Blog

Grounding Techniques to Help with Anxiety

Living in the Moment

I work as an aide in a Preschool, and this year’s class is bursting with energy. I’m greeted at the start of each school day with bubbly stories, eager 4-year-olds ready to learn and sing, and some of the cutest faces you ever did see.

One of those faces belongs to Mikey (not his real name), one of the sweeter kids in the class. He listens and does his best to follow along when the teacher guides them through forming their letters and learning about things like the weather and what day of the week it is, and he always has a story to tell about a place he went to with his parents or the things he does over the weekends.

Now that the school year has been underway for some weeks, he’s fallen into a routine. One of Mikey’s favorite things to do just before school begins is to sidle up to either myself or the teacher, look at us very seriously while holding up a finger, and say, “I have a question.”

“Yes, Mikey?”

“How long is it until I can go home?”

And we smile and tell him that he’ll go home at the end of the school day, listing off the various things that happen before then. “There’s a lesson first,” I’ll say, “then snack time, then art class, then playtime, then lunch. And then we have recess, then rest time, another lesson, and then we go home.”

He’ll nod seriously at that, furrow his little brow, and return to his seat. And for the rest of each day, he’ll stop and ask one of us when the thing we are participating in will be over. During the morning lesson, he’ll ask when snack time is. When snack is underway, he’ll ask when art class is. During art class, he’ll ask when lunch is – and so on and so forth, for the entire rest of the day.

“Try not to worry about the next thing, Mikey,” I tell him. “Just think about what’s happening right now. The day will go faster that way.”

He has yet to master that ability. It seems like an easy thing to joke about, but his routine does make sense to me – the little guy is trying to ground himself in the midst of a churning hullabaloo – and I can’t say that I’m unlike him in my own way. True, I don’t ask the teacher what our schedule is every hour of the day, but how many times have I looked at my own calendar ad nauseum, trying to figure out what else I have coming down the pike? How often, when I’ve been worried, have I thought about what will happen next; and once I’ve gotten there, immediately worried about the next event? Too many times. And, each time, just like little Mikey, I’ve furrowed my brow, not taking my own advice – not thinking about what’s happening right now.

I’m sure I’m not alone; maybe you feel the same way too. Maybe you feel swept up in the current of worrying about what’s coming next, and you want to know the future so you can corral it, subdue it, and have some sort of handle on it so you don’t feel completely out of control. But if you are like me, maybe we can try to figure out how to calm down, take a moment (or two, or a hundred) and try to truly live in the moment.

One thing I like to do is to listen to calming music and ambient sounds, so downloading a calming-type app may be helpful (or looking up videos of quiet and calming nature scenes on YouTube may do the trick). Taking time to just sit in quietude is hard to do but incredibly worthy of your time once you get in the habit of it. Maybe a yoga class is more your style, visiting a house of worship or talking a walk – so many things can help to keep you grounded in the moment that you’re in. Every moment is special, even if it’s mundane – and anything we can do to help us stay in the moment is sure to do us a world of good.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

How to Work Through Your Fears

What Scares You

What was your first scary movie? I was ten when I was at a sleepover and the movie of choice was “Child’s Play.” Do you remember that one? About the creepy, evil, possessed doll named Chucky that would come to life and murder people? Not the best movie to show a ten-year-old, that’s for sure. (Especially a ten-year-old whose cousins owned a “My Buddy doll” that was Chucky’s spitting image and terrified her for quite a few months afterward.)

It was so much easier being a kid and scared of concrete, real things that could be defined. I was scared of murderous dolls. I was scared of hurricanes. I was scared of losing my parents. I was scared of walking down the stairs. I was scared of bees.

I outgrew a lot of those fears (although I’m still pretty afraid of bees – and murderous dolls). But as a grown-up, the things that frightened me became less real and a lot more nebulous, easily identifiable by the way they begin in my mind (always with a “what if?”): What if my life doesn’t have meaning? What if something I say or do hurts someone else? What if the supply chain breaks down before Christmas and my kids can’t get what they asked Santa for? What if my family dies in some weird freak accident and I’m alone forever? Those were fears that existed long before coronavirus, but now, the fear is even more amplified in some ways because of it, too. (I don’t think I need to list out the fears attached to that!)

There are ways to subdue or mitigate these fears – regular visits with a therapist to talk them out is something I’d highly recommend – but I think it’s important to acknowledge that they exist, not only for children, but for adults, too. They manifest in sometimes very similar ways, but very different ones, too – where a child and a grownup both may suffer from anxiety-induced stomachaches, maybe a grownup would be the one out of the two that would pitch a fit at Arby’s for getting their order wrong.

In the Wes Anderson film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the protagonist, M. Gustave, gives a very telling quote about fear in adulthood: “Rudeness is merely the expression of fear. People fear they won’t get what they want. The most dreadful and unattractive person just needs to be loved, and they will open up like a flower.”

