The connection between mental contamination, OCD, and trauma

“It’s as if this horrible dark feeling just comes over me and everything seems extremely gross and dirty. My whole life seems disgusting.” This is how my client Roselle described her internal experience when her OCD symptoms became triggered. To avoid this feeling or to “make it go away”, she would engage in a multitude…

Learning to fly: breaking free from avoidance with values-based exposure

Ten years ago I developed a fear of flying, and when I think back, it was like being in a sitcom. I’m walking down the jetway, feeling a little light-headed, my heart already racing. As I board, I notice that one of the plane doors looks a little rusty. I think, this must be an…

Finding and keeping the motivation to change

One of life’s greatest challenges is getting and staying motivated. Perhaps you want to exercise on a regular basis, eat healthier, make a doctor appointment you’ve been putting off, get to bed earlier, or spend more quality time with your family. Even when you know you want to make such a change, time can slip…

Interpersonal Psychotherapy: perhaps the most effective treatment you’ve never heard of

If you’re a mental health practitioner, you’re doubtless familiar with evidence-based treatment modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). In recent years, CBT has become part of the vernacular, and not just in the mental health field. But what if I asked if you had ever used interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) in…

Sharing responsibilities: is there an equitable solution?

When we begin a new romantic relationship, the electricity, magic, and euphoria can lead us to make decisions quickly – meet the parents, move in together, get a pet, have children, buy a house, and so on. We rarely take an objective look at our partner’s personality patterns, how they manage stress, how they handle…

Getting the most out of exposure therapy

I sat quietly while the client in front of me closed her eyes and recounted in vivid detail the sexual assault she had experienced many years before. The pain of the memory was evident on her face and in her voice. The details were shocking and sad, yet I felt truly honored to bear witness…

Exploring the final frontier: multicultural competence

This post is part of a series for practicing mental health professionals. When I was in graduate school, I had the privilege of attending a lecture given by psychologist Joseph White, who is sometimes referred to as the “Godfather of Black Psychology.” He took me and my classmates on a tour of the psychological movements…

Best practices in risk assessment and safety planning

This post is part of a series for practicing metal health professionals. As a mental health professional, you know that psychological crises vary widely in form and gravity. Whether a client is dealing with suicidal thoughts or plans to harm someone else, you play a major role in helping them receive appropriate support to cope…

Battling burnout with purpose and meaning

When my kids were toddlers, my husband and I had a complex division of labor. We both worked full-time and, as is often the case for working parents of little ones, there was always way more that needed to be done than we had time for. It felt like we were constantly in motion trying…

Integrating self-compassion into your practice

Right now, the science of mindfulness, as well as acceptance and compassion-focused therapies, are growing at warp speed. Clinicians are steadily presented with new treatment options for anxiety and depression that are grounded in centuries of meditation tradition and tested and honed by advanced research. It’s understandable that this rapid emergence of new methods and techniques can seem a little daunting. After years of education and many more years of practical experience, do we really want to roll up our sleeves and learn a whole new mode of therapy? Thankfully, we don’t need to begin again from scratch when we wish to work with innovations in mindfulness and self-compassion.