Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Year's Jingle

This posting is a follow-up to last year's "Twas The Night After Christmas" (12/2/07, 12/12/07):


I know what you're saying. "It's that danged resolution time!"
You're right! But fixing thing's in your life is not a crime.

Let's take a brief look back, check out how you did.
Was '08 a good year? Did you break a bad habit?

Do you now drink or smoke less? Did you drop a pound or two?
Were you kinder to people? Does your partner more often hear ' I love you'?

Well, if so, that's great? And if not, "Oh my!"
GOOD NEWS for you,... you get another try.

This was a difficult year for us all. America was not at it's best.
The wars continue, many jobs have been lost, and the economy's a mess.

But last month we pulled together, and we voted for hope.
Let's look forward to '09 as a new opportunity to cope

With the personal issues that plague us, and those problems we have still.
Now's the time to dig deeper. Call on your stronger will.

Remember: small steps is the answer. It's most important to start
Inch by inch it's a cinch, so let's all be smart.

Love better, play more, eat smarter, relax too.
Less drama, more peace, exercise will make for a healthier you.

What you do in your head that will help as you go through the year
Is more optimism, positive thinking, more confidence, less fear.

And do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it in 2009.
Too many of us don't do that, and end up in a bind.

You deserve to be happy, so focus on that.
Visualize good things in your life, and you'll have no regrets!
I hope you've enjoyed this jingle, and I appreciate your acknowledgement.
But now's the time to STOP and THINK, "What am I going to get out of it?"
There should be something you've decided you'd try, before you reach the end.
If not your best move may be to start over. Read it again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm Sorry For Your Loss...

This is a difficult time of the year for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one or a relationship. That this is considered a time of celebration and joy, sometimes makes it more stressful for those people who are sad about not being able to share the holiday with people they've been with in the past. Theories about stages of grief can help explain the variety of feelings that one experiences in response to a loss. You may be sad, then angry, confused or lost, as you try to adjust to a world without the person you are missing. There is no specific time frame that determines how long one is to grieve. You may feel that a few months, or a few years is enough to "get over it," or maybe people close to you try to suggest that. My feeling is that you have to take as long as you need. That the "stages" don't necessarily happen in order, nor do they necessarily dictate what you "should" be feeling at any particular time. Feelings can be triggered by situations, memories, something someone says or does, or just by it being a moment of downtime for you. Planning an activity can help you survive this process without disabling pain and anguish.

Here are some of the things I typically suggest to people struggling with grief during the holidays. It does not help (long term) to try to avoid the feelings altogether. However allowing yourself to be lost in them for long periods of time can increase your suffering. It makes sense to give yourself time to engage the feelings, to allow yourself to feel the sadness, hurt, or anger. If possible allot yourself a limited amount of time to explore these feelings, and then have some other activity planned to distract you for a while. This can be daily if necessary. If you know you'll have time to attend to those feelings, they won't interrupt the rest of your life as much. It is very helpful if you have someone to talk to about your grief, as well as if you have people to spend time with and not talk about it. I think having other people around for emotional support is the best thing you can do. Also journaling helps a lot. You have the opportunity to get some of the feelings out, and not get overwhelmed by them building up inside. My goal in doing grief work is to help people move from the hurt that comes from memories of lost relationships, to enjoying pleasant memories of that person or relationship. Photos can help facilitate this process.

I know that this is a difficult process. But it is a very important one. Especially important for kids too, as they often don't know how to handle these feelings. They tend to follow your lead. Please be mindful of that. Encourage them to talk IF THEY WANT TO. Check in on them, especially if they seem preoccupied, or sad. Finally, plan to have some enjoyable time. That is important for you and your family.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Retirement, ... Ready Or Not Here It Comes!

Maybe I've been avoiding this topic. Who wants to think about getting old, right? But it will happen to all of us, whether we're ready or not. As you know, I prefer that people be as prepared as possible for what life has to offer. However, it seems that our society tends to ease our elders out to pasture. The media, for example, does not typically portray seniors as active and vibrant. We (there I said it!) are sometimes appreciated for our wisdom, and even our life experience. But American culture is mostly youth oriented, even though there are actually more of us.

So how do we prepare for our "golden years?" I do want to look forward to my retirement as my reward for years and years and years of study and hard work. I do intend for those years to be "golden." Let's deal with the tough stuff first: health and finances. Unfortunately, any familial predisposition we have for health or emotional problems (for example high blood pressure, arthritis, depression, etc.) tend to show up as we age, especially if we don't manage our stress well enough (which most of us don't). And speaking of stress, as the years go by it's effects tend to add up (see my posting of 9/28/08, "Stress, It Adds Up"). So my first suggestion is to manage your stress better. Financial problems are the other major concern that worries seniors. What can I say? Save? Pray for our leaders to deliver us from this economy? Do both.

Let's look at some other things we should do to prepare for our retirement. From my perspective, relationships are very important. Whatever obstacles you have keeping you from having them in your life as much as possible, overcome them. Love makes everything better ("All You Need Is Love," 9/22/07). Figure out how to meet that special someone. Make up with that family member that you have issues with. Loneliness makes things worse. Secondly, develop some new interests. There really is no reason not to do this. Fortunately for us in Florida, older folks are catered to a little more than in other parts of this country. Thirdly, and I know you've heard this before (from me), EXERCISE. Four, go ahead and look at breaking some of those bad habits that tend to linger, or return during difficult times. And finally (but you don't have to stop here), make your happiness important to you. Be optimistic. Have a more positive view ("The Glass Is Not Empty", 3/11/08). Love yourself, and allow others to love you. Reduce the amount of drama in your life. Find more peace.

So our first priority is surviving these difficult times. A close second, is preparing for a healthy, happy retirement. It's coming!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Easier-Than-It-Looks Holiday Recipe: HELLO DOLLIES

There are two words for Hello Dollies: YUM YUM! This is my favorite dessert recipe from Linda's Big Red Recipe Book. She makes them occasionally during the year when we're invited to eat over and bring the dessert. (When we say we can't make it, they say:"Oh that's too bad. Can you still send the Dollies?").