There’s a truth in that. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it can’t be conquered by tantrums, or dominance, or aggression – just love. (True, love isn’t what beats Chucky at the end of the Child’s Play films or its sequels, but that’s neither here nor there.)

It’s not an easy thing to overcome your fears. And it’s trite to just dismissively say that you can love your way through them, but it is a reality that if you can love and trust yourself enough to get through the things that you fear most, then you will. And that’s no small thing. It takes practice, but it can be achieved.

So think about the thing that is frightening you the most. You may have no control over it whatsoever, but that’s okay. Just try your best – however long it takes you – to tell yourself that whatever will come, you will get through it. You will come out the other side. A different person, maybe, but that’s all right too. Tell yourself you will love yourself through it, put that into practice, and see what happens to your fears. If nothing else, it’s worth a try.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Managing Our Mental Health in a Polarized World

Tell Me More: Episode 5


(Music fades in) Have you found yourself feeling frustrated, angry or at odds with family and life-long friends over things like whether to wear a face mask, whether to get a vaccine or any other hot button issues? Well, if so, you are definitely not alone. Polarization in America appears to be a wide divide. It’s carving our nation into distinct camps – where compromise is, more often than not, tossed out the window. Is this a true picture of what’s happening here? And if so, what does it all mean for our relationships and our mental health?

I’m Susan Brozek Scott, and in this episode of Tell Me More we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us understand what’s happening and what we can do about it. (Music fades out)

SUSAN: Don, good to be with you again.

DON: As always, a pleasure to be with you as well Susan.

SUSAN: Don, is the political polarization or the emotional polarization in America really as bad as it seems? What are psychologists saying?

DON: As I’ve said in previous podcasts, Susan, getting vaccinated or wearing a mask is not a political statement and it should not be viewed as such by any group or individual. This is a public health crises and it’s about demonstrating compassion and care for yourself and others. Much of the fear we are experiencing right now – let’s be frank, it’s preventable. We have to stop polarizing the issues and come together to fight the real enemy which is this virus.

SUSAN: Are we prepared, do you think, to handle the mental health crises and all of this polarization and do we have the funding to handle it?

DON: Wow, that’s a great question Susan and one that I’m quite passionate about. So, excuse me if I pull the soap box out for a moment here. So, we are not. The long and short of it is this: we talk a good game when it comes to mental health but frankly mental health has always been at the bottom of the barrel of the health care system. Insurance companies talk about it all the time, how they want to promote better mental health; agencies talk about it all the time, but the bottom line is and we see time and time again that people are being turned away for the most basic types of services that are available out there. And these are the most vulnerable folks in our society. We have to do better. We have to rise to this challenge and be able to get the funding to the folks who need it the most. That means front-line workers, the people who are out there in the trenches delivering these services. Therapists, counselors, in the community, in private practices, in agencies allowing them the opportunity to do the work that they are passionate about and not get caught up in all the rep tape – and frankly the frustrating part of whether or not I’m going to get paid for this service because I’m dealing with insurance companies. This is something that, again I’m quite passionate about, but we have to be able to rise to the occasion and meet this challenge. This is going to be the next wave of this pandemic. The mental health crisis, the hurricane that is now brewing , we are going to be dealing with for years and decades to come.

SUSAN: What, Don, can happen if we don’t start to address these feelings that people are having? We see it on TV, we see it on social media all the time – the viral videos going around. People are really in some severe crisis.

DON: One way for us to understand this Susan, one of the first things we should be looking at is how people are responding to stages in a disaster, in this case, a global pandemic. Everyone is built differently. Everyone has their own perspective. But there are shared and common grounds for our experiences. There is research, and evidence that defines the stages of stress on communities from disasters. Early, during or right after a disaster – ok – in this case a global pandemic, communities tend to pull together. People support each other, and are generally kind and create a sense of community, a sense of togetherness. Think back, Susan, to the first few weeks of the initial lock-down about 18 months ago when everyone in the neighborhood waved to everyone else; asked how they were and showed – what – genuine concern and kindness. Unfortunately, that spirit wears thin as stress and frustration builds. We get tired. “Things are taking too long!” “No one seems to know what to do here.” “Where is the leadership and who do I trust?” That’s when we hit a disillusionment stage. We begin to lose our optimism and trust and start to have negative reactions OR negative reactions to almost everything we hear and see. That’s about where we stand now as a society. People are exhausted of this and they’re taking great risks with their lives and the lives of others. They’d rather risk getting sick then getting vaccinated or wearing a mask or both. There’s a number of reason here, Susan, and social media – let me just add this – social media is the main culprit here for spreading this misinformation. People have stopped listening to the experts and they won’t follow the science. This stage that we’re talking about right now, this could last more than a year once the pandemic is under control. And we’re nowhere close that at this time.

