Divorcing A Narcissist: How To Protect Yourself Now And In The Future

Posted on June 9, 2014

in the mirrorSomeone recently shared a story about a woman who discovered that, while she was expecting her second child, her husband was having an office romance or affair with his employee. She was later told by a trusted insider that her husband had gotten the other woman pregnant. This news followed the woman’s discovery that her husband had a history of soliciting prostitutes in addition to a gambling problem. After a year or more in couples therapy, her husband denied the event, continually telling the woman that she was “crazy and delusional.”  The man kept the office girl in his employ for obvious reasons. The wife felt justifiably depressed and hopeless about her future and lost hope that she would have a normal, happy family life. She had a friend who was a psychologist and suggested that, based on the behaviors that the woman described, her CEO husband may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. She was seeking advice on how to recover from this betrayal, protect herself and her children and plan for a future without her husband. She needed a smart and sane exit strategy. I’m not an attorney, just a therapist, but I can certainly offer help based on what I’ve learned along the way.

You may be in the process of ending a marriage, that sadly, you now realize was never healthy or even a real relationship. A review of the past may reveal that your role was to be an “extension of the other,” an “accessory,” a “shiny object” — which left you feeling lonely, “unseen” and empty. The sad reality is that your time has come to an end with this person, who you may have loved. The good news is that you can begin a new life, alone or with someone healthier, but as you develop a plan, you may need some real concrete strategies for a smart exit, as well as help understanding how and why you chose this person in the first place — and how not to fall into the same sticky trap.

So what happened? Perhaps you learned that your spouse was addicted to substances or behaviors — they gambled, had affairs, snorted coke and betrayed you in many ways. They put your health and safety at risk. You experienced shame and pain as a result of one or many spousal betrayals — the office romance with the marketing girl was real, even though you were made to feel “silly.” Narcissists have lots of needs (usually a result of wounds in childhood) and therefore have become adept at making sure these needs get met now, at any cost. Their deficits have given them skills that you (the non-narcissist) don’t have. The narcissist may have needed you to be a size invisible at all times. Your role (either implicit or explicitly agreed upon) was to run the home. You were expected to maintain a certain lifestyle for them or earn a high wage, and if you didn’t, you were berated and devalued, or neglected, ignored and replaced. You were expected to admire them, remain loyal, and if you failed at this, they found someone else all too willing to merge into the role that sustains them. The office girl may keep her role as a “self-object” for the narcissist, if she’s able to provide the necessary “narcissistic supplies.”  It is likely at some point that she too will fail him. Staying is risky. Depending on the level of pathology or desperation, the narcissist may engage in illegal activities if they have the opportunity, demanding collusion, putting you, or your children at risk. The decision to leave a narcissist can mean a bumpy ride ahead. Don’t gut it out alone.

I’m in therapy getting help, so why do I feel so alone you ask? Narcissists tend to refuse help because, well, they are fine, but they may want to change you (that’s one of many challenging defense mechanisms used by the narcissist). See traits at the bottom of this post. Sometimes if things really spin out of control, and their life is in complete shambles, they may seek help from a therapist or what they consider to be a non-pathologizing source like a pastor or rabbi. Don’t expect them to make amends to you directly, take responsibility or help you heal. You will likely need to do this work on your own. Sadly, narcissists often leave a path of destruction.

So what was your role in ending the relationship? You may have re-written the script for yourself (either on a conscious, unconscious or somewhere in-between level), you then ended (either slowly or abruptly) his or her narcissistic supply of goodies (the things you provided in the beginning that helped them maintain their them-ness).  He or she (the narcissist) began to devalue you and had little need for you, or replaced you with another who was more available and all too happy to bolster his or her fragile sense of self. In essence, you abdicated your role of helping the narcissist continue the facade of feeling shiny and whole. You’ve seen behind the mask of illusion. The emperor, is in fact, naked — and you can no longer maintain your loyal stance.

Now what — you’ve heard that leaving a narcissist can be tricky. It’s very easy to be taken in by narcissists and psychopaths, and some individuals have early family dynamics that make them more vulnerable to this relationship pairing. Truth is, as easy as it was to get in, it can be even more treacherous to get out.  You were hoodwinked once or many times — how do you now exit sanely, regain your dignity and protect yourself and your children from crazy, reckless behaviors that might occur during the separation and divorce and even more likely to continue into the future.

If they have some form of power, money or family fortune, things can get really messy fast. Family members are quick to protect the empire. Narcissists and psychopaths are entitled and they bully hard. They are known to say “sign this tomorrow or the deal goes away” and you may find yourself signing under duress. If you don’t know how to protect yourself, you may give up sentimental and valuable assets that you’ve acquired together such as collectables, memorabilia, art as well as your house, business, pension plans, retirement, stock options, brokerage accounts, professional licenses and so on — things that may have greater value in the future. Don’t gamble, be smart.  Read more about this from Forbes. Ask for help especially since you may not be operating at full capacity; you may also be traumatized and terrified. If it’s all too much and you just want out, that’s okay too. It may be worth it for you to cut your losses and get out of town. Just work to become clear about what you want for yourself. Freedom, healing, safety and justice are just a few words that come to mind. If you don’t have the chops to fight without going soft, be prepared for the fact that you may lose. Because for the narcissist, winning is everything. The point is to make conscious, smart decisions and if you are unable to assert or advocate for yourself, ask a trusted friend or relative to weigh in. So here is what you can expect from these divas of disaster and captains of the universe when you’re no longer on their team:

