Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Voices — November 2019

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  • 10/31/2019 11:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Christina Castorena

    Christina Castorena
    President, LA-CAMFT

    Dear Friends and Colleagues,

    The year is fast coming to an end and with the days getting darker and the temperatures getting cooler, I am confronted with the bitter-sweet reality that my presidency is almost complete. I am starting to wrap up loose ends and prepare for my transition to “Past President” and ushering in LA-CAMFT’s 2020 President, Matthew Evans, LMFT. For those of you who may not know, the presidency is a 3-year commitment. The first year I was “President-Elect” and I shadowed the President at the time, Shelley Pearce, LMFT and learned the business of the organization. The second year is “President” and this entails leading the organization and ensuring that LA-CAMFT follows through on its identified goals for the year. The third year is “Past President” and this position helps to maintain continuity of leadership and plays a support role to the incoming President. 

    One of the most important parts of the transition that I’m working on now is identifying new leaders for our open board positions and providing the membership the opportunity to vote for these positions in November. This is always an exciting time for LA-CAMFT because we receive an injection of new energy and ideas for the upcoming year! If you are a member of LA-CAMFT you will be receiving an electronic ballot within the next couple of weeks. 

    This time of the year is also a time of reflection on our accomplishments, growth and needs of our membership. As I look at what we have accomplished this year I am very proud and overwhelmed not only by the achieved goals but also by the people who made it all happen. 

    This is why each November we have our appreciation dinner. We honor all those who helped to organize, staff and run events. We honor those who went above and beyond to help their community. “Celebration” was one of my presidential platforms this year. I wanted to celebrate the LA-CAMFT community of therapists and highlight the difficult and important work that we do as mental health professionals.

    At this year’s event, we will highlight our growth and evolution. We have a strong foundation and structure and because of that we can continue to build and expand. LA-CAMFT will continue to evolve and grow with our profession and with the needs of our membership. If you’d like to join us at the appreciation event on November 11th, please visit our website at www.lacamft.org to register. I am looking forward to celebrating together!

    Best Regards,
    Christina Castorena, LMFT

    Christina Castorena, MS, LMFT, worked in community mental health before starting her private practice, Castorena Therapeutic Services, in 2016. She passionately serves adults, couples, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are dealing with life transitions, parenting, relational conflicts, and anxiety. She employs family systems and mindfulness-based CBT. As president of LA-CAMFT, Christina strongly advocates for her professional community and celebrates the hard-working clinicians that facilitate healing. Her website is castorenatherapeutic.com. Christina may be contacted at president@lacamft.org.

  • 10/31/2019 10:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT's 2019
    Annual Appreciation Dinner

    Come celebrate our dedicated volunteers with us at our
    Annual LA-CAMFT Appreciation Dinner!

    November 11, 2019
    6:00 - 8:30 pm

    The Olympic Collection
    11301 Olympic Blvd., #204, Los Angeles, CA 90064


    Thanks to our sponsors

    Questions about registration?
    Contact Randi Gottlieb

    Register Here

  • 10/31/2019 9:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
    Voices Editor

    Getting Paid: Talking Pricing, Services, Rates
    The Words You Use to Talk with Clients
    about Your Services and Rates Make a Difference

    Talking with clients about therapy services, cost and payment, and the importance of making and keeping regular appointments is a vital part of therapy—and finding the right words to use professionally and clinically to convey the value of these services and the appropriate cost, time-frame, and involvement—is key to the success of every therapist’s private practice.

    However, today many therapists are finding that they must spend significant time and energy to reset a client’s, or prospective client’s, expectations for therapy with regard to cost, frequency, duration, participation, and involvement in the therapy process.

    As a result of these challenging money-driven clinical conversations, many therapists have reduced their rates significantly and are undercharging--and frequently being paid too little—for their therapeutic services. 

    This is the third article in a series on Getting Paid: Talking with Clients About Money Matters:

    Unfortunately, it is a common misperception that charging as little as possible is the best strategy for attracting new clients and filling a practice. However, undercharging and underearning seriously harm your business if you are mainly providing low cost offerings to clients—you and the work you do aren’t valued by these low-paying clients, you still need a lot of clients, and any new client makes very little difference to your income.

    If you’re in private practice you have a responsibility to work with enough clients who can pay your rates and keep you and your practice solvent so you can do the work you were meant to do instead of spending all your time and energy trying to keep your practice full.

