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When Did You Start Expressing Your Boundaries?

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What are Boundaries Anyway?

The best understanding of boundaries that I’ve seen was explained by Prentis Hemphill who explained that they believe “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” A great explanation of boundaries about their famous and comprehensive explanation of boundaries from a place of love can be seen in this video.

Boundaries Before Therapy

It’s funny because I was thinking about when I first began therapy and various programs and starting to assert boundaries. I began talking about how I felt for one of the first times in my life and noticed how much it differed from the way I was being in the world. I started to change relationships and the way I showed up. I would even share with people when I needed something. It was profound, scary and different than what I’d seen. It was a clear difference from how I showed up in the world before I began therapy and healing programs.

But I think my boundary journey began long before I had a clearer channel with my feelings and expressing my needs. I could actually recall a time in high school when I actually began my boundary journey.

One of my first attempts at a boundary was when people my old bullies wanted to hang out and pretend they never hurt me in the past. Well a little background on this is that I’ve gone up and down with my size throughout my life and honestly continue with this ever growing relationship with my body (diet mentality, social pressures, cultural messages and so on), and when I went from bullying names regarding my size to what the bullies thought was an acceptable size the bullies forgot that I was the same girl they bullied for years. Verbal and physical hits from my bullies never led me to think that one day they’d think I was “cool” and would talk to me or even invite me to spend time with them. I was shocked and told them I’m the same one they hurt for years.

You can learn more about the story here where Dr. Dowtin and I explore the beginning stories of boundaries. The podcast episode even has a great boundary exercise that Dr. Dowtin tailored just for you.

Honoring You

I want to thank and honor your younger selves within for setting boundaries long before you may have even realized it. I’m proud of you and thank you for coming together to see our initial stages of our boundary stories.

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Talking Ourselves Into Something That Didn’t Work

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Have you ever talked yourself into something that didn’t work the first time? I have! I’d be surprised if there isn’t some behavior I’m doing now that I haven’t told myself, “hey self, this didn’t work out so nicely last time.” But there’s also a lot I AM aware of now. I think it’s a bit of human nature to bump into the same issue more than once. For some it’s a whole thing, but for most people they might try drinking milk a number of times before realizing how lactose intolerant they truly are. For others, they may have tried a relationship with a so-called ex about a million times only to realize yet again that it didn’t work.

I think the main thing is noticing it. How do we notice what we don’t notice though? Or how do we not talk ourselves out of it once we have noticed? I am not sure how to know what we don’t know. I’d love to think that self-reflection through feeling in the body, thinking, writing, meditation, or sharing with trusted ones can mean more insight. I’d love to think that and certainly that’s been my experience, BUT I know there are still some areas I don’t even know I don’t know about. I hope that last bit makes sense. Therefore, I’m not sure exactly how to help someone notice a pattern they might not even know to bring up in therapy. However, once you know about it I surely can help you to not keep doing it.

In a non-shameful way I’d ask the person to explore when they first felt that way was and what was happening then. They might share a time when they were othered by a teacher and that they now feel this way with an ex and his friends. Or I might non-shamefully explore with them when the first time they felt that feeling in their body was. I’d support them to explore what they’d want to feel with that pattern instead, so with the othering example they might want an ex/friend/situationship lover to invite them in and not other them. When the time is right I’d explore with them how they feel about that discrepancy and if there’s anything they’d like to do differently about that. Now what I just said above might be uncovered in years of therapy or a 15 minute free consultation. I think it all just depends on the work someone is doing, therapeutic alliance, and types of therapy a therapist is doing. All in all, once you spot it I want to help you to:

  1. Non-shamefully explore when you first felt this way.
  2. Explore how you’d like to feel.
  3. Notice this discrepency.
  4. Notice how you feel about that discrepancy.
  5. Explore of there’s something you want to do differently about what you’ve got and what you actually want.

So grateful to walk through this again and again with you. The coolest part of this hard work is that we get more space to welcome in what we want when we look at what’s not working. I believe we get to wake up to what we don’t want but keep doing and make more space for the ways we want to intentionally live. Well that’s all for now and looking forward to more uncovering with you next week!

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Ways to Listen

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Something I love supporting clients with are the different ways we listen. Asking the listener what they want can be helpful and knowing how you love to be listened to can be helpful. Here are four ways I see people preferring to be heard more frequently:

Some people prefer someone mirrors when they listen. When we mirror what we heard the speaker knows they’ve been heard or can provide correction or elaborate. This can be super helpful when someone feels they weren’t always heard or understood.

Others love when someone relates to what they said with their own stories. These folks may feel so seen when someone brings in their own experiences to relate to what the sharer stated. While they may feel loved and seen they may also feel like there’s less judgment if you’ve been through something similar or at least have some of the shared feelings.

Some people desire the person who is listening to nod along or give other body signal cues that they’re together on this conversation. Some folks may feel so understood with little cues like nodding along, leaning in or extending our body cues to indicate we’re here in this conversation together.

Others love quiet and no cross talk either verbally or from body cues. If folks have been judged or fear what might be said about their sharing they may like you to not say or do anything other than witness what you shared. They may also not want to rely on what you make of what they shared and benefit from being heard without feedback.

There are so many ways of witnessing one another’s experiences. I think one of the helpful things to notice is just how you want to be heard. I sometimes ask people how they want to be heard in this conversation because it can change for some people in the moment depending on who they’re speaking to, what they need, or how they feel. However you want to be heard is okay and I hope it’s welcomed somewhere.

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More Support

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Let’s talk more about getting some support on board. For some of us we’re in the middle of fall. I think getting more and more support on board during the changes of fall can be super helpful. One of the most annoying questions I often ask clients who feel like they’re doing too much and at the same time don’t have enough capacity to do the things they want to do is to concretely explore what they can cut out or add. Now this is annoying because once I extend compassion and understanding I also want to directly explore whether there’s anything on board that they could do without or anything they really want to add in and don’t know how to add.

For example, if a client told me they feel so tired after a work week, but feel they must see friend A, friend B AND friend C this weekend all while cooking and cleaning we might explore this in session. I’d see what they must do and what they can hold off on. For example, they might see with friend B and friend C they feel pretty drained. Or they may say they have the privilege of being in a partnership and could ask if their partner is available to clean while they cook over the weekend. They may feel stuck in committing to these social or household things. That’s okay too. It’s important to gently, non-forcefully explore what someone may want to make room for like a nap or unscheduled day or what they may want to cut out like the cleaning or three social hang outs in one weekend. If this example client is able to see what’s underneath them feeling they have to do it all (perhaps societal pressures, financial stress, or childhood trauma) that helps a lot too.

Perhaps the best protection for them now might be to go-go-go or do-do-do. Perhaps something that might be more helpful is to cut out on overly scheduled weekends and getting more sunlight or light lamps and vitamin D in during the fall. Perhaps what’s helpful for one person is not for another. It’s just important to look at what’s supportive for you right now.

Hey speaking of support I want to thank you! I’m now getting more and more readers on our little blog here and I’d love to know what you want out of this mental health blog. What would serve you? What topics do you want to see on our blog?

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Therapy: Getting to the Point

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If you’ve done the work through years of therapy and supportive healing modalities and still feel there’s a sticky point or you just want to get to the point on an issue I hope you’ll consider that the weekly model of therapy doesn’t fit for everyone. For some, frequent 15 minute points of contact is more helpful and for others more intensive, deep dives into therapy can be helpful.

I’ve found great results from cutting down on time from the beginnings and endings of sessions by meeting for three hour chunks of very focused trauma healing in our Premium Packages. We cushion the time with lots of anchoring and self love before, during and after sessions. We also make sure folks are able to pinpoint or target just what they hope from and support them on getting closer to their goals and needs. I can’t speak highly enough of accommodating therapies to meet the person’s needs instead of just doing the same old 45-50 minute weekly sessions for all. One size shirt doesn’t fit all. One size therapy certainly doesn’t either!

Sign up in the next 2 weeks and get your EMDR Therapy Premium Package for 10% off! Connect today so we can get you set up for a free consultation to target what you need in a more focused way!

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Family Support During the Holidays




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All hands on deck! Get your support plan in now before being with family. So there’s a lot about this because 1. Not everyone has the family they’d want and 2. Not everyone celebrates the holidays others in their country celebrates. As a therapist I so often get asked if business is bombing during the holidays because people visit with their families more during these times.

No! No matter what setting I’ve worked in the American/Christian holiday season during winter is always my slowest time. It’s not the easiest, just the slowest. Several clients have told me they’re doing things with loved ones and cancel appointments.

As a psychologist I try to make myself available clinically at these times because I don’t celebrate a lot of these holidays and can provide that and because I think we’ve created a lot of hype about this ideal, nuclear family that comes together like they do on commercials.

We know full well that people have meanies in their families, people’s families can be spread out physically or emotionally, people may not be close to relatives but are close to a chosen family and wonder if that’s okay, people may feel overwhelmed, and some families prefer to celebrate in different ways. For example, I like quiet and rest and other family members may love to come together with lots of talking and food. We often have a lot of unchecked expectations around holidays and birthdays and it can get hard or even conflictual. People’s unmet expectations can leave hurt, without anyone even knowing what happened or why.

These are some of the reasons I like to get clients a support or coping plan before they visit with chosen family and relatives. For some connecting with someone, taking breaks away from loved ones, speaking up about expectations, rest, play or anchoring/grounding strategies can help. For other people they may prefer to write out some of what’s coming up for them, get some movement in or even do something really enjoyable to them.

Even getting a daily practice of breathing in for three seconds, holding for three seconds, and then breathing out for three seconds can be helpful. If you are going to introduce something like 3-3-3 breathing I’d do it a few times at the same time everyday for at least a few weeks before hoping you could do it when your brain or body goes into fight/flight/freeze around loved ones during the holidays.

If there’s a grounding strategy you’d like to practice you might explore this now with your therapist before seeing family soon. I’d love to hear one thing you hope to engage in before or during time with loved ones.

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Is it Trauma?

So often someone will be diagnosed with depression or treated for anxiety and it may be more like trauma. There’s a few types of trauma and lots of reasons they show up, but I think people often think something is ADHD, depression or anxiety and not actually trauma. There’s lots of traumas like medical trauma, developmental trauma and so on and then the impacts of trauma show up acutely (or like quickly after the traumatic experience happened), chronic (longer), or complex (several types and for several times).

Several folks don’t know that they’ve experienced trauma and even several therapists don’t know something is trauma. Before I looked at my own I couldn’t see that someone’s persistent depression was better explained by traumatic experiences than depression. Once therapists are able to look at their own traumas and learn/do trauma recovery then I believe we can help others concerning their wounds too.

So if you’ve been in therapy for years and years and your anxiety or depression have no or little relief you might consider trauma. You might ask your therapist if there are impacts of losing someone or something, experiences of helplessness, or times where you felt in fight/flight/freeze in your life. You might explore whether you picked up on impacts of trauma by being around others experiencing trauma (such as what was known as vicarious trauma). You might even ask your therapist to explore intergenerational trauma or stuff sort of handed to you like being in a household with folks who have been through years of bombing, addictions, or medical traumas.

There are so many ways we can heal trauma so once we spot it that’s a huge part of the work. Once we name it what it is then we are well on our way to compassionate dialogue with ourselves about what’s going on inside. Hey, I’m really proud of you for even reading this far! I feel like dieting and shopping are so much more interesting than where all this stuff starts and how we can start to heal it, but I also know that the power of looking at something and calling it what it is can open a tremendous path to healing.

