For many individuals the holidays are not The most wonderful time of the year…… The holiday season can stir up a lot of emotions and pain associated with grief, relationship problems, loneliness, stress, financial problems, family conflict, and well the list can go on and on. The holidays tend to amplify many feelings, especially the negative ones. How can you manage the holiday season and your mental health??? Here are some thoughts and tips:

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Limit time with or avoid toxic people: You do not have to spend holidays with people who are toxic, no other explanation is needed here! If you feel an obligation to a toxic family member, limit your time with him or her. Maybe schedule a visit with another relative right after or before your visit with your difficult relative. This season the Coronavirus has given us all a great excuse to avoid people; you can also apply this to people who are bad for you too! If you feel guilty about not seeing a family member who is toxic, send them a nice letter in a Christmas card, a small gift, or make a donation in their name to charity. It does not matter what time of year it is, you are always entitled to protect yourself and surround yourself with healthy people.

Practice setting boundaries: During the holiday season, we all have to set limits. Think of ways you can perfect the art of saying “No” during the holiday season. This can be with finances, gift giving, social activities, or at work.  If you can’t do something during the holidays for whatever reason, you can just say “No”. You do not need to apologize, explain, or justify your reason. If “No” feels too harsh you can try something softer like, “I would love to but I can’t”. Avoid overextending yourself and putting yourself in stressful situations this holiday season.

Focus on your values: What does the holiday season mean to you? Are the holidays about religion, spirituality, family, giving back, or celebrating? Do not feel pressure to conform to others’ traditions around the holidays. Take some time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday season and allow your holiday celebrations to focus on what is important to you.

Take time to relax: Schedule down time during the holiday season. It is important to have some time to slow down, enjoy a peppermint hot chocolate or gingerbread chai hot tea, and just relax. Do not pack your schedule during the holiday season. You will only feel more stressed.

Recognize your feelings: It is okay if you are sad, angry or anxious this holiday season for whatever reason. Practice saying; “I feel ______ because ______” multiple times a day. This is a way of checking in with yourself.  Remember you can be sad and still find joy or happiness during the holiday season. For example, maybe you are sad because your mother is very sick in the hospital but you can still take time, appreciate, and find joy in things like the festive lights, some homemade cookies, or a holiday card from your old neighbor.  You can be sad and still have moments of joy, peace, and hope. Do not feel guilty about positive feelings during the holidays if you are going through some tough stuff, it is always okay to embrace happiness. Emotions are temporary and they come and go. Remind yourself of that too.

Practice self-care: Put your name on your holiday gift list and buy yourself a nice present! Take time to show yourself kindness and compassion during this busy and stressful season. You can take a walk around your neighborhood and look at the decorations, meditate to some instrumental holiday music, journal about your favorite holiday memories, take a warm bubble bath and light a balsam and fir candle, enjoy some winter apple scented hand cream, or schedule a holiday massage. Do whatever is comforting to you. Often we focus on giving and doing for everyone else around the holidays and we neglect ourselves. Take time for you and practice self-care this holiday season.  Self- care is not selfish, it is essential! 

Clean out your emotional closet: 2021 is almost here, a new year brings new challenges and goals but we still have to clean out our emotional closet and wrap up some mental health goals. What emotional baggage do you need to let go? What negative feelings do you need to release?  What conversations do you need to have? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Are you ready to forgive anyone? How has your mental health been this year? What do you need to reflect on? 

Do something nice:  Giving back, volunteering, and helping others is a great way to feel good on the inside. With the pandemic, this may be more challenging this holiday season but you can still do a lot of good. You can send holiday cards to a local nursing home, ask your local school if any children are in need of gifts and buy a student something special, go through your closet and donate clothes, make a donation to your favorite charity or send a gift card to a neighbor in need. 

Wishing you love, joy, peace, and good mental health this holiday season.

