Sheltering-in-Place (aka the Great Pause of 2020) has shaken life, and many of us to our cores. Stripping away excess and turning inward is part of the package right now and with that big questions are bound to arise.
I'm not talking about the kind of questions that we may have previously grappled with like 'where should I travel this year?' or 'what if I don't meet that deadline? ' - although those questions may still be looming. I'm referring to the big questions that philosophers, writers, artists and, well, many psychotherapists have long since mused about.
While these periods often give way to important personal growth spurts and sometimes greater paradigm shifts, they are often downright uncomfortable and at times overwhelming. Questioning who you are and the world around you can be anxiety producing (read: racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, excessive worry), which is why many people avoid asking those big questions to begin with.
For those of you wondering how to support your Great Reckoning or at least make it feel more manageable, here are three simple steps to get you started:
#1. Lean In - First and foremost, be gentle with yourself as you acknowledge the process and create space for it. Honoring our experience helps ease resistance to the uncomfortable feelings that may arise. Upping self-care, whatever that means for you, is also essential.
#2. Journal, Journal, Journal - Writing is a great way to externalize what you're thinking and decrease racing thoughts. It also helps in gaining new insights by helping us make sense of our experiences, thoughts and feelings. A visual journal is another option, which focuses more on imagery than words.
#3. Talk it Out - Find a trusted friend, family member or community leader to talk through your questions, but also know there may not be an immediate answer. Just as important to note is that if you are finding this process to be overwhelming or increasingly distressing, as it can be, please reach out to a psychotherapist to help guide you through your process. That's what we're here for!
As I finish up this post, I am reminded of a quote by poet Rainer Maria Rilke. I was first introduced to these words in graduate school as I was beginning my journey as a therapist, and they feel particularly relevant to our collective experience now. The quote goes like this:
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything."
On that note, please know I am here to support as we are all living the questions day by day in this historic time.
Till next time, wishing you peace & ease,
Let's be real, women and girls are shouldering the weight of pandemic-life in a BIG way right now. It's exhausting and for many ... dangerous.
Last week, the New York Times reported that one in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential, putting them on the front lines often underpaid and undervalued. It's no surprise the data also shows that women of color are more likely than anyone else to fill those essential job roles.
Meanwhile, a few steps back from the frontline the challenges that existed for women and girls pre-pandemic continue, but with a COVID twist.
Here's what I mean:
And these are just a few examples.
Is it any wonder anxiety, stress and trauma symptoms are on the rise? No, not really. It seems a normal response to an unhealthy situation.
Hyper vigilance or feeling like you've always got to watch your back, makes sense. As does numbing out, tearfulness and racing thoughts. These are all symptoms of anxiety, stress and trauma -- though often people don't recognize them as such.
So then how do we tend to the psychological wounds of women and girls in such an unprecedented time? Well, from my perspective we need a therapeutic approach that holds the nuanced experiences of women and girls and also recognizes that one's emotional health hinges not only on a strong sense of self and nourishing relationships, but on a society where we all feel safe and respected.
Enter: Feminist Therapy (again).
Feminist Therapy emerged in the 1960s and was radically different from earlier therapeutic approaches, which positioned the therapist as expert and/or omitted the social and cultural context of a client's experience. These frameworks were also very much rooted in euro-centric, patriarchal values, and as a result women were underserved and often pathologized - 'Female Hysteria', anyone?
In contrast, Feminist Therapy emerged as a strengths-based approach. It viewed the political as personal, and valued diversity of experience. Feminist Therapy also held the therapeutic relationship as a partnership of equals.
I will say while Feminist Therapy was a significant improvement from previous therapeutic approaches, it was not without its problems. Just like the earliest waves of the feminist movement, Feminist Therapy tended to the needs of white middle/upper class women, largely ignorant to the challenges of poor women, LGBTQ IA+ women, women of color and many others.
While the approach has evolved since its inception, attempting to address intersections of identity and cultural humility more directly, I want to be clear that the field continues to grow and change.
I'm not speaking for all feminist therapists here or the field at large. Instead I'm sharing some values and principles that I incorporate into my own Feminist Therapy practice, which focuses specifically on the support of self-identified women and girls.
