An Introduction to Assertive Communication

Many people are interested in increasing assertive communication skills to improve a number of areas of life. In my work, I commonly see individuals wanting to improve their relationships at work, romantic partnerships, and with family and friends. Assertive skills can also preserve self–respect while respecting others, can maintain confidence, reduce guilt about one’s decisions, improve conflict resolution, increase empathy and strengthen esteem in one’s own judgement. An assertive style demonstrates being self-assured and confident without being aggressive and is demonstrated by a balance of clear and direct verbal and non-verbal language with active listening, without being vague, vengeful, spiteful or threatening.

 

Assertive communication is different from passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive communication. When using passive communication, the individual does not stand up for him or herself, lets others take advantage of them, and often do not speak up when something is wrong. Alternatively, aggressive communication disregards the rights of others and often includes interrupting, raising one’s voice, name calling or insulting along with threatening body-language (like hitting a wall or slamming doors). Passive-aggressive communication can be confusing in that the individual may not directly say what he or she needs or express what may be wrong with their words, but will often be spiteful or try to get revenge by punishing others. These communication styles create a disconnect, tension and conflict with others.

 

Assertive communication involves respecting the feelings, needs, wants, and opinions of others, while accepting one’s own needs, allowing compromise in the process. The assertive communicator believes that he or she deserves respect, will not give others permission to take advantage of him or her, and is willing to speak up for what they need. Demonstrating assertive communication balances using words and behavior in a calm, direct and confident manner.

 

Verbal aspects of assertive communication include using a clear, welcoming tone of voice and statements that are constructed with specific, direct, and cooperative words. It excludes vagueness, raised or soft tones of voice, or insults. Non-verbal aspects of assertive communication include active listening (which involves absence of interruption, and provides reflective statements that demonstrate what one just heard the speaker say), welcoming and mirrored body language, and clear eye-contact.

 

There are many benefits of assertive communication, which can include improvements in emotional regulation, effective conflict resolution, strong relationships and self-confidence. If you’d like to learn more detailed steps, this website provides an overview with practice exercises. If your needs are more specific and you’re ready to begin applying assertive skills, contact me.

 

 

Empowering Women through Weightlifting

Part of my work as a graduate student involved studying the effects exercise has on mental health and specifically, in improving depression. The benefits of exercise is one thing I speak with my clients about regularly for their self-care. I also make it an essential part of my routine and I work with an experienced personal trainer who is an expert in women’s health. Nikki R. Veit, ACE Certified Personal Trainer, shares her expertise about the advantages of weightlifting for women and answers common questions about how to begin incorporating strength training. If you’ve ever wondered if weightlifting is for you, you’ll want to read on!

 

#girlswholift: The Weightlifting Movement

By, Nikki R. Veit

 

Most folks that frequent the gym know the numerous benefits of load bearing activities: it increases strength, boosts your metabolism, cuts down on fat storage, builds up your stamina, etc. Yet why are so many women reticent to lift weights at the gym? To confront this question head-on, I launched the small group training program, #girlswholift, right here at Lincoln Square Athletic Club (LSAC). My objective with this program is to educate and motivate females to lift weights.

 

Women are afflicted by misinformation in the fitness industry telling them never to weight lift because of a, b and c, which often sets them back in their goals. Why are women being told not to weight lift, and why are some trainers not teaching them how to? I’ve broken down a few key milestones that I’ve encountered with my female clients along their fitness journeys, hoping to break down the stigma against women weightlifting and instead inspire a movement of badass weight-yielding women!

 

“I don’t know where to start.”

 

Most women want to lift weights when they come to the gym, they just don’t know how to lift weights. They’re afraid of embarrassing themselves more than they’re afraid of the weight being too heavy. This is where I come in as their personal trainer, as well as the many group trainers at LSAC.

Regardless of my clients’ goals, whether they be weight, strength or mobility-related, I believe weight training should always be part of their program. More specifically, learning the proper squat, chest press, deadlift and overhead press variations for their body structure will ensure a more efficient route to achieving their goals. I’ve found that if I’m not teaching my female clients proper weightlifting form, chances are they’re not going to attempt it on their own. My female clients associate the weight room as being the “boy’s club” or “the dark side,” a part of the gym they do not wander. Not all weight lifting has to be power lifting and by showing my clients the cable machines, the dumbbell racks and the EZ bars, I’m able to expand their workout routines tenfold, offering them opportunities to weight train without the barbells.

