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Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

Online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, CBIT, ERP, CBT-I, Behavior Consultation, and Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia

Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH

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Blog

Meaningful Psychological Services: Really Useful Thoughts from a Psychologist 

Helpful interests, ideas, and resources about psychology, therapy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavior therapy, anxiety, living meaningfully and online therapy.

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Thankfulness

Posted on November 23, 2022 at 12:25 AM

What are you thankful for this November? Thanksgiving is a special time to celebrate family and friends and pause to remember what is important in your life. Reflecting on people, experiences, opportunities, possessions, memories, and moments is a helpful practice that contributes to well-being. We do not have to wait until Thanksgiving, of course, to consider and express gratitude. I challenge you to spend time each day thinking about and even writing down a few things you felt grateful for that day. It may be simple like a smile from your child or a joke someone shared with you, or bigger like a promotion or making a sports team. Remembering the little things, the big things, seeing the positive side of challenges, and saying thank you can make a significant difference in your life and in the life of someone else.

 

 

One thing I am incredibly grateful for is the opportunity to read both for myself, and as a family during read-aloud time. Many of you know that I love reading and I will often provide book recommendations and use books in session as appropriate. I am super thankful that both of my children love to read as well, and I hope they always will. Books provide information, amazing stories, as well as a time of rest, reflection, shared time reading together, and restoration. Choosing high quality books can be a challenge, so utilize resources such as librarians, educators, friends, family, doctors, professional organizations, retail booksellers, book clubs, and co-workers. You may find that you enjoy reading multiple works from the same author, similar titles, or widely varied topics. I have personally enjoyed both fiction and nonfiction recently and have learned that listening to interesting podcasts has a cause-and-effect relationship with my buying and reading more books!

 

 

I hope you can enjoy time with the people you love doing the things you love and fully experience the joy of gratitude.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pros and Cons Technology Use for Kids

Posted on October 26, 2022 at 1:55 PM

As we have been focusing on healthy technology use for the past few months, I am sharing some additional information to help guide decision making. This month’s issue addresses some pros and cons of technology use in children.

 

It is helpful for parents to be aware of the benefits and disadvantages of the technology available to their children. There are certainly positive aspects of advances in technology. Kids can learn new languages, connect with friends and family who live far away, maintain access to school resources and teachers when they have questions or difficulty, and can even learn a new skill like cooking, or playing an instrument. Children can also run into some challenging situations like online bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate images and videos, and screen addiction.

 

Here is some information discussing the pros and cons of technology use for kids:

 

https://pmpediatriccare.com/behavioral-health/blog/generation-technology-the-pros-and-cons-of-childrens-technology-use/

Focus on Social Media and Teens

Posted on September 26, 2022 at 2:40 PM

 

In continuation of last month’s theme of healthy technology use, I am sharing some additional information focusing on social media.

 

 

This article discusses some of the concerns about social media use and teens: https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2022/social-media-children-teens?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=apa-research&utm_content=youth-social-media

 

 

Social media can be very damaging to a child or teen’s well-being. Anxiety about checking likes/comments/post engagement, spreading of rumors, bullying, inappropriate content, ads, sharing of photos and conversations with unintended persons, etc. are hurtful and harmful. Ask a teenager how they feel about having social media and see their perspective on how it impacts their life. Please also remember, parental supervision of all online activity is necessary. Help your child to develop good habits with online activity. Review online safety information, remind them everything is treated as public and permanent, and consider delaying access to social media for as long as possible. Your child will really appreciate this down the road!

 

 

I hope you find this information useful.

Healthy Technology Use

Posted on August 29, 2022 at 10:30 AM

As families are preparing for the start of a new school year and peer pressure about getting a cell phone and playing video games may intensify, it is important to remember the importance of balancing technology use.


 

 

Here are some other helpful considerations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

 

Healthy Digital Media Use & First Phone Readinesshttps://contentsharing.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?ep=Wda7dLHy7d2HDwFVFCwnDZkPXcaibH1TccV9QrRk6INavsI4EiFgVMXYLe3INhHndR5BfzlAvOr_c87pU24GpXQrQXplb3F5nNAgWaFzz31FuBvP2f0HdB3wE-NBba3BkNQmHskUHm7S6BXC16bECg~~;


 

 

 

And some suggestions regarding the benefits of letting your mind wander without using your phone:

 

Instead of Pulling Out Your Phone, Let Your Mind Wander https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/instead_of_pulling_out_your_phone_let_your_mind_wander#.YwZVRmcOEtk.twitter

New Crisis Resource

Posted on July 25, 2022 at 10:15 AM

Happy Summertime!

 

There are some important and helpful updates with accessing emergency services that I want to share with you.

