Why Use Picture Messaging in Online Therapy?

If you’re reading this blog post, odds are you are at least somewhat familiar with Talkspace. If not, let me fill you in.

Talkspace is an online therapy platform and app that allows clients and therapists to send an unlimited number of messages back and forth, securely and confidentially. No commutes or scheduling — with all the benefits of traditional, in-person therapy. Needless to say, convenience and affordability are major selling points of the platform.

The vast majority of our users send texts, though many additionally rely on both video and audio messages. What may surprise you is that there is also a significant subset of people who regularly communicate using another format: picture messaging.

Continue reading Why Use Picture Messaging in Online Therapy?

Why the Holidays Are Difficult for People With Addictions

christmas dinner beer wine glasses cheers

The holidays can herald challenges for everyone: awkward family issues, travel stress, gift expenses, religious conflicts. Those with mental illnesses might encounter triggers for various symptoms and issues. Addiction is no exception and can be especially burdensome.

During a time of excess and indulgence, it takes even more self-control for people in recovery to abstain from substances. Friends and family members might offer them a drink or invite them to smoke. There is a higher frequency of ads for alcohol. It seems the entire world is consuming without a care, yet those in recovery need to be more cautious than at any other time of year. Continue reading Why the Holidays Are Difficult for People With Addictions

How to Deal With a Family Member’s Mental Illness During the Holidays

family Christmas dinner

When I was growing up, my family and I made an annual trip to Tampa, Florida to spend the winter holiday with my mom’s relatives, the Lebanese half of my racial identity. We always stayed at my Teta and Jido’s house (grandma and grandpa in Arabic). There was a consistent source of drama, stress, and hurt during these visits: my Teta. My mother dreaded Christmas because she associated the day with Teta driving her crazy, twisting every errand and conversation into a test of emotional stamina.

For many years I was too young to understand exactly why my grandmother was such a toxic person. Her and my Jido fought nightly, and I could hear them yelling through the walls in Arabic or French. I couldn’t fathom why their relationship was so strained, though. Because she was clearly unhappy, I felt sympathy for her. I didn’t have enough context to place blame. Continue reading How to Deal With a Family Member’s Mental Illness During the Holidays

How to Stop Dwelling on Your Mistakes

business woman nervous during meeting interview

Mistakes can haunt us. Long after the dust has settled, we replay the incident over and over, ruminating on what we could have done differently, analyzing each detail as a reflection of our shortcomings. This pattern of thought is not only counterproductive, it’s bad for our mental health. Excessive self-criticism can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety.

The good news is there are many methods of moving on and forgiving ourselves. It is difficult to let go of the past, but not impossible. Continue reading How to Stop Dwelling on Your Mistakes

A Day in the Life of a Talkspace Therapist: Samantha White

Samantha White Talkspace Therapist Author

In this series we look at a day in the lives of our therapists. Their stories illustrate the joys and challenges of dedicating one’s life to helping others improve their mental health and cope with mental illness.

7:30 a.m.

I awaken to a chorus of birds chirping, singing riotously, endlessly. The windows are closed and we don’t have any pet birds, but for the first minute or so I believe I am hearing the lovely music of birds in the treetops. Eventually I remember that it’s the ringtone of my iPhone, and I roll over and hit “Snooze.” This happens a few more times until I’m ready to put my feet on the floor, sit up on the bed, and admire the view through the wall-to-wall window of palm trees and sky.

8:30 a.m.

Returned from my morning walk, I park my specialized orthopedic walker in the dining alcove. I’ve been using it as a mobility aid for about six years now, since my arthritis, fibromyalgia, and COPD overtook me and I became disabled. Like the commercial says, I love my walker. I named it Dolly. Without it, I’d be unable to walk more than thirty yards. With it, I can go almost anywhere! Continue reading A Day in the Life of a Talkspace Therapist: Samantha White

Are Body Language and Tone Necessary for Therapy to Be Effective?

woman walking outside holing smartphone texting

Now that purely text-based therapy has taken off and has a growing number of studies backing its efficacy, mental health professionals and researchers are debating whether psychotherapy needs body language and tone to produce results. To compare the effectiveness of texting therapy with other mediums, the psychological community needs to think about what treatment outcomes are most important. As the practice of therapy has evolved, so has its priorities.

For many decades psychotherapy had only one format: a therapist and client in a room. Despite the requirement for both parties to be in the same physical space — within viewing distance — the early days of mental health counseling did not utilize body language to its full potential. Many patients lay on a couch and faced in the opposite direction of their therapists. To act as a “blank screen,” practitioners of psychoanalysis participated minimally in sessions and encouraged their patients to speak as much as possible. Continue reading Are Body Language and Tone Necessary for Therapy to Be Effective?

When Does Shopping Become an Addiction?

miniature shopping bags and cart on computer

All of us have wasted money on items and services we don’t need, purchases we eventually realized were not worth the time or investment. Think about all the expired food you have had to throw out, tickets to movies that looked terrible, clothes you don’t wear (but the sale made them too tempting to pass up).

Sometimes the experience of shopping provides more pleasure than what we end up buying. Children feel joy simply walking through a Toys R’ Us. Going to Macy’s during the holidays is a tradition for many families. Later they realize they most likely spent way too much, but it’s OK. The New Year arrives, and expenses return to normal until the next holiday.

But what about people who treat every day like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Christmas? This kind of excessive shopping isn’t only financially irresponsible. The behavior can be a mental health issue. Continue reading When Does Shopping Become an Addiction?

The Psychology of Greed

wolf of wall street scene best picture nomination

In The Wolf of Wall Street, stockbroker Jordan Belfort gains a massive fortune by committing crimes in the financial sector. Eventually his greed backs him into a corner. The F.B.I.’s pursuit leaves him with a choice: relinquish control of his company and give up his career in finance or risk losing everything. Despite words of caution from his father and the fact that he already has money and opportunities to last a lifetime, Belfort continues his pursuit of even more wealth. This mistake ultimately leads to his demise.

What exactly was running through Belfort’s mind when he made that decision? What about his innate characteristics and experiences made him so insatiably greedy, willing to put the desire for more income and assets over family and his own freedom?

There are millions of people like Belfort who have inspired researchers to explore the psychology of greed. Here is what psychologists have learned so far: Continue reading The Psychology of Greed

What Is High-Functioning Depression?

depressed woman working on laptop coffee mug

Imagine someone who seems to be living a perfect life. She has a great job, a loving and supportive partner, and plenty of fun outside of work. Getting to the office on time is no problem, and she is one of the most productive employees at her company.

There’s one problem, though: she is miserable, unable to derive happiness from much of anything. Because she lives with high-functioning depression, it is difficult for people to understand how anything could be wrong. Continue reading What Is High-Functioning Depression?

7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body

stressed sore woman working on computer at cafe

Since I was a boy, my body has been extremely sensitive and reactive to both physical and emotional stress. When my parents announced we were moving away from my hometown, my muscles tensed up so much I could barely use the bathroom for many days. Eventually I learned these health issues were a combination of a rare muscle tension condition and psychosomatic symptoms from my depressive-anxiety disorder.

Because my body usually felt like a car that had driven hundreds of thousands of miles — parts constantly requiring maintenance, always creaking, sputtering, or breaking down — I became a master of self-care. I spent hours every week making a conscious effort to heal and recuperate. This lifestyle was the only way for me to survive and function well enough to graduate from college and find employment. Whenever I neglected proper rest or pushed myself too far, new symptoms arose. Continue reading 7 Self-Care Tips for When Stress Affects Your Body