SUSAN: Can you give us some concrete steps to help people acknowledge how they feel – all of this frustration – and steps to have them reach out to people they may strongly disagree with in a way that’s more positive rather than so negative?

DON: Sure! Absolutely and it’s a great note to end on. Set the boundaries and try to come to agreement. This is a discussion about facts not opinions. We are here to understand and explain our views not to change the other person’s mind. Let’s each try to speak for ourselves and not try to speak for any outside group. Can we avoid the talking points and otherwise this is basic and standard stuff. Stuff we already know Susan and frankly we learned it in kindergarten: Take your turn. Don’t interrupt. Listen. Be respectful – that means no eye-rolling, sighs or laughter when someone is speaking. I can’t say or emphasize this enough: an argument is just a failed discussion. Let me say that again, an argument is a failed discussion. Always bring your best self into the conversation.

SUSAN: If someone, Don, feels they need help in taking the first step to get some help, what can they do?

DON: Reach out to a professional if you’re unsure. The time is now. Don’t wait for things to get better on their own. They probably won’t. At eTalkTherapy we offer free phone consultations to help match you with the right therapist and if we don’t have that person for you, we will give you referrals that are either online or in your area. We’ve been providing telemental health services in Pennsylvania since 2017. And we’ve got a great group of experienced and licensed therapists who are ready to start helping you make changes today. Go to eTalkTherapy.com for further details on scheduling a free consultation or for your first appointment. It takes real courage to reach out and admit that you need help with an issue. So why not get started today?

(Music fades in)

SUSAN: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks so much for helping guide us through these very challenging times.

DON: Thank you Susan, as always it’s a pleasure.

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

Coping with Covid Fatigue

Tell Me More: Episode 4


(Music fades in) If you’re feeling exhausted from year two of the global pandemic yet find yourself wide awake half the night, you’re not alone. Despite having vaccines and treatments available and despite America starting to reopen this past summer there’s a growing realization that we’re not home yet. It’s like starting a football game playing against one team and then at half-time a new opponent takes the field. The delta variant team is faster, stronger and moving all directions all over the field and it’s going to take more time and effort to defeat this new team or the next one. (Music picks up)

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us as we try to figure out a strategy to get through this pandemic, get into the end zone and safely get on with our lives. Don good to be with you. (Music fades out)

Don: Great to be with you as well Susan.

Susan: Don, we’re at that phase in this pandemic where so many people say they are simply exhausted. They’ve done what they feel they can do and then there is always something else to deal with and they’re suffering on a lot of levels. Is this what some are calling Covid fatigue?

Don: Yes, the answer is yes Susan. It is Covid fatigue. And I like your analogy of the football game because the goalposts in this case, they keep moving. And with Dr. Facui’s recent comment about how things may not improve with this recent surge in cases until spring of 2022, most of us have been feeling or are beginning to feel the long term psychological effects of Covid fatigue and burnout. I said this almost a year ago, the future impact of Covid will not be treated with vaccines, social distancing and masks. All things we should be doing right now by the way. We have to be able to address the sky-rocketing numbers of people diagnosed with depression, anxiety and trauma because of this pandemic. And the polarization, it – no we have caused – we are not adequately prepared to face the mental health hurricane that is now brewing. Let’s be clear, all of us, myself, you, everyone listening, everyone out there, we’re tired of staying inside, we’re tired of being careful, we’re tired of being scared, we’re tired of turning on the news or social media, and just seeing bad news. We’re tired of the rising statistics, but you know what isn’t tired yet Susan? Covid. But our collective fatigue is making some people careless; one reason Covid-19 is rising sharply throughout the US. Facing this fatigue is important for our personal health and for beating the virus that has shaken us to our very core. Most people understand this and that is what is adding to their exhaustion and stress.

Susan: These variants of Covid -19 they keep changing and mutating to get through our bodies defenses. Do we not only have to adjust our vaccines but also our mental strategies to successfully deal with this?

Don: Absolutely! There is no back-to-normal mode. We can deny it, ignore it, pretend it will just go away on its own. But this is our new reality. Yet, we shouldn’t be cowering in fear. We should be rising to the challenge. Follow the science and work on what we do have control over. Being kind, taking care of each other and ourselves, promoting good mental health starts today and with ourselves.

Susan: What are some of the simple things, Don, that we can do to handle the feeling that too much of this is out of our control?