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Memory is one of our favorite psychological processes and neuroscientists are still learning how our memories work and studying strategies to improve and maintain it. A basic breakdown of memory looks like this: an individual encodes or takes in information, stores that information some place in the brain (current research indicates the pre-frontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum are holding houses), and then retrieves it when needed. There are three main types of memory: short term, working memory, and long term memory and then we have subtypes of those including auditory, verbal, nonverbal, visual, and kinesthetic memory. Some of us may find our visual memory is stronger than our auditory memory, so it might be easier to learn and retain new information presented to us visually, rather than verbally. Memory is a very important component to traditional education and learning. Basically, if you have strong memory skills you are very likely to do well at school. Strong performance on memory assessments is highly correlated with academic success at all levels. It would be unusual to find a gifted student that did not shine on the memory components of the cognitive assessment, while students found in need of learning support services may have low scores on the memory components of the cognitive assessments. As with most brain related things, memory is subject to neuroplasticity meaning it can be changed, shaped, improved or damaged. Memory is also an ability that can improve with practice just as a muscle is strengthened when exercise. What damages the memory? Alcohol, smoking, drugs, age, injury, and disease are some well-known offenders. What improves memory? Learning new information, brain games, mindfulness activities, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and sleeping a sufficient amount daily.
What are some tricks that you can use to help yourself and your students to sharpen memory? Repetition, drill and practice exercises, and frequent review– this helps with things like math facts, learning geographic information, and historical facts. Mnemonics, acronyms, abbreviations, songs, and rhymes- this helps with lists of information that phonetically do not have things in common.

Chunking and grouping information– this strategy helped you learn your social security number and phone numbers back in the day.

Use all of your senses– paying attention to how something looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels helps you to remember it.

Rely on the GPS and Google less- our brains have become lazy because they do not have to work so hard. Try to do pencil and paper math, look for landmarks to find your way, and think through problems before relying on technology to help you.

Use a Memory Palace – this is an imaginary location you visualize in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. It’s like making a mental visual map in your mind of what you need to remember.

Sleep- your brain needs sleep to encode and retrieve information. When you cram for a test the night before and do not sleep, that information will be stored in short term memory only and then be discarded. A great study tip is after an hour of study, try to take a nap, then repeat this cycle for a few days. Make sure you always sleep 8 hours the day before an exam.

Drink Water– Dehydration has been shown to cause memory problems.
Eat more of these– The brain responds to food. The Mediterranean diet, especially fatty fishes, have been linked to strong memories:

  •   plant-based foods, especially green, leafy vegetables and berries
  •   whole grains
  •   legumes
  •   nuts
  •   chicken or turkey
  •   olive oil or coconut oil
  •   herbs and spices (Tumeric)
  •   Coffee and dark chocolate
  •   fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines

Use a Memory Palace – this is an imaginary location you visualize in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. It’s like making a mental visual map in your mind of what you need to remember.

Eat less of these– sugar, fats and processed foods have been linked to impaired memories:

  •   sugar
  •   processed foods
  •   butter
  •   red meat
  •   fried foods
  •   Alcohol
  •   salt
  •   cheese

Be well and exercise that brain! Karah and Suzanne

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Compassion fatigue is a very interesting condition that impacts many people in the helping professions like teachers, counselors, doctors, and first responders and those who are caregivers of a loved one. So what is compassion fatigue?  Compassion fatigue is the negative consequences associated with caring about someone. Compassion fatigue is not a disorder or a disease but rather symptoms that professionals and caregivers experience from being exposed to second hand trauma, suffering, inequality, and distress. Like most conditions associated with mental health, individuals with compassion fatigue will manifest traits in many ways.

 Some common symptoms can include lack of empathy or compassion for those who are suffering or feeling numb to the pain and suffering of others. This is your brain’s way of trying to protect itself from second hand trauma and being affected by the pain of others. Another common symptom of compassion fatigue may be over empathizing and feeling others’ pain too deeply to the point where it causes anxiety, irritability, and depression in the caregiver. Individuals who manifest compassion fatigue in this way tend to “take their work home with them” or “take on other peoples’ problems to solve”. 

 We see so much sadness and dysfunction at work, in our communities, on television, and at home and we all process it in different ways. Especially during  the pandemic, there has been an increase in physical illness, mental health struggles, and financial woes that have impacted so many of us. Compassion fatigue is a real thing, especially in the present moment.  So what can individuals do who are experiencing compassion fatigue?

Set boundaries– Set limits to the time you spend at work, to your charitable donations, and the time you spend thinking about or doing work outside of hours. Practice saying “No“.

Stay grounded– Try to stay present, check in with yourself multiple times a day and name what you are feeling. Mindfulness activities are great ways to stay in the moment and will help with feeling numb to others’ suffering and pushing your feelings aside.