I share my approach here because as I've written many times before I believe Feminist Therapy is revolutionary, just as I believe healing is our birthright.
These are trying times indeed, and women and girls deserve support tailored just to them. Too often folks shy away from therapy because they fear their experiences won't be fully honored. It feels safer to push through on their own, despite the pain it may cause, not realizing there is a therapeutic frame that is inline with their own values and experiences.
If you're interested in knowing more about Feminist Therapy, the work I do, or are in need of support during this trying time, don't hesitate to reach out. Please know you are not alone in this.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
I'll be honest, I've always been slow to try new things. Whether it's new technology or a new fashion trend, I typically take note, wait in the wings and observe for a good amount of time before deciding to give something a try. And that was where I stood with incorporating video therapy (aka teletherapy or online therapy) into my practice.
Flash forward to March 2020 and pandemic life forced my hand. Overnight, just like so many healthcare providers, I was no longer able to see clients face-to-face and had to move quickly to secure an online platform so we could, well, therapy-in-place. I'm happy to share that overall it's been a smooth transition.
If you've never tried it, you're probably wondering what video therapy looks like in practice. And just like in-person therapy, it varies from therapist to therapist and client to client. On my end, I bring the same warmth, authenticity and creativity that I always did and my clients continue to bring their concerns, vulnerabilities and wins ... but from the comfort of their homes.
When clients reach out to schedule their first session, I provide them with tips on how to make the most of their therapy time including:
Then, each week, my clients receive a session reminder with a private link for their session via email or text. They click the link and it brings them to a secure and HIPAA compliant "room" ... I'm there waiting for them just as I would be in my office.
Now a month in to this new adventure, I'm realizing just how many advantages video therapy has including accessibility and comfort for clients who are able to receive support while cozied up from their homes. And because of this, I've even decided to continue offering video therapy as an option after the shelter-in-place order is eased.
If you've wanted to reach out for support during COVID and have been hesitant because of the video platform, I want to encourage you to contact me to ask questions or schedule an appointment. I'll share that just as I began providing video therapy for clients, I also began working with my own new therapist online. While I was hesitant because it was new and different, I am so glad I did. The support has been invaluable during this very surreal time.
Till next time, wishing you all health & ease,
As we continue to shelter-in-place here in the Bay Area, it's common to feel like the veil between work and home; day and night; day to day is wearing thin. Are we in week four of being housebound? I think I've lost track myself.
The lack of delineation can feel disorienting and add to already high levels of stress and anxiety, so adding ritual to your day can be a big help. As an expressive arts therapist, creating ritual is one of the tools I most enjoy sharing with clients because it can be powerful, creative and ... fun. (Yes, it's true - therapy can be enjoyable!)
While the term often gets conflated with solemn religious traditions or Woo-Woo gatherings -- both of which can be hugely supportive, and of which I have often participated, btw -- ritual can really be any activity that is infused with intention and is meaningful to the person performing it. It's another approach to working with the symbolic, not unlike making art or using guided imagery in therapeutic work.
So, what might a ritual look like in this time of COVID-19? Well, you may feel inspired to create an elaborate ritual to demarcate the end of your work week with a meditation, prayer and saltwater bath or you may need something more simple -- maybe a morning ritual to practice gratitude and connect spiritually, whatever that means to you. Other folks use cleaning and organizing their space as part of a ritual, holding that our outer space reflects the state of our inner lives and vice versa. While other people set aside each day to use tarot cards and oracle decks to tap into their higher selves a/o higher power.
Here are a couple of prompts to consider when designing and implementing your own ritual:
1. Ask yourself how are you feeling and what do you need help with?
2. What is your intention for the ritual?
3. What symbols resonate? What materials do you need?
4. When will I set aside time to practice my ritual?
5. How did the ritual feel? Do I need to change anything?
Lastly, if you feel drawn to this practice but still aren't sure where to start, I would suggest doing some research on common ritual practices that may provide some inspiration. Information on the use of ritual for psycho-spiritual purposes abounds these days, but one book that has stood out is Light Magic for Dark Times: More than 100 Spells, Rituals and Practices for Coping in a Crisis by Lisa Marie Bastile.