    The therapists I talk to are tired of undercharging and underearning. They want to work less, earn more, and make a bigger difference. More and more therapists are seeking out clinical and practice coaching so they can take charge of clinical money conversations and refocus them on the value, relief, and life/relationship/health changing/enhancing, conflict/anxiety/depression reducing benefits that clients are seeking from in person, face-to-face therapy work with a trained professional—and they charge more and are paid accordingly. Their income increases, they attract more clients, they fill their practice. Therapists deserve to earn a good living for the work they do.

    The Wording You Use Can Make Difference in Your Income

    As in any clinical endeavor, the words you use to describe your services do make a difference. In this case, the amount a client is willing to pay for therapy with a trained professional—and in order to receive the desired result/relief/outcome. Yes, the meaning our words convey can either increase or decrease the amount of money we earn and are paid for therapy. You’ll find that most people will pay in full and out of their own pocket for your services, when they believe you are the professional who can give them what they want—and the wording you use to describe your services conveys that.

    Money Talk: Words & Phrases to Consider

    Here are some examples of words that can make a difference in income when a clinician talks, writes, or communicates about therapy or money matters—and how and why these words can affect the perceived value, and subsequently, the amount a person is willing to pay for the therapy services provided by a clinician.

    This information applies equally to face-to-face conversations in real time or virtually, to emails, texts, social media postings, and what’s printed in marketing materials or is on your website. Each one of these words and phrases can have a direct effect on the amount a client pays you for your clinical services.

    As you read the following information, be sure to remember:

    • Only do and say things that fit for you, your clients, and your practice—and always within legal and ethical guidelines.
    • You can ignore everything written in this article and still be successful. Discover what works for you, your clients, and the practice setting you work in.
    1. Help, Support, Advice, Listening, Guidance
      Many therapists, clients, and lay people refer to therapy as: help, support, advice, listening, guidance, appointment, etc. When it comes to the amount of money a client is willing to pay for each of those ‘services,’ the perceived value and worth is low since these are things that non-professionals—friends, colleagues, neighbors, parents, siblings, support groups, online forums, etc.—can, and do, provide.

      Exceptions to these would be: professional help/support/advice/guidance. These combinations have a higher perceived value of worth and price to clients.

      Contrast the words: help, support, advice, etc., with the following ones that have a higher perceived value and worth: session, service, psychotherapy, counseling, treatment, recovery, consultation. Now combine them: psychotherapy session . . . therapy session . . . counseling session . . . psychotherapy services . . . therapy services . . . therapeutic services . . . professional services . . . depression treatment . . . anxiety treatment . . . bipolar treatment . . . trauma recovery . . . professional consultation . . . etc. These terms mean business. They are definite and professional. To clients they position you as a worthy professional who is both trained and capable of giving them what they want.

      Other terms of higher perceived value that can be added when appropriate: licensed, certified, approved, supervised by, etc. Yes, clients will pay you more for your service when these words are added.

      Here are two examples of lower perceived value wording: my services, services I provide. However, when you add other words to those two phrases you come out with higher perceived value: psychotherapeutic /psychotherapy services I provide. Add another certifier to that and you then have the highest perceived value: psychotherapy conducted by a licensed psychotherapist/clinician.

      What word or terms do you, and your clients, prefer—or use—to talk about or describe the services you provide? Which would you or your clients pay a higher price for?

    2. Ask, Get, Take, Accept, Charge

    I ask $ . . . What I ask is $ . . . How much do you get for a session? I can take $ . . . The fee I accept is . . . I charge $ . . . What I charge is . . . What do you charge?

    Are you asking or is it the cost? Are you asking or is it the price?

    Be professional and definite:
    “The cost is . . ." not “What I ask is . . .”

    State what the cost is for. “The charge/price/cost for/of the 60-minute session is . . .”

    Here it’s important to remember that a client doesn’t “give you money,” a client pays for services rendered. You have earned the money the client pays you. You’ve provided services to the client. In this case, services provided by a highly-trained professional—as therapists we have quite a bit of education, training, skills, and experience, not to mention licensure or supervision by a licensed person. Therapists deserve a fair rate of professional compensation.

    Here are some alternative words and phrases to consider when stating the prices for the services you provide in your practice. Using these terms positions you and the services you offer as confident and of high value and worth:

    The PRICE is . . . The COST is. . . The RATE is . . . The AMOUNT for that is . . .The session price is . . . the session cost is . . . the session rate is . . .The Price/Cost/Rate/Amount/Charge for that service is

    Decide for yourself what fits you, your clients, and your practice best. Try a few of the phrases out. See what fits you best.

    3. Free, discounted, reduced, lower

    “No charge,” “no cost,” and “complimentary” are better wording for practice success than the word “free” which seems to mean to people that your services aren’t worth much and they should expect to receive all your services “for free,” all the time.