Feel your feelings– Don’t spend too much time ruminating about the sadness or pain you come across in your day; however, it is healthy to name what you are feeling and to honor that feeling then gently let the feeling go.

Practice self-care– Taking care of yourself, being kind and gentle with your self-talk, and making time for you are great ways to combat compassion fatigue. If you dedicate 100% of your time to any one person, place or thing, you will end up resenting it. Take time for you.

Accept reality- Life is unfortunately filled with suffering and injustice. Accept what you can control and change and what responsibilities come with your role. Don’t get stuck on the “why” things are unfair or sad.  People get sick, people die, and people take advantage of and hurt others. These things are all very sad but you cannot control, fix or prevent any of that. Focus your energy on what you can do. You are only responsible for your behaviors. Become familiar with your values and moral obligations.

Take care of yourselves!

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Emotional trauma can come in many shapes and sizes and some clinicians colloquially use the words Big T and Little t to describe different types of trauma. What is important to know is that everyone handles, processes, and recovers from trauma differently and that is okay! It is also important to know that all trauma is painful and will impact the survivor.  Big T and Little t trauma can alter your brain, behaviors, and emotions. Just as trauma can change your brain and your behaviors, healing, practicing coping skills, and making a commitment to care for your mental health can also change your brain and behaviors in very positive ways. 

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Examples of Big T trauma usually include witnessing or being present at a life changing or very high stress, violent or dangerous event. Examples of Big Ttrauma include:

Being present when a shooting takes place

Being present when a natural disaster is taking place (hurricane, earthquake, tornado, etc.)

Living in or being deployed to an active war zone


Witnessing or being the victim of a violent crime

Sexual Abuse


Being in a severe car or work accident

Sudden death of a primary caregiver for a child

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Examples of Little t trauma usually include nonviolent, non-life threatening events that sadly are more common in society. Due to these events being typical, often individuals brush them off or rationalize their experiences as normal bumps in the road of life. Some examples of Little t trauma include:

Interpersonal conflicts and bullying

Emotional and verbal abuse



Family separation


Legal problems

Financial troubles

Losing a job

Living with or having close relationships with people suffering from addictions, physical illness, or mental health conditions

Living in extreme poverty or unpredictable environments 

The problem with trauma is that the effects are cumulative and someone who has been exposed to multiple Little t traumas for a long period of time sometimes can have more severe symptoms and difficulties than those who have been exposed to one Big T trauma. Looking at both lists, think of how many people you know who may be struggling with symptoms of trauma!!!! Consider this before becoming frustrated or angry when you see behavior that is upsetting to you.

Individuals that have trauma may present with nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, isolation, insomnia, depression, emotional dysregulation, memory problems, difficulties concentrating, irritability, and hostility. All kinds of trauma are very unpleasant and many individuals avoid dealing with or talking about their trauma. In order to treat trauma you have to work your way through it, not around it. 

Please consider this information and practice kindness and compassion with others and yourself!

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The emotional dance of couples:

We meet…date…get married… and then experience either healthy or unhealthy relationship patterns between us and our partners. No matter how our love story unfolds we owe it to ourselves and our partners to be aware of the deeper emotional patterns that are often not discussed or even identified within our romantic relationships. Too often couples enter our doors in distress, holding on by a thread and no idea how their relationship became so fractured . Typically the unspoken theme is around tremendous fear of “what happened and what’s next”. We want to help you and your partner recognize the hope that is still possible even when the relationship feels unrepairable.

The first message that a couple gives the therapist about their emotional connectedness is demonstrated by how the partners sit in relation to each other in the counseling room. It is the most obvious sign that a couple can demonstrate to show the state of their relationship without saying a word. Nonverbal body language between two partners is a good starting point in stripping away facades and beginning an authentic discussion. The couple usually consists of one partner anxiously desperate to keep the relationship together and working hard to engage the other partner. The opposite partner is often already disconnected and presenting to the session in efforts to appease their partner. This partner is often already “emotionally checked out” of the relationship and sometimes even using the session as a “last ditch effort”. The couple can usually verbalize easily how each partner feels wronged by the opposite partner and what they want different in the relationship. However, rarely the two individuals can pinpoint their own roles within the distress of the relationship. This is where the real work lies.