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Being Curious

I’ve said a few things about curiosity, but I’d love to share one more story today. It was the beginning of the pandemic and we lived in an apartment complex with lots of children. A sweet child who often came to our door asking about injured birds and curiously asking about gender roles had an extra curious question for me at the trash cans this afternoon. I finished my sessions and went to do some household chores, one of which was taking the trash out to the cans or dumpster. I ran into our neighbor and her child. The child asked if I was pregnant. I wasn’t, but I had gained some weight. It was so funny because I knew just how to address this curious question.

Their mom was amazing in that she reintroduced us to her child months ago by announcing their pronouns and name rather than the dead name we once knew the child by. Mom cringed and kindly said her child shouldn’t ask this and tried to say why my belly wasn’t big. I actually took it a little differently. The child saw my body change and rather than do niceties or teach about “knowing your audience” I got to simply validate the changes they saw. I said became their height and I said, “you know what, you’re totally right, my body looks different now.” I said, “my belly is a different size than it use to be and I’m not pregnant.”

They then had cute questions about if I wanted a baby and other things, but for the sake of this article I’ll stick to the point of curiosity. Rather than scold our curious minds or redirect them onto a rigid and boring track we can note what’s there. We can embrace curiosity. Sure we can be kind, but the child had no unkind words for me. They simply noted a difference and shared their curiosity.

What if we were all 10% more curious and 10% less punishing? I know I’d benefit from a little more curiosity and a little less punishment. Wishing you a curious moment today and I’m looking forward to more discussions with you next week ❤

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Loving Parts of You in New Ways

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I’m going to talk about one of the most helpful components of growth for me, but also pretty complicated. I first learned this one from a therapist I saw. She asked me what would my life be like if and when I felt less heavy around a certain issue.

Not only did I love imagining what things will be like without this burden I now love working with people around what they’ll have space and time for if they no longer people please, practice perfectionism, or bend their limits for others. Perhaps they reflect on what they want to welcome in if and when they rely on patterns that no longer serve them. Maybe we get them to take a moment to imagine what it will feel like if they no longer talk with that eff boy or overextend to that person they don’t want to give to in that way anymore.

Getting someone to imagine what they’ll have room for without this people pleasing or whatever behavior that once protected themselves doesn’t mean they need to make changes now. I think we just get them to stretch what it will look and feel like for them. If they decide to put that clarity or lack of burden into action then cool. Just curiously supporting their unburdened self is such an honor. I know for me it’s becoming beyond what I could’ve imagined and I just keep getting to put this into practice more and more.

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Different Perceptions

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A neighbor who we’ll call Hey-bhor for now, came my direction the other day. I got nervous and sort of walked more quickly with my dog. He came even closer. I thought he was going to call me for walking the other way. I just wanted a breather, a moment of quiet after work and didn’t want him to feel hurt that I didn’t want to chat. Well he came over apologizing for saying hi to me the week before. When he extended this harmless greeting I slowly leaned toward him to say hello back and fell off the bicycle I was learning to ride. I was totally fine and just got a couple of easy breezy bruises that resulted in no problems long term. I laughed as I forgot that where you look is where you go when you ride a bike, or I guess for me even when I’m parked on my bike and say hello.

When Hey-bhor came by he was intending to kindly extend an apology and then I accidentally stepped on dog poop. He then apologized for that! Hey-bhor was feeling badly about my bike stumble or that I stepped in poop. I was feeling badly that I didn’t want to chat after work and didn’t even want to say I didn’t want to chat. Really Hey-bhor and I had all these thoughts and feelings about not harming one another when really I thought nothing of the stumble relating to him and of course not the poop either. He too didn’t even notice my quiet time redirection after work. It’s funny when Hey-bhor and I were in our own worlds with our perceptions. This happens sometimes. Sometimes a bunch of stuff is happening and we don’t notice it, but sometimes we have a hypervigilance or misunderstanding with what we think someone else is thinking or feelings. I’m grateful for little Hey-bhor moments where we can simply notice discrepancies.

I’m wishing for lots of moments of noticing all the times my perception is a little funky this week! And hopefully bringing more humor and less poop into the next time this happens ( :

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Therapeutic Journey

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I really wanted to share about my experience with meeting my inner family. People might be like “what’s that?!” While the inner family sounds weird to some, it has been healing to so many.

People have been accessing different parts of ourselves long before Dr. Richard Schwartz, a family therapist and eating disorder specialist, developed the Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapeutic approach. People have understood that we have different parts of ourselves across cultures and time. For example, we may notice a part of us feels hurt by something a friend said and another part of us doesn’t want to have any feelings about it.

I often have parts of me that are linked to being the eldest sister. When “big sister” me comes out in certain contexts my loved ones may feel protected and cared for, but when this part of me comes out professionally then I’m no longer coming from my calmest therapist self.

I’ve dedicated much inner healing work or reparenting to this “big sister” part to learn where this part of me came from and what this part of me is all about. In IFS I worked to identify this “big sister” part in my body by noting where this part is in my body and how that energy feels in my body. I then thanked this “big sister” part for all she did and why she developed in the first place. I then took note of times my “big sister” part comes up and gave her the love she needs. This can be literally giving myself a hug, kind words (that feel fitting for me), or other kindness I might need.

I just couldn’t wait to share how exciting it is to notice and love on our inner children and what this inner work has meant for me. I get to support other peoples’ inner children and how they love on or reparent these parts of themselves. If this sounds like it fits for you I really encourage you to welcome your inner parts now.

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Our Last Season!

This is just a quick note to let you know we just released our FIRST EPISODE to our last season. Dr. Dowtin had the great idea to start a beautiful podcast called Breaking The Couch about a year ago.

We gave listeners a behind the scenes glimpse at what therapists, or at least us as therapists are doing, feeling and thinking. We talked about global issues, therapy stuff and all things trauma recovery from inner child healing to talking about sex in therapy! We gave you our insider tips on how to find a therapist, how to talk about scary stuff in therapy, and lots on what to do in between your therapy sessions.

I think you’ll love our last 20 something episodes this season. Check us out at Breaking The Couch or on instagram @breakingthecouch or listen to us with captions here or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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Healing Sex Series: Session 4-Explore Messages

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In this final session I’d like us to gently explore messages we’ve learned from around sex, sexuality, and desire.

Take a moment to get comfy where you are. Feel yourself so supported in your space. Feel yourself even 10% more comfortable, 10% more supported. Take a few breaths from the bottom of your belly, hold at the top for a second, and exhale even longer than your breath in.

Now let’s explore where some of your messages around sex stuff came from and what you learned from these messages. Take a few moments exploring these questions via writing or through some other form of expression.

Please take a total of no more than five or ten minutes to gently and lightly explore this stuff. Should more be revealed later that’s cool, but for now let’s just take a baby step into exploring the past and how that shows up for you now.

  1. When was the first time you recall learning about sexual things?
  2. What were you told, if anything, from caregivers about sexual things?
  3. What were you told by society about sexual things?
  4. What were you made to believe about yourself in relation to sex?
  5. What do you carry with you from childhood about sex?
  6. What would you like to let go of that no longer serves you around sex?
  7. How do you want to show up sexually?

Now let us take five more of those slow, deep breaths we took at the beginning. Please take a moment to gentle breath in, hold at the top, and exhale more slowly than you breathed in. Hey. I’m SO PROUD OF YOU for exploring some of this stuff! Whatever the messages were, I’m just super proud of you for taking a few minutes to gently explore this stuff. Please take some time now to do whatever you do to anchor yourself in the abundance and safety of now.

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Healing Sex Series: Session 2-Identifying What You Want

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Years ago a friend sent me this amazing and inclusive list that folks can go through with partners to spot what they want and what their partner wants and needs. It’s an ongoing conversation (meaning what they want today may not be what they desire next month). It includes a sex positive approach for all genders to explore what they want. It certainly does not include everything, but I think as a therapeutic tool it’s wonderful because we can use grounding strategies and walk through certain parts of the list.

Chew on things lightly, don’t hold onto any parts of the list too heavily and shamefully. Actually, consider asking your shame to step aside gently. We can thank shame for trying to protect, but this part can’t drive the bus of your inner family as you go through this sex needs inventory. Anchoring in the moment, in your most anchored, grounded space as you read the list will be helpful. There are so many ways people tell us not to attune to our bodies and needs. Please take it easy on yourself. When you feel ready and calm in your body to check the list out then do so. Take as many breaks as you need. Read it with a trusted person like your therapist. You may notice hard boundaries or flowing needs for you. Everything is okay. No shame. Literally, no shame.

The list asks things like if you are comfortable, desire, or maybe desire. You can discuss things you want or limits like if you want to be looked at directly as you are unclothed. How many folks have mentioned that they feel shy being seen naked or even experience gender dysphoria when being seen directly in this way? People can explore how they want to seen and called in sexual interactions. For example, they may prefer you use he/him pronouns with them in sexual interactions, but outside of the bedroom (or wherever!) they use they/them pronouns. There’s so much room to talk about sexual needs and unfortunately we’ve made people feel pretty nervous around it all. Please feel free to talk with your therapist about broaching these conversations with your romantic or sexual partners. More talks on this stuff before, during and after can lead you to more of what you and they want. There’s a few lists but one can be found here you can email me if you’d like a PDF of my favorite to share with clients too. Wishing you an abundance of what you want and need in life until next sexy session!

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Healing Sex Series: Session 1-Professional Supports

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I’ve been invited to talk with people about talking about sex in therapy and greatly enjoy sharing with folks about their needs and how to connect, safely. People may come in with pelvic pain and traumas around sex or may have experienced years of a controlling caregiver or relational trauma and wonder how or why they’re telling me, their psychologist. They aren’t alone! I let them know I talk about pain, sex, healing, and these topics pretty much every single working day as a therapist.

I’ve recently been referring my patients to my favorite Pelvic Floor physical therapy specialists because pelvic floor folks and psychologists can link to provide a deeper layer of trauma healing. Literally! We can literally integrate physical therapy strategies and what we know about helping people feel comfortable to talk about sex and sexual needs in therapy sessions to help folks level up their treatment. I want them to know they’re okay to say this stuff.

This secret stuff we weren’t really allowed to discuss growing up or this stuff that is looked at through unhelpful lenses can now be unpacked through helpful leaders in the field like Dr. Margaret Li in our podcast below. Don’t shy away from the silly caution on the video below. It just says the video may not be appropriate for younger people, which is true. If you’re an adult and especially if your AFAB, the video below may be helpful in learning from the experts around sex therapy.

Pelvic floor PTs and sex therapists are just a couple of the professionals who can help you along your sex and trauma healing journey. If you don’t feel you can talk about sex with your therapist I recommend starting the conversation there. Saying something like “I know you said I can say anything, but I feel nervous to talk with you about this because — and I hope I can work through some of this in therapy” or a simple “I want to talk about this stuff, and I’m scared” will do. You are enough and worthy and can so talk about the stuff you wonder about or the things you worry about. You can work through your traumas and get the love and sex and closeness you desire.

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Favorite Meditations

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I thought I’d take a minute to share my favorite meditations this week!

