paved road on rainy day surrounded by forest

             I get asked the question repeatedly – will I ever get better?  Will the abuse ever stop running my life?  The answer is twofold.  Yes, your life can get better.  Yes, the abuse can stop running and ruining your life.  I’m not sure however, if it will ever completely stop intruding on your life.

            I wish I had better news.  I wish I could say that once you do your work, the abuse will never have any impact on your life ever again.  You will never have another nightmare, never have another panic attack, and never have a moment of low self-esteem ever again.  The truth is you might have times when you need to do some more work, in fact that is a good possibility.  I don’t tell you this to discourage you, I tell you so that you can have realistic expectations and not feel like you have failed if some old shadows show up occasionally.

            So many clients feel like they haven’t worked hard enough, or that they are too damaged and that’s why they can’t seem to get over the abuse 100%.  Their self-esteem suffers and their confidence falls.  So, hear me loud and clear, there is nothing wrong with you or your recovery if you need extra support once in a while for the rest of your life.  You are not doing anything wrong or being lazy!

            Abuse, especially abuse from childhood, has so many layers to it.  It can affect us physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally.  It shows up in new ways when we go through changes in our lives, like getting married, or having kids, or starting a new career.  How is it reasonable to expect that you can sort through all the layers and be done forever?  Personally, I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation at all. 

            The good news is that once you get the big chunk of work done, you never have to do that again.  You don’t have to go down that road of intense and possibly long term work again.  The next pieces can be done in more of a “tune up” type of way.  Maybe you just go in for 2-3 sessions to process through some anxiety that has surfaced.  Or maybe you decide to start a meditation practice to deepen your sense of well-being.  Another way to do some tune up work might be to make some diet and exercise changes to reduce an underling mild depression.   

            Personal growth is never over.  For some it might mean revisiting wounds that abuse has left, but that does not mean that you have not done your work.  It just means you have some healing calling out to you.  It’s an invitation to deepen your sense of meaning and purpose in your life.  Personally, I think that those of us who have a glaring reason such as abuse or addictions which require us to do personal growth work frequently, have been given a gift in some ways.  Yes, we experience deep pain, but we also have the opportunity to experience deep peace and healing that might not happen if we were not pushed to do our work.  The path of healing is worth it.  There is no finish line.  It is an incredible journey with ups and downs and twists and turns, and if you need a partner now and again, call me.  I would love to be a witness to your healing.

Gwen Bartran, MA, LPCC







            Many of us talk about being afraid of death, but I am beginning to wonder how many of us are actually more afraid to live?  How many of us actually have the courage to not just exist, but to live fully? 

            Just take a moment to explore ways in which you might be avoiding living fully; ways in which you might be trying to take the edge off of being fully present.

1.       Do you have a glass of wine in the evening to unwind?  This might seem quite harmless – after all what harm does a glass or two of wind cause?  It’s not like I’m getting drunk!  While it may be true that you are not getting drunk, you are using something to alter your feelings chemically.  You are putting a buffer between you and whatever you might otherwise be feeling. 

2.      Do you eat or not eat when you are stressed or feel lonely or need comfort?  Food is a common way to put a buffer between us and the rawness of our experience.  Different foods have different impacts on us emotionally, and I bet you know exactly which food to go to when you don’t want to feel a certain way. 

3.      Do you fill your day so full of activities you don’t have time to just sit and do nothing?  It is so easy to justify being busy – how else would everything get done?  This is a great way to distract ourselves from uncertainty, or fear, or loneliness.

4.      How much time do you spend in front of a screen other than for school or work?  This could be watching TV, surfing the internet, checking your social media feeds, and shopping online, anything that has you sitting in front of a screen rather than doing something else.  I’m not saying all screen time is a distraction, but if you are honest with yourself, I bet a lot of it is.

Getting the picture?  There are many more ways we distract ourselves, the ones listed above are just some of the more common ones.  The point is, I think we are more afraid of living than we are of dying.  It takes a lot of courage to truly feel the insecurity of not knowing if we can pay our bills this month, or of not knowing how secure our job is.  It takes a lot of courage to feel the intense loneliness of being divorced and not knowing if we will ever have a successful intimate relationship.  Courage is required to face the anxiety of putting ourselves out there knowing that there are people smarter, better looking, and more confident than we are. 

