Articles of interest to people seeking psychological support will be posted here.  Check back for more articles in the future.

The five elements to mindful relationships
Adapted from David Richo’s book How to be an Adult in Relationships
Copyright 2002 by David Richo

Mr. Richo, a noted therapist practicing mindfulness with his clients discusses the “spiritual practice of lovingkindness, expanding our awareness of others in tender and caring ways.” He has suggested, quite at a fundamental level that when we feel loved, we are receiving attention, acceptance, appreciation, and affection, developing a healthy ego and sense of self. Love is experienced differently by everyone but Mr. Richo suggests that certain deep needs for affection or acceptance for example, resonate with all human beings. Intimacy, at its best and at its core gives meaning to giving and receiving, true mutual reciprocity in a mindful relationship. He states, “there is a touching and encouraging synchronicity built into our very beings. The five A’s are the fulfillment of our earliest needs and are the essential qualities of mindfulness practice” in healthy relationships.
How do we increase our capacity as human beings to give and receive these elements of love? We can learn to achieve this through mindfulness practice, the alert witnessing of our reality without judgment, attachment, fear, expectation, defensiveness, bias or control. This is a tall order for most of us mere mortals; or so one would think. But not true, the five A’s are elements of our very nature. We just have to practice.
Mr. Richo identifies the five A’s as “the keys that open us”. He identified them specifically as attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. Through my work with couples and families, I would like to add two more to Mr. Richo’s list, apology and acknowledgement. As children, we noticed how our parents did or did not provide these. We then looked for someone to fit the bill better or more consistently but we are often attracted to what is familiar and what we know, hence our adult relationships may not necessarily improve much. Is this fatalistic? On the contrary, this allows for greater exploration of these fundamental needs and of ourselves. It asks the question what do we bring to the relationship? What do we contribute to offer another individual these seven A’s? Do we do them well ourselves? Attraction changes if we do. Our self esteem improves when we have contact with others who provide us with these A’s. They are components of a healthy individuated self and are meant to be shared. We feel something is missing when we speak and do not receive attention or acknowledgment for our effort to engage, we feel slighted or hurt when we reveal ourselves and are not accepted, when we ask for love or affection and we are not held or comforted, we feel minimized or when we make a choice and are not supported or allowed to pursue the goal, we feel deflated or rejected, judged.
These A’s are essential ingredients of love, respect, security, and support in human relatedness. They allow us to truly be ourselves with others in a safe and abiding way. Fundamentally, at the core of these is the ability to give them away, freely to others. Mr. Richo noted, “to love and be loved is to become loving.” These A’s are not strategies to stay together but keys to the practice of loving, living, our life purpose and our fulfillment. To use them, to incorporate them as part of oneself is to improve any relationship one finds him/herself in.
Some things to consider when practicing the A’s:
Invest in daily meditation. Begin with a few minutes each day. Sit in a quiet space, allow thoughts to enter and leave. Stay aware of your breathing. Do not attempt to stop thinking. The practice requires only that you notice your thinking and then return to attending to your breathing.
Open yourself to feedback. Commit yourself to finding some truth in any feedback you might receive. Listen with your heart, really listen. Sometimes judgment is fear or that individual’s insecurities are showing. Be able to discern that. Approach any person who has an issue with you with the conscious intention to cultivate the A’s. Now is the time to use them.
Attend to needs. To listen with one’s heart is to listen for what the person needs without your fear, judgment, criticism, moralism, contradiction or projection getting in the way. Again, tall order sometimes but necessary for successful communication.
Feeling loved. Recall memories of feeling loved in childhood. What resonates for you? Notice if there are any connections to the kind of love you seek now as an adult. Have a conversation about this with your significant others.
Offer support. Emotional support means a generous giving of the A’s. And be present.
Notice mindsets and steer clear of these as much as possible as you practice mindfulness. Mindsets are ignoring, refusing to listen, being unavailable, fearing the truth, trying to make someone over to meet our needs, criticizing, acting selfishly or abusively, being controlling, demanding, or manipulative. All of these are mindsets largely based on fear and disappointment. these can be changed and replaced with the A’s through our mindful practice and appreciation of greater insight of ourselves and others as we practice the A’s. It’s circular and all comes back around to an improved sense of self and healthier relationships.