I know patients are often open to my meditation recommendations when I suggest starting with guided meditations. When I began taking a moment to tune in, or meditating, I started with guided meditation. Back then my therapist felt it wouldn’t help for me to start with unguided, or silent meditation and I get that now. I start patients who I serve with the same suggestion. I recommend spending a minute or two daily just getting in touch with your body in this moment or checking out a meditation app for a guided meditation. Once folks are up to five to 15 minutes I’d recommend one of these helpful meditations. They’re my favorite to suggest when noting and feeling anger or when a metta prayer/meditation is desired:

Dr. Dowtin’s anger meditation

Valerie Brown’s metta meditation

In addition I also love picking a morning focused or pain meditation when needed. There are several go-tos and new meditations I explore for mornings or pain relief.

I also have a few quick inner child meditations that are friendly for gender expansive folks. One of the meditations I provide that might serve gender expansive people is here:

Dr. J’s big feelings meditation

So if you’re feeling like trying a minute to check in with your body go ahead and give it a try. If you feel like trying a guided meditation without much pressure I’d start with one of the ones above. It’s a great place to connect and attune to what’s here in this moment. There’s so much research around how helpful meditation can be, but getting started doesn’t have to be a huge, rigid, set in stone commitment. Just a little minute here, right now ( :

You can casually give one of the above a try or tune in for a minute in your body if that feels okay for you. If checking in with your body is hard or dysphoric, you’re not alone and may benefit from a specific pain or gender expansive check in/meditation depending on what part of meditating is hardest for you. That means if you feel it fits give it a try. If not, then I believe you’re your own best doctor and I honor your intuition here. Wishing you a moment of checked-in”ness” from your own guidance.

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Your In Between Session Guide

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I can’t wait until next week to share what I’m going to share today! I literally can’t hold it in until next week! I’m super excited to share with you about things you can do in between sessions because if we only meet with our therapists for like 45 minutes a week then there’s a bunch of minutes we are just out there not in therapy. Most of our time isn’t in therapy, but we can still engage THERAPUETICALLY. I want to talk about some of the ways of being that allow for that channel to stay open in between sessions. Hey, sessions may not always make you feel good, but they may allow you a channel of openness to your inner child or most authentic desires and needs. If you find that progress goes away in between sessions, you’re totally not alone! I have a few ideas of how we can keep that flow going so you don’t feel you loose touch with your most authentic, open self.

Some of my patients astonish me when they tell me how they read a recommended book in between sessions or share journal entries (my super favorite journal of all time because of it’s soft, high quality pages is sold and designed by Dr. Dowtin here). You can keep engaging in psychoeducation (books I recommend) or expression (journaling) even outside of our time together. You can also do a morning or nighttime check in with your parts. You may find a quiet minute where you’re not drawn to other tasks and just say hello to your inner family members. If there are protector parts like fear or worry you can notice them too. If you have a practice with your protector parts you can even ask them to hang out in a favorite part of your inner home for a bit and come back to them after you say hey to your inner kiddos. When your inner kiddo has grabbed a hug or hello with you, you can thank your protector parts on your way out, thank them for trying to protect with worry, fear, etc. and then see if they wanted to tell you something. This really only takes a minute to five minutes a day and can truly create some inner trust. I notice it has my parts trying to get attention in other ways. They know I’ll be back every morning and are developing some inner trust. Another great way to keep up the great therapeutic progress you’re making is to meditate. Guided meditations tend to be super helpful (more about that next week in our meditations blog article).

Reading recommended books, expressing yourself in between sessions, checking in with your parts, and daily meditation can be amazing ways of keeping that authentic channel open. You can also brainstorm reminders and organizational tips with your therapist on how to stay consistent with one or more of the ways above to help you keep in that therapeutic, healing flow. Sending you love today and if Friday is the start to your weekend I’m wishing you ease in your weekend ❤

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Doing Stuff Anyway

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So I’m always talking about being gentle with ourselves, but I wanted to talk about walking through hard stuff while being gentle. Contrary action can be, in an odd kind of way, one of the gentlest things we can do. So many of my little blogs discuss how we don’t need to “should” or shame or blame ourselves and how when we’re doing tough inner child work or loving on wounded parts we want to be gentle with ourselves. I also want to talk about contrary action.

When I’m tired and don’t feel like journaling, but know that there’s a part of me that needs expressing would it be gentle to go ahead and journal or would it be gentle of me to not journal when I’m tired? Well, I think it depends. Sometimes the gentlest thing would be to do what feels opposite or contrary to what feels comfortable. I’m not talking about behaving inauthentically or bulldozing past our needs in an effort to be an “A+” student. One example for me might be being on the podcast. If you know me, you know I’m a little of a secretly shy person. Being on a podcast has been such a stretch. You literally have to contribute and be alert, and bounce things back and forth. You have to listen and attune and make sure you heard people the way they wanted to share. You have to make sure you’re saying the stuff you want to say, but in a way that makes sense to others. I walk through this fear of saying trauma recovery stuff on a podcast weekly in hopes we can contribute.

I literally breath before and debrief with someone after the episodes. I walk through self-criticism in order to get a message out there that’s far greater than me or me in this lifetime. We share amazing things about trauma impacting epigenetics, stuff not to say to trauma survivors, and some of my favorite episodes on info about working with gender expansive folks.

Another example of walking through something uncomfortable for the greater good would be starting or restarting your therapy journey. Even if you’ve found a trusting provider it can be scary to talk about or process the stuff that you were told not to mention. It can be activating to look at the things that people told you to stuff down. If you can slowly, bite by bite, chew on this stuff with a trusted healing provider than you too may be doing a contrary action in line with your highest good/needs. I guess contrary action isn’t really all the contrary when it aligns with your authentic, highest needs.

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Doing Little Things For You

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So I’ve been thinking about something codependency expert, Melody Beattie, discussed. She has some great literature like Codependent No More and explains how if you want to have your hair a certain way and can make that happen then please do. Sometimes I’m working on the inside so much I forget that it’s okay to want to dye my whites red. It’s okay to move in a way that stretches those achy hamstrings after sitting for a long period of time. Who am I to say it’s okay? I guess I just want us to remember what we would do for ourselves without the ties of monetizing self-care.

We so often see someone at a spa as doing something kind for themselves, and that’s fine. Do your spa day if that’s what you want. But for many people, that’s not accessible, or comfortable. For some the image of “self-care” may even illicit gender dysphoria. For example, for some of the gender expansive patients I serve, a spa day might bring up gender related traumas and gender dysphoria.

For me, stretching and breathing are probably some of the best ways I can access my parasympathetic nervous systems’ healing. For someone with a lung disease that would just illicit stress and breathlessness! Another one I love is hugging a safe person. That might be terrifying or uncomfortable if you don’t want touch or hugs. One size obviously does not fit all when it comes to doing those little things for you. I’m curious when are times when you’ve been able to do something that helped you anchor into this moment? What are ways that help you be in this moment rather than float away or escape? What are ways you might do or talk to yourself that help you be you? Who are people are what are places that make you feel most comfortable?

Whether it’s a nap or a minute of doing nothing, whether it’s a hug or saying “I don’t want a hug”, whether it’s mindfully eating or listening to a song, I’m wishing you a moment of ease and anchoring in your day.

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Supporting Small Business

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Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

Monstrously big companies like Amazon tragically ate up small business everywhere. I won’t be surprised if Amazon makes a therapy platform and takes up that healing space too. Book stores, computer shops, and other small businesses were devastated when corporate America decimated their businesses. For some, they’re still finding small ways to try and survive. I know Dr. Dowtin and I support small book stores via our BookShop or small businesses like CLC try their best to stay afloat by offering sales and reducing their overhead to last as long as possible. These are rare gems that try their best to stay afloat amongst the huge BetterHelp’s of America.

I’ve worked in a corporate version of health care and see the difference in efforts of how I’m able to attend to each case when I work in my own small business instead of serving the enormous corporation. I no longer feel like I’m serving hamburgers to the masses in a version of watered down, and frankly dangerous therapy. I now am able to deeply attend to folks in and between sessions through things like concentrated therapy consultation groups, additional trainings, and just coming into sessions with enough rest to hear what people need from our time together.

I’m not scared that Better Help will take my business and if they’re able to help someone then that’s great. I’m not even trying to shame you from your Amazon subscription. I just wanted to highlight the dedicated, mindful work places like BookShop, CLC, and numerous other small businesses are doing. Some of my favorite small therapy businesses are owned by my dear friends such as Dr. Chona Green at The Green Garden where very passionate, dedicated work is being done. When I try and think of that being watered down I’m saddened. I’m not worried that big business will crush us. I’m terrified that unethical care will be done for corporate money making rather than making mental health care more accessible, but still ethical and high quality. There are so many things we can do to contribute to making things more accessible and still preserving quality. I know I’ll shop small business today and I hope I can keep thinking of ways to contribute to a solution rather than a bandaid overall.

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Ways To Get Ready for Therapy

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I want to talk about some concrete ways you can get ready for your session. For some it’s a thing they do every time before or after session. For others it’s preparing time or space. This is really just to support you in getting ready in the ways that feel best for you.

  1. Set yourself up for success. If you’re doing virtual therapy, what are the things you need to do to ensure your space is private? What are things you want others in your space to know about this private time? Do you need anything special to sit on or with? If for example you have a work appointment right after your therapy session, how can you use the last few minutes of the hour to transition from therapy mode to work mode? If you have a shared space are there ways you might feel more comfortable talking about things? If you’re going to an in-person session what do you need around transportation, parking, and getting ready before and after session?
  2. Give yourself some love. I use to hold a warm cup of coffee and notice the warmth on my hands after going to therapy sessions. I now talk with people about reading books or developing their own playlist just for them and their needs. For example, people could make a soothing or anchoring playlist.
  3. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a child on your nicest day. This is hard! Feeling feelings, let alone talking with someone about it can be super hard. I’m amazed that we’re all doing this stuff these days. This is like really hard. So please, pretty pretty please, be as easy with your self judgment and criticism as possible after session. You may not have gotten where you wanted or you may not feel the way you want to from session. Some of these things can be processed with your therapist, but some of these things are simply because we don’t always feel good from therapy. Sometimes we get in there and dig up the crap. So please talk to yourself as you’d talk to a child after a painful physical therapy session. On my best day I’d listen with gentleness and maybe even give them a hug or some fun time afterward ( : This can also help you be less scared/activated for getting ready for your next session. I also like to see if there’s a trusted someone that they can talk with in between sessions or who knows about the work their doing in therapy. If there is that someone then the person knows they have that resource should they want or need the support or connection after sharing and to help them keep engaging in therapy.

So it’s not all this easy, but I’m learning more and more about the ways folks care for themselves after session and how they kind of transition into their therapy. If you’d like more just let me know!

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Trauma Recovery “Crash Course”

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Folks have been wondering if my EMDR intensives help any or not. I’d like a minute to talk about what EMDR is and how doing a bunch of it in a short period can be helpful.

What’s EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was identified by a woman who had cancer and who was walking in a park and noticed she was reprocessing her trauma as she walked. At the time she thought she was benefitting from the eye movement going back and forth and later found that many different things such as bilateral sounds, vibrations, body drumming and other bilateral things helped. Bilateral just means something happening on this side and then on that other side of your body. For example, it could be moving one’s eyes from left to right or drumming on your own thighs right to left. There are a number of areas or sensations that feel uncomfortable for folks so we take some time to find the right experience and fit for each patient.