Life is hard and it is scary and it is unpredictable.  I think that we are trained from a very young age to avoid the discomfort of the uncertainty of life.  We are not taught that it is normal to feel some anxiety, it is normal to feel scared and insecure and lonely sometimes and that there is nothing we need to do to fix those things.  It’s ok not to feel good all of the time.  No one ever told me that when I was young – did they tell you?  I am telling you now, it is ok not to feel good all of the time.  You don’t have to avoid uncomfortable feelings.  But it takes courage.  It takes courage to stay when things are tough rather than finding a buffer.  The good news is courage does not have side effects like the buffers do – courage won’t make you overweight, it won’t give you high blood pressure or diabetes, it won’t drain your bank account, and it won’t damage your liver. 

It does help if you have some support if you are going to be courageous and fully engage in life.  Find people who are also willing to let go of the buffers, who will encourage you and cheer you on and sit with you when you cry.  You may still choose to take another path, but at least be honest with yourself, that sometimes life is scarier than death.



            Have you done something nice for your brain today?  Did that even cross your mind?  I know that until recently it didn’t cross my mind.  I have thought about getting in shape physically, I have wondered how healthy my heart is, and yes, I must admit I have thought about getting my hair healthier; but not so much about the health of my brain. 

            Lately I have become obsessed with ways to have a healthier brain.  The statistics are quite concerning – some reports estimate that you have a 1 in 9 chance of having some form of dementia at the age of 65, and your risk doubles every 5 years after that.  Dementia is the 5th leading cause of death among those 65 and older according to the CDC.  So if you plan on reaching 85, some experts say that you have a 50% chance of having dementia.  Look at the person sitting next to you – will it be you or them who gets dementia?  That is a scary thought!

            I plan on living for a long time.  I want to enjoy my grandkids.  I don’t want them to know me as that lady they have to visit in a place that smells funny who can’t even remember their name.  I prefer to be in charge of my own bathing and personal care for as long as possible.  So if there is something I can do to help keep my brain healthy, then you had better believe I am going to do it!

            One of the scariest things to me is that dementia starts taking hold long before you ever notice any symptoms.  By the time you notice symptoms, there can be a lot of damage done already.  I am encouraged by some of the work being done by the Amen Clinics as well as others however, that show that we can heal some damage and prevent further cognitive decline.

            Let me tell you how serious I am about this.  If you knew me, you would know that I am a hardcore Coca Cola fan.  Back in my younger days I used to drink a 6-pack of Diet Coke every day.  Somewhere in my adult years I switched to regular Coke, and have been drinking one in the morning and one in the afternoon for more years than I can remember.  I have never been a coffee drinker.  I don’t think I even really tried coffee until I was in my 40’s.  The biggest rule at my house – never take mom’s last Coke.  I take my Coke very seriously.

            Well, after learning more about my brain health, I have decided that one step I can take is to stop drinking Coke.  I am not here to bash Coke in any way; it has been my trusted companion for many years!  But it does appear from what I am learning, that perhaps all of that sugar might not be so good for the control center of my entire being.  I am not willing to give up caffeine quite yet, so I have decided to give coffee a shot – 1 cup/day.  From what I have read, coffee seems to be preferable over soda, so that is my one thing.  For now. 

            This may not seem like a huge deal to you in the grand scheme of things, but here is my point.  There are so many things you can do for the health of your brain that it can be overwhelming.  Pick one thing that seems important to you, and start there.  For me it is not drinking soda – at least not on a regular basis anymore.  I am not a fanatic.  I am sure there will be times that I still indulge in a soda, just not daily like I have been. 