Don: That’s a great question. Much of our fear is preventable even though it doesn’t seem that way. We have to stop polarizing the issues and come together to fight the real enemy, which is the virus. Having said that, recognizing that I don’t have control over others or their opinions, I can only control my reaction and make the best and most informed choices I can – all the while being mindful to those around me. This is not passivity, let’s be clear. This is not passivity. It is empowering ourselves in the here and now. Not being fearful or paralyzed in the shadow of an uncertain future and not trying to fix the past. Rather, focusing on how the present moment is the only place I can be a real agent of change. And part of that change can happen through some very simple steps, Susan:

  • Exercise. By the way, exercise – people throw it out there like “why don’t you just exercise more,” that is not a cure for mental health but it does help right. Exercise – it’s the number one best thing that we can do for coping in these times. A simple walk, it releases endorphins, it gets some of the adrenaline out when frustration builds up inside of us. Just getting out and moving around can be really helpful for people.
  • Talking, right, this really helps, being able to connect with another person. Finding the right places and times to do it, that’s important. Don’t try to bring up – you know – big global issues when you’re in a bad mental health space, but ignoring feelings doesn’t make them go away either. Constructive thinking, we like to think that the words that come out of our mouths are always productive always constructive, not so. Think about the words that you’re about to say. Think about how you’re thinking about them, right. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Remind yourself, “I’m doing the best I can and so is the person I’m talking with.”
  • And finally, Mindfulness: This is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. But it’s important to understand the more you practice mindfulness, the easier some of this stress, burn out and fatigue gets, being in the moment, you’re right there, you’re listening to my voice, breathing and looking around. Put yourself in the moment, and if you’re not sure how to practice mindfulness – Google it. There are all kinds of instructional videos and podcasts out there. For now, just taking life day-by-day is so important.

Susan: Don, how does a person know whether they, or someone they know, might need more help? Are there things to look for either in ourselves or our friends and family that we should be aware of even on social media if we see something, what should we do?

Don: Reach out to a professional if you’re unsure. Now is the time to do this. Don’t wait for things to just get better on their own. They may not. At eTalkTherapy, we offer free consultations to help match you with the right therapist and if we don’t have that person for you, we’ll give you referrals to other professionals that are either online or in your area. We’ve been providing telemental health services in Pennsylvania since 2017, and we have a wonderful group of experienced and licensed therapists who are ready to start helping you make changes today. Go to eTalkTherapy.com for further details on scheduling a free consultation or your first appointment. It just takes a minute, but it takes a tremendous amount of courage to reach out and admit that you need help with an issue. So why not get started today?

Susan: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com. Thanks for helping guide us through these very challenging times. (Music fades in)

Don: As always Susan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you!

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

How Therapy Can Change Your Life

Not What I Expected

I don’t know what I expected, but here they are: the house painters we’d booked weeks ago, large men with friendly faces and a radio that plays the Classic Rock station while they work. What did I expect? What you see on TV or in old cartoons, I guess: a man in overalls and a painting cap, cheerfully swiping a paintbrush and whistling while he works.

What the painters at my home today are doing is not that. There’s a lot of banging and stripping, blasting and wrapping. They’re cheerful enough and still friendly, but bear an uncanny resemblance to what my journey though therapy has been like.

My first impressions of therapy were, again, not unlike something I’d see on TV: sitting on a couch talking about my feelings, cheerfully swiping the paintbrush of the events of my day over the siding of my mind, maybe even while whistling! But what therapy became was the same hard work as my real painters. There was a lot of work involved. A lot of noise, a lot of banging around as old memories came to the surface and hard-weathered problems needed to be stripped away. I confronted (and still do) friendships in my life as broken as the shutters that have fallen off of the front of my house during thunderstorms; and I am still grappling with how ugly the thoughts in my mind are and how much they resemble the peeling flaking ugliness of the old paint that flitters to the base of my driveway like so many chipped snowflakes.

It is a well-known fact to those who go to therapy that it is hard work, indeed.

A song plays on the painters’ radio: Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

I don’t know.

I don’t know if I can either. Actually, that’s not true. I know I can, although the difference between handling them by myself and handling them with a therapist is immense. And so I value the work, as hard as it is. I value therapy the way I am valuing the current havoc that is being wrought on my house for the same reasons: because after all that hard work, there will be something beautiful left behind. My home will look refreshed and bright and welcoming after the painters have done their good work; and I will be able to sail through the changes of my life after mine.

If you’re deciding whether or not therapy is right for you, I highly encourage you to consider the difference it can make. It may be painful at times and it may take a lot of effort in some places, but the reward is something you can look on with pride and love.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Effects of a Prolonged Pandemic on Mental Health

We’ve Never Not Known Together

“It’s like… I think everything’s going to be okay, but I have no idea what’s going to happen next. And like, none of you know either. Like… we’ve all never not known together.” – John Mulaney

The second Summer of Covid-19 and things look…off. On paper, everything is pretty similar to every other summer: pools are open, kids go to camps, traffic is resuming, there are BBQs galore and big fireworks shows for Independence Day. But off-paper, things are different. Take sports for example: the Olympics are happening in this sort of truncated way, with sound effects piped in to make it sound like the vast emptiness of the seats are filled with people, even though they’re not; yet the NBA championships are hosting full-to-capacity stadiums. The Stanley Cup finals were odd in that on the American side, crowds galore could cheer away together while in Canada, only a few in comparison could. Masks are highly suggested in some states, completely an afterthought in others, and rapidly becoming mandatory in places where the Delta variant of the virus is threatening to rage with impunity again. And forget even thinking about the next school year!