Our brains sort of go “offline” when something traumatic occurs like the death of a loved one. EMDR helps us bring it to a place where we’re anchored enough, and still engaged with the traumatic memory to reprocess it so it doesn’t stay stuck in our mind, body, or energies if that makes sense. It’s pretty powerful stuff and has been noted by WHO (yeah WHO has lots of problems, but just hang in there with me for a sec) as one of the TWO trauma therapies to be effective for addressing trauma. EMDR has also been found to be helpful with a number of other things such as disordered eating.

I love supporting folks using EMDR to help with complex traumas and relational trauma. Watching people get closer to what they hope for themselves is powerful. I remember in my EMDR training we discussed what the healing properties are behind EMDR and people threw out a bunch of answers. It is pretty amazing to stick with something scary for a bit, use age old body drumming or back and forth eye movements, and walk through something with someone until they get to a less charged place.

Why would I want to do it?

I saw people use EMDR around complex sexual abuse and neglect, single incident acute trauma, and long-term relational chronic traumas. I’ve seen folks in all of these situations benefit from EMDR. Of course EMDR can cause some nightmares, panic, or other adverse situations for some people in certain circumstances (much like risks with most treatments), but I am just profoundly moved by the results I’ve anecdotally seen and experienced. I’m a big believer in connecting with a provider and walking through this stuff, not around our under it, but through it.

Doing EMDR can, with an attuned provider, mean you get closer and closer to that authentic you. It could mean making decisions from a place of love, rest, and authenticity.

Why do it quickly and all bunched up?

Folks sometimes want to do EMDR in a quick, more condensed manner because they want to be a birthing parent soon. Some may want to do it in this way because they have a bit of time off to focus on their recovery. Others may have a number of other reasons that they want a prime time chunk of slots to dedicate to their recovery. I offer EMDR intensives to and with people who feel anchored in their inner work in between sessions meaning folks who say xyz helps me deescalate in between sessions and I think I’ll do it when I need it. If someone is very activated and not sure what really helps them deescalate we may work for a while to build trust and inner resources before doing deep dive EMDR work. My EMDR intensive premium packages can be found here and there’s ONE summer slot available left for mid August this summer so check it out soon! Email today to find out if an intensive premium package might be a fit for you!

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Holding Emotions Gently

Sent from Maryam, thank you.

I’ve been thinking about something I saw on a walk a couple of weeks ago. It was my birthday so I went for a walk near a place people picnic, ride bikes and gather. There were a couple of families who reacted to an accident that made me think for weeks now. I saw a child on their bicycle, smiling and kind of in their own enjoyment. I thought of how fun it is to feel the wind on my skin as I just learned how to ride a bike fully.

Just a split moment later I saw the child fall and cry. A family who was walking on the path went to the child and asked if the little one was okay. The child replied “yes” through the tears and saw the bike was alright too. They noticed the child was okay and still tearful and told the child to notice the trail of ants that were hurt from the accident. They told the child to imagine how the ants were more hurt than the child. Tears persisted and the family looked up. The first family noticed someone walking up with another child riding a bike. This adult went to the child’s side and told the child they must learn a lesson from what happened. I observed, while gripping my heart, the ways we handle people feeling their feelings. Often times when we cry or feel feelings we’re told to manage this, learn from this, think of others or other things.

I’m still on my own path to figure out what this all looks like for me. I just know the child didn’t seem very soothed or held in their feeling expression by the adults’ comments. There was advice on thinking of others and advice on learning lessons, but once the adults found out that the child was physically alright they kind of implied their own meanings of the accident. That’s kind of what we do. We tell others how they’re feeling. We project and take care of our own hurt. We want you to be okay. Yes, I think we generally want people to pretty much feel okay. It can be super hard to let someone cry or feel their feelings.

There are some helpful suggestions on sitting with other’s feelings, but for now I’ll just share this story with the bicycle accident and some brief psychoeducation. Emotions last for about 90 seconds if we can spot them and feel them. So for a minute and a half (EASIER SAID THAN DONE) if we touch what’s there by labeling the emotion (notice I said label it not blame or shame about it) then we can pause the emotion loop and complete it. Of course then there could be another emotion loop, but if I have the space I do like to spot and notice what’s coming up because for one, it doesn’t pop out in other ways.

There are several ways people can address the little one who fell from their bike. There are a few ways that may be more helpful than others, but for now I just hope we can take in the bigness of sitting with a tearful child or even adult. It’s hard and can even be triggering for some of us. So I feel for the adults witnessing that tearful sweet little one and for the child and inner children in all of us.

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When to Get Academic Support

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This week I’d like to make some suggestions about 504 plans. Several of the teens I’ve served held out for a long time before talking with their school about getting a 504 plan and that makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve been in those meetings and they can be rough! I wish school systems had more resources or made curricula more accessible for a variety of learners, but much like other systems, they fall short in my experience. I honestly cannot imagine what it would have been like to have accommodations for myself and some of my peers come to think of it. While I know some folks got what they needed, there were certainly lots of people who would now be diagnosed for their trauma or ADHD or otherwise who would fit for accommodations.

When we typically think of mental health related diagnoes like PTSD we might think of Other Health Impairment (OHI) and we might think of time and a half for tests and being offered to test privately. These are limited accommodations and not proven to be helpful for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, go for additional time if that’s helpful. However, when I’ve worked with children or adolescents who struggle to get their assignments done we look to see if their educators will accommodate (which if they have a 504 plan and it’s a public school then legally their supposed to), then I ask if they can do every other problem. Being able to do every other math problem or every other question has been helpful for a number of reasons. For one, it can give adolescents the opportunity to feel successful at what they’re trying to do again or for the first time ever. They can have a fighting chance! It can also help them if they struggle with completing more mundane tasks or need more energy for other aspects regarding whatever qualifies them for accommodations under OHI. Talk with your adolescent to see what would make their learning experience more accessible. What would make school more digestable for them? And then if you can get ready for some advocacy!

You can expect to submit a letter requesting a 504 plan meeting if your child attends a public school (some private schools even accept these). I use to send these out, but they’re really just taken from a Google search and can be found for free online. They basically state that you want to schedule a 504 plan meeting. If they’re a public school they’re required to go ahead and schedule that and now might be the perfect time to request that given that the response and scheduling take a while. Once you have your 504 plan meeting you may want to bring documentation or other people like psychologists or family friends who can help explain why your student needs the support. No one size fits all, but unfortunately I’ve seen the need for lots of explaining and advocacy at these meetings. Then you go to one or more of these meetings. They may gather some data, reconvene, and see how things go. It may even be several months before your student gets the accommodations they need. Some find it helpful and others find it less helpful and laborious. I know I’d advise for it when I see teens struggling in their unique ways of learning. I never want someone to feel worse because they’re not feeling “enough” due to a school system so I make those recommendations from a holistic perspective. I make the suggestion for at least an initial 504 plan meeting to let adolescents know their different learning needs are heard and that we’re working on things. This also lets their educators know theirs an open communication channel with the adults in the adolescent’s life. Whether or not their granted the 504 plan they need, I think this open channel has been helpful.

Wishing you the best in your learning journey and remember none of us learn the same. We’ll see you next week for more on Soft Heart Psychology topics.

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Traumas You Didn’t Think Were Trauma

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Sometimes people ask me if a type of therapy I do, EMDR, will be helpful for them. I point out how EMDR was developed, what EMDR is for, and then I validate and reflect what relational trauma is and why EMDR can be helpful. EMDR isn’t the only modality helpful for relational trauma, but it sure is efficacious.

We may have an understanding of sexual trauma and physical trauma. However, not many folks know about things like relational and developmental trauma and it’s a lot of what I treat. Several of these types of incidents were previously called little “t” traumas and were known, overtime, to impact folks in body and mind in the similar ways big “T” Traumas such as sexual abuse could show up for folks in thoughts and body. Folks who for example grew up in a family with a child who required most of the attention due to having different abilities in the a country with few accommodations might feel not seen or even have difficulty relating, trusting, and feeling consistency from a caregiver and then later in adult relationships too. Another example of these types of traumas would be being yelled at, being separated from one’s primary caregiver, or having one’s emotions dismissed.

The reason we don’t separate these incidents into little “t” trauma v. capital “T” Trauma is that people misunderstood the first type of traumas to be lesser in intensity or impact and that’s not what we’ve found. I’ve been able to support patients utilizing EMDR and other therapies concerning these persistent and very impactful relational traumas where pinpointing specific flashbacks has been hard, but they know that there was a gap in the nurturance they needed. Some argue that the individualistic society we’ve created is why people feel separate from or unseen by their caregivers in the first place. Others feel if a caregiver cannot mirror or make room for their child’s emotional needs then that’s probably what was done to them. Yes, our society is sort of developed in a way that’s going to still have these traumas occur and yes trauma can be passed down and show up intergenerationally for some. This article isn’t to explain the many and complex origins of trauma, but if you’d like more of that definitely check out our Breaking the Couch podcast episodes on all things trauma and trauma recovery.

For now, I’ll stick to how to spot and address the stuff you didn’t know was a trauma. If you notice yourself having some of the symptoms and experiences that other trauma survivors have you might have experienced these other types of trauma that are less discussed or known. If you notice several nightmares, esteem difficulties, avoidance of certain things like places or experiences, or if you have trouble in therapy then you may have experienced traumatic experiences (TEs). Some people find out they had trauma in their childhood when they realize therapy isn’t super helpful for their panic attacks, distractibility, or on and off depressive mood. Don’t get me wrong, get all the help and support you need. However, if you feel like your therapy isn’t really touching what’s there you might find out if your therapist has done any trauma screeners. You can get to what and where the panic attacks or up and dow moods or distractibility were protecting in childhood and how to more effectively address them in therapy now.

If you don’t have a therapist but find groups supportive you can certainly process and discuss some of the ways you came up in authentic ways. You can share what you needed and didn’t get and let yourself be heard while you hear others express their stories too. If individual or group support/therapy aren’t for you or you can’t access therapies there are other ways to allow your nervous system to get some parasympathetic nervous system healing such as a daily practice of deep, slow breaths, sharing with a safe community member who understands trauma, or petting your pet. You can also let yourself be heard through recording your story with lots of parasympathetic breaks. This can be easier said than done, but recording the lack of connectedness or desire for a parent to mirror you can be helpful to figuring out how the relational trauma showed up for you.

If you’d like more on how to spot or address these less known types of traumas then just let me know in the comments and we can share more in a future article. If you want to get started with the therapy sale or for an EMDR intensive offering if you’d like quicker, more focused results then reach out today.

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More About Supporting Your LGBTQ Teen

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I’m grateful some of this was helpful. I wanted to talk a little more about how we can support young people. Mainly this week’s discussion will be about further introspection and things we can avoid in order to support LGBTQ adolescents.

I get to work with a number of care givers doing a great job with their gay, lesbian, trans and Queer teens. It makes me think of things we heard growing up. People would use some of the above as a curse word or slur. Sometimes people would isolate people they felt didn’t fit in a particular binary conceptualization of a gender. What were things you heard growing up that you want to release? Releasing doesn’t mean burying, stuffing and ignoring. What were specific hateful things you heard people say when others walked by not fitting in a particular box or what were homophobic things said in movies that you learned of that you’d like to notice and release? By acknowledging these things happened or we were exposed to these propaganda against LGBTQ people we can have further introspection.

