Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
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
|Posted on December 14, 2022 at 12:00 AM|
While this can be a season of busyness, stress, and worry, we can intentionally slow down and practice gratitude and mindfulness. There are many benefits of practicing gratitude. I encourage you to read this article and learn about some of them.
How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=834cec9689-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_Special_Edition_Nov+2022&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-834cec9689-50850427
I am thankful for you taking the time to read this post!
|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.
|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.”
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!
Resilience During the Pandemic
|Posted on May 26, 2020 at 2:30 PM|
We are living history in the making right now more than ever. Our day-to-day challenges, activities, sources of happiness, health concerns, interactions, learning environments, and work experiences have been impacted. We can choose to let these factors wound us and diminish our well-being, or we can choose to practice optimism, resilience and grit and embrace life with a sense of meaning and purpose.
Here are some suggestions to accomplish this:
Connect with others safely. Replace the phrase “social distancing” with “physical distancing” and remember that we can see people online via video or in-person following the local health department guidelines. It is very important to stay connected with our community, friends, and family.
Practice healthy behaviors during the pandemic. Demonstrate concern for the well-being of others by wearing a face covering and following guidance from health professionals.
Limit the news viewing. Stick to 1 or 2 reputable resources for information grounded in science and local information as needed. When possible, review primary/original sources of information or consolidated information from a trusted health professional rather than news media summaries.
Remember that we are all involved in this pandemic in some way and show kindness and healthy attributions towards others. We don’t know why a teacher doesn’t respond to a student’s email. We don’t know why a student doesn’t submit work. We don’t know why someone is venting on social media. We don’t know why our neighbor has guests over. We don’t know why a business who is permitted to be open is closed. We don’t know why someone is not wearing a mask. We don’t know who is struggling and how. We have a tendency to blame others. Let’s pause and challenge ourselves to come up with 2-3 alternative explanations for someone else’s behavior. This shows kindness to others and also exercises your cognitive skills.
Remember that challenges can bring us together and we can learn, grow, and make healthy changes for the future.
Let Your Heart Be Light
|Posted on December 17, 2018 at 11:00 AM|
Let your heart be light. What do you think of when you hear this?
If you didn’t recognize this phrase, this is a song lyric in a popular holiday song. I got to thinking about the deeper meaning of this phrase within the context of well-being.
Is your heart light? What does that mean? What does a light heart look like? How can we describe, measure, or even observe a light heart?
For me, my heart feels light when I am tucking my children in bed at night and when I check on them when they are sleeping. There is a special and wholesome feeling watching children sleep brings us.
When do you feel that your heart is light?
Notice that the lyric says “let” rather than “feel.” This word choice suggests that we have more influence over our feelings than we think. We sometimes get caught up in a problem and we forget our internal capacity to cope and make healthy choices. We choose not to experience peace and joy. We choose unhealthy thinking patterns or to let our worry thoughts define us.
When you feel a light heart, are your troubles indeed out of sight?
Perhaps we can have a light heart even when we have troubles and struggles. Our mindset can make a big difference in our day-to-day mood. Allow yourself to breath and manage stressors. Your heart may be lighter and fuller.
Pay attention to those warm feelings. Look for the good. Focus on your ability to handle difficult situations.
What Would Someone You Admire Do?
|Posted on October 15, 2018 at 1:30 PM|
This month, I am sharing a podcast with Dr. Samantha Boardman, a psychiatrist who specializes in the use of positive psychology and has an excellent-worth-following blog.
This episode talks about the powerful thought-feeling-behavior connection- how our doing, thinking, and feeling matters. Dr. Boardman also discusses coping strategies for anxiety and how to apply meditation strategies.
I challenge you to consider these ideas:
In this moment, what would someone you admire do?
Have you been handling this situation differently?
How are your behaviors related to your thoughts?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
|Posted on June 18, 2018 at 3:35 PM|
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Did you know that Mr. Rogers has had an impact on childhood development for over 40 years? I am sharing a briefhttps://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA" target="_blank"> video of Mr. Rogers from the late 1960s that illustrates several important aspects of childhood and the impact us grown-ups have on children.
As you watch, consider the role of these factors in your and your children's lives: trust, media, violence, coping with emotions, problem solving, communication skills, and kindness.
Then, catch an old episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood or the newer spin-off, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.
How do you want to raise your children? What lessons are we teaching kids with popular media today?