I often work with clients on creating personalized ritual to support their psycho-spiritual health, so please know I am available to support you as well. I would love to hear from you!
Till next time, wishing you all health & ease,
I know I'm not alone in feeling like overnight life has been turned upside down and inside out. These are surreal days and honestly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this time of COVID-19.
Like many of you reading this, I am in a privileged position. I'm healthy, able to work from home, have access to food, technology ... and still, the anxiety and trauma stemming from this pandemic are very real. Experiences of numbness, fear, racing thoughts, denial, nightmares and sadness are all part of the package right now. Our feelings may come and go quickly leaving a sense of emotional whiplash.
So how do we begin to care for ourselves and each other (from a distance) in the midst of so much crisis?
Well, to be clear, I don't think there's a right way to navigate a pandemic. I believe everyone is doing the best they can, when they can. But as the weeks continue to pass, I'm realizing both from my own experience and from the folks I talk to, that focusing on right now - a tenant of so many spiritual practices - has never felt more wise.
With that in mind, I've compiled some ideas on developing a Right-Now Plan. Looking at what we need and/or can do this week, this day, this hour, or even this moment can make everything feel just a little more manageable. In the weeks to come, I'll use this blog to dive in to some of these ideas more deeply, but for now I've provided some starting points below. As you're developing your plan remember that it doesn't need to feel like a to-do list. The most effective plans are tempered with self-compassion and scaffolded with the support of others. After all, if ever there was doubt about how interconnected we all are, well, here we are ... reminded.
Till next time, wishing you all health & ease,
For Right Now, Consider ...
#1. FEELING ALL YOUR FEELINGS
Here's a truth: Everything you feel is valid. One moment you may find yourself hopeful, the next may bring anger and the next grief. Give yourself space to cry or dance or write or do whatever feels expressive and nourishing. Rumi's poem The Guest House speaks beautifully to this practice.
#2. TRYING TELE/VIDEO THERAPY
If you are feeling overwhelmed, and so many of us are right now, please reach out for professional support. Most of the therapists I know, including myself, are offering phone and video sessions. There's no need to go through this on your own. I'm happy to answer questions about what tele/video therapy may look like and offer (as always) free consultation or referrals to low-fee clinics. Message me here.
#3. CUTTING YOURSELF SOME SLACK
It's more than okay if you are not feeling as motivated as you were. Practice letting go of productivity as you knew it a couple of weeks ago. What can it look like right now? Maybe making the bed is the task of the day or maybe its working on a big project in small chunks to minimize overwhelm.
#3. PRACTICING GRATITUDE & APPRECIATION
Practicing gratitude/appreciation can be helpful in shifting perspective. This practice is not intended to gloss over the difficult, but instead helps us hold a fuller, more nuanced view of everything we're experiencing. One idea is to start a journal entirely dedicated to the practice of gratitude or appreciation. Another idea is to text with a friend or share with a family member what you're both grateful for or appreciative of.
#4. TAKING ACTION & GIVING BACK
Supporting others during this time is not only a way to leverage privilege and practice social responsibility. Acts of kindness and responsibility can also help ease feelings of powerlessness and increase feelings of connectedness. A few ideas: monetary donations to community organizations, sewing masks, fostering pets, joining NextDoor to help out neighbors.
#5. DEVELOPING A (FLEXIBLE) SCHEDULE
We often talk about how important structure is for kiddos, but adults benefit too. Structure increases a feeling of containment and safety and often decreases feelings of anxiety. I highly recommend creating some schedule for your day, even if it just includes a few self-care tasks.
#6. IDENTIFYING MUTAL SUPPORT
Who can you check on and who will check on you in a meaningful way? Asking: How are you?, often elicits a blanket response of Okay. But asking: What do you need? or How can I support you? lends to more authentic, open communication.
