Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace



Do You Need a New Doctor?

Posted on 7 February, 2017 at 8:00 Comments comments (8742)

We have all had experiences at the doctor where we felt disappointed: the time felt rushed, we didn't get all our questions answered, the doctor ran a bit late, etc. These issues are usually excusable, but there are some that deserve a deeper look. If any of the following issues resonate with you, you may have good reason to consider finding a new doctor.

Your doctor makes fun of you or belittles you. When you go to the doctor you should be treated with respect. If you feel your doctor is laughing at you (and you haven't made a joke) or is talking condescendingly to you, it may be time to find someone else to take care of your medical needs. If your doctor calls in other staff to look at you or your body in a way that means, "you've never seen anything like this!," that is extremely unprofessional and you should find a new doctor immediately. If your doctor says, "Ewwww!" about something on your body, it's time to move on. I'm not saying he or she would never be grossed out by anything, but it is unspeakably inappropriate for him or her to indicate this. You are not seeing your doctor in order to become a science experiment or to be treated like a freak show. You deserve, and should expect, respect.

Your doctor is offended when you want a second opinion or when you ask questions. A doctor who cannot tolerate this probably has a large and fragile ego, and is more interested in keeping it intact than in giving you quality care. A good doctor knows she doesn't have every answer, and also knows it is important to consult on cases. She would have no problem with answering any questions you have, finding answers for you if she doesn't know them, you getting a second (or third, or fourth) opinion, and might even suggest it herself. She is not insulted by her patients asking for more information because her primary concern is the health of those patients.

Your doctor insists you need expensive special products you can only purchase from him/her. I'm not saying all special products are bad. However, when a doctor recommends a product you can only buy from him, you absolutely must have it, and it is very expensive, it can be worth it to take a step back and evaluate the situation. The product may be exactly what you need. If so, it's okay to invest in it. It's also okay to take time to think about it and buy it at another time. Or, the product could be something you could easily find at the local drug store or do without. Pushing products (special vitamins, creams, cans of compressed air, etc) can be a red flag indicating your doctor has other priorities than your health and best interests.

Your doctor (or their staff) does not return your phone calls/emails. If you can't get in contact with your doctor to make an appointment or to find out the results of tests, that's a problem. We all get busy, but when repeated calls go unanswered or unreturned, it may be time to move on and find someone else. It doesn't have to be a personal thing, and you don't have to feel bad for going to a different provider. You are your own advocate, and if you aren't getting the care you need, it is up to you to make sure you do.

Your doctor minimizes your concerns. This is different than validating that you are worried, but giving you reassurance, citing specific examples of why you may not need to be as concerned as you currently are. If your doctor calls your concerns silly or stupid, and doesn't actually listen to them, or brushes them off, ie, "Oh, you're fine. That's nothing," you are allowed to say something about this. You are also allowed to see a different doctor. It is true that your anxiety may seem unfounded to your doctor (he or she has a depth of knowledge about medicine that the general public doesn't), but even so, you should expect to have your concerns heard.

Tunnel Vision

Posted on 5 May, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (3005)

What is tunnel vision?

According to Merriam-Webster, tunnel vision is an extreme narrowness of viewpoint, a constricted field of vision, or a tendency to think about only one thing and ignore everything else. Basically, your vision is focused on a very small area, blocking out anything in the periphery. This can be a physical problem, but it can also be a mental issue. The mental form of tunnel vision is what I will address here.

How does it work?

Depression is one of the most common causes of mental tunnel vision, based on clients I have worked with, people I have met, and my own personal experiences. Remember that depression is a disease of lies. It tells you things that are not true, trying to trick you into believing you are not likable, you are not worthy, you have no friends, no one wants to hear from you, etc. Well, tunnel vision plays right into that by increasing your focus on the lies in the center, and eliminating any peripheral truths floating around the edges. Everything becomes mentally dark except for the lie in your psychological bull's eye. That lie becomes bigger and bigger, more and more in focus, as it elbows out the truths around it. Pretty soon, you find yourself believing the lie and looking farther and farther into that tunnel. But it doesn't have to be this way.

You can beat tunnel vision

First, you must recognize what is happening. Notice when you get stuck on a negative idea or thought. Knowing is half the battle (see: G.I. Joe cartoons from the 1980s), so once you realize you are perseverating on something unhealthy, you can harness your mental power and change it.

Next, you must decide to call the lie a lie. You decide you are not going to buy into it. You tell yourself, "No. That is a lie. I do have friends and they do want to hear from me."

Then, you expand your view. Open up the tunnel and let the light in. Allow those truths around the edges to float into the middle as you push the lie out and away from your line of vision. Focus on the truths: You are likable; you have friends; they do want to hear from you; they care about you.