  • They don’t fight fair
  • They don’t play by the rules, because rules don’t apply to them
  • They don’t take responsibility for their destructive behavior
  • They manipulate
  • They have tunnel vision
  • They blame and rationalize
  • They keep secrets, lie, cheat and steal
  • Their illegal behavior may leave you exposed to becoming an accessory to crime(s)
  • They may resort to blackmail, extortion and other tactics
  • They lack empathy, guilt and a moral compass
  • They don’t care about you because you are of no use to them now
  • They may not have the capacity to invest in their own children
  • They may invest in their children until they feel disappointed by them
  • They will hurt you and aren’t concerned about what your children see or know
  • They reward their loyal following and will destroy those who go against them
  • They find ruthless, psychopathic attorneys to represent them
  • They gamble and take risks that can hurt you or your children
  • They may attempt to bribe your legal counsel, and sadly, judges are not immune to these unethical practices

Because he or she is the smartest person in the room and knows everything, you will be underestimated in terms of your smarts, skills and ability to take care of your needs. So, what should you do if you decide to leave?

  • Begin a plan of self care and make yourself and your children your priority
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases if they have been unfaithful or hired prostitutes
  • Stay strong and develop a good social and emotional network for support
  • Plan a smart, clear exit strategy
  • Go on the offensive
  • Hire a good forensic accountant if you have acquired assets together
  • Depose his affair partner if that applies, he or she may be in collusion, hiding assets or have other material knowledge of wrongdoing
  • Hire a good attorney (if you aren’t sure, include someone you trust who can help you evaluate this along the way because you may not be clear) and make sure they don’t collude or won’t be corrupted by his or her counsel
  • Understand what might be a personal or image concern for him or her during this process, such as fear of exposure i.e. fraud, gambling problem, addictions, affairs or has engaged in illegal activities
  • Whatever he or she offers, ask for more, because you never know what they have up their sleeve, have hidden or the future potential of any jointly acquired assets such as stock or stock options
  • Do not beg for mercy, apologize, appeal or explain how unfair it all is because this is too gratifying for them

One very important thing to remember is that narcissists are very concerned about appearances and want to be perceived as being a “good” person, so playing to that aspect of their personality may help protect you and your children. Saying things like “I know that you care about your children, so…” or ” I know that you want me to have a comfortable home so the kids can thrive and feel good” may be a smart, helpful tactic.  Can’t stomach any of this? At the end of the day, you have to do what works best for you, but be clear about your plan. If it is to make a clean break and get out of town, then do so. Should you decide to play the game and fight for what you feel you deserve then be in the game. You must be clear and sharp when divorcing someone with a character disorder. Finally, if things get ugly, they (the narcissist or psychopath) will need to understand that the cost of messing with you is simply too high. Otherwise, the behaviors will go on forever and ever.

Sounds harsh and ugly? It’s the brutal truth for too many and some endings are uglier than others. Decent, non-character disordered guys and gals don’t leave a path of destruction and wreckage. They do not inflict pain,  damage their ex or negatively impact the healthy development of their children. For the most part, they want their children to see the other parent treated with kindness, respect, honesty and fairness, even when it’s hard, during and after the process of divorce. Divorcing a narcissist or psychopath is not for sissies. Don’t be hoodwinked over and over again. Healing is hard, and you will likely be doing this alone because the narcissist doesn’t make amends. So don’t spend years waiting for them to help you heal emotionally — they don’t care and are on to the next conquest or deal. You also don’t want to end up hating yourself for not making better decisions in the first place, or have to seek justice later or spend years trying to revive yourself from your experiences with the “reckless” and “toxic.” Finally, find a good therapist to help you understand what past patterns led you to choose such a damaging and unfulfilling relationship.

My patients have found the book Splitting by Bill Eddy and Randi Kreger incredibly helpful as well as Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your LifeDisarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-AbsorbedThe Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and FamilyIn Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People and Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Diagnostic Criteria, American Psychiatric Association - An individual diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder needs to show at least 5 of the following criteria:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  • Requires excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Next up: Protecting your children when co-parenting with a narcissist.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman InstituteIf you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

Six Tips To Cope With An Empty Nest

Posted on June 9, 2014

empty nestEmpty nest. It sounds awful, and can feel just as bad if all roads lead to this unfamiliar place for you. Just as your children did not come with a help manual (and you needed one, right?), negotiating this time in your life can be really hard. Have you devoted your life to raising your children and neglected, or lost parts of yourself in the process? Like many women, raising children has been your sole (and soul) occupation, and one of the most important roles of your life. And when your only or last child goes off to college, it can feel like they’ve taken your life with them. The years you’ve devoted to raising children doesn’t leave much time for self-reflection, especially if you also had a job outside of the home. You and your partner or spouse may feel light years away from the couple you once were. Suddenly, with all this alone time, you are forced back into the role of being a “twosome” again, but what may be missing is the connection that you haven’t felt in a very long time. This becomes a time when parents need to redefine their roles and repopulate their lives with meaningful passions and even a new focus. It’s not uncommon to experience empty nest syndrome after their youngest child leaves home — you feel lost, and without your familiar identity.  The rate of divorce tends to rise at this time as couples find themselves detached and without the skills needed to reconnect to an earlier time of attachment, intimacy and togetherness.