They are a really great dessert during the holidays. It's like a reward for handling the stress of cooking, shopping, visiting, and entertaining (and the associated drama). They'll always bring a smile to your face, and those of your friends and family. They also make a good gift. So here's the best combination of CHOCOLATE, COCONUT, and WALNUTS that you will ever find!



1 stick butter (melted)

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 cup coconut

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts (chopped)

1 can Eagle Brand Condensed Milk


MIX the melted butter in with the graham cracker crumbs. SPREAD the crumb mixture in a 8 x 8 (or 9 x 9) inch baking pan, PAT it down on the bottom of the pan to form a crust (also a little on the sides of the pan). SPRINKLE the coconut, the chocolate chips and the walnuts in layers on the crust. SHAKE the canned milk and POUR it evenly over the top. BAKE at 350 degrees (preheated) for 25 minutes. BROIL until brown (a few minutes). COOL in the refrigerator until it hardens, then CUT it into 1" squares. Refrigerate to store the remainder.

Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! Remember that during the holidays the best drama is NO drama.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

EASIER-THAN-IT-LOOKS Holiday Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Linda looked in her Big Red Recipe Book and got me a couple of my favorite holiday recipes that I decided to share with you. We do enjoy eating during the holidays, and she does most of the baking. This recipe doubles as a dessert. I mean, if you add frosting they become Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes. Very good too.

I love this time of the year. It offers an opportunity to celebrate, and take note of the good things that I am fortunate enough to have in my life. It is especially joyous this year, as we can now also celebrate this country pulling together to elect a new president who offers us hope. Yahoo!!! I know also that this is a difficult time for many people, especially those who have lost loved ones, or people who have developed other negative associations with the holiday season. Some of us also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (see my posting of 11/20/07, " It's SAD, ... But It Can Be Fixed").

This is a time to look forward. Make an effort to make this a good time for you and your family. As 2009 approaches, take a look at some of the changes that it may be helpful to start the new year with (see my postings of 12/2/07 and 12/12/07, " 'Twas The Night After Christmas" -parts 1 and 2). Have some optimism. And enjoy some easy Pumpkin Spice Muffins (and cupcakes!).



- 1 pkg (18.25 oz.) spice cake mix

- 1 can (15 oz. ) Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin (or use your favorite canned pumpkin)

- 3 large eggs

- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (we use olive oil)

- 1/3 cup water

- 1 container (16 oz. ) prepared cream cheese frosting [for the cupcakes, yummy]

To make 24 muffins BLEND the cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water in a large mixer bowl until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. POUR batter into 24 paper lined muffin cups. Fill 3/4 full. BAKE in preheated 350 degree oven for 16 - 21 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. If you are making cupcakes, spread with frosting. Decorate as desired. ENJOY!


Friday, October 24, 2008

To Vote Or Not To Vote?

If you have not yet decided whether or not you're going to vote, perhaps I can help. Time is running out. Although this may seem like an easy decision to make (it is for me), it may not be so easy for everyone. As you know there are some very serious issues this time around. We're fighting 2 wars, though the media is not discussing this much lately. Our economy is bad, and it seems like it can't get much worse. A lot of people have lost their jobs, and many families are suffering. It's depressing. I think most people will agree that our health care system is in dire need of improvement. It is actually worse than many other civilized countries. And something needs to happen regarding caring for our environment better (whether you believe in global warming or not), including our use of energy. So there are certainly enough things that need to be fixed, or at least addressed.

Now, many people who voted last time may feel that your vote was wasted because you didn't get the guy you wanted. Those of you who did get the guy you wanted, may be unhappy with his performance the past several years. And then there may be folks who want to be loyal to their party, but are not happy with that choice. So my suggestion is simple. If you want things to be different, vote for the person you believe will make things different. (If you don't want things to be different, please read the first paragraph again.) However, if your guy doesn't seem like the one who's going to fix things, and you don't want to vote for the other guy for some reason, then I think it's ok not to vote. There, I said it, and I believe it. I think it's ok not to use your vote if that is your informed choice, and it seems like it may make things worse. However, consider this statement that I read in Men's Health Magazine recently. "They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. (Andy Warhol)"

One last thing. Linda and I went to vote last week. We agreed that it was a momentous experience.

And thanks to those of you who have made comments on my recent postings. I really appreciate it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

PSYCH 101: Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months" (in a child or adolescent) which includes at least 4 of the following: often loses temper, often argues with adults, noncompliance with adults' requests or rules, deliberately annoying people, often blames others for their own mistakes, is touchy or easily annoyed, often angry and resentful, is often spiteful or vindictive. Also this behavior severely interferes with the child's functioning in the various important areas of his or her life, including family, social, and academic functioning. This young person also has significant problems with authority figures, for example parents, teachers, coaches and other adults.

It is difficult to identify any one particular reason that a child develops ODD. Usually as an infant they were irritable, colicky, or difficult to soothe (but not necessarily). Children suffering from other problems, including ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities can develop ODD, or similar behaviors or symptoms. A certain amount of oppositionalism is normal in the developing child (for example the "terrible twos"), and early adolescence is also a time when a certain amount of defiance or argumentativeness is normal. But ODD takes this behavior to an extreme. These children are typically not physically aggressive, but often are quite verbally aggressive.

What do you do if you have a child who seems to fit the above description, or has tendencies towards behaving defiantly beyond what is tolerable by you and your household? Because a kid who is angry all the time, or tends to "forget" rules or chores, or "didn't hear" you the 10 times that you gave an instruction and then gets mad at you for reprimanding their disobedience, can be very stressful. Once you acknowledge that you have a child with such issues, you have to change your approach. Yes, again, it falls on you the parent to make things right. Don't fight with them. In fact make it clear that the fighting is a problem, and develop alternative ways to resolve conflict. This will also help him or her learn healthy conflict resolution. Make sure that rewards for appropriate behavior, and negative consequences for oppositional behavior are in place, and understood by everyone. It helps a lot if your child has input into developing these. And although the rewards can flow as freely as you can manage, don't go overboard with the punishments. This means don't ground them nor take their toys/cell phone/etc. for too long. And be consistent, but flexible as needed. Your child should feel that they get the opportunity to try again to get it right. So praise their effort, and don't hold a grudge. Spend time listening, and talking to them about things that matter to them.

ODD describes behaviors of children and teens, but of course the habits that get developed can persist into adulthood. Handle this problem when they're young before they start getting into trouble with the law (or other authorities). They won't grow into that adult who has the anger management problem, is always losing their job, or having other problem relationships. Of course it will require patience. It really helps to have a same gender role model, who can calmly help point out the problems with this type of behavior and help develop alternative ways for the child to get their needs met.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This past week I learned of two stories in the news that saddened me. A 90 year- old woman in Ohio shot herself in the chest (twice, and survived), because her house was being foreclosed on. A few days ago a 45 year-old man in California killed his family and then himself, because his financial situation was so bleak. The economy is bad, and it is hitting us hard. I'm not going to let it make me crazy, and I encourage you to not let yourself be overwhelmed by it either. I want to suggest two things. One, is that we do have to survive financially. However, I'm hoping that the struggle will diminish in '09 when we have a new president. So, I'm going to exert some control over our future economy by voting (FREE) in a few weeks. Two, I don't feel that I have to allow the global economy to dictate my life. I've changed my perspective to focus on my PERSONAL ECONOMY. That means I get to determine what is most valuable to me in MY ECONOMY. So paying my bills, trying to save, and cutting back (see my blog of 7/10/08: "Turn Off The Lights") where I can are still important. But more important to me is my happiness. Your PERSONAL ECONOMY can be rich! As we all know, money can't buy happiness. And, yes, the best things in life are free.

Let's first address this change of perspective idea. Your perspective (free), your way of looking at life, is yours. You OWN it. You get to use it however you want. I suggest using it to change your focus to happiness as a priority in these hard times. Use it also to look at how you manage the important relationships in your life. Love (free) makes you happy ("All You Need Is Love", 9/22/07). Have more, and share more love in your life. Spend time with friends. Fix broken relationships, if possible ("Forgiveness", 10/1/07 ).

A walk on the beach (free) makes you feel good. It is relaxing, helps you de-stress, and helps you have a sense of inner peace (free). Very important in these times.

Pets are really good at lifting your mood. A friend of mine, going through some difficult times, told me the other day that visiting the Humane Society (free) for 30 minutes totally brightens his day. My brother-in-law and his wife, visit there regularly and enjoy interacting with the pets. My wife, actually, can get happy interacting with pets in the elevator, on the street, or in someone else's car.

Small things can have a big effect on how good you feel. Find things to do that make you laugh (free). Learn (free) a new hobby, or a new athletic activity. You may be surprised how much it helps your state of mind to help others, to volunteer (free).

Look. If you can't find some way to lift your spirits during these trying times, give me a call (free). Hey, just by reading this blog you've enjoyed something free. Receiving free professional advice, ... PRICELESS!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stress, ... It Adds Up

I've written here about stress and stress management a lot over the past year. I've studied a lot, we all experience it a lot, and most of the clients I work with come in because stress has made their lives more difficult in a variety of ways. As you may or may not know the different stresses that we have in our life add up over time in the toll that it takes on our health, emotions, thinking, relationships, and overall happiness. Sometimes, we're not even aware of how much of it we deal with. For example, we could be working in a job that we enjoy and do well, yet it is still stressful. If you have a job, you deal with stress (and if you don't, well that's pretty stressful too!). And unless you do something to manage it, and get it out of your system, then over time it builds up. If you have problems in an important relationship, have concerns about finances (and who doesn't nowadays?!), are a parent, may be going to school, have an illness or a family member who has one, and are dealing with any other stressful situation, then stress is piling up on you. Now, if this stuff has been going on for years, and you add any significant losses, or even positive (but stressful) experiences then it could lead to problems for you. Many years ago I learned about The Social Readjustment Rating Scale which assigns a number value to the various stresses in life. You add up the amount of stress you've experienced over the year, and you can compute what you're up against. Now if you haven't been handling it well for several years then the situation gets worse. Also, that Scale doesn't include the effects of war, terrorist attacks, or any of the more recent societal problems in the daily news that influence us.

The point is that you will be effected. The first signs to look for can include insomnia, fatigue, digestive upset, restlessness, increased alcohol/drug/tobacco use, anxiety, nightmares, bad temper, depression, worrying, intolerance, isolation, resentment, loneliness, distrust, nagging, lowered sex drive, spacing out, negative self-talk, boredom, poor concentration, low productivity, forgetfulness, muscle aches, and on and on. If you are noticing these things in yourself, do something about it (I have some suggestions below). If you allow this to continue, then you'll start to see more severe symptoms. For example: headaches, colds and other immune system problems, irritable bowel syndrome, rashes, ulcers, high blood pressure, accident proneness, problems on the job, etc. It could get bad.

Here are some things that you can, and should do to prevent this from happening to you (and medicines tend to be a temporary fix). Exercise. Vacation (and for more than a long weekend). Play. Socialize. Improve personal relationships. Start a hobby. Relax. This is important, for you and your family. So if you can't make it happen, get some help.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Easier-Than-It-Looks Recipe: Mango Bread

Linda made this last week for the first time. It tastes very good. Her friend Cindy has a mango tree from which she gives us great tasting mangos. And Linda has a big red looseleaf binder full of recipes that she's collected over the past 18 years. This is one of them. Here's her Mango Bread. [Originally from "A Hundred Years of Island Cooking" an old cookbook from the Hawaiian Electric Company]


2 cups flour (we use whole wheat flour which is h

ealthier, though the measure may be different)

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups of sugar (we use brown sugar)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used walnuts)

2 cups chopped mangoes

3/4 cup oil

3 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (to yield one loaf). Sift flour with baking soda and cinnamon into mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, coconut, and nuts. Add remining ingredients and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until done.

