs.
  11. Tell about someone who is supportive of your recovery.
  12. What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about mental illness?
  13. Is it okay to take medications if you’re in recovery?
  14. Is it possible to get clean/sober without AA or NA?
  15. Do you have a sponsor? What’s helpful and what’s not?
  16. Do you think you’re going to relapse?
  17. What’s the difference between helping and enabling?
  18. Tell about a time you were in denial.
  19. Do you have an enabler? Explain.
  20. Is it possible for someone in recovery for drugs to be a social drinker?
  21. How have drugs and alcohol affected your health?
  22. Is addiction a disease?

Personal Development & Values

  1. Are you doing what you truly want in life?
  2. What are your aspirations in life?
  3. How many promises have you made this past year and how many of them have you fulfilled?
  4. Are you proud of what you’re doing with your life or what you’ve done in the past? Explain.
  5. Have you ever abandoned a creative idea that you believed in because others thought you were a fool? Explain.
  6. What would you prefer? Stable but boring work or interesting work with lots of workload?
  7. Are you making an impact or constantly being influenced by the world?
  8. Which makes you happier, to forgive someone or to hold a grudge? Explain.
  9. Who do you admire and why?
  10. What are your strengths?
  11. What are your weaknesses?
  12. Are you doing anything that makes you and people around you happy?
  13. Tell about a short-term goal you have.
  14. Tell about a health goal you have.
  15. Tell about a long-term goal you have.
  16. Tell about a value that is currently important to you.
  17. What do you like most about yourself?
  18. What do you like least about yourself?
  19. What in life brings you joy?
  20. What are you grateful for?
  21. Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
  22. Tell about one dream you have always had, but are too afraid to chase.
  23. What is something you want to change about yourself and what are two things you can do to accomplish this?
  24. Describe your perfect world. (Who would be in it, what would you be doing, etc.)
  25. Where were you one year ago, where are you now, and where do you want to be a year from today?
  26. Share about a character flaw you have.
  27. What kind of a person do you want to be?
  28. When is the last time you helped someone and what did you do?
  29. Tell about a problem you have right now. What can you do to solve it?

Family & Relationships

  1. Have you ever failed anyone who you loved or loved you? Explain.
  2. Who is your favorite person?
  3. What was it like growing up in your family?
  4. What makes someone a good friend?
  5. What happens when you’re rejected?
  6. What makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy?
  7. Would you rather break someone’s heart or have your heart broken?

Education & Career

  1. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  2. Tell about something you do well.
  3. What’s your dream job?
  4. What are your career goals?
  5. What classes would you be most interested in taking?
  6. Tell about a job you would hate doing.
  7. Would you prefer to work with people or by yourself?
  8. Would you ever do a job that was dangerous if it paid a lot of money?
  9. Would you still work if you didn’t have to?
  10. What do you want to do when you retire?
  11. If you have a job, what do you like about it? Dislike?
  12. How do you deal with difficult co-workers?
  13. What qualities would you like your supervisor to have?

Emotions

  1. When was the last time you laughed, and what did you laugh at?
  2. If happiness was a currency, how rich would you be?
  3. How do you express happiness?
  4. What are three healthy ways you can cope with anger?
  5. What are three healthy ways you can cope with anxiety?
  6. What does being happy mean to you?
  7. If your mood was a weather forecast, what would it be?
  8. Tell about a time you were happy.
  9. Tell about a time you were heartbroken.
  10. What is the difference between guilt and shame?
  11. Is guilt a healthy emotion?
  12. Can guilt be excessive?
  13. Is there a such thing as “healthy shame”?
  14. What makes you happy?
  15. What makes you mad?
  16. When do you feel afraid?
  17. When do you feel lonely?
  18. Share about the last time you felt guilty.
  19. What embarrasses you?

Spirituality

  1. How does one practice forgiveness (of self and others) from a religious point of view and from a non-religious point of view?
  2. What does it mean to forgive?
  3. Do you have to forgive to move forward?
  4. What brings you meaning in life?
  5. How do you define spirituality?
  6. What’s the difference between religion and spirituality?
  7. When do you feel most at peace?
  8. Do you meditate? Why or why not?