    Discounted, discount, and reduced rate are popular words. Again, they are not the best for practice success as they train people to always ask for “a discount” or reduction. A better choice in wording is “special” price/pricing or “introductory’ pricing, “a special offer” or even, “a limited time offer.” With these words and phrases, people associate your services as something of worth that are available at this pricing for a limited amount time.

    Sometimes people ask if you have a “lower” fee or if you will “lower” the fee or even, “What’s your lowest fee?” Some better alternative words and phrases are an “adjusted” fee or “special pricing” or “professional courtesy” pricing or even “college student” pricing.

    It’s important for mental health professionals as a profession to not train people to expect therapists to always reduce, discount, lower or charge the lowest fees just because a client wants but doesn’t need an adjusted fee.

    It’s important that therapists, as a profession, maintain a reputation for being paid well for the good work they do—work that’s worth every dollar they’re paid. It’s not a good thing for therapists to be known for charging the lowest rates in town to anyone who asks even when they don’t need a price adjustment.

    4. Fee Scale—Prices, Pricing, Rates, Fee Range

    When talking numbers around the amounts you charge for your services, most therapists find it’s better received to refer to pricing, prices, and rates, as a “fee range”  or "price range" instead of a “fee scale.” Using the term “fee range”  is associated with “a range of services and fees.” People seem to understand that concept easily. A fee range connotes choices and options whereas “fee scale” suggests some type of ranking or judgement.

    That’s enough for today about money matters and getting paid. Next time we’ll address wording around sliding scale which is a whole topic in itself!

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative people across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop their careers and practices. To learn more about services, training or the monthly LA Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

    1. 10/31/2019 8:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)
      Billie Klayman

      Valerie "Billie"
      Klayman, LMFT
      Chief Financial Officer

      November’s Featured Member:
      Lauren Hooten, AMFT

      (Originally printed in 2017)

      Each month I write about our members and their connection to our chapter. This month's Spotlight is from 2017 and features Lauren Hooten, LMFT, a member of our LA-CAMFT chapter.

      In Lauren's words:

      It’s 2012, and I am in a large office building at a software company in Santa Monica after several rounds of interviews. I scan the faces to assess if the PowerPoint was well received. After questioning references, the VP says they will put together a job offer package.

      Sitting in my car afterwards, thoughts and emotions are out of sync. “This is a fantastic opportunity . . . My last interview was with a Director relocating to the office in France. I could live in Paris again! Wasn’t this my goal with an International Business degree? Shouldn’t I be elated and fulfilled?”

      With therapy and soul-searching, I discover that alignment with values and making a personal impact are missing as an IT Consultant.

      The next career step is applying to graduate programs in psychology. As a Myers-Briggs INFP, creating unity is the color of my parachute. Indeed, my first college course was Intro to Psychology at Stanford University at a summer term before senior year in high school.

      Being a therapist is an opportunity to integrate mind, body, and soul to empower others. What a privilege to heal the human spirit!

      As an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, I have been fortunate for the opportunity to serve as LA-CAMFT’s Chair of Registration since February 2017. The generosity of established clinicians who reach out, encourage participation and advocate for pre-licensed members fosters a culture of trust.

      This is a safe space to be involved! Celebrating the accomplishment of newly licensed therapists is inspiring, and they are role models. I acknowledge the pre-licensed members who share their successes and struggles authentically. With all the uncertainties during a career transition, being part of this community provides connection and momentum.

      Since graduating from Antioch University in 2015, my enthusiastic idealism is constantly challenged by reality. I under-estimated the resources required for licensure. As a career-changer with financial obligations, grit and creative economic finesse are insufficient. Without a paying internship, it’s time for some tough choices!

      As therapists, we expect clients to tolerate discomfort and grow. Likewise, there are areas to expand my comfort zone. Defining a mission statement, updating LinkedIn and launching a web site would convey serious intention and skills. As a professional, I am called to a higher level of integrity. I often complain about pre-licensed circumstances without taking action.

      Bemoaning the lack of supervisors and paying internships does not encourage a meaningful discourse. Requesting meetings with respected professionals, being curious and asking questions opens doors. There are so many opportunities to reach out!

      I am clear that securing my own oxygen mask first allows me to be a contribution to others. With a commitment to health and relationships, I look forward to continuing the journey of discovery.

      Update: After submitting this article, I accepted a full-time salaried position at a treatment center from a referral at a networking meeting. After training, I began seeing clients the second week in February.

      Valerie "Billie" Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at cfo@lacamft.org.

