California Victims of Crime Compensation Fund

Do you know someone who is a victim of or witness to a crime?  If so, they may be suffering from Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression or other forms of Anxiety as a result.

It is important to know that they can get help for this change in their physical or mental health as a result, even if they have no insurance or inadequate health insurance.  This is where the California Victims of Crime Compensation Fund can help.  Visit their website to find out who is eligible for assistance.  Many States have VOC programs, and a quick internet search can link you to those resources.

Not sure how to talk to a friend or family member about getting help or about their trauma?  Worried about saying the “wrong” thing or re-victimizing the victim?  Consulting a good therapist who is experienced with trauma is a great way to get support with this.  You can also find information online.

Many of the clients I see in my practice have been victims of trauma at some time in their life, and it is so rewarding to be a part of their recovery.  Reducing shame, educating about symptoms, normalizing their suffering, and building hope for their lives are all a part of that process.  To schedule an appointment or consultation, please call 619-369-7450.

The Continuum of (mental) Health

We are all on the continuum of mental health, just like we are all on the continuum of physical health.  I like to remind my clients of this…often.  When we become sick with a cold or the flu, our body forces us to obtain the rest it needs in order to recover.  When we become sick with infections, pain or other serious illnesses, we seek medical care to help us heal. 

Most of us are functioning pretty well, but if you add too much stress, are not getting enough exercise and are not eating or sleeping well…there will likely be a negative effect on your body or mind.   Some people have had difficulty functioning for longer periods of their life.  Perhaps they have biological predisposition to less-than-desirable physical/mental health and not enough support in their life.

Have you ever pulled your back or twisted an ankle?  Too much stress on the body without enough support and…”snap“.  If you have experienced this, then you know how long it can take to heal, and often the back or ankle tends to remain a little vulnerable to repeat injuries, if it is not adequately supported. 

I like to use this example as a metaphor for our mental health.  We all have our limits, and without enough support we can “snap”.  If you find yourself “snapping” at your friends and family, then perhaps it is time to obtain the support your need in your life. 

You don’t have to be “crazy” to benefit from mental health services, and I am always surprised when a new client who has never had therapy before tells me that they didn’t know if they were “crazy enough” to seek therapy.  We all need help at times.  Please remember that.

If you have questions about the benefits of seeking psychotherapy or mental health services, please give me at call at 619-379-7450.

Bunny (or pet) Therapy for Children

My good friend and colleague, Terry Wilke, incorporates a beautiful brown bunny named Cocoa into her work with children to help them better understand their feelings and cope with stressful situations.  This is from her recent newsletter.  

 “Why Cocoa is Good for You

Many of you know that Terry Wilke, LCSW has a pet bunny Cocoa who can come to the office and help with psychotherapy sessions. Perhaps you have a pet of your own that you enjoy petting and playing with. But did you know that pets can actually be therapeutic?

 Research has shown the following:

  • Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets
  • People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations than those without pets
  • Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax
  • Pet owners have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than those without pets

We all have a basic human need for touch. Petting, holding, and cuddling your pet can meet that need. In addition, pets can provide unconditional love, companionship, and playfulness.

 Benefits of Pets for Children

A pet can provide some specific benefits for your child:

  • Teaches responsibility
  • Teaches compassion and empathy
  • Source for calming/relaxing
  • Stimulates learning
  • Stimulates the child’s imagination and curiosity

The Use of Pets in Psychotherapy

With permission, and consideration of the fit for the client, incorporating a pet into the psychotherapy session can be very helpful. Clients may find it soothing to pet a furry friend when discussing something painful, stressful or traumatic. Animals are also very good examples of being mindful and living in the moment which is often a therapy goal.

For children, interacting with the pet can be a way to practice social skills, slowing down, gentleness, and consideration. Also, the pet offers an opportunity to discuss many of the child’s challenges through the metaphor of similar challenges the pet faces. The child may talk to the pet or draw pictures for the pet because they feel safe telling the pet their inner conflicts and feelings.

If you think you or your child would benefit from interacting with Cocoa in a therapy session, please discuss this with Terry Wilke, LCSW. 

Data obtained from”

For more information about Terry Wilke, LCSW, you can visit her website at

On a related note, you might like to listen to this report from NPR’s Health Blog, Pet Therapy:  How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other

Success With the Burns Mood Survey

  Hello and Happy New Year!

 I’ve been wanting to let everyone know about some new tools that I am successfully using with my new and existing clients.  Last December, I introduced the Burns Brief Mood Survey into my practice.

 This survey, administered at the initial assessment, assesses Depression, Suicidal Ideation, Anxiety, Anger, and Relationship Satisfaction. Investigators have found that it correlates highly with the Beck Anxiety and Depression Inventories as well as the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety and Depression Scales (p < .0001).