 

“I don’t want to get bulky.”

 

Beyond coaching my clients on proper weightlifting form, I take time to educate them on the misconceptions and stereotypes that plague women in countless magazines, YouTube channels, Google searches and even advice from friends.

 

The apprehension I hear most often from my female clients is they’re afraid lifting weights will turn them into professional female wrestlers overnight. They’re nervous about getting the bodybuilder-physique with the boulder shoulders and massive quads, without taking into consideration the amount of calories, time and in some instances, anabolic steroids, it requires to transform their body into the next Dana Linn Bailey. Usually the words I hear when I ask about a female clients’ goals are “toned”, “tight”, “lean”, and believe it or not: all of these words are achieved by building muscle and losing fat. That is the principle behind every “fit” synonym: you must gain muscle, which will in turn make you lose fat, and the most efficient way to achieve this ratio is by lifting weights. And yet there are still so many misconceptions spread by word of mouth.

 

Take, for instance, this comment I received from a client last month: “I was reading this article and it told me not to bench press unless I could do a full push-up.” While there is some reasoning in this claim, it discounts the fact that a standard barbell weighs 45lb and all adult females weigh much more. I countered by stating, “Implementing the bench press into your weekly routine, and thereby isolating the primary muscle groups used during a push-up (chest, shoulders, triceps), will only progress your ability to complete a full, plank-position push-up.” Some women are naturals when it comes to push-ups, whereas some women can bench press 75lb before they can complete one push-up; I’ve met both clients. One doesn’t necessarily have to happen before the other, but training both movements will only progress your upper body strength.

 

Postponing weight training until you master all bodyweight exercises is only going to impede your ability to achieve your goals in a timely manner. And remember that bodyweight training is still an aspect of resistance training, just without the extra equipment. If your anxieties still arise about getting “too big,” I suggest reading up the grueling process bodybuilders go through to look that way. And remember that “toned” is just another way of saying “more muscle, less fat”.

 

“I feel like a badass!”

 

Once you’ve incorporated weight lifting into your weekly routines, you will start to feel stronger, fitter, energized, and most importantly, empowered. What once was “the dark side” of the gym will now become your home base because you will have gained the knowledge and confidence it takes to lift weights on your own.

 

If you’re ready to start lifting weights but personal training isn’t in your wheelhouse for whatever reason, I point you in the direction of the club’s group classes. BODYPUMP is an excellent avenue into weightlifting because you’ll have an instructor showing you all the moves and you don’t have to worry about feeling lost and anxious in the weight room. I bet you won’t even realize how many complex, power lifting movements you’re doing in one-hour’s time because the class is so invigorating!

 

When Wonder Woman came out, I can’t tell you how many of my female clients came to me saying, “I just saw Wonder Woman and my favorite scene was watching all those strong, badass Amazon women train!” This image of strong women invigorates them to become stronger, and badass women gravitate toward other badass women. You have the opportunity to embolden your own mind, body and spirit—let’s create a movement of strong, empowered women!

 

If you would like to contact Nikki or learn more about her program, she can be reached at: 914-329-9543 ©, fitlifenik@gmail.com

How to Choose a Therapist and What to Expect

How to Choose a Therapist and What to Expect

Therapy can be a wonderful experience but if you’re just starting out you may not know how to make that first step or what to look for. You may even feel anxious about setting up a first appointment. This is actually very common for a lot of people so hopefully I can provide some useful information for anyone feeling stuck but wanting to get started.

  1. Know what therapy is and isn’t 

From treating specific mental conditions to navigating day to day challenges, therapists work with a variety of concerns. They have completed required training, are licensed by their state board and are expected to follow specific ethical and legal guidelines. Though a common misinterpretation, therapists do not give advice. Instead, they work as a guide, understanding the individual’s unique experience, trusting the ability to make one’s own choices. The therapist takes an unbiased stance using treatment modalities oriented in counseling theories to work towards goals. Advice, which may have its time and place, is different in that it tends to be opinion based. If you’re looking for advice, friends and relatives are often able offer their thoughts and shared experiences.