It’s not just couples who struggle with loneliness and emptiness when their children leave home, single parents are especially vulnerable to experiencing a void during this period. Adjusting to “losing your children to their own lives” can take time and a little work to close the wound and begin to heal. It’s not unusual for parents to sink into depression, sadness and sense of loss when children leave home. While adjusting, good friends, a supportive network and even a therapist can help sad parents grieve this challenging time and develop ways to cope. Here are six tips to help ease the transition from the life you once knew to the life you hope to have:

  • Give in to the sadness -  Many find it helpful to indulge the sadness, “wallow” if you will, until you are tired of crying, and ready to get on with your life. The key, however, is to put a box around this period of “indulging the pain,” release some grief, then be done with it, mostly. It is grief, plain and simple — the loss of your former life needs to be processed. With time, you should begin to feel more hopeful and have a sense that you will have a different and hopefully satisfying life ahead of you. It’s also a time when many parents think about all the things they meant to do or teach their kids along the way. Write these things down if that helps. Many young adults are open to having a different kind of relationship with parents as they mature. This is a nice time to finish whatever feels incomplete with your children and give them guidance they still need into their twenties and beyond.
  • Rest, love yourself and do self-care - rest if you need to. It’s a big and all-consuming process getting your kids ready and off to college. Adrenaline and the busy days have gotten you through the preparation and packing phases. As your child settles in to their new experience (and they likely will have their own mixed-bag of emotions), the exhaustion may hit you. Do whatever you think will help you through this period: nap, do restorative yoga, read books, go on a retreat, visit a day spa, get a couples massage, garden, and so on. Relax and reward yourself. When you’re ready, develop a plan of action for becoming active again.
  • Reconnect with people – your children and their activities probably represented the largest portion of your day and even your social life, whether single or married. Reconnect with old friends and make some new friends. If you’re single join a support group, especially if emotional problems, loneliness or depression is an issue. If you feel ready, consider seeking out other singles and reentering the dating scene.
  • Rediscover old hobbies and reinvest in your career - what did you used to do when you had more time to yourself? What types of activities did you and your spouse do together before the kids? Try to add some of these things back into your life in an effort to fill the void.  Create a book club, watch films, start a group with other parents, take interesting photographs or do whatever moves you. I have a friend who started a collage business. She’s very happy, and busy! This is an excellent time to reinvest in your career and figure out what resources available to you. What would your ideal job situation look like if you could do anything? Do an inventory of your skills, personal traits, knowledge and past achievements and work on your networking and Linkedin profile. This can be a real self-esteem booster. If you haven’t worked in years, hire a career counselor or a skill-building life coach.
  • Exercise – feeling sad for extended periods of time is no way to live, and hard on the body. We know that exercise releases endorphins and can improve your mood. If doing this at home feels lonely and isolating, join a gym either alone or with your partner — you can feel healthier and bond at the same time. When you’re too depressed to exercise (as in, you can’t get your shoes tied), start with very small steps. Practice just putting the sneakers on without the intention of exercising or move around the house barefoot. Find your workout “costume” and see if that inspires you a bit. Baby steps – 5-10 minutes of body movement. My clients love rebounders because they’re fun and put some play back in your life.
  • Remember your dreams – besides having children, what did you long for before the kids? Did you have dreams, and what were they like then? Are some of them possible now or can you create new ones? Could you use this time to finish college or go to graduate school? Did your dreams of learning Italian fall away? It’s never to late to learn a romance language. This may be a good time to volunteer in your community or start a small business. Revisiting the dreams and activities you once had not only keeps idle hands and minds busy, but also provides a deep sense of personal enrichment and builds hope.

If after a period of time (it’s different for everyone, but people will start poking you!), you find yourself still struggling and feeling stuck, find a professional to speak with about how to grieve and get on with your life. Talking with a psychotherapist or psychologist who has experience with loss and change is one of the best ways to find your footing through this difficult life transition. If you are still married, bring your spouse along to sessions so that you can work through the difficult, complicated emotions. It’s important to learn to work together and support each other during this time (think teamwork). One of you may appear to be doing better than the other, but your partner may be suffering too — it just may look different. Men and women tend to handle change and loss in different ways.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

When A Loved One Is Addicted

Posted on June 9, 2014

Business concept of a message in a bottle "support"Dear Kimberly,

I am writing to ask for help about my son who is using marijuana heavily in college and it is ruining his life. He has dropped out of school and is not motivated for friends or anything else that he used to enjoy. His personality is completely different and he refuses to come home for the summer. His dad and I feel hopeless with him being so far away.  I know that I am not helping by giving him money every time he asks for something, as my brother keeps telling me that I need to stop this. We cannot continue to keep paying for this bad life that he is leading because of drugs. Can you recommend a treatment center for marijuana abuse and how can we get this started. We keep getting weak and he yells and hangs up the phone on me when I try to talk to him. I’m so desperate, can’t sleep and cry all the time. I’m a complete mess.

Thanks for any help, SK (parent in Westchester NY)

Sometimes parents are in the tough, and also ideal position of having the leverage and resources to intervene. In response to this mom, I agree that they can not continue to support his habit, pay his rent, etc., and that mom needed to take care of herself and make her own health a priority, otherwise she will be of little help to anyone. Mom made a plan to take better care of herself by returning to exercise and yoga, finding a support group and therapist and she also decided to ask her doctor for short-term medication so that she can sleep again, which will help her cope better. I learned in the phone consultation that her brother has a good relationship with the boy and may be a good resource for them.

Parents and loved ones often feel shame and get blamed and pained in the addiction community for “enabling” behaviors, which are really done out of love, sheer terror and other complicated reasons — but not helpful for the user. Learning the difference between helpful, supportive behaviors and efforts that reinforce the problem is a crucial educational piece in the process of helping someone recover. The hardest thing to have to do is cut-off funds for substance abusers in an effort to protect them and reel them in. This bold move of using that as leverage is not for sissies. But we know that the use of therapeutic leverage or pressure, can be a very effective tool to get someone into treatment and help them remain compliant with the recommendations of their rehab or treatment team. Using therapeutic leverage may include limiting access to funds, but may also involve using things the addicted person values, such as relationships, activities, employment or other resources. The fundamental concept is about using external motivation for period of time until an individual develops their own internal motivation to turn their lives around. That goal often happens with a sustained period of abstinence and the discovery that life is better without the habit.

