Mental Illness Stigma: A Therapist’s Perspective

Mental Illness Stigma: A Therapist’s Perspective

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched friends’ and family members’ facial expressions drop and felt a chilling silence upon mentioning various forms of mental illness.

These are open-minded people. They are willing to talk about politics, religion, drugs, and other controversial topics. But they withdraw when the topic of mental illness comes up.

I don’t start these conversations to cause a ruckus. Instead, I want to honestly talk about the impact mental illness has on individuals and society as a whole. Our mental health system is dysfunctional and we need to address it head-on if we hope to change anything. This entails embracing mental health as an acceptable and appropriate subject.


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Working with Suicidal Clients: 6 Things You Should Know

Working with Suicidal Clients: 6 Things You Should Know

One of the scariest things therapists work with is suicidality.

Suddenly, therapy feels like, and sometimes is, a life-or-death situation, one where clinicians hold a great deal of responsibility.  To make matters worse, suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. [1], and many believe the prevalence rates are a gross underestimate [2].

The numbers highlight the inevitability of encountering suicidality in our line of work.  Early-career psychologists and practicum students may feel overwhelmed by the intensity and risk of working with suicidal clients.


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Cultural Competence in Therapy: Why We Must See Color

Cultural Competence in Therapy: Why We Must See Color

It seems that workplaces, schools, companies, and organizations are increasingly paying more attention to diversity and culture lately.

While this growing interest is encouraging, there are times when there is a significant lack of follow-through regarding the attention these issues receive. This is a disservice to everyone involved, but it comes at a special price in the realm of therapy.

I know of several graduate programs that pride themselves on their emphasis on diversity, yet have only a few course offerings specifically related to the topic and do not consistently revisit cultural issues throughout other courses.

With regard to psychology and therapy, the lack of consistent attention to cultural issues has the potential to create and maintain impasses that can affect the client’s progress.

As aspiring mental health professionals, we have the best of intentions in our work with clients. It is very important, however, to assess for cultural importance and issues of diversity in our first meetings with clients and then to be mindful of the ways we communicate with those clients moving forward.


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Should Therapists Encourage Clients to Exercise?

Should Therapists Encourage Clients to Exercise?

Most of us know that physical exercise is beneficial and necessary for attaining and prolonging good physical health. Exercising helps with maintaining and reducing weight and body fat, improving cholesterol, and reducing the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes, among many other physical health benefits.

The question that has come up in recent decades, and one particularly salient for mental health professionals, is whether exercise helps with our mental health as well, and if so, how?


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Bisexual Mental Health & Challenges of Internalized Biphobia

Bisexual Mental Health & Challenges of Internalized Biphobia

Sexual-minority individuals frequently experience mental and physical health challenges, often in response to discrimination, hostility, and violence (Meyer, as cited in Heath & Mulligan, 2008).

As the research community begins to tease out the differences between the different sexual minority groups, a clear pattern of difference begins to emerge between the experiences of lesbian/gay individuals and bisexuals.


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Uncertainty, Transference, & Other Reasons Therapists Might Fail

Uncertainty, Transference, & Other Reasons Therapists Might Fail

We often know our goal, but rarely what lies in our way. “There is a road, no simple highway” (Hunter, The Grateful Dead, 1970). At times, we may find that no matter what we try, we cannot seem to overcome the problem and reach our goal – our cabin on the hillside.

No matter how hard we wish, for some problems there is no simple highway – no quick-fix, deus-ex-machina, five-step solution, or magic wand.

These are the points in life when people most often turn to psychotherapy; they have tried everything and, to varying degrees, may have a fantasy that psychotherapists have some top-secret piece of advice. Especially therapists-in-training who are excited about helping, anxious to prove their competence, and unfamiliar with the uncertainty of the therapeutic process might find themselves colluding with this client’s wish for a magic solution in order to reduce both parties’ uncertainty.


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The Millennial Therapist: How Social Media Affects Our Lives & Work

The Millennial Therapist: How Social Media Affects Our Lives & Work

The Millennial generation, born roughly between 1980 and 2000, is a generation categorized by the digital age. An overwhelming majority owns a computer, a smartphone and uses the Internet daily. Coined “digital natives”, Millennials are a generation raised on using social media as a primary way to communicate and express oneself. This is the generation that is now entering into the field of psychotherapy.

The social media obsession has significant implications for this generation of psychologists, both relationally and professionally. We are entering into the field with a perspective of the world much different than our predecessors. We deal with public exposure in a way that has not yet been faced. There can be some harmful consequences of our lives being so public. As we enter into this field, we must be thoughtful about our social media use and the implications it has for both our work as therapists and in our personal lives.

As we enter into this field, we must be thoughtful about our social media use and the implications it has for both our work as therapists and in our personal lives.


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A Psychologist’s Honest Review of 7 Cups of Tea

A Psychologist’s Honest Review of 7 Cups of Tea

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article discussing the problems with obtaining mental health care without insurance. One of the suggestions I included was using an online community, such as 7 Cups of Tea, for additional support when needed.

While this site has become fairly well known, I know many people who still are not aware of it or who do not know what an amazing resource it can be. The goal of this blog article, therefore, is to introduce readers to 7 Cups of Tea as well as provide an inside view of the site from a psychologist’s perspective.


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How I Failed My Client in Psychotherapy and Grew From it

How I Failed My Client in Psychotherapy and Grew From it

From Cindy’s pressed lips, lined with wrinkles that extended noticeably beyond her years, came exasperated concerns of torturous anxiety.

Deeper than her polite solemnity, there seemed to be a well of sadness. This sadness pervaded her down-turned lips, slow gate, and slumped posture. Cindy’s helpless presentation pulled at my heart-strings; in particular as a young therapist-in-training, I wanted to help. I listened empathically, encouraged her strengths, taught skills such as deep-breathing, and offered advice.

However, like clockwork, every 15 minutes Cindy’s down-turned, sad lips would slowly become pursed with frustration. Pursed like a toddler refusing a big spoonful of syrupy cough-medicine. Shutting off, and shutting me out.


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Mental Health Medicaid: Caring for Clients who Earn “Too Much” Money

Mental Health Medicaid: Caring for Clients who Earn “Too Much” Money

As a child, my family did not have a lot of money. In fact, we regularly struggled. I know there were periods of time that we went without health insurance. While we had some major medical problems during that time (we sought care at the University Hospital), we were, for the most part, mentally and physically healthy.

I did, however, have some friends who were not able to seek mental health treatment due to not having health insurance. Sure, they could go to the hospital, but routine care was not in the cards. In the state where I lived, only pregnant women and children were eligible for state Medicaid—regardless of income.


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