There is a therapeutic value focusing on growing communication skills, quality time, or dividing household duties but the deeper emotions that are driving the partners’ behaviors are the real areas for concentration in the relationship distress. The “Emotional Dance” as Sue Johnson defines is often the driving force to the observable negative behaviors that couples experience. Feeling emotionally insecure in a relationship can lead an individual to either shut down or ramp up. Fear is often the underlying emotion that fuels either of these behavioral patterns and keeps the couple in an emotional dance that is disguised by negative relationship behaviors between the two partners. In the counseling room the couple and the therapist can start the journey into unearthing those underlying unmet emotional needs that weave through the couple’s conflict and distress. Allowing your partner to see you emotionally vulnerable by literally and figuratively “showing up” is the first step in breaking through the underlying fears and forming a solid foundation of trust to build the relationship.

If you and our partner are experiencing relational difficulties and are not sure if couples counseling is the right step for you, I would encourage you to read Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight”. This books is a great starting point in learning about you and your partner’s roles in the relationship distress and begins the journey of emotional reconnection.

DISCLAIMER: A very wise mentor once gave this therapist excellent ground rules for when working with couples in the counseling world. If a couple presents in relational distress but posses one of the three A’s (Addiction, Abuse, Affair) the individual problem must be addressed first before any relational healing can occur. An unsafe physical or emotional environment is not a breeding grounding for healing and deserves the individual attention and establishment of safety prior to any joint counseling. Eliminating the A’s from the couple’s distress is the beginning path of healing for the relationship, which allows room for the deeper therapeutic work to take place.

Posted on by Jessica Ulmer, LPC, NCC | Comments Off on The Emotional Dance

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the more common neurodevelopmental disorders that is often diagnosed during childhood and can last across the lifespan. Individuals with this disorder can demonstrate a whole gamut of symptoms and the disorder can look very different depending on the individual and their developmental stage in life. Not all people with ADHD are bouncing off the walls and can’t sit still. Some individuals with ADHD can present as very inattentive and distracted and some can have struggles in social situations and relationships. 

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ADHD is broken into three subtypes: Primarily Hyperactive/ Impulsive, Primarily Inattentive, or Combined Type.  There is no medical test to identify ADHD; rather clinicians use self-report ratings from the client and teacher/ parent observations along with clinical observations to identify ADHD. Often students with ADHD struggle with learning and poor academic performance at school and adults with ADHD can struggle with staying on top of bills and household responsibilities and tasks at work. Adolescents and adults with ADHD can struggle to understand social norms, appropriate boundaries, and interpersonal communication in relationships. There is no cure for ADHD but people can learn to manage their symptoms.Symptoms can be more problematic depending on the expectations of the environment. Psychotherapy to work on organizational, social, and coping skills and stimulant medications are often used to treat the symptoms of this disorder. 

Individuals with ADHD can be extremely creative, artistic, and adventurous.  It is very possible to be successful in life if you have ADHD, you just need to figure out what works best for you to manage your symptoms. 

So what can ADHD look like in an elementary school student?

José talks a mile a minute and won’t sit still….. ever. He does his math fact sheet standing up.  He seems to always be wondering around the room. José blurts out answers and never raises his hand.  Most of the time, the answers don’t have anything to do with the question. He also is always touching the other kids and taking their markers without asking. José’s book bag is filled with papers, candy wrappers, and trash. José always forgets his homework at home or hands his homework inincomplete. At the end of the day he seems to just throw everything into his book bag or takes nothing home at all. José struggles to walk quietly in the hall and is usually running out of the room when it is time to transition to lunch. Jose’ seems like he has so much energy and like he is constantly moving and talking. José is a happy kid and likes to please others. – Jose has ADHD Primarily Hyperactive/ Impulsive Type.

What can ADHD look like in a middle school student?

Daisy is very quiet and sweet. She likes to doodle and draw in her notebook during class. Sometimes she just stares off and seems to enjoy daydreaming. Daisy will stare out the window the majority of class and seems to easily get mesmerized or drawn off task by any interruption.  Daisy is respectful and doesn’t cause any trouble. She seems to be forgetful and often leaves things in her locker and at home. Daisy is always the last one to finish tests and does poorly on timed tests. Teachers always have to repeat directions and questions to her. It seems like Daisy doesn’t get things or has memory problems. Her teachers wonder if maybe she has hearing or vision problems because she works so slowly and seems to never get all the details right for assignments.   Daisy has ADHD PrimarilyInattentive Type. 

