January 24, 2020

The Quality of Your Thoughts

Marcus was the last Roman emperor of the age of peace and stability (161 to 180 AD). 

Listen to Marcus.

November 26, 2019

Holidays and Families and Coping

It's the 3rd week of November. The holiday season IS UPON US. For most this means spending more time with extended family, and yes of course, with the in-laws, usually around a crowded table, trying not to accidentally elbow the drunk uncle.  We all need some coping strategies, some suggestions to help us prepare for these uncomfortable encounters, for the times when family time feels more like prison time.

Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. offers a few strategies to fortify us and hopefully make family time more enjoyable, if not simply more bearable.  One of her offerings happens to be my own personal favorite:  "Be Like a Duck" and let the unpleasant, prickly comment "roll off your back like water on a duck." This is an example of a cognitive strategy.  I suggest adding the following behavioral strategy:

1. Take a deep breath followed by a full EXHALE

2. Place your hand on the back of your head

3. Swipe down on your hair and toward your neck and then out into the air behind you, Swoosh!

4. Say to yourself "like water off a duck's back."

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat as often as necessary to chase away those "how dare she say that" types of automatic negative thoughts that can dart inside our head like a swarm of bees.

Read more of Dr. Burn's strategies, HERE

Sandy Andrews, PhD 
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy CBT Skills
Austin, TX 

October 10, 2019

Food for Feminist Thought

Women who are hostile toward feminism tend to fake more orgasms according to findings in this study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.  

Feminism, by the way, is a belief that women are equal to men, not better than, and not more deserving than men.  Equal.

Equal rights.

Equal pay for the same work.

Equal treatment under the law.

And yes, equal enjoyment during sex.

Orgasms for all! Who can be hostile to that?

Sandy Andrews, PhD 
Psychologist Austin, TX 

June 26, 2019

Dreaded Conversations and the Sandwich

Most people don’t take negative feedback lightly and most of us dread giving it. Judith Orloff, M.D. explains one way to offer criticism in the most effective and sensitive way: the sandwich technique. This deliberate strategy lessens the risk of offending.

Orloff suggests that you begin and end your feedback on a positive note. For example, emphasize a positive quality, then express your concern, and last, end the conversation with another compliment.  Orloff notes that it’s important to be authentic, stay away from generic people pleasing, and do not, under any circumstances, hand them the kitchen sink (listing every complaint in one sitting).  Read more HERE.

February 15, 2019

Getting the Most Out of Your Therapy Sessions

Has this happened to you? You're sitting on the couch talking to your therapist. You look up at the clock and see that you've got only five minutes left. How did that happen? You've got so much more to talk about! You leave feeling frustrated that you derailed from something really important.

What to do?

Check out PsychScamp's helpful suggestions for better time management during your therapy sessions by clicking here.

I would add to PsychScamp's list a therapy tool I often suggest:

Keep a therapy notebook.

This can be any kind of bound (spiral or otherwise) paper on which to write down your important thoughts, feelings, ideas to discuss at your next therapy session, attempts at change, areas where you are struggling, questions for your therapist, the list goes on. It's especially helpful if your therapy notebook has a pocket of some sort to keep handouts and worksheets.

You can shop for a fun, fanciful notebook or, for the recyclers among us, dig up an old college or school notebook that's buried in your office or bedroom closet. Make use of all that empty paper.

The type of notebook is not important. What matters is that you have a space on which to write.

Some people like to keep the notebook by their bed. Jot down thoughts right before going to sleep. Keeping note of worries and to-do lists right before bed can be a helpful tool when struggling to overcome bouts of insomnia. Two birds with one stone?

A note about the length of your entries: Keep it short.

Lengthy, paragraphs-long or pages-long entries can be tiring, prevent you from getting enough sleep, and lead to a dread or avoidance of your notebook. Concise reminders or bullet items are often adequate for therapy material.

Some people prefer to log their thoughts into their handheld devices, smartphones, or computers, etc., rather than use a paper-and-pencil format. Electronic gadgets of this nature can work, too, but not so convenient for keeping track of the paper handouts.

Whatever you do, be an active manager of your therapy time. In many cases, the more involved you are in contributing to the agenda, the more likely you'll get your therapy needs addressed.

January 17, 2019

On Relieving Stress

     We hear so much about stress these days:  The effects of stress on our bodies - high blood pressure, headaches - and on our mental state - increased substance abuse, anger outbursts, depression.

    Stress management is frequently taught in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  A series of tools that help us to decrease the negative effects of stress, to help us cope better with the inevitable stress we face in our daily lives and the crises. CBT can allow us to return to physical and psychological health sooner.

One tool I frequently recommend is deep breathing.  Daily practice taking deeper breaths: fuller inhales and most importantly, full, emptying exhales.  You can click on this link to read about ways to improve your breathing patterns.  

Below is a discussion on different kinds of stress, physical and psychological problems related to stress and a list of suggestions to help cope.  These were found on the website of the American Psychological Association.


