There Be Dragons

I have friends with honest-to-goodness magical powers: they are parents who can read books without falling asleep! I am still working hard on mastering that particular skill; and in an effort to get better with it, I made a goal for myself: to read 20 books in the year 2020. I have friends for whom this would seem a ridiculously easy goal – they would read 20 books in just a few months! But thankfully, because the world is a rich tapestry, we are not all alike and so I can set the goals that work for me.

And I’ve found some good reads this year, ranging from short story collections to non-fiction work, and have particularly been drawn to classical works for children. Books written a hundred years ago – and even earlier – were written so differently for them, and it’s no wonder – kids went through many difficult trials that little ones today are rarely exposed to. It’s not uncommon for children in classic books to deal with heartache, deep loss, and tough physical work before they become teenagers; and even then, from there it’s pretty much a straight shot to adulthood and all that entails.

I wish I had read so many more of these books when I was younger, because I know I would have liked them then. Anne of Green Gables, for example; if I had read it as a kid, I know I would have loved this spunky, bright, lovable little girl; but I read it as an adult, so the first thought I had when I was introduced to her character was: “Well, there’s no way she’s not going right back to the orphanage!”

But one series I picked up this year that I really fell in love with was The Chronicles of Narnia. Have you read them? I’m about halfway through the series, and I’m convinced it’s the perfect series for anyone – kids and adults – especially in a year that is so fraught with difficulty. It’s escapism at its finest: recognizing difficulty and trouble, but not succumbing to it.  There’s pain, and many battles; but there’s also hope and strength. The books were written by C.S. Lewis, but another author, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote:

“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist.  Children already know dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

We know in our lives today that dragons exist, if you don’t see them right outside your door, you can easily find them on your phone or computer. But dragons can be beaten. It was an important lesson then, and it’s an important one to remember now. For a little extra encouragement, maybe pick up a classic children’s book to share that with your kids – or even yourself, if you need to remember it.

Until next time, be well!


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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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Hello Autumn

Hello Autumn

Are you one of the millions of people who love Fall? I am (growing up in South Florida, I didn’t really get the same experience of Fall that others in the North did. I had one sweater we used to wear for that one day a year when the temperature fell to about 67 degrees), and I was commenting to my husband just the other day about what a cultural phenomenon that Fall seems to be these days.

Have you noticed it too? How once late August hits, all of the country was just awash in a wide palette of burnt sienna and orange colors, and the pumpkin-flavored everything started popping up, even though outside it was still in the mid-80s and you had to order your pumpkin latte over ice because the weather hadn’t gotten the memo yet?

There are a lot of things to love about Fall, for sure. I love feeling cozy, and I could live in sweaters all year round. I love that the sun goes down earlier and is slow to come up in the mornings. Bare trees, hearty vegetables, I love it all – but I was so curious about why we as an entire nation decided to embrace fall as our new favorite time of year. It used to be summertime, didn’t it? You thought America, and you thought of apple pie, flags flapping over hot dog picnics, and baseball games. You thought of the beach, and fishing, and running through the grass. Curiously, we’ve shifted over to the next season, and I think it’s for a real reason, something we’ve been craving for years now: comfort.

We need comfort, and we fall in love with Fall because it means more than just cooler temps. It means school days, so we’re back to a routine. It means we seek warmth, and the community of family and friends over a harvest table. It means togetherness in a way the warmer months just didn’t provide. It also could mean hope: falling leaves means more will eventually grow back. Decaying grasses make way for new growth after Winter’s end. In the Fall, change is here and more change is coming, just as it does every year and has since the beginning of time.

It’s tricky, thinking of change because I struggle the most with the things I cannot change. There are so many things I wish were different, and people who I wish would act differently, and there’s nothing that I can do or say that will make them change their directions; yet, I try anyway. And what happens? All of the energy and time that I spend doing those futile things are wasted – time I could have spent changing the things in my life that I can change.

When those things don’t get done, what ends up happening is that nothing seems like it works out: the things I can’t change haven’t changed; and the things I haven’t changed haven’t changed, and so I’m left at the beginning again, completely discouraged and even on the verge of despair, sometimes. So what should I do next? I know it seems so simple on paper, and you’re right: work on the things I can change.

We all have those things in our lives that we can change. I know sometimes it’s easy to mix up the things we can and the things we can’t. I think all the things in our lives can use some thought and some inspection. So a good exercise might be to list all of the things in your life that are holding you back. Look at your list – really look at it – and see what you can really change and what you can’t. If you can’t, you can’t. But if you can, even if you start slowly, even if you do the tiniest action – do it. And more change will come.

I know it may seem impossible, but hey it gets down to 67 degrees in South Florida at least one day a year. Here’s hoping your fall is as wonderful as you are, which is to say, really, really wonderful.

Until next time, be well!


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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman sewing cloth cotton face mask to protect against the corona virus at home. Homemade handicraft protective mask against covid 19 virus. Reusable face mask.