  1. Identify your concerns

Most therapists will ask you about what brings you to therapy to get an idea of your situation. Are you feeling sad? Nervous? Stressed? Did a difficult situation happen like a break up or a loss? Be prepared to answer some details about what you’d like help with, even if you’re not completely sure about it. If you are sure, is it important to you to find someone that is considered a specialist in this issue?

  1. Style

Once you have a basic idea of what you want to work on in therapy, consider if there is a specific style you are looking for. This could mean you’d like to work with someone who is direct vs. soft, or uses certain therapeutic interventions/modalities (like CBT), or has certain training in an area of interest. Do you care if your therapist is older or younger? Male or female? What about their ethnic background? Even if you’re not sure, think about who you click with.

  1. Trust

One of the first things a therapist will aim to do with you is establish trust and rapport. While it can seem hard to trust a stranger, building the therapeutic alliance can help you feel assured and comfortable speaking in a confidential setting. As your trust strengthens, you can build on your therapeutic focus.

5. Cost 

Some therapists accept insurance and others don’t. Think about your options and consider what works best for you economically.

  1. Commitment

Therapy typically requires a commitment to attendance and participation. Can you commit to scheduling, traveling, attending and participating in a weekly 60 minute appointment? Are you also ready to spend time outside of your session to reflect on your situation, make meaningful changes or complete homework? Are you also willing to stick with it even if you are asked to face some discomfort or difficult thoughts and feelings?

  1. Inquire

Many therapists offer consultations so they and new clients can ask questions and determine if their services would be a good fit. Sometimes the therapist may have limitations in treating certain conditions or can recognize if someone needs a different level of care. If so, they may offer a referral. They can also provide information about their style, background and approach so you can get to know them too.

  1. Searching for a new therapist

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, there are several ways to find a therapist. A Google or Yelp search for therapists in your area can be a good start but depending on where you are, the search results could provide inadequate or overwhelming numbers. There are a few websites designed for therapists to list their profiles for potential clients to view such as Psychology Today or Good Therapy. You can also search under your insurance network, ask your doctor for a referral or ask someone you know for a recommendation.

  1. Fit

Similar with connecting to a style, most therapists believe that the right fit is important in therapy. Therapy is meant to benefit you and your goals, so you should feel like you’re in the right place. Consider calling a few that you think could work well with you and get a consultation. If you set up an initial intake session, you’ll have an opportunity to ask more questions in person and discuss in more detail what you’d like to work on. The therapist can offer information on their treatment approach in relation to your goals. It may take 1 to 2 sessions to decide if the fit is right and you can make this part of your discussion.

 

Consider what’s most important to you and go at your own pace.

Debunking diet myths with Dr. Rosanne Farris

There’s so much advice on nutrition and health these days that it can confuse just about anyone. Add in reports of chronic diseases and the lure of new trends and it’s hard to differentiate between accurate health recommendations with quick fixes, fads and miracle tricks. Since there seems to be a new trend out nearly every month, I decided to write about this issue, debunking some popular diet fads. I asked my mother, a super-smart, science-loving, expert-in-public health to weigh in and set the record straight! In this blog, I identify a few common questions and myths to get evidence-based answers, but first, some background info about my mom.

Dr. Rosanne P. Farris has dedicated her decades long career in studying public health. She spent 25 years in Applied Nutrition Research studying Diet relating to Chronic Diseases and 16 years at Centers for Disease Control (that’s the CDC!) in Public Health Nutrition and Prevention of Heart Disease and Obesity. She’s a Registered Dietitian with Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and holds a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition and Doctorate in Health Promotion.

Now let’s identify some problems in diet trends. There seem to be a lot of harmful myths out there, let’s break down some common ones.