#7. LIMITING MEDIA EXPOSURE
What we read, watch and listen to impacts us - consciously and unconsciously. Check in with yourself. The news media and social media serve important functions, but how much media is helpful to you? Does media help you feel connected or does it trigger fear and hopelessness?The answer can vary daily.
#8. EXPLORING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD ON FOOT
Leisurely walks make it into my gratitude journal regularly. Next time you go for a walk, consider taking photos or mental notes. What are you noticing that you never noticed before? Who can you share it with (virtually)?
#9. PRACTICING PRAYER OR MEDITATION (or both) Whether you are connecting to a higher power or your higher self, or you need a break from inner chatter, making prayer or meditation a regular part of your schedule can be grounding. If you are new to meditation, I recommend the Head Space app. It has many options for those new to meditation and those who are experienced.
Last, but not least ... yes, if you feel like taking a nap, please take a nap. It's good for you. The day-to-day may feel exhausting right now. Let yourself recharge and support others in doing the same.
Pretty much everyone that blogs is writing about the holidays in one way or another right now. And therapists are filling the Web with how-to-get-through the-holiday-season pieces. I'm no different (obviously) and it's for good reason.
For better or worse the holidays shine a light on all that's there and all that's not.
Anger, irritability, sadness and anxiety are all common (and understandable) feelings and yet after hearing client's stories I almost always sense an underlying grief. It's palpable. Sometimes its around the loss of an actual relationship, but more often it's the grief associated with the idea of a relationship with a partner, friend, family members so on.
I believe that grief is real too and should be honored. I also believe that in addition to practicing acceptance and finding space to feel your feelings, one of the most important things we can do is to love-up on ourselves fiercely, in all the ways imaginable.
You may be wondering what that even means. Fair enough.
And it depends - which is my initial answer for most everything, but ultimately the goal is to be kind to ourselves, to comfort ourselves during a time when the pot is full-on stirred and our wounds are tender.
Maybe it's about practicing kind self-talk or maybe it's something more elaborate. It really doesn't matter as long as the result is you feeling cared for.
For some this idea may feel indulgent, especially when the message we receive is that the winter holidays are about giving to others. Okay, I love that idea if it feels right for you. But here's a truth I hold close: you can not give from an empty well.
Ultimately, acts of self-love enhance our relationships with ourselves and increase our capacity to offer grace and empathy in situations or relationships that otherwise prove challenging.
Also know that if you are finding your feelings to be overwhelming
I can't tell you how many times a week I hear from clients, "I had a feeling" or "I knew better," and yet something stands in the way of them listening to their intuition when making important decisions.
To contextualize the phenomena, I want to say first that I believe we are all conditioned in varying degrees to discount our intuition because our patriarchal culture values more 'logical' or 'rational' ways of decision-making. With this in mind, using your intuition and trusting your inner-knowing is actually form of social rebellion. And who doesn't want to be a rebel!?
The first step in using your intuition is to access it more intentionally. Here are 3 simple (but not always easy) exercises to try:
1. First, and this is important, calming your mind is key. To access that steady wisdom (aka the 'gut feeling'), we have to quiet the chatter of our minds which is often fueled by worry, scarcity thinking, 'shoulds' and so on. How you choose to practice it is up to you - meditation, exercise, sitting in nature - do what works for you. I know this is easier said than done, but remember if you are able to settle your mind for just a few moments, you are on your way.
2. Try writing your question down and engaging in automatic writing (writing without censoring yourself or picking your pen up off the page). You can also try this same technique with art-making to access your unconscious.
3. Pay attention to your dreams. While dreams often stray from the linear, they often contain symbols or clues that are helpful to us in navigating decision making. What did you notice in your dreams? How did you wake up feeling? Was there an overt or subtle message?
Ultimately, the practice of accessing and following our intuition is about building healthy relationship with ourselves - and that can take time. Patience is key, as is knowing that our intuition may not lead us exactly where we thought we should be. There are no guarantees with any form of decision-making, but the more we trust the process the more ease we find.
To learn more about tapping your intuition, I recommend the work of Dr. Judith Orloff. You can learn more about her work and writings here.
