Kay Simmeth Counseling Group

Individual and Relational Counseling, EMDR Therapy and Consulting

Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude

Celebrating Thanksgiving is a good time to be reminded of the value of developing the daily habit of gratitude.

One thing I’m grateful for is the time I get to spend with my clients. It’s rewarding to work with people who have made a choice to engage in the hard work of clearing out the blocks that keep you from living the life you want.

Amy and Jana join me in saying thank you for sharing your life with us this past year. We hope you have much to be grateful for this holiday season.

— Kay

express gratitude habit

Cultivating a Habit of Gratitude

We’ve all had moments where we’ve felt a natural thanksgiving or gratitude. Maybe someone did a favor that meant a great deal or invited you to an unexpectedly enjoyable event. Perhaps it was enjoying a walk or run on a beautiful day after a busy week.

The experience of gratitude often stems from surprisingly ordinary life events, which is why developing a habit of gratitude can be effective as a daily activity.

The words thanks, gratitude and giving derive from the word grace and refer to meaningful, authentic ways to acknowledge the grace in our lives. Too often, however, we are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives.

Gratitude is a perception, a way of looking at things, and an attitude of gratitude is a cornerstone of long-term mental and physical health. Numerous long-term studies suggest that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

But for gratitude to reach its full healing potential in our lives and the lives of our family, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. When we practice giving thanks verbally for all we have instead of complaining about what we lack, we give our ourselves — and those around us — the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

There are many things to be grateful for — from cooler weather to friends who listen, the ability to read to being alive. We begin to cultivate gratitude by noticing the concrete ways in which the world supports us each day.

Overcoming the obstacles to gratitude

Practicing gratitude also includes overcoming the three main obstacles to gratitude: self-preoccupation, expectation, and entitlement.

Self-preoccupation leads us to focus our attention on our problems, difficulties, aches and pains. Similarly, focusing on our expectations means we often only notice when those expectations go unmet. It’s easier to be frustrated when a light bulb goes out rather than being grateful each evening for the light. And feelings of entitlement make it difficult to see the good things in our lives as a gift.

Cultivating a habit of gratitude takes effort, but it’s something the whole family can get involved in. No one is too young or too old to be thankful. Consider adding a gratitude exercise into your daily routine. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Use your calendar for more than getting organized – add something you’re grateful for each day.
  • Set an example in your workplace by verbalizing your gratitude. It’s an attitude that can be contagious!
  • With young children, make up a gratitude game to enjoy around the dinner table. For example ask, “what are you thankful for that starts with the letter “A”?
  • When faced with a frustrating or difficult situation consciously choose to find something in it to be grateful for.

As we practice gratitude, bit-by- bit an inner shift begins to occur. We may even be delighted to discover how content and hopeful we feel. This sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

With all the healthy practices we suggest in these posts, we recognize that the thought of getting rid or an old habit or starting a positive one can feel like it requires herculean effort. It’s not intended to be that way.

Sometimes experiences from our past get in the way of being able to recognize what we have to be grateful for. When that happens, working with a therapist to clear out old wounds or process trauma can help those experiences lose their power over us. When we make space for gratitude, practicing it becomes much easier.

We use a variety of therapy methods, including EMDR, which has been effective in helping release people from the power fear and shame can have on their lives. . To make an appointment with Kay, Amy or Jana, please call our office at 818-681-6627.

Life Goes Better With Friends

With the start of a new school year, a new job or a new community group comes an opportunity to make new friends. That warm smile you offer an acquaintance could be the beginning of a life-long friendship.

Good, healthy friendships are important for our emotional health. They provide a place for us to know others and to be known, to share even those parts of our life we keep hidden away.


Life goes better with friends

Everyone knows that friends make life better, but there is a growing body of evidence that shows people who have good friendships and strong social circles live longer—as well as happier—lives.

In study after study, researchers have found that those who have friends are less likely to become disabled and, if they do suffer a period of disability, more likely to recover . Further, people with fewer friendships are more likely to have a heart attack, while people with more social contacts are less likely to suffer cognitive decline.

The message from all this research: If friends are gifts we give ourselves, it’s good to be generous.

Why are friends so good for us?