Additionally, what are norms we think we’ve been fed that we don’t want to put onto young LGBTQ people. For example, in my early trainings to becoming a gender affirming psychologist, I had a supervisor on an endocrinology unit ask if I thought someone was really a transboy because he wore what my supervisor thought were “girl” things sometimes. I was new and training, but I knew better. Of course we can’t put him into this colonialized box of “boy” or “girl.” He identifies as a boy and he sometimes wears things you deem in another box. That’s all. Maybe we should check why we have these boxes in the first place. We know this “boy/girl check mark” box thing perpetuates patriarchy and White supremacy.

So the next time we think an LGBTQ person doesn’t fit into a box we’ve been educated to believe in through media, religion, friends, or other sources I hope we can do some introspective work. If you’ve ever done something outside of what others are doing around you you can take a moment to think of how that went for you. When was it scary and when did it help the greater good, or even just your own authenticity?

We can take a moment to reflect and see what’s true for us, what are our beliefs, and who we’ve loved long before we knew about gender expansiveness? For example, when I work with parents who are unsure and just want to learn how to connect and understand their LGBTQ teen I ask them to think of Prince or folks who didn’t fit in a box perhaps before their teen was even born. Parents get it when I point out many examples of people we knew or know who may not fit in a binary conceptualization. Whatever we do we want to take people for who they are and support them.

In a nutshell here are some of the main questions that you can reflect on from this week to help dive more deeply into your own journey and support the LGBTQ young people around you:

  1. What were things you learned growing up that you don’t want to hold on to?
  2. What do we want to let go of regarding how we see people in such rigid, binary extremes?
  3. What’s our journey with going outside of what others are doing around us?

Wishing you gentleness and kindness as you safely explore these additional questions. Also, please again reach out if you’d like more support around this exploration. There’s also several episodes on Breaking The Couch Podcast with Dr. Dowtin and I demystify and debunk all things trauma therapy, including gender traumas and how to speak kindly and invitingly to queer people across the age span.

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Roe v. Wade Overturned: Address Grief Over Decimation of Bodily Autonomy

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I was just checking in with folks about what they might want support around and the issue of Roe v. Wade being overturned is coming to mind and hearts for so many people. Patients in sessions are having to process what it’s like to have their or their loved one’s bodily autonomy reduced. I know I discuss things like being nice to your LGBTQ teen or letting people have bodily autonomy and I wonder if I’ll get scary backlash like I have on TikTok, and I believe in sharing what comes up in and between sessions with you in case it could support you even just a little. For that reason I strongly recommend you check out Breaking The Couch Podcast today to learn more about Roe v. Wade from trauma therapists’ perspectives where Dr. Dowtin and I discuss more. I’d especially recommend hearing Dr. Dowtin’s points on racism and patriarchy concerning Roe v. Wade being overturned.

This “how to” may not be a one time article is certainly not a one size fits all suggestion for how to address the trauma coming up for you around this decision. If you’ve helped a friend go to the clinic, supported a loved one in making a decision for their body, or simply care about AFAB people and other people then this article may help you during these times. (You probably know, but if not, AFAB means Assigned Female At Birth, and has to do with folks who were said to be female upon birth, likely because of what the doc saw, and then now identify as a woman, or any gender expansive ways including nonbinary, man, etc.)

I know it had me remembering stories and thinking about bodily autonomy of myself and loved ones I care about. I know it has patients worried. I know social media is in an uproar too.So if you’re AFAB, a trans woman, or simply care about people you may feel hurt, scared, terrified, angry, or a list of other understandable feelings around the decision to overturn our protections to do what we need to do, and what is sometimes medically necessary, for us to do with our own bodies. So if you’ve experienced reproductive trauma, including being told you cannot get an abortion you need, I hope you’ll be gentle with yourself with this tragedy of a set back of the US revoking people’s rights to medical care with this overturning of Roe v. Wade. Here are some specific ways you might be easy with yourself if flashbacks or thoughts or dreams arise around times you may have had to get a termination or times things may not have gone as you wanted them to with your journey around this stuff:

  1. Tune into what’s coming up for you. Whatever it is, it makes sense. Simply tune in even if it doesn’t really make sense or feels confusing. If you can breath from the bottom of your belly (not your chest) then take a few slow bottom of the belly breaths, see where you’re at and how that feels in your body.
  2. Take breaks in doing this check in and do some of your favorite coping strategies that work for you.
  3. Don’t stay too long alone in it and share it with someone. If you have a very safe and trusted person to talk with about what’s coming up then share that with your safe person. For example, if you know a friend who also had an abortion and understands the complexities and nuances and will love on you when you share that when you checked in with yourself you noticed some tension in your shoulders then tell her. Tell your friend about what came up for you in step one rather than sit in isolation for too long. If you prefer to process alone what are ways that work for you? Writing it out? Dancing it out? Crying?
  4. Whatever comes up I hope you’ll be so gentle with yourself, even when that’s hard. I hope you’ll talk with yourself like you were talking to me or a friend or someone you don’t know, but want to be nice with. Be nice and gentle on yourself during this time.
  5. Finally, note energy levels. Sometimes folks experience grief in waves. You might be going about your day without a thought of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and then it might hit you and you feel sad all over again. It’s so understandable for grief to come and go so you can recycle any of the four things above if that’s helpful. It’s also okay for none of the above to fit for you.

Sending you kindness today.

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How to Support Your LGBTQ Teen?

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So there’s no one size fits all, but I thought I’d share some suggestions on how to support your gender expansive, trans, or queer teen since parents and experts have been reaching out for some specific guidance in this area. We know that it takes some families time. If you’re reading this for yourself or to support others by learning more then I want to tell you something personally. I truly appreciate you. You’re in the right place and doing the right thing. There’s a lot of aggressive, hateful information out there.

When I went back to my childhood home a previous neighbor asked me what I was up to with work. When I explained to him that I serve adults and young people he made a transphobic comment about how difficult it is for young people with all the “deciding of gender out there.” What?! This makes no sense. Gender has been expansive throughout time and cultures since long before colonialism. It serves White supremacy and the patriarchy to perpetuate the misconception that there are only two very binary genders. All this to say I, as a cisgender psychologist, serves within these oppressive systems. I believe that when we talk about how to support young LGBTQ people, we talk about supporting everyone. When we learn how to support these young folks we also get a chance to explore our own gender journeys and sexuality.

What was it like growing up being in the way you were assigned? So if you identify as a woman and were assigned female at birth, what has that been like for you? If for example you were assigned female at birth and are nonbinary, what has that been like for you? What did you see in your neighborhood, culture(s), family, linguistically, what were roles like for you? Spend some time reflecting on what it was like for you then and now. For me, I think of my aunts and mother and different ways I saw gender roles growing up. I think of several people coming out and what it was like in high school for the first time seeing a same gender couple. I think of various cultural messages I was exposed to regarding assigned worth of masculinity and femininity and all the limitations and hurt that come with that. I think of male cousins who were regarded as more valuable than I. I think of various stories and memories that come throughout a timeline. You can take some time to journal or imagine what it was like then and now for you around various understandings of gender. Please do so gently and if you have a safe person or grounding strategy please enlist those after or during these reflections.

Now I want us to reflect on what we know out there. We know that young people who are supported around their gender and sexuality rather than rejected, belittled, or silenced actually have reduced chances of substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and suicide. Through the Family Acceptance Project San Francisco State University identified how young LGBTQ people have less risk of these health issues such as suicide and substance abuse when we don’t ask them to change how they look, when we don’t ask them to lie to family about who they are, and when we do things like hug them when they come out. Can you imagine being welcomed in for who you are by a warm, safe hug? Can you imagine what it might be like to be that person for someone else?

If you’d like more on exploring how you see and experience gender and sexuality and to support those around you reach out today! For a FREE BONUS PDF of reflective questions you can use to explore things and help you understand, learn, and become more supportive of young LGBTQ people email Dr. Joharchi by July 1st (2022).

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Gender Affirming Care

I’m really grateful to be a gender affirming therapist. I think of loved ones who are gender expansive and am grateful they too have had therapists who saw them, even if they were cisgender (like myself) and may not have felt what it was like to be them. Without this lived experience, and sometimes maybe even with the lived experience, therapists sometimes really miss the mark with gender affirming care. It reminds me of when I went from region to region getting training in serving a variety of folks and heard nonsensical things like to give patients a survey to see if they played with “girl” or “boy” toys. It didn’t make sense to me and felt like I time traveled to times when colonialism had an even tighter chokehold on binaries of gender than now possibly, well at least in the US. I remember a higher up asking me if a patient’s gender was how the patient saw themself simply because they did something outside of the binary understanding. This makes no sense and really hurts people. I can even remember when a lawyer called to ask if parents were forcing their child to be a particular gender. I used evidence from interviews and observations as well as a number of other doctor’s experts perspectives (mine included) that indicated the parents were not forcing their child to do anything regarding their gender. I won’t go into detail here because I want to be mindful of the smallness of communities and folks’ identities, but wow it makes me chuckle to think of dumb we are when it comes to gender.

It’s not just within the field. I, as a cisgender gender therapist should have said something more, but when a neighbor said that times are hard for young people today because they “don’t know what gender they are with all this gender stuff” I literally froze. It is absolutely no excuse. My lizard brain took over and I froze. I look forward to having a channel, an open discussion with this man one day. There were a few other things at play here too, but for now I’ll focus on how we can serve and support gender affirming care.

As states decide to revokes people’s medically necessary care such as by limiting and taking away gender expansive folks access to care, we can support our loved ones who are trans or don’t fit in a box they were assigned at birth. If we’re therapists we can learn how to write gender affirming surgery/hormones letters. Hey, call me! I’ll teach you. Well email me, don’t call me since calls take so long to catch each other on. I’ve shared my experience with folks so they too can get people the letter evals they need as soon as possible to access gender affirming services. Call people by their name and pronouns. No it’s not preferred. Call them how they say to call them and do it consistently because it can be heartbreaking if we don’t. If someone was assigned male at birth and she is a woman, don’t bother calling her a transwoman unless she says to, she’s just a woman and use her name and her pronouns.

I’m no expert, but I love to think of what San Fransisco State University said about when we call people by their name and pronouns, accept them and their partners, invite them to family things without asking them to be different, love on them when they come out, and just be regular with them then they have less chances of harm. Folks, they actually have less rates of suicidal thoughts, suicide in general, and substance abuse! This research says that when we see young gender expansive people as they are we reduce addiction and death. I’ve seen patients tear up as I share this data with them. It’s powerful knowing how much love can heal and repair.

I also want folks to know that they can learn the basics about gender and then dive into the traumas gender expansive folks survive from our podcast Breaking The Couch where we demystify what happens in and behind the therapy scenes and explain various traumas. There’s so much more to this topic, but for now just let me know if you’d like more in a sepcific direction via email or the comments below.

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Summer Therapy Opportunity

If you want to get started with your therapeutic journey or just wanted to see if we’re a fit by getting started I thought I’d let you in on our sale.

I just wanted to let you know that if you’d like therapy with Dr. Joharchi you can get started today in order to secure your 20% off discount for new clients.

New patients to Soft Heart Psychology who start by August 31st, 2022 can secure their package of 20% off eight sessions. After the eighth appointment together we’d complete our work or begin sessions at full price.

This is a great way to see if you fit with someone and can really get to the things you want to address. This is also a great way to see if eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy works for you.

