Category Archives: therapy

Study of Wuhan University Students Mental Health During COVID-19

Wuhan University Students Drew on Positive Thinking During COVID-19

Because Wuhan was one of the earliest sites of COVID-19 outbreak, much research has been done on the local population. In a recent study, college students in Wuhan were analyzed for resilience factors that helped them stay strong during the pandemic.

Study of university students on mental health during COVID-19.Dr. Chia-Ching Tu is a teacher in the Department of Education Management at Dhurakij Pundit University (DPU, Thailand). She embraces an innovative spirit in curriculum theory and practice, creativity cultivation, innovation management, and human resource management. Dong Yang is an Ed.D. student at the Suryadhep Teachers College of Rangsit University in Thailand.

Jamie Aten: How did you first get interested in this topic?

Chia-Ching Tu & Dong Yang: During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in China, we found that newsfeeds related to COVID-19 may result in anxiety or distress for people. Some patients sought help on the Internet, some posted negative self-reports of COVID-19 on Weibo. We found college students were one of the groups who were greatly sensitive to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some college students reported what they knew, what the situation was in Wuhan, and what they did to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic. What impressed us most was that college students successfully urged the older groups to use masks and keep social distance in Wuhan. Thus, we decided to design a helpful study to analyze this group and provide valuable protective suggestions for their mental health.

JA: What was the focus of your study?

CCT & DY: We found the COVID-19 pandemic certainly resulted in a negative effect on Wuhan’s college students. A question was proposed by our research group: Is there any positive protective factor of COVID-19 to balance the negative experience for Wuhan’s college students? In our subsequent research work, we found in previous literature that positive thinking about disaster events and resilience to stress may be beneficial protective psychological factors for students. We have surveyed approximately 400 college students by questionnaires who lived in Wuhan and started to analyze the data about college students, exploring the psychological effects of positive thinking and resilience on Wuhan’s college students.

JA: What did you discover in your study?

CCT & DY: We successfully found a protective effect that comes from certain thinking models and self-traits. Some students who could positively perceive the COVID-19 pandemic were less influenced by the overall experience. Similarly, we found some students who reported a higher level of resilience that were less impacted by the pandemic as well. Actually, the protective effects were created by positive thinking about COVID-19 and resilience to stress. Therefore, based on this view, we discussed how to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on college students in Wuhan.

JA: Is there anything that surprised you in your findings, or that you weren’t fully expecting?

CCT & DY: In our assumption, most of Wuhan’s college students may not think positively about COVID-19. Furthermore, they may not have enough resilience to this event. To our surprise, the pandemic did not make them lose their positive thinking or resilience. In effect, it may explain that COVID-19 was not enough to harm Wuhan’s college students. They had an optimistic view of the COVID-19 pandemic, so their resilience was enough to resist the risk of negative COVID-19 mental health effects.

JA: How might readers apply what you found to their lives during COVID-19?

CCT & DY: Because our research focused on college students, the research results may suit this group only. For readers who are college students or young adults, we suggest you engage the global COVID-19 epidemic data and epidemic prevention policies, try to identify the most ideal prevention practices, and implement them yourself and with your family and friends. Moreover, we suggest that people should maintain social contact with anyone who can provide support so that you can seek available help when you fall into negative thinking.

JA: How can readers use what you found to help others amidst this pandemic?

CCT & DY: We suggest readers care for and listen to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, your friends, family, and important people who fall into negative mental health patterns (such as stress, depression, anxiety, etc.) should be your primary objects of help. Similarly, educational workers must enhance positive thinking and resilience among students as soon as possible. These two strong factors will help resist the negative influences of COVID-19 or other victimization experiences on mental health.

JA: What are you currently working on that you might like to share about?

CCT & DY: We may consider focusing our research on the influence of the pandemic on people in Wuhuan post-COVID-19 because we found some people who lived in Wuhan reported they still dreamed about bad things related to COVID-19, even after the pandemic was gone in Wuhan.

Positive thinking can help university students and others who struggle with COVID-19 isolation. Make a telehealth appointment to learn more.

Courtesy of Psychology Today.

Tips for Teens From a Counselor on Surviving Isolation

What Can Stressed Teens Do About COVID-19?

For the first time in their lives, teens are facing a worldwide epidemic in the form of a novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19. In just a few short weeks, millions of students have made the transition from spending their days with friends and teachers at school to spending all or most of their time at home.

LGBT teen isolation tips from Irvington counselor.For teens in areas where strict social isolation is the norm, this might mean never leaving the house, spending day after day in a small space with parents and siblings. The combination of stress, isolation, and no breaks is enough to drive any family to the brink, no matter how happy. And for families with a history of violence, isolation can be dangerous. These strategies can help teenagers manage the crisis, whether it lasts a few weeks, a few months, or longer.

There’s a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus. That makes it scary. There’s also plenty of inaccurate information circulating, from claims that it’s a government conspiracy to assertions that the entire United States population will die. Knowledge may help you gain a sense of control. It also helps you identify specific strategies you can adopt to reduce your risk and manage your fear.

Seek information from reliable sources, such as:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus page
The University of Washington’s coronavirus map
The World Health Organization’s coronavirus page
The National Institutes of Health coronavirus page
Most state departments of health now offer weekly or daily briefings on the virus, including updated state-level virus counts and death tolls. For a more in-depth understanding and a chance to improve your scientific literacy, use this Google Scholar search to see recent studies of coronavirus.

One of the most important things teenagers should know about the coronavirus is that their risk of dying is about 0.2 percent. At the height of the epidemic in China, just one person between the ages of 10 and 19 had died from the virus. For young people, the death rate may be similar to that of the flu⁠—so you are likely safe. The people you love may face a much higher risk.

Public health experts, epidemiologists, and researchers studying the virus all agree: the best way to control its spread is to avoid contact with other people, as well as surfaces infected people may have touched. That means staying home as much as possible and maintaining physical distance from other people—even friends and neighbors you know and love.