Additional Thought-Provoking Questions

  1. If you could travel to the past in a time machine, what advice would you give to the 6-year-old you? Would you break the rules because of something/someone you care about?
  2. Are you afraid of making mistakes? Why or why not?
  3. If you cloned yourself, which of your characteristics would you not want cloned?
  4. What’s the difference between you and most other people?
  5. Consider the thing you last cried about; does it matter to you now or will it matter to you 5 years from now?
  6. What do you need to let go of in life?
  7. Do you remember anyone you hated 10 years ago? Does it matter now?
  8. What are you worrying about and what happens if you stop worrying about it?
  9. If you died now, would you have any regrets?
  10. What’s the one thing you’re most satisfied with?
  11. If today was the end of the world, what would you do?
  12. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  14. How do you think others see you?
  15. What is your biggest fear?
  16. How do you get someone’s attention?
  17. What masks do you wear?
  18. Tell about a poor decision you made.
  19. When is the last time you failed at something? How did you handle it?

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC

The Psychology of Motivation

What is the psychology behind motivation? This post examines the research on motivation and reviews the implications. The conclusion reached is contrary to what you may believe.

What is motivation? According to Merriam-Webster, to motivate is “to provide with a motive.” A motive is defined as “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”

Motivation is highly sought after in today’s society; it’s the golden ticket to success. You would think achievement (as an end result) is motive enough, but this proves to be false. We desire success, but are often unable to maintain our drive. It fades away before goals are reached. For example, a dieter is initially motivated by weight loss, improved sleep, and increased energy; these are all powerful motivators. But it’s not enough. Why?

This article is about what it is that motivates us (and why that driving force is often short-lived). (Hint: There are no secrets, tricks, or hacks.)



1. Motivation can be intrinsic (arise from within) or extrinsic (influenced by outside forces)

Intrinsic motivation is rewarded internally. An example of an intrinsic drive is pursuing the study of archeology because it holds a strong appeal or attraction. The behavior of engaging is the reward. Research establishes a strong link between interest and intrinsic motivation. Alternatively, extrinsic motivation refers to externally rewarded motives, such as writing a paper for a grade or performing well at work for a raise.

Practical application: If you’re looking to achieve a goal, but lack the drive, create an incentive. Be creative. Choose rewards that are meaningful.

2. The Role of Dopamine

Studies have found that dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays a considerable role in drive. More recently, researchers have speculated there are specific areas in the brain responsible for motivation.

To consider: A lack of inspiration or drive could indicate chemical imbalance, especially if paired with feelings of sadness or hopelessness, fatigue, or thoughts of suicide. If debilitating, you may be depressed. Seek professional help.

3. Self-efficacy and perceived competencE

Research indicates that if you believe you can accomplish something, you’re more likely to achieve it than if you doubt yourself. This is a reoccurring theme in motivation literature. Self-efficacy is key.

Practical application: Evaluate your confidence. Do you view yourself as capable? On a scale from 1-10, how confidant are you that you can achieve [insert your goal here]? You won’t maintain the motivation to lose weight if you believe you’ll always be heavy. Self-doubt is a trap. To cultivate self-efficacy, focus on your past accomplishments and successes. Reframe negative thoughts. (Instead of This is impossible, try This is difficult, but manageable.) Increase your self-efficacy by setting – and achieving – one or two easy goals.

4. Having a sense of control leads to greater motivation

If you believe that life “happens” to you or that you are powerless to circumstances, you have an external locus of control. (This is sometimes known as learned helplessness.) It’s difficult to sustain motivation with this view. We can’t control all the variables in life, but we can control our choices and reactions. We control who and what we allow to negatively impact us. This knowledge is empowering. It allows for motivation and can foster an increased sense of efficacy.

Practical application: List or think about some undesirable aspects of your life (rent, a car accident, a difficult colleague, etc.) Select one item from your list and then write ways you can exercise control. (For example, you can’t control a difficult co-worker, but you control what you say to them, how you respond to them, and so on.) Recognize that your decisions directly impact the quality of your life.