So often we think the first initial intake session will help us see if there’s a fit, but sometimes it takes a few sessions to iron out what we need and who’s a match. Sometimes it takes a few sessions to see if a type of therapy fits for you for example EMDR versus an eclectic approach. And some of us simply would love to get started, but just want a little incentive.

You can lock this package in today by emailing Dr. Joharchi directly or scheduling your free 15 minute consultation.

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How to Soothe Loved Ones Concerning Violence

I’m sorry to say I was invited to support a town hall recently that was dealing with scared adolescents and families concerning a recent planned shooting and bombing. It was sad and scary, and I said that. I couldn’t help but be transparent about the grim nature of it all. I also wanted to share with you how grateful I felt that the council members had so much thoughtfulness to invite multiple healing providers and listened deeply and with action to their constituents. I was moved by their responsiveness and care.

Folks were eager to learn about some of the suggestions I identified in a PDF so I’ll share those with you below. These are ways in which we can support young people dealing with school shootings and to connect with our own inner scared parts for love and attunement.

Always of course have a safety plan and discuss that together. Also, here are some suggestions for big feelings regarding scary things happening at school. 

  1. Acknowledge big feelings by reflecting like a mirror. 
    1. For example “I hear you saying you feel scared and numb” and you can see this to a friend or to yourself if you’re giving your inner world a chance to be heard too.
  1. You can honor big feelings for short periods of time and then reengage in parasympathetic nervous system activities. 
    1. Cry, write, feel, or talk and feel the feelings fully for a few minutes.  
    2. And then do some parasympathetic nervous system activities such as taking slow breaths from the bottom of your belly. 
  1. Reconnect with the greater good in whatever way that looks for you. 
    1. For example some might look at a tree outside a window or take a mindful minute to notice what they notice in their body. 
  1. Check in with someone to make sure you don’t have acute trauma like new sleep problems or feel jumpy/on edge.  You can talk with a school counselor or community member; sometimes the best listeners are the ones who just listen the way we like.  
    1. We can also ask someone to listen in a way that feels so good for you like “can you please listen to my words and nod when you hear me, but not give me advice?”
  1. Give yourself some limits. 
    1. Check out what you can do for the next couple of weeks so you can be gentle with yourself and your schedule if possible.  
    2. Check out our Podcast episode on how to handle social media when the world seems scary here.

Wishing you safety and ease in your nervous system and the world today.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Do You Want to Leave Therapy to Find Your Dream Therapist?

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Here’s the thing, when thinking of your therapy, if you don’t feel like you found a secret gem then you may want to do some self reflection here. Sometimes people feel connected to and grateful for their therapy. Sometimes people feel it is hard and like their therapist may mirror something they didn’t want to see, but that is helpful. I’m not saying therapy needs to leave you feeling good. However, if week after week you’re feeling unheard then there may be a mismatch. I think sometimes we grow out of our work with our therapist or need a different type of therapy.

There’s a number of reasons why things might not be working out for you in therapy. Perhaps it is financial strain (hint: therapy in America where we don’t have accessible services costs about 20% of folks’ monthly budget), scheduling differences, need for virtual or in-person sessions, or other factors. Some of these situations may illuminate the path to you finding the best fit for you if there’s a problem with the therapeutic fit that makes it hard to connect. Here are some examples of people who may no longer fit with their therapist:

  1. Client 1: Her therapist listens in a way that bothers her. She told her therapist she wants direct feedback, but her therapist listens with body language and provides reflections like a mirror, but therapist’s reflections and body language aren’t the direct feedback the client wants.
  2. Client 2: They’ve discussed what they came in to discuss and now it is changing. Perhaps they started doing grief work and now want to work on their relationship. Now it may be time to switch to a relationship therapist.
  3. Client 3: He said he wants help finding a partner. In exploring attachments from the past, the therapist assumes partner means such and such gender rather than asking. This hurts the client and he’s able to bring it up to his therapist and feel his therapist’s apology and amendment was authentic and heart felt. Still, his therapist focuses on outdated understandings of what it means for the patient to find the partner of his dreams and this leaves the client feeling scared of the therapist’s next misunderstanding or lack of awareness.
  4. Client 4: They want direct coaching on dating and their therapist knows about anxiety and childhood trauma. They like their therapist’s cultural competency, but they don’t feel there’s a fit with the type of therapy the therapist is doing.
  5. Client 5: He just went through a divorce and is grieving, but his therapist keeps on pointing out his wins. He battles with a dance between gratitude and grief internally. He appreciate’s his therapist’s outlook, but is kind of over his therapist’s toxic positivity.
  6. Client 6: She loves learning about things and growing. She’s been depressed throughout the pandemic. Her psychologist focuses on moving, talking with people, and then praising her once she gets to these goals. While she’s thrilled she can be more active and engaged now, she is so insightful and wants to know about this depression response given it wasn’t the first time and she’d love to know where it comes from and how to address it next time. She’s looking for more depth in her next steps of therapy.

I hope these were a few examples of ways in which you may yourself wanting something different or more from your therapy work. Hopefully, your therapist is taking the responsibility of checking in and seeing how therapy is going for you. If not, you may decide to have a conversation or series of conversations to see if these issues can be resolved or if you need to close your case and move on to another therapist. You may want to joy down a few notes of what worked and what didn’t work for you regarding this therapy experience so your next therapist will have an idea if there is a fit based on your needs. If you want to find out more about finding the match you need for your healing work check out our podcast. There will be another episode on our Breaking The Couch podcast next week to help folks with addressing those awkward moments or ruptures with your current therapist.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Post Traumatic Growth

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What would you do if you were free from some trauma?  There are so many aspects of trauma recovery that I get to witness in my work with patients. In fact, sometimes clients want to share with me what they’ve done with their extra time now that they aren’t people pleasing and being perfectionistic as much. I like to think of these moments as post-traumatic growth. We may work week after week on validating and healing their traumas and forget to feel the full extent of their moments of growth through and after some of their healing. When clients come to me with these moments I want to jump up and down. I kind of hold it in a bit since I don’t want them to feel pressure to be toxically positive or always share some growth moment in therapy. But these are huge moments everyone! These are those moments that may feel tiny, but you can’t wait to share them with that friend or family member who is doing similarly in their life.

I’ve had the pleasure of having people share with me in our work together that they feel more rest in their life. I’ve had folks tell me about how they asked for more money from higher ups and are now earning what their counterparts are earning! I’ve had people share with me that they have more room for creativity. Folks share with me about how they even feel more connection! So at the expense of sounding too positive or like that’s the only thing we want to highlight, I do also want to make room for all those times we notice progress. I find it a tricky balance between this old school push for productivity and change and positivity (which I now see as more harmful than helpful in some ways) and simply being. When people just be I get a chance to hear how they feel more rested and creative. I learn how they are when they get to sink into who they really are. It doesn’t mean they were inauthentic all those years they were functioning from a disassociated, traumatized place. It just means we get to acknowledge them being them today, perhaps with less of the protections they once needed.

I’m really grateful to be doing this work and would love to hear a moment of post-traumatic growth you’re noticing in yourself today.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Connection: Free Support Group

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What do you feel when you’re connected? We know connection can be an antidote to several difficulties and suffering in society. We are hosting a support group for people throughout the US to join and can provide accommodations.

We just wanted to let folks know they can email me at drjoharchi@softheartpsychology.com within the next few days to be one of the few people to join a super small and safe group of folks for folks with different-abilities. At Soft Heart Psychology we wanted to invite a small and safe group of people in for a support group. Dr. Joharchi is able and White bodied and cisgender and will acknowledge this in her work with this support group. She will work to come from a place of cultural humility rather than a “cultural competence” approach.

People in the group are BIPOC and Queer/gender expansive and we hope you’ll join if you feel it may be supportive for you too! While folks have different physical abilities the topics in the group will be anything that feels safe and pertinent to the group each week. We plan to meet on Mondays from 4-5 pm Eastern Time (or 1-2 pm Pacific Time) and will be getting started soon.

Most of the activities we will engage in will be to create group connection, without isolating folks who are gender expansive like some work rooted in psychology can do such as asking folks to touch their heart when this may illicit dysphoria for some.

We wanted to create a space where people can come into the support group for a few weeks, gain a toolkit of strategies, and then process with one another.

Please let us know if you have questions and send us an email shortly to get a free consultation and see if you’d like to join shortly because we close the group by 5/25.

Click here for your free 15 minute consultation!

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More Opinions That Hurt Trans People

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So we’re back and I need to discuss more things that injure, isolate, and disconnect transgender and gender expansive people from the connection needed to live. I believe the whole way we have things set up where we ask folks to meet with a long list of docs before getting their medical needs met is a huge injury. I’ve heard advisors tell me they meet with, question and quiz transgender folx in order to make sure their next steps in gender affirming care are the right ones. I’ve heard many sides argued here. I’ve become a Gender Therapist and learned the world path association for transgender health (WPATH, v. 7). I get it, I’m cisgender, but I don’t get how through WPATH, insurance, and medical systems of abuse we neglect people through this gate keeping process.

I believe that the opinion that transgender people should take some weird gender quizzes about what toys they played with is gate keeping and unhelpful. This opinion, not fact, is exactly what gives the field of psychology a bad name. If you come to me or anyone I recommend for a gender affirming surgery letter you will get more mindfulness around this gate keeping process. It’s not to say we’re not a part of it, but we do try our best to work through these oppressive systems and support the patients we serve to obtain the medically necessary care they need.

I’m also a believer in the letters being an open channel of support and communication if that’s what the patient wants. So long as we’re not further blocking people from the medically necessary care they need because we want to cover our butts or ask them about what toys they played with growing up I think we’re off to a better start.

There are so many ways we can come together and connect rather than isolate. Let me know if you’d like more on how we can work together with our gender expansive family.

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Opinions That Hurt Trans Children

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I’m skipping the general hellos this time because I’m livid and concerned. As a psychologist, a healing provider. I’m so concerned with an email I just got from Florida. I’m recently licensed in Florida and they sent providers a bull $hit email about abusing transgender children. I’m not surprised, I’m just deeply disheartened and disappointed. The email said some b$ like there’s “low-quality evidence” for providing gender affirming care. So wait. So folks from the World Psychological Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and San Francisco State University who put out a bunch of information about how when we support young LGBTQ folks they live and they live safer lives is all lies?! How can that be?!

I’m so disappointed.

We are harming children and adolescents and transgender and gender expansive friends and loved ones. I get it, I’m cisgender and have loads of privilege that come with that. I get it that this isn’t about me. And I do wonder if my silence would be violence here (well and everywhere else). I wonder if I keep my mouth shut about this then I’m contributing to suicide and substance abuse of people born into an incongruent body. San Francisco State University came out with the Family Acceptance Project explaining that the chances of suicidality and substance abuse go down when we invite LGBTQ young people into their families, communities and society. Data indicate we have a chance to actually save lives with kindness.

Also, gender expansiveness far surpasses our time and space. Folks have been gender expansive long before colonialism. Throughout time and culture we have seen people not fit into a binary of “boy” and “girl” gender. I wonder if most folks would land somewhere outside of the binary if we all grew up in a less colonialist environment.

I posted about this on a social media and got a lot of negative comments from people without one bit of data or research to support their opinions. On the other hand I connected with other experts and am grateful to hear of so many folks doing good, supportive work out there. So for the people who want to hate on gender expansiveness, thanks for bringing us together.

