Have Permit, Will Travel



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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.

Fortunately, Driver’s ed had started that day. I knew the instruction in the finer points of road safety and parallel parking would help him become a safe driver. I also knew that he still needed to practice regularly for the lessons to sink in, and, at least for now, it was still my job to ride with him.

Thankfully we kept our sessions brief. It has now become our habit for him to drive himself to school each morning. This short, regular trip has helped us both adjust to his new role. Now he has learned how to judge the speed and power that result from pressing the gas petal, how to turn smoothly, and how to come gently to a complete stop. Oh, and he can park between the lines in a parking lot, but he still gets out of the car to admire his handiwork.

Learning to tolerate the distress I felt when I drive with my son was very helpful. I have had to learn when to shout, “Brake! Brake!” and when to simply take a deep breath and let him keep driving. Teaching my son to drive has given me the chance to practice letting him make his own choices in a situations with real life consequences.

While it isn’t always easy, it’s something that I’m trying to do more often in our daily lives. Recognizing that my discomfort in the passenger seat is generalizable to worries or concerns I have for him outside the car makes it easier to let him make his own choices in other aspects of his life. For him to grow into the young adult I know he can be, I must not, nor should I want to, exert the same level of control over his life as I did when he was five.

I visualize the day that he passes his road test and takes my car out on his own. I accept that accidents are possible, yet not inevitable. I trust that hard work and driving practice will serve him well. Before long he will add driving to the list of skills he has mastered. As I hold the image of him pulling away in my mind, I offer him a silent wave of congratulations.

Photo credit: State Farm

Emily-1

Emily Becker, LMSW, is an EWN therapist who strongly 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.  Contact her directly at716.400.1605 | ekbeckerlmsw@gmail.com

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

5 Reasons *Not* To Go To Therapy



5 reasons not to go to therapy

Being a therapist for 25+ years I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why people don’t go to therapy. Here are the top 5 reasons I hear people say they don’t go to therapy.

    1. I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious, fill in the blank.
    2.  I know what’s wrong with me. I should be able to deal with this myself.
    3.  It’s embarrassing.
    4.  It costs too much.
    5.  It’s too hard find a good therapist.

Do any of these sound familiar? I thought so. Continue reading to hear my gazillion years of experience refute these reasons!

5 Reasons *Not* To Go To Therapy

 I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious

1. I’m not that depressed, stressed, anxious, fill in the blank. What drives me crazy is when I hear people say, “Wow, I should have come in months ago.” Yeah, I want to say, so why didn’t you? OK, well, that’s what this article is about. We feel stuck, like life is hard work, but that’s just life, right? This blah feeling is normal, isn’t it? Doesn’t everyone feel this way?

What is depressed enough? What is anxious enough? This is hard to say, in part because we’re the frogs in the pot so sometimes the worst judges. The first time I went to therapy it was at the suggestion of my dad. I was insulted! I was doing fine. To humor him I went and my therapist said, “You are depressed.” Still incredulous I heard him rattle off my symptoms, like, feeling lost, lack of motivation, listlessness, emotional flatness, no great sadness but no joy either. I did not like the image in the mirror he held up to me but he was right and something about how he talked to me, listened to me, sparked a long dormant hope.

I know what’s wrong with me

2. I know what’s wrong with me. I should be able to deal with this myself. All I need to do is work harder, write in my gratitude journal every day, stop eating too much, drinking too much, stop being lazy, get a new job, exercise more, be more positive… So yeah, this is all great and if we can do it we do feel better for a while. Then for some weird reason we go back to the old habits, not writing in our journal, eating and drinking too much, loosing motivation and the negative thoughts creep back louder than ever.

If we’re lucky, we know what we need. We may even know how to do it. So what stops me from doing what I know is good for me? A good therapist is like a good architect. You’ve got the tools, materials and desire to build a bridge. You can see the shore on the other side of the river where you want to go. The architect listens to you, gets behind your vision, sees the spot on the other shore where you want to go and gets to work with you to build the bridge to get there.

It’s embarrassing to go to therapy

3. It’s embarrassing. Stigma is alive and kicking. Except for some neighborhoods in New York City, announcing that you see a therapist may be greeted by the sound of chirping crickets. Or worse. The culture we live in may be accepting and encouraging which would be great, but too often it’s really not. Embarrassment is a close kin to shame which is toxic to growth.

Over the years I’ve seen a change. Thank God. Younger adults are more apt to see going to a therapist like going to any professional for specialized services, an attorney, accountant, medical doctor. Where is the embarrassment in getting your teeth cleaned every six months?