The more you repeat these truths to yourself, the more likely you are to believe them. Yes, it takes time. No, it may not feel like it's working all the time, but keep practicing. Do not give up. The reason you believe the lies is because they have been repeated to you so many times, either by yourself or by others. Truths become ingrained in the same way. Through repetition. Start repeating the good stuff, the truths, as much as you used to repeat the bad stuff, and watch that tunnel disappear. Soon, you'll be able to see the light all around you instead of being stuck in the dark and searching for that elusive light so far away.

Four Myths About Counseling

Posted on 14 April, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (8414)

People have varying feelings regarding counseling. For some, counseling is an essential part of life. For others, even thinking about therapy is uncomfortable. There are different perceptions about what it means to go to counseling, and society and culture definitely play a role in this. Depending on your viewpoint, counseling may be looked at as a legitimate way to deal with problems. Or it may be something that only "crazy people" do.

Here are a few myths about counseling and the reality checks that go with them.

If I go to counseling it means I'm weak. I should be able to handle my problems on my own, without help. The reality is that some problems are too big, messy, or painful to handle alone. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to reach out to someone outside your friends and family for an unbiased perspective. A counselor can provide that perspective for you, pointing out things you may not have considered before, asking questions that get you thinking, and helping you identify choices and options you didn't realize you have.

Everyone will know my business. The reality is that everyone will NOT know your business. A counselor has an ethical obligation to keep client information confidential. There are certain exceptions to this, such as a client expressing the desire to hurt herself or someone else, or a report of child abuse, but these exceptions primarily involve people's personal safety, and not the issues many clients bring to counseling. 

Counseling doesn't work. The reality is that counseling won't work if you go into it with that attitude and a closed mind. If you refuse to share, open up, and deal with your issues, you will not get very far with counseling. However, if you believe counseling can help you, and you go in with an open mind, counseling can make a positive difference in your life.

Only crazy people go to counseling. The reality is that counseling is for people who want to make a change in their lives. Asking for help with this doesn't make you crazy. It makes you smart, and it means you are ready for things to get better. It means you are tired of being stuck in a rut and you're looking for something to change. Yes, there are people who have very serious mental disorders, but I don't see many of them in my office for counseling. If someone has a considerable amount of mental disturbance they are more likely to be on strong psychotropic medications, and may not be able to sit in a counseling office to discuss their issues.

These are only some of many myths about counseling, and everyone has their own fears and worries about sharing their issues and inner thoughts with a stranger, but going to counseling doesn't mean you are weak or crazy, or that everyone will know your business. And if you want it to be a good experience, start with a positive attitude and the idea that counseling can help.

How to Talk Yourself Through a Panic Attack

Posted on 7 April, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (12552)

You feel it coming on. Your chest is getting tight. Your heart is pounding. Your airway is constricting. You can't breathe! It's a panic attack, and you feel like you can't do anything but surrender to it. Fortunately, this doesn't have to be the case. You have more power than you think.

What is a panic attack? If you have never had one, consider yourself lucky. A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear or anxiety, often with little or no warning. Basically, you get an adrenaline dump into your system because of a real or perceived threat. The person having one may feel like she is dying, having a heart attack, or going crazy. There are quite a few possible symptoms, but some of the more common ones are:

Feeling faint or light-headed

Racing or pounding heart



Feeling like you can't breathe


Dizziness or tingling

Now, so you know that I am not making light of panic attacks by saying you can talk yourself through one, I will share my own experience with them. About five years ago I started waking up in the middle of the night not being able to breathe. I went from sleeping soundly to having a tight chest and constricted airway, taking very shallow breaths. The feeling of not being able to breathe is terrifying. Without air, we die, so there is a desperation to fill the lungs as quickly and deeply as possible. Except that I couldn't get a deep breath. I felt the panic, but I knew I couldn't fully give in to it. I had to grab at that sliver of logic still present and tell myself this:

Calm down. You are okay. You are having a hard time taking a deep breath. Notice your breathing and slow it down. You are okay. You are not dying. Pay attention to your breathing and keep it slow. You are okay.

I repeated this to myself for as long as it took to calm down, which was several minutes in reality, but felt like much longer. You, too, can use this technique to talk yourself down from, or out of, a panic attack.

1. Use a calm, slow voice as you remind yourself that you are okay and the attack will pass.

2. Pay attention to your breathing. First, just notice your breath. Then, actively begin to slow it down and keep it regulated.

3. Keep doing these things until the panic feeling fades. You will still feel keyed-up because of all the adrenaline in your system. It takes a while for that to pass, but give it time.

If it seems like this isn't working instantly, keep at it, because it takes more than two seconds to resolve a panic attack. You must practice this technique, and you must buy into it, believing it will work for you. It will work for you.