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:





I’m sure that sounds absolutely crazy; why would you want to bring anxiety closer? That is probably the last thing on your mind when you think about anxiety. You probably want to push it as far away as you can, you probably tense against it, and pray that it will pass quickly.

Is that approach working for you? Is fighting against anxiety making is smaller, less intense or less frequent? If the answer is no, read on and see if a new approach might be helpful. Our normal reaction is to become tense and to prepare for battle when we experience something uncomfortable or distressing. In my experience and the experience of many people I have worked with, this only serves to make the scary thing even scarier.

Next time you feel the wave of anxiety start to grip you, take a deep breath. Start to label all of the sensations happening in your body. Perhaps it starts with a tingling in your chest, or maybe a heavy feeling just under your collarbone. Maybe your stomach starts to feel tight, or maybe you start to feel nauseous. Do you feel lightheaded? Do you feel pain anywhere? Describe the pain – is it sharp, dull, hot, cold? How big of an area does the pain take up? Does it move or stay in one place? Keep labeling everything you notice. Try not to go any farther than labeling. Don’t add on any kind of judgments to the labeling – like “oh my gosh this is going to take over my whole body”, or “I think I am going to pass out or have a heart attack.” Just keep labeling without any story attached.

As you label the sensations, keep breathing. Every once in a while stop labeling and just focus on your breath. Feel the air coming in your nostrils and filling up your lungs. Feel the air leaving your lungs and going back out your nostrils. Do this for a count of 3 cycles. Each cycle consists of an in breath and an out breath. After 3 cycles, go back and notice what sensations are happening in your body. Bring them in close enough to really get descriptive with what they feel like. Rather than getting tense, try to imagine softening and letting those sensations in. Soften with the sensations rather than tensing against them.

If you get to a place when you feel like you just can’t take it anymore and the anxiety is going to take over, commit to just 1 more minute of this practice. Just 1 minute. You can do it. The anxiety has not killed your before, and it is not likely to in the next minute, so stick with the labeling and breathing for just 1 more minute.

The idea is that we tend to push away (or at least we think we are pushing away) that which is painful. It really isn’t going away, it just appears bigger and darker and scarier when we can’t see it clearly. When we bring it in closer and we can see it more clearly, the power of whatever is causing us pain tends to get smaller. It is important to stay focused on your experience directly in the moment, and not get caught in the story that we usually make up to go along with the pain. This is not easy. We have had years of practice in making up and following stories to go along with absolutely everything we experience in our lives, good or bad. We usually don’t have nearly as much experience in just staying in direct contact with what is going on. For example, imaging being outside when it is really cold. Do you ever just experience all of the sensations of being cold, or do you say to yourself “I hate being cold, I have got to get inside and warm up or my hands are going to fall off! I have got to move to somewhere warmer, I can’t stand being so cold all the time!” That’s the story I’m talking about.

Practice labeling what you are experiencing when you are not in the middle of an anxiety attack. Do it when it’s easy, when there is not much intensity. Practice when it’s easy, and it will be easier to practice when it’s tough.

Fun Ways to Connect with Your Partner

It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of everyday life of work, bills, housework, running errands, not to mention kids. It’s easy to let the weeks go by, which turn into months, which turn into years. What’s not so easy is to make time to connect with your partner. I don’t mean connecting while you clean up the kitchen together after dinner, or connecting while you go to the market or connecting while you bathe the baby. I mean intentional time together, time to have fun and enjoy each other. In case you have forgotten what that looks like, here are some ideas:

  1. Play a video game together. Now before you just skip over this to the next item, at least hear me out. There are some fun interactive games that could really get you laughing together. Try something like Kinect Sports on the XBOX, or a Mario Bros racing game.
  2. Play a board game. A little friendly competition is a great way to share some bonding time. Some of the old classics are still the best.
  3. Rent a tandem bike and go for a ride. Take a ride along the river or wherever the road takes you.
  4. Pack up a picnic and have lunch or dinner in the park. If packing a lunch is too much, then grab some chicken or sandwiches on the way. No need to make it a lot of work.
  5. Take line dancing or salsa lessons. Don’t take yourselves too seriously, have a good time laughing at yourselves. Take it up a notch and dress the part!
  6. Find a new restaurant to check out. Try a whole new type of food, not just a new restaurant. If you’ve been everywhere in your area, go to a neighboring community and see what you can find.
  7. Make some popcorn, grab all the pillows and blankets you can find and watch a cheesy movie at home.
  8. Go roller-skating. Even if neither one of you knows how, go anyway.
  9. Play mini golf. Enjoy the fresh air together. If it’s a place that has laser tag or bumper cars try that as well!
  10. Go to the drive-in. It’s a great way to rekindle some romance. Make sure to bring a blanket to cuddle under.

Spending time with your partner doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It does take a little planning and effort. Be creative, be silly. The point is doing something together to stay connected, and to create new memories together. Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned. Sometimes when things go way off track the best memories are made.

Don’t forget to plan a longer getaway when possible. It’s important to spend time together frequently in smaller ways, but it’s also important to have extended time together, a long weekend at least, a full vacation when possible. This is hard to do when you have little ones, and an overnight together might have to suffice for a while. Whatever length of time you can take, take it. It might be hard to leave a crying little one, but in the long run it will be worth it. Better to work on your relationship and have an upset child for a few minutes, than to let your relationship fall apart and have an upset child every weekend when he has to switch houses.

Your relationship is worth it. Nurture it and it will grow into something beautiful.