Mango bread is good for breakfast. Heated, with butter or cream cheese, even plain. It's sweet, healthy, and great with a cup of Joe. Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 1, 2008


At this time of the year I can't help but think about the events of 9/11/2001. These thoughts make me feel sad for the families who lost loved ones that day, and everyone who was affected and those who continue to be affected. The world changed on that day. As a society we became more fearful and angry. That event was also used as a rationale for going to war against Iraq. Many more families were disrupted, along with our economy. I'm going to stay away from politics. You know what happened.

My concern here is trying to make some sense of the events of that day, and the aftermath. I still can't. A lot of people can't. I grew up in New York City, and still go back to visit regularly. The Twin Towers, and the people who worked there still mean a lot to me. I consider forgiveness as a way to deal with my sadness and anger, but I haven't gotten there yet. As you know, it's hard to forgive when you're still being negatively effected by the event(s). I do think about how to make lemonade out of those lemons. That's difficult too. Here's what I'm doing. I try to no longer sweat the small stuff. There's more than enough BIG stuff in this world to "sweat." Also I recall the feeling of unity throughout the country in the aftermath of 9/11. This was in spite of the surface differences between us. So I'm going to show love, compassion, and patience, more and better. Also, zero tolerance for being mistreated. And, I'm going to continue to try to do the right thing.

I encourage you to consider these things, and others as an ongoing commemoration to those people who were lost that day. Also, please send some prayers and positive thoughts to those families that suffered such tremendous loss on 9/11, and those families that continue to.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons,... Make Lemonade

This is important, but not always easy to do. When life seems to be going sour (lemons), it does help to try changing your perspective to sweeten it up some (lemonade). So this is similar to positive thinking, and optimism, which you know I like to talk about. However, this is more along the lines of acknowledging and accepting the raw deal that we sometimes get dealt, but not allowing it to keep us down. Not allowing that to crowd out some legitimate good stuff that is also happening, and focusing more on that (yeah, I guess it is a lot like positive thinking). Here's an example....

We went on vacation last week. The "sour" part was the airline cancellations and delays, including an unscheduled overnight in Houston. At the same time worry about where Fay was going to hit. Do you ever notice that when you've been overstressed, and head out for a relaxing vacation, the stress takes a while to leave? Making the early part of the vacation less enjoyable (sour). So you need to schedule vacations that are long enough to have the relaxing effect that you need. Anyway, the whole week could have been soured by this turn of events. My daughter helped by texting me, "well at least you 2 are together." That was enough for me to take a look at what I do have, rather than focus on what I didn't have, and gradually change my sour mood. And that's how it can work for you. Don't just sit with the lemons and let them weigh you down. Squeeze them, add sugar, maybe water, and throw some ice in it. Sweet. Really, here's how it can actually work to lift your mood. Focus more on the here and now, in my case it was focusing on the person that I was with and appreciating the relationship we have, even though things around us were ugly. Also, you can consider less enjoyable situations that you've been in, and how good your situation is compared to that. For example, "I'm on vacation, not work" (and not in a hurricane).

So the point is to not let yourself stay in a negative place for too long. Except, sometimes it's hard to realize that you can get yourself unstuck. A good reason to have people in your life who can do or say the right thing to lift your spirits.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Psych 101: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the way I do therapy. Simply put, it refers to helping people by changing the way they think (cognition), and teaching them new behaviors. It works really well for a variety of conditions. People have what's called irrational thoughts, that cause them to act in a way that brings them unhappiness. For example, "I can't survive if everyone doesn't love me." Such thinking can make a person tolerate abusive treatment, get depressed because they feel unloved, or repeatedly get into superficial and painful relationships. In counseling I want to identify that thinking pattern, perhaps identify it's origin (much of this stuff starts in childhood),show them how it's not working for them currently, and encourage them to consider some other options for thinking about themselves. That's the cognitive part of CBT.

The other part is focusing on their unhealthy behaviors. In this example relationship behaviors. Having them practice different ways of interacting with important people in their life and getting a different response. Perhaps spending more time with the people who do care for them, and less involvement with people who don't show the caring, and see if it causes them to feel better. Often they'll also find that they can survive without the uncaring people, or sometimes those people change their tune once you leave them alone.

A very important part of this process is what occurs in the therapy relationship. My style is one of optimism, encouragement, focus on the client and their needs (instead of imposing my values on them), and giving them the attention and acknowledgement that they deserve. This type of relationship has a therapeutic effect. The client feels valued, and begins to feel better. More willing to take the risk of breaking old habits, and developing new healthy ones within the context of our safe relationship. CBT helps people break thinking and behavior habits that don't help them, and offers them an opportunity to develop ones that work. Ones that help them find happiness.

REMINDER: Freels Mental Health Group will be closed, on vacation(YAHOO!!) ,from Friday, August 15th until Sunday, August 24.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Easier-Than-It-Looks Recipe: Touchdown Taco Dip

This past July 4th, Linda made this dip. It was excellent, and I couldn't wait to share it with you. We got this recipe from the Pampered Chef recipes. I like it best with multi-grain tortilla chips, but you can use other chips. Also it should be served warm, and is quite delicious when you do. It was designed to be served when watching football and shared with friends (but is also good by your lonesome). However, I hate to admit it, but I don't watch football, until the playoffs. Give me the FISH or the HEAT, and I'm there. So, really, you can have it whenever you want a tasty (mildly spicy) snack. Here it is...

Touchdown Taco Dip

1 can (16 oz.) refried beans

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)

1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, sliced

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley, thinly sliced

Tortilla chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread refried beans over bottom of a deep casserole dish (or reasonable substitute). Combine cream cheese, sour cream, and taco seasoning with minced garlic in a bowl. Mix well.

2. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over beans. Spread shredded cheese over top. Bake 15 - 18 minutes or until hot.

3. Sprinkle olives, tomato, onions, and cilantro over dip. Add more sour cream if you like. Serve (warm) with tortilla chips.