    2. 10/31/2019 7:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

      Maria Gray,
      LMFT, NMP, CGP


      It’s November and soon we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday, I love cooking and spending time with my family. My nieces know that I want to hear what they are grateful for, and I encourage them to practice expressing their gratitude throughout the year.

      I express my gratitude whenever I receive a referral from a colleague.

      I consider it an honor and a privilege for someone to have faith in my abilities as a therapist. (I’m not talking about the times where a therapist you don’t know sends you a difficult client without calling you first!). When I receive a referral, I send the person a handwritten thank you note in the mail. Several people have said that they felt pleasantly surprised when they received my note.

      Dr. Martin Seligman is the founder of Positive Psychology. Seligman’s research supports the idea that practicing gratitude can increase your level of happiness. Dr. Seligman and his colleagues developed a practice called the Gratitude Visit. This is something you can share with your clients.

      1. Close your eyes.
      2. Take a moment and try and remember the face of someone who did or said something that had a major positive impact on your life.
      3. Take some time to reflect on how that person impacted your life and notice what happens inside.
      4. Write a letter to that person.
      5. Include specific examples explaining what the person did for you and why you are grateful for that person.
      6. Deliver it in person

      This can also be done using a person who is no longer living by modifying Step 6 in whatever way feels meaningful. 

      The research revealed that those who wrote the letters became much happier during and after the study. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Seligman’s research go to Positive Psychology Research.

      Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, where she specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is committed to supporting therapists who want to earn what they are worth, and she offers individual business consultation and live, online, courses. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
    3. 10/31/2019 6:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

      Leila Aboohamad,

      The Secrets to Creating a Loving “I-Thou” Relationship:
      The Sixth Step

      Do You or Your Clients Love Too Much?

      In working with the clients in my practice who are either in unfulfilling relationships or alone, I have discovered the steps they need to take and what they need to know and to find that perfect mate for them. This is the fourth in a series of articles on The Secrets to Creating a Loving “I-Thou” Relationship.

      The Sixth Step in learning how to create a loving, committed relationship is to understand the importance of communication. What exactly is communication and why is it necessary to become a skilled practitioner at expressing verbally and in writing what we feel, think and do? In the fifth step we learned the importance of boundary setting, but if we don’t know how to let others know what our boundaries are, what good are they?

      Before we go on to more about the Sixth Step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship, here are the first five steps:

      • The First Step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to recognize that we are complete and whole unto ourselves.
      • The Second Step to finding your soul mate and a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand your Family of Origin.
      • The Third Step to creating a loving “I-Thou” relationship is to become acutely aware of how we feel.
      • The Fourth Step to finding a happy, fulfilling, committed relationship is to understand that it is a wounded inner child which has never healed that goes out into the world looking for love, acceptance and companionship.
      • The Fifth Step in learning how to create a loving, committed relationship is to understand the importance of setting boundaries.

      I remember thinking in my first year of graduate school “Why is there such an emphasis on good communication? Am I, as the therapist, supposed to teach my clients how to better communicate?

      Don’t they already know how?” Nope, most people don’t. And neither did I!!! Those years in graduate school, the 3,000 supervised hours I earned as an intern and my many years of actual practice with hundreds of clients honed my skills as a solid, intuitive communicator.

      Many clients have never seen good communication modeled for them in their family system or experienced it out in the world. So many clients have related sad stories of being berated by parents, lovers, employers and people in their daily comings and goings. Rather than saying “No, I am not comfortable being talked to like that,” they retreat into silence and sadness, with the final result being anxiety and depression. Or even worse, having no idea what another person is thinking, feeling or wanting from the interaction.

      There is a wonderful alternative to suffering in silence: it is what we teach our children . . . ”Use your words!”

      The “I Message”

      One of the most effective forms of communication is the “I Message,” a three-part technique for expressing our feelings. Here is an outline: I feel___________ when you do, or say, _________ because __________.

      For example, “I feel scared that you will hit me when you yell at me because my parents always hit or spanked me when they yelled at me.” Wow, that is a really powerful, direct statement. There is no blame or accusation in the statement—just a clear communication of one’s feelings regarding their interaction.

      How about “I feel you don’t really love me and will not be faithful to me when you flirt with other women/men at a party because my dad was flirtatious and cheated on my mother.” Could that person’s feelings be any clearer? And…there was no guilt inducing message in the communication—just a clear expression of how one feels.

      I use the “I Message” technique quite often with couples. The couples that use the “I Message” develop a much healthier, honest and more intimate relationship. Isn’t this what we truly want and need?

      Being a good listener is a necessity for effective, clear communication.

