We're Hiring!

On January 2 we moved into our new space that has the room to grow!

The second therapy office is furnished and ready to be used!

The second therapy office is furnished and ready to be used!

I have been blessed to have a full and thriving practice. I am so grateful for the community referrals that keep coming. While I am humbled by the outreach, I am overwhelmed by the unmet need in our community. So I am going to do my part to change that.

I am seeking a licensed mental health therapist with passion and a sense of humor to join me in serving this amazing community. I am looking for someone to start from day one helping all of those patients patiently waiting on a wait list.

Here is the link to the job posting, or you can inquire directly at

Stay tuned - I cannot wait to find the right person and introduce them to all of you!

Third Time's the Charm

What counts as luck depends on what you're looking for…

My Better Half gave birth to our third child in May of 2017, so he's coming up on a year and a half on this earth as we roll through fall. He's about as close to perfectly adorable as one baby could ever be. He's generally happy and adored by his siblings; he loves social gatherings and being held by lots of friends. He goes by a lot of different nicknames based on his behaviors.

But he loves to wake up more often than our previous children and has less variety in his diet. He has not hit his speech and motor milestones at the same time and rate as our first two kids. So in many ways, our third child has held the mirror up to my face when it comes to my work. 

I work with a lot of people who work hard at improving their sleep or that of their loved ones.

I work with a lot of people who work hard at increasing the types of foods their loved ones eat.

I dispense a lot of advice and guidance around eating and sleep routines in my work, and the process of parenting our third child has been quite humbling and eye-opening. Put simply:

Sometimes the evidence does not work so well.

I have read (and re-read) the literature on sleep hygiene, and we consulted with our providers to put in place a well-organized evidence-based approach to increasing the variety in his diet.

And still every day feels the same.

This is all not to say to heck with science/medicine and to go rouge on reality because of it. But this is me acknowledging as a human who happens to be a psychologist that sometimes the ideas and the plans that derive from the scientific method don't apply equally well to all.

That is a sobering thought to hold. 

Our third child has given me a different type of appreciation for those who face these issues and deepened my empathy (and my resolve) for how stressful, challenging, and rewarding these things can be.

When I became a parent, I did not know that love could come in so many forms. The way I feel and I respond to each of our children is so different and implicit it defies the words I have here.

Our youngest is his own unique person - challenges, successes, personality, and all. The big kids often call him “Boss Baby” because he has a huge head on a small frame. And, because he wants what he wants when he wants it and he lets us all know it. So as luck would have it, his smile and his laughter are so infectious that our joy clearly continues to outweigh our work.

Boss baby.jpg

Wind, Snow, Time, & Faith

These last two weeks (March 7 to 16) have been full of weather and safety-related concerns, and it's led me to take stock of what drives me these days and how I want to live my life now.

For those readers living outside the Rochester metropolitan area, we experienced a windstorm on March 7 that left over half of the region without power for days followed by a cold weather snap with daytime temps in the 20's. As many of the trees were cleared and power was mostly restored by the start of the next week, we were hit by Winter Storm Stella that dumped approximately two feet of snow in an on-going two day snow shower starting on March 14. 

I had a full caseload every day these last two weeks, but the windstorm and emerging snow storm prompted me to shuffle my schedule and cancel a full day of patients on March 15.

Now I'll be honest: I do not like it when anything prevents me from doing what I had planned. Yes: this is the pot calling the kettle black coming from this here clinical psychologist.

But the truth is I needed this dose of reality that was served up to me over the last two weeks.

It gave me a chance to meet people near us who took us in while our power was out.

It gave me a chance to be present for my daughter during and after outpatient eye surgery.

It gave me a chance to connect with people deeply because there was space and time for it.

I wish I could say that I’d never been here before
— Chris Stapleton, Fire Away

That's how I feel right about now as I realize I would've missed my daughter's surgery had the weather not laid to waste my plans to focus on my work instead. So many times before I've been so driven that I don't even see the road I'm driving the car of my life on. And for that, I feel compelled to reflect on how I can align my priorities more consistently with my values.