Therapy costs too much

4. Also, I don’t have time. Going to therapy is an investment there’s no way to get around that. You invest more than money. You invest your time and energy. This is all about priorities. If we know the value of something, whether it’s a pair of shoes or new car, we find a way to pay for it. If we really want to do something, like attend a rock concert in Cleveland, we find the time to make it happen. Why is it so much harder to prioritize our own well-being?

It’s too hard find a good therapist

5. Too hard find a good therapist. This one is the easiest because you’re here. At EWN we do our best to get you to the right therapist for you. If we don’t fit what you need, that’s OK, we have the experience and know-how to help you find the best therapist for you. Call us.

The Power of Checking In … With Yourself



CatMost of us say, “hey, how are you?” to at least one person each day. When was the last time you asked yourself that question? How do joy, sadness or frustration feel for you? If you don’t know, then it’s time to find out.

Learning to check in with your emotions can pay off in a number of ways:

1. Naming an emotion takes away its power. In The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves author Stephen Grosz suggests that unnamed emotions drive actions that create unnecessary chaos and pain. So much heartache could be prevented if we stopped to identify our emotions before acting rashly. Grosz compares these strong, unacknowledged emotions to the proverbial tail that wags the dog.

2. Checking in with yourself is an important first step to creating change. If you don’t know how you’re feeling it’s nearly impossible to respond thoughtfully to a difficult situation. Imagine you are lost in the woods. How are you going to find your way home if you don’t even know where you are?  Once you know your current emotional location you will be ready to start the journey back.

3. Knowing that moods change makes it easier to tolerate the bad and savor the good. If you don’t pay attention to your feelings, you are likely to miss a positive emotion, especially if it’s fleeting. Positive emotions are like a cat basking in a pool of sunshine: beautiful, temporary, but thankfully still very real. Fortunately, no bad mood lasts forever. While it may sound counterintuitive, it can also be helpful to to stay with a bad mood, especially if you are still learning to name your emotions. It’s an uncomfortable, but important practice, especially for people who tend to avoid negative feelings.

4. You’ll be practicing mindfulness. If you check in with your emotional state in the here and now you’re also staying in the present. According to mindfulness expert Jon Kabat Zinn, “the only moment we’re ever alive in is now.” Learning to name the emotion you feel right now helps break the cycles of reliving the past or worrying about the future which prevent us from being fully aware of our lives in the present.

5. You will be kinder. Broadening your inner emotional vocabulary will allow you to be more empathic. It’s pretty hard to see things from the perspective of another if you don’t know what emotions actually feel like. Once you know how you’re feeling you may also be nicer to yourself. You will be able to respond to your own needs with greater kindness and understanding.

Learning to take your own emotional temperature can pay off in many ways. This useful skill can help you make better decisions, respond thoughtfully in tough situations, and it may even make you a better friend.

Photo credit: Tim Oller

Welcome New EWN Therapists!



It makes me so happy to welcome Emily Becker, LMSW, and Christine Frank, LMSW, to EWN! ~Dr. Aletta

Christine 2Christine works with people who suffer from past trauma, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.

Christine is easy-going, friendly, empathetic, non-judgmental. She’s funny and real in a wonderful down to earth way.

She can help pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults move through those difficult life transitions that can make a person feel lost. Most importantly she can hear your story. She’s a great listener.

716.430.4611     cfranklmsw@gmail.com

 

EmilyEmily’s experience and skills cover treating mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, as well as eating disorders, and the issues around relationships or life stress. In your work together, Emily will use a number of therapeutic models including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy; however, she strongly believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you create together that generates meaningful change.

Emily will strive to greet each session with a curious mind and an open heart.

716-400-1605     ekbeckerlmsw@gmail.com

True Love Is All About How He Helps You Love Yourself



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  • It’s not just how you feel about him. It’s about how he makes you feel about yourself.

  • It’s not about losing yourself in him. It’s about becoming true to yourself with him.

  • It’s not about how great he is. It’s about how great you can become along side him.

  • It’s not about how much you love him. It’s about how much he helps you love yourself.

  • It’s not about his finding room in his heart for you. It’s about his finding room in his life for your energy, drive, ambition, passions and interests.

  • It’s not just about how good he is deep down. It’s about how you experience his goodness as you live your life together.

  • It’s not about how he makes you hungry to be with him. It’s about how much he makes you feel at home when you are with him.

  • It’s not about the love you share. It’s about your ability to fully, equally, deeply share your life together.

  • It’s about falling in like.

~Mira Kirschenbaum

Women & Love

Finding True Love While Being True To Yourself

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