What can ADHD look like in a high school student?

Ryan is always getting into fights at school and talks back to his teachers. He can be very sarcastic and doesn’t seem to think before he talks. Ryan is the only one who thinks that his jokes are funny and he seems to tell jokes at the most inappropriate times. His mouth often gets him into trouble. He also tends to get too close to girls when he talks to them and this creeps them out. Ryan makes poor choices and is easily influenced by his peers; he has been caught drinking and smoking.  Ryan hates writing essays and math class. He has poor grades, doesn’t do his homework, and often doesn’t finish his tests. Ryan is slow to start working and slow to finish his work. His favorite class is gym where he excels but he has a poor grade because he always forgets his clothes at home. In his other classes, if Ryan is not sitting right in the front of the room, he doesn’t do anything except bother his classmates. Ryan just seems like such a hard kid to like, he is smart and has potential but he just doesn’t know how to use it. Ryan has ADHD Primarily Combined Type

What can ADHD look like in an adult?

Abbie just graduated college and started her first job. She is late to work every day and usually spills coffee on her outfit at least once a week. Abbie is usually running in the door 10 minutes late with wrinkly clothes and never looks put together. She always interrupts her coworkers and forgets to respond to emails. A few times her coworkers had to pick up her lunch tab because her credit card was declined. Abbie is awful at managing money and usually pays overdraft fees and forgets to pay her bills on time. Abbie fidgets at her desk and constantly taps her pencil in meetings. She says this helps her to focus but it seems like she is never paying attention. Abbie also constantly talks over people and interrupts them during meetings. She usually waits until the last minute to start projects and rushes to get them done. Her work is sloppy and she gets poor reviews especially for time management and organization. Abbie has ADHD Combined Type.

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Radical Acceptance is a current buzzword in mental health- Lady Gaga is a big fan of this principle. Radical Acceptance is a concept that emerged from Dialectical Behavior Therapy and it is a very useful skill to apply when navigating challenging relationships with your boss, coworkers, family, friends or spouse. Radical Acceptance is a technique that you can use when you feel frustrated, betrayed, hurt, or let down by someone and you get stuck in that emotional state.

When you radically accept something, you are accepting the facts and the reality of the situation, including all the positives and the negatives. You also let go of control or judging what happened when you decide to practice Radical Acceptance. When you practice Radical Acceptance, you do not try to fix or change the situation and you do not worry about it. You accept that “It is what it is” and you set realistic expectations while focusing on your responsibilities and values.

Emotionally, when you radically accept something, you name and honor your feelings around the person or event. You are honest with yourself and you do not deny your feelings or the truth. You also don’t spin your wheels and continue to think about the hows and whys of your feelings, you just name them.  You do not make excuses, justify, rationalize or try to change your feelings, you just recognize and accept them. 

Radical Acceptance is not justifying or overlooking bad behavior and it does not mean that you let people walk all over you or take advantage of you.  It means that you are honest and realistic about what and who is in your environment and your role in these relationships.  When you practice Radical Acceptance, difficult people, situations, and memories have less power over you. You also feel less disappointed. 

 Why get upset when your grumpy neighbor scowls at you in the morning instead of waving if he has been doing that every day for the past ten years? Everyone, including you, knows that he scowls at people. Why get mad that your sister skipped your son’s 5th birthday party when she tends to “no show” for most family occasions? You cannot make her attend anything.   Why worry about everyone getting along at Thanksgiving since there is no way you can control that?   Why stress about attending team meetings when you know your coworkers always end up arguing? Make a list of your questions and what you need to say, and then leave when the fighting starts.

 Here is an example of how to apply Radical Acceptance:

·        Ask yourself what can I control in this situation?

·        Name the facts, what are the truths here?

·        Identify your role and your responsibility in this situation.

·        Ask yourself what do you know about this person or situation? What has the past taught you to expect?

·        Don’t try to change or influence the person or situation.

·        Don’t judge your behavior or anyone else’s. 