The reason for this is that the coronavirus has an incubation period of up to 2 weeks, and maybe even longer. A person who seems well might be shedding the virus and spreading it to others. Avoiding others protects you from people who might have the virus without knowing it. Perhaps more importantly, it ensures you will not spread the virus to vulnerable people such as grandparents or people with disabilities.

Teenagers are relatively safe from the coronavirus. Their symptoms are not as severe, and their risk of dying is very low. That might make it seem like the coronavirus panic is an overreaction, but it’s not. This virus has the potential to kill 10% or more of older people as well as a large portion of people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, respiratory conditions, and more. Your healthy-seeming neighbor might be in danger. Your friend who recovered from cancer could get the virus and die. There’s no way for you to know who is in danger, so it’s best to treat everyone as a vulnerable person worthy of protection.

Sooner or later, this will end. Things are already improving in China. How do you want to emerge from this crisis? What new skills can you master? This period of seclusion offers the chance to learn things you never had the time or motivation to do before. Try watching YouTube videos to master your favorite instrument, scheduling video chats with a friend in another country so you can improve your language skills, or ordering a stack of books to help you learn a new craft.

Learning new things gives more structure to your day. It also helps you focus on the future. This reminds you that there is a future beyond coronavirus and can help you remain positive. Find a goal and work toward it, even if you’re not sure when you’ll get to debut your new accomplishments.

Your parents are likely overwhelmed. They may be trying to work from home, stock up on supplies, plan lessons, or care for your younger siblings. One of the very best things you can do to make their lives easier is to reduce their workload. That means asking less of them. For many teenagers, that can be a great thing. Your parents don’t have the time or energy to supervise everything you do, to nag you about screen time, or to interrogate you about what you learned today.

So enjoy the independence. Find ways to entertain yourself—and for bonus points, get your younger siblings in on the act, too. Showing your parents that you can make good independent decisions may encourage them to trust you more when things return to normal.

Your parents need help. They may be overwhelmed and quick to get angry. They may expect you to know what they need. Work with them to make those expectations explicit. Try drawing up a parent-teen contract outlining the things your parents need from you every day. If you fulfill those responsibilities, the odds are very good that your parents will gladly give you more independence and let you have plenty of time to yourself. After all, they may be trying to work from home and keep the household running, so they probably have little motivation to police your every move.

You may be away from your friends for a long time. Dating is almost certainly out of the question. It can feel like torture, especially if you don’t love spending time at home with your family. Times of stress can help you develop creative solutions—and that creativity will serve you well beyond this crisis.

So find new ways to nurture the relationships most important to you. Start a daily group chat with your friends. Schedule video calls throughout the day. Start a blog to share your own experiences. Schedule a weekly virtual get-together. Attend an online yoga class. Humans need connection, and one of the best ways to protect your mental health is to prioritize your relationships.

The coronavirus crisis doesn’t eliminate the many other problems you might face. It only adds another layer of complexity. This site can help connect you to emergency food and other basics. If an adult is abusing you, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. If you feel suicidal, you can get confidential, judgment-free help from the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, or if the coronavirus crisis is affecting your well-being, therapy can help. Many therapists have switched to an online model, allowing you to safely access care from the comfort of your home. I am not accepting TeleHealth appointments for counseling.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

3 Counseling Tips for Well-Being If COVID-19 Is Making You Feel Hopeless

Counseling Tips to Take Control of Hoplessness During COVID-19

Counseling tips to combat hoplessness during COVID-19

Just one month ago, many would not have imagined that our world would be turned upside down. Who would have thought that we would be practicing social distancing or being at home in self-quarantine? The U.S. looks different today. Fewer people on the streets, less traffic on the freeways, and no one in the parks or at the beaches.

What about our home life? Never in my imagination did I consider that my son would be home from college doing all his classes online. Nor did I consider that my husband would be conducting office meetings with nearly three hundred people from our home. I have been seeing clients online, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for my private practice. However, never did I imagine that all my therapy sessions would be virtual.

I suspect many of you never considered that you, too, might be in a similar predicament. How could you? The world changed drastically in less than 30 days. Since my last article, 15 Self-Care Activities You Can Do at Home During COVID-19, things have changed even more. Now all the schools in my state of California have closed down for the rest of the semester. All non-essential businesses have been temporarily shut down, and most everyone has been sent home. This seems to be the case for most of our country.

In the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing heroic efforts by our fellow country men and women on the front lines. God bless you all! I am praying for your physical health and well-being. Thank you for what you do for all of us: People stepping up and buying food for the elderly; nurses, doctors, and health care providers risking being exposed to COVID-19 for you and me; even our corner grocery workers are doing their part.

No doubt we must all do our parts. Practice safe measures. Social distancing. Staying home to prevent spreading the virus. However, we can reframe some of our current thinking and choose not to panic. Instead, let’s choose to take control of what we can.

1. Let hard times ignite creativity.
I am inspired to see how people are igniting creativity: major car companies using their ingenuity to make ventilators, cruise ships being converted to temporary hospitals, vocalists using cellphones to collaborate, making songs come to life. How can you, too, ignite your own creativity? Dare to think outside of the box. Try writing down your ideas, and then add to them daily, fanning the flames of creativity.

2. Find new ways to gather.
I am seeing people sending group text threads in an effort to socially engage amid a climate of social distancing. People are sending uplifting messages, helpful information, or funny YouTube videos to make others laugh. Zoom meetings are being used for education, business meetings, and social hours. Don’t let social distancing keep you back from socially connecting. We are social beings; we need to connect. Think of ways you can reach out either by phone, email, or Zoom. Don’t let social distancing become social isolation. Stay connected.

3. Dare to keep dreaming.
Don’t let boredom creep in. Use your imagination. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Make a list of your talents
  • Make a list of your gifts
  • Ask yourself the question, “What would I do if money wasn’t an issue?”

