How do you know when therapy is effective?

We know that talk therapy can be highly effective and life-changing for people grappling with mental health concerns. But for providers and clients alike, there remains a critical question that still sparks much debate: How do you know when therapy is effective? It turns out the answer isn’t always intuitive. We could all use some…

Getting Better Sleep

Your boss gives you a last-minute project, and you have to work into the evening to get it done. You get to bed later than usual but have difficulty falling asleep because your mind won’t let the project go. You toss and turn until you finally fall asleep. Then, because you’re extra tired the next…

Mindfulness: try less, experience more

I first learned about mindfulness in graduate school. One of my professors led a course, and as a stressed-out student it sounded like the perfect escape. I remember feeling excited to finally find a bit of mental bliss and quiet. Instead, I found myself impatiently waiting for everlasting peace, tranquility, and enlightenment. It almost never…

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…