Resolutions: Are They Possible ?

​With the New Year upon us, many people’s thoughts turn to New Year’s Resolutions.  Almost half of all Americans make resolutions every year; however, most fail to accomplish what they resolved to do (Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012).  Whether you are looking to lose weight/get healthy (which is typically the most popular resolution), organize your home, save money, or any other thing that you would like to change in your life, there are ways to improve your chances of success.

​When embarking upon change, it is important to be clear and specific about what you want to change and what steps you may take to create this change.  A task centered model approach to your resolutions, where you take a larger problem and break it down into manageable tasks, allows for quicker feedback and an easier sense of accomplishment, which may help with success (Reid & Fortune, 2002; Epstein & Brown, 2002).  To take this approach, first define what your goals are and where you are currently.  For example, if you want to lose weight, what is your current weight, what is your goal weight, and what is a reasonable amount of weight to lose every week?  Furthermore, define how you will track your progress.  Obviously with the aforementioned weight loss example, you could weigh yourself; however, there may be other outcomes that can also keep you motivated to continue.  For example, you could also measure yourself, pay attention to the tightness of your clothes, take before and after pictures, etc.  It is acceptable to have more than one measure of success, especially if it helps keep you motivated.  As you are establishing your goals, make sure they are clear, measurable, and written down.  Still following our weight loss example, a clear, measurable goal may look like this:  By June 1, 2014, I will be 20 pounds lighter.  This will be accomplished by losing approximately one pound per week.

​Once your goals are clearly established in broad terms, think about what it will take to accomplish those goals.  Ideally you want to come up with small tasks that can be accomplished quickly and build upon those to achieve the greater goal.  To do this, you may want to brainstorm how the goal can be accomplished and what tasks can get you to that point.  Then clearly define those tasks and how you will work toward them.  For example, with weight loss, most people know that you need to eat healthy foods and exercise, but what exactly does that mean?  First go back to where you looked at your current state.  Are you eating breakfast, are you drinking water, are you eating fruits/vegetables, are you eating too many sweets/fats, are you completely sedentary or do you get a little exercise, etc.? Pick only one or two items to begin with and work with those.  Let’s say you want to eat more vegetables and get more exercise.  Let’s say that at the beginning (baseline) you are only eating about one vegetable four days a week and that you do not exercise at all.  Graduated, manageable tasks pursued may look like this:

Week One:

Eating Goals:  Eat at least one vegetable every day this week.

Exercise Goals:  Walk at least a total of 30 minutes this week.

Week Two:

Eating Goals: Eat two vegetables daily for at least two out of seven days and at least one vegetable on the remaining days.

Exercise Goals:  Walk at least a total of 60 minutes this week.

Continue adding achievable amounts to these tasks as necessaryand when you have clearly established habits with these tasks (3-5 weeks), pick another task or two to work on.  Remember to track progress, preferably written/noted in a place where you can look at it often and see your progress.  Share your goals with others if you need additional accountability and encouragement.  Lastly, reward yourself.  Set up rewards at the beginning so that you have something more to look forward to than the final goal.  Make the rewards pertinent to you and your enjoyment.  For example, in week one, you ate vegetables every day and walked for 45 minutes, maybe your reward would be a pedicure.  As with the tasks and goals, your rewards need to be something that you want to do, can do, and are specific to you.  If you need more help targeting areas of change in your life and how to accomplish that change, a few visits with a trained counselor may help you identify your problems, set your goals, and achieve success and will also lend a bit of accountability.  Wishing you success with all of your goals for 2014!

Epstein, L. & Brown, L. B. (2002). Brief treatment and a new look at the task-centered approach. Boston, MA:  Allyn and Bacon.

Journal of Clinical Psychology. (2012). University of Scranton.Retrieved on December 20, 2013 from

Reid, W. J., & Fortune, A. E. (2002). The task-centered model.In A. R. Roberts & G. J. Greene (Eds.), Social workers’ desk reference (pp. 101-104). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.


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What Should You Do Now? Exposing Quarter Life Crisis

“What Should You Do Now?”

Exposing the Quarter-life Crisis

By:  Jenn Stepic M.A.  ​

​As you look across the auditorium, you notice the smiling faces of all you fellow graduates.  The last tassel is thrown and you hear the words, I now present to you the graduating class of 2013.  After the ceremony, you are greeted by your beaming parents and your great Uncle Harry reciting various cliché phrases, telling you the world is your oyster.  Suddenly, your mind is filled with endless possibilities and the realization that you are about to enter into the “real world.”