Now get going. Start thinking, writing, having conversations with your spouse, partner, or friends. Now is the time to envision something for your future. For instance, I am working on strategizing a new project I have in mind. We may be homebound, but we are not locked up. I am free to dream. To imagine. And so are you. So, I say, dream on.

We have some choices to make. Yes, for sure we are concerned about COVID-19. However, we don’t need to let fear and anxiety get the best of us. We can choose something different. We can acknowledge our concerns. and do the best we can to practice safe measures for ourselves and for our families. Beyond that, we don’t have a lot of control, besides how we respond to this pandemic. I encourage you to not let it get the best of you.

Portland clients can continue online counseling during this time of need, contact me for an appointment.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

When Social Distancing Becomes Social Isolation: How Online Counseling Helps

Online Appointments With Your Counselor Helps Reduce Feelings of Isolation

We are in unprecedented times with the outbreak of COVID-19, and we are all striving towards best practices around hygiene and social distancing.

This is an incredibly difficult time to be alone for many. If you are working from home and keeping yourself isolated in order to avoid infection, you are doing the right thing. This is actually pro-social behavior in service of our communities right now.

Regular appointments with a counselor online can help with feelings of isolation during social distancing.

However, when these right actions backfire on us—when our minds begin a negative cycle of withdrawing from all life—we may create a downward spiral into negative thinking. Counselors trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) understand that negative thoughts can lead to negative emotions such as panicfear, and hopelessness. These feelings can lead to further negative actions, and the cycle continues to feed upon itself. This self-destructive cycle can wreak havoc not only on our emotional lives, but on our immune systems as well.


“Living with fear and panic activates our sympathetic nervous system, which releases fight-or-flight stress hormones and can deplete precious resources we need to support a healthy immune system. A robust and strong immune system is an excellent first-line defense against invading viruses and bacteria,” says integrative and functional San Francisco based psychiatrist Karin Hastik, MD.

Furthermore, neuroscience guru Dan Siegel states: “[The mind] occurs throughout the body, in the distributed nervous system, which m

onitors and influences energy and information flowing through our heart and our intestines, and even shapes the activity of our immune system.”

We all need a healthy immune system to protect us right now. Limiting your media intake may be one way to aid your immune system in becoming more resilient. While quarantine is one measure to keep us healthy, it can be difficult to stay out of negative emotions when we isolate in front of the TV and watch fear-inducing news about the coronavirus pandemic.


What else can you do to stop this negative cycle when all the media around you relay such catastrophic information? How can you do more to boost your immune system, which is potentially your primary defense against COVID-19 at this time?

Consider reaching out to an online counselor and connecting via videoconferencing for help.

Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences who studies the link between mental and immune health says, “There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.”

While it may seem counterintuitive to attempt authentic and meaningful connection through technology, the neurobiology of attachment speaks to the fact that mirror neurons are activated while in attunement within a relationship—even through a screen.

In Praszkier’s 2014 article, Empathy, Mirror Neurons, and SYNC, in which he speaks of our engagement with film, he states, “The mirror neurons embedded in our brain reflect the movement and sounds seen on the screen and beef up the spectator’s empathy. More than that, a body-based, empathy-kindling path (called kinesthetic empathy) induces an inner image of movements seen onscreen. The observer essentially ‘internally simulates’ the observed movements and, without actually moving, feels his own body configuration change in response.” My clinical work as a somatic movement counselor affirms this as well.


Mirror neurons in synchrony, resonating together, create empathy in human relationships as well. “Connections with visceral and emotional circuitry now allow the same systems to support emotional resonance, attunement, and empathy. It is hypothesized that mirror systems and resonance behaviors evolved into our ability to attune to the emotional states of others,” says Louis Cozolino, author of The Neuroscience of Human Relationships. When one attunes to another within a healthy and secure attachment, mirror neurons inside the brain and body rise to the occasion, in effect elevating consciousness and physical well-being during the attunement process.

Siegel speaks about how our very minds are created through the context of shared information with others. “The mind is a relational process. Energy and information flow between and among people, and they are monitored and modified in this shared exchange,” says Seigel.


Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, says, “If you haven’t yet had the help of enough true others to aid you in claiming the birthright of what I call your inner base of resilience, you can use the new experiences in new relationships to recover it now.” A healthy and secure attachment to a counselor can help you navigate through your anxiety and fear and shed light on how negative beliefs can be undermining your best intentions. Rewiring your brain towards positive thinking can create more buoyant emotions within you, which are protective factors against disease.

We all need as much positivity as we can get right now while this pandemic becomes our new reality. Working with an online counselor can be a great way to make sure you stay healthy, in your mind, body, and spirit while navigating your way through these uncertain times. Please contact me to set up an online appointment during social distancing.

Courtesy of GoodTherapy.

University Counseling Can Help When Stressed With Student Loans

Portland State University Students – Don’t Underestimate the Stress of Student Loan Debt!

Higher education can open up a wealth of opportunities. A college degree can make it easier to secure a high-paying job and pave the way toward further education, such as graduate school—a necessary step in becoming a therapist or other health care professional. But the potential rewards of a four-year university degree come at a cost, often a staggering one.

College tuition costs have vastly increased over the past few decades. According to statistics from College Board, a college student in the late 1980s could expect to pay just over $3,000 for 4 years of tuition at a public university. But today, 4 years of tuition at a public university cost around $10,000. Note this figure only includes tuition, not books, board, and other necessary expenses, which may double or even triple your projected expenses.

Private universities, of course, cost far more. And these numbers rise each year, faster than inflation. This means wage increases don’t account for the higher cost of college, and many students are left with more debt than they can easily (or realistically) pay off.

Portland State University Students stress over student loans can be helped with mental health counseling.Student loan debt can certainly impact your financial future, but it can take a toll on your emotional well-being, too.