Thanks for coming together,

Dr. Joharchi

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Dating Exploration: First Date Suggestions

Dear Soft Hearts,

Okay so what do we do if we’re interested in someone and we want to know if they’re going to meet us where we’re at? If you’ve done the healing work and want to dodge the “f$ck boy” and people who may be hot and cold out there then I think there’s some pre-work folks can do from the jump. I talk with patients interested in new partners about not interviewing, but also not painting yellow flags green. Some patients even write down the stuff that does not work for them. Having clarity on paper or on their device can help them when hormones like oxytocin tell us we’re in love. From the beginning we can remind ourselves of what doesn’t work for us and be clear to hear someone when they tell us who they are. If someone says they tend to lose interest quickly and my patient tends to be broken hearted by avoidantly attached folks I’m going to ask them about their perspective of a warning that this person loses interest quickly. I explore with them what comes up for them around holding onto this interest when they asserted they’ll be gone soon. If all they want is a quick interaction with the person then it matches up, but if they’re looking for more then I’m hearing them know what this person is and go against their goal to break the cycle and do something different.

I also explore with people about the messages they heard from society and family. I want them to have clarity and discernment. We especially want to give lots of room to folks from marginalized communities because we know they have less access to care, and for some people such as LGBTQ people they may not be able to go to their family of origin for relational support or models. Some people who may be able to look to partnerships in their communities and families may not want what they see as their models. Say for example someone is able to get support or advice from peers or family, but maybe they don’t want that because their models argue or withhold love or simply don’t connect in the ways they desire.

Lastly, there are a couple of concrete tools I direct folks to.

  1. I suggest taking the quiz for attachment styles for yourself and your prospective partners (you can take it on a first date, without even telling them). These quizzes can be found in this amazing book called Attached.
  2. I also want people to be expansive in what they do want. We talked about wounds and what you want to dodge this time, but I also encourage people to dream big and write it out. You can learn more about creating this list here.

Thanks folks and more next time for loving on ourselves by choosing differently and with more discernment this time.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Dating Exploration: Create Your Ideals List

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Dear Soft Hearts,

Okay so a little more about dating stuff. I wanted to share a little more about writing your ideal qualities for a partner down on paper. Here are a few go-tos for those looking for love hopefuls:

  1. Write or type out your favorite things. You can write out what you wished you had, but didn’t get from previous partners or even caregivers. For example, if you longed for hugs from a parent and still crave that touch you can put comforting, safe touch on your ideals list.
  2. Think of what you want right now and later. For example, if you don’t want something casual you can write that down. You can write out the specifics of wanting someone to date monogamously or marry or be in a relationship with and have possibilities of consensual non-monogamy.
  3. Resist the urge to think of what you can get or who is out there. Sometimes patients doing this exercise may feel an urge to think of who they’ve been with before and how they may not get more emotional availability this next time around. Rather than bring relational traumas into your list note and observe these trauma voices. You can soothe and tend to them, but they do not need to drive the bus of your decision making when it comes to the ideals you desire in your list.
  4. Now share it with a trusted soul, preferably a therapist or other healing providers. Share it with someone who can allow you to be curious and explore deeper. For example, if someone says they want respect or fidelity or something I’ll ask someone to outline what respect or fidelity means to them. It helps them dive deeper and define exactly what they desire. I also encourage them to add things to their list that they didn’t mention but did refer to in a round about way without saying it. For example, someone may describe romance and I’ll ask them, “do you crave someone to be romantic with?” This may not be something they felt they could call in for themselves but with a therapist to reflect that desire they can reveal even more qualities that might be ideal to them.

Paint the picture you desire so intently and deeply not because it’s a magical list and will come true. This is an ideals list to help you get to know your own desires that much more. It may even be a mirror for who you are or who you’re becoming!

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Dating Exploration: A Deeper Dive Into the Issues

Dear Soft Hearts,

When patients ask me about dating issues I go over the typical things impacting dating. We look at how much racism has impacted their dating options if they are a person of color. We process any red flags they are noticing in dating partners and make sure they aren’t forgetting or repeating patterns. We also dive more deeply into where this stuff came from. Is there relational trauma to tend to? Do you keep picking your dad? Has racism from daters limited your choices and if so are you feeling the weight of the impacts of that hurtful, detrimental racism? This article provides more validation into the ways racism shows up in dating.

Exploring what various traumas including racism, relational traumas, or other traumas have done to you and your love life can empower your dating decisions. What doesn’t help is to have a therapist who gas lights you or diminishes the above impacts. Gentle compassion is so important here. Someone who is culturally humble and can witness while you walk through these experiences can help you uncover and heal wounds that really had nothing to do with you, but rather a projection of their own stuff. It’s okay if it did actually have to do with you picking some of the same folks over and over again. That’s also from a place of trauma and can be treated with the same gentle compassion too.

When patients come to me about these dating issues we also discuss the book Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love. I highlight how this book explains that there are more avoidant attachment style folks in the dating pool. I want patients and everyone to know that there are more avoidantly attached folks out there. The guy you dumped because he wouldn’t call back or the woman who ghosted you, well they’re all in that avoidantly attached dating pool. The book explains that there are more avoidantly attached folks in the dating pool because they leave or are left more than folks with other attachment styles. To learn more about anxious attachment and avoidantly attached folks getting together click here.

I use the book Attached: The New Science and how it can Help you Find- and Keep- Love therapeutically to point out that there are ways to spot an avoidant attachment style person such as taking the quiz from the book (this can be done super early on while you’re talking to someone). Uncovering the traumas behind dating woes, doing that trauma healing, and picking with discernment when there’s an available option can help. It also just helps to feel heard by reading validating things that say “yeah racism really impacts dating” or “yeah the dating pool has a bunch of avoidantly attached people.” Sometimes that validation in and of itself can release the shame and let the love we have in our hearts pour into ourselves and these dating goals and dreams. I’m no dating/love expert yet, but stay tuned because this psychologist may be getting some more training soon…

With kindness, oh and love,

Dr. Joharchi

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There’s No Clitoris to Trauma Recovery

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Dear Soft Hearts,

Okay so there’s no clitoris to trauma recovery and healing. Yes that loss or struggle or pain very much did happen to you.There’s no special Influencer’s advice, or magical vagus nerve, or just this one movement or type of therapy to make it all go away. You were never broken to be fixed in the first place. Your wounds are acknowledged and can be healed, but you weren’t broken to need a quick fix either. The way we say this one deep breathing, pose, or video will fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place reminds me of two things.

  1. A pill without change. If we provide a pill without any change there can still be some shifts, and sometimes not what we’d hope. For example, for someone suffering from schizophrenia people may ask them to take such and such meds without providing housing, safety, spiritual, and therapeutic supports. We might even hear said suffering spirit to be blamed for not wanting to take meds alone. A magic pill to “fix” something or someone that was never broken can be helpful to some in some situations and often times it is just a bandaid. Hey we all need a bandaid sometimes. I’m not over here walking around with my open, bloody blisters everywhere. They’re covered. But then I look at my shoes, where I walked, why I felt the need to walk that long, and if I was connected with my body in the moment. We look at the stuff around the stuff to see what’s up and how we can be most supportive. Plus just a bandaid may mean we need a million more bandaids without ever looking at our shoes.
  2. American consumerism. We often market and sell this one type of therapy to repair your marriage or this one type of vitamin to fix your dysregulation. Sure do the therapy or vitamin or whatever, but one thing in of itself isn’t the Fairy God Parent. We’ve been marketed to for generations. We’ve been told and sold to that if we buy xyz we’ll feel better and be better. We have NOT been told to sit with distress. I myself am included. I too believed for most of my life that if and when I obtain xyz I’ll be happy. Consume consume consume was what I thought could fill the hole. Consuming an influencer’s product to feel better isn’t the most concerning aspect of this for me as a mental health provider. What’s concerning is when we don’t acknowledge trauma recovery. Trauma recovery is a thing and it’s a path and a flow. It’s a whole thing. It’s not one big breath or one supplement. We are SO WORTHY of sharing our stories, feeling our feelings, and doing what we need to do for our trauma recovery. We can take up space to have more than one trauma recovery aspect.

I’ve seen folks come in with complex, complicated, intergenerational trauma stories start with self hugs and deep breathing and end with being able to express their story to a trusted person, self soothe, feel their feelings, and heal those wounds. I know there’s no magic thing to heal the pain. If there was I would’ve tried it before becoming a healing provider. As a licensed psychologist I have to say I’m concerned we make people think they have to do or buy xyz to feel better. It’s okay to feel your feelings right now, sad or mad, and not lash out, not binge eat, not text that ex, but just to feel it for a few seconds before moving to self soothing. We can breath into the sadness or hurt or loss for a few seconds, and then do what we’d like to love on ourselves with gentle affirmations like “I’m enough” or “I’m worthy”, wrap our arms around ourselves, deep breath, or whatever.

Join us next week for a not clitoris magic pill surprise! Wishing you ease today.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Virus Boundaries with Friends

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Dear Soft Hearts,

This pandemic has killed some of our family members, taken our money, and made friends very ill. Wherever you stand with things, it probably has impacted you in some way. And if you’re like me you’ve had to have some awkward conversations over the past couple of years.

Things that we once did that were rude, can now be life saving. For example, if someone said they didn’t want to go out in public with you but one-on-one hang outs is cool before the pandemic you might feel they were trying to keep you secret. Now it could mean anything. Perhaps they simply don’t do public stuff right now.

I know a couple of people I love have experienced hurt feelings when the longed for companionship that didn’t feel safe to me yet. If you’re working on boundaries, it can be a whole other layer to add this in. I will say taking collective responsibility has been helpful rather than thinking it is just you or just them making the decision. So if someone wants to invite you to do something and they were just exposed, you may have reservations. If they happen to take it personally I recommend hearing them out. We can be love for one another without judging each other. This has often let my loved ones feel more willing to explore what it brought up for them. Did they feel abandoned or less worthy when I declined to go to their gathering? Persian New Year is coming up and we haven’t had a Persian New Year gathering for what will be three years now. No my family will not like my decline, but perhaps a nice dialogue can happen if we approach the conversation with curiosity and give people a little room to be them.

Additionally, I have a different view on vaccinations than one of my best friends. I recently had to tell her I wouldn’t be seeing her in person for a while. Rather than putting it on me or her, I acknowledged how much we miss each other and long for each other’s company, and I noted that neither of us are willing to change our approach with vaccinations. I also offered a virtual hang out and called her. I wonder if connecting right away shows I’m not punishing for our different beliefs. She actually respected that I knew what I wanted and asked more. She came with curiosity too! If she hadn’t have come with the same curiosity I came with I still wouldn’t have felt comfortable meeting in person right now, but her curious openness touched my heart and I couldn’t wait to share this with you all.

While we may have to navigate odd conversations with people, schedule, or reschedule things I think it’s so worth it. Connection is a power greater than all of us. I believe we can put in the effort to stay connected, even when it can feel tiring or hard. I haven’t done this perfectly. I just know we are all working on what this looks like for us. Thanks for joining and read more next week about growth and healing.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

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Black History Isn’t a Footnote

Dear Soft Hearts,

I want to note and celebrate Black History Month with full honoring and acknowledgment.

When I lived in Baltimore I learned so much. It made me wonder if we would be less racists if we all grew up in a place where we honored and knew Black history not as a footnote of our Columbus riddled textbooks in the US, but as integrated everyday. I remember being on the phone with a principal explaining the stats, “there’s more than 50% Black people in Baltimore and yet more than half the students suspended in your school are Black. What makes you think you can suspend or threaten police on this child?”