  1. Why are many diet trends not useful or sometimes harmful?

RF: The American diet industry is $60 billion. $60 BILLION! If we had a fraction of those resources dedicated to answering scientific questions about nutrition and health, we’d have more complete answers and better understanding of the complexities of human nutrition. What we have now is the media “translating” the latest new piece of the puzzle, the last study, and the industry and public jumping on board to the latest, greatest trend. The diet and supplement industry is largely unregulated with little consumer protection. Fraudulent, expensive and some dangerous claims abound. The public is searching for answers but is often lured by quick fixes and too good to be true results. If you have ever wasted money on diets or products that promised results, but did not deliver, you know this is the case. Arm yourself with credible, science based info, to protect yourself from fads and scams. We hope to give you some of that info here.”

The promise of quick fixes, potions and miracle products can be enticing. Feeling pressure from social or cultural constraints can also make people vulnerable or desperate to try anything. Not to mention – regular diet and exercise can be hard! It requires time and commitment, even if it doesn’t line up with big events, summer bikini season or vacations.

 

  1. Can exercise, eating certain foods (like spices, coconut oil, putting butter in your coffee) or eating at certain times of day actually change or “boost” your metabolism?

 

RF: “There are factors that effect your metabolism or how much energy your body uses at rest. These include, importantly, how much muscle mass you have. Muscle burns more energy than fat. Other factors are related to this body composition effect in metabolism include age (because we typically lose muscle with age and hormonal changes), gender (men tend to have more muscle) and body size. Therefore, the best way to increase your metabolism is to regularly engage in muscle building physical activity.

 

Genetics, hormones and even the rate at which someone loses weight can also play a part in an individual’s metabolism. There’s no such thing as a 30 day workout routine or recipe that can “kick start” or “boost” your metabolism drastically. Putting hot pepper in your smoothie won’t make you miraculously melt fat or bump your resting metabolic rate through the ceiling. If it did, anyone who ever ate a pepper would notice the change. Expect slight, gradual changes in metabolism, especially with regular steady exercise over time rather than rapid means.

 

Nutrient timing can make a difference for specific athlete populations. A body builder will have different nutrition than an endurance athlete, and the way their bodies use these nutrients vary. Timing out certain foods for people mainly dieting for weight / fat loss (like post-workout, and balanced meals throughout the day) can make a difference but it doesn’t need to be as complicated as some suggest (intermittent fasting or not eating after 8pm for example, won’t matter if the total number of calories in the day stays the same). Those that have success from these diets have more to do with creating a caloric deficit. If you prefer to follow intermittent fasting or eating before 8pm, then there’s no problem with that. Just don’t expect it to change your body composition. Instead, focus more on a caloric deficit calculated from your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) that isn’t too extreme.

 

  1. Does tea or juice cleanses “detox” your body?

 

RF: Humans are well designed, with livers, kidneys and a digestive system designed to rid the body of waste. There is no need to detox diet, cleanse or fast. However, these approaches are popular with celebrities and many think they are a way to get a Hollywood body. While some use teas or juicing to jump start a new plan beware that more than a day or two can cause nutrient deficiencies. Also, limiting your intake to a special tea or juice for prolonged periods is a very low calorie intake, which can backfire a weight loss plan by slowing your metabolism. The opposite of what you are aiming for!

 

Additionally, the weight lost from consuming too few calories and not enough protein (like only drinking juice) is an overall loss of mass. This includes fat and muscle mass. Strength training can increase muscle mass, but you also need balanced macronutrients in the diet to keep that hard earned muscle. For a goal of fat loss, juicing isn’t the safest way. If you think you have “toxins”, trust your liver and kidneys! Then consider a balanced diet of whole foods, limiting processed goods. If you’re not sure what that is, think of foods that were grown or farmed, rather than packaged.

 

  1. Does eliminating sugar or a macronutrient like carbs or fats help you lose weight?

 

RF; Consistently eating less calories than your body uses will lead to weight loss. But to do so, you need a consistent 500 calorie per day deficit to lose 1 pound a week. Cutting out carbs has become a popular approach. If you eliminate several food groups, like grains, pasta, starchy vegetables, fruits and baked goods, all carb-containing foods, you will lose weight. The downside is that you will have missing important nutrients [and fiber], and it may be difficult to have such a restricted eating pattern in the long term.