 

You may have heard that there is a new simple phone number (988) to use to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Here is a resource about this change: https://988lifeline.org/current-events/the-lifeline-and-988/

 

Here is the new information. Please save it for your records and share widely:

 

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

https://988lifeline.org/

24-hour hotline: 988


 

 

There are additional resources available for individuals in crisis:

 

Response Crisis Center

 

24-hour hotline: 631-751-7500

https://www.responsecrisiscenter.org/


 

 

Long Island Against Domestic Violence

 

24-hour hotline: 631-666-8833

 https://liadv.org/

 

 

Please do use these free resources and share them with your friends and family. You will be making a positive difference in your life or the life of someone else (and may be saving a life)!

Ten Years!

Posted on June 20, 2022 at 1:45 PM

Ten years ago this month, I opened my private practice. Ten years!! In reflecting on this milestone, I am humbled by the opportunity to walk alongside children, adolescents, adults, and families in their struggles, successes, and life experiences.

 

For those of you who have trusted me to support you in your life, thank you. I honor and respect this responsibility.

 

During these 10 years, I have had 4 different office locations, traveled to client’s homes, and transitioned to a fully online practice. My goal has been to connect with someone where they are- geographically, emotionally, and financially, and help them get to where they want to be. Each change during these past 10 years has reflected this value.

 

Personally, these 10 years have brought amazing change too. My husband and I purchased our first home and I became a mother to two wonderful, happy, and wild boys.

 

What has changed in the last 10 years for you? I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!

Healthy Screen Time for Families

Posted on May 24, 2022 at 3:30 PM

Many families have been struggling with managing screen time in their homes. It is important to consider several factors regarding the use of technology in your home. I have shared some resources below to help make decisions.

 

 

 

Your Child’s First Phone: Are They Ready? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Cell-Phones-Whats-the-Right-Age-to-Start.aspx


 

 

Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Tips-for-Parents-Digital-Age.aspx


 

 

How can I help my child avoid eye and back strain from being on the computer? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/avoid-eye-and-back-strain-from-the-computer.aspx?_ga=2.85105049.1699780078.1652216809-1568848915.1651001146&_gl=1*jybs79*_ga*MTU2ODg0ODkxNS4xNjUxMDAxMTQ2*_ga_FD9D3XZVQQ*MTY1MjIxNjgwOS40LjAuMTY1MjIxNjgwOS4w

 

 

 


My colleague and local psychologist, Dr. Anzalone, featured in the ABC special "Protect Our Children: Mental and Physical Stress" talking about the impact of screen time on kids and teens (last segment):

 

https://abc7ny.com/protect-our-children-abc7ny-wabc-tv-special/11769066/

 

 


Glow Kids Tech Addiction Research

 

http://www.drkardaras.com/research.html

 

 


Resources from: InfoaboutKids.org Developed by APA Divisions

 

https://infoaboutkids.org/relationships/screen-time/


 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope these are helpful.

CODA

Posted on April 25, 2022 at 4:55 PM

One of the best movies I have seen was the deserving recipient of this year’s Best Picture award at the Oscars. CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) is a meaningful film that depicts themes of love, growing up, parenting, passion, family conflicts, strength, vulnerability, bravery, acceptance, fear of differences, unity, friendships, financial ability, and class differences. The music is beautiful. The language is visually beautiful. The pain is awe inspiring. CODA is inspiring. This film is worth the watch. Keep in mind that you can’t be on your phone the whole time while it is on because you will need to actually watch every scene as much is in sign language. This is the best way to watch movies anyway (a gentle reminder to those who struggle with maintaining attention on one source of entertainment at a time).

 

 

For some more excellent film recommendations, see:

Eleven Films That Highlight the Best in Humanity

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/eleven_films_that_highlight_the_best_in_humanity#.YkH34noyFnM.twitter ;

Turning Red

Posted on March 22, 2022 at 4:20 PM

I was totally in after the first trailer I viewed. Turning Red is a movie that highlights and depicts some relevant social and emotional connections in a parent-child-family relationship as well as among peers. This film also highlights cultural traditions and diversity in a beautiful way. I will try and avoid spoilers as usual. Here goes....

 

For the average teenager, what would be SUPER embarrassing? If you guessed a parent unexpectedly breaking school rules to show up unannounced to bring you a forgotten (super) personal item in front of all your peers, you would be right. If you guessed a parent showing your crush (who has NO IDEA you feel this way) pictures you drew of them in an effort to protect their teen, you would also be right. You can watch the full movie for some more examples and hopefully laugh (or cringe).

 

Another element I loved about this movie- it is set in the early 2000s. For those of us who were teenagers in the 90s or early 2000s, the film’s references are very relatable. The protagonist and her main group of friends are really into a boy band (If you don’t already know this about me: BSB 4eva!) and this is a primary focus of making decisions as a growing teenager. Friends develop a plan to earn money to go to a concert and learn some surprising things about each other, their families, and peers.