Often times this is where school officials’ White fragility and White supremacy would be mansplained. I’d get off the phone with them and then call our medical-legal partnership who could step up with the legal tools I didn’t know about. Why were the flavors of their racism such that it hurt children? I wanted to know more and learn more about the psychology behind these school officials “othering” perfect children. Not to say that adults are not perfectly human as they are, but I wanted to know how I could not raise little racists like these administrators suspending and threatening Black children.

I wanted to know what we can do to learn more about the beautiful contributions of Black people, legal involvement, and not continue institutional racism. There’s more and more I learn to this day.

While I honor this special month I also want to acknowledge it is not just one month, not simply a footnote to Columbus stealing land, but everyday of our history and current lives. This si not simply one month; it’s every moment, everyday for the rest of our lives.

Thank you,

Dr. Joharchi

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Are you Where you Wanted to be?

Dear Soft Hearts,

Several people talk with me about not being where they wanted to be yet. I don’t want to invalidate that loss. Perhaps you wanted to parent a child by now. Perhaps you didn’t imagine the world’s climate as it is. Or maybe you figured you’d feel less weighed by trauma triggers after all this healing work. Whatever you wished that you don’t experience now, I’m sorry. I see your loss and I hear you.

If we were in therapy together I’d also ask you to explore where these dreams came from. Were they rooted in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister and Full House? Were your dreams from a grandparent who told you how to be? Were your dreams tied to what others were doing around you? Perhaps your goals for yourself were rooted in your most genuine self and a place of highest good for all. If your goals were to please, fit, or accommodate I want us to look at that.

If it feels right for you you can record where these dreams came from. You can record through signing, writing, speaking, or whatever works for you. You can take time here to explore where these motives came from without judgment. Curiously finding out what different parts of you wanted is a way to honor and validate the loss of not being where you wanted more fully. Now gently love on yourself. You can give yourself a soothing hug or a few slow belly breaths.

If there’s any part of you that dreamed of something because of someone else can we note and thank that part of you? Rather than shame oneself for an unmet dream, set in part by someone, I’d like to encourage us to thank that part of us. Thanking this part that hoped and strived to fit what someone else wanted means we aren’t crushing and shaming a part of ourselves. It might also take some of the charge away by letting this part of ourselves be seen. Even better, if you can take this to a trusted pet or friend then you might further take away some of the charge.

Basically in a summary we are seeing why we wanted this dream. If a part of us wanted the dream to fit grandma’s hope for us we see that, thank it, and disarm it a bit by sharing it with a friend. It doesn’t mean you may not still feel a loss for not being where you wanted to be by now. It just allows us to acknowledge the loss more fully and treat all parts of us and our motives with gentleness. Thanks for joining this week and we’ll spend time together next week for more growth and healing!

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

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How to Talk About Racism with White People

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Dear Soft Hearts,

So just a reminder I’m Iranian American and White. I grew up in a very White neighborhood and skin heads, police, neighbors, etc. were damaging to my Iranian father. I had a different experience than my father and Brown and Black people I know, because I walked around in this world with White privilege. I never had skin heads try to beat me with a bat because of their perceptions of my skin tone. I never had people pull a gun on me on the side of the road because of their perceptions. I had a different experience than someone in a Brown or Black body. I just did. I attempt to unlearn what I saw when I was a child and teenager in the city I grew up in. I attempt to be culturally humble in my therapeutic practices where people come for healing from traumas, including racial trauma. I work actively to abandon my racism. I don’t need want to take this space to burden you with what I do so I’ll get to my point of talking about racism with White people.

I think because I’ve had a behind the scenes glimpse of what some White neighbors would say or White supervisors, I know they’ve said some scary things. For example, a supervisor joked about a bomb threat being from a SWANA terrorist (was known as Middle Easterners a few years ago, but this is a colonialized term so we use SWANA now). All I could mutter to my superior, holding my graduation in her very finger tips was a timid and direct, “not today, not today.” People think because I look White they can say the most racist stuff around me and get away with it.

**Trigger warning.**

That supervisor would also tell me a Black birthing parent was causing their child’s difficulties. So how do we say, “excuse me, White lady, that’s racist!” We say it. I mean you can omit the “White lady” part, but we do interrupt the weird and perhaps scary dialogue and call it what it is. At another training placement I found myself leaving shortly after a supervisor asked me if a Muslim patient was a terrorist. How the heck would I know if someone is a terrorist? Plus they weren’t. It made no sense. That’s also the problem. Racism really harms people’s care. We miss folks getting what they need in health/mental health care every day and it can cause medical and racial trauma and ruin or end lives. I can go into this more if anyone would like, but for now, back to how to confront the elephant in the room with White people, racism.

So I found myself acknowledging my privilege in the therapy room, working on my anti-racist path, and confronting the daily racist remarks with peer therapists and supervisors. We can also go to “higher ups” and try that way. Not only do we confront racism so our clients won’t have to be harmed by their provider’s racism, but we do it because we don’t want to contribute to the problem by sitting around and listening to the damaging aggression of this kind of talk. I guess I’d feel like I lied if I let a supervisor say that about a client we served together and then went into session with said client acting like I hadn’t just heard supervisor aggress against them. If you’re White or White presenting too and reading this I guess you know we have an opportunity to call it out when people try to slide their racism in there.

So I’ve spent a little time explaining why we do it, but not that much time discussing how to actually make these confrontations. I’m no expert here. Again, I’m the White girl in the room. I do go ahead and say, “that’s racist.” When they try to excuse, we can say, “I hear you, and what you’re saying/doing is still racist.” I can also share more with them. But that’s really where it starts. Calling it out. I think sometimes we dodge and skirt this, but we really need to say it directly. I believe that’s where the conversation can begin.

Thanks for joining in and there will be more growth and healing topics next week.

Thank you,

Dr. Joharchi

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How to Handle Criticism at Work

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Dear Soft Hearts,

Some people say they love getting critiqued because they can improve once they hear this feedback. I analyze and process where I could’ve made mistakes and try to do differently so I haven’t found critiques in the workplace very helpful. In my training I would have sometimes two superiors in the room critiquing while I worked, people would critique videos of my therapy after sessions, or they would critique sessions from behind a two-way mirror (with client’s consent of course). This is said to have made us stronger psychologists. I didn’t find it to be helpful. What I did learn though was how to take criticism better and better.

When you already give yourself a heavy dose of criticism it can be hard to take more from someone, especially a boss. Here are a few tips on how to take criticism in the workplace.

  1. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a friend. Using some mindfulness self compassion (MSC) tools we’d have you talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. In Dr. Kristen Neff’s first MSC exercise, she explains how we can talk to ourselves like we’d talk to a friend. On your best, most compassionate day, how would you gently validate and console a friend? You might hear them out, letting them know their feelings/reactions are understandable.
  2. Tell a friend! Here’s where reaching out to someone who is kind will be helpful. Telling a friend what’s coming up for you will let you not sit alone with the pain/shame of being critiqued for a work thing. You don’t have to be alone with this pain. You can reach out to someone very understanding and tell them. You can even ask them to just listen if you don’t want their advice, but do want the space to be seen.
  3. Explore how you might do differently (if at all) once you’ve come to a place of inner calm or inner quiet. Sometimes the work critique may simply be a projection of the critic’s inner dialogue. If the person is highly perfectionistic or critical, please take it as a projection and not personally. However, you can look at this more closely if you do feel like some of the critique fits. If you feel like what they said may be true you can write out a bit of what you feel you could do differently next time once you’re at a place of inner calm. Why wait? We don’t want the inner critic running the show or driving the bus. The inner critic is welcome to remain a part of you, but we want these parts of you to feel calm and cared for before you take stock of what you could do differently next time. For example, if you don’t reply to your boss’ emails in a timely manner you might take some deep breaths, do some MSC, call a friend, and then write out what blocks you from replying in a timely manner and how you can improve on this moving forward.

Above all, try and be easy on yourself. If you kept reading this article my guess is that you’re not the type to take criticism like it’s nothing or that you don’t simply get up and brush yourself off as easily as some. If you’re a sensitive soul and take these critiques to heart a bit please do be easy on yourself. I get it, easier said than done, but a little gentleness here can go a long way.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

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Release and Unlearn

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Dear Soft Hearts,

I wanted to touch base with everyone and see what folx are unlearning after the new year resolution hype. It’s great when we can show up and do things differently, sometimes life saving and life changing. However, sometimes new years resolutions leave us with a Hollywood, Eurocentric idea of what “happy” means. I want us to instead check in and see what we’d like to release or unlearn.

What would you like to let go of? What no longer needs to be in your practice? For example, a huge thing I released was how I purged calories through excessive exercise. Many joke that they’d love to become obsessive about exercise. It left me with a disconnect from my body’s wisdom and an obsession with Eurocentric ideals of BMIs, oversimplified look at health, and a reduced presence. Purging calories through exercise has been a huge unlearning and it is leaving me room to now learn and reintegrate healthy, intuitive movement. Releasing from this obsession also makes room for me to learn where we got these “ideals” from in the first place such as through the book Fearing the Black Body: Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings. So from releasing an old protection I now get more presence and more information!

That’s right-it was a protection! How can purging calories through so much exercise protect? Well it protects from feelings. This no longer served me and I desired more connection rather than dodging feelings. Not only does it leave me more room to learn, but it also allows room to connect with loved ones through healthy movement. I now get to move joyfully with a friend virtually every week and hike mindfully with loved ones in nature. What an unexpected gift of this unlearning process!

What we release or unlearn today can be thanked. We can thank that protective behavior for trying to protect and ask for it to be released. Easier said than done, I get it. I still get desires to workout to no abandon. In those times when this protective part arises it can be helpful to let that desire be or to look at what’s triggering it. Are you tired, overworked, or perhaps triggered by an external pressure? We can thank this protective mechanism, release it, and later see that this release has done amazing things beyond what we’d dreamt it could. For example, I never knew how much my release would allow me to connect with nature or have fun working out with a friend because I’m not worried about calories or performance. I’m connected with that friend or tree or stream because I’m not in a cycle of obsession over muscles, fat, calories, and blah blah blah.

I wonder how your release or unlearning today will shine for you in a year from now. Feel free to comment with your current unlearning. We’d love to hear what you release or have been unlearning that no longer serves you.

With kindness,

Dr. Joharchi

If you’d like a free 15 minute consultation with me please click here.

December Sale!

Hi folks, just a super quick note today to let you know about our DECEMBER SALE! I have a few EMDR slots available at a sale package price for new clients.

Your first session will be 50% off and your remaining seven sessions will be 20% off.

This is a great way to focus in on something you’ve been needing to address and welcome in a more expansive feeling of enoughness. You are innately worthy and always have been.

I’ve seen EMDR therapy help people with everything from simple one time traumas to some pretty complicated, complex, long-standing traumas. EMDR therapy has helped people with everything from the oldest sibling do-it-all and be perfect wound to the recovering from years of self-blame to welcome in forgiveness and understanding toward oneself. EMDR therapy is even used for athletic performance and things you wouldn’t think of initially! The video below explains just how helpful EMDR therapy has been for people and gives you and idea of how it fits you.

Reach out today so we can get you started before by the time December rolls around.

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