In the same way that someone with a medical disease needs resourced, informed and supportive people to take charge of the situation and run the show, the person in the grip of an addiction, needs the same smart help. It might mean trying something different — no more desperate pleads — but something really different and aimed at making treatment feel like the only solution. It’s also important to be prepared for step two, which is having a good treatment center, rehab or detox facility researched and prepared for his or her entrance.

This article might be helpful for anyone concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse or behavioral addiction. The Horror of Addiction: When it becomes personal by Heather Edwards, published by Mark Banschick, M.D. in Psychology Today provides helpful information about denial, confronting the problem, enabling behaviors, types of treatment and support for family members. One addition resource that many find helpful is a book called Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening by Robert J. Meyers and Brenda L. Wolfe. It offers help for the trickiest part of the matter which is often getting through to someone and suggests techniques to make treatment more attractive to the substance user called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT). This alternative method to confrontation uses evidence-based behavioral principles to reduce substance use in the individual and increase motivation, with the goal of getting them engaged in treatment. Additionally, this book focuses on concerned significant others or (CSO’s) and addresses their need for support and self-care by providing solutions to reduce stress and increase or restore the once meaningful activities back to their lives. Behavior therapy or positive reinforcement is used in the book as well as an alternative to just “letting go” which is offered by important to many support groups like Al-Anon. In my opinion, the before mentioned approach leaves concerned others feeling helpless, whereas the CRAFT approach offers CSO’s an active and more engaged process, which in the end, may be more helpful. Learn more about CRAFT (it’s a good read!), and even though it mostly targets alcoholism, the approach can be used for other addictions and problem behaviors.

I enjoy working and supporting people in all stages of recovery as well as family members struggling with the stress of addiction that hits home. Helping them move from a place of powerlessness and helplessness to success and empowerment. I support the recovery process by using EMDR therapy, relaxation techniques, DBT skills and Mindfulness approaches.

Additional resources (and they are all different): SMART Recovery, CRAFT, AA, Al-Anon & Alateen 

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

About Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment & Therapy

Posted on June 8, 2014

Customize Key on Grunge Typewriter.Co-occurring disorders or COD refers to mental health problems that are combined with alcohol or substance abuse. The addiction or substance use aspect is often used to self-medicate a mental health issue such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, Asperger’s, PTSD and personality disorders. Common examples of COD’s include alcohol addiction with panic disorder, poly-substance use with schizophrenia and personality disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD and major depression or Bipolar disorder with cocaine abuse. It’s not uncommon for individuals to have more than two disorders such as anxiety and depression. More than half of all adults with mental illness are further impaired by substance use disorders either abuse or dependence related to their drug and alcohol use.

The mental health issues may vary in terms of chronicity, severity and the degree of impairment in functioning. When more than one psychiatric disorder exists, both may be mild or severe and one may be more severe than the other. Thus, there is no single combination of co-occurring disorders. However, patients with similar combinations are often encountered in certain treatment settings. A treatment approach that addresses both the substance abuse or addiction and the mental health issue is necessary.  Neglecting one, while treating the other, often worsens either the psychiatric issue or the substance abuse. Unfortunately, treatment often focuses on just the addiction — labeling individuals as “addicts,” can be unhelpful and stigmatizing, neglecting the underlying mental health problem that the individual attempts to solve through his or her alcohol and drug use. One example is an individual who suffered trauma or abuse and attempts to manage his or her emotional pain with poly-drug use (the combination of two or more drugs). There must be a willingness on the part of the clinician or treatment team and patient to address the underlying mental health issue and the addiction, either through harm reduction or abstinence.  Treatment takes hard work and commitment and can be successful when the patient receives support from friends, family and community support from a twelve-step program such as AA or NA, or alternative program such as SMART Recovery. Ongoing individual psychotherapy that may include EMDR, SE or other treatments for difficulties related to trauma and group therapy which utilizes CBT and DBT skills is an effective strategy for recovery.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedinGoogle+Instagram and  Pinterest

 

The To-Do List Guaranteed To Make You Unhappy

Posted on June 8, 2014

Happy life ahead concept with a green highway sign“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.” ~Edith Wharton

While reading this thoughtful article from Lifehacks, I was reminded of how much pride we take in our daily to-do lists and particularly, the emphasis our culture puts on productivity. Busy and efficient people we are, but would we be happier if we made a habit of practicing the not-to-do list more regularly?  Everyone has some kind of idea about how to find bliss and happiness — 5 tips, 10 tips, and so on (I’m guilty of this!) — it makes you wonder if all the positive, happy speak has an unintended consequence and is leaving us feeling defeated and in a place of despair. Is the struggle to be happy bringing us all down?  If any of this resonates for you, then perhaps you may find some wisdom in this “working backwards” approach.  The post suggests that tallying up how much we actually do in our daily lives that makes us “unhappy” is a place to start. My personal favorites are: 3, 4, 5 & 7. Find your own (and you may even think of more to add!). happy not happyOnce you tally up, then the task may be to figure out how these behaviors serve you and why you need them. That is a goal of therapy for many–to get to the root of misery and find ways to change. For those of you who want to try a different way to understand and manage your life, research radical acceptance, which is an important aspect of DBT therapy. I found these passages in my DBT workbook late one night while doing some research:

“Radical acceptance means that you accept something completely, without judging it. For example, radically accepting the present moment means that you don’t fight it, get angry at it, or try to change it into something that it’s not. To radically accept the present moment means that you must acknowledge that the present moment is what it is due to a long chain of events and decisions made by you and other people in the past. The present moment never spontaneously leaps into existence without being caused by events that have already taken place…”

“…it also creates an opportunity to respond to that situation in a new way that’s less painful for yourself and others. In many ways, radical acceptance is like the Serenity Prayer, which says: ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’”

…inhale, exhale. Pause.