            For you it might be going for a walk for 20 minutes 4 times/week.  Or cut back your alcohol consumption to once or twice a week.  You could start a mindfulness practice for 10 minutes every day.  Maybe you are not getting enough Omega 3 in your diet, so you could start taking a daily supplement.  Or maybe you could start by increasing your sleep every night.  Pick something that feels doable to you, something that jumps out and grabs your attention.  All you have to do is start with one thing and make that a habit.  You can do one thing right?  We can all find one thing to do for our brain. 

            If you would like some more ideas, or some support in creating a healthier brain, contact me.  It can be so much easier to make changes with someone else to walk the path with you.

Gwen Bartran, MA, LPCC





            That is a great question!  You might be saying things like “just because I am getting divorced doesn’t mean I am crazy!  I don’t need therapy!  He/she is the one who needs therapy, not me!  Therapy is for people with mental illness or serious problems, not for people who are getting divorced – people get divorced every day!”  But trust me, therapy CAN help you deal with and recover from divorce.

            First let’s talk about what divorce recovery is and is not from a therapy point of view.  It is not about getting even with your ex-spouse.  It is not about taking medication so that you feel happy all the time.  And it is definitely not about labeling you as mentally ill or crazy.  Divorce recovery is all about helping you get through a really difficult experience in the healthiest, least damaging way possible.  It is about helping you not get stuck in feeling like your life is over and you will never be the same again.  Therapy can help you get through divorce without drowning your sorrows in alcohol every day, or without going broke from spending too much to make yourself feel better.

            Do you ever feel hopeless, lost, wondering if it is even worth getting out of bed in the morning?  You are not alone.  Divorce causes many people to feel this way.  Therapy can’t make all of the difficult feelings go away, but it can help you deal with them so they don’t hold you hostage.  Those negative feelings can be so paralyzing making it difficult to do anything.  Sometimes the last thing on your mind is getting yourself dressed and going to therapy!  But that’s probably the best thing you could do for yourself – even if you have to come in your pajamas (believe me, you wouldn’t be the first!).  Dealing with all that’s going on in your head is exactly the step you need to take before you can do much else.

            Just to make you a little more comfortable, here is what a session might look like.  You drag yourself out of bed, no energy to put on makeup or fix your hair, but you manage to throw on some sweats.  Dark circles under your eyes from crying and not sleeping.  You hesitantly walk through my door, a little embarrassed about your appearance.  In fact you apologize to me that you aren’t feeling well or something and that’s why you look the way you do.  I smile, and tell you that my space is “come as you are space” and invite you to sit on my very comfortable couch. 

            First I just want to get to know you.  I want to know what your particular struggle looks like, and also what things are going well (I can hear you now saying “are you kidding?  Nothing is going well!”).  I won’t pretend to know how you are feeling or what you are going through.  Everyone is different, and I won’t assume you are like anyone else.  For the most part, I will offer you a safe place to vent, cry, and rage, whatever you need to do.  When you are ready and would like some tools, I will provide them.  We will talk about what you need to get through this time, and together we will create a strategy. 

            I have lots of tools in my bag, so don’t worry, you don’t need to have the answers.  Our work together will focus on how to help you feel better physically, how to get a hold on the chaos in your head, and how to help you not feel like you are drowning in painful emotions. 

            So let me remind you, you are not crazy.  You are going through an extremely difficult situation, one that puts your entire life in turmoil.  It doesn’t really matter if you are coming out of the worst marriage imaginable and that getting divorced is the best thing you could do.  It is still beyond difficult.  Even if it is a very civil and somewhat friendly divorce, it is still an ending to what your vision of your life had been.  There is nothing wrong with needing some support and guidance.  This is the time to take care of yourself, not put yourself last on the list until everything else is taken care of. 

            Call me, I would love to help you get back on your feet and to feel like getting out of bed is a good thing.  970-988-6978.  gbartran@msn.com.



            If you have trouble calming your mind and getting it to slow down (like most of us!), this might help.  Mindfulness is about being present, about maintaining focus, right here in the present moment.  It is a gentle practice, very forgiving of shortcomings.  We are very skilled in darting from one thing to the next – we train daily in planning and distracting, but we do not practice as much in focusing on the present moment.  Mindfulness practice is not about reprimanding ourselves for letting our minds wander, it’s more about inviting our minds to become still, over and over and over again.  It is much like training for a race, or trying to increase our muscle strength; we have to use and train those muscles frequently for them to become stronger.  Our minds are not all that different when we are training them to focus and stay present.  It takes frequent practice and work outs to build the “focus” muscle. 


