IS SOBRIETY ENOUGH? Three recovery challenges – and how you can survive them all…



Sometimes the advice those in recovery think they hear is what not to do! All those don’ts: Don’t hang out with the same old crowd. Don’t go to the same old places. Don’t let your family talk you back into the old patterns. And definitely don’t use another addiction to substitute for whatever you are addicted to, but not using now!

And if you’re not hearing the “don’ts,” then you might be advised about the tasks you must do: Take a class, read good books, meditate, go to 12-step meetings, find new friends, pay attention to the triggers, learn to say “no,” be honest, and probably a long list of other “musts!”

All those “don’ts” and “musts” are excellent advice! But many of my clients tell me it’s the “how” that is the greatest challenge. How to say the right words, so your old friends will understand and your new friends will like you anyway. How to get your family to be supportive, without a fight and hard feelings. How to reconnect with the good-for-you folks you’ve alienated in the past. And, in general, how to get your emotional needs met when you’re not able to take refuge in a substance.

Below are some challenges you might be facing – and some suggestions for the “how-to-do-it” next steps.
Keep reading…..

LOST YOUR STOP SIGN? Braking that impulse in three steps!


Learn how to get in front of those impulses that cause conflict and stress!

Impulse control

Oops! It happened again. David meant to express empathy and concern to his father, who was upset about a business problem. Instead, he blurted out, “Well, don’t expect me to do anything! I have no time to waste on stuff like that!” As soon as it was out of his mouth, he knew…. he’d done  it again. His mouth had operated before his brain even started to think! And his dad was angry – and not holding back from letting him know that!

If only David had known how to get his stop sign back! See, often the only difference between David and lots of other folks – the ones who think first – is that stop sign in his head…. the one that should be popping up to warn its host: “Keep mouth closed! Put brain in motion…. then use the words that actually work for you!”

Below are some approaches that can help your brain to think before your mouth gets you in trouble. Just keep in mind that these tips will only work if you practice using them on the small stuff as well as those larger challenges. Keep reading…..

STRESS at WORK: Eleven tips for surviving and thriving.


Stress at workStress happens! To all of us. At home, at work, with friends, and with family. The many published articles, books, and research reports that discuss the causes of and fixes for workplace stress could probably fill a very large library– ample evidence that you’re not alone in feeling stressed.

Most of us are familiar with these stress-causing “shoulds” in life: You should feel lucky that you even have a job! You should just focus on getting your own work done – never mind those other annoying folks! And – one of my favorites – you should be able to get along with your colleagues, without getting angry or causing office problems! We should be able to do all that – right?

Well…. maybe not…. At least not so easily! Workplaces are rife with opportunities for stress to pop up at the least provocation. And when folks are stressed and can’t find relief, then anger and conflict are sure to follow. And you may feel as though there’s not much you can do about that – especially if you want to keep your job!  Keep reading…..

HOW LONG IS ENOUGH? 10 warning signs to help you decide if it’s time to move on.


Commitment: “A promise to do or give something; a promise to be loyal to someone or something; the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  And most, if not all, commitments involve some sort of relationship – with another person, a business, a political party or even with a part of yourself.

We make many commitments throughout our lives. Business/professional obligations, friendships, intimate relationships, leases, debts, appearance at family events, a promise to self to think or behave in a specific way, and even those as minor as regular hair care appointments or using the same cleaners for years ….. these are just a few examples of the many small and large obligations we may feel obligated to continue – even if they no longer work for us.

Life gives us lots of messages about our various relationships – if only we’d pay attention! But for those who think a commitment means you must stick it out, be responsible, do it “right” (whatever that means!), paying attention to the miscues isn’t so simple. After all, it’s not totally bad. And some of it can feel really good!

If you’ve been feeling trapped in a commitment, if you can’t figure out if you need to get out….. keep reading for some warning signs that might help you decide if this is the right time to make some changes. Start noticing, when you’re in commitment mode and……  Keep reading…..

COMPLAINING OR USEFUL FEEDBACK? Point of view can make a difference…

Complaint department

Complaint or Useful Information?

Has someone been complaining about your child?
Maybe it’s the neighbor who thinks there’s way too much noise in your home. Or the teacher who has let you know there are challenges at school and that your child needs to do the homework, be less talkative, comply with school rules, etc. Or perhaps it’s a complete stranger in the market, telling you to discipline your child!

Have some family members let you know that they have complaints about how you are raising your child? Complaints they feel the need to communicate to you loudly and frequently? With the implication that you can’t possibly be a good parent, since you obviously don’t know the “right” way to raise your child?

It can be tough being a parent. You do the very best you can, and you certainly don’t expect that others may think that your best efforts just aren’t enough.  Keep reading…..

NEED SOME HELP? Sometimes that conversation seems tougher than it needs to be!

Therapy can help!

Sometimes, the help you get isn’t the help you need!

Over the years, I’ve had many clients who have difficulty asking for what they need. And our work around that involves more than just finding an understanding of why that happens.

Insight is nice – but tends not to quite be enough. So the other half of our challenge is to create a sort of toolbox of strategies that make it easier to get needed support.

We fill that box with easy-to-use statements, sensory awareness techniques (how to recognize what your body tells you), and a variety of things to use when you don’t know what else to do. And that collection of “stuff” can be quite useful. And most of the time, people will be able to “read” you better, as you learn how to more effectively tell them what you need.

Except,  of course, for those few who just don’t seem to get it! And lately, I’ve had a number of clients tell me that no matter what they do, how they say it, what words they use…. there are some people who seem not to understand – ever!

And I used to think that they must just not be saying it right. Until I had some personal experiences that yielded similar results for me.

Since I like to write – and since writing helps me think things through, I’ve written this little piece to describe what I hear and what I’ve experienced: Help me! Or not?