While many students seek grants and apply for scholarships to attend college, not everyone qualifies for grants or can afford to spend time chasing down multiple scholarships. What’s more, plenty of hopeful students find that the cost of college is still prohibitive, even with these other types of aid. So, lacking the funds to pay for an education, they turn to loans to finance their college years—often without realizing the full cost of these loans.

According to statistics from Pew Research Center, almost half of American adults 30 and younger with a bachelor’s degree or higher have outstanding student loan debt. But even people who don’t complete their education still have to pay back their loans. Among adults under the age of 30, 34 percent have student loan debt, whether they have a degree to show for it or not. Among adults aged 30 to 44, 22 percent still have outstanding student loan debt.

The amount of debt varies widely, especially depending on the type of degree pursued. According to 2016 survey results, a median figure for amount owed, among all borrowers, was $17,000. Among borrowers holding a bachelor’s degree, this figure rose to $25,000, while borrowers with postgraduate degrees reported a median debt of $45,000. About 7 percent of borrowers (or, 1 percent of all American adults) reported owing more than $100,000. Higher debt appears most common among people holding postgraduate degrees.

This survey also found that almost a third of American adults between the ages of 25 and 40 believe the benefits of their college degree(s) are not worth the lifetime expense of paying it off.

A better understanding of debt’s heavy impact can provide clarity on just why so many students believe the value of their degree doesn’t measure up to the costs incurred.

Not everyone worries about loans coming due while still attending college. More often, these approaching payments seem like a distant concern, one dwarfed by the immediate reality of exams, group projects, and part-time jobs. Many students also don’t fully comprehend the total amount of the monthly payments they’ll eventually need to make, or the number of years required to completely pay off their loans.

Students with greater awareness of the looming burden of debt may feel intense pressure to study as much as possible and earn good grades. They may hope doing well and graduating with honors will help them find a good job right away and stay on top of loan payments. While this goal may have merit, it can nonetheless leave them with little time for self-care, rest, and forming relationships and friendships. Some students may even burn themselves out with volunteer work or participation in activities they hope will appeal to potential employers.

Many students may prefer to avoid thinking about the debt they’ll face. But avoidance doesn’t always help, and it might eventually come out in the form of anxiety and other distress.

It’s also fairly common for students under pressure to neglect their health:

Students who have to work while attending college often have less time for restful sleep.
Busy students may end up snacking or choosing fast-food or convenience store meals because they don’t have time to prepare more nutritious, balanced meals.
Spending the majority of their time studying and working leaves students with little time for physical activity, socializing, or relaxation, important factors in physical and emotional wellness.
These challenges can trigger even more serious concerns. Students under a lot of pressure, especially those who already struggle to adequately meet their physical or emotional needs, may have a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

The significance of the debt burden tends to hit, for many borrowers, once they’ve graduated from college and made it through the 6-month grace period. Some students manage to secure a good job, perhaps one that pays well and offers benefits like health insurance. This can help relieve some debt-related anxieties.

In a best-case scenario, someone finds a position in their ideal field, earns promotions, and eventually sees their salary increase over time. The ability to make monthly student loan payments and still have enough money left to live a comfortable life is ideal, but it’s not a common scenario.

Research from the Centre for Global Higher Education suggests student loan debt can have a negative impact on life after graduation in the following ways:

Student loan debt can limit career choices by making it necessary to accept any available job in order to make loan payments. This can decrease workplace satisfaction, which can contribute to depression over time.
Debt, particularly higher amounts of debt, can lead many women to delay getting married, having children, or both.
Many people with student loan debt also delay buying homes. They may also have little or no savings and also lack money for retirement.
Not only does student loan debt make it harder to take care of daily financial needs, like rent, groceries, and clothing, it can make it almost impossible to budget for needed extras, like medical emergencies, car trouble, and so on. For some people, unnecessary expenses—vacations, trips to visit family members, or the occasional dinner out—might be completely out of the question.
Worries over debt often present physically, with symptoms like loss of sleep, muscle and head pain, or gastrointestinal distress.
Overall, people with student loan debt report higher levels of anxiety and financial distress, according to a 2013 article published in the American Psychological Association’s gradPSYCH Magazine. The article cites research that suggests people having trouble paying off student loans have almost twice the risk for mental health concerns, including anxiety and depression.

Complicating the issue is the fact that many people avoid talking about debt and other financial worries due to stigma, or fear of stigma. People with high levels of student debt may feel anxious about pursuing relationships, due to concerns about their future financial situation or worries about what their future partners may say about their debt.

It’s not uncommon for people with a lot of student loan debt to have a hard time talking about their financial worries. Many people simply struggle to open up about financial issues in general. But others might associate debt with a sense of failure or shame. This can make it difficult to reach out for professional support from therapists or financial counselors.

Avoidance of the problem doesn’t lead to improvement. It often makes the problem worse. Borrowers struggling to pay off student loan debt may come to believe they’ll never get ahead and feel hopeless about their financial future. For many, a bleak financial outlook translates to a bleak outlook overall.

Student Loan Planner, a financial coaching website, surveyed 829 members of their mailing list in 2019. According to their results, one out of every 15 people paying off student loan debt had considered suicide as a result of their debt. The results also suggested student loan debt plays some part in around 9 percent of deaths among young professionals who die by suicide.

The survey also found evidence to suggest borrowers with higher levels of debt are more likely to consider suicide: Just over 11 percent of borrowers who owe between $80,000 and $150,000 report contemplating suicide.

A final finding: Nearly 6 percent of those who replied to the survey knew someone whose student loan debt factored into their death by suicide.

Student loan debt is a serious concern among American adults. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or distressed by your debt, consider reaching out to a therapist for support. A therapist can’t help you resolve your debt. But they can offer compassion without judgment and help you address related mental health symptoms, enabling you to feel more capable of tackling debt in a productive way.

If you or someone you know is showing stress and wants to know how counseling can help – contact my Portland office for more information.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.