Making Masks

It’s looking like my kids will be starting school in person this year, and while I am 1) nervous about it and 2) even more nervous about it, I’m trying to be proactive and turn my anxiety into actual work. I’m tempted to just go out and buy a bunch of masks (and let’s be honest, I most likely will), but before the school year begins, I’ve set the goal for myself of making at least five masks per child.

As much as I hate the idea of having to keep track of where their masks are every day: Did they leave it on the bus? Did they leave it at school? In their locker? In the gym? Where???  I hate the idea of having to wash them and dry them each day even more.

But making masks from scratch actually necessitates making a mask from scratch. It means cutting and sewing and measuring and, for me, a lot of failure. But I have time! And the desire to not have to do laundry is pretty overpowering, everyone.

Here’s how the first try went:

  • Okay. Got the fabric. Cute! The kids will like this print. I’ll take a yard of each, please.
  • …A yard is way too much fabric. Oh well.
  • All right. Just gotta cut it. That’s not very even, is it? Well, I’ll just cut some more here, and maybe make this end even…oh wait, now it’s an inch shorter than what I need. Re-cut!
  • I have to cut TWO pieces??
  • Okay, got my pieces. That only took 45 minutes.
  • Sew the short ends together. Oh wait, I have to thread the machine? How do I do that?
  • Okay, short ends done. Now the long ends. Done.
  • Print sides facing each other? Where’s the seam ripper?
  • Short sides together…
  • Oh, it’s only been 90 minutes.
  • I need a break.

Two Days Later…

  • I think pleats scared me even before I ever thought about making a mask.

I have, since I began this lofty goal several days ago, completed one fully functional mask. Only nine more to go, and I have six weeks until school starts. I’ll totally get it done!

But seriously, folks: all of this is to say that no matter what you try to accomplish, especially in a time where things you need might not be readily available, or if you just want to stop halfway and scream into the void about how unfair all of this is, it can get done. You can do hard things! Like making masks! Because, really…if I can do it, you can definitely do it.

Until next time, be well!


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 and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.


Part 6: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 6 of 6 – The ‘You’ Factor in Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on developing quality relationships. Article 6 of 6 focuses on you, your identity, and your role in developing quality relationships.

How well do you know yourself?

Knowing yourself, the deeper meaning of who you are, and how to apply each to building and nurturing the quality of life you desire is a long-term and at times, difficult process. It takes work, vulnerability, comfort with you as a whole, with each of your facets, and strength. Learning about yourself (i.e., what you enjoy, dislike, how you plan, your work ethic, preferences for physical and emotional intimacy, desires, fears, anxieties, coping style, what you grapple with, and how you engage in relationships) is a key factor in the process of honoring who you are as a human.  Each impact you as a human, and how you engage in relationships. In addition, knowing your identity on a fundamental level assists in navigating the smooth, bumpy, and at times, roaring waters of a relationship.

Developing a deep understanding and commitment to who you are (and aren’t) as a person increases life satisfaction.  In addition, having a stable identity increases the probability of partnering with a person that is more compatible with you.  It’s human nature to desire connection with your partner, independence, interdependence, enjoyment of time together, a level of contentment, safety, and to feel fundamentally on the same page. At times, this is difficult to navigate; especially when negotiating through life, family, morals and values, goals, growth, change, and difficult times.

Part of knowing who you are is developing a strong sense of the following:

Consider the significance of each for you as an individual, and how each positively and negatively impact your relationship.

  1. What do you enjoy, what are your daily habits, and how does each impact your quality of life?

Consider how this supports you, your goals, and what this means for you in a relationship.

  1. What are your educational and career goals? How does this impact you in a relationship long-term?

Consider your goals educationally and professionally.  Then consider how this works with a long-term relationship and decisions on family.

  1. How often do you prefer to have physical intimacy in a relationship? What are you open to sexually? What boundaries will you set?

In addition, consider:  Whether or not your partner has similar preferences, and how to navigate differences in healthy ways.

The above takes time, a healthy self-disclosure-trust ratio (at your personal comfort and pace), vulnerability, healthy boundaries, and openness, as well as, respect. Have fun with it, if and when you decide it’s right for you.

  1. What is your comfort with emotional intimacy?

Consider your comfort with sharing the depth of your emotions and receiving your partners, eye contact, verbal affirmations, and how you express, feel, and give love and support. In addition, explore the meaning of giving and receiving of each in your relationship.

  1. What do you desire for yourself and in a relationship? Is this realistic long-term?

Developing realistic expectations for yourself, for your partner, and the relationship as a whole takes work and exploration. In addition, consider your approach to growth and change throughout long-term relationships.

  1. Check in on mental health.

Consider what you grapple with, how this impacts the ways you engage that may support and/or hinder progress as an individual and in relationships.

Consider how each affects communication styles, mental health, and attachments.

When issues are spilling-over and decreasing your quality of life and/or lowering life satisfaction- be kind to yourself and seek out support.