Yield: 16 servings

As usual, I suggest adjusting the recipe for your own tastes and preferences. Try it. You'll like it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I'm guessing that many of you remember your parent saying this to you as a child. "Turn off the lights." My mother would say this to my brothers and me, usually adding something about the cost of electricity. Well nowadays it pays to be more aware of the costs of many of the things that we take for granted. Actually, in this case it does actually "pay." In recent years I've come to be a lot better about this. Though my wife occasionally has to remind me. She's clever (and funny, sometimes). She'll say, when the light's left on in a particular room: "Who's in the bathroom?" Leaving it up to me to figure out the unsaid second half of the statement (first noticing that no one is actually in there), "Then why is the light on?" I get it. It's just one of those mindless habits of mine that lingers, and now has become much more costly. The answer, of course, is to become more aware of what we do and don't do, and the consequences. Be more mindful.

Mindfulness has far reaching relevance, if we apply it to our daily living. We have a lot of non-thinking behaviors that impact our lives short term and long term. Even things we do, that we decided long ago are not useful for us that we continue to do. Habits are hard to break. So you don't have to decide to change things all at once. That's often just too difficult. Am I right smokers? So don't keep doing things unconsciously. For example, if smoking is your obstacle, allow yourself to be more aware of when and why you're having that particular cigarette. Even if it's "because I want to." Make a conscious decision each time you have one. Don't let it just be automatic. Being more mindful will have a direct effect on cutting down. We all know the consequences of this habit, so reducing your use simply by being more aware will improve your health. Being mindful of turning off a light when you leave a room (or unplugging electrical appliances that are not being used) will save you money on your electrical bill. By the way, FPL is making a rate hike (for us Floridians).

So let's expand this mindfulness idea, and apply it to other areas of our lives. Relationships: Being aware of things that loved ones do (cooking meals, kids helping out, a coworker or subordinate that does their job well without whining), that you may take for granted, may now require some acknowledgement. Health: You can you be more aware of drinking water, managing stress (including time to relax, play, etc.), breathing more completely, exercise, even awareness of the emotional eating that we do. Personal Growth: Have you gotten too used to the depression or anxiety you sometimes struggle with? Do you remember to appreciate the good things in your life? I think you get the point, but here it is again. MINDFULNESS is better than mindlessness.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Psych 101: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

I work with a lot of children (and a few adults) who suffer from ADHD. It's very important, when possible, for a parent to participate also. The diagnosis doesn't concern me as much as the behavior, and how it is interfering with the child and family's life. This condition is often misdiagnosed, as many of the symptoms could be the result of other problems (for example, depression, anxiety, stress, difficult adjustment to life changes, grief, etc.). So I focus on the behavior, what triggers it, what happens in response to it, as well as what's going on in the child's life.

The DSM-IV-TR describes ADHD as "a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity" that is displayed more frequently, and is more severe than what is considered normal for kids their age. "It must have been present before age 7," however many individuals are not diagnosed until later. "It must be present in at least two settings," and must clearly interfere with their functioning in those settings. These individuals usually don't pay close attention to things, are messy, don't finish tasks, are sometimes careless, and may appear to be daydreaming. They are usually impulsive (though don't always show hyperactivity; this is called ADD).

Family's typically have to adjust their life style to accommodate the member with ADHD/ADD. Unfortunately, often anger and defiance accompany this condition. The home of a person with ADHD can be very stressful for all. It doesn't have to be. The changes that you make in response to your child's needs should be oriented towards helping him to control the interfering behaviors, as well as facilitating his strengths. So, for example, don't call her from the kitchen to save a few steps, but go to where she is, look her in the eyes and give the direction. Flexibility is helpful. Controlling your own anger, and giving lots of positive feedback (when appropriate), and clearly defined consequences given consistently. Help them label, understand, and appropriately express their emotions (all of them). And never give up on your optimism, and confidence that your child can and will be successful and happy as an adult, having learned to cope with whatever obstacles confront them.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Family

Last week we took a vacation (photos will follow) which included participating in my daughter's wedding. She married a nice young man who comes from a good family. A "good family" to me means that they are loving and supportive of their family members. I see a bad family as one that has toxic members, the kind of people that you don't want to be around. So when my son-in-law's (my first time using that term) father welcomed Linda and me to their family, I took a minute to think about that. Gradually a very good feeling came over me. I have some new family, who I am very happy about. This wedding was a big family affair. Spending time with family that you feel good about is rejuvenating. My parents, my brothers, and other (old) family members attended. I enjoyed it. I also got to see other people that I hadn't seen in a while, and to be honest, was not too eager to see. You know how that can be. They were fine, in fact, it was good to see how well we could all get along, actually we had fun together. It called to mind how beneficial it could be to let bygones be bygones. My point is that family, including extended family, and anyone else that you want to include who is caring and supportive is GREAT. And if there's something you can do to make those relationships work better, it is worth it. Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting that you marry your kids off to achieve this, but consider fixing some of those relationships that are in need of repair. It can really be worth it.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Easier-Than-It-Looks Recipe: Lisa's Satisfying Spinach Balls

Linda made "Lisa's Satisfying Spinach Balls" this past Memorial Day Holiday for a cookout. They were quite tasty. I figure that the summer is THE cookout and picnic time of the year, and the Spinach Balls (served warm) are perfect for such gatherings of friends and family. Lisa and her family are long time friends of ours. She would make these Spinach Balls for office parties, and they would be the main reason I would attend. As you might imagine, they are healthy, and easier than they look to make.

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach
2 cups herb stuffing
1 large onion, chopped
4 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 clove garlic, minced (about a teaspoon)
Salt (if you have to) and pepper to taste
Cook the spinach as per the package instructions. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix together all of the ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Roll the mixture into 1" balls, and place them on an ungreased pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. And there you have some of Lisa's very satisfying spinach balls.
You can vary the recipe depending on how many you need to make. We ended up up with a lot because we made smaller ones (about 75). Lisa says that if you make 1" balls they come out better, and end up with about 35. Linda took about half of the recipe and made some very satisfying spinach patties (bigger and flatter than the balls, and about the same cooking time). Thanks Lisa!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Consider Forgiveness...