 And if you could use a little help in figuring out how to get the support you need, give me a call now to arrange a free phone consultation or to make that first appointment: 310 475-1759.


WHO WORRIES ABOUT YOU? Thoughts about stress, change, anger around us…


Stress, changeLately, I’ve been getting more calls than usual from concerned family members. They describe too much stress, change, and anger. They talk about sons, daughters, spouses, partners, mothers, fathers whose behavior has been hurting what used to be loving relationships. I hear about quick tempers, silent anger and lots of unhappiness all around. And I hear of previously easy relationships  that have now become  battlegrounds. And I’ve been wondering, why now?

Surprisingly (at least to me!), what I don’t hear about in these calls is the economy, political angst, news reports, and other events happening in the world. But, while those issues aren’t mentioned in these phone calls, I”m very much aware that the world seems to many of us to be pretty stress-inducing lately! Prominent figures are openly hostile (rude?) to each other. Wars are taking lives and the details can be hard to hear. And the challenged economy has impacted most of us.

So even though my callers aren’t mentioning all these issues, my general impression is that just hearing about all of this is producing lots of stress. And that stress takes a toll on all of us.


LOOKING FOR A THERAPIST IN THE BIG CITY? Challenges of searching for help in Los Angeles (or any urban area).

Deli menus can be so overwhelming! Especially when you’re hungry, in a  hurry or just want to find something simple to order. Several pages of choices, all of which sound wonderful to you – how ever can you figure out which is going to satisfy your immediate need for something that tastes good, is good for you, and also keeps you satisfied for a reasonable amount of time?


Have you ever been lost in that  “deli menu” therapist search?  Just Google “counseling in Los Angeles,” and stare for a bit at the long list of options you now have. Many of which point you to directories with even more listings! And what about all those adjacent cities? Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Culver City, and so on…….. The larger the city, the more options you are likely to find. Unless you have some inside info, just narrowing down the search to a few possible contacts might be more than you can cope with – especially when you need that help right now.


So – how can you narrow down that search? Consider taking these steps:

  • Get some recommendations from friends or your doctor (if you’re comfortable doing that).
  • Google therapists in the area you need and with your specialty preference.
  • Step back and take a few deep breaths – you will find a therapist!
  • Start anywhere – with the recommendations or on the search results.
  • Trust your instinct: Identify the first five therapists who seem “right” to you.
  • Use your phone – not email – to connect with each therapist.
  • And then – trust your instincts! Make an appointment with the first therapist with whom you feel a bond.

And – before you start calling, take a look at the post just before this one. Especially pay attention to the link in the last paragraph. Then pick up the phone and make that first call! You might get me directly, but if not, please leave a message at any time and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible: 310-475-1759.


CHOOSING THE RIGHT THERAPIST: How do you figure it out?

Lately, this question has come up frequently. I’m often asked for referrals, sometimes for people I can’t see for various reasons and sometimes by colleagues looking for someone with a particular specialty or in another area of the city.


You might think that would be an easy task – coming up with several choices. I’m very active with two of my major professional organizations. I know lots of therapists and have a long list of good referrals at hand. I should have no problem making those referrals. But the problem is that it’s really, really hard to make that perfect match.


My referrals are always made with the caveat that what works for one may not be right  for another. And with encouragement to  pay attention to the voice that says “yes!’ this is a match. Or, to the possibility that maybe this isn’t the right therapist for this person.


So when I was asked to write a blog post on that very topic, I decided to go for it! After all, that post had already been written in my head for months……….


Take a look here to see what I wrote. I hope you find it helpful, and I encourage you to contact me or comment here, if you’d like to give me feedback or have some questions.

BODY LANGUAGE: MORE POWERFUL THAN SOME WORDS! It’s often what you do, the gestures you use, that can make all the difference!

“Jeff” stormed into my office, clearly infuriated with one of his college professors. And it was equally clear that he wanted me to tell him he was right! To tell him that he had good reason for telling that professor exactly what he thought of her! After all, she’d embarrassed him in class and seemed not to have understood the brilliant points he was trying to make. (Some details have been changed in the interest of maintaining confidentiality!)

And the reality was that he seemed to have a point. “Jeff” often sees what others don’t, thinks creatively, and is a pretty good problem-solver. It would have been nice if his teacher could have looked past his un-charming style and seen that his contributions were accurate and useful. But my guess is that his impatience, outsize gestures, eye rolls, and general stance were somewhat alienating, to put it mildly!

As you might have guessed, the reason “Jeff” was seeing me was to get help with his anger and with his communication style. One thing we both figured out was that Jeff’s style of problem solving was a little different and that “different” often turns off some folks. And that, if he really wanted to be heard, “Jeff”  was going to need to figure out how to translate his wisdom into words and body language that others could understand.

All his life, “Jeff” had been considered to be the difficult child – in school and at home. He’d been the one who had to be calmed down, silenced when his creative ideas were more than his peers (and teachers) could manage, and the one who started building up an intense anger that he was forbidden to express. And he thought this would never change – until a caring family friend convinced him to get some help.

It was quite a while before “Jeff” got up the courage to call me. But, when he finally made that call, he was ready to try something different. Over time, “Jeff” learned how to self-monitor, when his anxiety threatened to take charge. He learned the words to say that would actually help him be heard, help him get his needs met. And, he discovered the (for him!) startling notion that most people are put off when faced with all that outsized body language.

Sometimes, the challenge stares us right in the face! It was clear that “Jeff” had never learned that how he used his body could be even more important than how he used his words.

And – sometimes it just takes that “someone else,” that friend, boss, teacher, family member to instill a realization that change is  possible. And to point out that we don’t have to do it alone, and help is possible. What a shame it would have been for “Jeff,” if that friend hadn’t stepped in to give that extra push.