Our Struggles Can Be Beautiful
|Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:45 AM|
On most of our walks as the season changed from winter to spring, my oldest son pointed out that the leaves are "trying to grow" in the sweetest most optimistic voice. At 3 years old, our perspective may not yet be influenced by negativity from the world around us. This observation has prompted me to watch how the leaves on one of my favorite trees along our route grow. For months, the tree was barren and devoid of liveliness , as were the neighboring trees. At first, we noticed tiny yellow buds on the edges of the branches. We were surprised by all of the details they displayed and how these buds did not seem to resemble the beginning of a leaf. As the weather grew warmer and the days longer, these buds grew more and finally peaked into a large green leaf. With this, the tree became alive again.
On some days, our life may feel barren and empty. These feelings may even last a whole season. With our weather adjusting between cold and warm days, the leaves were struggling to grow- or as my 3-year-old sees it, "trying" to grow. Our struggles teach us how to harness resilience, be patient, overcome obstacles, and transform something empty into joy.
Pay attention to the details and challenges in your life. With time, resilience, self-care, and hope, they may develop into something beautiful.
Changing Your Parenting Perspective
|Posted on July 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM|
The way we think about our world, experiences, past, present, and future matters. For this reason, I am sharing this interesting article I came across about the way we think about parenting. I hope that you find it as inspiring and helpful as I do.
Being the parent of a toddler is not an easy task. For those parents out there, I am sure you can relate. Days can be long. Nights can be short. Sleep can be lacking. Energy can be completely sapped. During these challenges, however, are tiny little eyes and ears soaking up how you approach stress, your experiences, and how you model coping skills. This includes how you parent. Little ones are paying attention to so much more than we think.
This article highlights a pivotal change in thinking as a parent- the true privileges we experience in the day-to-day moments as a parent. I hope that it challenges you to change your perspective and embrace the fun and difficult moments in the day.
https://www.parent.co/two-words-can-transform-parenting/" target="_blank">The Two Words That Can Transform Your Parenting
Can You See Things Differently?
|Posted on June 12, 2017 at 1:30 PM|
You think you have the right and best way of doing (insert activity). In fact, you insist that you know you're right and your (insert person-partner/friend/co-worker/boss/child/parent) is wrong. Where does this lead you? Usually to a disagreement, disappointment, or a feeling of being disgruntled. In reality, there is no right or wrong way. So, why do we get so hung up on seeing things from our own perspective?
The way we view the world matters. In fact, this interpretation has a direct impact on how we feel, which influences how we behave. It can feel very natural and easy to concentrate on our own perspective and not consider the perspectives of others.
In my practice, we often work on a mental stretching exercise in which we try to develop alternative explanations for the behavior of other people as well as understand a situation from another perspective. Trying to see the situation differently has a lot of benefits, including the development of cognitive restructuring skills.
Being able to see a situation from another perspective does not mean that you agree, disagree, accept or reject someone else's viewpoint. It just means that you value multiple perspectives on an issue and can expand your thinking. You may ultimately decide that your original opinion is still best for you, but you may be more compassionate towards the other person. Sometimes you will amend or change your viewpoint by incorporating other perspectives.
To illustrate this, consider the following situation. You are standing in line at the supermarket and perceive that the cashier is moving too slowly scanning your items for you. Your first thoughts attribute this slowness for lack of skill or caring for the job. This results in frustration, negative judgment, and a potentially not so nice interaction. When you consider alternatives from the cashier's perspective, you can develop the following options that the cashier 1- cares very much about their job that they don’t want to make a mistake; 2-love their work and enjoy going slowly; 3- just got yelled at by their supervisor for making a mistake; 4- dealt with an aggravated customer earlier who said the cashier bagged too quickly and broke their glass jar of sauce; 5- they don't feel well; 6- they do not in fact care about their job; 7- they have a physical disability. You may be able to come up with even more possibilities. In doing this, you are expanding your viewpoints and cognitive abilities and may even be kinder both to yourself as well as the other person.
Challenge yourself today. Try to see things differently. Try for even a moment to be in someone else's position. You may learn a lot about yourself and your world.
|Posted on January 16, 2017 at 4:05 PM|
The idea for this month's post was inspired by my toddler. Yes, my 2 year old told me what to write about. Over breakfast the other day, I asked my son what Mama should write about for her monthly newsletter. His response of "How 'bout Count and Big Bird?" inspired me.
My son is a big Sesame Street fan, which means I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of Sesame Street over the past few months. As a child, I loved the show. As an adult and psychologist, I have a renewed appreciation of the program and the lessons it teaches. The current season premiered recently and the theme is kindness, a simple fact that I was reminded of with my son's suggestion.