“My supervisor is such a mean jerk. He never answers my Emails and he has such a bad temper. Every Monday morning I walk the long way to my office just to avoid him before he has his coffee. I am sure he must think I am such an idiot because I am new and do not know how to work all these computer programs and I ask so many questions. I’m going to try to figure out how to make him like me and how to make him happier at work. I heard other people at work talk about his temper and how difficult he is to work for.  I am so afraid he is going to yell at me. All I do is think about how awful he is and how I can avoid getting in trouble.”

Radical Acceptance:

“My supervisor seems to have a short fuse and yelling at employees is not okay but I am not going to take it personally. I can’t control if he decides to yell at me. I do not like how he acts but I cannot control his behavior nor is it my job to make him happy. I am new and I am going to focus on learning my job better, all new people have a lot to learn. If my supervisor will not answer my Emails, I will ask someone else my questions. I am going to take the most direct route  to my  office in the morning because that makes the most sense to me and I am going to greet and smile at whoever I see because I value being friendly.  My supervisor’s tone does make me feel uncomfortable, but that is normal, it seems like he makes other people feel uncomfortable too. I am on to my next task and do not have to think about this anymore!”

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School Psychologists spend a lot of time in graduate school learning about IQ and IQ tests and then as professionals, we spend almost half of our working time administering and interpreting them. But what exactly is IQ and what does it mean? There are many many  myths out there about IQ. 

IQ stands for Intelligence Quotient and the first IQ tests were developed and administered in Europe. During World War I, the US Army started developing and administering IQ tests to soldiers. Then, they became popular in the school settings and especially with children to determine needs for special education. 

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Your IQ score is the result of your performance on a test of cognitive processes. Usually IQ tests measure verbal, nonverbal, memory, and processing speed skills.  On most assessments, standard scores of 100 are in the middle of the average range and most assessments are based on a Bell Curve.  The majority of any population has an average IQ. An average IQ score is actually a wonderful thing! It is like having average blood pressure or an average BMI. It is what we anticipate or what is typical for a person.

IQ is a very abstract concept and is super difficult to measure. That’s because it is hard to control for many factors that get in the way of an individual showing their true intellectual ability on a test. Exposure to language and information, culture, and language proficiency will absolutely sway your score. Fine motor skills, hearing, and vision can get in the way of your performance too. And if you struggle with focus, attention, or have test anxiety, those factors can all impact your score, and probably will. That is why you need a trained individual to administer and interpret these types of tests.

An IQ score is the measure of a person’s performance on just one test, and most School Psychologists see it that way, just a number. We tend to pay more attention to extreme low or high scores on the IQ spectrum or when there are significant differences between skill sets. It is maybe safe to say that most people who do not administer or interpret IQ tests put more emotional weight on these scores then us professionals who spend a good chunk of our day working with them.

It is probably important to follow that statement with what IQ isn’t. IQ isn’t a predictor of success in life.  IQ won’t predict how well you do in college or at your first job. There is no correlation between high IQ and happiness.  Your IQ doesn’t indicate if you are smart or dumb…. your IQ score is a snapshot of how well you were able to do on a test of cognitive tasks that you couldn’t prepare for, that’s all.  Your IQ score doesn’t provide any information about your social skills, personality, work ethic, or values. You can’t take a real IQ test on the internet in ten minutes and the score you get on one of those, doesn’t really mean anything. So to sum things up, IQ is a topic that confuses a lot of people and is frequently misunderstood. What is important to know is that there is much much more to any learner than his or her IQ score.

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The winter blues are easy to catch and when that happens, we can feel unmotivated. When it is cold, snowy, and there is less daylight, there is a lot of temptation to stay in bed and not do things. It does not help that right now we are encouraged to stay in due to the pandemic. You can still be productive indoors while practicing social distancing.  It is easy to feel stuck in a rut during the winter.  If you are feeling like you have less energy and lack motivation here are some tips to get you to feel energized and productive.