How does the ordinary person go through it all? Comedian John Mulaney, in the quote above, wasn’t referring to Covd when he was talking to Stephen Colbert on the Late Show – this was before Covid – but the sentiment, to me, applies exactly. I also think everything is going to be okay, but I have no idea what is going to happen next.

And all of this uncertainty, all of this unknowing… it’s not a great feeling. Sometimes I feel alone when I say that. I certainly do when so many people I know are just taking Covid in stride, declaring it a thing they just need to deal with the way we need to deal with lots of catastrophic things in our lives. And they’re not wrong; there’s a very real possibility that Covid will just be a thing that hangs around forever now, the way extreme weather does, for example. I’m just not there yet.

I don’t know if the precautions I am taking are the correct ones. I don’t know that I’m just delaying an inevitability if this thing really does keep going in its relentlessness. I don’t know when things will return to a normalcy I’m used to. And it’s true that we all don’t know, together. We are all just looking at things one day at a time.

I don’t know that it’s wrong to do that; to make decisions based on the outcome of what we’ve done before. That’s how we learn, isn’t it? We make mistakes and remember (or try, to) for next time. It is also true, however, that the stakes feel higher.

The “new normal” is everything but, but it is a reality. It’s not a reality we asked for, but it’s here anyway, and so the question becomes how we’re going to adapt. Your adaptation may look different than mine, but as we go through our days, let’s keep in mind that what Mulaney said was true: we’ve never not known together. We may indeed not have the right answers. But we’re all trying. And please know you’re not trying alone!

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

What to Expect in Therapy

Listen Tell Me More: Episode 3

(Music fades in) If you’ve ever struggled with depression, anxiety or relationships and feel you might finally be able to reach out for help, today’s podcast is for you. (Music picks up)

There’s no better time than right now to take that all important first step to better mental health. I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us all learn more about what to expect in therapy and how to find the right therapist for you.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you today.

DON: Thank you Susan, as always it’s a pleasure.

SUSAN: Don, for a lot of people therapy may seem like a completely foreign process where they will have to share parts of themselves that they’ve never really shared with anyone before (music fades out). Talk us through how therapy actually works so people will know what to expect.

DON: Sure, good therapy provides a safe and creative space where people can explore their problems and issues. Most importantly it opens a space and time to be heard, acknowledged and understood. And that’s what we want out of life. We want to be acknowledged and understood. And let me know say this too Susan, it’s not like what you see on TV or in the movies, sometimes they get it close but most often they don’t. The other thing too is that psychiatry and psychology have done a monumental job – this is something that I say all the time – they’ve done a monumental job out of making things a little more complicated than they need to be. The therapeutic process itself, it sheds light on how we are who we are and gives people a greater understanding about living as fully, mindfully and compassionately as possible. Therapy enables people to explore their lives and be open to the choices that are available to them. Whatever the reasons are that people choose therapy, it means taking a greater more truthful look at ourselves. Through closer exploration of our anxieties, fears, hopes and dreams, therapy is a life-changing opportunity to transform our attitudes towards living and really makes some life-long changes.

SUSAN: Everyone is different, how does a person go about finding the right therapist for their needs? How do they pick that professional they can comfortable enough with to share all those personal and very private issues?

DON: As I tell my students and supervisees it’s all about the relationship. In real-estate Susan, as you know it’s location, location, location. In therapy, it’s the relationship, relationship, relationship. It takes real courage for someone to reach out and share their most intimate fears, darkest shadows and their hopes and dreams. A good therapist wants to build a relationship with you – not just provide a quick fix or give you homework that you could’ve gleaned from in any self help book. A good therapist sees you as a whole person, not just a set of symptoms or worse yet, a diagnosis. For me, good mental health starts with a strong therapeutic relationship and ends with a person creating a life worth living.

SUSAN: Are there any guidelines that suggest how long this relationship should last?