​We have all heard of the notion of the mid-life crisis, which often includes red Ferraris and returning to the care free days of one’s youth.  But for you twentysomething individuals, the time between adolescence and adulthood rears its ugly head.  In an effort to draw attention to this distinctive time in your life, authors Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner coined the term quarter-life crisis to address the unique challenges that befall the emerging adult (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).  What used to be thought of as “the best years of your life” is now being recognized as a time when you are forced to decide who you are, what you want, and how to achieve this.  Gone are the days of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  In between the college football games and frat parties, academia was a place where your goals were specific with the expectations for success defined by studying and earning honors.  After graduation; however, its decisions, decisions, decisions.  This transition into adulthood is marked by a series of firsts.  What direction should your career take?  Should you relocate in the pursuit of finding your dream job?  How will you make that first loan payment?  Should the quest for love be your first sought after goal?

​Transitioning between adolescence and adulthood is characterized by a unique set of challenges that at times, may lead to intense feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and stress.  While this quarter-life crisis may send your head spinning, keepin mind that this period of your life is defined by both your successes and setbacks (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).  So as you are sitting alone in front of your computer screen, researching job listings, apartment deals, and going back and forth whether or not joining a dating site is really what you want to do, remember that you are not alone.

​If you are struggling with unanswered questions, doubts, or insecurities regarding what direction your life should take, therapy could be the answer to your search for support.  Contact Healing Hidden Hurts at 888.349.1116 to schedule your first appointment.

Robbins, A., & Wilner, A. (2001). Quarterlife crisis: The unique challenges of life in your ​twenties. (First ed.) New York, NY: MJF Books.  

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Anxiously Striving for Perfection…

Anxiously Striving for Perfection

​I have known for several weeks that I needed to write a blog for our website, yet I continued to put it off.  I thought about the blog, made notes about ideas, and even did some research, but could not bring myself to actually finish an idea and turn it in.  As I continued to near the deadline, my anxiety and stress grew.  When the deadline came, I was forced to take a deep look at what was keeping me from writing this blog.  When I stopped to think about how I felt about writing the blog instead of focusing on the many possible topics and ways to approach it, I began to unravel the motivation behind my procrastination.  I was worried that it would not be good enough, that there would be mistakes, and that I would not get the perfect balance between interest, conversational style writing, and useful information.  I was worried that my colleagues would not like the topic I chose and that after years of technical writing, my style would be dry and boring.  I soon realized I was viewing this situation as a perfectionist and was apprehensive about trying to create the perfect piece of writing.

​Perfectionism, striving for perfection…It is an unachievable goal, but many would say, “What is wrong with striving for perfection? Does that not create better work ethics and higherachievements?”  Upon a first glance, it would look like some forms of perfectionism would be useful and adaptive.  To obtain high levels of performance in academics, athletics, and/or any other of life’s goals, some effort and planning must be put forth.  The issue arises when this desire to achieve and fear of failure start to affect your mental state, your ability to acknowledge and enjoy your success, your relationships.  Research has shown that even when perfectionism has pushed a person to high achievements, they often still feel inadequate and often have suffered much anxiety and depression along the way.  Those striving for perfection often fear failure and suffer from stress and worry, making it difficult to make decisions and move forward. Sometimes people become so immobilized by the fear of making the “wrong” decision that they avoid making all decisions, losing their opportunity to voice their opinions and show their preferences.  Perfectionism can also affect self-esteem and furthermore, if the idea of perfection is expected from other people, it can lead to difficulties obtaining and maintaining relationships.  If you feel that your achievements are never good enough, that a failure means that you are not a worthy person, that your friends and family cannot live up to your expectations, or even that you cannot live up to your expectations, a trained therapist can help.  If the fear of failure and the continuing struggle to obtain perfection keeps you up at night with worry and anxiety and/or if you find little pleasure in the successes that you have achieved, it may be time to seek help.

If you struggle with procrastination and/or perfectionism, Healing Your Hidden Hurts knows how to help guide you towards morforms of motivation. Call and talk with Michelle Barnett today 8883491116 *4 *2.

Benson, Etienne. (2003). The many faces of perfectionism. American Psychological AssociationMonitor, 34(10), 18-20.

Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2006). Positive versus negative perfectionism in psychopathology.Behavior Modification, 30(4), 472-495. doi:10.1177/0145445506288026

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“I’m So Stupid”: Power of Negative Thinking

“I’m So Stupid!”

The Power of Negative Self-Talk

Kara M. Subler, MS

You’ve heard it all before.  I know you have. You know everything you are supposed to do, but you don’t know how to do it. You want to be happy and healthy, but it seems like every time you try, you fail.

Don’t beat yourself up –that’s easily the worst thing you can do.And it’s probably exactly what you are doing. Am I right?Telling yourself how stupid you are, how fat you are, how ugly you are, how worthless you are, how angry you are, what a mess you’ve made – none of that will help you achieve the change you desire. We all fail, we all make mistakes. If you constantly talk negatively to yourself – call yourself names or put yourself down—you will begin to believe it. And then you will begin to live it. Your experiences, your life, your world are a direct reflection of what goes on in your head. And you have the power to control and choose the words you say to yourself.

