“No, I’m not a Psychic.”

So the other day I’m sitting in my office, and the phone rings.

I answer in my high pitched “Hello, how may I help you?” voice.

The caller states this: “Hi, um, I think you’re the psychic who I spoke to last week. You had said that my boyfriend was gonna call and he didn’t call. So I wanted you to tell me if he’s gonna call tonight.” Many things ran through my mind including:

1. Shit maybe I should be in the psychic business. People really CALL psychics?
2. Odd that she thinks a third, neutral stranger has more insight into her relationship than she does.
3. If you have to wonder day to day if he’s gonna call, HE’S NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND! This is probably some man who you’re obsessed with. He probably thinks you’re weird because you do things like call psychics for advice.
4. If the psychic told you wrong information the first time, why do you continue to believe in this person, despite evidence that is clearly in front of you?

However, I said none of these things. I only replied “No ma’am, sorry, I’m not a psychic.” She apologized and hung up quickly .

So how is this relevant?

1. Well how often do you try to convince yourself of a relationship that is in reality a complete fallacy? Let’s start to be a little honest with ourselves about our relationships. Sometimes I say to my clients “READ THE WRITING ON THE WALL!” Meaning, be honest with yourself about what’s obvious.” Why do we try to convince ourselves of things that are not true, and then look for things that validate our fantasy? If a person likes you, it will be obvious. The person will call you, no matter how “busy” he/she is. The person will make it obvious.

2. To what extent do you find yourself compromising just to have someone? Do you find yourself defending your partner? For example have you ever thought or verbalized some iteration of the following: “Well he smells, has no job, and is unattractive, but at least he calls me a few nights a week to have sex.” WHY ARE YOU SETTLING FOR A PERSON WHO DOES NOT MEET YOUR OWN BASIC REQUIREMENTS?

3. Completely compromising your wants and needs overtime has an impact. Why? Because you compromise, compromise, and compromise, until you’re compromised out. At that point you’re angry, and severely depressed, and find yourself needing psychotropic medication just to get out of bed.

My advice: Be honest to yourself about the person who you are dating. If the entire relationship represents a compromise of who you are, you should probably not be in the relationship. If you find yourself in such a relationship, think critically about why you’re settling. If you are honest with yourself, you may find an opportunity for growth and maybe a partner who actually calls, without you having to first consult a psychic …

So wait, WHAT DO I DO AGAIN?

This morning I was catching up on my blog reading and I came across this challenge put forth by IttyBiz. I wish I could articulate this all in that awkward moment when my fellow professional asks the glaring question “So what do you do?”

What’s your game? What do you do?
I provide counseling/therapy/coaching to teens and adults who have problems with depression, sadness, anxiety, self-confidence, and self-esteem. I also write a blog for people who want more help coping with these problems. We all have to develop coping skills to deal with day to day stressors. Soon I’ll develop ebooks and eworkbooks that folks can use at home, or in conjunction with therapy. Even sooner I’ll be opening offices and seeing clients across states.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?
Both. I love helping people. I hate seeing people suffer. I believe we all have this “higher potential.” I want to live in this higher potential. I want everyone to live at their higher potential. I have A LOT of training and I am good at what I do. My clinical team is awesome too.
Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?
My clients are adults and teenagers who experience

• Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, and negativity
• Feelings that life has/is ‘passing you by’
• Panic Attacks
• Low self esteem
• Decision making problems
• Anxious feelings
• Irritability
• Fear of being alone
• Social isolation (for example, you don’t want to talk to your families and friends)
• Physical pain
• Thoughts about death or suicide
• Poor concentration, memory or attention
• Loss of interest in things and activities that used to make you happy
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness

They also sometimes feel:
• Ashamed
• Angry
• Overwhelmed
• Guilty
• Confused
• “Crazy”?

They need
Emotional support, Information, Clarity, Someone to talk to, Resources, and specific tools to support their relationships.
What’s your marketing USP (or Unique Sells Proposition)? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?
Well, a couple reasons. One: We care about our clients. I mean we care. I am a part of a team. We treat the “whole person.” At Miami Psychology (my firm) we have a Marriage and Family Therapist, two Clinical Social Workers, a Psychologist, a Nurse Practitioner, and a Psychiatrist. Two: We’re real people. We can relate. We live here in this urban chaos called Miami too! Three: We’re convenient. We’re centrally located. Our office is near midtown, on Biscayne. It’s 20 minutes from wherever you are… We also have evening appointments…

What’s next for you? What’s the big plan?
Besides more traditional one on one therapy we will begin to offer specialized groups. I’m thinking about a group for Women’s Issues and another group for Teens. We want to set the standard for high quality, accessible mental health care for all Miami-Dade Countians.

Teens & Depression: 5 Behaviors Parents CANNOT Ignore

Rachel, a 16 year old high school girl, has been experimenting with drugs, skipping school, and dieting. Would you suspect depression or dismiss these behaviors as typical “growing pains”?

Teenage depression is more than mood swings and rebellion. Like adults, teenagers encounter daily life stressors. Depressed teens “act out” in many ways. Ignoring behavior indicative of depression could prove detrimental to a teen’s life. Problems at school, drug use, and suicidality are fairly common outcomes when teenage depression is ignored or untreated. The following behaviors may be signs that your teenager is experiencing depression:

1. Substance Abuse: Teens may use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their depressive feelings. Never dismiss drug and alcohol use as “experimentation.”

