Wednesday, October 20, 2021

What is counseling in a nutshell

Going to counseling can be a bit daunting and scary for some people, so I often try to simplify it.

So what is counseling in a nutshell?

We show people strategies or “brain hacks” to “zoom out” on the things that don’t matter, or things that matter but we have no control over.


We help folks to “zoom in” on the things that do matter, to create a life that is meaningful, true to who we are, AND at the same time, workable in the real world.

It’s not too mysterious. 

Some may think that it’s only relevant for those with a “mental health disorder”.  But it’s not.  It’s relevant for everyone really.  

Friday, October 15, 2021

To improve our lives, we have to see and fix the “stuff behind the curtain”, as well as the “stuff in front of us”

In counseling, we often need to see what’s in front of the curtain, AND what’s behind the curtain as well. 

If we see anger in front of the curtain, behind the curtain might be shame and disconnection.

If we see an avoidant partner in front of the curtain, behind the curtain might be, someone who has given up on trying to make their partner happy. They feel like a failure in some ways.

If we see a demanding and critical partner in front of the curtain, behind the curtain might be extreme sadness, disconnection and loneliness. They are desperately trying to reach out and bid for connection, but going about it in a non helpful way.

If we see a child misbehaving in front of the curtain, behind the curtain might be a child who feels disconnected from his/her family or friends.

We can try and fix the things in front of the curtain, but if we don’t address what’s behind the curtain, the problems will recur.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Loss is inevitable so how can we work through our losses

Bad things happen. It’s inevitable isn’t it?

When faced with a loss of some sorts, for example, loss of money, job, loved ones, independence, relationships, or good health, we may recognize the following stages that we can experience in ourselves. 

1. Disbelief. 
2. Stress with fight/flight responses. 
3. Acceptance and “at peace” with the loss. 
4 Adaptation with possible post traumatic growth. 

Asking what stage/s we are mainly in is an important question. 

Most problematic scenarios including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorders, occur when we are “stuck” in stage two with the flight/fight responses. It’s very emotionally draining. 

Once we realize that the “fight or flight” response is ineffective for moving forward, we can consider an alternative path of acceptance, assertiveness, and growth. 

Consider pivoting for emotional acceptance in stage 3, and creating a value driven life that we want in stage 4, with our new founded insights and experiences. 

Stage 4 is our post traumatic growth.  It’s the alternative to post traumatic distress. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

What is FACT and ACT, and how can it help you with your mental health

In Focused Acceptance Commitment Therapy (FACT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT), we take a transdiagnostic approach to solve mental health problems. 

What does transdiagnostic mean?

We are not so much focused on the diagnosis, but more about the underlying process. We framed most mental health issues as being “stuck” or “excessive zoomed in” to a particular group of thoughts, feelings, or narratives. Our job then is to equip our patients with the emotional literacy and skills to:

1 Be aware and acknowledge this experience. 

2 Be aware that “being stuck” may have cost them a life of meaning and purpose through the “fight or flight” responses and experiential avoidance. Look at all important domains in their lives including work, family, friends, community, and rate those out of 10.  

3 Being aware that the “fight or flight” response is “hopeless” for moving forward, so let’s commit to an alternative path. 

4. Being mindful enough to unhook, defuse, or “zoom out” from our thoughts, feelings, or narratives, and perceive our mental space with more clarity. 

5. Being aware of a life that we want to create through identifying our values. 

6. Take committed actions with those values. 

7. Pursue and live a value driven life.

Friday, September 24, 2021

How can we frame eating disorders to guide better treatments

Eating disorders can be a bit confusing, so for simplicity, I often see it as a form of Compulsive Obsessive Disorder (OCD) where the patient is too “fused” or “super zoomed into” a particular theme or set of rules around eating, weight, or how they feel about food and body image.

Some folks with OCD are “super zoomed into” safety, cleanliness, germs, etc. For eating disorders, it is something relating to food, eating, their weight, or how they feel in their body.

Seeing it this way will help us guide treatment. 

Our goal is to help them “zoom out” and get unstuck from those unhelpful thoughts and feelings. Arguing and debating over facts may interestingly cause more “zooming in” problems, so one has to be careful here.

We can achieve “zooming out” through counseling, mindfulness, pharmacological methods, or often a combination as it’s usually a severe “zooming in” problem.

Once unhooked, we can help them to pursue a more value driven life.

If one can frame it in this way, then it may become “less mysterious” perhaps.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Stress is often a sign of unmet NEEDS

When we are showing excessive “fight or flight” responses with our friends, colleagues, and loved ones, it’s often a sign of stress. 

When we dig deeper, it’s usually a sign of NEEDs not met.

Like a plant without enough water, nutrients, and sunlight, it will show signs of stress and failure to thrive.

What needs are often not met?

1. Is it the “bio” physiological needs eg food, water, nutrition, sleep etc. Rate out of 10.

2. Is it the need for safety, security, and control? Rate out of 10.

3. Is it the need for connection? Rate out of 10.

4. Is it the need for newness, growth, and novelty? Rate out of 10.

The answers may guide us.

If the plant needs water. Give it water. If the plant need nutrients, give it nutrients. If the plant needs sunlight, give it sunlight. In that respect, we are not that much different.

Find what we need and try to fulfill that. Don’t be confused by our “fight or fight” responses, and blame the very thing in front of us or ourselves. It may not be the main problem at all.

It’s often a sign that our NEEDs are fundamentally not met.

If it’s “bio”, address that.
If it’s a lack of security and control, address that.
If it’s the lack of connection, address that.
If it’s a lack of newness, growth, and novelty, address that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Being more “extreme in our personality styles” may create some challenges that we need to overcome

In counseling, we often see the “extreme” of personalities. Being outside the bell curve, these groups tend to face more challenges, as society is geared for the majority in the middle of the curve. 

They may run the risk of adjustment disorders, often manifesting as the “fight or flight” responses, if they and their families don’t know how to navigate it better. 

We see the extreme emotional personalities who follow their hearts, but don’t have enough “headiness” to ground them. They may struggle with excessive drama in their lives. 

We see the extreme “heady” people, who don’t have enough emotional sensitivity to soften them and empathize with others. They may struggle with social interactions and relationships. 

We see the extreme “outer compass” folks who care for the opinions of others too much that they forget who they are and to be who they are. 

We see the extreme “inner compass” folks who know who they are, what they want, but find it hard to follow and conform to social norms and expectations. 

We see the extreme extroverted folks who live outside their heads frequently, but need more quiet moments to deeply reflect. 

We see the extreme introverted folks who prefer to live inside their heads, but need to get outside more to seek and explore the outside world experiences. 

There are many more....