 

A more moderate approach that includes nutrient dense carbs ( think a bowl of oatmeal vs a donut) is advised. A word about sugar; specifically added sugars like table sugar or corn syrup. We eat way too much- more than 100 pounds a year per person. These sugars do not add essential nutrients just empty calories. These sugars are everywhere in our food supply and have many negative health effects contributing to obesity and chronic diseases. The best defense here is cut out sugary drinks and desserts and highly processed foods.

 

The low-carb trend has been around for years, it just shows up with a new name. From sugar busters, to Atkins, to some Paleo approaches and now the current Keto diets, low-carb types can have other health risks if you’re not careful. These are not for everyone and could potentially impact your relationship with food, conditioning you to be fearful or avoidant of many foods. This can lead to binges, feelings of guilt or shame, or isolation from social events. Flexible dieting or the popular “if it fits your macros” is one way to consider preventing this from happening. Rather than eliminating all sugary or processed foods for all of eternity, consider regularly planning the treats you love in a balanced diet, just don’t over do it! If you want a donut, one way to plan it in is to indulge right after a hard workout, then stick to whole foods the rest of the day. This can help maintain a healthy outlook and prevent fear, avoidance and binges.

 

  1. What’s gluten and should it be avoided?

 

RF: “Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. If you are in the 1% of the population who has celiac sprue, a genetic autoimmune disease, you must eliminate gluten from your diet. 

However, gluten free diet has become a mainstream fad with a proliferation of new gluten free food products. Why is gluten free the latest fad? One study showed subjects that ate a gluten free diet had less GI symptoms. He did a second study with greater control and reversed his findings! Gluten intolerance or sensitivity have been largely debunked.”

 

This trend is another way I see people becoming fearful of food. If any food causes GI upset or intolerances, then it’s probably a good idea to stay away from it. If you’re hoping to lose weight going gluten-free, then you’ll likely be disappointed. Those that do lose weight from this dietary change is more likely a result of increased nutrient dense and decreased calorie dense foods.

 

  1. Does muscle weigh more than fat?

 

Nope. 1lb of fat weighs the same as 1lb of muscle. The difference is in the amount of space fat takes up compared to muscle. Muscle doesn’t take up as much space. This brings up another point; body weight is only one indicator of health and there are other useful ways of calculating progress like tape measurements, body fat testing and photos to track your progress. These can be beneficial for people triggered by the scale.

 

Finally, I wanted to ask about recommendations.

Throughout your career, you’ve seen plenty diets and fads become popular. This can be overwhelming and confusing for someone just starting out. What would you tell someone looking to take the first step?

RF: “A healthy eating plan is one that is balanced, and that you can stick with. Diets, especially those that are extremely limiting, can’t easily be maintained in the long term and may make you miss out on key nutrients. Also, extreme diets that cause you to lose weight quickly, and then gain it back when you stop, are detrimental to both weight control and health. Focusing on a few latest and greatest magic substances found in foods, touted to be the answer to everything that ails you is not a recipe for health. However, studies of populations around the world have shown relationships with lifestyle including physical activity and eating habits with health and longevity. The Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, whole grains, beans and nuts , with eggs and dairy in moderation and low in sugar and red meat has shown this association. These countries also have a much less reliance on processed foods and prepare simple dishes using real food, and seasoned with olive oil, herbs and spices. I agree with the words of Michael Pollan the best advice is to ‘eat food , not too much, mostly plants’.” 

 

Lastly, I kept GMO’s and probiotics out of the conversation, but I think it is worth briefly mentioning. There’s a lot of discussion on GMO’s and probiotics lately, and researchers are turning attention to these topics. Right now there simply isn’t enough information to make strong recommendations but in time, there may be some useful evidence to consider.

 

In summary, I like James Fell’s basic guidelines to keep in mind:

 

“Calories matter to weight loss.

Selling shakes doesn’t make  you a ‘coach’

Overpriced saran wrap doesn’t melt belly fat.

Most supplements create expensive pee.

Your liver and kidneys do all the detoxing you need.

Exercise is not a punishment to be endured.

Choose a diet you can stick to.

The models in those photos don’t look like that either.

Organic is a marketing gimmick.