Some helpful psychotherapy techniques to address depression and anxiety with your therapist are: Cognitive Therapy for depression; CBT to change behaviors; Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT to understand, regulate emotions, communicate effectively and learn more adaptive coping skills; Mindfulness and (ACT) Acceptance Commitment Therapy to radically accept “what is” in your life and Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy to dig around in the unconscious should you care to. Please enjoy… Ten Recipes For Guaranteed Unhappiness - Lifehacks – Medium and check out the book  Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook available on Amazon, in print or for your Kindle, by authors Matthew McKay, Jeffrey Brantley and Jeffrey Wood.

Practice acceptance, try compassion and change what you can. Take care, KS

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

Coping Tips: Create Your Own Toolbox

Posted on June 8, 2014

valigia al mercato delle pulciFeeling overwhelmed with strong feelings and emotions — it all feels so big sometimes — and you feel powerless! What would you need to help you cope better? Many of the strategies that you’ve been using to cope with life’s challenges either are not working or are creating bigger problems for you (e.g. self-injury, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse). Perhaps now you’ve reached a point where you’re motivated to change things. How does change happen? I always emphasize taking “small steps towards change with a focus on progress over perfection” as a sustainable goal. Everyone is different — a solution or alternative coping mechanism that works well for one may not be as helpful for someone else. I encourage you to create your own “coping toolbox” that you can personalize with cues, tips and messages that you’ll understand when you feel triggered or are in a crisis. It can be a small go-to bag or box of your own design filled with ready for you, self-soothing objects and reminders.  For the bad moments (and days), I offer you some helpful tips from my own therapy toolbox that I’ve crafted to use with patients. These suggestions come from my DBT training, my experience as a therapist and my patients who have graciously shared their own valuable ways of managing negative emotions and behaviors.

If you’ve tried “urge surfing” and riding the wave of emotion (very helpful for addictions and compulsions) or “swatting things away” with little relief. Try these suggestions for turning negative emotions into positive ones:

Self-soothing and the five senses, what does that mean? Many have not learned to do this, nor do they have a “data bank” for calming down when distressed. (usually this capacity comes from internalizing this from early caretakers). Instead of reading or taking up a hobby, some turn to drugs, alcohol or other self-destructive ways to regulate intense emotions. Learning to self-soothe is about finding healthier ways to calm down. Instead of your usual, harmful self-soothing mechanisms, try something different (I know this is not easy). Here are some helpful replacements using the five senses:

  • Scent – essential oils, perfume, incense
  • Sound – music, meditation bells, a relaxation recording, using a mantra, singing
  • Taste – candy, or something creamy, sweet, crunchy or whatever sensation you may like
  • Touch – stress balls, stuffed toys, a crystal or rock, hot water bottle, something textured, warm, or cold like ice, feel the earth beneath your feet
  • See – something pretty and visually stimulating to look at like a piece of art, post cards, jewelry, antique lace, flowers, leaves, ornaments or other sentimental objects that bring a sense of safety and calm

Mindfulness and relaxation, what can I do?keep-calm-and-use-coping-skills-2

  • Labyrinth (walking or touch)
  • Visualization
  • Walking meditation
  • Guided imagery recordings
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Body scan
  • Knitting, needlepoint and crochet

Emotional awareness and distress tolerance what helps with this and how do I know what I need? First, getting better at identifying emotions is key. When you don’t know what you’re feeling, chaos reigns, and people tend to use avoidance (shutting down, freezing, running away) or turn to drugs to self-medicate or other dangerous activities to manage these emotions. Once you get better at identifying emotions such as sadness, fear and anger, learning to track and monitor emotions frees you up to try healthier responses when triggered. Remember that distraction is about learning to accept and tolerate  the tough moments as opposed to trying to avoid distress. After your distress has subsided, it is important to explore what triggered you and notice other ways you could have managed that experience of distress. Small steps are always awesome here!

  • Print-outs or a magnet with various emotions as faces if you’re having trouble identifying what you’re feeling
  • Crayons and paint for drawing about current feelings and emotions
  • Journaling and writing  (you can look at this later, or not)

Emotion regulation and distraction skills, what can I do when everything sucks and I feel like crap?

  • Create and decorate a personalized box or bag just for this purpose
  • Play a card game like Solitaire
  • Doodle
  • Scrapbooking
  • Collage making
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Use an app that is puzzle-like or otherwise engaging
  • Play an instrument
  • Listen to music
  • Organize your playlist of movies and music
  • Cook something
  • Take a warm bath
  • Garden or play outside
  • Put something together
  • Organize a closet
  • Fix yourself up
  • Plan a getaway
  • Go outside and get some sunshine
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Create your own blog
  • Develop a plan for the future
  • Watch a movie (non-triggering)
  • Watch sports
  • Talk with a friend
  • Help a friend
  • Remember good times
  • Think about loving people in your life
  • Plan something
  • Learn to meditate (lots of apps for that)
  • Try guided imagery (imagine that you’re in a beautiful garden of your own making or on a serene lake)
  • Take a walk
  • Play with an animal
  • Exercise or do yoga
  • Bounce a ball
  • Play basketball
  • kickboxing
  • Dance