DON: As much as it is about the relationship Susan, there are some boundaries, and a good therapist will establish these with you from the first session on. How to contact them between appointments, fees treatment planning if needed and – the million dollar question – how long am I going to be in therapy? Everyone is different. There is no one-size-fits-all nor should there be. Let me give you an example, you go to the doctor and you get an antibiotic and if you’re like me after a few days maybe a week you start to feel better and you start to question – do I really need to take this for 14 days and the answer is yes! You do. Therapy is no longer a forever thing. Let’s get that straight. On the other hand if you start out and you’re making progress and then you stop abruptly – let’s go back to that antibiotic example – what is going to happen there? It’s most likely your issues and problems are going to circle back around on you. Just like life itself, it has a beginning, middle and an end and a good therapist will discuss how the course of therapy will run in that first session or two.

SUSAN: From your experience Don, as a licensed psychotherapist, do people always know what their problems are when they start to talk about them? Do they often think they have an issue in one area when it really might be something else?

DON: That’s a great question and the long answer is yes and no, spoken like a true therapist right. But life is like that. Everyone is different and we’re all the better for that. Some folks come into therapy with a very driven agenda and that can be helpful but it can also reflect on why their relationships in the real world sometimes feel strained, rushed or even distant. Some folks look to therapy as ways of gaining better meaning into their issues and some people want to use therapy as way to figure out what’s wrong with the world or with their family and that may signal someone who doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of choice or even life itself. We all don’t do pain or change very well. It’s how we’re built and as a result we create false narratives around how and who we are. That’s an extremely creative process and one that obviously doesn’t happen overnight. So channeling that creativity into designing a new narrative is something I strive to do with every client I work with. I believe a strength based approach while acknowledging limitations but not bowing to them is the most creative and mindful way for therapists to engage others.

SUSAN: How can intervention at a critical time in a person’s life and the right treatment plan change lives?

DON: It’s so important for people to take that first step and it is an act of courage. But if you think about it this way Susan, if I am pushed up against a brick wall and I am face-to-face with that brick wall I can’t see up, I can’t see down, I can’t see to either side of me, all I can see are these bricks in front of me and that feels hopeless. By taking that step, and engaging with a therapist in creating a meaningful relationship, a creating a meaning therapeutic relationship, means taking a step back from that wall. Being able to get some perspective on this problem and this issue – having someone walk along side of you and help guide you through the process, well that’s life changing.

SUSAN: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks for helping guide us through the steps to live our very best life. (Music fades in)

DON: Thank you for having me Susan.

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

Four Ways to Improve Your Mood and Find a New Perspective

Navigating Your Life in a Post-Pandemic World

I have no idea if you’re a Millennial, Gen-Z, or a Boomer, but I fall somewhere in what is known as the “Xennial” generation – the tail end of Gen X and the very beginning of the Millennial years. I didn’t grow up with a computer or a phone, and I was well into adulthood when I was able to use Google Maps to get around. Before then, I had to write directions down on a piece of paper – and then later was excited to print out the directions from MapQuest. I would study my odometer to figure out if I had to turn left after 0.8 miles – and to figure out how long 0.8 miles was! Now things are so much quicker with the ability to navigate on my phone, I don’t have to worry about how exactly to get around in my car.

What I do still need to do though, is navigate through my life. There’s no app for that yet (although I wouldn’t really want one if there was!) And it can seem just as difficult to know how to get through one day to the next, especially with the backdrop of the pandemic still affecting us. Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve found helpful, and that may help you, too!

  1. Know Where You’re Going. Like any trip you take, you’ll feel successful once you know where it is that you’re going. You may think, “But I am so anxious/depressed/sad/unstable to know where my life is going!” Fair enough – I think the same thing all the time! But I’m talking about a small trip. If you feel you can’t make it through the day, can your destination be to make it three hours from now? Can you make it to the next ten minutes? Find a destination that is as small as you need it to be. If you can get there, take a deep breath, and realize that you made it.
  1. Pack Your Snacks. No road trip is complete without snacks, and that goes for the days when you’re not physically going anywhere, either. Make sure to eat throughout the day and to drink water, too. No shame intended and I know it’s hard sometimes, but try to make your food as healthy as you can make it for the moment – physical discomfort is not a lot of fun when paired with mental and emotional discomfort.
  1. Keep Good Company. Car trips do go by faster with a friend traveling with you, and that’s true for life, as well. But if you’re unable to see people regularly, what can you fill the journey with? If you’re into listening to podcasts, audiobooks and music, check your local library for new ones to try. Ask friends for some recommendations for new books to read or what show to stream. Keep in touch with more phone calls and Facetimes with family members you haven’t seen in a long time! But remember that there’s a time for much-needed silence, too. If you’re feeling frazzled and overwhelmed by too much screen time, try to carve out some room (seriously, just two or three minutes to start) to sit in silence and enjoy the quiet.
  1. Look around you. On car trips, we can be so focused on the road ahead of us and our directions that we might forget to look around at the landscape a bit. What’s in front of you today that you haven’t noticed? Are there new flowers in your neighborhood now that Spring is here? Have you noticed the days growing longer and the sun taking more time to set? Try to take a look around a few more times during your day – a little thing can help a lot!