  • Set a sleep schedule- Even on the weekends and days off, go to bed and wake up at the same time. That will help get your body into a routine and will help you not to feel so tired in the morning.
  • Get ready for morning at night- Pick out your outfit, pack your lunch, charge your phone, write tomorrow’s to do list, and organize yourself at night for a hassle free morning.
  • Take a shower and get ready every day- Even if you have nowhere to go, stick to your routine and get fixed up. Do not stay in your pajamas all day!
  • Use timers to prompt for transitions.  Decide how much time you are going to spend on watching television, listening to music, exercising, or being online and stick to it. When the timer goes off, you are done!
  • Schedule in productivity time- Use that timer and set 30 minutes aside to clean, exercise, pay bills, or do whatever you have to do. Try to schedule your least favorite tasks before a preferable activity like dinner, family time, or movie time. Then, you will feel like you have a reward waiting for you when you are done with your work.
  • Wake up 15 minutes early- Use this time wisely and find what works for you. Maybe do some stretches, go for a ten-minute walk outside, or make a healthy breakfast. Think about what energizes you and start the day with that.
  • Take advantage of the cold- If you are feeling lazy and unmotivated go outside and take in some cold fresh air. The cold outside weather can help to ground you and energize you. You can also take a cold shower, go for a ride with the windows down, or put a cold washcloth on your face for a similar effect.
  • Do not take on too much- It is easy to feel discouraged if you over commit. Do not pack your free time with commitments and activities. Be realistic about what you can and should be doing.
  • Break down large tasks- If you have a big project at work, school, or home that you know is going to be time consuming, that alone can make you feel discouraged.  Do not avoid big projects. They will still be waiting for you when you decide to get back to them! Whenever you have a big task, try to chunk it into small parts and celebrate the completion of each small step.
  • Be smart with what you eat and drink- Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Drink plenty of water and healthy forms of caffeine like tea and coffee. Remember alcohol is a depressant and will bring your mood down, not up. Plus, avoid soda and sugary energy drinks, they are not good for you.


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If you have ever been in the counseling seat you may have heard the old saying that “the therapy starts when you walk out the door”. Now, we know that the counseling chair is an amazing place to process, strategize, practice therapeutic tools and uncover emotional self-discoveries, but the real therapy work is found within the person who is seeking the counseling. Therapy is a series of processes that the counselor and client have the opportunity to walk through together, finding what works and what doesn’t. It is the client’s implementation of strategies/awarenesses into their real world outside of the counseling room that creates the true therapeutic change. So how do we as the counselors continue to help our clients after they walk out the door?

As counselors we often find ourselves suggesting assignments or tasks to work on between therapy sessions in order to engage the client in their therapy process. From simple worksheets to relatable podcasts, to behavioral lists we are always on the hunt for therapeutic supplements for clients. An easy and extremely common therapy addition is often a good self-help book that ties into the issues that the client is working on in their sessions. Slowly digesting a good and reliable book that helps the client expand their view on their therapy work is a great way for ongoing engagement in the therapy process between office visits. This action allows the counselor to challenge the client on their own self-awarenesses that they discover and provides client empowerment in the treatment process that can last far beyond the counseling room.

Entering into the “self-help” section of a book store or getting lost in the clicks of Amazon can be daunting for someone seeking a reliably sourced book that ties into their counseling journey. The MSC Therapy Team has put together our most used/suggested self-help books for our clients and ourselves. Our hope is that this list can help our community find therapy supplements that are relatable and reliable. We have included books for adults, children, families and couples. If you are new to the counseling process and unsure if it is right for you at this time, a self-help book can be a great start to exploring prior to entering the therapy journey. Happy Reading Friends, The MSC Team.


“Surrender to Love” by David Benner 

“Invitation to Silence and Solitude” by Ruth Haley Barton 

“The Anatomy of the Soul” by Curt Thompson 

“Hinds Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard 

“All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living” by Morgan Harper Nichols

“The Lazy Genius Way: Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t, and Get Stuff Done” by Kendra Adachi

“The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice For Making Life Decisions” by Emily P. Freeman

“The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel A. van der Kolk

“Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss” by Patrick O’Malley

“Boundaries” by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

“Stop Walking on Eggshells (Taking your Life Back When Someone You Love has BPD)” by Paul Mason & Randi Kreger

“9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life” by Henry Cloud

“My Stroke of Insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Couples and Families:

“How We Love: Making Deeper Connections in Marriage” by Milan Yerkovich &Kay Yerkovich

“The Birth Order Book: Why You are the Way You Are” by Dr. Kevin Leman

“The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” by Gary Chapman

“The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity and Mating In Captivity” by Esther Perel