Till Next Time,
Happy summer, everyone! I can't believe the year is half over. It seems like just yesterday we were making resolutions/setting intentions for the year to come. Some of us were making vision boards and others were taking it to the next level with action plans.
Now, here we are just a couple of days shy of the summer solstice - one of my favorite days of the year - and it's an auspicious time to pause and take inventory.
For those that aren’t familiar with the celestial event, summer solstice is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, and from then on out the daylight hours grow incrementally shorter.
I think it's the perfect time to reflect, celebrate and make changes as needed.
Here are some questions to think about as you begin reflection:
After you've taken inventory, think about taking simple steps to reprioritize where needed. Schedule time for the things and people who matter; as well as assessing what supports you need to show up for the life you want to live. That support may look like therapy and coaching or may be rooted in spiritual practice, a support group, relationships, community or ideally a mixture of some of the above.
In my own life, I've just decided to work with a personal trainer because they will have the expertise I need to take my health goals to the next level. The right support is everything.
Most of all, it’s important to remember this process does not need to be shame-inducing or stressful. It can be creative and joyful as we pause, assess and re-plan accordingly. I'm here to help!
Till next time,
Anyone who is familiar with my work as a therapist knows that I am a fan of interventions that (a) focus on client strengths and (b) are creative and often outside the box. I tend to pull from a variety of modalities and approaches in my work from well-researched practices such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to emerging therapies (i.e. those that have been around for a long while, but have only recently been accepted by the mainstream mental health community) including nature-based and expressive arts interventions. I even utilize - wait for it - tarot cards.
Yes, it's true. I'm a licensed clinician and I utilize tarot with clients when they are interested and when the intervention is clinically indicated.
But before I share how I use the elusive tarot in session, let me backtrack a bit because I want to share that I first stumbled upon what would become my first tarot deck when I was just thirteen years old, wandering around the back of a bookstore with my mom. She had no idea then the seed she was planting!
I was immediately smitten with the imagery of the cards; the universal experiences and personality types represented; and the feeling of entering another world filled with symbol and metaphor. Although, my long-term draw to the practice of tarot was the honing of and reliance on intuition. This is to say that by using the cards, reading the traditional meanings and drawing my own associations, I would gain insight into questions and situation that had me feeling stuck. As it turned out, I didn't need someone else to tell me what I already knew deep down, I just needed a way to access it.
In my therapy practice, I offer clients the opportunity to do the same with my support and guidance. This is especially relevant to women and girls I work with who are often learning to trust themselves as well as explore identity and cultivate self-esteem.
If you're intrigued and wanting to explore the world of tarot its easy enough to pick a deck based on which imagery you are drawn to. Most bookstores carry tarot decks, but there are also a host of unique small-batch decks sold on Etsy.com and other online sites.
Once you've picked your deck, an easy way to start practicing is to pick a card a day and let yourself engage with the card. Take a deep breath. What symbols do you see? What is the wisdom or the lesson of the card? Do you feel resistant or open?
Have fun with it! I'll be curious to hear how it goes ...
Till Next Time,
When I tell people that I utilize the expressive arts in my Berkeley therapy practice, I am often greeted with enthusiasm ... and some degree of confusion.
"That sounds so awesome!" People will often respond, and then ... pause. "So, what exactly is that?"
I smile because they are genuinely curious and I am eager to share.
So here are some things to know about of expressive arts therapy (or as we call it in the biz, EXA):
Meanwhile, I think it's important to note that EXA is not an ethereal approach to therapy, though it can feel that way because as adults we are so divorced from viewing creativity as a vital part of living. It can seem "so alternative" rather than straight up natural, and even practical.
After all, by incorporating the arts in therapy we often bypass defenses that hinder us, and are able to access suppressed feelings and inner wisdom that otherwise may not be accessed through talking.
Clients often report feeling relaxed or energized after sessions using the arts, as well as gaining new insights.
If you're interested in learning more about how EXA can be incorporated into therapy sessions, please visit here.
Meanwhile, I hope you'll consider creating something this week. Anything. Just to see how it feels for you. I truly believe creativity is life force, and artistic expression, a birthright.
Let me know how you do!
Till Next Time,