      Have you ever had something really bothering you and you just wanted someone to hear you, quietly be present for you, and look at you without saying a word? This is the concept of validation, a technique which every good therapist practices and which everybody can learn in order to improve their relationships personally and professionally. It’s really fun to teach clients the “I heard you say” technique.

      OK, imagine you are a therapist working with a couple who started arguing out in the waiting room. I could hear the frustration and anger in the husband’s voice because his wife completely tuned him out as I had seen in our previous sessions. I quickly ran to the door, laughingly told them to control themselves until they got into my soundproof office. He was really mad, because his wife totally refused to listen to his feelings and thoughts regarding an unresolved issue.

      I had them sit on opposite sides of the couch and explained that they should face one another and each would take a turn talking, and the other one had to LISTEN AND NOT SAY A WORD. I then explained that the silent partner, at the conclusion of the monologue, would have to say, “I heard you say” and repeat what was said almost verbatim.

      Why? Because the talker was paid attention to and the silent partner had to listen and repeat what was said. Sounds easy? Well, it is not at first, but with dedication to learning this particular technique and adding it to your communication roster, relationships will grow in healthy directions which is a gift to all involved.

      Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, California. She specializes in helping individuals and couples create successful, committed loving relationships. She has studied and practiced spirituality and mindfulness for over 35 years. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults helping them to identify and share their special gifts and passions with the world. Website: www.leilalmft.com.

    4. 10/31/2019 5:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)
      Amy McManus

      Amy McManus,

      Why Gratitude Is Better Than Prozac
      5 Surprising Ways Gratitude Can Help Your
      Clients (and You!) This Holiday Season

      As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us begin to contemplate the things for which we are grateful. Many families have traditions of sharing their thoughts at the table, and none of us wants to be caught short. But what are the benefits of having “An Attitude of Gratitude” all year long?

      What Does It Mean to Have an Attitude of Gratitude?

      An attitude of gratitude is all about focus—you make gratitude a priority in your emotional life. You make a point of noticing what is good in your life, and you take the time to acknowledge and appreciate those things.

      For years now, gratitude has been a buzzword in the therapy community, the self-help community, and popular culture alike. We have read about how gratitude positively affects your well-beingyour hopefulness and self-esteem—and your personality—lowering your aggression levels and raising your empathy. Gratitude may even have a positive impact on your health.

      These are all wonderful results of something so simple as practicing a little gratitude, but gratitude has even more benefits than you might imagine.

      Here Are Some of The Surprising Benefits of Having “An Attitude of Gratitude”:

      1. Gratitude Can Help You Sleep Better

      This surprises most people, but the research shows it’s true. People who were more grateful slept better and longer, had less trouble falling asleep, and functioned better in the daytime. In America it is estimated that 60 million people suffer from insomnia, and certainly many more could benefit from better quality of sleep, or even just falling asleep more easily. Most people need some extra help getting enough sleep over the holidays.

      2. Gratitude Can Make You Popular

      According to a joint study at University of New South Wales, Australia, and Gonzaga University in Washington State, expressing gratitude can win you friends. This research showed that when people expressed gratitude, the recipients of the gratitude viewed them as warmer, and were more likely to want to see them again. This was the result of just one sentence: “Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put into doing that for me.” Gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated, or creative, it just has to be expressed.

      As William James, one of the fathers of modern psychology, said in 1890, “ . . . the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

      3. Gratitude Can Make You A Better Boss

      Researchers from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (home of Positive Psychology!) found that when a manager told workers she was grateful for their efforts, they were 50% more productive. I would challenge you to find any other method that could produce these results!

      4. Gratitude Can Make You Happier in Your Marriage

      If you show gratitude for your partner in your intimate relationship, your partner will feel warmer toward you (see point number 2) and you will grow closer as a couple. But here’s the kicker—if you show gratitude for your partner, you will be happier in your relationship and feel more satisfied with your partner. This is a clear win-win!

      5. Gratitude Can Help You Get Through the Holidays Smoothly

      Gratitude has been shown to lower rates of PTSD and to foster resilience.

      Gratitude can also help us with the kind of normal family drama that comes with the holiday season as regularly as the turkey. There’s that Thanksgiving dinner with Aunt Sue, the gossip, and Uncle Bob, the groper. And what about trying to carry on some kind of reasonable conversation while the kids all run around on a manic sugar high? It’s enough to make you want to pound down the eggnog!

      Practicing gratitude over the holiday season can help you be resilient throughout the mundane, but annoying, events that make up your Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. Start a gratitude practice now so that you are ready when you need to be!

      How Do I Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude?