Opposite-to-Emotion Action, which helps counteract distressing emotions with actions that are the opposite of what you usually do, such as:

  • When I feel lethargy I want to stay in bed – try realistic, not-too-stressful things you can do to counter this such as tidying up, finish a task, going out for a coffee and see if your energy changes
  • When I feel depressed everything feels hopeless – change your thoughts and behaviors (which can change your emotions), so try cultivating gratitude for the good things in your life and challenge any cognitive distortions that may be feeding the depression by asking “are things really that bad, and how can I make things better?”
  • When I want to avoid people and isolate – think of someone you can call who you’ve had positive experiences with in the past, then make a list of things to talk about if that helps you
  • When I feel disappointed – become mindful of this and how quickly it can move to “nothing ever works out for me” — is this perception really true? Are your expectations of yourself and others realistic, or harsh, demanding and perfectionistic? How can you develop kindness towards yourself, even and especially, if you were never treated this way in the past and feel you are undeserving?
  • When I am afraid of failing – make a list of all the ways that you are actually competent and challenge any cognitive distortions that you may have around your fear of failing or making a mistake.
  • When I feel angry – cultivate some calm and acceptance about your anger. Whatever you normally do, try the opposite action, so instead of shutting down when you feel angry try communicating something effectively or try walking away if you tend to stay as things escalate.

What would you add to your own personal toolbox? Send me an email and share your tips for coping with difficult feelings. You can also visit DBTselfhelp.com for more information about DBT skills and enhancing the quality of your life.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

Relationships: Building A Strong Foundation

Posted on June 8, 2014

I love this quote to the left. It just makes so much sense doesn’t it? (It’s available on a tee shirt by the way in case you and your honey needs the occasional reminder, it’s also a good mantra!) If you’ve landed on this page, perhaps you’re interested in having more in your relationship than just good communication and conflict resolution. You want something solid — even juicy — a relationship that keeps you engaged and in growth and awe. Having a lasting, satisfying marriage requires a bit more work than just learning to communicate and manage conflict. The majority of couples therapies focus on the “conflict system” vs the “friendship system,” the latter is the building block for passion, intimacy and great sex. Friendship system — yes, new concept perhaps — but it makes sense on so many levels doesn’t it? But how well do you know your partner, and are you really friends (not talking roommates here)? Not that it’s not important to help couples manage problems and resolve differences, but having a marriage that thrives and continues to build involves strengthening the foundation of the relationship.  This includes helping couples create shared purpose as they build their lives together. With a focus only on conflict and communication, couples tend to terminate therapy without the other very important goodies and learned skills that are likely to make the relationship stronger. You must, absolutely must, make deposits in the relationship bank on a regular basis.

John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute have researched not only troubled relationships but also successful relationships. This is an important aspect of relationship research and Dr. Gottman has published nearly 200 academic articles and authored or co-authored 40 books on relationships. As a psychotherapist who enjoys coaching and working with couples, I’ve found Gottman’s therapeutic approach to be rigorous, comprehensive and really, really wise.  Working with a therapist who has trained in the Gottman Method means that you learn to break through barriers to achieve connection, intimacy and a greater understanding of their partners needs. You will get to know your partner in ways that you never imagined. Intervention strategies are based on empirical data from research with more than 3,000 couples. So what can a motivated couple expect to learn in relationship counseling?

  • Break throughs and conflict management when partners feel stuck
  • Learn to understand your partner’s needs
  • Keep conflict discussions calm and focused
  • Increase respect, affection, and closeness
  • Create shared meaning

What we’ve learned about successful partnerships is that in order for a relationship to last, couples must learn to manage conflict, become better friends and really important here, create ways to support each other’s hopes for the future. I’ve enjoyed using the “Sound Relationship House” or the seven components of healthy partnerships to provide a roadmap for guiding couples to success. Early in our work together, we will assess each of these seven areas of your relationship. From there, we can develop a treatment plan what will address your unique needs. Using questionnaires and specific interventions, positive change can begin very early in our work together.

So what actually happens when you work with a therapist who applies Gottman interventions? If you are both motivated and have the shared goal to work towards a stronger, more satisfying coupleship, I will help you visualize building a sound relationship house from the ground up. Learn to…

  • Build Love Maps – I love this aspect of the sound relationship house. What do you know about your partner’s inner psychological world, his or her history as well as stresses, worries, desires and hopes for the future?
  • Share Fondness and Admiration – This becomes the antidote for resentment and contempt with a focus on strengthening fondness and admirations and learn to express appreciation and respect.
  • Turn Towards Instead of Away –  Learn to identify and state your needs as well as notice efforts (sometimes small) towards connection by your partner that you may often miss. Learn to turn towards those bids for connection.
  • The Positive Perspective –  This includes a positive approach to problem-solving and learning to make successful attempts at repair. People often don’t know how to repair things.
  • Manage Conflict – Relationship conflict is natural, has positive aspects and is functional. Learning to manage conflict is key.
  • Make Life Dreams Come True – Learn to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her values, beliefs, convictions, hopes, dreams and aspirations.
  • Create Shared Meaning – Lear about “rituals of connection” that strengthen your union with activities and rituals that you both look forward to.  What are some important narratives, visions and metaphors as well as myths about your relationship?

Explore The Gottman Institute to learn more about creating the relationship you desire.