Posted by Laura Fritts, PsyD, LMFT





It’s All Your Fault

You may know someone who feels that their sadness, anger, or general emotional state is the fault of someone else. Blaming others is a learned skill but one that may require modification.
In 1954, Julian Rotter defined a principle that considers the tendency of people to believe that “control resides internally within them, or externally with others or the situation”. His consideration spelled out the principle of Internal and External Locus of Control.
What I have found in my work as a psychotherapist is that those who use an external locus of control as their comfortable preference are less in control of their lives.
By blaming others, one has less control over changes and outcomes. If the other person has the power to make you feel good or feel bad, you are in some way feeling “victimized” by that person and not able to make your own changes. Giving the power to others, through blaming them for your feelings, leaves you powerless to make the changes you want to make. It is often stated, “If he would just change, I would be happy.” This implies that someone else has to change while you sit by feeling unhappy. And the struggles that people go through to change others in order to be happy, are the reports I hear so often in my office.
The more emotionally healthy person has an internal locus of control in which case, he takes responsibility for the behavior, the feeling, the thinking, the definition of the problem, and the possibilities for resolution. The internally centered person is not a victim of others and can make changes independently of others.
You may begin by examining your preference. Do you blame others for your anger, sadness, or failures? Do you blame others for not getting what you need, or not getting done what you need to get done? Is it someone’s fault that you drink heavily or have angry outbursts? Or, do you understand that your happiness is your responsibility and you have the power to make changes?
There are situations in life over which we have little control, but if we blame others for situations over which we have control, we have lost our control.

Happy Internal Locus of Control!
Trudy A. Weller, Licensed Professional Counselor



Going through a divorce and decisions regarding custody of children is an extraordinarily difficult event.  All parents want what is best for the children and most parents are very committed to them.  Unfortunately, people in the throes of divorce often disagree about care of their children.

Clearly it is best when parents can work out a plan that both can accept.  Mental health and legal professionals strongly encourage parents to reach an agreement.  When all efforts fail, families enter a legal system that is foreign and somewhat frightening to them.  The court may request a psychological evaluation to give the court more information.  The judge may recognize that some issues are beyond his/her expertise.

There is no set structure for these evaluations.  Although the American Psychological Association offers general guidelines, individual practitioners choose their own procedures.  Typically, evaluations include most of the following steps:  individual interviews of the parents, individual interviews of the children, observation of the children and parents together, psychological testing of the adults and review of medical, educational and legal records.  New partners of the parents are seen and other people living in a parents environment are typically interviewed.  A child abuse check and criminal history review is sometimes conducted.

Evaluations typically examine the nature and quality of the relationships between the children and the parents, the parents skills for parenting and any special needs of the children as well as the stage of development of each child.  The mental health status of each adult is assessed.  A great deal of factual data is gathered.  All of this material leads to the evaluator making recommendations about what is in the best interest of the child.

How should you approach an evaluation?  Be honest.  Be direct.  Organize yourself before you are seen- what do you want to tell the evaluator?  What is important for the evaluator to understand about you and your family?  Do not try to influence your children about about what they say to the evaluator.  Reassure your children that nothing they say will change the love and commitment that exists between the two of you.

How do you choose an evaluator?  Choose someone who is experienced.  Choose someone the court respects.  Choose someone with strong credentials (e.g. certification of expertise in doing evaluations in child custody cases).  Finally, choose someone who treats all clients with respect and consideration.

Court processes can be very painful.  The evaluator understands that and will do everything he or she can to help you through the procedure.  Ultimately, we all share the same goal:  arriving at a plan that best helps your child grow and prosper.





From Rita Miller, RN, BC, BSPA

Do you know anyone in this world who has absolutely no conflict?  If you do, most people would think that that person is either a hermit or a liar.  Conflict, like stress, is a given for our lives.

Most of us encounter conflict in our family roles as well as in our professional or work roles.  In conflicts we mainly tend to focus on our differences rather than our similarities.

Conflict is a struggle between opposing ideas, behaviors, needs or feelings.

It is also the medium by which problems are recognized and solved!