Health-wise, friends encourage us to do what’s good for us: eat better, drink less, exercise and seek medical care when we need it; friends listen to us when we need to let off steam and cheer us up when we’re down. We stress less when we have friends who support us and help us along the way.

Frequently, family and friends are lumped together when people talk about support. However, friends don’t usually make the same demands that family members sometimes do. The old saying goes, “We choose our friends, but we’re stuck with our family.” Granted, we may have a supportive family that we’re very happy to be “stuck” with, but friendships allow us to experience ourselves in a new way and grow beyond the patterns and expectations of our family.

While friendships can be passing, we generally hang on to the ones that are meaningful. As we grow older, we may have fewer friends, but our pleasure in them grows. “People become more selective and get better at knowing the kind of people they like and don’t like. And they steer away from those they don’t care for,” says Stanford psychology professor Laura Carstensen about why friendships get better with age.

These days, in our mobile, fast-paced culture, it’s more difficult to make and maintain social relationships than when folks stayed in one place and had more leisure time. People move across town or across country and jam-pack their lives with schedules that leave no time for finding and nurturing friendships. Consequently, at the end of a too-full day or when a free weekend finally arrives, we may discover ourselves longing for the kind of easy pleasure friendship offers. Without friends, life gets lonely.

If you’ve moved to a new location, or your friends have drifted away and you need to restock the reservoir, reach out through joining groups and pursuing hobbies and interests where you’re likely to find kindred spirits. Extend a hand and an invitation.

Like any other living thing, friendship requires care and feeding:

  • Make your friendships a regular priority, not just when you’re lonely.
  • A weekly date can provide the scaffolding for an enduring emotional relationship.
  • When you can’t be together physically, keep in touch with a phone call, by text or through personal interactions on social media.
  • Celebrate special occasions with friends. Be there for the big events and the small, and create some traditions of your own.
  • Make time for old friends, even if it’s an inconvenience.

There is wisdom in the simple lines from the childhood song, Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

For many of us, developing deep friendships isn’t as easy as spending more time with someone you enjoy. Fear of sharing our true selves or anxiety that our secrets are shameful can make us hold our friends at arms length. Even as we try make ourselves vulnerable the wounded parts of ourselves may show up to create barriers to intimacy.

Although therapy is not a substitute for friendship, in our practice we place a high value on creating a place where you can feel safe to share even the things you’ve kept secret. Addressing the issues of shame or fear that block your ability to develop deep relationships, can free you to build life-giving friendships.

We use a variety of therapy methods, including EMDR, which has been effective in helping release people from the power fear and shame can have on their lives. . To make an appointment with Kay, Amy or Jana, please call our office at 818-681-6627.

Surviving Improper Parenting

All children need to feel “seen, safe, soothed and secure,” says neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Dan Siegel. Although it sounds simple, if we grew up lacking these basic assurances of being loved, we may be living with an emotional wound called attachment trauma. As we mature, it’s important to confront and deal with that pain in a way that removes its negative power over us

Surviving Improper Parenting

Surviving Improper Parenting

Because parents are usually the first influence in our lives, what we learn or do not learn from them can have lasting repercussions. Unfortunately, this can translate into many people suffering from the effects of improper parenting.

If not addressed, those effects can be felt for a lifetime, and they include low self-esteem, being drawn into abusive relationships, unhealthy habits or inhibitions and feelings of worthlessness.

Improper parenting can be reflected in physical, sexual and verbal abuse, physical and emotional neglect, rejection, favoritism of one sibling over another, lack of discipline, forcing choices on children and being overly protective or indulgent.

Because we often parent as we were parented, it’s important to heal our own wounds and learn proper parenting techniques so that we don’t perpetuate the cycle. As P. D. James wrote in Time to Be in Earnest, “What a child doesn’t receive, he can seldom later give.”

How, then, can we heal from improper parenting, making ourselves whole, happier members of society as well as better parents to the next generation?

Taking Action

First, it is important to understand that, even as an adult, there is still a part of us that thinks, feels and reacts like a child because, unfortunately, time alone does not heal childhood wounds. Many of these wounds are deep, and need professional help to address. However here are some first steps you can take to toward learning how to nurture and heal the child within:

Embrace the recovery process. Whether you decide to seek professional therapy or learn coping techniques on your own, realize that the process will take time and effort on your part. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect perfection.