I had planned on my previous post (UnReal InstaLife) being the final one in a series about digital communication and re-framing our experience with it. After my daughter's surgery, I am reassessing how my digital existence impacts my reality as a parent, partner, and provider. I have such an intense, unrelenting desire to improve things that I very often forget to slow down, turn off the phone, and make the time to reflect rather than react to the moment I'm in.

So the weather gave me cause for pause and the opportunity to be present for my family, but another thought snuck in without my realizing it until the past weekend turned into this week.

When I think it could be therapeutically helpful and when I feel it logistically necessary, I have shared with my clients a bit about my personal life. Many folks know that My Better Half and I are expecting our third child in May and have showed such care and interest in her well-being. 

Knowing that my client's think and care about my family is something that moves me in a way I can't really describe in words, which is saying a lot given my predilection for hearing my own voice.

And on more than one occasion in the past two weeks, I've had clients look me in the face or tell me sincerely in writing that they have prayed for my wife's health and my daughter's. Now my faith is something I have generally regarded as a private matter, but the deep gratitude I feel toward my client's in sharing their faith with me has led me to re-examine mine in my work.

This then is a long-winded thank you to my clients, my family, my friends, and my community for calling my faith to mind during this unexpectedly trying month of March. So in the spirit of sharing more of myself, here is a picture of my family, in our comfy clothes, celebrating St. Patrick's Day by appreciating our warm home, our health, and some much needed time together.

Do Less, Well

I've been thinking about how to say this for the last few weeks, and nothing I've thought has sat well enough that I felt fully comfortable writing and sharing it widely. I'm trying to avoid devolving into a know-it-all advice column, so I've been perseverating on how to say this.

But I'm going to say this because it's something I'm trying to live myself and help others to do. And I think it's a perspective worth sharing with you.

Everybody is doing too much, almost all of the time.

You probably already know this, but my hope is that reading what I have to say here will help you see the value of doing less, well.

I recently read an article in the September 19-October 2, 2016 edition of New York Magazine, which prompted me to get over the perfectionist parts in myself that hesitated to write this.

This piece is not the first to speak to the digital hijacking of free time and empty space, but I think it underscores the frequency, intensity, and duration of the electronic undertow many of us are caught in. I will acknowledge here the subtle irony of my writing adding to this current.

I see so many people - adults, children, adolescents, parents - racing to DO, TO GET DONE and so few folks feeling comfortable or even permitted by themselves to simply BE PRESENT. Not only present with others, but with themselves, their thoughts, their feelings, their bodies.

Now, I freely confess (to those that don't already know) that I am no Buddha sitting under the bodhi tree. I am a born, reinforced, dyed in the wool diehard DO-er of the first order. I come by it honest through my parents, gathered a lot of my worth as child by racking up accolades, and married a woman who gets stuff done all day long. I believe there is value in the dignity of work and accomplishing things daily either in the service of others, to further yourself, and ideally, both. 

However, I feel like we DO too much by trying to always fix things rather than trying to find some time to BE in order to understand and appreciate things as they are. I know there are so many, many things we want to change or be different in our lives:

How can I get my child to talk [about their feelings in general or when they are upset or AT ALL or EVER]?

How can I help them express their feelings [differently or safely or in an acceptable manner]?

These questions seem to demand a DO approach. How else could a caregiver respond to these two questions than by taking as much action as possible in order to help their child today?

But how do we know WHAT to DO until we first examine HOW we ARE right now? I'm not talking about some existential examination of consciousness or a philosophical debate on the value of neurodiversity. What I'm talking about is taking stock of ourselves, our behavior, our goals, and our dreams before we start to act on the world hoping that it will change.

There's never enough time in the day, the week, or the year to think and feel our way through things without also doing something to make those things happen. Every impulse in my rational being pushes me to get stuff done, too. I am easily seduced by the allure of getting stuff done.

What I want to sell you on is DOING LESS, WELL in order to have more time to SIMPLY BE.

Some examples:

  • Sit in a room by yourself and think for 5 minutes about your day (the one you're in)
  • Eat a snack outside or near a window and think about your dreams (any of them)
  • Read a book that you once loved as a child (it doesn't matter how young you were)
  • Turn off the radio and listen to the hum in the car (or the sounds of the road)

Now, I believe that everyone can do one of these every single day. I know I can, and I often forget or contradict myself by multitasking my way through many aspects of my daily routine.