            Here is a link to a free, 7 minute guided meditation that incorporates music to help you focus.  Music can be a wonderful way to focus our attention, we just don’t often realize that we are actually being present with the music.  That’s the other trick to mindfulness and staying present – we need to be aware of being present or it gets lost.  So this guided meditation gives you some instructions on what to pay attention to in order to help you work out your “focus” muscle.  Enjoy!



For more information on mindfulness, contact me at gbartran@msn.com or call me at 970-988-6978.  I would love to help you see how mindfulness can be of benefit to you.  Feel free to visit my website at gwenbartran.com for more information about my work.




            You might not think of the word investment in connection to therapy, but to me therapy is all about investing.  It is about investing in your happiness, in your emotional well-being, in connection with others, and investing in peace for yourself.  Those things sound nice, but maybe they are a little too abstract?  Well, if you are happy, peaceful and emotionally healthy, you will have better relationships with your family, friends and yourself.  You are also more likely to feel healthy physically and get sick less often.  You are also likely to be more successful at your job or at school or in your home life.  Your brain is less likely to be filled with noise that is distracting and negative, and more likely to be filled with more pleasant things.  You will be able to handle difficult situations better without falling apart.  You will be better able to focus on and accomplish the things you want to rather than getting sidetracked by stress or sickness or fear or whatever else gets in your way.

            Sound good?  Therapy can be an investment in all of those things.  We invest in retirement accounts and savings accounts and in real estate and the stock market to be financially secure.  We invest in gym memberships and trainers and workout equipment and medical services to insure physical health.  We even spend a great deal investing in hair color, makeup, stylish clothes, facials, manicures and pedicures to help us feel good about how we look.  Too often we overlook the foundation to all of these things, which is our emotional and spiritual well-being.  If we put some time and attention in our emotional and spiritual health, then our financial life, our physical life, and our self-esteem will all benefit. 

            Think about therapy as a workout for your mind.  It is not all that different from lifting weights to build muscle.  We don’t realize it, but we have been training our minds for a long time; we have been building the muscles of distraction, training in avoiding difficult emotions, in being hard on ourselves, and in building the muscles of negative thinking.  I know that personally I spent many years training in how to daydream and be mentally somewhere else while looking like I was participating in the conversation or working or whatever else I was supposed to be doing.  I got pretty good!  I got so good that it just came automatically without even trying.  How many years have you spent practicing being hard on yourself?  How many years have you spent practicing an addiction?  How many hours have you spent thinking about how stressful things are in your life and thinking that it will never get better? 

            Therapy is about retraining our mind and brain.  Sometimes it involves training ourselves to stay present long enough to process old trauma and pain so that it can be properly stored.  It almost always involves training ourselves to sit with unpleasant feelings rather than distracting with something else.  It also almost always involves recognizing where we are stuck and how we stay trapped.  With a trained therapist, we can slowly unravel the tangles of our minds so that we can have all of the benefits of being emotionally healthy.  It is no different than seeking out a financial advisor to make sure we are financially healthy, or seeking out a trainer to ensure our physical health.  With a little work, the pay-off for investing in our emotional and spiritual health is well worth the investment. 



First of all, I need to say that I think the term “mindfulness” is getting a bit overused, and I hesitate to use it for that reason.  On the other hand, I believe it is a valuable concept and it is a useful tool when talking about healing from an eating disorder.  Since the concept of mindfulness is used in so many contexts currently, let me define how I am using it.  I am talking about mindfulness as being aware, without judgment, of what is currently happening in our body and our mind.  It is not an attempt to stop our thoughts, or to direct them in a particular way.  It is not an attempt to escape from emotional or physical pain but rather getting to know the pain better.  It is bringing our experience closer, looking at it in an intimate way rather than from a distance.