5. Outcome value is related to motivation 

The greater the perceived value of an outcome, the stronger the motivation. If you value living in a tidy home, you will be motivated to clean. For someone who doesn’t mind a mess, a clean house holds little value.

Practical application: You want to save money, but struggle to see the immediate benefits. Create a list of all the ways saving can improve your life, both now and in the future. Consider what’s currently important to you. If it’s spending time with family, link that to saving money. (Extra savings mean you can afford to dine out or take vacations with your family.) By increasing outcome value, you may increase your level of motivation. Apply this principle to all aspects of your life.

6. Goals and deadlines are motivating

Define your outcome with a measurable goal and place a time limit on it. By defining exactly what you want (I want to lose 10 lbs.) and then giving yourself a deadline (in 3 months), you’re creating a blueprint. Having a goal map makes it easier to stay motivated by providing direction.

Practical application: When you need motivation, first consider the steps required to accomplish your goal. Be as specific as possible. And then create a deadline. (Note: Deadlines can be flexible. If you don’t meet your deadline, it’s easy to give up, leaving you the opposite of confident and effective. Instead, if a deadline isn’t met, push it back a week. Be reasonable. Revise your goal if needed. Remember to be solution-focused.)

7. Money is a motivator

Researchers discovered that cash is a driving force. Money is a classic example of an extrinsic motivator – and it’s effective. So how can you use this information?

Practical application: There are apps and programs that pay you to stay on track. An example is the Achievement app; you earn points for exercising, drinking water, sleeping, and doing other health-related activities. Once you earn 10,000, you receive $10. Additionally, the weight loss program HealthyWage pays you to lose weight. (Be careful – there’s also a chance you’ll lose money!) If you dread going to work, think about your paycheck. Lastly, to motivate employees, offer small bonuses or other cash incentives linked to performance.

8. Working together on a task enhances motivation

Working toward a common goal with a partner or a group seems to enhance motivation.

Practical application: This practice can be applied in the workplace or at school. Don’t work on projects alone; find someone who shares your enthusiasm. If you want to start an exercise routine, ask a friend (who also wants to get in shape) to hit the gym with you. It seems we’re able to inspire and motivate each other; when one person’s motivation wanes, the other’s kicks in.

9. The source of motivation changes as we pursue our goals

There’s something called “promotion” motivation. We’re good at setting goals and feeling motivated. Initially. Then, somewhere along the way, our motivation switches. It becomes “prevention” motivation. For example, the promotion motivation for losing weight may be fitting into a certain pair of jeans. When the jeans fit, the motivation becomes prevention motivation. Prevention motivation is harder to sustain.

To consider: Have a variety of motivational strategies. Recognize that motivation will change as you pursue your goals.

10. Once something becomes a habit, it persists long after motivation is gone

This may be the most valuable finding of all. With motivation, there are variables: Self-efficacy, deadlines, money, etc. A habit supersedes the variables. There will be times we lack motivation, no matter how effective we feel or how much we value the outcome. If we act out of habit, we don’t have to rely on motivation. Of course, the tricky part is creating a new habit. Habits, which are formed by repetition, reorganize information in your brain so that an action becomes automatic and is no longer tied to a motivational cue.

To consider: Researchers assert it can take anywhere from 15 to 254 days to form a habit. In addition to repetition, you must remove cues that trigger habits you’re trying to quit while adding cues that trigger desired behaviors.

In conclusion, there are many factors related to motivation including self-efficacy, outcome value, and financial incentive. Our motivation changes as we pursue goals, indicating the need for a variety of motivational strategies. We know that dopamine plays an important role and that there are structural regions in the brain responsible for motivation.


A friend of mine recently asked how I motivate myself to go to the gym when I get off work. “It has nothing to do with motivation,” I responded. “I just do it; it’s not an option not to.”

I’m fully aware I lack motivation. However, I recognize that motivation, while advantageous, is not a prerequisite for success. It’s too fickle; it lacks the staying power of habit and the might of determination.