I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, mostly because I'm reading a book about it (Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and Practice, by M. McCullogh and others, 2001). Actually, some of the book is kind of boring (I'm reading it for continuing education credit), but it's mostly pretty interesting. So in preparing to write some of my thoughts on the subject, I reviewed some of my earlier bloggings (I'm not sure "bloggings" is a word, but "blog" just became a word itself!). And I've written about it a few times last year: "Give Peace a Chance," July 15 2007; "All You Need Is Love," Sept. 22 2007; and in my response to comments, I wrote "Forgiveness, Easier Said Than Done," Oct. 1 2007. I was not aware I had given this subject so much attention. This will not be about how to fogive, or the effect of it on relationships as these subjects are covered in my previous bloggings (sorry, I had to use that 'word' again). This is more about the effects on you, and your happiness. I will try not to repeat myself, but obviously there's more to be said on the subject of Forgiveness. Consider this...

Scientific evidence proves, no, let's say strongly suggests that forgiving others has positive effects on your health and well-being. However, there may be certain aspects of our life that are currently influenced by personal views/beliefs that were developed from situations, or information that we've received. Consciously or not, we may hold resentments, fears, even anger towards individuals, or groups of individuals who may seem to have hurt us or people we care about. We therefore try to avoid these individuals, or treat them without the care and respect that we treat others with. In worse cases, we may pass this on to our kids and cause them confusion when dealing with these people (that we may or may not know personally). Of course this is how negative stereotypes develop. Also how negative expectations of people develop, and perhaps cause us to miss out on a beneficial relationship. For example, some people hate men. And of course there are men out there who do bad things, but to project that on to all of us is going to negatively influence those relationships.

If there are certain attitudes that you hold towards others (personally known to you or not), that tend to arouse negative emotions in you, consider forgiveness as an option to relieve yourself of some of the obstacles to your happiness. As I've said before, forgiveness is not always an option. If your resentments, even anger, interfere in your life in some way(s), and the object of those feelings is not actively continuing to hurt you, then it is time to consider it. I am not suggesting that you "forgive and forget." "Forgetting" may leave you vulnerable to similar situations in the future. Forgiveness relieves a specific emotional burden, and hopefully will bring you a few steps closer to the good health, peace of mind, and happiness that you seek.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Summer Play School

Last year, in May, I posted a blog suggesting that parents use their kid's summer vacation as a time to help their child brush up on aspects of their academics or behavior that were causing them difficulty in school. It is a great idea for this summer too. Several of the families I worked with last summer on developing their "summer play school" plans saw improvement in their child's performance this school year. The initial complaint is usually that children (and parents) deserve a break from school work during the summer. Well, I think we all deserve a break from school work whenever we can get it. But, first of all, the work can be very well disguised as play. And second of all, if you don't put the time in now (during the summer break), you'll likely have to put in much more during the school year, when you actually have less time. Do this stuff even on the trips you take. Offer good enough incentives, and your child will be eager to "play school."

In addition to good incentives, I have a few other suggestions. Identify the areas of concern, for example, studying habits, organization, daydreaming, attention-seeking, hyperactivity, social skills, forgetfulness, conflict with peers or teachers, impulsivity, test taking, peer pressure etc. Next, develop play activities for your child that simulate the school situation. Role-playing is a good example. Your child can imagine being that kid that can't stay in his seat for 5 minutes. Through acting (role-play), with good enough incentives, he can prepare to perform much better when school starts. If it's 15 minutes a day, and fun (and don't forget the REWARDS), he'll break some old bad school habits and develop some new, more helpful ones. You should have several things that your child works on even though they may not be specific problems. Reading, writing, math, internet research, and any of the areas that you want them to learn new skills in, or to keep their skills fresh. Still, make it enjoyable for them. If you have to fight them to gain their participation, you have to get more creative. Fighting is not fun. Make the plans together with your young'un, even before school ends. As you're planning the summer's activities. If you need help, give me a call. (Also remember to read the "Back-To-School" Series from last summer to further prepare your child for a successful school year next year.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beware Of Toxic People...

Toxic people cause toxic relationships, which are bad news for you. Bad because they are usually one-sided (their side), can be emotionally draining, and distracting from the happiness you want to have in your life (ie. too much drama). A life coach on describes several types, though I'm guessing there are many more. You can tell by the names she gives them, what their deal is.

  • "The Blamer" constantly complains about life, and dumps his frustrations on you.

  • "The Drainer" is very needy, and asks for help, guidance, suggestions, etc. to help them feel better in the moment (It would be nice if these people ever did actually take the advice you give them). It's ALL about them, ALL the time.

  • "The Shamer" is really toxic. They'll put you and your ideas down, make fun of you, yell at you, and often in front of other people. They'll also try to convince you that their "feedback" is for your own good. If you walk away wondering if you're crazy, the Shamer has done her job.

  • "The Discounter" challenges everything you say. They are ALWAYS right, and exhausting. When dealing with them it's often better to say nothing, and just listen.

  • And then there's "the Gossip." "This person avoids intimacy by talking about others behind their back." And, as you would guess, they're also talking about you behind your back.

I would imagine that you could probably put a face on these characters. Although it's best to have as few of these people in your life as possible, you can't always get rid of them. They may be family, coworkers, bosses, even the cashier at the grocery store. If you can avoid them, do that. You can try to get them to change, but often they are not looking for, nor listening to any advice you're giving them. Now if it's a child that's toxic you may be able to exert some control over that relationship, and help eliminate their toxicity before it become too much a part of their personality. As you might imagine, these people are often unhappy in their lives, and are very capable of sharing that unhappiness with you. A friend of mine refers to some of these people as "frienemies." They act like they're your "friend," but the effect on you emotionally is that of an "enemy." My advise is to have positive people in your life. The kind of people who are encouraging, supportive, and leave you feeling better about yourself because they (directly or indirectly) acknowledge your qualities, and give you constructive feedback.