“7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman

“Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Dr. Sue Johnson


“The Invisible String and Workbook” by Patrice Karst

“What to do When You Worry too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety” by Dawn Huebner

“What to do When You Dread the Bed: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Problems with Sleep” by Dawn Huebner

“1,2,3 Magic (Effective Discipline for Children 2-12)” by Thomas Phelan

“The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child” by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

“Gist: The Essence of Raising Life Ready Kids” by Anderson & Johanson

Posted on by Jessica Ulmer, LPC, NCC | Comments Off on MSC Book Recommendations
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Covid, quarantining, social distancing, and mask wearing have been challenges for both kids and adults. The current state caused by the pandemic can stir up emotional responses in everyone.  Karah Molesevich and Suzanne Presley, School Psychologists, provide some tips for parents to deal with the emotional difficulties that their children may be experiencing during the pandemic and offer advice about how to help kids to cope.

Anxiety is the fear of the unknown and with the pandemic, we have many new unknowns in our world. Classic symptoms of anxiety in children and adolescents include worry, racing thoughts, nervousness, fear, irritability, restlessness, feeling on edge, eating or sleeping too much or too little, muscle tension, concentration difficulties, isolation, and stomach upset.

Depression is another common condition that many people have developed over the pandemic. Depression is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of saddens and loss. In youth, signs of depression can include change in appetite or sleep patterns, anger or irritability, fatigue, lack of interest in once enjoyed activities, isolation, sadness, or sudden fluctuations in mood.

If you notice these symptoms in your children or an increase in these symptoms since the pandemic, talk to them! Ask your kids about their feelings every day. How can you do this?  It’s simple! Ask them, “How are you feeling?” Provide your children with reassurance and validate their emotions. Remember feelings aren’t right or wrong, they are states that come and go. Do not judge or criticize your child for their feelings, they are their reality and very powerful to them.  Let your children know that you are sorry that they are feeling sad or anxious and that you know how uncomfortable those feelings are. Ask them what you can do to help, and then really listen.

Help them to identify if their fears are rational. With anxiety, it is easy to catastrophize or accept the worst-case scenario as your reality. Ask your children to consider the likely outcome of the situation that is causing them distress. You can also ask them to consider the best and worst-case scenarios and what they would do or feel if those possibilities actually developed. Help them to identify probable outcomes and to focus on those.  Help foster positive thinking at home. Avoid statements like, “The pandemic is going to last forever.” and try to say things like, “This is all going to be over soon!”

During the pandemic, it is important that kids have at least one caring adult to talk to about their feelings. This does not have to be mom or dad.  A child may feel more comfortable confiding in his or her aunt, uncle, older cousin, grandparent or neighbor. Ask if your child would like to connect with another family member or close adult friend and help facilitate that conversation.

Exercise is a great remedy for anxiety, depression and stress. A brisk 20-minute walk can do wonders for your mental health. Ask your child if they would like to go for a walk with you or take the dog for a stroll.  Take advantage of the cold! A change in temperature can help you to focus on the moment, calm down, and ground you. Encourage your child to go outside and at least take some deep breaths or take in some sunshine.  If you are stuck inside due to weather, you can dance together in the living room or find a free online yoga or aerobic video on YouTube. Try to structure active family exercise time but respect if your child prefers to exercise alone.  If exercise isn’t your thing, that’s okay, maybe try to cook together or play a board game. Drawing, art projects, and making crafts are creative ways to express emotions during this time too. Spending time with your child will help them to feel supported and not alone. Take advantage of technology and Zoom or FaceTime with your child’s family and friends.

Try to set aside a half hour each day for some family emotional self-care time. Make a list of options that each member of your family can independently do during this time. Some ideas include reading, journaling, knitting, meditating, playing basketball, painting your nails, taking deep breaths, enjoying a hot bubble bath, stretching, playing with the cat, or whatever is relaxing to you!

Try to make mental health a normal topic of conversation at home, check in with each other about feelings, and try to plan time for individual and group self-care activities. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are many supports at school and in the community for both you and your child to deal with this tough time. Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself too!  Just like on the airplane, you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help someone else with his or her mask. Stay safe and be well everyone!

Posted on by karahmolesevich | Comments Off on Tips for Parents during the Pandemic