Self-talk is a natural part of life; everyone chatters along in their mind, narrating each day. Take some time to notice your daily self-talk. What do you say when you make a mistake? When you help someone? When you forget something? When you ace that interview? Are your responses mostly negative or positive? Would you repeat what you say to yourself to a friend or family member or your own child?

If you notice a lot of negative self-talk (or even a little), chances are you have been doing that for a long, long, long time. It’s amental habit. It’s something you do on auto-pilot, without thinking. But a habit can be broken. It may not be easy, and it certainly may not happen overnight, but it CAN be done.

You can train your brain, just like you can train any other part of the body. Be prepared for a battle because the brain is more difficult to change than say, your bicep. Being the brain and all, it’s smart. It likes to hang onto what it is familiar with, what it knows. Change isn’t easy for the brain. It likes routine, and your routine involves putting yourself down. You need to break that routine, bit by bit. The trick is to catch yourself in the moment and stop the negative thing you are telling yourself. You have to become aware of what you are saying and actively work to stop it. Turn off the negativity button. Then you can begin to speak more positively and just plain nicely to yourself. In the same way you talk to almost everyone else in your life. And now it’s time to treat yourself with that same respect.

You are the only one inside your own mind. You are the only person who is with you all day, every day, for your whole life.  You have the choice to talk kindly to yourself or unkindly. You have the choice to show yourself love or treat yourself with hate.Stopping the negative self-talk may be a lifelong commitment for you. You may or may not always have to remind yourself to stop putting yourself down, but it’s worth the effort. Changing your inner dialogue can change your life. And, as with anything else in life, practice makes better. The more you do it, the easier it will become. It can become natural for you. Aren’t you worth the investment?

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Back In the Closet??..???

ImageImagine yourself in high school observing all your friends dating. You are single and have not been in a relationship. It would be too risky. People start talking because you have not been in a relationship and the name calling and harassment begins.  You continue to deny your identify as gay/lesbian. You start to avoid the kids at school because of the cutting words. You cry yourself to sleep every night and wish high school would end. You feel confused…angry…hurt…hopeless.

The topic of sexual orientation has become a popular topic in the media over the past several months and years. Thirteen states have made same sex marriages legal. Songs have been written and aired on the radio, (“Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis). Celebrities have spoken out on their opinions and showing their support (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pit). Television shows and movies are including same sex couples.

Even though equality for same sex couples has received significant attention, there are individuals struggling with LGBT concerns. Students in elementary and high school that start dating or express their sexual orientation may be scrutinized by others. Staff members at work create a highly uncomfortable environment and could lead to the individual leaving his or her job. Family and friends no longer support the individual because they do not understand. He or she may be confronted with individuals harassing them verbally and physically. According to an article by Berg, Mimiaga, and Safren (2008), the most frequent presenting problems of gay and bi-sexual males seeking mental health services are depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder. In addition, individuals may also struggle with family discord, current or past abuse, substance abuse, and employment.

An individual struggling with his or her sexual orientation or a loved one trying to understand their child, friend, coworker,…etc., can talk with a mental health professional that work with individuals struggling with LGBT concerns. Even though awareness of LGBT concerns has increased, individuals struggling with their sexual orientation can be an everyday struggle he or she faces whether it is acceptance or coping with their social environment. In addition, getting involved in a support group or organization that supports LGBT youth or adults can help you discuss your concerns with others who may experience the same or similar struggles.



Berg, M. B., Mimiaga, M. J., & Safren, S. A. (2

008). Mental health concerns of gay and bisexual men seeking mental health services. Journal Of Homosexuality, 54(3), 293-306. doi:10.1080/00918360801982215

You Tube videos:

“Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

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Remedy Your Anxiety with a Dose of CBT..

Anxiety is a real concern. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older in a given year, causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. (Kessler, et al. 2005). Anxiety disorders also commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or even make them worse. It is a disorder that we should pay attention to in our society.

Anxiety can be described on a continuum, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety, Specific Phobia, Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, PTSD/Acute Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and other categories (eating disorders/addictions). From generalized worry to heart-pounding panic attacks, the disorders that comprise the anxiety spectrum can range from bothersome to debilitating.

Anxiety has its links to genetics. Nauert (2008) found that a specific gene is linked with anxiety-related traits. “We found that variations in this gene were associated with shy, inhibited behavior in children, introverted personality in adults and the reactivity of brain regions involved in processing fear and anxiety”. Therefore, it is important to recognize that those who suffer aren’t just making a big deal out of things. They can have anxiety hard-wired in them.

To treat anxiety, counseling and medications in combination are usually recommended. Medication alone will generally not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep symptoms under control while a person receives psychotherapy. One type of psychotherapy that is useful in treating anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The cognitive part helps people change the thinking patterns that support their fears, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations.