Cilluffo, A. (2019, August 13). 5 facts about student loans. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
Dickler, J. (2017, October 17). Student loans take a mental toll on young people. CNBC. Retrieved from
Lockert, M. (2019, September 4). Mental health survey: 1 in 15 high student debt borrowers considered suicide. Student Loan Planner. Retrieved from
Maldonaldo, C. (2018, July 24). Price of college increasing almost 8 times faster than wages. Forbes. Retrieved from
Novotney, A. (2013). Facing up to debt. gradPSYCh Magazine, 1. Retrieved from
Student loan debt has negative consequences in later life, review by IOE researchers suggests. (2018, June 11). UCL Institute of Education. Retrieved from
Trends in college pricing 2019. (2019). College Board. Retrieved from
Walsemann, K. M., Gee, G. C., & Gentile, D. (2015). Sick of our loans: Student borrowing and the mental health of young adults in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 124, 85-93. Retrieved from

LGBT Counseling Can Help Men With Loneliness

Why Do So Many Men Feel Lonely? Counseling Can Help

Most people crave social connection. While social media, endless apps, and new technology promises to connect more people, many people feel lonelier than ever. While isolation can be a trigger for loneliness, loneliness and isolation are not identical. A person can feel lonely even when surrounded by others, especially if they don’t have deep connections that feel meaningful to them.

Loneliness doesn’t just feel bad. It can have profound implications for health. Some research even suggests that chronic loneliness can be as harmful to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.Why men are so lonely and how LGBT counseling can help.

Research on gender differences in loneliness is mixed. Some studies show that women are lonelier than men; others show the reverse. Most researchers, however, agree that single men tend to be especially lonely, and that certain social norms governing masculinity may increase the risk of loneliness in men. Some early research on loneliness also suggests men may be less likely than women to admit to feelings of loneliness.

Studies consistently find that women are more likely to have dense social networks than men. From childhood, women are socialized to value friendship, confide in their friends, and to foster deep intimacy with close friends. Even when men have many friends, they may feel uncomfortable sharing emotions or airing feelings of vulnerability.

A 2018 analysis of people living in rural regions found that 63 percent of men felt comfortable opening up to friends, compared to 74 percent of women. Women were also more likely to participate in activities, such as church gatherings, that foster friendship and a sense of community.

Although social isolation is a serious concern among single men, research suggests that emotional feelings of loneliness are even more important. A 2011 study tied social isolation to reduced life satisfaction, but the link was even stronger for emotional loneliness. Researchers also found that male university students were significantly more likely to report emotional feelings of loneliness than female students.

Masculine social norms teach men that vulnerability is weakness. Homophobia is also prevalent. Straight cisgender men may fear being labeled “gay.” These two forces can make it very difficult for men to reach out to others in friendship. Even when men have friends, they may fear judgment if they display weakness or ask for help.

Heterosexual male friendships often feature a boastful sort of masculinity, in which men brag about their sexual prowess, their financial success, or their independence. This culture can make it hard for men struggling in their relationships to share their challenges. It also shows men that the ideal man is one who uses others—not one who invests deeply in interdependent relationships.

This isolation can be a self-replicating intergenerational cycle. Men may discourage sons from showing weakness or emotion. Boys also witness their fathers modeling stoic behavior and may mimic it. In this way, the stigma of emotionally connecting to other men passes from one generation to the next.

Men in most studies are more likely than women to have long-term partners. These partners can ease some loneliness. Indeed, many men rely on their partners as a primary or sole source of emotional support. This increases men’s vulnerability to loneliness when relationships end or partners die. A 2017 survey found women are more comfortable being single than men. Sixty-one percent of single women in the UK reported being happy, compared to just 49% of single men.

In addition to supporting their male partners, women in long-term heterosexual relationships may help them socialize by building and fostering social networks. Emotional labor like remembering birthdays, sending holiday cards, planning family get-togethers, and scheduling outings with friends has traditionally fallen to women. When a man loses his partner, he may lose an important social lubricant. That may mean losing friends and social opportunities.

Building friendships with other men can be challenging, especially when a man is no longer in school. A few strategies may help:

Join communities and organizations that foster intimacy. Churches, volunteer organizations, and support groups may offer groups specifically for men looking for closer relationships.
Seek friendships with men who value alternative forms of masculinity and who are willing to talk about the need for human connection.
Consider working to turn acquaintances into friends. Invite a social media friend who speaks out against toxic masculinity or male loneliness to an outing.
Take a more active role in family efforts to grow relationships. Don’t rely on women to plan all social outings or reach out to others.
Try starting a new group or organization. Ask other dads to meet up once a month or invite acquaintances from church to start a group for men who want to grow meaningful relationships.
Identify any harmful beliefs you have about friendship or masculinity. Do you believe that crying indicates weakness or that real men don’t need others? Work to understand where these beliefs come from and actively correct them.
Practice conversations with other men ahead of time. Think about questions to ask them about their lives or opinions. Consider what you hope to share about yourself.
Don’t rely on social media as a sole or primary source of socialization. While social media can bring people together, it also relies heavily on brief interactions rather than the sustained, meaningful connection that grows lasting friendship.
Model vulnerability to other men and boys. Men who see that strong men can be vulnerable may feel more comfortable being vulnerable themselves. Sons who see their fathers invest in friendships may be less reticent to do so themselves.
Counseling can help many men practice and master new social skills. Men may also benefit from counseling when social anxiety impedes relationships or when loneliness is so severe that it leads to depression.

If you or someone you love is having difficulty with loneliness, contact my Irvington office to make a counseling appointment.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.