Dr. John Gottman, author of  including the best-selling The Relationship Cure, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage WorkWhy Marriages Succeed or Fail, and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. He is perhaps best known for founding the “Love” lab (the Family Research Laboratory) at the University of Washington to study what makes relationships succeed or fail. Please contact me if you are interested in couples therapy and relationship building. The Gottman Method is also ideal for young couples just starting and pre-marital sessions.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+<

Releasing Into Play And Joy

Posted on June 8, 2014

Close up of pink sneakers worn by a teenager.Help! Your inner child is screaming for you to come and get him or her. What are you waiting for? You’re too busy, yes, I’ve heard that before. But don’t wait for one of life’s wake-up calls to remind you to live. It’s a now or never thing. You don’t want to look back a decade from now and say “I regret not…”

We look but do we always see? We have many responsibilities in our daily lives, but to ignore the beauty in the moment, and to deny our senses pleasure and curiosity is a cruel blow to the soul. Every cell in your being screams for joy –- the question is, can you allow yourself to have it? You eat foods that nourish your body, you exercise to maintain your strength and health, but how are you gifting your spirit? I have a particularly fond memory of working with a dying cancer patient. The purity of her words really hit home for me. In a therapy session, she wanted to meditate and as she opened her eyes, and with astonishing clarity and absolute knowing, she said “every moment is perfect.”  My client knew this truth, and yet we allow our very real and often messy problems of life interfere with our ability to “see” the truth and beauty that is abundant – everywhere – in the smallest of moments and places. If you, like many, have your stuff, and your money, and all the trappings of this material world, but still feel a sinking emptiness — there is a way to help yourself!  If you are mired in the problems of daily life and feel hopeless, you too can find some pleasure – if you allow yourself this gift to the soul. Wake up. How, you may ask? I’ve included some nudges towards joy in this post that may inspire you to seek more play and beauty in the moment, consciously. We are, after all, pleasure-seeking creatures. Discover what really moves you. Find and share yourself! Here’s how:

  • Play - We must take time to fool around, be silly, have fun. We did this as kids why must we give this up?  Find your best childhood moments and surround yourself with people who have a similar playful spirit. Using your imagination even as we get older continues to create new neural pathways. Neural connections are good, brain atrophy, not so good! Your inner child is asking you to join him or her. Play jacks, fingerpaint, make sand angels, do whatever makes your heart sing. Let go.
  • Journaling - The act of recording moments of happiness and gratitude has been shown to enhance the joy factor for many people. What are you grateful for? Recording these moments enhances the experience and makes us better able to pay attention to even more potentially happy moments in the future. Who wouldn’t want to add-in more happiness. The art of journaling about what brings us joy shows us that even simple moments — like the sun streaming in the window on a still dewy day — can trump what we think are the “big” ones. Capture the moments and try gratitude journaling every day.
  • Master a new skill - Frustrating as this may be, learning a new skill makes us happier in the long run. It gives us a sense of mastery and accomplishment which boosts self-esteem. Learning  something new, and the novelty of that experience excites neural pleasure pathways, increasing that feel good dopamine chemical.  Our brain loves neurotransmitters in abundance!
  • Stuff doesn’t make us happy - However investing in new experiences may. We grow tired of our material possessions and they can always be replaced with newer, shinier objects. However, a positive experience remains as good as your memory and has staying power.
  • Nurture with nature - Feel the earth, wiggle your toes, touch the air and grass beneath your feet, breathe the air, sit near water, find the sun, move against the wind, watch the movement of leaves on the trees and study the insects as they busy themselves. Be curious. It’s really quite fun and informative!
  • Discover scent and aromatherapy - Aromatics could be nature’s prozac. Lavender and orange oil reduces stress responses in the nervous system because of a chemical called linalool which alters blood chemistry. I love Young Living Oils and am a Mountain Rose Herb fan. You can research for yourself the many ways that essential oils can nourish your mind and body.
  • Discover the wonders of your body - If you are of able body and have the will,  strengthen your body. I love the practice of yoga now, but do remember the first ten times or so cursing my way through asanas. Now I have not only great respect for the breathing, meditation, purifying and alignment aspects of yoga but I am kick-ass strong. Don’t mess with me! If yoga is not your thing, try kickboxing, strength training, whatever – just move and get strong. Give your body what it needs. Feel your way through it. Gift your body with the awe it deserves
  • Kindness - Practice this. Neuroscientists show that the frontal lobe lights up when we feel and express compassion and kindness. As well, Oxytocin, the hormone that flows when we hug, kiss and feel connected, calms stress and enhances immune function. Touch is an amazing way to ignite compassion in yourself and others. Check out “loving kindness” meditation where we focus on kind thoughts while meditating. Touch someone today!
  • Practice good will and give some stuff away - Give up things that you no longer need. The art of decluttering your life and giving to others feels good. Both aspects of cleansing and nurturing can be healing.
  • A Quick walk to ease tension - I always tell my clients that less can be more, and certainly better than nothing, especially when you’re in a funky little rut.  A small amount of something, such as a ten minute walk, can do wonders to lift the spirit and make it possible for joy to find you. Give up the all or nothing way of thinking — you know — if it’s not an hour-long power walk, it doesn’t count. Faulty thinking.
  • Hire a life coach - Many have success using the help and skill of an expertly trained life coach to help and support with any interference, negative self-talk, resistance. The process gives you accountability, as well as a general kick in the butt during tough times. Changing beliefs, habits and past conditioning as well as moving out of one’s comfort zone is very difficult.  Partnering with a trusted friend, partner or life coach can jump-start you into taking action. Coaching can ask the tough questions that help you find your own answers and brilliance as to why joy, success and movement seems to slip through your fingers!
  • Make  joy-finding a priority - Many of my clients are “joy” deprived — seriously joy-avoidant or feel that they don’t deserve to be happy. Does this old theme or narrative sound familiar?  I often hear “well, if I don’t take things seriously, be vigilant, and toil away, then who will” I then say “that must be such a burden for you!”  Our notion that hyper-vigilance keeps the boat afloat often doesn’t ring true. Things happen whether we stand guard or not. I’m not advocating becoming irresponsible, just lighten your load. Were you raised in a “pro struggle, anti-pleasure environment?”  What do you lose if you give up suffering? Suffering is not virtuous. It’s painful. Say goodbye to your family legacy of “anti joy.” You can learn to let in some light and life, and make room for happiness. The details might just be in the small joys that you encounter when you give yourself permission to see, love, feel, touch and experience. Small steps.