Cardio and weights are different. There is no ‘better’

Sugar is neither toxic nor addictive.

Shaming doesn’t help people lose weight.

Most people can handle gluten just fine.

Oils are not essential.”

 

 

How to be a Better Listener

We all go through stuff. One thing that’s certain in life is that we’ll face some challenges that may be difficult to handle or get through. Similarly, we tend to lean on those closest to us for support and to feel less alone. As social creatures, people need support through ups and downs. When I work with clients, I ask about their social support network to address any risk of isolation or withdrawal, coping skills, and self care. On occasion, I hear complaints that friends, partners or family members have good intentions but miss the mark on offering helpful support.

Here are some Do’s/Don’ts on how to be a better listener, be more supportive and connect better with those you care about.

  1. DO: Identify the request. When someone shares a complaint, concern or problem, consider what they may need from you. Do they just want to vent? Are they asking for problem solving assistance? Do they want a solution but aren’t quite ready to decide how to solve the problem? If you can’t tell, ask them directly. You can simply say, “I can tell this is bothering you. How can I help?”. Let them answer with what they need from you. If your job is to just listen, then don’t offer any solutions.
  2. DO: Listen with expression, body language and words. Don’t interrupt. Make eye contact, try to understand what they are thinking and feeling. It’s not about your opinion of what they’re going through, it’s about their experience. Set aside your opinion unless the person specifically asks for it (ex: if you hear, “what would you do?”, “how do I fix this?”, etc). Once the person has shared their concern, your first response should reflect what you heard. This validates their thoughts and feelings and lets them know you understand and heard them. For example, “It seems like you’re worried about making a mistake”.
  3. DON’T: Dismiss their feelings. This is the number one complaint I hear about support gone wrong. Never say things like, “don’t worry about it”, “it’ll all work out”, “I’m sure it’ll be fine”, “things happen for a reason,” “if it’s meant to be, it will be”, etc. This can be hurtful and confusing. The person will begin to doubt their thoughts, feelings and experiences and stop trusting themselves. They may feel guilt or shame. Instead, just try to understand their problem that’s important to It doesn’t have to be a big deal to you, but it is to your loved one and that matters!
  4. DON’T: Start talking about a similar problem you have. Sure, you may have gone through a similar situation. That doesn’t mean it’s time to talk about it. It may have taken a bit of courage for someone to share something vulnerable, so be kind and just listen. The exception to this tip is if the person has asked to hear about your problem and what you did. If that request is absent, don’t assume they want it.
  5. DO: Offer only what you’re able to. If the concern is too overwhelming for you, triggers your own pain, or puts you in the middle of an uncomfortable conflict, set a boundary. If you’re able to listen without bias, just continue to validate their concern and ask what they need. If it’s too much to handle or you think the person may be at risk (are in an abusive relationship, or could hurt themselves or someone else), suggest they seek professional help. Helping them find a doctor or therapist may be the best way to help.

Typically more discussion is sparked once I start talking about these techniques with clients. If there’s interest in practicing better listening skills, I work with clients to rehearse and apply communication strategies specific to their concerns.

The strategies I recommend most for better communication are on assertive styles. If you’d like to learn more, contact me, or find a therapist in your area who utilizes these techniques.

Can’t get motivated? Try going without.

Do you find yourself interested in doing something productive then when it comes time to actually start, your motivation has vanished?

You may know someone who seems to have endless motivation and never procrastinates. Perhaps that person is very organized, is involved in a number of hobbies or work tasks, or is enthusiastically conquering every workout without a single complaint. You wonder why it seems easy for others but such a challenge for you.

Motivation by definition is a reason one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; or a willingness or desire to do something. Feeling motivated can inspire people to set, act on and achieve goals. Generally, people seem to want to feel motivated. However, the feeling isn’t constant and tends to occur in waves. Sometimes you may feel excited and interested in working towards your goal. You feel productive, energized and the work you’re doing may seem fun or even effortless. You’re proud of the work you’re doing and you feel accomplished. Other times, you have less energy, lose interest and your productivity drops, even if the goal is still very important to you. You may still want the outcome you planned, but putting in the time just seems so challenging. This idea of motivation occurring in waves comes from a theory – the “motivational wave” which is explained here.