Now, if you look in the mirror and find that a "toxic" person is looking back at you, there are some things that you can do to change that. First of all, feel encouraged that you were able to notice this. Most toxic people stay in denial about the negative effects they have on people. Secondly, don't be hard on yourself, but do seek out some feedback from your friends and/or family members that you still have contact with. Finally, work on changing the bad relationship habits that you've developed, staying open to constructive feedback from those people you do feel closest to. It is difficult sometimes to make changes when the people around you, continue to treat you as if you are the same as you were. They may not notice nor trust your efforts until the changes have been seen for a while. Hang in there. It's worth it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Psych 101: PTSD (part 2)

Treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder will vary depending on the severity of the symptoms, the treatment approach of the therapist, and, of course, the motivation of the client. Sometimes medication is necessary to control incapacitating depression (anti-depressants), anxiety (anti-anxiety medicine), or thought disturbances (anti-psychotics) like paranoia, or hallucinations (for example, hearing voices or seeing things). The use of medication can be temporary, but will offer some immediate relief from the symptoms, and help the client respond better to treatment.

I use a Cognitive - Behavioral approach. It addresses the thinking (cognitive) problems that support the illness, and teaches new behaviors to use in response to the situations which trigger the symptoms. It helps if the client is able to recall and discuss the traumatic event, in order to better understand and help change the irrational thinking patterns that have developed. For example, the sense of child-like vulnerability experienced when an adult with PTSD feels threatened by things said by an angry spouse. If that person can change their mindset to include the fact that they are now an adult capable of protecting themselves, then their response to the verbal "assault" will not be as dramatic. I often use relaxation breathing as an alternate behavioral response to practice in the presence of the "trigger." In the example above, relaxation can be used to facilitate a healthier response, instead of extreme anger and perhaps violence (to protect the vulnerable "inner child"). I focus a lot on what the client presents with respect to their perception of their experience. I try to understand their experience as much as possible the way that they do, in order to develop a treatment plan that is relevant to their needs. Some therapists make the mistake of imposing their views and values on the client and prematurely move them in a direction that the person may be unable or unwilling to go. For example, it may not be necessary to explore too deeply the original trauma, causing the client to "relive" the horror and pain they've suffered. In such cases I focus more on a behavioral approach.

The client suffering from PTSD must be highly motivated in order to do the work necessary to heal. It is helpful if they have a support system, which can include friends, family, their church. Not that these people need to know the details of the individual's situation, but they can provide encouragement, reassurance, or even distraction when needed. There is a range of stress reactions. There could be "milder" reactions that would not be considered PTSD (like the anxiety reaction some people have when going to a doctor's office), which may not relate to a trauma but to a negative past experience (or experiences). These can interfere with a person's life (for example avoiding doctor's visits) , but not incapacitate them. I use a similar approach to working with these clients.

If you suffer from PTSD, or have extreme stress reactions that interfere with your life (or if your child does), get help. You do not have to live with this forever.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Psych 101: PTSD

The DSM-IV-TR describes Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as the "the development of characteristic symptoms following ... direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury; ... or witnessing an event that involves death, injury or threat of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate. The person's response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness or horror." The "characteristic symptoms" are 1. a reliving of the event (called a flashback); 2. avoidance of things associated with the incident, and difficulty responding to such things when having to deal with them; and 3. increased sensitivity and emotional arousal when in the presence of such reminders. These "reminders" are considered triggers, ie. they trigger the PTSD reaction.

So, just to review. PTSD is a reaction to some really bad thing that has happened to a person (or someone close to that person) earlier in their life. The stress reaction usually occurs several months after the event, but could also happen several years later. The initial event could be remembered or not. Not remembering may be because it happened when the person was too young to remember (including prenatally, as when a pregnant woman has been abused and the unborn child is affected), or because amnesia (or blocking the memory) is a symptom of the stress reaction. PTSD can include severe mood swings; self-destructive and impulsive behavior; somatic complaints (eg. stomach or headaches), feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt and hopelessness; hostility; isolation; paranoia; damaged relationships with others; personality changes. People with PTSD often suffer from depression, substance abuse, panic, agoraphobia (fear of public places) and other phobias, OCD and other anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder. PTSD significantly interferes with the person's functioning in various areas of their life, including relationships, career, and general social functioning.

PTSD came to more popular awareness during the Vietnam War, when soldiers were coming home after experiencing the trauma of war. This is happening today as soldiers return from the war in Iraq. This illness also affects people who have suffered violent personal attack (including child abuse), torture, natural or man made disasters, automobile accidents, or have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

I have found that many people are affected by significant events in their lives, that effect them with a stress reaction later, but not to the degree of someone with PTSD. People who have learned to function fairly well in spite of earlier bad experiences, but still have anxiety, or depression triggered by a current event or situation (likely in which they feel threatened). I'll talk more about that later, as well as discussing my approach to treating someone with PTSD.


Friday, March 21, 2008

EASIER-THAN-IT-LOOKS RECIPE: Mom's Pizza Spaghetti (Baked Spaghetti)

This is a recipe that my mother used to make when I was a kid growing up in the Bronx. Usually it was a Saturday meal, which could be reheated during the week. I used to love it. It's basically a baked spaghetti recipe. However, my eating habits have changed since then so, for example, I don't eat white pasta. I don't eat meat. Fortunately, reasonable substitutes for those things exist (though I'm sure using those foods in this recipe will still work for you if you like.) But I do have two products to suggest that you consider. I call them healthy alternatives.

The Myth of Tofu (Soybean Products)

I know a lot of people cringe at the thought of eating tofu or soy products. It really didn't used to taste good. Nowadays there are tofu products that do actually taste good to me, that I have been eating for years now. Many of you have heard of "Boca Burgers." Many current and former meat eaters like them as a healthy substitute for your local fastfood burger. I personally prefer Morningstar Farms products. They and others make burgers, hot dogs, chicken cutlets, sausage, ribs, cold cuts, cheese substitute ,even bratwurst. Now, I don't eat all of that stuff, but a lot of it is very good. I definitely say to try it.

I generally use whole wheat pastas, but there is another soy product I want to suggest that you try. It's called Shirataki Noodles. They are pasta shaped noodles (spaghetti, etc.) that are made from tofu. So they taste the same as pasta, especially with spaghetti sauce, except it doesn't do the diet damage that pasta (carbohydrates) does. I use whole wheat spaghetti in this recipe, but the shirataki noodles is a reasonable substitute.