  • Don’t blame others. We cannot thrive in the present if we are living in the past or blaming others for our problems and conflicts. Even though we could not control the first years of our life, we should not blame others for the choices we make now. We have to learn how to take responsibility and work through the traumatic feelings from the past that continue to haunt us in the present.
  • Identify and remove mental and emotional blocks. Through therapy, journaling or other techniques, it’s important to probe the unprocessed issues from childhood that continue to negatively impact you and block you from leading the life you want.
  • Learn new strategies. Realize that the process consists not only of learning the right behaviors, but about being a whole person. That means taking reasonable risks to build your emotional confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Growing up all over again. Essentially, it’s almost like going through the growing up process again, but this time, doing it the right way for you. Learn to rely upon yourself to give yourself what you need or what you feel you have been lacking.
  • Forgive. Forgiveness can be a controversial issue. Some regard it as necessary for healing; others say it is not. At heart, forgiveness is a process that frees you. It’s not about condoning the way you were parented, but about understanding the roots of your parents’ behavior, letting go of the past and moving on. Whether or not you decide to forgive your parents, do try to forgive yourself for any choices or behaviors you may regret. You might even reframe regrets as opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Share your story. Support groups are an excellent opportunity for you to share your story with others in a safe environment. It can be helpful to reach out to others who are suffering or who can understand what you’re going through or have gone through.

It is very difficult to be a good parent and set up an effective model for our children until we go through the recovery process ourselves. However, when we begin to heal and let go of the mistakes our parents made, we can break the negative parenting cycles and become healthy, functioning human beings. It is only by learning how to love and accept ourselves that we can love and accept others.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

While some childhood traumas are severe, attachment trauma can be insidious, built up over a long childhood of disregard. Whatever the cause, when childhood woundedness affects a person’s ability to develop healthy relationships, especially with their own children, it’s important to get help.

Every day we work with people of all ages who are confronting their childhood issues and dealing with the pain of attachment trauma. In our practice, we’ve seen positive results from using EMDR therapy to help release people from the power those childhood experiences wield on their lives. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you process attachment trauma or any other issue, please call our office at 818-681-6627 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Resentments and What to Do With Them

The New Year comes with a fresh start. Many of us even make goals or resolutions for how we want to live better, healthier, or more productive lives. However, keeping those goals can be a different story, and it’s especially hard if we’re burdened by the weight of unresolved trauma or emotional pain.

Before you make your resolutions about what you want to do this year, take a moment to think about what you’d like to let go of first.


Dealing With Resentments

Some people can spend hours dwelling on the wrongs done to them — the injustices, the slights, the snubs, insults, indifferences, slurs, and just plain bad treatment. They can think of a particular instance and, sure as Pavlov’s dog, up comes the same feeling the original occurrence caused. Soon they’re mad all over again. They hold onto their resentments with the same tenacity that dog’s hair might cling to a cashmere sweater.

Resent comes from the French word “sentir,” to feel or experience. To resent something or someone is to feel again the fear, the anger, the hurt, the humiliation, the pain of the original experience — real or imagined. Carried along with us, this feeling gets packed away in a bag labeled grudge or blame. It’s a bag full of judgments where other people are always wrong and at fault, and, after a while, it can make for a pretty heavy load.

“Of all the futile and destructive emotions to which human beings are prey, perhaps the most universal is resentment,” said Theodore Dalrymple in his essay, “The Uses of Resentment.” Resentment eats away at self-esteem and peace of mind. It replaces hope with bitterness and opportunities for growth with stagnation. If a person can blame someone else, then they don’t have to take responsibility for themselves.  Of course, we can’t always have control over what happened to us, especially if we were children, but we do have control on how we choose to respond to it today, and how we will deal with it.

A life filled with resentments chains the one who would be victim and stifles any change that could make life easier, more productive and joyful. As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, “Resentments keep us from the sunlight of the spirit.”

From one perspective, any time resentment takes up emotional space, it indicates there’s something at issue that has not been resolved. Maybe the best thing is to slow down and try to see what part of it is still trying to get your attention.