  1. Honoring yourself and your identity.

Explore what supports and strengthens you and your wellness as a whole person.  Then consider how to implement self-support and honor into your relationship with yourself and with your partner.

  1. Create and implement healthy boundaries.

Whether you’re repressing aspects of who you are, if you’re still figuring out your identity, or if you’ve given yourself permission to explore and honor who you are, you’re still you. Honor who you are by creating healthy boundaries and do so with integrity, respect, by being ethical, and doing no harm to others. Be humble, build awareness of your strength, and implement balance.

At times, it’s difficult to know what healthy boundaries are. The support of a therapist will assist you in identifying and implementing healthy boundaries that honor you as a human.  

  1. Do a self inventory.

Check in with how you’re treating yourself.  Are you treating yourself with kindness and self-compassion, engaging in self-care, honoring your identity, and checking in with how you feel?

Give yourself permission to take inventory of your relationship, your feelings, and the significance of each in your life. 

  1. Have fun in the process.

Engaging in fun is healthy for your brain, for you psychologically and physiologically, it lowers stress, and supports a sense of life balance.  You’ll feel refreshed and more ready to take on what’s important to you each day.

Learning and developing who you are (and aren’t) as a human supports you, your life goals, and allows for you to spend time with yourself in more enjoyable and authentic ways. You’ll feel more whole, more confident, more comfortable in your choices, and you’ll enjoy your relationships more.  With that being said, if you’re not there yet, give yourself permission to explore and uncover who you are in healthy ways- it will nurture and strengthen you as a whole human and each of your facets too 🙂

In conclusion, this series of articles was designed to give you insight into communication, respect, appreciation, attachment, relationships, and in giving yourself permission to develop and honor your identity moving forward. Relationships are work, including the one with yourself.  You’re worth the time, energy, and dedication it takes towards a healthier more satisfying life, identity, and in developing quality relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,


MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

Two women friends in an friendly embrace

Part 5: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 5 of 6 – Attachment Style and Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on relationships. Article 5 of 6 focuses on attachment style. Secure attachment, anxious, and avoidant will be explored.  How does your attachment style increase satisfaction and/or increase frustration in your relationships? Your attachment style assists in determining how well you engage in and recover from disagreements, struggles, tolerating frustration, adapting to difficult and unfamiliar situations; including, how you feel during good times, positive times, and the important moments in your life that you desire to be present for.

As a therapist and relationship coach, I work with clients grappling with their attachment style and the contributing discomfort, anxiety, stress, isolation, and relationship issues. Your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style have the probability to motivate behaviors, impact interactions, and increase or decrease issues within your relationship.

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with avoidant attachment have difficulty connecting emotionally.  For example, if you and/or your partner have an avoidant attachment style there is an increased probability of experiencing difficulty in trusting others; many times, this includes romantic partners.  During uncomfortable and difficult communication, you or your partner may cease communication, deflect from the issues being addressed, or retreat completely feeling confused and frustrated.

In a newer dating situation, a person may cease contact without explanation.  At times, a person in a romantic relationship will feel ‘if only, s/he will let her/his guard down.  It took past relationships to build walls and working to allow one’s guard down is complex and extremely difficult for a person with an avoidant attachment.  At times, the individual is unaware that s/he isn’t connecting; many times, s/he feels the same void you’re feeling, yet, has extreme discomfort in engaging in any level of vulnerability, openness, or trust.  Other times, the person doesn’t connect emotionally and whether on the surface or on a deeper level doesn’t seem to have the desire to connect.

It’s important for a person with avoidant attachment to ask whether s/he feels an issue is present. Then ask if the desire to connect, trust, and to learn to feel safe in sharing exists. Through therapy, you and/or your partner will have the opportunity to develop awareness to the issues that supported the development of an avoidant attachment, how to cope with and lower frequency of runaway cognitions that may not be beneficial in present relationships, and learn new ways to engage towards developing a more secure and mutually connected relationship.

Anxious Attachment

Individuals with an anxious attachment feel more fear and anxiety in relationships.  For example, if there is a disagreement or difficult communication, an individual with an anxious attachment style may continue to discuss the issues, and attempt to increase verbal engagement and communication.  It may feel that you and/or your partner continue the conversation after everything feels discussed- many times over, s/he may still desire to talk further. At times, you or your partner’s motivation is an unconscious attempt to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of safety by engaging.  S/he is attempting to connect. However, this leads to increases in feelings of anxiety and fear, runaway cognitions, ruminations, and decreases feelings of safety for the individual with an anxious attachment, and adds much confusion and frustration for each partner.

At times, an individual with an anxious attachment and an individual with an avoidant attachment will partner in a relationship. There’s potential for increases in frustration, conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding for partners that are an anxious/avoidant combination; this is more so when communication isn’t strong, communication patterns mismatch, and/or are difficult for one or each partner to understand. However, you are able to learn ways to increase communication skills, lower pressure, minimize demands, and lower the potential for emotional lability. In this environment, communication, understanding, and empathy for each partner is vital.  Couples therapy gives opportunity to begin to build awareness to internal feelings and motivations, how you give and receive love, and ways to increase emotional stability and safety.