These are just a few ideas to help with navigating these next few weeks. I hope they are a help for you, and please feel free to reach out to etalktherapy.com for professionals to talk to!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

How to Find the Right Therapist for Mental Health Treatment

Listen to episode 2 of the podcast – Tell Me More – transcript:

(Music fades in) Nearly one in five US adults live with a mental illness that’s more than 51 million people according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. (Music picks up) And while millions of people could benefit from treatment, estimates suggest only half the people living with a mental illness actually get the help they need. What’s causing this problem and how do we fix it? That’s our topic today.

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, who can help us understand and overcome the barriers to mental health treatment.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you. (Music fades out)

DON: It’s a pleasure to be with you as well Susan.

SUSAN: Don, what are some of the hurdles – the immediate hurdles – to getting good, potentially life-altering and in some cases life-saving, mental health treatment today?

DON: Wow! That is a great question and so timely. Right now we’re at a cross roads. Promoting health and wellness for all is so important as we emerge from this pandemic. In fact, an adult conversation around the subject of mental health is long overdue. With the growing availability of telehealth, obviously accessibility is becoming somewhat less of an issue, but there remain problems associated with affordability and stigma. Often people think, “hey you know what, I’ll just suck it up. I’ll power through this. I’m just being lazy or I just need to get my act together. I’ll wait and see if things get worse.” Well, guess what? They don’t get any better. Often times, these things won’t improve over time. They won’t improve on their own and as helpful – sometimes – as friends and family can be, they usually give us advice – things we already know. Having an objective, non-judgmental, third party is essential when discussing your fears and anxieties.

The other piece is affordability. Some folks don’t have insurance but those who do, may actually be surprised that mental health is not covered in full OR may not be in their plans altogether. Of course self pay is always an option, but finding the right therapist – finding a therapist who can offer a generous sliding scale is key.

SUSAN: What are some of the steps a person can take to actually get through that maze and then getting the help that they need?

DON: Yeah, let’s talk about that because it takes – it’s an act of courage for someone to pick up the phone and call a complete stranger and make that first appointment. So ask questions – lots of them! Find a therapist who feels like a good fit. How long have they been a therapist? Ask about their experience with the issues your facing? Ask about how flexible scheduling is with them? Make an informed decision. Remember, choosing a therapist means taking the first step toward a better life and you want to choose wisely.

SUSAN: Is there a big difference in the types of therapy available online?

DON: Absolutely, Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Most everyone went online after the pandemic hit. Some of these practitioners and agencies were new to telehealth because they always operated out of an office before. At eTalkTherapy, we’ve been doing this since 2017. I started it toward the end of 2017, and of course when the pandemic hit, we were already established to be able to provide quality telehealth for all of Pennsylvanians. Telehealth providers should always be up front about their pricing, which insurances they accept and offer therapy through a HIPAA compliant portal or by phone. Ask questions, how long have they been doing telehealth, avoid services that offer subscriptions and therapy packages through texting or email. That’s one of the many things that separate eTalkTherapy with the other services that are out there right now. We’re a local, private practice. Not some big tech company with a text-based app. We conduct our sessions on live video streaming on a HIPAA secure platform. Susan, I can’t emphasize this enough, real therapy is not done through texting or email with complicated subscriptions and automated responses and there are some really significant ethical issues for those companies who practice this kind of service. At eTalkTherapy, we provide you with one-on-one therapy just like a traditional, in-office appointment. You’ll see a licensed counselor or a mental health therapist.

SUSAN: Don, if we haven’t been touched by this ourselves yet, is it safe to say that just about everyone knows someone in their family or circle of friends whose dealt with a mental health issue? I mean, how can we support someone we love when they are struggling and do we always see that struggle?

DON: I’m a big fan of Fred Rogers, Susan, and Mr. Roger’s always told us; he always said, look to the helpers. Look for the helpers in times of trouble or worry. Be patient and listen without trying to fix it. Be a parent, sibling, friend and/or partner first. Don’t try to be their therapist. Most of all, be kind. Everyone is experiencing this time very differently, and we should act accordingly with love, kindness and patience. The struggle is not always visible but it is there. (Music fades in)

SUSAN: Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks so much for helping guide us through these mental health challenges to live our very best lives.

DON: Thank you Susan, it was a pleasure.

Music continues…

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

Music fades out.

Tell Me More Podcast - Episode 1

Stopping the Stigma of Mental Illness

Listen to Episode 1 of our new podcast – Tell Me More

For more than a year, Americans and people from all over the world have dealt with a global pandemic and much of our fear centered on what would happen to us or our loved ones if we contracted covid-19 and had to face its potentially life threatening effects. But now with vaccinations in the United States on a roll many of us are now confronting something else – the effect of the pandemic on our mental health.