Getting rid of old resentments isn’t as easy as simply saying, “Resentment, be gone.” Judgments, the need to be right, not taking responsibility for certain actions or behaviors, a feeling of being special or entitled, vindictiveness or a need for revenge, a simple (or not so simple) misunderstanding, or an inability to forgive — all these might be in the way of releasing resentments.

Along with causing a “re-feeling” of the original emotion, resentments give a person an opportunity to re-look at an event or situation. Sometimes holding onto resentment is a way of avoiding pain, and this re-looking can unlock the doors that have held it at bay.

Taking Action

So how do you deal with resentments? Unless you address the underlying issues involved, it can be difficult to rid yourself of the power they have over you. Start by writing them down. Talk about them, not in a blaming way, but with a willingness to see all sides of the issue. Determine what the lessons are, what needs to be let go of, what needs more work. Whether you do this on your own, with a friend or a therapist, when you deal with your resentments, you’ll begin to see where empathy can create wholeness and forgiveness can heal.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

These posts are meant to encourage some reflection and emotional work in your life, not to provide simple answers for deep issues. Holding on to resentments or other powerful emotional weight is usually reflective of a much deeper trauma or emotional pain. Many people need help to process those issues so they no longer create a powerful negative belief in a person’s life.

In our office, we’ve seen the positive results of using EMDR to help treat trauma and other emotional pain that affects a person’s ability to be their best self. If you’d like to learn more about the work we do and EMDR, please call our office at 818-681-6627.

How to Go from Stuck to Action

We all have areas in our life we’d like to change. Taking positive steps towards that change can be hard, and sometimes feel like an insurmountable task. It doesn’t have to be that way!

In our practice, it’s a privilege to walk along side people as they confront issues in their life that are holding them back from success in relationships, work, or personal growth. When these blocks are removed, change really is possible. I hope this will spur you to take the steps towards becoming your best self.


How to Go from Stuck to Action to Empowerment

If you’ve ever been stuck in a rut of inertia—in life or business—you know the sense of helpless futility that seems to take over.

You want your life or business to change, but you feel powerless to do anything about it yourself. You may find yourself constantly making plans to improve these areas, but never manage to take action because something just seems to be holding you back..

Though taking action might feel intimidating or risky, it’s a practice that can empower you towards realizing your goals. If you learn to use it effectively, it can provide the fuel to keep you moving forward toward more fulfilling circumstances.

Dealing with the root of the problem

At the root of feeling stuck is a negative belief that needs to be overcome. Those negative beliefs create friction in a person’s ability to move forward. Taking action toward a goal does not have to be a “white knuckle” experience. Instead, a shift in perspective at a deep level reduces the friction, making movement forward possible.

Confronting what it is holding you back is important for enabling you to move toward your goals. For many people, reaching their peak potential requires professional help in processing those negative beliefs. EMDR is an effective therapy for empowering positive performance that has been hindered by past trauma and negative experiences.

When the friction of negative belief has been confronted, instead of desperately pushing yourself forward, action becomes a natural next step.

Action that builds momentum

Taking steps forward begins with an understanding that your life is the way it is because of your hesitation in taking action. This is important because you’ll need to understand the importance of moving forward, even when it feels difficult.

  1. Below are three simple steps to help you get started:
    First, decide on one action to take to get the ball rolling. Ask yourself which life situations you want to change first. You might choose your relationships, health, financial situation, business networking or anything else that makes you feel powerless and stuck.
  2. Then think about one simple action you can take to inspire some positive change. It shouldn’t be a huge action, just one thing to start building momentum. And remember, if taking that one step causes real anxiety or “white knuckles,” connect with a professional to help you deal with the root of the problem first.
  3. Once you’ve decided on your action step, you’ll need to follow through, even when it feels difficult or scary. Give yourself a pep talk or motivation to help you move forward with your action. After you take that first step, be sure to let go of any expectations about outcomes and allow yourself to feel great simply because you did something to move forward.


Repeat this process with the same action or with a new one. Once you’ve taken one step forward, you’ll need to follow through on making others. Consider this: even if you take only one small step a day, you’ll be putting forth positive effort to make changes in your life. This can’t help but bring about better circumstances.