 

A central theme in Turning Red is the idea of feeling, identifying, and managing your emotions. When strong emotions are experienced, there are resulting behavioral and physical changes. We see the valuable impact of unconditional acceptance, relaxation, and mindfulness on present experiences and character development.

 

As a parent, it is natural to want to protect your child. Our kids grow up so fast. The days can feel like they last forever sometimes but the years pass quickly. Adolescence is a time of growth, testing of limits, exploration of independence, learning about family culture, and discovering of one’s own belief systems. It can be so rewarding yet difficult to observe this process and guide your teen without being overbearing.

 

I hope you consider watching Turning Red and enjoy it. Maybe you will be able to relate to some of these themes!

Play

Posted on February 28, 2022 at 9:15 AM

What a joy it is to see children playing at a park, playground, in school, and at home. This unstructured time is important for cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. As adults, we sometimes forget the power of play in childhood (and in our own lives).

 

I love seeing the joy of exploring the world, nature, and new friends at the park or playground. It is fun to watch my boys and other kids learn to roll down big hills again and again. Simple, pure, childhood fun.

 

I encourage you to get outside and play. Adults can have fun too! Laugh with your kids, roll down hills, and play tag.

 

We can play inside too. Resist the urge to use or give a screen. Try a puzzle, book, board game, or conversation. Here are some more suggestions:

 

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Indoor-Play-Ideas-winter.aspx" target="_blank">https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Indoor-Play-Ideas-winter.aspx

Digital Minimalism

Posted on January 26, 2022 at 9:45 AM

Happy New Year! I hope you have had a healthy start to 2022. Let’s look at one, probably large, aspect of your life together- the role of technology.

 

How much of a role does technology play in your life? Are you overwhelmed with social media comparisons, email checking, or continuous text conversations? Do you feel satisfied with how you spend your time? Are you having difficulty watching a full-length movie? Does your smartphone attend all of your meals with you? Do you doom scroll? Have you been caught up in online gaming or passive video watching?

 

It is not my intention to overwhelm you with questions. Rather, my hope is to inspire some thoughtful consideration of your use of time.

 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport is an excellent book that details the background on the development and use of technology and practical strategies to help make meaningful use of our time with our devices.

 

Here are some ideas of the types of changes we can make to get the most meaningful use out of technology:

 

-Decide what basic aspects of technology you need at a minimum. For example, when is the most important times for you to have access to your cell phone? Do you need to have Instagram installed on your smartphone? Do you need access to email for work or school overnight?

 

- Consider which friends and family you want to keep in touch with and arrange to continue communication via video or in person. Use text for planning to speak with someone instead of running conversations.

 

-Always make eye contact with your significant other and children when you are using a device and they try to get your attention. You can let them know when you will be available if you can’t spend time right then and there.

 

-Explore which people and groups you want to be connected with on social media and identify the purpose for each one. For example, do you want to see pictures of your cousin’s baby or keep up to date with a school fundraiser?

 

-Make a workable schedule for checking e-mail, social media, and apps. Limit your use to only the most meaningful interactions.

 

--Spend more time outside in nature.

 

I hope you discover some new interests!

Hope

Posted on December 15, 2021 at 5:35 PM

As we finish out 2021 and are reflecting on this very challenging year, I am hoping to share some caring thoughts. We have had a difficult year collectively and have grown weary, anxious, and depressed. Some have lost friends, family members, careers, relationships, and hope. We have adjusted our lives to evaluate risks and benefits for almost every aspect of our lives in order to make safe decisions.

 

I encourage you to lean into your faith, resilience, and support system. It is my hope that you work with your medical and mental health professionals and obtain accurate and truthful information so that you can make informed decisions. Limit your intake of media and reduce social media use.

 

We can do our part to heal our wounds, show compassion to one another, and provide support for those who need it.

 

Have a joyous holiday season! Even if you modify your usual celebrations, it can still be full of joy and love!

Ted Lasso: Part Two

Posted on November 29, 2021 at 4:20 PM

As promised, this is the next part of my review and recommendation of the series Ted Lasso. As usual, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. If you haven’t read the first part, you can access it here:  https://meaningfulpsychservices.blogspot.com/2021/10/ted-lasso.html

 

The show Ted Lasso depicts a realistic experience with mental health issues, including (but not limited to) attachment, depression, anxiety, marital conflicts, and panic. We see the development of symptoms, the outpouring of support as well as the betrayal of rejection. We see the work of destigmatizing mental illness. We see the simultaneous love and hatred from others. We witness the never-ending effort yet inevitable failure to please everyone and make people like us. We see loneliness, redemption, and the quest for revenge. My favorite aspect is the development and maturity of several characters. In this respect, we see enemies become friends, hard hearts softened, and trust developed.

