Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How To Ask For Help

Asking for help can be easy for some, and painfully tough for others. There are many myths that tend to keep others from asking support or assistance. Here are a few:

Myth: Asking for help makes us look vulnerable.
Truth: Asking for help actually creates an atmosphere of empowerment. It communicates to others that, while you may not have the answers, you are willing to find them and make things better.

Myth: Holding things in and keeping personal issues under wraps keeps us feeling secure.
Truth: In reality, not allowing yourself to be "known" actually keeps you socially isolated, and therefore, insecure. When you seek the counsel of others, you'll not only connect with them, but you'll also realize that you're not alone in your struggle.

Myth: Asking help bothers others.
Truth: We are hardwired for caregiving - and most people find it meaningful to help when asked if it's within the margins of their abilities to do so.

Myth: Highly successful people never ask for help.
Truth: Actually, successful individuals will tell you that the key to success is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Learning how to delegate, asking for help and letting others show you the way are part of the plan. Successful people are driven and motivated -- and when the going gets tough, the tough ask for help!

When it comes to asking for help, remember to: 

Have realistic expectations for the kind of help you are seeking

Express your needs simply and clearly

Let others know you are there to help them as well

Praise your pals for their assistance and pat yourself for asking for help

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Power of Positive Direction

Remember this scene from Star Wars ?

Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.

Obi-Wan: (influencing the stormtrooper's mind) You don't need to see his identification.

Stormtrooper: We don't need to see his identification.

Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.

Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.

Stormtrooper: You can go about your business.

Obi-Wan: Move along.

Stormtrooper: Move along. Move along.

This snippet of dialogue showing how "The Force" works is similar to the technique known as Positive Direction.

Positive Direction is a style of communication that works toward making positive behaviors happen. Don't and Stop are negative words that often fail to register as we think. Instead, it's human nature to register the words that come after the Dont's and the Stop's.

When you use Positive Direction, you give a child or an adult a positive image to attain. And there's likely to be more cooperation, less rebellion. And, well,  everyone feels good. A win-win all around.


Instead of: Don't throw your coat on the floor!

Try: Hang you coat up.

Instead of: Stop interrupting me when I'm on the phone.

Try: Wait and I'll talk to you later.

Instead of: Don't be so loud!

Try: Talk in a quiet voice.

Instead of: No, you can't go out with your friends, you have homework to do!

Try: Yes, you can see your friends when you finish your homework.

Positive Direction takes some practice, but it could be worth the time and energy.

Now, move along....

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

12 Films That Feature Mental Illness

In celebration of the 2014 Oscars is my list of movies that feature mental illness. Many of these movies have won Oscars, while others should have, but didn't. As we roll out the red carpet and honor this year's best films, keep in mind that there's no shame in having a mental illness.
1. Ordinary People (Depression, PTSD, Suicide)
This is my absolute favorite movie of all time because it portrays the human experience of loss so well and it also features psychotherapy in a realistic way.  This was Robert Redford's directorial debut, which also starred. Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton, who wow in their performances.

2. A Beautiful Mind (Schizophrenia)
The true story of Nobel Prize Winner John Nash is told in this award winning film. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly star. Directed by Ron Howard.

3. The Soloist (Schizophrenia)
This is the true story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former Julliard Student, who falls into the depths of schizophrenia. When reporter, Steve Lopez, befriends him, both of their worlds change. The ethical issues of treatment of mental illness are realistically portrayed. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx offer great performances.

4. Canvas (Schizophrenia)
A young boy moves through the his mother's psychotic episode with the help of his father and friends. Joe Pantoliano, Marcia Gay Harden and Devon Gearhart are inspiring to watch.

5. Bird (Substance Abuse/Eating Disorder)
The true story of Charlie "Bird" Parker, Jazz legend, and his struggles with mental illness. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Forest Whitaker. Fantastic soundtrack.

6. Rain Man (Autism)
Dustin Hoffman delivers an award winning performance as a man with Autism and Tom Cruise as the brother who doesn't understand him.

7. Fearless (PTSD)
Jeff Bridges is unforgettable in his performance as a survivor of a plane crash as is Rosie Perez in this emotional tale of trauma, loss and recovery.

8. Lars And The Real Girl (Social Anxiety Disorder)
This film knocked me out with its poignant storytelling of a young man living in a rural Minnesota community. Ryan Gosling and Emily Mortimer star.

9. A Lion In Winter (Personality Disorders)
Various personality disorders as well as maladaptive defense mechanisms often seen in family dysfunction are presented in vivid language and breathtaking performances. Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn and a young Anthony Hopkins dazzle in this award winning film. It's an oldie, but a goodie - and based on the life of King Henry II.

10. The Night Listener (Factitious Disorder)
Robin Williams and Toni Collette tell this true-based story from the experiences of author Armistead Maupin, and his connection to a mysterious young boy.

11. Bug (Shared Psychosis)
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon meet and discover a shared experience. This film begins slowly and soon reveals itself - and as the horror unfolds, it infects you as a viewer as well.

12. Clean, Shaven (Schizophrenia)
I don't think I have ever experienced a film that so vividly takes you into the the life, mind and world of a person who lives with Schizophrenia. Actor, Peter Greene, and writer/director Lodge Kerrigan, create a film that is both meaningful and moving to watch.

Do you have a favorite movie that sheds light on mental illness?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Open Letter to Doctors

Dear Doctor,

I can’t begin to convey the frustration I experience as a patient waiting to see you. If it’s not the overbooking that tests my patience, or the rudeness from your overworked office staff, it’s the brisk ten minutes of time I have with you to discuss my symptoms that ends up being misused because you don’t listen.
Let me write this again. You. Don’t. Listen.

Maybe it’s because you’re pressed for time. The health care system is in crisis, and well, you need to see more patients per hour in your clinical practice to offset your financial costs. Perhaps you're having a bad day - or worse, lost your passion and curiosity as a healer and just reach medical conclusions in a perfunctory manner.  

Whatever the reason, being a patient nowadays sucks. Why? Because the time needed for patients to accurately convey physical complaints and seek the underlying reasons for their illness isn’t there.  For many, the importance of doctors listening from a patient’s perspective is no longer part of the doctor visit.
Research tells us that it takes only 20 seconds before a doctor interrupts a patient and directs the diagnostic consult. This is one of the main reasons why 25% of patients are misdiagnosed.  And in half of these cases, studies show that misdiagnosis results in serious injury or sometimes death.

Misdiagnosed patients overcrowd the health care system by seeking further doctor visits and receiving additional medical tests to evaluate their symptoms. So, there's a higher financial cost from not listening to patients. And there's a socio-emotional cost too, with misdiagnosed patients feeling helpless and hopeless, slowly giving up on the medical system.

So, in the ten minutes that’s allotted for me to see you at the appointment, please give me a solid 5 minutes. Allow me time to convey my physical and emotional experiences to you in a way where I know I’m being heard - and that you process the information from my perspective. 

Your Patient

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Power of "What."

Sometimes the question "Why?" is a good one. 
Like, why can't we live in a more peaceful world? 
Or why did I eat all those cookies? 
Or why don't we call mustaches mouthbrows?

But there are times - especially during a crisis - when "why" may not the best puzzle to solve. 

When you're in an emotional entanglement, a difficult predicament or a physical hardship, asking "what" will do more.

Positive: What has directionality.
Negative: Why keeps you stuck in circular thinking.
Positive: What offers solutions.
Negative: Why offers no game plan.

So, the next time you find yourself in a bad place, use the power of "what."

Ask yourself:

"What can I do to make things better?


"Why is this happening to me?

Once the crisis is over THEN you can search for the "Why."

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

February 10-16 is Random Acts of Kindness Week

Random Acts of Kindness Week is February 10th thru the 16th. The Random Acts of Kindness foundation is an internationally recognized non-profit organization founded on the powerful belief in kindness - and dedicated to providing resources and tools to encourage kindness around the globe. 

Research shows that tiny acts of kindness ripple exponentially across social experiences - essentially sparking a contagiousness of generosity and cooperativeness. Simple stated,  a single kind act influences dozens more. Kindness - especially spontaneous acts of kindness - surge the feel good hormone dopamine in both the giver and the receiver.

Reasons why acts of kindness make people happier:

  • Being kind fosters compassion, which increases happiness.
  • Being kind promotes a sense of connection and community with others.
  • Being kind helps us appreciate and feel grateful for our own good fortune.
  • Being kind allows us to use our strengths and talents in a meaningful way.
  • Being kind improves physical well-being, lowers blood pressure, and eases pain. 

  • So be kind - and pay it forward!


Fowler, H. & Christakis, N. (2010). Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107(10): 5334-5338.

Lyubormirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness. New York: Penguin.