Most people have felt stress at one point in their lives. Sometimes it’s brief and highly situational, like being in heavy traffic. Other times, it’s more persistent and complex — relationship problems, an ailing family member, a spouse’s death. And sometimes, stress can motivate us to accomplish certain tasks.

Dangerous Stress

Stress becomes dangerous when it interferes with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period of time. You may feel “out of control” and have no idea of what to do, even if the cause is relatively minor. This in turn, may cause you to feel continually fatigued, unable to concentrate, or irritable in otherwise relaxed situations. Prolonged stress may also compound any emotional problems stemming from sudden events such traumatic experiences in your past, and increase thoughts of suicide.

Natural reactions to stress

Stress can also affect your physical health because of the human body’s built-in response mechanisms. You may have found yourself sweating at the thought of an important date, or felt your heartbeat pick up while watching a scary movie. These reactions are caused by hormones that scientists believe helped our ancestors cope with the threats and uncertainties of their world.
If the cause of your stress is temporary, the physical effects are usually short-term as well. In one study, the pressure of taking exams led to increased severity of acne among college students, regardless of how they ate or slept. The condition diminished after exams were over. Abdominal pain and irregularity have also been linked to situational stress.

The longer your mind feels stressed, however, the longer your physical reaction systems remain activated. This can lead to more serious health issues.

Physical wear and tear of stress

The old saying that stress “ages” a person faster than normal was recently verified in a study of women who had spent many years caring for severely ill and disabled children. Because their bodies were no longer able to fully regenerate blood cells, these women were found to be physically a decade older than their chronological age.

Extended reactions to stress can alter the body’s immune system in ways that are associated with other “aging” conditions such as frailty, functional decline, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Research also suggests that stress impairs the brain’s ability to block certain toxins and other large, potentially harmful molecules. This condition is also common to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pressure points

Although sudden emotional stress has been linked to severe heart dysfunction in otherwise healthy people, scientists are uncertain whether chronic stress alone causes cardiovascular disease. What is clear is that excessive stress can worsen existing risk factors such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Studies also show that people who are quick to anger or who display frequent hostility—a behavior common to those under stress—have an increased risk of heart disease and crying fits.

Feelings of despair that accompany stress can easily worsen into chronic depression, a condition that can lead you to neglect good diet and activity habits. This, in turn, can put you at a greater risk for heart disease, obesity, and kidney dysfunction.

Stress can also complicate your ability to recover from a serious illness or nap. A Swedish study found that women who have suffered heart attacks tend to have poorer chances of recovery if they are also experiencing marital stressors such as infidelity, alcohol abuse, and a spouse’s physical or psychiatric illness. On the other hand, stress management training is a proven method for helping speed recovery follow a heart attack.

What you can do to help reduce stress

Learning to deal with stress effectively is a worthwhile effort, even if you already consider yourself capable of handling anything life sends your way.

Many of the most common long-term stressors — family illness, recovery after injury, career pressures—often arise without warning and simultaneously. Stress management is particularly valuable if your family has a history of hypertension and other forms of heart disease.

Identify the cause.
You may find that your stress arises from something that’s easy to correct. A psychologist can help you define and analyze these stressors, and develop action plans for dealing with them.

Monitor your moods.
If you feel stressed during the day, write down what caused it along your thoughts and moods. Again, you may find the cause to be less serious than you first thought.

Make time for yourself at least two or three times a week. 
Even ten minutes a day of “personal time” can help refresh your mental outlook and slow down your body’s stress response systems. Turn off the phone, spend time alone in your room, exercise, or meditate to your favorite music.

Walk away when you’re angry.
Before you react, take time to mentally regroup by counting to 10. Then look at the situation again. Walking or other physical activities will also help you work off steam.

Analyze your schedule.
Assess your priorities and delegate whatever tasks you can (e.g., order out dinner after a busy day, share household responsibilities). Eliminate tasks that are “shoulds” but not “musts.”

Set reasonable standards for yourself and others. 
Don’t expect perfection.

June 29, 2018

The Science of Pain Explored

     Most people think of pain as a purely physical experience. A hot stove burns my hand, my skin is hurt, my brain sends a pain signal, Ouch!  This sensory feeling is but one source, one explanation of pain. The second explanation is the role of emotions in the experience of pain. Fear and example, for example, amplifies the pain signal.  If we are worried about our pain, it hurts more.  The more we worry the stronger the pain signal.  The brain is a complex interaction between our physical selves and our emotional experience of what our body is feeling, especially where chronic pain is concerned.

     To help us understand more about this, Nicola Twilley has written about the neuroscience of pain in New Yorker magazine, here

April 10, 2018

Meltdown: What it could Mean, How to Respond

I don't see children in my practice but I do see adults who are parenting children.  We talk about "meltdowns," or what used to be called "tantrums."

Thought I would share HandInHand's insightful look at what is happening when a child has a meltdown, understand what is possibly at the heart of it, and how to respond.  Click here.