The good news is that taking action quickly begins to build momentum. Just like chronic non-action can create a cycle of negativity and stagnation over time, being proactive can create a positive cycle that continues to grow. It gets easier the more you do it. Eventually, it will seem almost effortless.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

Recently, the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page ran a series of photos and interviews with clients and staff from the Headstrong Project, an organization using EMDR therapy to work with veterans suffering from PTSD. Although the stories of suffering are heartbreaking, the stories of help are inspiring. If you use Facebook, visit the HONY page to read these stories or read a related article here.

It’s no surprise to our practice that EMDR therapy works. That’s why we’re so committed to using it to treat not only “big T” Trauma, such as PTSD, but also smaller traumas that lead to emotional damage. We’ve seen how effective it can be in helping people overcome the negative hold trauma can have on their lives and free them to be their best selves.

The Importance of Play in Our Lives

Playing is engaging in an activity simply because you enjoy it. How often do you make time for play? What activities do you enjoy? Children play all the time, but for adults who take their responsibilities seriously, playing can be relegated to the bottom of the to-do list.

Summer provides a great opportunity to be intentional about creating space for play. The article below shares several ways to re-connect with play even in the midst of a busy life.

I hope you’ll be inspired to let the power of play refresh you this summer!

Importance Of Play

The Importance of Play in Our Lives

If it feels like you have less leisure time and fewer unstructured “play” hours in your life, you’re not alone. Consider these statistics:

  • The average married couple works 26 percent longer each year than similar working couples did thirty years ago.
  • Leisure time among children ages 12 and under has declined from 40 percent of a child’s day in 1981 to 25 percent of a child’s day in 1997, and about one in four American adults reports no leisure-time physical activity.
  • A landmark Surgeon General’s Report identified lack of physical activity, including during leisure, as a serious health threat in the U.S.

The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, former president of Yale University and one-time commissioner of Major League Baseball said, “You can learn more about a society by observing the way they play as opposed to how they work.”

Our high tech life with its accelerated pace has fostered a culture that seems to be always working, always rushed, always connected. With cell phones interrupting the theater, laptop computers at the beach, internet connections at every other café, and home offices that beckon us all hours of the night and day, it’s hard to separate “play” from “work.” Yet to maintain balance in our lives, and for our ultimate well-being, play is important.

Lenore Terr, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play, argues that play is crucial at every stage of life. In play, we discover pleasure, cultivate feelings of accomplishment, and acquire a sense of belonging. When we play, we learn and mature and find an outlet for stress. “Play is a lost key,” Terr writes. “It unlocks the door to ourselves.”

When we are completely involved in play our cares and worries disappear. Sailing, playing a game of tennis, or being thoroughly engrossed in a good novel, we feel pleasurably alive and light-hearted. There is nothing like play that allows us to be present in the moment.

Ways to Add Play Time in Your Life

If you feel like you don’t have enough play time in your life (and who doesn’t), try these suggestions:

  • Turn-off. Turn off your cell phone, computer, TV, and other electronic devices for at least two hours a day.
  • Let your mind wander. Recall what you used to enjoy doing or what you always wanted to do before we became so technology-oriented.
  • Include others. Invite someone over to play, just like you used to when you were a kid. Nothing planned, nothing structured. Let your play evolve naturally.
  • Think physical. Go for a walk, ride your bike, rent some skates, break out the croquet set, go for a swim or a run.
  • Pretend.  Pretend you don’t have any cares or worries. Pretend you have all the time in the world to laugh and play and enjoy. Pretend there is no moment other than this.

Any time you have the choice of whether to work “just one more hour” or give yourself over to play, consider what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.”

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

Sometimes lack of time is not our only hindrance to play. If emotional blocks get in the way of your ability to relax and let yourself experience the pleasure of play, you may want someone to come along side you. EMDR therapy is a great way to work through issues so they no longer have the power to hold us back from living — and playing — to our full potential.

Consider coming in for a 2-3 hour EMDR session to push through emotional blocks.

To connect with us about a new appointment or schedule an extended session, call our office at 818-681-6627. We hope you have a wonderful summer!

The Impact of Unresolved Trauma on Relationships

As you know, I am a passionate practitioner of EMDR therapy, along with the other therapists in my practice. We have all seen the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in helping our clients heal from past trauma. The article below will help you understand and recognize the negative role trauma scars can play in relationships.