Don’t rely on motivation to achieve your goals. Instead, invest in the determination it takes to form a habit.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC


  • References 
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4 Key Statements That May Change Your Life

Therapy can lead to “light bulb” moments; everything suddenly clicks. This is a short list of 4 statements that “clicked” with my clients and inspired change.

Upon learning I’m a therapist, people often ask for advice. “What do you think I should do about making a change regarding [insert any imaginable life situation here]?”

I hate to disappoint, but I don’t have all the answers. Contrary to popular belief, a counselor won’t tell you how to fix your problems.

Keep in mind that you’re the expert on you. When you combine your knowledge with a therapist’s expertise on human behavior, a collaborative partnership is formed. The process of change begins. You hold the answers, but they’re locked. The process of therapy unlocks the mind.

There have been times in counseling sessions when something I say “clicks” with that person. They experience a moment of clarity or have a sudden realization.

The following list is four key statements that “clicked” with my clients (and for me as well!)

Four Key Statements that May Change Your Life

1. “Say what you mean.”

How many times have you provided an explanation using partial truths? For example, you cancel on a friend, claiming a migraine. Your head may hurt, but at the same time, you’re embarrassed to go to the bar with her. She can’t seem to go out without getting obnoxiously drunk. Another example would be a wife who tells her husband, “I’m fine,” when she’s not. In both examples, truth is avoided.

When you don’t say what you mean, you deprive yourself. You’ll feel frustrated, and you may lose the chance to explore deeper issues. Your communication becomes second-rate. And if you find yourself saying what you think someone wants to hear, that’s not communicating; the point is to understand each other, not to mislead or appease.

Saying what you mean is freeing and it allows you to live an authentic life.

2. “Just say, ‘okay.’”

This is about not engaging with that one person who pushes your buttons (or with your own irrational thoughts).

I’ll use myself as an example. I once received a stern email from my boss, instructing me to complete a task ASAP… a task I finished three days ago. Initially, I panicked, second guessing myself. But after double checking my work and finding it complete, I silently fumed to myself. Does my supervisor think I sit around doing nothing all day? (Or maybe he thinks I’m incompetent?) Why wouldn’t he check before sending an email? I drafted and then rewrote my response several times. I asked a co-worker to look it over and she laughed and asked, “Why didn’t you just tell him, ‘Okay’?” She was right. I had allowed my irrational self (and insecurities) to take over. The project was done, which is what mattered; there was no need for an emotionally-charged response. Another example would be a married couple who constantly fight. They argue to the point of shouting because neither wants the other to “win.”

If you link your self-concept to how others perceive you, the idea of admitting defeat threatens your identity. Instead of feeding into the argument, especially when you’re provoked, just say, “okay” and leave it at that. Furthermore, if there’s a toxic person in your life, for example, an ex that you co-parent with, don’t respond to a provoking text or to a barb. You gain nothing by proving you’re right (other than maybe a self-important spark of satisfaction). In the end, you’re still the loser because you took the bait and allowed someone else to orchestrate your emotions.

Don’t sacrifice your peace of mind; just say, “okay.”

3. “This is nothing you can’t handle.”

It may not seem like much, but this sentence can lay the foundation for change. A seemingly unsolvable problem is broken down into manageable solutions. A catastrophe becomes a challenge.

When faced with the impossible, we panic. Our emotional mind has all the control while our rational mind fades to the background. However, the rational mind can be coaxed from hiding with guidance.

The next time you feel helpless and are thinking, “This is impossible,” remind yourself it’s nothing you can’t handle. Once you’re in that mind frame, the solutions will come more easily.

4. “Always take ownership.”

This is about owning your actions, especially when you make a poor decision. You’re going to make mistakes. Don’t make excuses. Admit fault and apologize when needed.

I’ve counseled clients who made excuses for their wrongdoings, even their crimes. (“I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for [insert plausible reason here]”). By placing the blame on someone or something else, you stunt personal growth. You’ll continue to make the same mistakes, and it will never be your fault.

You can’t live an authentic life without taking ownership, nor will you gain the respect of others. Be authentic; take ownership of your mistakes (and achievements!)


If reading this list of key statements “sparked” something for you, think about the changes you want to make. Develop a change plan. And then take action!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC