“Positive” psychology, when to focus on the good. Take some life lessons from your Thanksgiving table.

When I see patients in practice, even when we appear close to the end of treatment, there is an expectation that they must continue to tell me the negative things that are going on in their life. I make sure to stop them and ask, “Are you telling me that because it is really bothering you and you want to talk about it (when then, of course I do) or are you telling me because you think that may be what I want to hear? Around 90% of the time I hear, “I thought you only wanted to hear the bad.”

We have a tendency in our therapeutic process to focus on what is wrong, so we can make it better. But, what happens to the good that is already there? Does it not matter? Do we not care? Well, of course we do!!!! There is a cognitive distortion called “minimization.” That although something good has happened in our life, we ignore it, dismiss it, or minimize it because we are focused on what is not going well.

This Thanksgiving when you go around the kitchen table and give thanks, think about why you are doing that on one day of the year. I challenge you (and myself, because this is a really hard one to do), to think of 5 positive things that are going on in your life right now. I will lead by example: 1. I have a very supportive, kind, and caring husband. 2. I have two great kids who give me more love than I know what to do with in my life 3. I have the sweetest and smartest labrador rescue dogs who are my ear pieces and support systems more than they know. 4. Every day, as my late and beloved Cousin Susie reminds me, I have the beautiful world to look at and enjoy the breeze. 5. I am grateful I have my parents, who love and support me in every way they know how to.

I am making the pledge to not only give thanks on Thanksgiving, but to find a way to increase the positive in my life and not let “minimization” take over. Every day I will find 5 new things to be grateful for and I hope you take this challenge as well.

If you want to, tag #thanksgivingchallenge to let us know you are participating on social media.


Politics, Kids, and Mental Health

It’s an obvious statement to say that the current status of our political scene is heated, to say the least. In my practice, I see young children (ages 4-6) all the way through age 17 (and adults). I have found it very concerning how recently my kids have expressed worries, anxiety, and sadness not on the candidate of choice, but rather on overhearing dismal phrases of the future adults have reported. One of three basic models of anxiety and depression is based on observational learning (others are classical and operant conditioning, along with basic biology). When kids watch adults express their opinion or react a certain way, there can be a very high tendency to model/copy those phrases and behaviors. Think about the Bobo doll example (i.e., a child watches an adult hit a Bobo doll, a child enters the room alone, the child then hits the Bobo doll). If your child is hearing you, other adults, or teachers around them speak about the status of their future, your worries can become theirs, your sadness can become theirs. This process can happen quite automatically, without awareness or mal intent. At some point, kids integrate these worries as their own, and these worries can manifest themselves as clinical anxiety or depression.

As a clinical psychologist it is not my job to remark on the political scene. It is my job, however, to work to actively prevent the occurrence and recurrence of mental illness in children. Regardless of what your political stance is, try and keep in mind that you, as an adult are very influential on a child and they can model their thoughts, opinions, and concerns on yours.