Thrive! Please, don’t just Survive.

I have been doing a lot of reading on the web, read published academic articles, and having consultation with my psychologist colleagues about how many people see therapy as a place to fix a problem, or something is wrong with them if they come in. That is not true! First off the question should not be, “So… what is wrong with you?” THE RIGHT QUESTION is, “So… tell me what happened to you?”

Many* (not all) of us got into this line of work to help people THRIVE, live their best life, and enhance and accentuate their positivity, light, and God-given talents. If you have a good marriage but you want a great one, come see me! If your marriage or personal mental health is on the verge of crumbling come see me! But please do not think you are labeled crazy if you come to therapy or walk into my office. Fun Fact: In NY people think you are WEIRD if you DON’T go to a “Shrink.” It is true, no joke.

So it seems people may just not know that some psychologists can be like coaches helping an athlete be a better athlete. Or how to find us. Sure, I am equipped to handle psychotic break downs, suicidal crises, and strange/bizarre behaviors if needed; however, my bread and butter lies in helping people THRIVE. I had a recent patient come into therapy and asked me, “Doc, can you help me just get back to normal with a quint little job (that’s all I want)?” I replied, “Sure, but can I also help you get all the way to happy and thriving? Want for us to strive for that instead?” I do not just want to stop there, to where that person can survive and get by, I want to see him/her self-actualize their potential and FLY! God/The Universe gave each of us a purpose and talents. It is my personal belief that the meaning of life is to figure out how to best use our talents to heal or help this world, whether it be by being a GOOD president, doing the math/physics for air space launches, being an amazing parent, painting your best painting, writing your best song, or giving people their best hair cut of their life.

In my therapy, I want to figure out where do you want to go and let’s get you there together, or at least go down trying! You are not alone. And if you want support it is out there. My Best advice is never stay with a therapist that does not feel right to you. “Therapists are like shoes. If they don’t fit right the experience can hurt you, you can end up with more problems because of it, or you can decide to never look for a new pair of shoes ever again.” Be courageous and dare to ask for help if you need it. Find a good one (that uses evidence/research-based treatment) that truly gets you and that you feel cared by. It really helps to have an outside perspective and 5-6 years of graduate school training and teachings to help you with whatever life throws at you. You are NEVER alone. And nothing is EVER bad forever. Love your life and yourself (body, mind, feelings, & spirit) . You are the only one you have for certain for the rest of your life. Take good care of you.

My proposed “Developmental-Stress Model of Happy Marriage”

Love is friendship on fire.

I know many people in my life have been curious about what came out of my dissertation on how to maintain a happy long-term marriage. I have decided that the best way to present it is through my blog. I am planning on discussing my proposed model with both the general public and practitioners in the mental health field. Therefore, I am using a vignette I got from the International Positive Psychology Association website and am going to apply how I would use my model and interventions in therapy to help a struggling couple. Please feel free to ask me questions if something is not clear or if you are curious about anything related to my study or findings.

Dissertation: The lived experience of long-term happily married heterosexual individuals (access:;THE)


2. Ahmed and Fatima are a middle-aged couple who immigrated to America from the Middle East more than two decades ago. Highly educated and professional, both have worked hard to realize their “American Dream.” They work in the same health care facility, helping people with chronic and complex medical issues, and are known for their kindness and empathy. Both, however, have lately been arguing about their teenage daughter. Ahmed, originally from a conservative family, objects to her clothing preferences. He also disapproves of her socializing freely with her male peers. He hopes to see her become an accomplished physician. His wife, however, disagrees with him and approves, by and large, of autonomy for her daughter. The issue has driven a wedge in their otherwise relatively peaceful marriage. The daughter, who used to be very close with her father, has become estranged from him and finds him narrow-minded and overly observant to cultural norms and gender roles, which are less relevant to her American upbringing.

Intervention: Based on my research, I created and proposed a “Developmental-Stress Model of Happy Marriage.” This model posits that happy and healthy married individuals have successfully gone through a developmental process as a couple that allows them to advance to the next stage of their marriage with more positive skills and a stronger bond. Often couples could benefit from identifying at what stage they are in their marriage using the model and to learn how to handle conflict and increase their bond at their particular juncture. This is how my intervention works: When couples present for couples therapy they often conceptualize their issues as a specific point of conflict or upsetting event, but they are unaware that there are many other reasons why their marriage could be in distress. I have attached my proposed marriage model (linked below), which I hand to all my couples during our second session. I teach them about the stages of marriage, the stressors that come with childrearing, and help them reconnect through their mutual values, strengths, goals, plans, and learning to have a positive outlook on their conflict as a learning experience. For this vignette couple, in particular, I would identify that they are in the stage where there are stressors that are normal and that they have some clashing values currently. Issue: Autonomy of women vs. conservatism/traditionalism or female modesty/grace. I would help them see that they both love their daughter and they just have different views on how to express their value system in this issue. I would highlight their strengths as a couple and I would highlight the values that they do share: pursuing the “American Dream”, being kind, having empathy, being hard workers, being in the helping professional field. I would teach them about common marital pitfalls and then show them the value of increasing their bond and learning to problem solve together. In my model (see link below), you can see that those are the main goals of therapy for the middle marriage couple: “Increase the Bond” and “Coping Skills/Decrease Stress.” Underneath those headers are ways to accomplish that. We work on all of these things during sessions and for homework until the couple is doing it on their own and they rediscover why they fell in love with their partner and are working as a team again. I would also throw in some interventions on psycho-education about acculturation differences with their daughter, given that she has mainly grown up surrounded by American values. I would remind them that it sounds like they both want the best for their daughter. They both love her very much and value being the best parent they can be, though they may have different interpretations of what that looks like.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy for Veterans with PTSD

braine imageIt is quite frustrating that many people working in the field as mental health workers are still unsure or unaware of the research-based protocols and treatments out there that have been found to be successful in helping severe PTSD. Here is an article that can explain the importance of treating PTSD and trauma with exposure treatments. Prolonged Exposure therapy has been shown to be extremely effective in working with veterans and still many practitioners do not use it or know about it. Please spread the word if you know someone who is getting therapy now for their PTSD and is a veteran. Clients should be empowered to feel free to ask their therapist if they are doing evidence-based work with them and ask if they are doing PET or not.

Prolonged exposure therapy for combat-related Post-traumatic stress disorder: An examination of treatment effectiveness for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Resource for Understanding ADHD

ADHD can be a difficult diagnosis to understand for many people and some have even questioned its validity saying it does not exist. ADHD is very real. It is true that it is often overly diagnosed and that people who do not have it often seek out the use of stimulants in high school or college. However, it is clear based on fMRIs and other cognitive neuroscience tests that it can be seen affecting the brain in many ways. ADHD is a neurological childhood-onset disorder that is caused by certain neurons not firing enough, not being active enough, and neurotransmitters not being transported from neuron to neuron. Concentration, self-control, planning, concept of time, and social skills are often areas of weakness or vulnerabilities for folks with ADHD. Please follow the links below for more information and resources:

On knowing what is important…

Personal-Values-QuoteWhat do you want your tombstone to read? This question is often used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help people figure out what is truly important to them. So how do You want to be known and remembered? For me, its about being hard-working, caring, invigorating, resilient, creative, and competent. I aspire to make at the very least one person’s life more comfortable per year. I appreciate the chance I have to make a person breathe a little easier every day when I go to work. This makes me wake up with a smile pressed on my face. If a person is experiencing depression, especially an existential struggle to find meaning, it could be very helpful to try and understand what your values are and then trying to live in line with those values.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” –

Mahatma Gandhi