How does this relate to eating disorders?  Most of my experience is with anorexia and bulimia, so that is the perspective I am coming from, although I am sure much of what I am saying can be generalized to include compulsive overeating.  When someone is suffering from anorexia or bulimia, he/she is in contact with the experience of being distracted from his/her true experience rather than being in contact with the raw experience.  The behaviors of an eating disorder serve a purpose; they provide an opportunity to either work through something that is unresolved, or they provide a distraction from working through something that the person feels unable to handle.  Either way, the underlying problem, emotion or thought is distorted in some way so that it becomes difficult to really work with it. 

Mindfulness can help settle the muddy water so that we can see more clearly what is being hidden by the behaviors of anorexia and bulimia.  The idea is to sit still long enough to let the mud settle to the bottom so the water becomes clearer.  It sounds simple, but it is certainly not easy.  It can be especially difficult to do alone when one is consumed by something like an eating disorder.  It can be frightening, painful and confusing.  It is helpful to have a trained person to help guide you through the process.  I have experienced this process many times with many different people, and it is usually surprising what comes up when the mud settles.  It’s usually not what the person thinks is going on.  Again, that’s when it is helpful to have someone there to help with the process; someone who can help you feel safe enough to look at what’s coming up so that it can be seen, resolved, and then fade into the background. 

What I have found in using mindfulness to help people suffering from anorexia and bulimia is that every person is so unique, and the function of their eating disorder is just as unique.  All the books in the world that describe why a person has an eating disorder and how to fix it, can’t explain what’s happening for you.  Even people with years of experience and education don’t know what is going on for you until they sit with you and help you through the process of letting the mud settle to see what’s really there.  You are unique, your life and your experiences are unique, and you have the keys to unlocking the process of healing.  You don’t need someone to tell you why you have an eating disorder, you need someone to listen to you and support you in finding your own answers. Mindfulness is a way to get there.



Abuse is so much more than injury to one’s body or to one’s mind; it is injury to one’s very spirit. I am speaking mostly of childhood abuse, because that’s what I have the most experience with, but I’m sure this applies to other types of trauma as well. True, there is usually physical pain involved in abuse, as well as distorting of the child’s mental processes, but it goes so much deeper than that. When a child is abused, it changes the very nature of who they are; it penetrates to his or her very spirit. This is not something that can be healed easily. The bruises and scars eventually go away or fade, thoughts can be changed, but the injury to one’s spirit needs a special attention to heal. Abuse can cause the victim to question what is so intrinsically wrong with them that would make it ok to for someone to do such awful things to them. Why did no one protect them? Why did no one notice that something was wrong? Why were they chosen as the target? So many questions that can’t really be answered with words.
An injured spirit needs gentle care. It needs quiet strength from a compassionate healer. An injured spirit needs a healer to bear witness to the pain without trying to explain it or fix it. It does not need anyone’s pity, nor does it need someone who is not strong enough to go to the darkest places imaginable. Going to the dark places has to happen to bring light, but it must not be done alone. The spirit needs an ally to stand close, to hang on tightly. An injured spirit requires much silence in the presence of a strong spirit. Only through direct contact of the energy of a stronger, compassionate spirit can the injured spirit find peace and healing. This work requires courage on the part of both the healer and the injured. It is not work for the weak. It is not one person fixing another, it is two spirits walking together in search of wholeness.
Healing is possible if approached in this way; of one spirit working directly with another. There is life after abuse, and it can be peaceful and happy and fulfilling. It doesn’t have to be “good enough”. Good enough is not what I want for my clients. I want full healing, I want the best possible life for them. I want not only the bruises to be gone and the negative thoughts to be gone, I want to help them restore their spirit to the bright, pure, clean and peaceful place it was before the abuse. I have seen it happen, and it is my wish that more people experience this deep healing. Please contact me if you are struggling.