2. Rebelliousness: Yes, teens do test boundaries. However consistent rebelliousness at home and school is likely a manifestation of emotional unsteadiness, feelings of being misunderstood, or a desire to fit.

3. Body Image Issues: Body image is a concern for both teens and adults. In today’s ultra vain world teenagers also feel pressure to look a certain way—taller, thinner, more fit. Negative body image is hand in hand with depression and poor self-confidence and self esteem.

4. Cutting: Cutting is a form of self-injury wherein the individual cuts on a part of their body, usually their wrist, arm, leg, or abdomen. Cutting is a way that some people, especially kids and teens, cope with the pain of depressive feelings, past trauma, and emotional withdrawal and isolation. Cutting is a cry for help that should never be dismissed or dismissed.

5. Suicide Gestures & Remarks: “I hate this house! I just want to die.” During an argument, a parent might dismiss these remarks as teenage attention-seeking or dramatics. Any ideas, comments, or attempts related to self harm or suicide should be taken seriously. The Center for Disease Control reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24.

Parents and others (teachers, guidance counselors, family members) in contact with teens displaying these behaviors should immediately consult a mental health professional who can appropriately engage and assess the teen.

Natasha K. Nalls is an expert in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. She works with individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Think Past Today: Set a Meaningful Goal

Depression most often impacts an individual’s capacity to lead a self-fulfilled life and effectively set and achieve goals. Goal setting and achievement are part and parcel to reducing depressive and anxious feelings. Goals give us a sense of purpose.

I’ll start with a working definition of GOAL SETTING: Identifying a specific, tangible goal, and making deliberate action around the achievement of the specific goal.

Notice the key words:
-specific
-tangible
-deliberate action
-achievement

So why is goal setting important?
Goals provide a sense of purpose and a roadmap for daily life. Accomplishing goals gives us a sense of accomplishment. This feeling of accomplishment encourages us to move forward, take a risk, and pursue additional goals. Accomplishment feeds our spirit.

Remember, you can make a goal around anything, including your family, your health, and your career. A goal is the first step in envisioning, generating, and making positive change for your future and emotional health. Sometimes, even just conceptualizing a clear goal is exciting. It gives hope during moments of anxiety, overwhelm, and depression. The vision alone is invigorating.

How do I make a goal?
1. Be honest with yourself. Is this goal something you really want? Is it something you want now? Is this a goal that you want to pursue now? Are you ready to make the effort and take risks?

2. Develop goals around things that excite you. It’s easier to do things that you like or towards something that you really, really want.

3. Be specific AND set a time frame. For example, compare “I want to make more money soon” to “I want to make $135,000 by December 1, 2010.” You want to give yourself a “deadline” to work towards.

4. Have a structured plan. This may seem anal, but write out some type of plan or map.

5. Tell people about the goal! It may be sorta hard to land the new job if NOBODY KNOWS YOU WANT THE JOB! TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR GOALS! Communicating your goals to others allows for others to give you feedback and help. Also, speaking the goal almost majestically brings it closer to reality; the universe begins to align!

Natasha K. Nalls is an expert in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. She works with individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Support your Teen’s Academic Achievement: Six Quick Tips

I’ve noticed a trend among teens and parents during the school year.

The trend is this: parents do not seek support and services for their teen until there is a crisis.

The most challenging scenario is when a parent comes in for psychotherapy three weeks before the end of the school year seeking behavioral modification assistance for their teen, who is weeks away from grade retention.

Many parents fail to notice that their teen is having a “problem” at school until a negative progress report is sent home, the teen is suspended from school, or a parent receives notice that their child may be retained. Yet many signs likely portended the crisis at hand, including poor study habits, behavior problems at school, and/or attention/focus/concentration problems.

Here are a few habits that even a busy parent can adopt to “be in the know” and help keep their teen on track academically:

1. Talk to your teen’s teachers often. Visit in person. Call. Email. It makes a difference when a teacher knows how to reach you and that you are a responsive and concerned parent.

2. Show up. Have you ever just “showed up” at your teen’s school? It gives you a snapshot of what your child’s school day is actually like. It lets your child know that you are familiar with his school setting, and are comfortable interacting with the faculty, staff, and campus.

3. Talk to your teen. Do you know your teen’s closet friends? Do you know their parents? Do you know about your teen’s latest crush? You should. Practice talking to your teen about anything and everything. Open communication doors so that your teen feels more comfortable discussing topics like personal relationships, decision-making, and feelings.

4. Set rules and boundaries. Every piece of research shows that teens need rules and boundaries. They need curfews. They need a routine. They need to know what is expected of them. There should be consequences when rules and agreements are broken.

5. Be emotionally supportive. Like adults, teenagers thrive on attention, emotional support, and positive feedback. Recognize your teen’s accomplishments, and nurture positive behaviors and interests.

6. Seek professional services early on. Procuring mental health services for your child may take time. In many school districts, school psychologists and social workers are extinct. Upon first indication that your teen is struggling, seek guidance from school personnel on identifying a professional in your area. Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Natasha K. Nalls, LCSW, ACSW, CAP is an expert in the treatment of epression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. She works with individuals, couples, families, and groups.