Many people come to therapy because of conflicts that they cannot resolve and consequently escalate to intolerable proportions.  Men and women on both sides of the conflict are in their trenches lobbing angry talk or accusations at one another.  Many expect the therapist to take sides and straighten out or fix the “wrong one”.  That is not how it works.  The work of therapy is to look at your conflict style and learn to, yes, actually collaborate.

There are other choices.  You can always avoid conflict.  This keeps the conflict bottled up inside of you.  The problem with this is: these bottled up feelings tend to leak into behaviors in unintended ways- which creates more conflict or just leaves you feeling badly because the conflict lives on inside your head and heart.

The other side of avoidance is accommodation or “giving in”.  We’ve all done this when a persistent person just hounds you to death and you say, “Oh, all right, do whatever you want!”  Most people will admit to this.  We do have to pick our battles with regard to importance, but always giving in leads to resentment.  Resentment can kill love.

Collaboration is a conflict resolution method that involves both cooperation and assertiveness.  Differences are respected and explored.  The work is to find areas of agreement.  From there, the focus is to find alternatives and solutions that all can live with. It is not a “my way or the highway” approach.  It’s the best way.



From Trudy Weller, MA, LPC

Do you find yourself wondering why you cannot feel peaceful, relaxed, content and generally happy?  Have you observed others who make life look effortless as they meet challenges with ease?  A well known psychologist, Abraham Maslow (1943) developed a simple tool to explain why some of us find it more difficult to reach the pinnacle of “Self-Actualization”.  He found that people were motivated to do things by their basic human needs.  He arranged the needs into a pyramid with basic human needs at the bottom and the more complex needs at the top.  The premise of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that if you have not met your basic needs, then you cannot move upward to be Self-Actualized.

The most basic needs are food, water, shelter and clothing.  Basic needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid are followed by safety needs which include protection from physical and psychological threat, fear, anxiety and the need for order, structure and security.  Love and belonging needs come next as one seeks acceptance, membership, affection and love.  Achievement needs follow and include respect and liking yourself and others, strength and competence, status, achievement and freedom.

Maslow purports that if one has met their needs to this point, then one has risen to the top of the pyramid and is then self-actualized.  The self-actualized person has great balance in their life.  They are not struggling with unmet basic needs.  They have a healthy life style which provides safety, order and physical and emotional security.  He or she has found a sense of love and belonging through love relationships, family and friends.  He or she respects their skills and talents and has used them to achieve a life style with which they are content.  They are free from fear, worry and are in a position to help others.

Abraham Maslow says that most of us do not reach the pinnacle of the pyramid because we have to continue to dance in our unmet needs.  It would follow that changing some of the areas in your life over which you have control will help you to meet unmet needs and move you closer to a more satisfying, peaceful life.





From Barbara Piazza,PhD

We all have bad days and sometimes bad days can come one after another.  We become anxious, lack concentration and are easily irritated by little things.  Drs. Elisha and Stefanie Goldstein, clinical psychologists and co-founders of the Center for Mindful Living in Los Angeles, offer the following tips to soothe an anxious mind.

  1.  SLOW DOWN- anxiety causes everything to speed up and makes it difficult to make healthy decisions.  Therefore, as soon as you become aware of things speeding up, intentionally begin to move slower and see what else you can do to slow things down.
  2. COME TO YOUR SENSES- taking a few moments to connect with your five senses will help bring you back into the moment.
  3. BE MINDFUL OF A SIMPLE TASK- anxiety causes us to feel out of control.  Take control by engaging, mindfully, in a simple task.  This could be taking a shower, washing dishes, gardening, walking or eating.  Whatever you choose, approach it like it is your first time doing it.
  4. DO A REALITY CHECK- question the truth of your thoughts.  Generally we are anxious about things that have not occurred and may never occur.  Fears more than likely are not facts . . . they are just fears.
  5. RELEASE THE CRITIC- When you realize you are being self-critical, the Goldstein’s recommend that you interrupt the self-critic by dropping into your heart and saying, “May I learn to be kinder to myself.”
  6. CHANNEL YOUR ANXIOUS ENERGY- for anxiety that is not severe, you can channel this energy into something productive such as running, walking, gardening or cleaning.
  7. LIE DOWN AND LOOK UP- Mindful awareness can be triggered by simply lying down, looking up to the sky and watching the clouds pass by.  Follow the natural ebb and flow of the universe.
  8. LISTEN-  take time to tune into various sounds . .  cars passing by, birds singing, the wind in the trees.  This allows us to get back in touch with the simplicity of life.  Anxious thoughts begin to dissolve.
  9. PRACTICE 5X5- interrupt automatic catastrophic thinking by tuning into 5 things you see, 5 things you hear, 5 things you feel, 5 things you smell and 5 things you taste.
  10. KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS- being aware of what makes you anxious allows you to prepare soothing practices.  A prepared mind is a less anxious mind.
  11. NURTURE PATIENCE- according to the Goldstein’s, “Impatience is to anxiety as patience is to calm and ease.  If you want to create mastery around patience, you need to be on the lookout for impatience and get curious about it.  How does it manifest in the body?  Can you let it be?  Patience isn’t only a virtue.  It’s a pathway to emotional freedom”




