Individual Counseling, Couples Counseling and Sex Therapy

Mental Health Disorders More Widespread Than Estimated

According to the October 2009, issue of ScienceNews, almost 60% of our population experiences either anxiety, depression or substance abuse by the age of 32.  This was a result of a study done by psychologists Terrie Moffit and Avshalom Caspi of Duke University.

According to this study, anxiety is the most prevalent, at approx 33%, then depression, at approx 18%.  Substance abuse was the least likely, at approx 5% for alcohol and 2.5% for cannabis (marijuana).

Fortunately, both anxiety and depression are among the disorders that re most easily treated.

How to Fight Fair

How to Fight Fair

Developed by CounselorBarb

Tampa, FL

1.  Pick your battles.  Decide what is really important, and what isn’t.  This will take a bit of work but it will be worth it.  Examine your values — what can you “give” on and what is “completely unacceptable?”  Give in to your partner when appropriate, and negotiate the rest.  Would you rather be right or be happy?

2.  Pick your times.  Think about the household schedule and what time might be best for an intense discussion.  Think about your own, and your partner’s, temperament to determine what time of day might be best.  Do not discuss or argue when either of you are tired, or after you have been drinking, or when you are on a “date night.”  In fact, reserve a few hours once or twice week for a “business meeting” to discuss issues or logistical things like who is going to pick Johnny up after soccer practice.  Let the rest of the time with your mate be fun and relaxed.

3.  Be respectful.  Do not raise your voice, use a sarcastic tone, or become silent as a way to punish your mate.  Do not belittle or use profane language.  Also be mindful of ways in which you may be communicating disrespect in non-verbal ways, such as sighing or rolling your eyes.  Do use statements that describe your feelings (“I feel….”) and specifically what your partner has done to cause these feelings (“…when you…”).

4.  Stay on topic. Do not air old grievances from the past.  However tempting it may be, do not bring up unrelated issues.  In fact, try to avoid bringing up old issues at all.  When couples do this it is usually an indication that resentment has built up because the issue was never resolved.  The goal is to discuss and resolve issues as they happen.

5.  Show understanding. Listen to your partner sympathetically.  Even if you do not agree with his or her point of view, try to understand it.  Demonstrate that you are listening by paraphrasing what they are saying, for example, “You sound really angry.  It must have been really frustrating for you when I…”

6. Do not argue when you are angry. If you are too upset to follow these guidelines, it is time to cool off until you are.  My couples will often agree to call a “timeout,” where one of them goes to another room or for a walk for a specific period of time (usually about 20 minutes).  Then, they promise to get back together to continue the discussion after they have cooled off.  Do not argue when you are upset — you will be more likely to say something to hurt your partner and damage your relationship.

7. Develop a good repair strategy. Although at first glance it may seem a bit insensitive, a lot of partners will crack a joke when things get too heated.  This can work if the other partner laughs, thus breaking the tension.  Anything couples can do to calm the tension and reunite is considered a good repair strategy.

8.  If you are still having trouble, enlist the help of an experienced relationship counselor.

Note: This list was developed by CounselorBarb, after consulting similar lists by Lambos, W.A., & Emener, W.G. (In press) Cognitive and Neuroscientific Aspects of Human Love: A Guide for Therapists and Researchers. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science, Publisher; and Horton, Lee. Crumbling Commitment: Surviving a Marital Crisis.

For more information on CounselorBarb, visit

How Daily Hassles Can Affect Your Health

Multiple stress researchers have discovered that it is the small problems in our daily life that have a large effect on our psychological and physical well-being.  Although major life changes such as death, divorce or job loss can certainly have a large impact,  researchers have discovered that it is the sum total of life’s “daily hassles” that takes a larger toll.

Stress is defined by any demand placed on us that exceeds our ability to cope, or to solve the problem.  Stress can have a huge negative effect on our emotional and physical health.  Too much stress can eventually make us sick!

So, how about taking a look at your daily life?  See what “daily hassles” you can eliminate.  Think about time management.  Maybe by simply re-arranging errands, or doing them on a different day, will mean much less hassle.  Be aware of what stresses you out- maybe even keep a journal about what “daily hassles” really bother you.  Awareness is the first step to problem solution.

Nutrition and Depression

Today’s Parade magazine contained an article titled “Can Diet Affect Depression?”.  It got me to thinking about other articles I had found linking depression to diet or other lifestyle factors. It’s fascinating to know that there are many ways to alleviate mild depression that do not involve either psychotherapy or drugs!  Of course, sometimes psychotherapy and/or psychotropic medication are indicated, so please visit your mental health professional to be sure.

According to today’s Parade magazine, a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports that people who regularly eat fish, fruits and vegetables reduce their chances of suffering from depression!  And, as one might expect, fueling up on yummy junk such as fast food had the opposite effect.  Meaning, your Big and Tasty along with a creamy milkshake could make depression worse, although it won’t actually cause it.   Researchers think it’s probably due to the increased antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids in a healthy diet.

Speaking of Omega 3’s….

According to Dr. Mercola, ABC news on September 17, 2002 reported that studies have shown that people who eat a lot of fish suffer from less depression!  In fact, some psychiatrists are recommending that their patients increase their Omega 3 intake.

How to get more Omega 3 in your diet?  Dr. Mercola recommends taking fish oil.  To read this article in it’s entirety, please visit

There’s other evidence that diet can affect depression.

According to a recent BBS News report, there is a link between processed foods and depression.  Click on the link above to view a short video from a man who states that eliminating dairy also eliminated his depression.  Scientists are unsure why, but think there might be a link between inflammation and depression.