Henning-Smith, C., Ecklund, A., Moscovice, I., & Kozhimannil, K. (2018). Gender differences in social isolation and social support among rural residents [Ebook]. University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center. Retrieved from
Neville, S., Adams, J., Montayre, J., Larmer, P., Garrett, N., Stephens, C., & Alpass, F. (2018). Loneliness in men 60 years and over: the association with purpose in life. American Journal of Men’s Health, 12(4), 730-739. Retrieved from
Salimi, A. (2011). Social-emotional loneliness and life satisfaction. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 29, 292-295. Retrieved from
Sex differences in loneliness: the role of masculinity and femininity. (1998). Sex Roles, 38(7-8). Retrieved from
Yarrow, A. (2017). All the single ladies: 61% of women in the UK are happy to be single, compared to 49% of men. Retrieved from

The Role Joy Plays In Our Emotional & Mental Health

Counseling Flow of Joy

Since it’s the season to bring “joy to the world,” I thought this might be an appropriate occasion to ask you to consider what brings joy to you. Somebody asked me this question recently, and I had to think for a few minutes.

I’d somehow forgotten that joy is something that’s not only important in terms of how we experience life, but it’s also a vital quality in terms of how we measure healthy emotional and mental well-being. I’m a therapist and I’d somehow forgotten that…hmm. I guess I’ve been too busy focusing on other people’s lives and haven’t stopped long enough to consider this important aspect of my life.

Counseling flow to increase joy.And so, do I actually experience joy in my life? Not the kind like “Hey, this is a great dinner,” but instead the kind where I can look back on special times and smile at the memories? The answer is “Yes,” and typically children and animals are part of my personal joy “quotient,” since both cause me to laugh and be silly in ways that I’m normally not during the everyday logistics of my life.

They also require that I stay in the present whereas, under other circumstances, I can sometimes get lost in the fog of the future, where life usually seems more complicated, and even more fearful, than it usually ever is. Children and animals teach me the importance of remaining “in the now,” and if they happen to not be available, then meditation almost always helps in that regard, albeit not in the same light-hearted, comedic, and spontaneous way, at least so far!

During moments of joy, I can almost feel the positive neurotransmitters, like serotonin, racing through my brain as they uplift me and allow me to escape from any stress or pressure that I might otherwise be feeling. But I realize there’s always room for more joy, so my task is to discover how I can create it for myself.

My job as a psychotherapist often involves helping clients discover ways of creating the lives they want for themselves, and I’ve often suggested that they identify activities that involve something we, as therapists, refer to as “flow.” The idea of “flow” is that we become so engaged in the activity that we have no connection to the temporal aspect of our day; in fact, time literally seems to stop when we’re engaged in this activity we love so much. It’s when life can be bustling all around us, yet we aren’t in the least connected to it, because we’re off in the space of “flow.”

It’s like taking a mental “time-out,” and the kind that pays untold dividends for us, but also for those who are closely involved in our lives. And, by the way, I’m not referring to an addiction to technology or any other such activity that has a negative impact on our lives, either personally or relationally.

Rather, it’s an involvement with something we feel is expanding us while at the same time, it increases feelings of satisfaction and personal reward within the depth of us. It results in a completely positive, and even joyful, experience.

Why is “flow” so important? Or joy? Well, because these experiences allow us to separate from the more stressful or frustrating aspects of daily life, no matter what phase of life you might be in. In fact, it’s during the most stressful and frustrating times of life when you’ll need to identify ways to offer yourself experiences of “flow” or joy that you’re lacking so much.

But typically, these are the times we’re somehow wired to suffer through whatever’s going on until it’s over before we begin to take care of ourselves in ways that will actually do the trick. By then, however, it may take considerably longer to recover from the impacts the stress has had on our lives because we weren’t paying enough attention to the inevitable internal scream for a “time-out.” Consequently, we usually discover that the damage of not listening to that scream resulted in even more stress. And so the cycle continues.

I’m not a believer in New Year’s resolutions – at all. In fact, I’m convinced that making them is more often than not a recipe for feeling terrible about oneself, mainly because we usually lack the commitment to maintain them for any serious length of time. Instead, I’d encourage you to begin thinking about the different ways that you might bring flow – or even more flow if you’re already engaged in an activity that results in it – into your life.

Flow often begets joy – in fact, it’s often through our experiences of flow that we ultimately discover joy. So, I’d like you to consider the importance of this for you, for your relationships, and ultimately for your emotional and mental health.

And rather than viewing this “search” for flow as optional, begin seeing it as something that’s as vital as the food, the rest, and the exercise you offer your body so it can operate at a much higher emotional and spiritual level than it has previously.

Make this a commitment to yourself, and not a resolution. Both are very different from one another; one is a form of self-love, and the other is a form of self-hate, or at the very least an obligation to attend to…until we decide we won’t, a decision that’s usually made by mid-February.

I wish you well in your (re)search, and take a moment to share with me what you discover. I’d love to hear about the path you’re paving towards your own experience of joy.

Courtesy of Therapy Tribe.

Counseling Homework Isn’t as Effective As You Think

‘Show Your Work’: Counseling in the Here and Now

Every now and then, someone asks me for homework as we end a therapy session. There’s nothing strange about this request. There are therapies where homework is a big part of the overall work. And because most of us have been getting homework since we were in school, we’ve been conditioned to see it as an inevitable part of learning and bettering ourselves.

Homework isn't effective for LGBT counseling Irvington.There are times I recommend that a person in therapy try something out on their own, but I generally don’t give homework. I have found that the most healing, most helpful, and longest-lasting effects of therapy are produced in the therapy room.

In my previous career as an actor and singer, I spent a good deal of time in classes working on the performance of a monologue or song. It was important to me to be “performance ready” all the time. My self-esteem was built around this—after all, at 18 I felt the only thing I was good at was performing. If I didn’t do this perfectly, then who was I?

I’d sing my ballad, play my part … and after I was done, there were always comments from classmates and the teacher. Caring critiques. This was expected. And it was usually wanted, at least by me.

I dealt with this by saying thank you, dutifully writing it all down in my notebook—and then incorporating everything later on while I was in the practice studios or my dorm room.

After a while, this did not fly with my teacher and director. She wanted to see me incorporate the notes on the spot—to “show my work,” as they say. I didn’t want to. That would get in the way of my perfectionism.