I think part of what keeps many of us from simply being with ourselves for brief periods of time is an overwhelming sense of anxiety or guilt that we're not DOING all we can in that moment.

A continual pattern of DOING can quickly cause a cacophony of activity with no end in sight.

These are some ways I've tried to set limits on my over-DOING and increasing my BEING:

  • Set Do Not Disturb function (with professional exceptions) on my phone during dinner
  • Play video games for 15 minutes during lunch (yep, Zelda is my favorite)
  • Read the lyrics to the songs I sing to my children every night (I'm old, I know
  • Walking down our wooded driveway with my son (just trying to listen to him)

In my work with families, I try to encourage and foster this concept of BEING over DOING by inviting them to focus on 1 or 2 (tops!) things each week as part of our work together. I also try to constrain folks to focus on these 1 or 2 things really well during specific periods of time. So rather than say, "Change the way you respond to this behavior ALL DAY," I try to help families identify a time during the day when they are most likely to be successful with this strategy.

My tacit hope, which I have not until now fully articulated, is that by focusing on 1 or 2 things to DO, I can help free up more time for families to BE with their children and with themselves. Now I think this is somewhat wishful thinking on my part knowing that many families cannot rest too easily unless they feel or even know they have done all they can for their children. 

But here it is: I think most of us would be much happier and behaviorally better of if we DID LESS, WELL.

Picking through Dinner

Last week I posted on how to make change incrementally. After I wrote this, I got thinking about a concrete way to demonstrate these principles. An example we can all relate to and even start practicing in our own lives. I had to think no further than dinnertime. Every. Evening.

My 3-year-old adorable son has a way of eating at a pace that is uniquely his (and not the rest of his family's). God bless him for marching to the beat of his own drum, but sometimes, child, I just wish he could take an ounce of our Type A and get the eating done on Harrison time.

Needless to say, it can be a struggle to get him to eat a decent amount. Setting a goal of "finishing your plate" has rarely, if ever, ended well. Then, predictably, right before bed we hear the plaintiff plea, "I'm hungry." Here are the steps our household is taking to deal with it: 

  • Control portion size. We dish out much less than we want him to eat. It makes the goal of finishing more attainable, and we can praise the heck out of him for it like he's just "walked on the water."  We reinforce asking for healthy food if he wants more dinner.
  • Adjust expectations. We're all done eating, and he still has half of his mini-portion left. Instead of telling him to eat or threatening to remove a reward, we'll pull out 2 bites that I really want him to eat, usually a meat or veggie piece. I clear the rest of his plate. Once he finishes those two bites, he is finished at the table (sans treat if we had to negotiate).
  • Offer a reward & make it contingent. If he finishes his plate, he gets something he wants to eat right then and there. One he can pick for himself. We have a perpetual candy bowl in the house that started with Halloween and will transfer like miscellaneous sugar tumbleweeds into an Easter basket soon enough. All of the candy is individual bite-sized servings so they're not inhaling a ton of it. ALSO: He only gets to pick out a piece of candy after he has eaten his meal to our general satisfaction; there is no foraging later or earlier in the day for candy until he has eaten the meal we reasonably provided.
  • Offer alternatives. But only if it's already an option (side dish) associated with the dinner you prepared. This is hard for my Better Half. She seriously thinks he will starve to death if he doesn't eat one meal. If he cries at the sight of chili and short-cons us into offering chicken fingers, we're effectively reinforcing crying to get the food you want. I fully recognize that this example is not that simple in a lot of situations, but I do think there's a lot of value in making sure whatever options you intend to offer are already available.

One way to re-route this process is to have your "what they ingest" priorities straight out of the gate and have your "check-downs" at the ready before you engage them. If the meal is chili with crackers and cheese, have it all laid out on the table and lead with a small portion of chili, reminder of eating this portion, then incrementally dole out the crackers with cheese once you have some positive momentum on the chili side of the dinner. Then, only the candy bowl after the small-sized serving of chili and the crackers and cheese are finished. Yes, I really do put this much thought into this, but I only do it because, more often than not, it works well for us.

Here's a simple dinner contingency map for those visual learners out there.

Here's a simple dinner contingency map for those visual learners out there.