If divorce is the easy way out, then I must be doing something wrong. I guess I just don’t catch on as quickly as other people, or I just have a knack for making things difficult, because I have not seen even a hint of the easy way out that people speak of. I knew it would be hard leaving my marriage of 15 years, but never did I expect this level of difficulty. I used to think that I was pretty amazing when I could get up every couple of hours to nurse my baby and still manage to put on matching clothes in the morning (ok, maybe not every morning). I used to think that making sure the kids got to the dentist every 6 months and to the doctor once a year was a pretty cool trick. I guess I was pretty naïve back then.

Just like most everyone else on this planet, I “did not believe in divorce”. I believed in working through the tough stuff, in staying together until the end, in raising kids in a 2 parent home. Never did I aspire to be a single mom, trying to fight through the everyday battles of life on my own. I don’t recall every once saying that if this marriage thing didn’t work out, I would be just fine on my own. I was never going to be “that woman”, you know, the one who has kids and then decides to get divorced and make her kids switch houses every few days. The one who just seems to get tired of her husband and trade him in for another one. I admit it, I had a lot of judgments about people who got divorced. I too thought that people just didn’t work hard enough, or they gave up too easily, or they just didn’t value marriage and family enough. If they just had stronger values, then they could make it work. I openly and freely apologize for my ignorant and narrow-minded judgments to everyone who might have gotten stuck in their net.

Not only is divorce not the easy way out, it is one of the hardest things I have done in my adult life, if not the hardest. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if there wasn’t some way I could have tried harder, sucked it up more, been a little tougher, anything to have kept the marriage together. It’s not that I want to get back together with my former husband, it’s just that I want my family to be whole again, I want to not face the challenges that I face as a single mom now, I want my kids to have just 1 home, I don’t want them to have to worry about which house they left their P.E. clothes at, I wish they never had to ask again which house they would be at for Christmas. There is always that lovely little voice in my head that says “if you had worked harder at your marriage, then you wouldn’t have to wonder how much longer you will be able to put a decent roof over your kids’ heads. You wouldn’t have to panic when a warning light comes on in your car. You had such an easy life, why couldn’t you have just made it work?” I admit it, the financial piece is one of the hardest pieces. Just because you get divorced doesn’t mean your expensed get cut in half. If you are lucky, your income gets cut in half, if you are like the rest of us, your income is more like ¼ of its former size. Emotionally it’s no picnic either. No one to laugh with about something that happened that day, no one to just sit with and say nothing to, no one to go to those obligatory events with anymore, no shared history to feel grounded with anymore. No one could beat me up more than I beat up on myself.

I try the dating thing off and on, but there is always a doubt in the back of my head as to what my intentions really are. Am I really just looking for someone to make my life easier because living this way is so hard? Am I really just looking for a second income, or for someone to help take the kids to school? Mostly the answer is no, but I would not be honest if I said those thoughts never crossed my mind.

So where’s the silver lining? First of all, you are not alone if you are finding divorced life beyond difficult. Even though this divorce rate is somewhere over 50% in this country, it is amazingly easy to think that you are the only pathetic divorced person on the planet. And even if you do happen to run across someone else in the same boat, unlike you, they probably have it all together and even have their nails done! Chances are it’s all a front, they are no more together than you are, they just pretend really well (and I’m sure they would say the same about you). It’s a good idea to hang onto a friend or two who remembers more clearly why you got divorced. I found that I was so shut down and in a fog by the time the marriage ended, that it is hard for me to articulate now what exactly happened and why I couldn’t stay married. It helps to have a live person outside of yourself to combat that inner critic you have inside.

Keep a small stash of chocolate somewhere. Have some hot french bread, or some ice cream every now and then. I am not advocating compulsive overeating or becoming an alcoholic. Those things won’t make anything better. But be kind to yourself, and every once in a while indulge in something that just feels good, like chocolate. Stop reading all those magazines that tell you how to have the perfect body and hair and make-up so that you can attract a partner. Eat reasonably healthy most of the time, fit some exercise in once in a while, and eat chocolate occasionally. This is not medical advice. Consult your doctor for that. This is just old fashioned common sense.