There’s also a link between Vitamin D and depression.

According to Dayna Dye of Life Extension Magazine, low vitamin D levels are connected with depression.  Dutch researchers found lower levels of vitamin D in people who were depressed.  They also found higher concentrations of a blood serum compound which can indicate low vitamin D.  As a side note, they also noticed that all subjects were somewhat low on vitamin D, indicating a widespread problem.

** To visit Life Extension’s website click on

Another reason to eat a healthy diet: there is also a relationship between illness and depression.

According to the July 19, 2008 issue of Science News, there is a relationship between illness and depression.  Although the connection between elevated cytokines and depression is relatively new, it is thought that being ill can make people somewhat depressed.  Cytokines are proteins made by the body when it is fighting off infection, and they are also found in depressed and suicidal people.  Cytokines serve a function because they help the body shut down physically so that it can rest when it is ill.  Problems happen when these proteins are created by mistake.  This link could offer hope for those 30% of people who don’t respond to antidepressants.  For more information, please visit (must be a subscriber).

Dr. David Williams agrees.  According to the September 2008 issue of his Alternatives newsletter, cytokines can reduce level of serotonin, producing irritability, irregular appetite, a general lack of energy…all which serve to shut the body down so that it can deal more effectively with the illness.  He goes on to state that depression is as much as 10 times more likely among people with a chronic illness.  To learn more about Dr. David Williams, please visit his website

Exercise can also help depression.

According to an article in Science News by Bruce Bower, aerobic exercise can be as effective as antidepressants when it comes to dealing with depression.  I am always telling my clients to exercise.  Even if you aren’t suffering from depression, there are many incredible health benefits to exercise.  So why not just get out there and try it?  See if you don’t feel better!

For the full text of the article, please visit (must be a subscriber).

So why not take better care of yourself?  You have nothing to lose, except, maybe depression…

How many of you eat well and exercise regularly?

Climbing the Mountain of Life

Recently I was fortunate enough to find myself at the base of a mountain in Southern Utah.  You may have heard of it: Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.  Breathtakingly beautiful.  The weather was clear and bright with temperatures at a very comfortable 70 degrees.

The wonderful outside air was an ironic contrast to the nausea rising up in me when I saw what our guide was pointing at:Angle's Landing distance

“This is where we will end up”, he said.  He was pointing to a mountain that looked far away and very, very high.  Worse, it appeared as if it actually turned on itself somehow; sort of like my stomach was doing at that very moment.

But I knew I couldn’t let my thoughts go down that pathway.  It took a lot of money, effort and time to get out here, and I really didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance again.

It’s not like I wasn’t warned.  “Oh some people just can’t make it to the top- what with the chains and all”, said the woman behind the register in the outfitter’s store.  “Wh-wh-what?”, I managed to reply.  Nobody told me chains would be involved!  “Oh, it’s no big deal.  You can always stop on the small ledge halfway to the top and wait for everyone to come back down.”  More on that later.

Undeterred, we signed up for the trip. Now that it was reality,  I did not want to be known as the woman who “almost made it”.  I thought about how I would feel if I told people I went to this famous hiking place but didn’t make it to the top.  Embarrassed,  Ashamed.  Humiliated.

So I did what I tell my clients to do: I put one foot in front of the other and I just kept doing it.  I didn’t stop and think about how tall the mountain was, or how “twisty”, or the dreaded chains.  I simply thought about where my feet were at that moment, and where the next step needed to go.

I did this over and over.  It got a little more difficult when I surpassed the resting area, as it is loosely called.  It is actually a very small area where the trail is slightly wider, say 5 feet across instead of 2.  This allows people to line up plastered against the rocks so that others can pass.

I passed several men who were too scared to continue.  I could have let this deter me.  After all, if men are too scared then it must be really scary, right?  No!  Again, I followed the advice I give my clients: reframe.  “I will be more powerful than all these wimpy men.  Just because some men say something cannot be done doesn’t mean I cannot do it”, I told myself.

I turned a corner and saw this:

Part of the descent to Angel's Landing. Scary but beautiful.

Part of the descent to Angel’s Landing. Scary but beautiful.

But there was no turning back.  I ignored the rising bile in my throat and kept repeating to myself about the next step.  What the next step would be, where I would put my feet, how I would not fall.  I concentrated on how wonderful my body felt with all the great exercise and how strong my legs were getting from all this climbing.  I looked down at my feet and NOT over the edge.  I did not look up at the mountain, other than to see where my next step should go.  I never thought about the final destination, I just kept focusing on getting to the next step.

It was in this way that I reached the summit:

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Third Day, Trekker 2

Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Third Day, Trekker 2

You cannot tell from this picture, but this top ledge is only about 10 feet wide in any direction, with a sheer drop off that I cannot even think about as I am typing this.  People have actually died from not paying attention once they got up here.  So, none of the pictures show me standing at the summit.  I literally never stood up.  But I was OK with that.  My goal was to make it to the top, and I did that.  Once I got there I cut myself some slack and enjoyed my victory rather than criticize myself for not doing it perfectly.  I am the woman who made it to the top of Angel’s Landing by doing it one step at a time.

Think about Angel’s Landing the next time you are faced with a situation or goal that seems overwhelming or impossible.  Do not focus on that.  Do not even really think about the final goal, other than to plan the little steps it will take to get there.  Once you know your little steps, just focus on each and every one of them.  Complete one and immediately move onto the next one.  They will eventually all add up to your final goal.  Then you can be the person who made it to the top of Angel’s Landing.