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment feel more security, confidence, actively engaged, and experience stronger feelings of trust in relationships. You and your partner are able to work through difficult and stressful issues with a level of reciprocal communication and responsiveness.  You’ll feel comfort in being authentic and genuine, and in feeling a level of acceptance towards and from your partner.  You and your partner have an increased probability in giving and receiving mutually, support is more easily embraced, and issues with communication are negotiated more successfully. Secure attachment carries into relationships with family and friends, and allows for a minimal preoccupation with being abandoned or with having the desire to create distance.  You’ll have an increased opportunity to develop a mature and long-term relationship with intimacy and the benefits of developing a healthier and more satisfying relationship.  It’s beneficial to allow flexibility, respect, support, and healthy boundaries.  Inevitably, there will continue to be stressors, tolerating frustration, and areas to work towards embracing, accepting, and working on as partners; this is part of being human.  However, working with a therapist to process your issues and develop a secure attachment benefits your romantic relationships and increases the quality of each area of your daily life.

Relationships consist of a combination of attachment styles and behaviors; each combination has the probability to buffer from or exasperate relationship issues and complexity. At times, you may experience more than one attachment style depending on the person you’re with, the type of relationship, length, and seriousness; however, most times, you’ll engage in a dominant style. Environments, genetic predisposition, past relationships, life experiences, and how you feel about yourself support your attachment style.

Temperament and personality impact attachment, communication, perceptions, and how you engage during difficult and positive aspects of life. Developing an understanding and awareness of you as a person and reflecting on where your partner is coming from allows for smoother navigation throughout the relationship.  Additionally, the presence of a fundamental connection and desire from each partner to learn and grow as a couple increases success and long-term satisfaction.  It’s important to be aware if you’re feeling that you’re having a relationship for two or if you’re expectation is for your partner to take on most of the relationship’s work and engagement. With that being said, take time to explore and build awareness to how each person gives in similar and different ways; it’s beneficial to make room for each.

In conclusion, developing awareness and comfort with your issues internally and in relationships is beneficial in working towards developing a secure attachment and increasing the quality of your relationships. Working with a therapist in a strong and supportive therapeutic relationship will assist in setting goals and giving yourself permission to develop a secure and healthy attachment, to develop trust, and heal from past relationship issues. You’ll have the opportunity to develop awareness as to what secure attachment is and is not, setting realistic expectations, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in your relationship, setting healthy boundaries, and enjoying a relationship where you feel intimacy, connection, and security in a quality relationship.

COMING SOON: article 6 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,


MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

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My Anxiety: A Play In One Act

by Christy Gualtieri

Everyone processes their anxieties differently, and not everyone worries about the same things. Some people worry about catastrophic events; some people worry about weather patterns; some worry about economic situations. If you’re like me, you’ll worry about everything. Equal-opportunity worrier.

Not only that, if things are going relatively well in your life, you’ll go out in search for things to worry about. Why in the world would anyone want to do this, you might ask? Well, for me, it’s partly because 1) I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s become a daily habit; and 2) because in a twisted, really weird way, my mind thinks it works.

For example: if I have an important appointment coming up, and I worry about it to the point of not being able to take care of myself, and the appointment turns out okay, then my worrying made it better. Or, if I worry about it and it turns out I had something to worry about in the first place, then I was “right” to worry. It’s messed up, I know. But I’ve spent more than a decade now working to unravel the worrying process and getting to a point where I can better control the anxiety.

Want to know what it’s like for me? Picture this:

[Setting: CHRISTY’s home.  It’s a beautiful day, things are going well.]


What a wonderful afternoon! The kids are playing by themselves, all the chores are done around the house, I’m all caught up with work…things are feeling pretty good right now! Maybe I’ll —

[There’s a KNOCK at the door.  CHRISTY opens it. ANXIETY is standing there.]


Hey girl, heyyy.


Oh, um, hey.

[ANXIETY walks right in, holding a calendar in one hand and a clock in the other.]


Wow, look at you! All accomplished. Dishes are done and everything! Nice. Listen, there’s 47 hours until your daughter’s dentist appointment! It’s her first one, right? You know she likes juice more than your son does. And sugar, too. What’s her favorite breakfast again?



[Looking past ANXIETY out the door, hoping to get her out]



Right! With syrup and whipped cream. Anyway, are you ready?

[She closes the door behind her and walks further into the house.]


Well, I mean, we brush her teeth twice a day, and they look okay. It’s not like –



No, I mean, like are you packed?




Yes.  Did you pack her stuff? Because she’s probably going to be taken away from you.




You can’t have a child with a mouth full of rotting teeth and, like, expect to keep her.