This dish reheats well, and is low calorie, and low fat (unless you use ground beef, but even then it should be lean). Whole wheat is a healthy carb (the fiber is good for you). The shiratake noodles would make it lower carb, and higher protein. Enjoy it. It is easier than it looks. Let me know what you think.


1 pound Morningstar Farms Crumble (vegetarian ground beef substitute)
1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1 cup low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

2 teaspoons of oregano (and other spices are optional, depending on your taste; I like a little pepper, garlic, and basil)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large skillet, cook crumble substitute until brown. Mix in the spices. Mix spaghetti sauce into the skillet. Reduce heat and simmer.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Mix in pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked to your taste; drain.
Mix together cooked spaghetti, crumble and spices mixture, and half of both cheeses, and pour into 9x13 pan. Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and the cheese is bubbly.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Religion and Politics (Shhh...Don't Say Anything)

Right up front I'll say, that I know it's not "politically correct" to talk or write about religion or politics. I'm told that as a psychotherapist I may unduly influence people in a particular direction. Actually, I am concerned more about how much these two subjects divide people. I mean, a perfectly good evening can turn into a battleground when someone brings up either of these subjects. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that people search for differences between themselves and others, when really we all have much more in common than not. With the celebration of holy days this week, and the election primary show we get to witness all day, everyday, they've both been on my mind. I'm going to take a chance and share my thoughts on these subjects.

My religion is love, compassion, trust, happiness and hope. These are the things I pray for, to live these things as completely as possible. My politics are peace, equality, health, prosperity, and love of this country. My vote is going to be for these things. I'm not going to vote for war, division, fear, arrogance, and dishonesty. A problem arises when people's religious beliefs, politics, and lifestyle are in conflict. I mean, saying you believe in one thing and practicing another. I understand why that happens. People have thinking and behaving habits that have developed during their lives, much of which got started in childhood. We had no control over that. Fortunately, as adults we do have control over the choices we make. When our beliefs would have us go in one direction, and our actions take us elsewhere we can develop emotional, relationship, or health problems. For example, we feel (and even say) we love someone. Then we're mean to them. Or we pray for peace, but vote for war. We say we believe that "all men (and woman) are created equal." Then we mistreat a person because they look differently, or talk differently, or even pray differently than we do. The psychologists call this cognitive dissonance , and it can hurt us.

Ok. There it is. One more thing. If you're trying to teach your children your religious beliefs, and/or political values, they're going to get a mixed message if you're not trying to live those values also. And the old parent saying about doing what I say, and not what I do... doesn't work. Especially for teenagers. To them it seems, h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-i-c-a-l. So I don't mean to "unduly" influence you, but I do mean to give you something to think about. I trust that you'll make the choices that work for you and your family.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Give yourself permission to be free. Release yourself from your own captivity.
Love yourself, and then you'll see.
You WILL be free as free can be!

Skeletons, baggage, your shadow too...
They don't have to dictate what you do.
Let it go.

Free is the sea as it slaps the open beach,
fluid, unrestricted, as the tide extends its reach.
Free is your chi when you let it breath.

Release the ties that keep you bound to your limits.
Outside of the Box is where your freedom sits.
Slavery is dead when you kill it in your head.
It will not die until you open your mind's eye,
To the possibilities in store for you as you explore.

A closet is a small dark place, hide in it. But is it safe?
Or perhaps it's a trap which confines your being.
Doesn't the box that you're living in limit your seeing
the light of your life shining within, the glow of your dreams illuminating your vision?
Freedom is creating your own bold creation.
fly high and be free, dive deep beneath the sea.
Open your life to your possibilities.

Place the wind in your sail, or beneath your wings.
Live the song in your heart, liberate your being.

And when you let it be free, isn't love the best?
You feel its thunder deep in your chest.
Unencumbered by fear, jealousy, suspicion and all the rest.
Move forward with life, let yourself be...

Love, Trust, Care, Hope.
Have the audacity to be free.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Psych 101: OCD

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder causes a lot of discomfort for people. In the DSM-IV obsessions are described as "persistent ideas, thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety and distress." The person experiences these obsessions as being not under their control, though is aware that they have created them (not like "hearing" voices). Common obsessions are about being contaminated by germs, repeated doubts (for example, having left a door unlocked), a need to have things in a particular order (people refer to a milder form of this as being "anal"), aggressive impulses (eg. hurting someone), and disturbing sexual images. People suffering from OCD try to neutralize the persistent thoughts with compulsive behaviors. For example, the concern about germs may trigger compulsive hand washing. "Compulsions are repetitive behaviors or mental acts (e.g. praying, counting, repeating words silently) the goal of which is to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress." These compulsions feel like things that you HAVE to do. Go back and check the door over and over to make sure it's locked before you can go out; or checking the stove repeatedly long after you should be in bed because you're obsessing about the house burning down; or spending hours washing your hands (obsessing about germs); being in a meeting and counting the ceiling tiles (or the dots on the speaker's tie).

There are a lot of theories about how we get OCD. I don't think people are born with it. They may be prone to it (ie. the "in-the-genes" theory), but mostly people learn it. We're effected by the influences of the care taking people close to us as children, as well as by traumatizing events. And we typically get a lot of practice with the thinking and behavior patterns. I've discussed my theory about habits before (see my blog posting of 9/14/07, on Anger Management).

To treat people with OCD is interesting for me, and enjoyable to see the client's progress, to see the reduction in suffering. It requires a lot of work. My primary goal is to teach the person to interrupt the chain of events (including thoughts and feelings) that trigger the obsessions and/or compulsions, and retrain the part of the brain that's responsible to respond differently. Dr. Jeffery Schwartz and Sharon Begley in The Mind and The Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, explain the "plasticity" (changeability) of the brain. I train the client in self-hypnosis, in order for them to learn to replace the anxiety with relaxation. And a lot of practice, first in their head (imagining the situations), then "in vivo" (in real life). We also discuss the early childhood family dynamics that helped lay the foundation for developing this illness . So there are definitely solutions to the conditions of our lives that distress us. It is up to you to find those answers, and with it (hopefully) the happiness that you deserve.