Still, I learned to do it. It was scary. I felt exposed and vulnerable. But it was amazingly helpful because I learned to do the work in relationship with someone else. There was real-time, moment-to-moment exploration of what I preferred to more comfortably work on by myself.

This was a powerful lesson. Today, I extend it to the work we do in counseling.

As I said, I’ll occasionally encourage people to journal, make a gratitude list, or become more aware of the physical signs they’re getting upset, but it’s not a large part of the work—and in my view, it’s not the most effective part, either.

When we take the pressure off of you, the person going to therapy, we allow for the emotions that exist within relationships—including the therapeutic relationship and your relationship with yourself—to come to the forefront. Therapy is not coaching. Therapy is not something you’re supposed to do on your own.

It’s about relationships.

Therapy is about learning to trust that the work you do in session will enter your life when it is needed. The work you put into your relationship with a therapist sees its real fruition in the relationships with your friends, children, partner, parents, and coworkers. Your people.

It’s not a straight line from we learn this, we incorporate this, and the outcome is this.

We may want it to be. I do (all the time), but I’ve come to see and strongly believe that’s just not how change—real, lasting change—happens. When the change I want is to move out of constant anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc., I need to trust that I can’t just think myself out of it.

It’s not about finding new ways to approach a situation with a new script. That can be part of the journey, maybe even an entrance, but it’s not the whole story.

The courage that comes with exposing your uncensored feelings with a therapist provides you with the freedom to be who you are with the people who matter most in your life.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

Three Principles For Loving On Purpose

Characteristics of a Good Relationship

Hey, welcome back! The last post I started a conversation about conscious loving on purpose. I told you that there were three things you needed to know to be successful in a committed relationship or marriage.

3 Characteristics for Couples Therapy PortlandIn case you missed it or just forgot, first you have to learn the basic principles of successful relationships. You also have to consciously practice until those principles become habits. That’s a key thing you’re going to be hearing from me in this space. Conscious, on-purpose practice or action is the key to a powerful, empowered life, whether you’re in a relationship or single. So remember this! Finally I said that you will need to experiment and innovate using some of those principles you’ve learned and practiced. In other words you’ve got to put some funk in your style! Your love relationship should be like a jazz, R & B, hip hop or gospel set.

The best Soul musicians always know the basics of the music they are playing, but once they get the basics down they feel free to innovate. That’s where the funk is in the creative innovation as they allow themselves to play off of the other people in the group. Wow, wouldn’t it be fun if you could riff and funk and create with your love partner like that? Well hold on, we’re going to give you some good stuff to make that possible right here, so keep coming back.

Back to Principles
In this post I want to share the principles that will help your relationship work right. We’re starting with the stuff you can do to make it good. We’ll come back later to share with you the things you might be doing to mess stuff up, but we’ll begin with what works. I’m betting that a lot of this will be familiar to you, even if you don’t think your relationship is going well. Even a broke clock is right twice a day right? I’m certain that even if things don’t seem to be going right today, there have been some days when you got it right. One of the things you have to get good at is learning how to notice what’s good and nurture it with each other. In other words you have to start remembering the good times on purpose. We’ll come back to that later.

Your Love Should Not Be an Accident!
I focused last time on the idea that a lot of folks approach relationships like a bad accident. We even call it “falling in love”, ouch! Then most folk after falling in love, wander around blindly trying to figure out how to make it work. The really good thing is that over the past fifty years or so, there have been real efforts to research, study and understand what makes intimate relationships work and what makes them fail. The overwhelming evidence points to the fact that relationships succeed or fail based on the practical things people do. The other thing that I can say with a little bit of confidence is that relationships today in the twenty-first century can not succeed using the expectations and ways of being in relationship that our great grand parents, our grand parents or even our parents had in the twentieth century!

Marriage Ain’t What it Used to Be
Let’s be honest, even as few as fifty years ago most marriages were based on a principal of commodity exchange and unequal gender balances where most women were told to perfect her cleaning, cooking and child care and seduction skills in the hope of finding a man who would take care of her, bring home the income, and be her representative in the public world. In exchange she agreed to be obedient, submissive and make sure that his home was well kept and he and the children were nurtured and healthy. It was an exchange based in built in and assumed inequality guaranteeing men the privilege of being real heads of the household, unchallenged. If a woman wanted the social protection and access without conflict to the social sphere it was important that she played the commodity exchange game. This was a game that was pretty much rigged and set for the benefit of men.

Look for Your Friend
Well that was then, but now, because women have legal access to the education, skill training income possibilities and social capital that used to belong to men, it’s a different game. Built-in inequality no longer guarantees men access to unlimited choices of women. Though it’s painful to hear for some men, women no longer need men for social survival. That means that twenty-first century relationships have to be built and maintained on a different principle. The research shows that the most successful relationships today are based not on unequal commodity exchange but on egalitarian friendships. That’s right, your best chance of having a good stable and happy marriage today is to make sure your partner is your friend!

Three Characteristics of a Good Relationship
Now I know some of you out there are slapping yourself up-side the head and giving me a big “Duh” because for you I’m stating the obvious, but I’m telling you, you’d be surprised at how many couples forget to be friends after the first year or so of a relationship. They just sort of let things run along on automatic pilot trusting in the magic of falling in love. In my practice I teach couples that good relationships often have three characteristics that reflect that you and your partner are be-friending each other. And just in case you haven’t got the point yet, successful couples are always, consciously befriending each other. So what are these characteristics of a good befriending relationship?