The thing that I cling to the most, is not clinging. Makes no sense right? When I am depressed, or frustrated, or at the bottom of the well, I try to look at those feelings as if they are encased in a bubble. I still feel them, but they are a tiny step removed from me, and it helps me not be consumed by them. I let it be ok to feel like I am at the bottom of the well, because I know that what arises, can also pass away. That feeling came, which means it can also go. It still feels pretty shitty, but it’s not permanent. Every once in a while imagine yourself 10 years from now. What will you say about this stage in your life? I usually imagine that I will be saying something like “wow that was awful, I am so glad that I am not there anymore.” Or “dang I’m pretty tough! Look how far I’ve come!” Somehow changing perspective helps, looking at things from a distance instead of from the underside of an ocean wave.

There is no happy ending, there is only today. And today had some tears, it had some laughter, it had some desperation, and it had some relief. I don’t even like to think “things will only get better”, because maybe they will and maybe they won’t. There is only today. I didn’t want to get out of bed today, it seemed like more than I could handle. I had lunch with a beautiful friend today, and she made me feel loved. I wanted to strangle my dogs today when they wouldn’t stop racing around the house. I felt my shoulders relax today when I took time to focus on my breath. Breathing in, I know that there are other people who feel the same way I do, and breathing out, I wish you all light and peace.


Note: I am a couple’s therapist, and work toward helping couples save their relationship if that is what they want to do. I am a realist also, and I know that divorce happens. If you need help working through divorce issues please call for an appointment. You don’t have to struggle alone. Counseling can help.


It seems like mindfulness is such a hot term currently, but what does it have to do with psychotherapy?  At the most basic level, mindfulness simply refers to paying attention.  It is simply noticing what is going on around you and inside of you.  Mindfulness is also associated with meditation, in which case it usually refers to picking one thing to focus on such as the breath, or it can refer to a noticing of thoughts and sensations without getting too caught up in them.  Without going into deeper, older practices associated with Eastern traditions, this is mindfulness simplified.


What does that have to do with psychotherapy?  Mindfulness can play a valuable role in many types of counseling.  In order to make any meaningful changes, we first have to know where we are.  We need to know where we are starting from, and that means paying attention to what is going on inside of us.  For example, say you want to be in a relationship.  You have a strong desire to be with someone long-term, but can’t figure out why it’s not happening.  So you go to a psychotherapist to help you figure out what the problem is.  It can be very helpful to take some time to really understand where you are at this moment, not just where you want to be.  Perhaps when you stop and really pay attention, you realize that you have a deep fear that you are inadequate in some way, and that no one will want to be with you.  So without realizing it you put up walls when you get close to someone so that they won’t see your shortcomings.  But you do this so subtly that you don’t even realize it is happening.  Using mindfulness, you can uncover some of these things that are standing in your way to getting where you want to be.


Another important aspect of incorporating mindfulness with psychotherapy is a quality of kindness.  Once you uncover something that you did not realize was there, it’s easy to judge or be harsh with yourself for having that obstacle or feeling or whatever it is.  That feeling is there for a reason, and I’m pretty sure the reason is not to punish you.  At some point, that feeling or belief made sense and probably served a purpose.  Be kind.  Be gentle.  Meet yourself with compassion.  So often we think that we have to be tough on ourselves in order to make a change;  we have to push ourselves and often even berate ourselves for things that we wish weren’t part of us.  Pushing ourselves might work if we are trying to get to a new physical fitness level, but when it comes to mental health, kindness and compassion go a lot farther than being tough on ourselves.  Mindfulness is all about recognizing and allowing with kindness.


Does that mean that if you come to me for therapy we are going to spend a lot of time meditating or something like that?  Not unless that’s what you want to do.  If doing some guided meditations would be helpful for you, then we will absolutely do that.  If that does not sound like something you are interested in, then we will incorporate mindfulness in a way that make sense for you.  I will help you slow down and become more aware of what is going on in your body and in your mind.  Paying attention give you more options, and it give you more flexibility in how you respond to things.  Some people really need help slowing down their racing thoughts, other people need more help being present in their body.  Whatever is going on, we will work together to find what works for you.


For more information on mindfulness, check out the following sites: