Relaxation.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Relaxation.

Relaxing picture

Relaxation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

“It’s a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

“Now this relaxation of the mind from work consists of playful words or deeds. Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man to have recourse to such things at times.”

― Thomas Aquinas

“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”

― John Lennon

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

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Should therapist teach Mindfulness?

By David Joel Miller

Should you go to a therapist to learn mindfulness, meditation, yoga or spirituality?

Yoga

Yoga
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Sheba_Also)

Some therapists and counselors incorporate the teaching of meditation, mindfulness, spirituality and a whole host of other things into their practice. Clearly, there are times that these techniques can be helpful to clients. It is equally clear to me that you do not need to be a licensed therapist to teach a meditation class.

There are also times when some of these things can be harmful if done incorrectly. Meditation can be very bad for someone with PTSD or complex trauma if every time they try to close their eyes they have a panic attack. Another practice called grounding is recommended for those clients. (That topic needs another post.)

When we start mixing things up, professionals and clients need to be really clear about what is going on. Readers have asked some questions about this and I can see some professionals may be headed for problems.

What if I decide to teach a Wednesday night class in blogging? Can I sign up my therapy clients to come to this? Sure blogging can be a great way to express yourself and some of my clients might benefit from learning to write, but if I start mixing these two activities up we are headed for trouble.

Could a “Christian Counselor” teach a Bible study? Probably no reason why not. Except if they are doing their Bible study on Wednesday nights and competing with my blogging class this is not very therapeutic for either of us. (I picked Wednesday because I teach at the College on Tuesdays and Thursdays, not because of the traditional Wednesday night prayer meetings that some churches have.)

A counselor can have outside interests. We can and should do other activates. But when the lines between therapy and those other topics get blurry, there are lots of risks to clients. Maybe my Blogging class needs to be taught at the adult education school and the Bible study needs to take place in a church or someone’s home? Then the two roles are kept separate.

By the way, any therapist that tries to bill an insurance company for these other activates under the guise of them being “therapeutic” is probably headed for big trouble.

The role of the counselor or therapists is to help you get over, recover from, or reduce the symptoms of a particular emotional, mental or behavioral problem. This role conflict becomes a problem when a therapist starts signing people up for a yoga class.

Yoga can be helpful for managing certain emotional problems. (My understanding of Yoga is that it is an exercise done slowly and purposefully while managing your breathing.) So yes any exercise may be helpful in treating depression. Working on your breathing can be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety and a therapist might spend a few minutes even a session teaching a client how to control their breathing to reduce anxiety. But when the therapist starts signing up clients for a weekly yoga class, they have crossed a line in my book.

Sure any therapist can have another interest. Say the therapist likes to play baseball and they start a Saturday baseball team. Is this therapy and should they be doing this with their therapy clients?

If I was working with a group of severely impaired people, those with no friends and no jobs, a weekly trip to the park to play baseball could be therapeutic. I could teach them how to take turns, follow the rules and how to resolve differences. We could even do some work on social skills, picking a team captain, how to talk with each other and so on.

But if the course of this baseball therapy included people with friends and jobs and we began to talk about baseball skills, bunting and sliding into base, this is no longer a therapy group and we are becoming a baseball team. That is not a function that requires a therapist.

This example I hope is easy to see. There are not many times a sport is likely to be a part of traditional therapy. When therapists start talking about meditation, yoga, mindfulness and a host of spiritual and self-awareness techniques the lines get blurry.

My thinking is that there are times that I may use a particular technique briefly to help a client reduce or manage symptoms but if I stray into teaching them another topic I am no longer in my “scope of practice.”

So if your therapist avoids working on your past traumas or other current issues and wants to spend a lot of time on these other topics that are not specifically designed to reduce or control your mental health symptoms, think this through.

You may need to find another yoga teacher and then restrict your therapist to doing therapy. If they are uncomfortable with that, you need to talk with them about this or eventuality you will need to change providers to get the help you need.

Having a therapist teach a meditation, mindfulness, or yoga class, can be another of those dual relationship issues that we therapists need to be careful about. If a therapist does do those activities there needs to be a clear connection to treating the client’s symptoms.

A therapist can use these techniques to help their client recover but they can’t use their client to support their other interests.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Can you focus your mind?

By David Joel Miller.

You can shift the focus of your eyes but what about your thoughts?

Mind Focus

Mind Focus
Photo courtesy of Flickr (gwilmore)

In old-school photography, every student had to learn selective focus. The goal was to keep one thing in clear focus while letting the other things in the scene blur out and become ambiguous.

If you had a person close to you, then you wanted their face clear and the things behind them, the background, to blur out. If you took a picture through a fence the goal was to get the things far away clear and the fence to blur until it disappeared.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shift the focus on our minds just like that camera?

Well, some people can do just that.

Often when we interact with others our minds go all over the place. We think about the room temperature and lighting, what we will do after this meeting, what we did yesterday.

We can be overwhelmed and the result is that we lose the ability to pay clear attention to the thing we are doing or the person who we are speaking with.

When we try to relax our minds can become troubled with that swarm of thoughts buzzing around in our head. Things to do, people to call, emails to answer. Did you pay that bill? Should you check Facebook or Twitter first?

Seeing everything at once can result in seeing nothing as your life flows by lost in the jumble of thoughts.

One skill they teach in “mindfulness” training is how to shift that focus of your thinking, how to pay attention to the things you want to attend to and let the rest go. This is a valuable skill to have. The ability to attend to one thing and let the other things blur out is not something we are all born with but a skill that can be developed.

I realize that this selective attention or mindfulness can be more difficult for people with certain disorders like ADHD, but with the constant flow of information overload, all of us are at risk of losing our mental focus if we do not learn to attend to one thing out of a swarm of thoughts in our heads.

Do you sometimes feel like a traffic cop trying to direct thousands of unruly thoughts traveling within your head?

This age we live in has more information available than ever before. There are constantly things to do and distractions everywhere. The thoughts, feelings, and sensations run back and forth in our minds.

Do you run after each and every thought like a school worker trying to corral a group of unruly children?

Sometimes it is nice to just observe the thoughts as they run through our minds, let them go and shift our focus from all that is going on outside us to what is going on inside yourself.

Learning to shift your mind’s focus, attuned to one important idea at a time can reduce your stress and improve your creativity and productivity.

Give that shift of mind focus a try and see if it does not bring a whole lot of things into sharper focus.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

The Blue Jay Mind – Do you have Mind Chatter

By David Joel Miller

Do you have a Blue Jay Mind? Is your mind on overload?

Blue Jay Mind

Blue Jay Mind Photo courtesy of Flickr (cyclewidow)

Does your mind feel like it is full? Is your brain always rushing somewhere? Do you sometimes feel like your mind is having a traffic jam?

Have you ever sat outside, a park or the lake, when a flock of Blue Jays or other loud birds had a constant chattering conversation? Does your own mind sound like that sometimes? In meditation, they refer to this as a monkey mind. But we North Americans we don’t see monkeys except in the zoo.

Flocks of loud obnoxious birds; that we see a lot of.

Some days my mind sounds like that squabbling in the tree outside my window.

You know you are not fully crazy; these are not voices in your head. These things that overwhelm you are your own thoughts, but that does not make it any easier to keep that mind of yours under control.

An unquiet mind is an unruly companion.

Some days my brain is just plain full. Is yours? I tell people around me not to tell me one more thing that I need to remember. I say, only half-joking, that if I learn one more thing I will need to forget something I used to know and I am afraid that trying to remember what they are telling me may mean I will forget how to get home tonight.

Do you reach the point of cognitive overload and find that you are working harder and harder to remember less and less? You may be getting old; you may be losing some abilities. If so see your doctor.

There is a simpler explanation.

We only have so many cognitive resources at our command. My computer has just so much storage space and so does my mind.

What we all need to do is reserve some space in our heads for the things that really matter. Learn to simplify our minds and reduce our worries. Less stuff rattling around in our brains results in more calmness, more serenity.

The difficult part of this is to get your mind slowed down and cleared out when you need to. We all can become so accustomed to thinking, thinking, always thinking that for many people it is difficult to shut that mind off when the times come to give your mind a rest.

Some people find mindfulness and meditation training to be helpful to get that mind quiet. Other people need counseling or even medication.

If your mind is constantly racing, if you head is full of noise and most of it is your own thoughts seek help. Just listening to your own thoughts day after day can wear you out.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Learning to hear – Do you need to relearn?

By David Joel Miller.

Who taught you to hear?

Hearing

Hearing (Photo credit: Keturah Stickann)

Most of us think of hearing as something you are born with, no need to learn how to hear.  Hearing can become more useful when it is trained just as any other sense. Hearing can also be lost through abuse.

In a previous post, I talked about the need to turn the sound off sometimes and make sure we are noticing the nonverbal things in the environment. Now we need to talk about the use and misuse of sound. Most of the time we are so flooded by loud and constant barrages of sound that over time we tune the small and the soft sounds out. The result of this desensitization to sound is that we begin to only appreciate sound when someone is screaming.

As any married woman will attest, poor hearing is more likely to occur as a result of a lack of attention to what your partner is saying than from any organic hearing loss. Married men over time develop a special disability known as selective deafness.

Learn to pay more attention to sounds and you too can become an expert at hearing things other people miss. This may also keep you out of some relationship problems.

Life’s pleasures are often about what you have experienced before. If you grow up listening to one kind of music you will likely have a preference for that kind of music.

Music appreciation classes ought to be more than simply listening to a favorite song. We need to learn how to listen, what to listen for, as well as practice that listening. Someone who wants to become a musician needs to learn to listen to music in the same way a writer needs to read, to learn what is good and what is not.

Most of us hear sounds all the time but rarely have we had any training that has taught us how to make more out of that hearing. Two simple exercises can improve your ability to notice sounds and then to make use of what you hear.

1. The ticking watch teaches good hearing.

Find one of those old fashion wind-up watches or alarm clocks. Wind it up and place it on a table. Listen for the pitch and tempo of the clock ticking.

Walk a few steps away. How does the clock sound now?

Continue to move away until you can no longer hear the ticking sound. Now move back a step or two until it becomes clear again. Practice this exercise a little each day. You will, over time, notice that you become sensitized to the ticking sound and will pick it out from other sounds even if you are quite a ways away.

Of course, if you notice any problem in doing this exercise, if you can’t hear when you think you should or if you are not able to pick the ticking out from surrounding noise, consider seeing a doctor to have your hearing checked.

Most people will discover that by practicing they become more attuned to the sound of the clock and notice not just this clock but others throughout their day. (See my previous post on the expert effect for more on this topic.)

Good mechanics will often be able to tell from the sounds an engine makes what the problem is. They have become sensitized over time because they have needed to find a noise and then determine why this engine made a sound that other engines do not normally make.

Practice being sensitive to sounds and you will see that these small sounds are all around you every day. Become mindful of the sounds you live with.

Hearing exercise two.

Find a place where you can hear others coming before you can see them. At work, you may be able to hear footsteps before the person comes into view.

Pay particular attention to the footsteps coming toward you. Are they quick and vigorous or slow and plodding? Does this walker make a particular sound by putting more weight on the toes or the heel?

When this person comes into sight glance at them and their shoes. Over time you will find that you can recognize who is coming down the hall by the rhythm of their footsteps. With more practice, you may find that you can identify the type of shoe the person is wearing even when you do not know that person.

Why is recognizing footsteps important or useful? By itself, it may not be important unless you sell shoes for a living. But at times recognizing someone from their step may be useful. Becoming more aware of sounds can help to improve your memory and your thinking efficiency.

Repeated efforts to fine-tune your hearing by the clock exercise or by attuning to the sound people make when walking will improve your ability to focus on sounds. Couple this with our earlier exercise on sitting and being aware of the information from all your senses and you will find that you are becoming more alive, more mentally efficient and that your memory for people and events has improved.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Who owns this problem? Why they won’t stop.

Why do some people refuse to change and how do I make them?

Many of the questions to this blog are about getting others to change. This person or that is driving you crazy and you want them to change but they are just refusing.

The reason you may be getting nowhere on resolving the situation just may be that you are trying to solve the wrong problem.

One method for resolving problem behavior that is taught in parenting classes is to look for the ownership of the problem. Here is a simple “child” problem and afterwards we will apply this to more adult issues.

Mother goes into the child’s room and it is a mess. Mom yells “you are such a lazy slob, clean this room up.” This is a bad approach for two reasons. Calling the child a slob may establish a core identity that they are a slob. If that is what you are, why try to change? Being called names repeatedly encourages people to give up.

Who owns this problem? Why mom does of course. The child’s room is messy, mom does not like it and it is upsetting mom. More precisely, mom is “choosing to upset herself” over this issue. She could just give up as many mothers do and accept that kid’s rooms are often messy.

Now what if grandma is coming and it is important to mom that the room be cleaned up? You all know how grandma is.

The solution – make the problem the child’s. Mom now says “if you do not get this room cleaned up by the time grandma arrives you will not be going to the store with her,” or some other suitable negative consequence.

Now who owns the problem? Why the child does of course. They need to get this job done in time to get grandma to take them shopping and buy them stuff. Now the child is motivated.

An aside here, make very sure that the phrase “room is a mess and needs to be cleaned up” is operationalized. The child needs to know exactly what you want done. They would be glad to throw all those dirty clothes in the closet and call the room clean. A specific list of things to be done before grandma arrives would be helpful here.

Now the more adult version of this issue.

Lots of commenters to this blog ask about getting others to change. I see this in the search engine terms also. Everyone wants someone else to change. How do you do that?

There are techniques to help others change or encourage that change and I have described those methods in a post on “Getting others to change.” There is also a series of posts about “How people change.”

Before you launch into that changing effort you need to ask yourself one question.

Who owns this problem?

If the person is isolating in their room, depressed and thinking of suicide by all means intervene. Professional help is called for here.

But what if your partner does not like to go out and you do?

In that case you own this problem.

Most of the times we want others to change it is because their behavior bothers us. We own those problems. We can talk with the person, make changes in our behavior that encourage the change we want, but the other person still may decide they do not want to change.

If a behavior is not interfering with a person’s ability to work, have relationships with family or friends and is not making them unhappy, why then we professionals don’t see this as a problem for them.

So if the other person is choosing to not change and it is driving you nuts, you need to work on you.

Options here? Acceptance – radical acceptance is a good place to start. Consider changing yourself so you do not “upset yourself” so much. A good place to begin this practice might be with some “Mindfulness,” get centered in the present.

Enjoy the person and the situation for what they are instead of insisting that they change to suit you.

It is next to impossible to change problems that are not yours and most of the time when we try to change others we are trying to get them to solve our problem.

Suggestion – Take another look at the problems in your life and see who really owns them. If you own the problem then begin by changing you.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.