      Once a Day: Gratitude Reflection.
      At the end of each day, take a moment to think about what you are grateful for. You don’t need to make a list; the important thing is to really let yourself be flooded with the feeling of gratitude.

      Once a Week: Thank someone.
      Take the time to write a little note to someone—it can be an email or a private message on Facebook or Instagram. Make sure the only purpose of this message is to say, “thank you.”

      Once a Month: Have a Gratitude Round-Robin.
      Recruit your family! Have everyone go around the dinner table and talk about the things for which they are grateful. Who knows, maybe this Thanksgiving tradition will catch on and become a regular event at your house!

      I have a client who tried this when she went back home for the holidays. The whole family teased her and made fun of the idea. Then, one by one, each family member came to her in private to say how much they had actually enjoyed it, and that they hoped the tradition would continue!

      Holidays are a great time to encourage your clients to start a gratitude practice—and hopefully one of the things they will be grateful for is you!

      Amy McManus, LMFT, helps anxious young adults build healthy new relationships with themselves and others after a breakup. Amy’s blog, “Life Hacks,” offers practical tips for thriving in today’s crazy plugged-in world. Learn more about Amy from her website www.thrivetherapyla.com.
    5. 10/31/2019 4:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

      David Silverman,

      How To Survive With High Sensitivity

      Highly Sensitive Persons (or HSPs) are people who tend to be very empathic, intuitive, and hypersensitive to external sensory stimuli, and have a highly emotional reactivity.

      If you have this kind of sensitivity, you are probably very good at accessing your own emotions and the emotions of others. This kind of connectivity can be an asset if you work with people.

      However, because you are so in tune with your environment, and other people, when life moves quickly, it can wear you out.

      You might catch yourself over-analyzing situations because you feel deeply about the outcomes. You’re probably very hard-working and well-organized.

      Highly sensitive people tend to do well in their careers, especially when people and leadership skills, or insight and creativity are involved.

      You’ll need to find time to decompress.

      Noisy, busy environments, like crowded shopping malls, can wreak havoc on your nervous system.  Packed schedules and high-pressure situations, like interviews, presentations, or sales calls will also take their toll.

      If you know you’re going to encounter a string of difficult situations, you will want to plan to decompress afterwards. Relax alone or with a friend.

      Create meaningful relationships

      You’re at your best when you’re deeply involved with another person who is able to relate to you at a deeper level. Lots of “lighter” relationships might not work. But a few meaningful relationships will be important.

      You’re good at understanding what works for other people because of your empathy and intuitive abilities. You tend to feel happy when you’re helping others feel happy.

      Develop healthy ways to manage conflict.

      You might find yourself feeling extra anxious when you have to deal with conflicts. You’re going to look at every question from both sides, because of your high level of empathy.

      You’ll feel an internal struggle between getting what you think is right and trying not to provoke an angry response.

      In case the person you’re talking with isn’t all that empathic, be prepared to negotiate the best you can. You can set yourself up for a “lose-lose” scenario. Be careful.

      Give yourself time to get things done.

      Be careful not to rush through too many activities. Stay aware of the pace you’re keeping and slow it down if you feel it might overwhelm you.

      Highly sensitive people will often have trouble in the mornings getting up, making coffee, breakfast, showering and getting out the door. Wake up early enough so you’ll have time to get to work—even if something goes wrong.

      On the weekends, take full advantage of the days when you can sleep later and move at your own pace. Ask to work from home if you can. You need to take care of yourself.

      Get plenty of sleep.

      If you have a high sensitivity, try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night. You’ll need to sleep deeply in order to get what’s called REM sleep. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep is the dream state, during which you process what happens during the day.

      You’ll want to give yourself a couple of hours to unwind before you go to sleep. Don’t try to work right up to your bedtime. Don’t try exercise right up to your bedtime, either.

      Sensitive people need to find a relaxing activity before bedtime like reading, listening to music, or watching TV. Without plenty of sleep, every little stressor will feel ten times worse.

      Create your own private workspace.

      As a highly sensitive person your mood will vary depending on your environment. Generally, highly sensitive people like a fairly quiet space where they won’t be too distracted. 

      You’ll probably want a workspace that is clean, organized, and uncluttered. 

      Most likely you won’t want bright flickering lights overhead. You’ll want to be able to draw the blinds and turn on some desk lamps.

      You might design the space so it overlooks a soothing environment. If you can’t do that, think about hanging up calming photos or paintings. You need to feel centered while working at home.