From Peter H. Thomas, Phd, ABBP

Many people ponder going to a therapist but are unsure if they really need professional help.  There are guidelines for answering this question.

First, consider the length of time you have had your particular concern or distress.  If the problem has persisted for a long time it is likely that you have tried many common-sense approaches to resolving the issue without success.  Persistent long term issues can be damaging (e.g. eroding self esteem or diminishing the quality of a relationship.)  We all accept that some parts of our lives are imperfect, however if the pain related to these issues is significant, then seeking help is warranted.

Second, consider the severity of the issue.  If the problem is severe (e.g. you are not maintaining involvement with the outside world because of depression or anxiety), then professional intervention is clearly needed.  Other examples of severe problems include grossly unrealistic thinking or behaving in an out of control fashion.

Third, consider how strongly you wish for your life experiences to improve.  Some people access therapy to promote personal growth or self-understanding.  These  are legitimate reasons for seeking professional guidance.  If you have life problems that are only moderate but you are strongly committed to doing better, then therapy is a positive choice.

Therapists respect the individual’s wish to remain independent and resolve things on their own.  That is the first choice.  However professionals also see people employing denial , minimizing the true nature of the problem and avoiding dealing with it.  Therapy provides a supportive and safe relationship in which to face life’s difficult moments.

Choosing psychotherapy does not mean that you are “crazy,” that all your problems are ‘in your head” or that you have failed in some way.  Instead, choosing therapy is a courageous and smart decision to face life’s challenges.  Finally your therapist will assess your need for professional help.  If the need is not significant, you will be reassured that you checked out the problem thoroughly and that no more extensive intervention is needed.

Note: Psychology Today has published an online test “Do I need therapy?’  Completing this exercise will give you more detailed information.



From Rita Miller,RN,BC,BSPA

“I am so stressed.”  How many times have you heard that or said it yourself?

Well, you are not alone because being alive inevitably involves stress.  Stress is not a bad thing; in fact it is a form of energy.  Like anything else in life, too little or too much of it is not good.

Stress can motivate you and it can give you valuable information on how your body handles it.

Last week, I was going to an appointment, thinking I had left the house in plenty of time.  By the way, one of my major sources of stress is thinking I can get somewhere MUCH FASTER than traffic allows.  Anyway, I encountered a railway crossing with an endless train that was traveling about 2 miles per hour.  I could feel the stress increasing as the train was almost stopped with no end in sight.

When I finally made it to my doctor’s appointment, my blood pressure was 40 points higher than ever before in my life.  I asked the nurse to wait a minute while I took a few deep cleansing breaths and imagined myself walking on a beach.  When she took the blood pressure again, it had dropped by 36 points.

There are many techniques for managing our stress to make it work for us rather than against us.  Take charge of your stress by focusing on your breathing.  Then put you hand on your stomach and take in a nice deep breath through your nose.  Your stomach should rise.

Breathe in to a steady count of 4, then hold your breath to a steady count of 7, then gently blow out the breath through your lips to a steady count of 8.  This is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique.  With this technique, you are breathing out twice as much as you breathed in, so your next inspiration will be much deeper.

Practice this whenever you are stressed or anxious.  Any everyday annoyance is really an opportunity for you to practice this very healthy, effective technique.