That is crazy! You –


Anyway, so you have the dentist. What else is up this week? Anyone leaving the house in a car?



My son rides the bus to school.


Oh right! Yeah, he’ll probably get run over getting to it.


Well, now, wait a minute —


Do you not watch the news? It happens every day. EVERY DAY.

[There’s another knock on the door.]

I’ll get it.

[ANXIETY opens the door to reveal a smooth-looking man and beautiful woman.]  Oh hey, it’s INSECURITY and PANIC! What’s up!!


Whaaaaaat’s up! Hope you’re ready to party! I bought some sweet drinks.  This one’s called…

[Checks label]

“Crying In The Shower,” and I got a six-pack of “Constantly Nauseous!”

[He walks over to the table and pours himself a huge glass.]


My Instagram is, like, blowing up. You have to check this out – so many beautiful posts from people who actually have their lives together!


So the opposite of Christy, then?

[PANIC spit-takes his drink.]


It’s awesome! You could seriously scroll all day and actually feel yourself turning into something less than a human being.


How long has Christy been on it today?


Ooh, let me check! Um…forty-seven minutes.


In just one day?!



I think you guys better leave.

[Everyone clearly ignores CHRISTY.]


Look. Here’s a woman who has five kids – five! – and homeschools and has a beautiful house and makes her own kimchi and is probably a model. How many kids do you have, Christy?






I have a house, though! I mean, it’s not clean, but —


Don’t be stupid. No one has a clean house in real life, Christy. At least get some decent filters for your camera so it can LOOK like you do.



Do you seriously not have filters?


I don’t take pictures of my house!


Oh, that’s right. Good luck finding a job doing anything online. No one’s going to relate to you as a blogger if you don’t show pictures of your house. Or your family.


Or your dog.


We don’t have any pets.


Why do you hate animals so much?


You are seriously the worst person ever.




Yo, listen, I have a great idea. Let’s hang out here for a few days. My schedule’s open, how about you guys? It’s the winter, it’s snowing out, there’s not much going on, what do you say?


I’m not feeling so well, guys. I think I’m going to take a shower.


No worries, we’ll be here when you get out.


[Calling after CHRISTY]

Don’t forget to cry!


My mind could definitely benefit from someone putting a stop to pretty much all of this. My ideal scenario? Kind of looks like this:

[Setting: CHRISTY’s home. She’s in the family room, about to sit on the couch, and on a chair nearby a huge, incredibly bulky man wearing a tight-fitting shirt that says CALM on it sits, silently knitting.]


Man, it’s been a rough day today. The kids were out of control and work was crazy, but I finally have some time to myself to actually calm down and relax for a minute.

[KNOCK at the door.]

Oh, hey, could you get that?

[CALM gets up, walks to the door, and sees ANXIETY, INSECURITY, and PANIC standing outside, craning their necks to try to peek in.]


Oh, hi, is Christy home?


Yeah, we haven’t seen her in a while, just wanted to stop by and —

[CALM looks at them, completely stone-faced. He looks them over, lifts up his hand, and slams the door in their faces. He returns to the chair, picks up his knitting and resumes his work as though nothing had happened.]



I’m not there yet, but my hope is that I’ll get there one day. And I know it seems silly, but the next time you are overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, try writing out your concerns – they might take on a different light once they’re out of your head!

Until next time, be well!


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Part 4: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 4 of 6 – Ways to Increase Healthy Communication as Part of Developing and Reinforcing Long-Term Relationships.

Consider the following to further increase healthy communication:

  1. Consider the messages you were given throughout life and how each assists and/or hinders in communication. Then reflect on the deeper impact of your quality of life and your relationships. Positive messages support a healthy balance in building quality relationships.  Internal relationship issues that have not been worked through and processed have the propensity to lower quality of life and increase difficulty in developing the relationships and the connections individuals desire.  At times, mental health issues, (i.e., social anxiety, anxiety, depression, and/or trauma) will bring ongoing difficulties to communication and therein, quality of life.  Each of the mentioned factors are important to consider when working to uncover internal difficulties with communication. Many times, seeking out the support of a therapist will assist in overcoming difficulties, minimizing symptoms, and increasing coping capacities towards stronger communications patterns.


  1. Consider how others perceive your communication. Through each interaction verbally, using body language, and facial expressions, you are sending and receiving messages. Having a level of awareness of yourself and others is essential to developing healthy communication skills. This minimizes disconnect and increases healthy and productive dialogue. At times, partners in romantic relationships will invest the time into couples therapy to improve communication even if no issues exist. This is a proactive and preventative approach.  Considering the vast time spent together, this increases quality of life long-term.


  1. Proactive Listening- how well do you genuinely listen to others? Listening with the intention of hearing first and then articulating your point is essential. Additionally, developing the capacity to listen whether a person is excited, grappling with an issue, or discussing what happened throughout the day is a mindful process. For some, it’s difficult to quiet the mind. There may be underlying mental health issues, anxiety, ruminations, and/or a combination of issues with temperament and personality that would benefit from therapeutic intervention. Many times, once an individual seeks out therapy to develop the behaviors to adapt in an array of environments, symptoms become more manageable, which assists with decreasing layered complex issues in the future that are difficult to address.


  1. Humor is essential to life, without it, life lacks fun and is void of a beneficial and unique layer of human complexity. Engaging in humorous manners increases comfort and enjoyment.  Yes, there are vast differences in the types of humor individuals enjoy.  However, humor as a whole is beneficial in an array of situations and environments. For some, it takes time before you’ll have the benefit of seeing one’s humorous side. I use humor in my personal life, with clients, and in the classroom. I enjoy the development of building a genuine rapport with individuals, and developing a cohesive group environment in the classroom.  This assists with the learning process and allows individuals to show facets of who they are as humans and academically, which includes encompassing a level of humor in the process.  It takes comfort, mutual respect, and understanding communication styles to engage in humor. There’s a level of genuineness in humor that is difficult to find in other areas of life.  Coupled with the factors mentioned throughout, humor is a way to reinforce healthy communication and essentially build a deeper connection.


  1. Trust and safety are vital and once broken, difficult to repair and rebuild. It’s import for each person to be able to trust one another within each area of the relationship, including individual strengths and weaknesses.  For example, supporting the other through difficult times and vulnerability builds trust and safety. Additionally, feeling a sense of appreciation and pleasure for others during the achievement of goals and when positive aspects of life occur are healthy to the longevity of relationships.  At times, clients grapple with how to engage in communicative behaviors that support giving and/or receiving trust and safety.  There have been times where clients struggle with past relationships where there was a void of positive and supportive communication, manipulation was present, emotional neglect and/or harsh and abusive communication was experienced. Each are a source of pain and evoke self-protective behaviors.  Self-protective behaviors are a way for individuals to cope through pain and trauma.  Through therapy, individuals have the opportunities to begin to heal, learn how to set healthy boundaries, and develop trust in the self and overtime, other individuals- to work towards deeper, more meaningful, and fulfilling relationships.

In addition, it’s beneficial to have relationships where you’re able to share you as a whole human with many facets to unfold and share.  Self-disclosure and sharing personal information is difficult for many, it’s also an important factor in investing in relationships. Each person has a story to tell, and over time, sharing more facets of each person’s story with the other is meaningful to developing intimacy through the elements of self-disclosure, building a strong source of support, and investing in meaningful relationship where trust and safety are present.

Lastly, trust and safety assist in developing the capacities to compromise in healthier ways and with less verbal conflict, increase mutual problem solving, engage in healthy reflective behaviors, and increase intimacy through open communication.

In conclusion, article 3 of 6 and article 4 of 6 in the series encompass the importance of healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Communication is complex, individual to each interaction, at times, difficult, and in the long-term, immensely beneficial. Each area discussed are important aspects of healthy communication. In any relationship, communication is vital to the quality and longevity of a relationship. COMING SOON: article 5 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online.

Part 3: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 3 of 6 – How to Increase Healthy Communication

Have you ever experienced someone in life that you connect with and enjoy talking with immensely- on all levels of communication? There are feelings of mutual understanding, it feels natural, safe, supportive, and you find that you’re able to share more and more facets of your being with another human.  It’s a wonderful experience- one of value. Someone that knows the deeper meaning to your life events and experiences, that’s there for you, that you’re there for, makes you laugh, and you’re able to give to genuinely.

The Desire to Connect

Communication stimulates and engages on a cognitive level. It’s important to consider that the desire to connect as a human is natural. Consider how many people you meet within a week, a month, and a year.  How often do you connect in a deep and meaningful level? Many times, clients indicate the level of difficulty in communicating with others and developing deep and meaningful relationships.  An individual’s innate desire to connect taps into one’s internal strength reserves to  work through fears and evoke increases in vulnerability with the goals of moving forward towards healthier communication; which brings the associated benefits of developing satisfying long-term relationships.

Appreciation and Value

In addition, it’s vital to appreciate the individuals you’ve developed strong communication with. Ask the difficult question- do you appreciate and value the relationship(s) you currently have? To assist with your decision, reflect on how each individual relationship has shifted and developed over time.  Consider what expectations you have of the relationship and whether you’re able to give back in similar manners.

Additionally, ask- are you feeling consistently frustrated? This is a difficult environment to engage in. Consider whether or not you are stuck in a cycle of unrealistic expectations. If so, honest reflection in regards to how realistic it is for the relationship to change over time and/or whether or not the relationship will be a beneficial experience long-term is vital.  At times, there is internal work an individual will benefit from in a therapeutic relationship to assist with developing realistic expectations and building awareness of the complexity and differences.

When Life Becomes Significantly Difficult- and it will

Life, at times, becomes stressful, difficult, and perplexing. Healthy communication doesn’t necessarily mean that there is void of conflict or disagreement; especially during stress, grieving, and difficult times.  Consider how individuals engage during the good times and during more difficult times.  This is where having developed a sense of value and appreciation for having strong communicative relationships is beneficial.  During difficult times, many relationships suffer and eventually break down or cease completely.  Most times, with pain, confusion, and many unanswered questions. The more time that passes without directly addressing the issues that break down the relationship, the more difficult it is to return to a sense of balance and satisfaction.  However, there are ways to minimize the damage and pain. With healthy communication, individuals will have a higher probability of increasing the strength and connection through difficult times, which develops a stronger connection, reinforces trust, and commitment.

Strong Connections

At times, a person engages in a relationship built over years with a strong connection. The relationship has deeper meaning, higher investment, and is much more difficult to cease. Moreover, if the relationship is a healthy one, it’s critical to understand the gift of this type of connection throughout life. Consider romantic relationships, family members, friends, professional connections, and/or connections on social media.  It’s important to reflect on how comprehensive and significant this list is. Ask yourself- how many individuals do you feel intimately connected with? Even with the numerous individuals you engage with, there is only a segment that encompasses what individuals innately desire- mutually healthy, strong, consistent, intimate, and beneficial relationships where growth, change, vulnerability, love, and communication are supported and desirable for each person.

Note: Article: 3 of 6 discussed the benefits of increasing healthy communication. Article: 4 of 6 will discuss ways to increase healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Furthermore, Article 4 of 6 focuses on the messages you received in life, how others perceive your communication, proactive listening, humor, trust and safety, compromise, and the risks of being open. The two articles in the series partner with one another to encompass a wider range of elements regarding communication.

In conclusion, communication is vital to each individual experiencing the relationship and to the relationship as a whole. Communication is complex, it involves investment and work to develop a level of vulnerability through tapping into strengths and reducing fears.  Developing quality relationships with healthy communication patterns is vital to mental health, connection, enjoyment, and well-being. Communication increases the capacity for relationships to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, positive interactions, and veering well during difficult times. COMING SOON: Article 4 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

Part 2: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 2 of 6 –  How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.  

This is the second in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships.  Developing quality relationships is complex, layered, and many times, grappled with throughout life.  Respect and Appreciation are the focus of today’s article.

Respect is an important factor in each relationship throughout life. First, consider the importance of respect for yourself.  A strong presence of respect centered internally assists with understanding and valuing yourself and others; and dually, with developing quality relationships.  At times, an individual may grapple with respecting one’s self; if this occurs, it’s important to invest time and the work associated with learning ways to develop a high level of respect for one’s self. In addition, this process assists with developing capacities to give respect in each relationship and in a variety of environments.

At times, it is important to consider the differences and many similarities in regards to how each individual gives and receives affirmations of respect and appreciation.  For example, showing appreciation for a partner fixing the vehicle and/or making dinner on a busy evening is an important aspect of daily life.  Therefore, giving your loved one positive verbal affirmations assists in showing respect and appreciation; for others, physical engagement, a hug for example, or an act of encouragement supports this intention.  In each relationship, it’s important to take inventory of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, behaviors, and words; and to ask yourself where the motivation for your words and behaviors are coming from.

Consider the following:

  1. Seek out relationships with a give-give ratio: Having respect for one’s self assists in setting healthy boundaries and seeking out healthy and enjoyable relationships. Consider if you feel supported by and support the other individual. The deeper meaning here is that each person supports the other’s gifts and differences- each person has a different set of gifts in life. Respect and appreciation assist in supporting, nurturing, and balancing values, goals, and the complexities of change throughout; even positive change has the propensity to be difficult without each.
  2. The flexibility to grow as a human-being, with mutual trust, support, respect, and appreciation throughout life’s natural changes: Change is inevitable and extremely difficult for some. For many, this brings an uncomfortable awareness and vulnerability. During times when a person has difficulty with feelings of vulnerability and/or experiencing fear and the unknown, engaging in disrespectful behaviors erode the relationship.  At times, the trust and safety factors an individual desires to feel are diminished over time; which destroys the relationship. Many times, each person is left confused as to what happened. Engaging in a consistent respectful dialogue and behaviors, while showing appreciation during change and stressful times, increases feelings of trust, safety, and love, while strengthening the relationship long-term.
  3. Disappointment, Fear, & Frustration: In a relationship it’s important to refrain from engaging in critical, blameful, and harming behaviors where the probability of pain and isolation is evident. The mentioned behaviors destroy individuals and the relationship as a whole. Each person may experience loneliness, and engage in the relationship while tolerating stress and frustration. There are times however, where difficult transitions may assist in grappling with deeper issues, which has potential to increase awareness, life satisfaction, and create new opportunities moving forward.
  4. Implement a balance of strength: At times, it’s vital to express feelings and emotions even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult. In other situations, a level of graciousness and acceptance is inherently beneficial to the self, the person being engaging with, and to the relationship as a whole. With this, it’s important to ask the difficult question of what is driving the decision to share or avoid sharing. The motivation in itself has the potential to change the outcome of whether to share and in what manners.
  5. Respect and appreciation ‘look’ different for each individual and has shifts throughout the lifespan. Reflect on each relationship; if you’re in a relationship where respect and appreciation are lacking, it’s important to address the issues and move forward from there. Many times, this involves adjustments in how a person approaches her/himself, how each individual approaches the other person, and by learning healthier ways to communicate. Therapy is beneficial to assist with working through current and/or old and outdated behaviors that are void of benefit and hindering to growth and the development towards giving and receiving respect and appreciation.

In conclusion, developing respect and appreciation are part of a complex process of behaviors that work towards increasing the quality of intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, mutual understanding, support (including during difficult times), and enjoyment.  When coupled with communication, a relationship has the capacity to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, and positive interactions. COMING SOON: article 3 of 6 in the series: How to Increase Healthy Communication

Learn, grow, & enjoy,

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

A Series of Articles: 1 of 6 – The Reality of Being Human

This is the first in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships and the associated, at times, painstaking issues to consider along the way. An individual has choices as to who s/he has a relationship with, to what degree, and in what manners to engage. This includes the degree to which an individual engages with family, friends, romantic partners, and within the community.

It’s important to consider that those an individual chooses to have a relationship with will engage in different roles at different times. First, it is important to consider meeting a level of your own needs. At times, individuals have difficulty developing the skills it takes to nurture one’s self. A combination of a quality relationship with one’s self and different types of mutual relationships to assist one whole human (you) and give the opportunities to work towards relationships where two or more humans help enhance, nurture, strengthen, and balance each other in healthy ways. In today’s society, life has the propensity to become busy. A great way to stay connected is by taking time to call, text, check in on one another, and/or set up a lunch date; each are important factors in maintaining a relationship. Relationships take work, which increases commitment, investment, and value.  Relationships benefit from being nurtured and having the opportunities for growth, change (this is an important facet), mutual support, laughter, increase listening skills and being heard, and the numerous psychological and physiological benefits associated with each.

At times, humans appear to sacrifice the opportunities to have higher quality relationships- one’s that are mutual, positive, nurturing, fun, supportive, and giving from each person in the relationship. Many times, this brings a person into therapy seeking out support, healing, and learning ways to build strong, positive, and supportive relationships.

Consider the following and how each applies to your current relationships:

  1. Who do you have relationships with & who do you avoid relationships with? What are your motivations for each?
  2. Do you take the opportunities to build relationships with family, friends, and within community?
  3. Does fear and/or anxiety contribute to limiting the opportunities to create mutually caring relationships; if so, in what ways?
  4. What type of relationship(s) do you desire in your life? How will each enhance your growth as a person?

The Realities of Being Human

At times, a person experiences neglect and/or trauma throughout childhood and/or in an adult relationship (this includes romantic partners), and the immense amount of pain associated with interpersonal relationships containing the above mentioned behaviors. Many times, clients feel a level of obligation to have a relationship with a person even after what happened throughout the relationship or is currently a part of an individual’s daily environment; which obstructs growth, development, and contributes to physiological and psychological issues over time. Seeking out therapy assists an individual in processing what happened and is happening internally, contributes to healing the immense pain, and moving forward from, many times, decades of harm.

An individual will then have the opportunity to choose to continue the relationship as it is and find ways to cope with the trauma, stress, and/or anxiety, to minimize interactions while benefiting from a shift to lighter subjects that are void of a deeper connection (which many times exist only from one person), or to cease the relationship entirely.  Each are associated with a psychological process and a high level of pain that benefits from long-term therapy. Many clients experience the memories and contend with the pain and/or rumination of a harmful relationship; many times, as if it was happening currently.  For many, even thoughts of healthier relationships evoke fear, anxiety, and cognitive dissonance. During the therapeutic process, internal healing begins and assists clients with allowing one’s self to move towards a healthier set of relationships in the future.

Consider the following:

  1. Do you give yourself permission to love, miss, or have a level of affection for a person knowing the relationship is best kept as part of a past learning experience- even if it was a difficult one or would benefit from change moving forward?

    Many times, this is where realistic expectations and healing begin.  The thoughts and feelings associated with any significant relationship take time to decrease in intensity, whether a family member, close friend, or romantic partner.

  1. Are there behavioral health or mental health issues that make it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship for either individual or for each person involved?

    It’s important to seek individual therapy, couples therapy, and/or family therapy to learn how work together in positive manners and communicate well- including difficult times.

Most individuals, engaging in relationships consider the differences of being human, while working towards developing relationships that encompass respect, appreciation, a level of graciousness, communication, support, acceptance and adaptation during change, and growth. Each will be discussed throughout the 6 part series. COMING SOON: article 2 of 6 in the series: How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,