      Remember to be compassionate to yourself

      Don’t beat yourself up because you missed a meeting, got a rejection, or didn’t place in a competition. Find a way to manage your expectations, slow your pace, and avoid overwhelming scenarios. Go easy on yourself and challenge critical self-talk.

      I also recommend you schedule events and activities you know you’ll enjoy. Go to concerts, go out to movies with friends, go to the gym, swim in the ocean, go surfing, read books, watch TV, or have sex.

      Put some of these fun activities on your calendar where you’ll see them. Always have something to look forward to.

      David Silverman, LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, and career reversals over a long career as a writer in Film and TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. For more information, visit www.DavidSilvermanMFT.com.

      Image credit: Lost in Thought by AJ is licensed under CC By 2.0.

      This article was originally published on PsychCentral and is used with the permission of the author.

    6. 10/31/2019 3:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

      Barry Davis,
      Divorce Mediator

      Tips to Help Divorced Parents Enjoy the Holidays

      With the holiday’s beginning this month, here are some specific ideas for therapists to pass on to their divorced and/or divorcing clients to help them create a special Holiday Season even when much has changed in their lives and with their children.

      1. Keep the Focus on the Children.

      Being able to experience the Holiday Season through a child’s eyes is one of the best ways to really enjoy this time. If parents are focused on how to give their children a fun Holiday Season, they will be less focused on the things that have changed or are missing.

      Encourage your clients to think about ways they can create special times with their children, even if they don't see them as often, and really be present with them when they spend these times together.

      Here are examples of things parents can do with their children to help enjoy the Holidays as well as potentially establish new traditions:
      • Read favorite, or newly favorite, Holiday books with them. There are few things that most children love more than their parents reading to them.

      • Find a local neighborhood that really goes over the top with the lights and decorations and walk it with your kids. A thermos of hot chocolate makes it even more of a fun event.

      • Come up with presents that you can make with your children. Pinterest and other online sources have great ideas of relatively simple, homemade presents that people love making and receiving.

      2. Be Flexible with How and When They Celebrate the Holidays.

      New parenting schedules and only having the children for certain dates can make the holidays even more stressful. It helps to be flexible with how and when they celebrate rather than fixating on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

      For example, they can make a big event of going shopping with their kids, picking out the Christmas tree or doing some other holiday activity that doesn't necessarily have to be on a specific date. Or even celebrate Christmas on the morning of the 24th if they don’t have their children on the 25th—believe me, children will have a great time celebrating two Christmases.

      3. Volunteer.

      Along with experiencing the Holiday Season through a child’s eyes, volunteering is one of the best ways to really get in the Holiday Spirit.

      Volunteering helps us achieve two important things:

      • It helps us get beyond our individual situation. By helping others we often get a sense of being connected to something larger than ourselves and doing something positive to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves.

      • It helps us get some perspective. By helping others we understand that no matter how difficult our current situation is, there are two things we come to know: 1.) There are others worse off than we are; 2.) This too shall pass—the difficulty of divorce doesn’t last forever!
      4. Let the Little Things Slide.

      Getting into a big argument with one’s ex, or soon to be ex, is not going to help anyone get in the Holiday Spirit. If clients can do their best to let some things roll off their back, then this benefits both parents and children. This is easier said than done. However, coming up with a specific schedule ahead of time or even employing the services of a mediator to help you do this will help minimize the ambiguity, and therefore, the level of conflict.

      5. Don’t Over-commit.

      This is good advice for all of us, of course, whether we’re divorced or not, but it's even more important when clients are dealing with a divorce or trying to restructure their Holidays. It helps when clients can spend some time thinking about what is really important to them and their children—and what creates, rather than detracts from, a positive holiday experience. Then really focus on these things and don't worry about trying to do everything.

      Barry Davis, Divorce Mediator, Founder of Davis Mediation, has been helping clients get through the divorce process in the most amicable, affordable manner possible for 16 years. His passion is keeping children out of the middle of divorce so they can grow up healthy. As a divorce mediator, Barry holds Masters Degrees in Clinical Psychology and Conflict Management and has served on the Torrance Family Court and Second Appellate District mediation panels. For more information, visit www.DavisMediation.com or Davis Divorce Mediation’s YouTube Channel.
    7. 10/31/2019 2:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

      Karen Wulfson,

      Extending Your Reach:
      Useful Tips for Making the Best Use
      of Professional Networking Events

      Does this sound familiar? You’ve decided to attend a professional meeting or other event this month or next maybe! Or you really would like to sign up, if you could only figure out how to have more fun and be more at ease with making all those connections. Or maybe you’ve been to one or more events, and just need to be reminded that this networking thing can actually be enjoyable.

      If you’ve ever chatted with me about inperson networking (as opposed to that sort of remote online version!), you might know that this is something I actually enjoy. I love the connections I make, and I’m energized and motivated by hearing what others are doing. And I especially value the professional colleagues and personal friendships I’ve added to my lifejust from participating in that strange activity called networking!

      While I find that networking enriches my life, I do know that others may view that very word with annoyance, unease, fear or even dreadperceiving that activity in much the same way as they might view undergoing an extremely unpleasant medical procedure!

      While I’m pretty sure that if you feel so put off by the very thought of all this professional schmoozing, you’ll most like never truly love that activity, I’m equally sure that you can help yourself to like it just a little bit more! And, to that end, I invite you to keep reading for some tips about how to get the most value from those networking events.


      1. If there’s a literature table, create a simple flyer.
        Include your practice location, contact information, specialties, other languages you speak, etc. Include an invitation to call you for more info or to share your professional experiences in more depth.
      2. Arrive as early as possible.
        Early arrivers can avoid the crowds and have more time to relax and mingle with others who get there early. Getting there early also gives you a chance to save a seat where you’ll be most comfortable.
      3. Hang out after the event.
        Offer to participate in literature cleanup; chat with the presenter; followup with those who’ve made announcements; and be sure to thank those who’ve given so much time to making the event work.
      1. In networking conversations, listen and ask questions more than you talk about yourself.
        Your goal is to gather information about your colleagues, make connections, discover resources, find commonalities from which you can build future professional relationships. You’ll have plenty of time (in the moment or by following up) to let others know who you are and what you do.  
      2. Offer to get involved in future event preparation.
        This is a great way to meet others, while also having a specific task to do. You might find that the very process of being involved enhances your networking and increases your professional and personal connections.
      3. If you’re feeling brave enough, take advantage of time that may be allotted for participant announcements.
        Use the available time to let others know just one important thing about you. Maybe you are fluent in another language, have an interest or specialty that’s unique, announce an upcoming workshop, have a special client population, etc. And the better prepared you are and the more interesting your announcement is, the more likely you are to get some followup contacts.
      4. Be prepared with lots of business cards to exchange with others,
        Both at your table and with those you meet on a food line, at the literature table, and at checkin. Or just on the way to the restroom!
      5. Pay attention to any announcementsby leadership or attendees.
        Note those folks who sound interesting and follow up within the next day or two with a “meet for coffee or a meal” suggestion.
      6. Collect literature that has interesting content or mentions a specialty in which you might be interested.
        Then follow up with that person.
      7. Decide that it’s OK to be on a variety of email lists (after all, you do have a delete key if needed!).
        You’re likely to be invited to some low cost or nocost networking or CEU events. Go to as many as possible—lots of potential new colleagues and friends at these events. And lots of opportunity to be the one others want to get to know!
      8. Return to an organization’s events at least a few times.
        Connections are best made with those we see frequently. And the people I see regularly are the ones most likely to receive my referrals. Sort of that “out of sight, out of mind” mentality most of us tend to have.



      Everything above applies to you!

      1. If you don’t have business cards, make some to distribute at events. All you need to have is your name, phone number, and email address. And, if you like, note your prelicensed status. (Students/trainees: not a bad idea to include the name of your school, since you’ll draw the attention of those who graduated from that institution!)
      2. Associates, even if you are not currently seeing clients, include your registration number on your cards. And any special areas of related experience, other languages you speak, anything else that makes you stand out. This is especially important if you’re actively looking for a supervisor.
      3. Arrive with the attitude that you are our colleague and not “just” a student, trainee, or associate! While you won’t be expected to have lots of experience, you’ll feel more comfortable if you participate in the conversations. And you’ll find lots of therapists are interested in supporting you on the way to licensure. Your questions can be a valuable part of your networking experience.
      4. Follow up! Follow up! Follow up! And attend events whenever you can.The connections you make now will serve you well in the months and years ahead. The time to start that search for an internship is when you’re a studentnot when you need that job next month!

      This article originally appeared in the LA-CAMFT newsletter, the LA Therapist Update, in the May/June 2012 edition, and has been updated for this issue of Voices. 

      Karen Wulfson, LMFT, has a private practice in Beverly Hills, where she helps clients communicate more effectively to reduce conflict, anger, stress in their lives. Karen works primarily with professional men and encourages involvement of family members in client sessions. Karen has previously been extensively involved on the Board of LACAMFT, as VicePresident and Event Coordinator, and was CoChair of the Santa MonicaWest LA District of AAMFT. Contact Karen through her website: www.karenwulfson.com.

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