 At all follow-up appointments, my clients are asked to complete a pre- and post-session Burns Brief Mood Survey, as well as a Therapy Evaluation Form at the end of each session, so that I can receive immediate feedback about how they experience me and my services.

 These tools help me and my clients to formally monitor symptoms, client motivation, and guide the treatment process. To obtain more information about these tools, visit and check out the Therapist Toolkit.

 For more information about me, please call 619-379-7450 or visit my website at You can also view my directory listing at, Find a Therapist.

Overwhelmed By Trying to Do Too Much Too Well?

This is a fun 4-minute radio broadcast to help us all have realistic expectations of ourselves.


If you need help becoming less overwhelmed, you  might consider a few sessions of personal counseling to help you reprioritize and get back on track in your life.

Why Therapy Can Be Helpful

When your “Life is On Overload”:  This is a great article explaining the ever rising stress level on our society and how personal counseling can help.

For more information or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please call me at 619-379-7450.

Looking for Alternatives to Medication?

If you are open to or interested in non-traditional treatment approaches for mental health, you might like to read about the classical homeopathic approach to healing.

A highly regarded book covering the basics of classical homeopathy that I recommend is: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine, by Timothy Dooley, ND, MD.

Dr. Dooley has an office in San Diego and is highly regarded in the community.  For more information about his practice and a link to a free-read of his first edition of the book visit:

Other titles of great value include: Prozac Free and Ritalin-Free Kids by Judith Reichenberg-Ullman.  These books may help you determine if a non-traditional path toward healing is right for you!

For more information or referrals to other homeopathic doctors or practitioners in the community, feel free to call me at 619-379-7450.

Researchers Investigate a New Class of Drugs to Treat Depression

Check out this two-part story from NPR’s Health Blog:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Always consult a medical doctor before starting any new medication treatment. 

Do you want to talk to someone about your history of depression or anxiety?  It can be helpful to meet with a psychotherapist to discuss the severity of your symptoms and functioning.  Sometimes, a couple of months of therapy is all that is needed to get back on track. 

Feel free to call me at 619-379-7450 to discuss scheduling an appointment.

The Pink Envelope

It was bright pink, cheery…and it almost ruined my day.”

Someone who completed one my past Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction Skills(MBSR) courses called me to share her success in using MBSR to manage intense anxiety triggered by this bright pink, cheery envelope.  Naturally, I was intrigued.  “What happened?” I asked.

Well.  I got this pink envelope in the mail and it did not have a return address, which was the first trigger for my anxiety.  I wondered, ‘Who was sending me this card-sized envelope at the end of July?’  There was no holiday or birthday to be celebrated, so I was suspicious.  Then I noticed the handwriting…it looked like an older woman’s handwriting.

She went on to describe her awareness of her negative, automatic thoughts triggered by The Pink Envelope.  She was approaching the  anniversary of living in a house that she has rented for 12 years, and with the shaky economy and her husband’s job loss last fall, she was afraid that this pink envelope was a notice from her landlady to increase the rent—or worse—or a 30-day notice to move out.  “It looked like her handwriting!

In the past this would have totally stressed me out.  I might have avoided opening it.  The shift in my mood would cause me to be unpleasant to be around, and my poor husband and dog might not receive the quality of my attention they deserve.  …and I probably would have gotten an intense headache!

She went on to share that because she had been practicing formal mindfulness on a regular basis (she learned how to do this in the class) and became aware of her patterns of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, she immediately recognized that The Pink Envelope triggered a cascading and nearly overwhelming stressful  bodily response.

I noticed the tightness in my chest, the shallowness of my breath, the feeling of fear, and the risk of becoming consumed by what was inside of the envelope.”   When she noticed this, she was able to take a few deep breaths–just focus on her breathing for a few moments–to restore some control over these sensations.  This allowed her to challenge the evidence of her fortune-telling and catastrophizing that The Pink Envelope was something scary.

I walked inside the house, set the envelope on the table, and with my full attention  greeted my husband and my dog who were eagerly waiting for me.  Afterward, I decided to face The Pink Envelope.  I told myself, I was being ridiculous and asked myself ‘Why would my landlady send me a formal notice in a pink envelope?’

I grabbed the envelope, tore it open, and discovered a beautiful photo of a friend’s newborn baby/announcement.  I took a deep breath, told myself that I was an idiot, rolled my eyes and shook my head at myself.  Aware that I was now beating myself up, I took another deep breath, forgave myself, blew it away, and took my dog for a delightful walk!

No longer consumed by negative thoughts, anxiety, self-judgement or the once-dreaded Pink Envelope, she was able to take in the full experience of her neighborhood, the smell of flowers blooming, the cool breeze against her skin, delighting in her dog’s wonder and curiosity about all of the new smells, and enjoy the remainder of her day.

The next MBSR course starts in September! For more information or to register, please visit:              or

 Online registration will open soon.  If you have questions, please call me (619) 379-7450.