Watch less TV, spend more time with people who bring you joy, get more sleep, clean your house less, play more, sing, dance, write — create your own list of joy-making activities.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

Letting Go

Posted on June 7, 2014

textured music tapesIn my work with couples and helping them build stronger relationships, I’ve noticed that partners often get stuck in repetitive argument and conflict patterns — they visit and revisit the problem, over and over — and it can be difficult to ever reach agreement. What actually helps? Shift your focus back to the relationship and on experiencing fun and pleasure again. Increase positive emotions, build shared meaning, do nice things for your partner and generally make deposits into the “love bank.”  With more goodies on deposit, your foundation will be strong and you will both experience personal and relationship resilience. You might notice that the things you were so focused on resolving don’t seem to matter as much. Sometimes it’s more important to return to what’s good in your relationship and leave the conflict behind. Not that issues should be swept under the rug, it’s just gaining some perspective — some things really don’t matter all that much. Pick and choose your battles. Learning to let some things go is a useful skill. Should you decide to resolve the problem, stick with your own experience and what you are feeling rather than blaming and shaming tactics — that is, of course, if you want to be heard.

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype. If schedules are a problem, couples therapy online is an option for many.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

Couples therapist and relationship counseling online via Skype or google international relationship coaching 

ADHD & Executive Functioning Explained

Posted on June 6, 2014

Retro and Vintage Frightened and Scared Girl ScreamingIf you or a loved one has recently received a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD,  the terms executive functions (EF) or executive functioning deficit may have also surfaced in the conversation. What? If you didn’t understand this term (and who would?), talk with your doctor, psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist about what this actually means, and how executive functioning may be compromised in individuals with ADHD. The YouTube video (all the way down, at the bottom of this post) offers a clear explanation of executive functioning. It’s helpful to have examples and an understanding of how this problem may show up for you or someone you love in your everyday life, whether you’re a child, adolescent or adult diagnosed with ADHD. This article in Scientific American explains how working with a therapist who practices evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT may yield long-term benefits, providing strategies to improve social skills, reduce impulsivity and develop and reinforce positive habits that last. Some individuals find it helpful to work with an expert ADD coach who can help them manage the many aspects of their lives. Parents are reluctant to have their child diagnosed for plenty of good reasons. I get that. However, left untreated, kids with ADD & ADHD are vulnerable to having long-term self-esteem difficulties as well as the potential to abuse substances. Imagine what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, stupid, checked out, revved-up, crazy or as one young adult shared with me recently, “everybody screamed at me all the time, it would have been helpful to have a name for my problem. My friends all got prescriptions for performance enhancement to take the SAT’s, I just wanted to stay awake and focus during the test.” For at-risk kids and adolescents, it really is better to know sooner rather than later. In my opinion, medications such as Ritalin and Adderall are over-prescribed in this country (we now have an epidemic of abuse and addiction). That said, I feel that medication (both stimulant and non-stimulant) is indicated for some and could prove to be life-transforming. Russell Barkley, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, is a leading expert on ADHD and the editor of the bimonthly ADHD Report. To learn more about Dr. Barkley and ADHD go to russellbarkley.org.

Click here for more information on kids with ADHD and disrupted executive function from childmind.org.

Practice acceptance, try compassion and change what you can. Take care, KS

Kimberly Seelbrede is a New York City PsychotherapistConsultantEMDR Therapist and Life Coach who specializes in an integrative approach to psychotherapy and coaching, working with adults, adolescents and couples. Kimberly is trained to collaborate with you in developing the insight, self-awareness and coping skills to address many concerns including: relationship, marital difficulties and interpersonal issues, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, obsessions, phobias, self-esteem, self-harm, ADD/ADHD, social difficulties, adolescent challenges, underachievement, perfectionism, identity and sexuality concerns, addictions, compulsions, PTSD, trauma, transitions, bereavement/loss, performance problems, life balance, stress reduction, self-care, women’s issues, purpose, spirituality, recovery support and meditation and mindfulness training. Kimberly specializes in working with high-profile, creative and talented individuals as well as issues unique to successful women. Please email to arrange a consultation in her Manhattan office or inquire about remote/distance sessions using Skype.

Kimberly completed her graduate studies at New York University and has advanced post-graduate psychotherapy certificates from New York University in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and has also received advanced EMDRIA approved EMDR training for trauma resolution as well as specialized training in BrainspottingCognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBTAcceptance and Commitment Therapy ACT,  Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT Therapy,  MindfulnessNon-Violent Communication (NVC) and studied Life Coaching with ILCT. In her work with couples, she applies the principles of Emotionally Focused Therapy EFT and her relationship training from The Gottman Institute. If you’re a social media enthusiast, you can find Kim Seelbrede on TwitterFacebookLinkedin,Google+Instagram and  Pinterest

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