In our experience, working through unresolved trauma is a hopeful and life-giving process. It brings a new way of seeing and being in our world that can infuse new-life into relationships.

I hope you will have opportunities to experience new life this spring!

trauma EMDR

The Impact of Unresolved Trauma on Relationships

Physicians use the word “trauma” to describe a serious injury to the physical body resulting from a sudden impact, such as an accident or a violent act. But you can also suffer emotional trauma, which can cause an equally painful wound to your sense of self as a whole, coherent being. Just like a wound to your physical body, emotional injuries also require care and attention so that you may heal.

When this trauma is left unresolved and your experience of yourself is one of not being whole—of somehow being broken—you are likely to bring the footprints of this to your relationships. To have healthy relationships, you must first have a healthy sense of your own being and place in the world.

Origins and Effects of Emotional Trauma

Emotional injuries result from any experience in which one feels that his or her life or well-being is endangered. These experiences might include the shaming of a young person by a parent or teacher, the molestation or beating of a child, the loss of a job or a divorce, a sudden death or life-changing accident.

Whether the trauma occurred in childhood or adulthood, it changes your experience of yourself and your world. If you were young when the trauma occurred, you will likely have more scars, because you were more vulnerable and had fewer coping skills.

Our human instinct is to protect ourselves. Often we do that by finding ways to cut ourselves off through denial that we have been hurt, dissociation from the painful event, or repression of the memory of the trauma. The symptoms of unresolved trauma may include, among many others, addictive behaviors, an inability to deal with conflict, anxiety, confusion, depression or an innate belief that we have no value.

The Impact on Relationships

Living with unresolved wounds and bringing all the resulting behaviors to your relationships is clearly not conducive to healthy, happy intimacy.

When your emotional health has been compromised and you soldier on through life without resolving the trauma that has occurred, the wounds will continue to fester. This will affect how you perceive and treat yourself and spill into your relationships with significant others.

When the trauma remains unresolved, there will likely be frequent triggers that cause an emotional response—behaviors on the part of others that unintentionally act as cues or reminders of the original trauma. For example, if you had parents who were emotionally distant or physically absent when you were a child and you felt abandoned, when your spouse comes home late from work you may feel powerless and rejected.

Your spouse (or your friend, relative, partner or colleague) may have only your highest good in mind, but when you see life through your scars, you experience attacks where none are intended. Likewise, when you see yourself as unworthy, you may not effectively express and preserve your worth in relationships.

The unresolved trauma is the filter through which you see the world and all your relationships.

Resolving the Unresolved

If you have unresolved trauma in your life, you are certainly not alone. Most trauma requires some kind of professional help to fully heal from its effects. Talk with a therapist to see what behaviors in your life may be related to an early traumatic event, whether you remember the specifics or not. EMDR therapy is a proven, effective way of addressing the wounds from trauma, even for unconscious memories.

Ways to Enhance Your Therapy Experience

  • Understand trauma and its effects. Read books about trauma and how to cope with its effects. Research other stories, YouTube videos or webinars about other’s experiences recovering from trauma.
  • Share your story. Write about your experiences in a journal. From telling your story you may discover the connections between what’s happening now in your life and what you carry with you from the past.
  • Let yourself feel. As Emily Dickinson wrote: “The best way out is through.” Experience your feelings rather than pushing them away—notice them and name them. Become aware of where the feeling is in your body. Your emotions can serve as information guides as you work towards healing.
  • Take time. All the time you need. We are not made the same, and we all heal in our own way, our own time. If the process becomes too intense, slow it down. Take a break.

The healing of trauma, just like the healing of a broken arm, is essential to a healthy, functional life. Moving towards a healed life and realigning with your own wholeness brings you more fully into the present, making room for connection, intimacy, and freedom.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

In working with different kinds of trauma, we sometimes distinguish between big “T” Trauma and little “t” trauma. While big “T” Trauma refers to a powerful and overwhelming event such as a death or some kind of abuse, small “t” trauma refers to seemingly smaller events in our lives that have still created a scar from which we need to heal. Both kinds of trauma can require the help of a trusted counselor or therapist to really address the wounds that need healing.

