Give Thanks

Did you know that gratitude (a rather energizing emotion) and criticism or complaining (usually accompanied by a bit of grumpiness...) are mutually exclusive thought and emotional processes? It is almost impossible to be truely grateful for something or someone while at the same time feeling critical of or ittitated with that same person or object. So the next time you feel a bit down & you want to do something to improve your mood--just try finding 3 things that you are grateful for--even in the midst of the crrent chaos you may be facing--and see if this change in thinking doesn't improve your mood a bit!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, this is the season when everyone greets me saying "Happy new year!".  Hmmm....I wonder--are there things I can do to ensure that this new year actually is a better year for me?  Things like eating right, getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, getting ahead know--all the stuff of previous years resolutions?

It seem to me that one of the problems with New Years' resolutions is that we tend to set such high goals, we drop out as soon as we fail a few times. So, how do I set reasonable goals?  Well-first, I have to be really motivated. I must choose to do something that I've wanted for a long time to do.  Lets take, for example, "eating right". What does that mean?

Does "eating right" mean that I cut out all processed sugar? Does it mean I become a veggitarian?  Does it mean I start the South Beach Diet?  Whatever I decide I am going to do, it needs to be:
1) specific and 2) mearurable.  So--I need a way to track my own behavior.  A journal of what I am actually doing, not what I want to be doing.  Writing down my actual behavior is one of the best ways to change behavior and to monitor how it changes.

Additionally, it really helps if you can find a "partner in change" A spouse, a parent, a sibling or friend--the more the merrier. Surely you can find someone out there who wants to make a similar change to yours?  Meet with them weekly, or, better yet, phone them every other day or so.  Tell them about your cheating as well as your successes!

Then--you and your buddy are ready to plan the plan together.  What will you both commit to doing and how will you hold one another accountable? phone calls, emails, graphs?  When you know that you are not alone in wanting to change, change is so much easier!  And, as long as your at it, don't just do a new years resolution, once you've learned how easy it is to change--keep setting new goals--an awesome life is the limit!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No Shows

Today I had an intake scheduled--and the person didn't show up. I wish that the person would have called to cancel! Instead, I sat there for the duration of the appointment time, pondering why someone makes an appointment with a professional and doesn't show up, and doesn't bother to cancel.

I understand it on some levels--change is really hard--it is difficult with a capital "D". When I first needed to call a therapist, I was able to use the excuse that it wasn't about me--the graduate school doctoral program at UC Boulder in Colorado requires that all graduate students in the doctoral program be in therapy themselves--for many reasons (all of them good ones, it turns out!). even though "It wasn't my fault' I needed help, it was still VERY difficult to make and keep that first appointment (and several subsequent ones as well.) We psychologists call that 'resistance.' Resistance to change--it is actually a good thing! We prefer to live in an orderly world, with circumstances around us and interaction rules and patterns with others being fairly predictable. We tend to prefer the 'status quo.'

In fact, during this last presidential election I kept hearing everyone talking about 'change' as if change, in and of itself, is always a good thing. That is simply not so. Change can happen for the good, or for the bad. If I open a water spigot and it is lukewarm, I may want a specific change--but I will definitely pay attention to which direction the change happens and how quickly it happens--or I have a 50/50 chance of being scalded! So--when I hear someone talking about change, I want to know details. What change? What are the goals? What are the pros and cons? What is the cost of change? Will I really like the change when it comes?

These are all really good questions to ask about change. And I wish I had had the opportunity today to explore my client's viewpoints on these questions and more today--or that he or she would have at least had the courtesy to call and either cancel or reschedule. However, an interesting thing happens when you just schedule an appointment to begin to 'deal' with some of the changes you may want to make in your life...You feel better the minute you hang up just having made an appointment. Just having taken that first step alleviates some of the unrest you had been feeling before the call. So then, next week, by the time the appointment rolls around, you often feel enough better that you are not so sure you need help anymore! Wow--miraculous intervention! Unfortunately, when you are really 'stuck' at some transition point in your life, the unrest will again surface, because you actually have NOT changed anything. (ouch!).

So, do yourself (and those of us in the helping profession) a favor the next time this happens to you--consider making it to the first appointment--just to clarify for yourself what change you are considering and whether or not this is the best time to be making that change. And if you simply cannot do that, for heaven's sake, please at least call to cancel the appointment!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Clinical Psychology verses Psychiatry: what is the difference, PHD vs. MD?

Aloha (From Hilo, Hawaii) to all who happen by-

This is my first Blog posting. As I ponder what is worth writing down, or worth taking the time to read, I am struck by the idea that I am no more qualified to write than many who will be reading. I never learned to spell well.  My grammer is reasonably poor--my oldest daughter, who is 30 years younger than I, still corrects me! And, unfortunately, as my husband frequently points out, I capitalize letters on a whim! In other words, in order for you to be comfortable reading my blog, you will have to tolerate some evidence of poor reading, writing, and even speaking skills.  None-the-less, you will have the benefit of knowing that I tend to be brutally honest in my assessments, regardless of the audience. So what you read will, in fact, accurately reflect who I am and what I believe on a wide range of topics.

I think this is probably enough information to start with. However, by way of further introduction, I want to address an often asked question before finishing up today's blog. That question comes in a variety of forms, but usually boils down to one of the following: 1) what is the difference between psychology and psychiatry? or 2) What is the difference between a PHD and an MD? or 3) Which one can prescribe medicines? 

The answer(s) to these questions are fairly straightforward.  Both a psychologist (PHD or sometimes PsyD or EDD) and a medical doctor (MD) have had roughly the same number of years in college. We both got a Bachelors degree of some sort (considered a 4 year degree by most), and we both then did another 4-6 years of school beyond the Bachelors degree. In my case (I am a psychologist,) I went to the University of California at SanDiego (In LaJolla, CA) for my bachelors degree [Bachelors of Arts(=BA)] with double majors in comparative physiology and psychology. In the case of my husband, a Neurologist (MD), I believe he did his Bachelors in Science (BS) at NorthWestern University in Illinois.  Then for my psychology Graduate training, I went to a (4-5 year) doctoral program in psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In the neurologist's case, he went to the University of Chicago Medical School for his graduate level training. We both did a 1 year, full time internship in our respective fields (mine in psychology, his in internal medicine) at the end of our Graduate programs (PHD or MD). 

After I received my PHD diploma from the U. of Colorado at Boulder, I then completed over 2000 hours of supervised work prior to sitting for the licensure exam in Psychology. Upon successfully passing the licensure exam, I was finally able to call myself a licensed Psychologist.  (As to my husband, the MD, he chose to further specialize as a Neurologist, so he comepleted a 3 year 'Neurology residency' program under the supervision of other Neurologists and finally passed his Neurology board exams about 3 years after graduating from Medical School.)

The psychologist, in general,uses talk therapy, play therapy, couples therapy, etc. to help people overcome difficulties they are having in their daily lives so that they might live more fulfilled lives.  On the other hand, the medical doctor specializes in diagnosing and treating physical ailments and injuries.  Although there is overlap (after all, our emotions and personalities are based in part on brain function, and via chemical 'pathways' in the brain) a good way to think about the differences is that the MD works with the tangible--our organs, our bodies, physical injuries; wheras the psychologist tends to work more with the intangible "inner" realities of our lives. The MD will prescribe you medicines, where I, the psychologist, am more likely to prescribe you homework!

Mahalo--until next time--Dr. Maryruth Eaves-Herrera, Ph.D.
(PHD is the abbreviation for: Doctorate in Philosophy--
and the area of study for me was psychology)