Kindness- what a wonderful concept to focus on this month. Kindness is often confused with being nice, but there are differences. Telling someone they look great before a job interview when they obviously have food stuck in their teeth may be nice but not very kind. The dictionary distinguishes between the helpful nature of being kind and the pleasant nature of being nice.
There are lots of ways to be kind. If you want to get some ideas, take a look at the first episode of Sesame Street this season. You will see people and monsters being considerate, helpful, and loving to one another. All ways of being kind.
Kindness is good for you, others, and the world. It can even boost happiness. If you are interested in learning more about the research on kindness, take a look at this Greater Good article: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind
Here are some ideas to generate kindness:
Pay it forward- pay for the order of the car behind you in the drive-thru
Take a friend out for coffee
Help someone carry a bag at the grocery store
Offer to help a family member or friend with a household project
Give a loved one a hug
Provide free babysitting for a parent in need
Tell someone the truth in a gentle manner
How can you show kindness?
Are You Growing?
|Posted on December 13, 2016 at 12:35 AM|
As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting back on the year. What went well? What didn't go so well? What was my biggest challenge? What obstacle did I overcome? Which goals did I achieve? Which changes are a work in progress? When and how did I use mindfulness skills?
As 2017 approaches, I also reflect on the future. What would I like to do differently? Which habits would be healthy for me to change? Which habits would be best to maintain? How do I want to spend my day? How do I want to engage the people around me? What is the healthiest way to interact with my work? What do I want to accomplish this year?
I challenge you to ask yourself these or similar questions. You can use these as a guide. Pay attention and even write down your answers. You may be surprised by what you learn about yourself.
Now ask yourself this: how can I grow this year?
My hope for you is to develop a growth mindset. This means to approach challenges, embrace criticism, and continue growing through the lifespan. Interested? You can read more about growth mindset and Dr. Carol Dweck's work https://www.mindsetworks.com/Science/Impact" target="_blank">here.
One way that you can challenge yourself this year is to take the Behavior Change Ahead Course. On sale for $10 now, you will learn the ins and outs of changing our behavior. Choose a habit and make a change with this course.
I wish you health, change, growth, and love in 2017.
|Posted on November 14, 2016 at 2:00 PM|
It's November, which means families are starting to get ready for the holidays. With the fun, family, decorations, friends, parties, and food comes the busyness and stress of the season. Whether it is deciding plans for travel, meals, and gatherings, it can be helpful to share and show thankfulness.
When was the last time that you felt or expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to make these plans? For the amazing problem solving power of our brain to even make plans? For our planning ability to think of "first we can do this and then we can do that"? For the ability to drive and pick up a holiday decoration? Or the freedom to select some online?
All around us- even during the difficulty, the struggles, the hurts, and the fears- there is good. Some days it may be hard to find it, but it is there. We can look for the joy, the good, the humor, the "what's going well" experiences. When you find it, be thankful for it.
It is also healthy to show that you are thankful for the good. It feels so warm and cozy when people express gratitude to us or for something we did. It supports relationships, workplaces, self-care, and parenting.
There are many ways to show your thankfulness. You can keep write down the experiences, people, and things you are thankful for. You can write and send a gratitude letter to someone you are thankful for. You can find hope and express this feeling in your faith. You can tell your children, your spouse, your family, and your friends that you appreciate them and what they do. You can say thank you for taking out the garbage, moving the cars, going food shopping, following directions, or just being there.
While November can be a month to remind us of the importance of being thankful, you can feel, share, and show your appreciation, love, gratitude and hope all year long. I hope that you do.
|Posted on February 15, 2016 at 1:25 PM|
A few days ago, I found myself trying not to laugh out loud while hiding behind the door in my son's room. He had just learned to play Hide and Seek and couldn’t find me. My husband, who did not know we were playing this game, also began looking for me, genuinely not knowing where I had gone. This made the game even more funny. I could see and hear them, but neither knew where my excellent hiding space was. Once they found me, we all laughed together.
When was the last time you played? Play is important not only for children but also for adults. Children learn through play and adults can engage in relaxation, meaningful time with others, and fun through play. Play can take many forms, whether it is building with your children, playing a sports game, or having a dance party. What is fun varies from person to person.
This month, try and play more. Maybe you will find yourself doing the very best job of holding in your laughter hiding behind a door.
How Do You Use Your Strengths?
|Posted on June 4, 2014 at 9:20 PM|
What can we learn from super hero, comic book, etc. movies? I never thought I would be asking this question. For those of you who have worked with me, you would probably guess that my movie interests are not action or superhero based. Rather, I have historically indulged in romantic comedies, laugh out loud comedies and serious films about the human condition or relationships. Since meeting my husband 6 years ago, I have been exposed to new genres and serious films that I had never experienced before. Challenging my hobbies, thinking, and interests has opened new doors and surprisingly expanded my knowledge base and strengths. So- go see something you never thought you would!
Back to my original thought-I learned that movies that on the surface appear to be purely entertainment may actually illustrate interesting psychological themes. For this piece, I am going to focus on strengths.
Do you know what strengths you have? Being able to identify your strengths is a good step to take in mental wellness. Spider Man can use webbing to climb, grab, swing, capture, and rescue. The X-Men are comprised of characters who can read minds, fly, manipulate metal, and exert amazing strength. Superman can fly, is incredibly strong, and has x-ray vision.
Now that I have listed a few strengths of characters in movies, it's time to ask the next question. How do you use your strengths? The characters mentioned above have used their strengths for good and bad, depending on the portrayal. Some have intended to use their talents and abilities for good, but it turned out to work against them. Some have thought it was appropriate to utilize a particular strength, but it was not the best time to display it. The Hulk, for example, has amazing muscular power, but he sometimes is not able to control its use and can thus hurt himself and those around him.
Next, how can you use your strengths differently? Some situations call for you to use a strength while others do not. We can use our strengths more, less, or differently.
We can and should focus and develop our strengths, not our weaknesses. Think about some famous characters and how they have grown. In the X-Men movies, Professor X puts together an academy to do just this. Characters are taught skills to effectively manage, develop, and utilize their strengths.
There are some great assessments available online if you are interested in learning more about your unique strengths and would like to open a discussion about how they are being used in your daily life.
Here are a few:
VIA Institute on Character
Authentic Happiness Questionnaire Center
Gallup Strengths Center
Let me know what you learn and contact me if you would like to chat more about developing your or your child's strengths.
The "Being" Experience During the Holidays
|Posted on November 18, 2013 at 8:35 PM|
“We are human beings, not human doings.” This phrase really resonates with me, especially around the holidays. A colleague introduced me to this concept a few months ago, and it popped up again in a book I was reading recently. I think I am being reminded of something. We human beings have many opportunities to choose how to spend our time every day. We can choose to use our time for people, technology, trips, exercise, sleep, TV, chores, work, errands, etc. As we all know very well, the list can go on and on. Thinking about this phrase reminds me that this is the point. The list does go on and on. There will always be another activity, chore, phone call to make, thing to buy, or meeting to attend. Our loved ones and friends, however, may not always be there waiting for us while we check things off of our to-do list. Knowing this is a gentle nudge to use our time wisely and make room for mindfully being with people in our community.
When I say community, I don’t just mean our neighborhood. I mean who is present in our personal community in our lives. This may include (not limited to) parents, children, siblings, grandparents, a spiritual being (e.g., God), friends, co-workers and neighbors.
As a psychologist working with children (and adults), I see families feeling so busy, stressed, and running from one activity to the next. Kids will tell me how they have such a busy week that they think about everything they need to do while they are in school- Soccer, gymnastics, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church, dance, HW, football, drama club, birthday parties, and, of course, their appointment with me. Parents will say they run from one appointment and activity to the next for themselves and for each of their kids.
For parents, it is so important to remember that you are a human being and not a human doing. Your children are yearning for your time. Some kids feels that their parents don’t spend enough time with them, and their parents don’t understand this because they are bringing them to all of these activities and are maybe coaching their team or leading their club. These are truly wonderful ways to spend time with your kids. But kids want more. They want special mommy or daddy time. They want special family time. This means choosing to spend time playing, reading, laughing, tickling, chasing, talking, listening, and relaxing rather than running, rushing, accomplishing, and achieving. This is the difference between being and doing.
I have seen many kids in my practice who are engaging in problem behaviors at home. These may include yelling, hitting, not following directions, and arguing. Mom and dad feel forced to attend to their kids when they are acting this way. But, it is important to remember that all behavior is communication. Some of these behaviors may be communicating that they want to spend more time with you and they don’t know how else to show it. When you attend to problem behaviors, you attend to the child as well.
I find it helpful to plan ahead and make a schedule for work and for family time. I also find that flexibility in your plan is just as important as having one. Part of cultivating community is being flexible, going with the flow, and accepting what comes up in your day. Sometimes you feel you have to be in three places at once, and sometimes you need to be with your kids if they are sick, sad, or need to talk. As this holiday season approaches, let us remember to take time to choose being and not doing all the time. If we are being, we may be able to actually accomplish more than if we are focused on doing. We will likely have more fun through the season as well.
How will you be a human being and not a human doing this holiday season?