It’s normal to have peaks and drops of motivation and we can’t expect to experience motivation constantly. Like many thoughts or feelings, motivation, moods and attitudes tend to be fleeting and temporarily come and go. Of course, acting on a goal can be much more pleasant when we feel motivated, but we don’t need to depend on motivation to carry us through the process of working towards or achieving a goal.

When those peaks of motivation occur, take advantage of them if you can. When you can’t seem to muster up any interest, try going through the steps you set out to do anyway, rather than procrastinating. You may not feel an overwhelming sense of inspiration, but you still put in some time on your plan and may end up glad you did.

When motivation is absent, it’s not a signal to make a different choice. It’s likely that there will be incidents when you have time planned out to work towards your goal and you’re feeling everything but motivation; procrastination, fatigue, distraction and boredom set in. When that happens you can mindfully accept the feeling, though uncomfortable, and get to work anyway. Consider directing your inner dialogue with some mindful guidance such as: “I can feel both unmotivated and go to bootcamp today”, or “I’m aware that my tiredness is making me unmotivated, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still complete this task”, or simply, “I recognize that I don’t feel a wave of motivation right now which will make this activity a bit more challenging in the moment”.

So when the time comes to set a goal and start working on it, consider making a list of why it’s important to you and write down small milestones to keep track of as you go. Reviewing your list can remind you of what motivated you in the first place and show you the accomplishments you’ve already made. Even if reviewing your list doesn’t spark a surge of inspiration, keep in mind you can still spend some time on it anyway.

The strategies I use in working with clients on motivation and acceptance blends Mindfulness techniques with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you’d like to learn more, contact me, or find a therapist in your area who utilizes these techniques.

“13 Reasons Why”: About The School Counselor and What Went Wrong

The popular Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” raises serious issues such as rape, suicide and bullying, but many are warning about the dangers of how the show uses entertainment as a platform to explore suicide. If you’ve not seen the show, the main character, 16 year old Hannah experiences bullying by her peers, becomes a witness to and a victim of trauma, then ultimately ends her life. Mental health professionals are speaking up about what some consider dangerous implications. Some psychologists voice concerns that this show either glorifies suicide or appears as a solution to problems. Another message from the show some are concerned about is that suicide appears to be a strategy to punish people for hurting you. You can read more about these issues here or here.

​I had another issue when I watched the show which regards the producers’ decision to create the School Counselor’s character as an unreliable adult figure who was likely the most important person that could have saved Hannah. He made several ethical mistakes, especially on Hannah’s fatal last day. These mistakes were so obviously wrong and would never happen in reality. Counselors in real life spend years in training, practice thousands of hours under supervision, and must pass national exams in order to even become licensed to practice Counseling. They must also follow a code of ethics and laws to protect clients and patients.

​The attempt at “counseling” in this show would never happen in real life. By depicting a character who was so off demonstrates that in Hannah’s case, even a therapist- someone professionally trained and committed to helping, supporting and guiding others safely – couldn’t be of any help. This is the last thing a show about suicide awareness should be demonstrating.

​I did watch the discussion after the final episode between the producers and they explained their decision to have the therapist “miss” some key points. I’m glad they recognized these mistakes, and made a point to write the script this way. Sure, sometimes therapists miss. Sometimes we get it wrong or aren’t the right fit for every client. The thing is, no practicing therapist would miss Hannah’s obvious suicidal clues or dodge her suggestions of being raped.

To set the story straight, here’s what would have happened in real life:

1. When Hannah began saying things like nothing matters anymore and she’s stopped caring, the therapist would ask her what she meant by that and would ask if she’s had thoughts of hurting or killing herself or someone else.

2. Assessing what types of suicidal thoughts, how recently/often, if she has a suicide plan, and if she’d had any previous attempts would come next. Even if she was unclear with her answers, being vague can still give big clues about level of risk. There’s also a good chance that if someone is there to listen and not judge, she’d be willing to honestly share and start opening up more about how she was doing.