I’m Susan Brozek Scott and in this episode of Tell Me More, we’re talking with Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com who can help us all sort through this unprecedented time in our lives.

SUSAN: Don good to be with you today.

DON: Thank you Susan. It is a pleasure to be with you as well.

SUSAN: Don, Some of us have lost loved ones, some of us have lost jobs and incomes and some have lingering effects of a disease that literally ravaged the world and sent us into quarantine for weeks and isolation for months. So, then is it okay – is it expected of us to have a broad range of emotions right now?

DON: Absolutely Susan! It would be more unusual for anyone right now to say that they weren’t feeling stressed or frustrated, sad or anxious. We’re facing issues that are unprecedented for our modern times and this has and will undoubtedly create new challenges for how we understand and treat mental health – not only in our country but globally as well. Susan the next wave of this pandemic will not be treated with vaccines or antibiotics the next wave will include mild to severe levels of trauma, depression and anxiety and if that’s left untreated it’s only going to get worse. In fact, we’re starting to see it right now. So talking about mental health, furthering the conversation and gaining access to affordable treatment options is more important than ever. There will be years of wellness issues; scars that will run deep; and questions that will not just go away over time. In short, it’s okay to feel the way you are feeling right now, but it’s what you do with those feelings that counts.

SUSAN: How do we start, Don, to find our way back to either where we once were – where many people think they’d like to get back to – or maybe to an even better place?

DON: okay so let’s start there. You’ve been hearing for a long time now (at least a year plus) that we’re all in the same boat, but nothing can be further from the truth. Everyone is different. Everyone’s situation is different. We are all NOT in the same boat. We’re in the same storm. Some people have big yachts, others have canoes, some are simply floating in a raft or life jacket just trying to keep their head above water. We’re not ALL in the same boat physically, emotionally or spiritually – so one size does not fit all. Also let’s be frank here, there will never be a return to quote/unquote normal. Some things will go back to a recognizable baseline, but this pandemic has been a real game changer. The liberating thing about that – don’t want to make it sound like all doom and gloom – the liberating thing about that is, is that we get to create a new baseline, a new normal if you will. For some, that sounds freeing. It just becomes a question of how do I make that happen. But for others, for most of us, it sounds like change, and you know as well as I do that we as humans do not do change very well. We talk a good game, but the unknown can make us anxious, unsettled or afraid. So the two keys will be acknowledging and being mindful of our mental health strengths and those limitations, but most importantly, taking steps to create a new and healthy baseline.

SUSAN: For the person out there who might me listening right now who maybe isn’t sure if they want to talk to somebody yet but is looking for some practical things that they can do on their own just to start – where do they start?

DON: Sometimes the simplest acts can have the biggest impact. The fields of psychiatry and psychology have made things monumentally more complex than they need to be. So let’s start with some basics – deep breathing and grounding techniques – they’re straight forward and they take only a few minutes to do. In fact Susan, if anyone would like to email me at etalktherapy@gmail.com I’ll gladly send them the basic instructions, free of charge, on how to implement deep breathing and grounding techniques into their daily routine. These two things are extraordinarily important when it comes to how we deal with stress and anxiety and depression. Making that mind body connection is so important right now – we’re all trying to heal from this pandemic and deep breathing and grounding techniques are two keys to help with that healing process.

SUSAN: Now, beyond those steps that people can do on their own or start on their own, what can you offer if someone is looking for more direction and more help?

DON: Sure, at eTalkTherapy, we offer 15 to 20 minute free phone consultations with any one of our therapists, me included. Our highly trained and experienced therapists are available to answer questions regarding the therapy process, how to get started, and therapy options. You can go to eTalkTherapy.com for details, fill out the free consultation form, it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient and since 2017 we’ve been providing Pennsylvania with affordable and private live online therapy or phone therapy. Look going to a therapy session doesn’t mean having to leave your house these days. The pandemic saw to that, but finding an experienced therapist who is a good fit for your needs – sometimes that’s a completely different story. At eTalkTherapy we want to create a meaningful relationship with you along with addressing your symptoms and issues. We want to help every client we work with create a life worth living – more important now than ever.

**Closing music**

SUSAN: All right! Don Laird, licensed psychotherapist and founder of eTalkTherapy.com, thanks for helping guide us through these challenging times.

DON: Thank you Susan. It’s been a pleasure and until we talk again, I wish you and everybody listening good health.

**Music picks up**

SUSAN: Thank you so much!

This podcast does not provide medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only. Consult with your doctor on all medical issues regarding your condition and treatments. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment nor does it replace the need for services provided by a medical or psychiatric professional. Always seek the advice of a medical professional, psychiatrist or therapist before making any changes to your treatment.

**Music ends**