 

Ted Lasso is a worthy watch. I am eager to see what will happen in the future with these characters and themes!

Ted Lasso

Posted on October 28, 2021 at 12:00 AM

I am inspired by the series Ted Lasso and I hope you will be inspired too. I am going to try and avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t watched, please do (for mature audiences- this is not a kid friendly show) and read on!

 

 

This series highlights the ups and downs of life in a spectacular and unique way. One of the best and consistent themes throughout is a sense of optimism and strength despite stressors. We often describe this as resilience, a skill that can be learned and nurtured throughout your life and is very important for our overall well-being. To learn more about these healthy characteristics, see https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311 and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/resilience and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/optimism and https://positivepsychology.com/learned-optimism/

 

 

We also see forgiveness offered and received, even when someone wasn't thought to deserve it. Witnessing this sharing of kindness and grace encourages us to forgive those who have hurt or offended us. This is also very important for our well-being. For more on forgiveness, see https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-forgiving-life/201804/8-reasons-forgive

 

 

 

There are more great themes depicted in Ted Lasso worthy of discussion (stay tuned for next month), but for now, I will leave you with some reflecting points.

 

 

 

Here are some of the best quotes from the series:

 

 

 

“I think that’s what it’s all about. Embracing change.”

 

 

 

“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”

 

 

“I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”

 

 

“I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.”

 

 

“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”

Nature

Posted on September 28, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Are you taking time to be outside? Do you spend moments noticing trees, grass, flowers, or clouds. Are you enjoying feeling fresh air or the warmth of the sun? Being in nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health. It is also very important that our children spend time outside as often as possible. You may notice a positive difference in your child or student’s behavior after some outside play time. Here is an interesting article about the importance of being in nature for kids.  https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/

Play and Connection

Posted on August 26, 2021 at 12:25 AM

This may be one of the most amazing videos I have ever seen. Play is so important for our children (and adults too!) and often overlooked. Play can be simple, real, unstructured, interactive, cooperative, and imaginative. Play is important for leaning, problem solving, and cognitive development. Have fun playing!


https://www.ted.com/talks/molly_wright_how_every_child_can_thrive_by_five/up-next#t-441795

Four Horsemen and Couples

Posted on July 19, 2021 at 3:05 PM

Couples can sometimes find themselves in an unhealthy cycle of communication issues, misunderstandings, intimacy discomforts, and conflict. You may have heard about the “Four Horsemen” related to couples, a series of unhelpful and hurtful behaviors that harm relationships. Here is an excellent description of these patterns as well as some strategies for couples to improve their relationship.     


https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/avoiding_the_four_horsemen_in_relationships

Parenting Self-Care

Posted on June 23, 2021 at 8:00 AM

Balancing parenthood with any other aspect of life is a challenge. Becoming a parent presents some amazing opportunities to face anxiety and stress. Through it all and during whatever stage of parenting you may be at now, taking care of yourself is essential. Here is an excellent article with some practical and realistic strategies for self-care as a parent.  https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Finding-a-Self-Care-Ritual-That-Works-for-You.aspx" target="_blank">Finding a Self-Care Ritual That Works for You

Digital Wellness

Posted on May 27, 2021 at 5:20 PM

To avoid spoilers, read this post by Dr. Kanaris, sex therapist and psychologist, first. It’s not what you think! https://cyberinfidelityhelp.com/a-love-letter/

 

 

Then, read on...

 

  

Is technology serving you well or do you feel like you are being controlled by your phone, emails, social media, or other screens? There are excellent ways that technology can be a wonderful tool. We can connect with people in real-time across the world, keep in touch with teachers and students or start therapy. We can learn about almost any subject, and track our steps, food and water intake, sleep, and mood. We can make new friends, date, and work. I challenge you to check in on yourself- is technology a tool or your boss? How is your digital wellness? https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_technology_can_be_part_of_a_happy_life?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=a9b4cd037d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_May_25_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-a9b4cd037d-50850427

Languishing During a Pandemic

Posted on April 27, 2021 at 3:05 PM

Checking in on you this month. How are you doing? We have been in this collective trauma for over a year, and this is going to impact all of us. There was a recent article shared about the “blah” feeling many people have been experiencing during these later stages of the pandemic. I am sharing this with you https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html?smid=url-share" target="_blank">here.

 

I encourage you to fully experience your emotions and express them in an appropriate way. This does not mean don’t cry but rather communicate, cope, and collaborate. If that involves letting tears flow, let them flow. It is ok and normal-no need to apologize for this.

 

Practice good self-care with behaviors that rejuvenate and refresh you. Get a healthy amount of sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise, spend time with family and friends, and get outside. Challenge yourself with new activities, learning something new, or facing a fear.

 

You can stay healthy and have fun too!


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