For those of us not trained in counseling or medicine, there are ways to help those suffering from anxiety. The biggest theme is to instill the hope that they can overcome their fears. Other ideas to stress include possibility versus probability. For those with anxiety, they sometimes fear that the worse thing possible will happen to them. Although it is possible that this could happen, it is important to consider the probability of it actually occurring, such as the odds of a plane crashing. The second idea to convey is inconvenience versus tragedy, which helps keep things in perspective. If something bad happens, like a minor car accident, is this a tragedy or just an inconvenience? Although a car accident is inconvenient, it may necessarily be a tragedy. This belief can help keep events in perspective. The last idea to stress is reacting versus responding. A good way to keep anxiety down is with preparation. If you expect a negative event to happen, are you prepared to deal with it? Having a plan in place helps you to respond to a situation rather than just reacting. Being prepared for worse case scenarios can often help anxiety at bay.

Overall, anxiety is a prevalent disorder among Americans. Whether if you seek help from friends or professionals, anxiety is something that can be managed with the right tools.

By Tommy Wells, Clinical Associate/Coordinator

Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Walters EE. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27.

Nauert PhD, R. (2008). Genetic Disposition for Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 8, 2012, from

Turo-Shields, Christine (2012). Calming the Calamities: Teaching Children to Manage Anxiety & Panice. Presentation given January 19, 2012 through Valle Vista Health System.

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Knowing the Right Questions to Ask: Forensic Interviewing

Forensic Interviewing

Recently, a training on investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect was offered in Bloomington, Indiana. The training was hosted by the National District Attorneys Association and the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse. Going through this training as a counselor, it was extremely useful to learn about how to recognize child abuse, properly report it, and what methods prosecutors use to convict perpetrators. The reason why this training was so useful is because of the number of caseloads counselors have involving child abuse. According to a study done in 2007 by the National Children’s Alliance, 794,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect. 1,760 of those victims died as a result of that abuse. These statistics only show those incidents of abuse that were reported to Child Protective Services (CPS). In reality, the numbers are actually greater.

Law enforcement, CPS, counselors, social workers, and prosecutors are working diligently to prevent child abuse. However, when a child is abused, there are a number of techniques in these fields that are used to recognize the abuse, report it, and prosecute the abuser. One area in the training that was interesting and highly useful information to have was a technique known as Forensic Interviewing. This is a technique that law enforcement use to understand the abuse and get information from the child about the abuse and abuser. Understanding how law enforcement use Forensic Interviewing can be useful to not only counselors working with children, but also parents or guardians to understand what the child will be asked and how.

Forensic Interviewing has developed over the years with each new case of child abuse brought to light. Law enforcement are always working to get information from the child about the abuse in safe, non-judgmental way. There are four types of questions one could ask a child, open-ended/free recall, open-ended/forced recall, multiple choice/forced choice, or leading questions. Open-ended/free recall questions are the most widely use and most appropriate type of question to ask a child abuse victim. In these questions, one might ask, “What would you like to talk about,” or “What else do you remember?” Law enforcement might also give a child an open-ended/free recall statement such as, “Tell me more about that.” Open-ended/forced recall questions are also ok to ask. Examples of types of questions are, “What did you see Mommy do,” or “What do you know about coming here today?” They may also use statements likes, “Tell me about your visits to Daddy’s house.” Examples of multiple choice are giving the child a set of answers for them to choose from. Along with multiple choice, forced choice questions are yes or no type questions. The worst question to ask, and the one’s law enforcement are careful not to use are leading questions. These types of questions give the child a suggested response. Examples are, “You are scared, aren’t you,” “Your Daddy hurt you, didn’t he,” or “Didn’t you tell your Mommy that your Daddy hurt you?”

There have been cases in the past where leading questions were given to children to have them give officers a suggested response. Most notably was a case called State vs. Michaels in 1994, where there were multiple preschool victims and 131 counts of abuse against Michaels. The convictions were ultimately reversed due to the lack of appropriate questions used during the forensic interview of the children. The children were told that if they cooperate, they were free to go; or they were told that other children had also come forward so they should as well. These are examples of leading statements and should be avoided as to not give a suggested response for the children to use.

Since the case of State versus Michaels, forensic interviewers have really reworked their techniques to use more open-ended questions with children. These open-ended questions allow for the child to tell his or her side of the story open, freely, and without tainting. Counselors understand what open-ended questions are and can use them to understand the abuse that occurred and what the mindset of the child was during the abuse. It is useful for parents or guardians to understand the technique behind forensic interviewing to know what their child will be asked and how.

If you would like to know more about forensic interviewing, contact the National District Attorneys Association or the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse. If you are interested in having Healing Hidden Hurts serve on your Multidisiplinary Team please contact us at 888-349-1116.

Renee Heldman

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