Two books I recommend for more information about trauma are The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. and Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon and Kathy Steele. You might also appreciate reading more about EMDR therapy on other pages of this site.

At our offices, we use EMDR therapy to help our clients work on diminishing the power of trauma scars. To schedule an appointment, call 818-681-6627. We believe that no person – including you — should have to live with the negative effects of trauma in their life.

New team member: Amy Burdick

Meet Amy Burdick

Amy Burdick EMDR TherapistWe’re pleased to announce the addition of Amy Burdick to our team of EMDR trained therapists. Amy has an MS in Marital and Family Therapy and experience working with anxiety, depression, grief/loss, and life-transition issues. She specializes in working with adolescent girls and trauma. In her practice, Amy is committed to creating a welcoming space where she can partner with individuals, families and couples to move out of pain and conflict and toward a life of fullness and strength. She will be joining us for the last six months of her internship and then as a licensed MFT.

Amy says working with others to help them find happiness, healing and hope is rewarding. “There are so few people in this world that we allow into our stuff,” she says. “So to be invited into those places that are dark or difficult or even feel unwanted by others… it’s a sacred experience.” Participating in the transformation of a person’s life is also a privilege. “When someone comes to a place of health, it’s amazing how that influences the lives around them,” says Amy.

Amy is enthusiastic about adding EMDR therapy to her practice because she has seen how it can help people move through emotional blocks. She also values the way EMDR merges the experiential with a structure by which progress can be observed. “Sometimes the idea of therapy can feel abstract,” she says. “When we feel stuck or scared or confused the EMDR process helps us see we actually have an end goal and how we can get there. That’s encouraging!”

Hoping is Not a Hopeless Endeavor

Every spring, I love seeing the Jacaranda trees covered in purple blossoms and watching the vegetable seedlings sprout in my garden. These signs of new life remind me to be hopeful; that after the dormancy of winter, the earth will come back to life.

Hope is a life-giving belief that our future will be good – and we all need a healthy dose of it. The article below is a good way to check in with yourself about your perspective on the future and whether it’s hindering or helping you.

I hope you have a beautiful spring!


Hoping is Not a Hopeless Endeavor

Having a healthy dose of hope can be motivating and inspiring. It keeps people focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s in the past. It can also help keep the focus on possibilities, and reframe obstacles as opportunities. For some, however, being hopeful goes hand-in-hand with feeling naïve or foolish when things don’t work out as planned. They would rather not have hope at all if it means later disappointment. But having hope doesn’t have to mean living in denial of life’s difficulties; it can be a motivating reminder that there are better times ahead.

The Benefits of Hope

Research indicates that it’s more beneficial to have hope than not. Hopeful people tend to show more resilience when faced with difficulties. They have healthier lifestyle habits and, on the whole, are more successful, personally and professionally.

According to the Mayo Clinic, having a hopeful, positive attitude has health benefits as well. These include:

  • Increased life span
  • Reduced depression
  • Lowered levels of distress
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Greater emotional and psychological well-being
  • Decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Improved coping skills during difficulties/stress
  • In addition, people with hope typically have:
  • Meaningful long- and short-term goals
  • A plan to achieve those goals
  • Flexibility to find alternate ways to achieve goals when faced with obstacles
  • Positive self-talk

We humans are sometimes too inventive for our own good—we can envision a future course of action along with every potential catastrophe that could occur along the way. Being aware of everything that can go wrong often makes doing nothing—in an attempt to avoid failure or pain—seem like a viable option.

Cultivating hope, on the other hand, helps activate creativity and inventiveness and prompts us to solve the predicaments we face by taking action in spite of our fears.

Hope brings with it the belief that things can change for the better. Regardless of how dire things may seem, there is potential for a positive outcome.

Is It Possible to Be Too Hopeful?

It could be said that optimists have a healthy dose of hope while “extreme optimists” suffer from blinding hope. They want nothing to do with bad news.

Researchers at Duke University found that extreme optimists (you could call them “high-hopers”) don’t save money, don’t pay off credit cards and don’t make long-term plans, but they are more likely to remarry if divorced.