  1. Multi-Level Intimacy
    First relationships that work well usually have multi-level intimacy. I’m not talking about just sex here, though that’s really important (and we’ll talk about that on another posting) but intimacy is that thing that insures good sex long before you get to the main event. Couples who do well share physical intimacy like caresses, holding hands and hugs and kisses throughout their day. These couples share mental / intellectual intimacy by having ongoing conversations and check-ins to keep up with each others lives. Remember when you first got together, and you talked about everything all the time! Well couples who have good relationships keep doing that on purpose even years into the relationship. Finally couples who practice multi-level intimacy share emotional intimacy together. That means they allow themselves to be vulnerable and to share their inner lives, emotions and thoughts with each other. They are emotional risk takers with each other in an attempt to know and be known (yeah, that’s a hard one but it’s worth it).
  2. Reciprocity
    The second characteristic of couples who have good relationships is that they practice reciprocity with each other. There is a give and take in the relationship and sharing of responsibility. They also compromise and make sure that each partner feels valued and valuable in the relationship. When they have problems to solve they make sure that both their voices are heard and respected and decisions are based on knowledge, experience and the context of the moment for that issue and not on predestined privilege based on gender, age or some other intangible root of authority. Now I know that’s going to be a hard one for some of you out there, especially some of the brothers, but we can revisit this idea later.
  3. Mutual Meaning and Purpose
    Finally, couples who do well together and find success in their relationship, work on a mutual sense of meaning and purpose . These couples share the experience of going in the same direction. They have a sense of US-ness between them. Now this does not happen overnight. In fact it takes time and patience before you can get there. I mean it’s not easy bringing all of your own family stuff to this new relationship and deciding what practices and meanings and rituals you keep and which ones you can give up and which ones of your partners you decide to share in and then which new practices, meanings, and rituals you create together. It takes patience, compromise, physical, emotional, and intellectual intimacy, reciprocity and more to build that protective wall around your relationship that sets the boundary defining the Us in Y’all as we say down here in the South.
    These three characteristics of couples who are doing well and consciously loving each other on purpose are just a few of the principles I hope you will be open to learning as we continue sharing in this forum. If you’ve got questions or comments or if you have a topic related to relationships or mental health that you’d like to see me write about leave me a message and I’ll be happy to follow up with you. Until the next time, remember to keep loving each other on purpose!

Courtesy of Therapy Tribe

How Can Therapy Address Depression Associated with Chronic Illness?

Ways Therapy Can Help You or Someone You Love With Chronic Illness

People who have chronic illness are more likely to develop depression. People with depression are more likely to develop chronic illness. But did you know that depression is treatable even with chronic illness?

A chronic illness is loosely defined as:

  • A condition that lasts 3 months or longer
  • Is not preventable by vaccination
  • Has no existing cure

Portland life coaching for individuals with chronic illness.Some of the most common chronic illnesses (diseases) include heart disease, stroke, and chronic pain. It is estimated that over 100 million Americans are living with at least one chronic illness, and most are living with at least two illnesses. Many chronic illnesses are not diagnosed correctly or right away. It can be incredibly taxing emotionally to know something is not right with you physically, and yet, not to be able to get a diagnosis and treatment.

Once diagnosed, additional problems can arise. Typically, treatment most often focuses on the physical part of the disease; meanwhile, the emotional aspects may not be given appropriate attention. In the beginning and throughout the course of a chronic illness, it may be hard for you to define how you are feeling.

A chronic illness diagnosis can lead to a feeling of loss of sense of self. You may be told to cut back on or eliminate certain activities. Changes in diet and exercise might be necessary. Surgery could be mentioned, and maybe you’ve never had surgery. Many things can change once you are diagnosed.

But you look the same. Most chronic illnesses are invisible, and this can make it more difficult for you to feel as if you are being understood. It can be confusing, as well. What you see in the mirror is not always a correct representation of how you feel on the inside.

If it is difficult for you to process, you can guarantee it is difficult for many others. Feeling as though you have to explain your symptoms to others can be exhausting. It takes a lot of energy to function daily with chronic illness, and those who don’t have a chronic illness can have a hard time understanding this. It may feel like you are constantly having to defend yourself.

Emotionally, you may wonder if you will ever feel like your old self again. You may worry loved ones won’t understand. You may have to change some of your habits, decrease responsibilities at work and home, and your social life may take a hit. Some changes may be relatively easy to implement, and others may prove to be more difficult. Depression can develop as a result of having to make life-altering changes, even when making these changes will increase your chances of surviving your illness.

If you have been living with chronic illness for a while, depression may develop for a variety of reasons. You may feel as though you can’t participate in life as fully as your peers. You may find it difficult to date or to conceive children because of your illness. You may feel like your friends, family, or spouse/partner are tired of hearing about your symptoms. Long term management of chronic illness can cause feelings of isolation and lead to depression.

If you have been living with depression, you may find it hard to maintain good physical health. It can be difficult to eat well, exercise, and get the right amount of sleep when you are depressed. Some of the medications prescribed for depression have side effects that impact physical health such as weight gain and an increase in cholesterol. Not maintaining good physical health could also increase the chances that a chronic illness may develop. Depression may cause you to delay seeking treatment for a chronic illness.

Therapy can play an important role in managing chronic illness and treating depression, offering hope and a place of healing. Therapy can:

  • Help you explore your feelings about chronic illness and depression.
  • Allow you to develop coping skills to manage the emotional and physical aspects of chronic illness.
  • Teach you about how your thoughts affect your emotions and behavior.
  • Help you uncover underlying beliefs about chronic illness and depression, allowing you to develop new beliefs and thoughts about your illness.
  • Support you in learning how to advocate for yourself.

By improving the ways in which you think about your illness, you may improve the physical aspects as well. Therapy can help you manage chronic pain in part by helping decrease stress, which is a contributing factor to heart disease and stroke. In general, therapy can help you find your lost sense of self, handle overwhelming feelings, and improve your confidence when it comes to managing day-to-day struggles with chronic illness.

Finally, it can be even more beneficial to find a therapist who specializes in the treatment of individuals with chronic illness. It is likely these therapists have a personal or deeper understanding of what it is like to live with chronic illness. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more on how therapy can help individuals with chronic illness, make an appointment at my Portland area office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.