3. The therapist would discuss a safety plan and since Hannah is a minor, the therapist would be required to break confidentiality and let her parent/legal guardian know. He would talk about this with Hannah and why this is important (safety), even if it breaks some of her trust. In this case, keeping Hannah alive is more important and it’s legally required so there’s no getting around it. When there’s a suicide plan, confidentiality is always broken and safety measures start taken place.

4. Since Hannah was suicidal, had a plan and was going to attempt that day, the therapist would keep Hannah in the office until a parent came in who would need to agree to immediately take her to a hospital; or would call police to escort her to the hospital if a parent couldn’t or if Hannah was at risk of fleeing (other safety measures can be discussed if suicide risk is lower, such as a referral to a psychiatrist. In this case she was high risk so hospitalization would be necessary).

5. Hannah mentioned she didn’t consent to sex and she was confused about what happened, suggesting she was possibly raped. Even if she wasn’t sure, it would have been taken extremely seriously. She’d need to consider pressing charges, seeing a doctor and seeing a trauma specialist to work through the emotional pain she experienced. It can sometimes depend on age in certain states but it’s likely the therapist would also need to break confidentiality with Hannah in this case as well. It could be that he notifies her parents, or he can call the police to report the incident.

​After that, Hannah would be escorted to a hospital and would go through an intake assessment to be considered for in-patient treatment. Again, her high level of suicide risk would be reason to admit her to the hospital where she would get intensive care. Once she stabilized (this can usually last about a week but depends on how the patient responds to treatment), she’d move to a less intensive treatment, then transition to ongoing, regular outpatient care with a psychiatrist, family therapist and individual therapist. She would need consistent treatment considering the traumas and her high risk of suicide.

​The takeaway is that there are people who care, can help and will always step in, especially trained professionals and therapists. Counselors take their job seriously. Safety is a top priority and they’re always there to listen. If we’re going to reduce the stigma of mental health, it’s time to show how useful and effective professional care can be, not the opposite.

How to Handle Unwanted Advice

We’ve all been in a situation before when someone we know offers up unwanted advice;  especially someone close to us like a friend or relative.  Whether it’s about your career plans, who, when and if you chose to date, have children, or any other detail about your life, it can sometimes seem that everyone has an expectation for you and what you should be doing.

This can create a sense of criticism, pressure, and even feelings of anxiety, disappointment, shame, or discouragement.  It can also create tension and distance within the relationship if advice becomes too pushy.

So how do you handle it respectfully without harming the relationship?  Here are a few things to consider.

1. First make a note that the person’s message is coming from a place of care.

While it may seem like direct criticism, know that whoever is offering up suggestions likely cares about you a great deal and wants the best for you.  Whatever “the best” for you though, is up to you to define.

2. Check in with your own feelings and plans.

Whatever is being the target of attention, consider where you stand on the subject and clarify for yourself what you want, but know you can keep this information to yourself.  Simply because others want one thing for you, doesn’t mean you have to want the same things.  You have all the right to choose your own path.

3. Identify feelings and be direct.

If you’re feeling like their suggestions are judgmental or hurtful, let them know nicely.  You can tell them that their comments give you unwanted pressure or that you feel the person is putting expectations and conditions on you or your relationship.  It also may be a good opportunity to recognize their care for you while explaining what your experience of their advice is like.  Such as, “I know you want me to be happy, but when you ask why I’m single, it feels like my worth is dependent upon whether or not I’m in a relationship.”

4. Ask for privacy.

Your business is yours to share, so let them know you don’t want to talk about the subject.  Include that you recognize that they want the best for you, but their advice puts unwanted pressure on you.  Let them know that your choices are yours to make and that you would like privacy on the matter.  If you want their help, you can tell them that you will go to them for someone to listen or to share ideas.

5. Ask for support.

Just like asking for privacy, let your friend or loved one know how they can support you on the subject.  It it’s simply asking for privacy, that can be a way to be supportive.  If you’d like them to understand your situation better, ask them to listen and express that you do not want feedback.  This can help you maintain and reestablish trust, respect and bonding with one another.

So next time you find yourself feeling interrogated, take a moment to recognize what’s happening and speak up for what you need.

“The more you love your decisions the less you need others to love them.” – uknown