Moderation, as usual, is the key. The researchers also found that “moderate optimists” tend to:

  • Work harder
  • Work longer hours
  • Make more money
  • Save more money
  • Pay off credit cards

Being a moderate high-hoper doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand when it comes to life’s occasional unpleasant circumstances. It just means keeping a positive attitude—believing the best will happen, not the worst.

In other words, whether you expect the best or the worst from life, chances are that’s what you’ll get.

Studies seem to suggest that being hopeful is a skill that can be learned. So whether you’re an extreme optimist, an extreme pessimist or somewhere in between, there is hope for us all.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

When you anticipate your future plans or an upcoming life change, are you hopeful? Or are you thinking of all the things that can possibly go wrong? Perhaps this spring is an opportunity to learn to be more hopeful.

For some of us, simply taking the time to reflect positively on the possibilities in our future can be enough to help us shift our attitude. Developing positive habits – such as taking time every day to be grateful or to do something you enjoy — is another way to cultivate hopefulness.

For others, our deeply ingrained negative patterns of thinking may need more serious work. EMDR therapy can help you process these negative patterns and change your ability to perceive and interpret reality with a new, more hopeful, lens.

If you’d like to work with one of our team on this or any other area of your life where you want to see change, you can make an appointment with one of our EMDR certified therapists by calling 818-681-6627.

Grief Takes No Holidays

The rush of celebrating the holidays with family and friends can be an emotionally apprehensive time of year. Feelings can range from joyfulness, thoughtful celebration, anxiety and even deep pain and grief. The article below particularly addresses those who are grieving during the holidays, but the suggestions about self-care are great reminders for all of us who get too easily caught up in the expectations of our loved ones this time of year. As you take time to pay attention to your emotional well-being, I hope you will find a measure of joy and peace this holiday season.

grief during holidays

Dealing with Grief at the Holidays

For those experiencing sorrow, whether through death, separation, divorce, illness, job loss or relocation, the glittering commercialism and unrelenting cheer of the holiday season can be stressful. Facing Thanksgiving Day and Christmas with an empty chair at the table can make unbearable grief so much worse, says Karen Silbert, MD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who suffered the loss of her five-month-old daughter. Many people believe that anyone who has experienced great loss should be “over it” in six months or so. If only that were true. Emotions of the recently bereaved are terribly raw. It can be difficult for them to cope in social situations during the holidays, when tears would be out of place, Silbert says. At holiday time, many who are dealing with loss are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to “get into the spirit” of the season.

Even more than that, the holidays can actually trigger renewed feeling feelings of new or renewed grief. Special events and traditions can stimulate memories and bring a new wave of pain, which feels even more pronounced. And it’s not just the end of the year holidays that can be difficult. Birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions often present challenges to grieving, even after a number of years have passed. Though the experience of grief may ebb and flow, we should not expect it to altogether disappear, say grief counselors and experts. While it’s normal to hurt during the holidays. it’s also possible for the human heart to hope and heal.

Tending Grief

Here are some suggestions from grief expert Dr. Judith Johnson to help the bereaved maintain a sense of balance during the holidays.

  1. Reach out to friends, family, clergy and anyone who can give you comfort and solace during this difficult time.
  2. Pay attention and be deeply honest with yourself about what you need to do and not do through the holidays or other significant occasions. Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself about what is true for you.
  3. Take loving care of yourself. Grief expresses itself in many ways. Give yourself permission to feel lethargic, grumpy or out of sorts. Stay focused on what is happening inside you and tend to yourself as you would anyone else you love deeply.
  4. Anticipate and plan ahead. “Don’t wait for others to make plans for you that may or may not have anything at all to do with what you really need,” Dr. Johnson said. “Face your truth and communicate what you need.”
  5. Make room for your grief or sadness. “Grief is a very private matter and the holidays have a way of magnifying it,” Dr. Johnson counsels. “Welcome your grief. Your sadness and tears are expressions of the healing process.” Be the time and space to be open to your grief during the busy holidays… and trust that it is healing.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications

Next Steps

Whether you are anxious about managing the emotional obstacles of the holidays or grieving a deep loss, sometimes it takes more work than you’re able to do on your own. We want you to know that you don’t have to live in a place where you feel unable to move forward or face the upcoming holidays. If you’d like to meet with one of our EMDR certified therapists, you can make an appointment by calling 818-681-6627.