Why Happiness is Overrated, According to a Therapist

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Often times people come into therapy hoping to finally tackle issues like anxiety or depression. Clients have come into my office wishing for me to share my keys to “happiness.” Sometimes they are disappointed to find I actually don’t think happiness is a reasonable goal.

There is a lot of information, particularly in the positive psychology movement, about finding the keys to happiness. You can use affirmations and daily validations to help lift your mood. You can organize your life and change your behavior, all in an effort to secure this feeling of happiness.

There’s a lot of validity to those suggestions. Nonetheless, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to search for “happiness” to begin with. Continue reading Why Happiness is Overrated, According to a Therapist

Finding Inner Peace with Mindfulness and the 5 Senses

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Mindfulness is the power of living in the moment, embracing your current circumstances without judgement or pretense. To be mindful is to be a conscious observer.

Mindfulness is a big trend, not only in popular culture, but in contemporary therapy. Many counselors tout this westernized version of traditional Eastern practices as a way to promote relaxation and reduce stress in clients. It’s become a popular training topic for clinicians because there is evidence that it helps reduce anxiety and depression.

As a therapist, I often incorporate mindfulness-based cognitive strategies in my work to help clients deal with stressful jobs and lives. In my practice I’ve found it to be especially effective at battling anxiety and perfectionism. It can be a challenge, however, to incorporate mindfulness in your daily routine if you’re not used to slowing down and paying conscious attention. Continue reading Finding Inner Peace with Mindfulness and the 5 Senses

What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety

big bang theory cast

Roughly 15 million American adults live with social anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social anxiety has grown in mainstream conversations about mental health over the years, but what does it look like to actually live with the disorder? There’s a great example viewable in one of television’s biggest sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Rajesh Koothrappali (Raj) from “The Big Bang Theory” represents a solid case of social anxiety disorder. In earlier seasons of the show, Koothrappali’s social anxiety cripples him by rendering him speechless around women who aren’t members of his family. When he’s alone with his friends, he has no problem expressing himself. But when faced with the prospect of speaking with a woman he deems attractive, Raj often uses alcohol as a social lubricant.

Many viewers, including myself, find this character trait charming in those earlier seasons. As a therapist I understand this kind of representation can minimize the lives of those who deal with social anxiety in real life. Nonetheless, my impression is that the writers of the show handle Raj’s disorder with both compassion and humor. This leads me to believe that both the actor and those in the writers’ room understand what it’s like to experience social anxiety. Continue reading What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Theory Teaches Us About Social Anxiety

When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

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Relationship problems are one of the main reasons people seek out therapy. And there is no time in our lives more complicated than the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. Our goal is usually aimed at doing everything we can to maintain the relationship.

We spend a lot of energy trying not to scare the other person away, right? In the early stages of a relationship, we often find ourselves walking on eggshells. Sometimes we hide our true opinions and feelings in an effort to keep the peace. This can leave us confused about when we should say, “I love you”.

What if this scares your new boo away? What if you come off as “needy” or “desperate”? What if they don’t say it back?! Continue reading When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

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As a therapist, I experienced a variety of client reactions following the election results on November 8. Some clients were happy with the results. Others were fraught with intense anxiety and fear over what the next four years would be like for the United States.

Some of the country experienced shock at the election results. A theme I keep hearing from clients is the realization of such stark differences in viewpoints across the country.

For many those viewpoints are different than those in their immediate surroundings. These viewpoints are different than those people have seen in their social media feeds.

Everyone is in shock. The impact, however, is revealing itself in different ways. Continue reading What Are People In Therapy Saying About Life Post-Trump Victory?

4 Mental Health Resolutions: Try Something Different This New Year

woman hopping 2017 new year

Now that the new year has started, many of us are deciding on some of the classic New Year’s resolutions: weight loss, eating healthier, getting in shape, etc. These can be great goals.

They only focus on physical health, though. What about mental health? Continue reading 4 Mental Health Resolutions: Try Something Different This New Year

Talking About Myself Was the Only Way for this Client to Trust Me

black male therapist female client

I once had a woman come into my office who had been referred from another provider. She was seeking therapy and had tried many times over the years, but she had a difficult time opening up and trusting counselors.

She felt that her background as a survivor of abuse and a former sex worker from an underserved background made her inaccessible to many providers. She thought I was no different. Continue reading Talking About Myself Was the Only Way for this Client to Trust Me

The Mental Health Issues People Living with HIV Deal With

HIV/AIDS red ribbon

Being diagnosed with HIV is no longer the end of a life. For those with access to appropriate treatment, being HIV positive is the beginning of a life with different challenges.

As a psychotherapist, I have seen how these challenges affect the mental health of those who live with HIV. Using my experience, I outlined the mental health issues these people tend to deal with. By learning about them, you can — if you live with HIV — improve your mental health or more effectively support people who live with HIV. Continue reading The Mental Health Issues People Living with HIV Deal With

My Experience With Survivors of Suicide, as a Therapist and a Person

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Everyday, 117 people in the United States die by suicide. Suicide is also an international health crisis.

Typically when we talk about survivors of suicide, we refer to those who suffered the crisis of an attempt themselves. But survivors also exist in the form of family members and other loved ones who witness or deal with the effects of a completed attempt. Continue reading My Experience With Survivors of Suicide, as a Therapist and a Person

We Need to Talk About Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships

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Most often when people discuss the impact and dynamics in domestic violence [DV] relationships, they assume the victim is a woman and the perpetrator a male. This discounts the experience of many people across the country and world who identify as LGBT or are male victims of intimate partner violence [IPV]. Intimate partner violence can occur in the context of any relationship pairing, although the media would lead you to believe only straight women can be victims. Continue reading We Need to Talk About Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships