5 Benefits of Therapy



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“A good therapist helps you problem solve, reality check

and be accountable,with nurturance,

in an environment of emotional and physical safety.” /Dr. Aletta

 

“Good therapy encourages increased self-awareness.” /Emily Becker, LMSW

 

“Good therapy gives you time out of your busy life to reflect

on what’s happening to you and in you!” /Nicole Brown, LCSW

 

“Having someone there just for you, to listen,

provide support in an unbiased way.” /Nicole Chumsky, LMHC

 

“EMPOWERMENT. Learn how to feel the best you under any circumstance.” /Kate Maleski, LCSW-R

LGBT Rights Are Human Rights



Capt. Jennifer Peace poses near her home in Spanaway, Wash., on Aug. 28, 2015. Peace is one of an estimated 15,000 transgender people who serve in the active-duty military. She's speaking out in the hopes of helping people understand transgender men and women. Drew Perine / The News Tribune via AP

Capt. Jennifer Peace poses near her home in Spanaway, Wash., on Aug. 28, 2015. Peace is one of an estimated 15,000 transgender people who serve in the active-duty military. She’s speaking out in the hopes of helping people understand transgender men and women. Drew Perine / The News Tribune via AP

Long ago under an administration far, far, away (just a year ago!?) we celebrated when the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

On Wednesday we woke up to this…

Screenshot 2017-07-28 07.30.52 Then we got this news alert…

Justice Department Argues that 1064 Civil Rights Law Does Not Protect Gay Rights in the Workplace.

And then this…

Trump nominates Kansas Governor Brownback to be Ambassador for Religious Freedom 

(Did you even know there was an ambassador for religious freedom?)

I cannot even find the words.

Fortunately there are smart, articulate people out there who are able to find the words for me.

“What we are witnessing is nothing less than an assault on the fundamentals of the country itself: on our legacy institutions and our sense of protocol, decency and honesty.” ~Charles Blow, First They Came For…

“…open transgender service strengthens our military. Enabling soldiers to pursue their gender identity allows them to feel a part of the Army’s team and empowers them to be all they can be. Every soldier deserves to have that experience, including the thousands who are transgender.” ~Jennifer Sims, I am a Transgender Captain in the U.S. Army

“…a RAND analysis commissioned by the Department of Defense, estimated there are between 1,320 and 6,630 active-duty transgender servicepeople currently. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2015 put the number at 12,800…

This [transitioning gender choice medical care, including surgery] would [represent] a military health-care spending increase of 0.04 to 0.13 percent. Even in the most extreme case, it is one tenth of the annual $84 million that the military spends on medication for erectile dysfunction.”  ~James Hamblin, The Cost of Banning Transgender Service Members

My heart goes out to all our fellow humans in the LGBTQ community. If you are experiencing a surge of anxiety, depression, anger who could possibly blame you? I just want you to know, you are not alone, we all feel it.  Please contact us anytime. We understand and would like to help.

 

To The Bone: Should You Watch That New Eating Disorder Movie?



The release of To The Bone, an original feature film on Netflix about a young woman with anorexia nervosa, has generated a lot of attention. Is it triggering? Is it thinspiration? Should you even watch it?

As a mental health provider who works with people with eating disorders, I watched the movie with a critical, but not dismissive, eye. I cannot recommend the movie to anyone who is actively in treatment for an eating disorder, or who is not 110% secure in his or her recovery. Parents and family members who are very close to the treatment process might also choose to skip viewing this movie, if only to avoid the pain of seeing your own battles reflected on screen.

If you choose to watch To The Bone, please keep the following caveats in mind:

This is not a film about eating disorder treatment. If you seek treatment for an eating disorder at a residential facility, please don’t expect it to look like the cozy bungalow in the movie. Your doctor will not drop the f-bomb. You will not be unsupervised at meals or allowed to make out in the backyard. In order to bring the viewer inside the minds of people with eating disorders, writer and director Marti Noxon has her characters share their thoughts with each other. Out loud. At the dinner table. While this dialogue elevates To the Bone, please know that if people speak to each other that way while in a treatment facility, those conversations happen on the sly, or are expressed privately in a journal or a therapy session.

This is not a film about how people recover from anorexia nervosa. It highlights reasons why eating disorder recovery can be elusive. It shows why support from people who understand what you’re going through really matters. But support can take many forms, and a romance between the lead character and the only eligible young man is one of the film’s limits. I have seen intense, meaningful bonds form between eating disorder clients. Romance needn’t enter the picture for an encounter to be transformative. Often these treatment-born friendships are volatile, fragile, and fraught with strong emotions. Yet these same relationships can provide a type of support unlike any other. Often they are the first way that a person in treatment recognizes that he or she is no longer truly alone.

This is not a documentary about what it’s like to have an eating disorder. It’s a fictional depiction of one (young, white, upper-middle class, educated, intelligent, artistic, angry) woman’s struggle to choose recovery over starvation. The narrow focus, informed by Noxon’s own experience with anorexia as a young woman, is at the heart of why the film feels authentic. Sure, the film gives a nod to other genders, ethnicities, and diagnoses, but telling those stories too would result in a very different movie.

Whether or not you choose to watch To the Bone is entirely up to you. The good news is the film is stimulating more open discussion about eating disorders, which may explain part of the reason that organizations including NEDA [National Eating Disorders Association]  and Project Heal have partnered with the film’s creators to promote it. But watching this film is not the only way to keep the dialog going. Read some of the 1200+ responses that readers of the New York Times Well blog generated in response to its coverage of the film or pick up a copy of Life Without Ed by Jenni Shaefer.

Did you watch the film? Did you choose not to watch it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Emily Becker, LMSW, is an EWN therapist who believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you create together that generates meaningful change. Emily strives to greet each session with a curious mind, an open heart, and a wish to hear your story. This Fall, Emily will be leading Reach For Recover, a support group for anyone committed to eating disorder recovery. Contact her directly at 716.400.1605 | ekbeckerlmsw@gmail.com

 

Summer Time Depression



Dealing with summertime anxiety and depression is a lot like dealing with a summer flu. Feeling freaked out or down is never convenient but somehow when it’s sunny and warm out it’s even worse! Here are some tips to walk it back from the edge. Then contact us! We want to help.

My Baby Driver



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My son was granted a driving permit three days after his sixteenth birthday. My attempt to teach him to drive began the following weekend. We set out to practice in an empty parking lot on a quiet Sunday afternoon. We both would have preferred to be elsewhere.

Those first few trips in the car were as anxiety-provoking as riding on a rickety wooden roller coaster.  The first time he tried to drive around the block it seemed as if he might jump the curb and head straight into our yard. The second time he swerved to avoid an oncoming car, and nearly missed hitting a mailbox.

I sat in the passenger seat with clammy hands and a pounding heartbeat. I wondered in silence how the tiny child I had once held in my arms was now legally capable of handling a thousand pound death machine. Surely, I was not the first parent to feel this way. It would have been so easy to back away, give up, put it off, or simply pump up the tires on his bike and say, “see ya!”

I didn’t give into my desire to avoid driving with him. Instead, I told him that he wasn’t quite ready to drive around the block until he’d had more practice. I reassured him that it was normal to be uncomfortable behind the wheel because he hadn’t really had a chance to learn yet. I said it seemed like we were both a little nervous but let him know I was pretty sure it would get easier.

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Is My Teen Moody or Depressed? 5 Ways to Tell.



Moody TeenIt is not unusual for adolescents to experience emotional highs and lows as they move through this challenging phase of life. Parents need to be aware of the differences between “normal” moodiness and stress, and what constitutes a mental health issue. When parents are equipped with the information and tools to help their children, it makes moving through the difficult parts of adolescence much more manageable. The first question to ask is whether or not a child’s mood swings and behavior changes are a normal part of adolescence, or indicative of something that needs therapeutic intervention. Here are some good questions for parents to ask themselves:

1. How long has my child been acting differently? The persistence of behavior changes is crucial to determining if a teen is experiencing something as serious as depression, or just normal fluctuations in behavior. Some of these behavior changes include: sleeping more or less, changes in grades at school, isolating from friends, changes in eating, and losing interest in activities that they once enjoyed. If it’s been a week of significant behavior changes, then it could be normal adolescent stress. If it’s been a month or more, it’s time to consult with a therapist, physician, or psychiatrist.

2. Has my child experienced emotional changes? Behavior is only one piece of the puzzle when considering if a teen has depression or anxiety. Parents should also stay tuned in to emotional changes, such as: increased irritability, sadness, anger, fear, or apathy.

3. Has my child experienced physical changes? Physical changes can be a major indicator of a problem, as well, and they can more or less obvious than the behavioral and emotional changes. Has there been sudden weight gain or loss? Have they been harming themselves? Presenting themselves differently with a new style?

4. Is there a possibility of cyber-bullying? With an increase in teenage use of technology as a means to connect with their peer groups, there is also an increased chance of cyber-bullying. Think about what kind of technology, or social media websites that your child uses to connect with others. Better yet, ask your child about it. There is Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, online blogs, and group chats. Instead of taking away a child’s access to technology, which could make them feel very isolated, begin an open discussion about it. Let your child know that you are a safe person to talk to about what they are doing online.

5. Does this feel normal, or does something not feel right? You know your child best. Trust yourself, and trust your instincts. If you aren’t sure, it may be safer to get a consultation with a therapist or psychiatrist. If you decide to do this, talk about your reasoning with your child. Let them know your own feelings, and that you are concerned. Keep communicating; be open and kind.

ChrisChristine 2tine Frank, LMSW, is an EWN therapist who loves working with tweens, teens and young, emerging adults. Contact her at 716.430.4611 or email info@explorewhatsnext.com

Meet Nicole Chumsky, your Mindfulness Hike Leader



Mindfulness Hike-3This week I registered to take part in Nicole’s Mindfulness Hike Retreat in July. As an associate at Explore What’s Next, Nicole has deepened her knowledge and clinical practice in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, meditation, and is working on her trauma-informed yoga teacher certification. She came up with this creative concept of taking the classroom outdoors and into the woods. Join me in a chat with Nicole to learn more about her Mindfulness Hike Retreats. ~Dr. Aletta

Dr. A.: How did you come up with this great idea?

Nicole: Honestly, I just want everyone to experience the joy and contentment you can cultivate once you learn how to be mindful! To boot, nature has such a positive impact on my mindfulness and my life. I love to go backpacking because it’s my time to unplug from the busy-ness of life. I get to just be in the moment, clear my head, notice and appreciate everything around me.

Mindfulness is a simple concept but it can be difficult to get started. It might take a while to feel its effects. Knowing this has been a barrier for some people I work with, I thought it would be beneficial to be fully immersed in the practice for longer than one 50 minute session. As I began my research on the effects of nature on mental health, I found evidence that it takes at least 3 hours in nature to start to feel the positive impact it has on anxiety and depression. So I thought, “What better place is there than nature to practice mindfulness for a few hours!” And I was off to the races, building this hike retreat. I have hosted this event for two summers now and participants’ testimonials attest to the positive impact this retreat has on their anxiety and self-awareness.

Dr. A.: I’m really looking forward to Mindfulness Retreat. Tell me more.

Nicole: Taking a half day to put the phone down, stop pouring over to-do lists and getting back in touch with your mind, body and life is what it’s about. This retreat guides us through a series of exercises that will get us more aware of and focused on the present moment. This hike helps retrain our brain to pay attention to things that would otherwise go unnoticed, opening us up to deeper feelings of appreciation, joy and contentment.

Dr. A.: What can participants expect that morning?

Nicole: This is a small group event so you can expect no more than 8-10 people on the trail. You will engage in a variety of activities ranging from learning mindfulness concepts, testing out exercises to build your awareness, mindful eating, meditation, journaling and yoga. The foundations of all of these activities are covered so no experience is required!

Dr. A.: How is this different from other retreats?

Nicole: This retreat provides an extra opportunity to build self-awareness with the journaling activities and teaches you mindfulness basics in nature rather than a classroom. It includes not just meditation all day, it includes lots of other forms of mindfulness activities. The best part is, it’s local to Buffalo area residents! Most times you have to travel to a meditation or yoga retreat and this one is practically in your backyard.

Dr. A.: Who would benefit from attending this event?

Nicole: Everyone! Mindfulness is a way of living that everyone can take advantage of. Advantages like improved memory, reduction of work burnout, reduced stress, improves sleep, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, improves concentration and increases your energy, just to name a few.

This hike is great for anyone who wants to start a practice, learn about mindfulness, get to know themselves a bit better or just looking for a day to relax! The exercises not only help you while hiking but they translate over to everyday life. They help you to slow down, make more grounded decisions, include rest in your schedule and be more content with what you have on your plate at any given moment.

Dr. A.: How do people register?

Nicole: Visit our events page or contact me directly! I would love to talk to you about how you can get involved and answer any questions you may have.

REGISTER NOW!

Our Moms Before They Were Moms



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Magdalena Maldonado de Gómez

On the morning after the long night of my Mother’s death, my brother-in-law, who couldn’t be with us, sent us this photo. My siblings and I gathered around the computer and stared at my Mom’s youthful face in silence for a long time. Greg gave us a priceless gift we didn’t even know we needed. A visual reminder that my Mother was a whole human being. She lived an entire lifetime. Some of it was shared with us, but ultimately her life was her own.

It took months of grieving before memories of Mom were cancer-free. Slowly stories of her as an energetic, complex, irreverent woman began to overtake the more recent ones of chemo, hospice, saying goodbye.

Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them, brought all of this back to me. I searched my online albums for that photo of my Mom but couldn’t find it. Did my bother have it? He did. He sent it to me and once again I was staring at a computer screen, silently, in tears.

Survival Skills for Women Lawyers: Managing Everyday Stress & Anxiety to Stay Balanced



Presentation at Women's Bar Assoc

This morning at the Women’s Bar Association of  Erie County New York I had the real pleasure of presenting with my friend Dan Lukasik of Lawyers With Depression.

Click here and you will find links to some great resources, books, videos, articles and apps that accompany my talk.

Resources for Survival Skills For Women

Know Thy Selfie



22068562203_ccf6cffb64_kIn my last post I wrote about the importance of checking in with yourself emotionally; however, emotions are only one piece of self-awareness. “Know thyself,” asks a bigger question. This bit of wisdom from ancient Greece is often attributed to Socrates, but is likely even older, and was reportedly carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

Does self-knowledge still matter?

Knowing oneself has always mattered. But a lot has changed over the past 2500 years, so this desire shows up today in ways that Socrates never could have imagined.

Consider the smart phone. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 77% of adults in the United States own a smart phone. Only fifty years ago, we all talked into identical black telephones with cords, without Caller ID or voice mail. In contrast, the smart phone’s ability to make mere phone calls isn’t the secret to its success. These palm-sized devices often become a miniature hub-of-self, comprising a person’s entire identity.

No part of the smart phone better represents our interest in self-knowledge than the camera, with which one can snap, save, edit, and then inevitably share, a selfie.

We have the ability to curate an endless number of carefully crafted images that shape the identity we choose share with the rest of the world. Selfies represent how we want to be seen by others. They do not show that we truly understand ourselves. We need look no further than the popularity of Snap Chat filters (even the puppy one) that smooth skin and widen eyes to prove this point.

I’ve got nothing against selfies. They’re fun. But they direct the desire to be known outward when it can go inward as well.

Self-reflection: a selfie for the soul.

The wish to know oneself becomes less daunting if you admit you don’t need to have all of the answers. Sometimes acknowledging mixed feelings about a life choice is a necessary first step to make if you want to make a change such as drinking less coffee or getting more sleep.

Whether you tackle self-reflection alone or work with a therapist, begin the process with a few simple questions:

What am I thinking right now?
What emotions do I feel?
What physical sensations am I experiencing?
How do these three answers affect my behavior?

These questions riff on Dr. Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive behavioral model. Asking these four questions in a variety of settings, from the everyday to the singular, generates important information about how you respond to life’s ups and downs. Slowing down long enough to answer them creates an opportunity to learn, grow, and hopefully make the kind of decisions worthy of authentic celebration.

A celebration which will, of course, be captured with a selfie.

Photo credit: Roderigo Olivera

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