SMART goals

Goals are excellent for us to have.  Goals can guide us toward our future, toward changes we want to make, and toward accomplishments we wish to achieve.  Creating a SMART goal has five essential parts.

what is a smart goal?

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Reasonable or Realistic

T = Time-limited or Time-specific

For example, someone might have a goal to get a new job.  Without a reasonable plan, it might seem daunting and frustrating on a daily basis to think and dream about that new job, but not know where to start or have any progress toward it.

A “smart” goal sounds like this: “I will submit 1 job application each week, and accept all interviews offered even if only for the experience.”  Notice that the goal isn’t focused on the outcome of getting the job, but on the steps that are under your control.  The goal is specific in terms of the action, measurable (1 application per week), achievable based upon the time and energy available to do a job search, reasonable, and has a timeframe.

When you set goals for yourself, try using the acronym above to guide you toward setting goals that are SMART.  Good luck!

The path to recovery.

What does the path to recovery look like?  I like to conceptualize it as a process, not a destination.  During the course of treatment, it is anticipated that there may be times when progress is stalled, or even reversed as set-backs are faced and hurdles are numerous.  Ideally, we’d like to think of treatment as a steady progression toward the goal.  Yet that is not realistic.  Going a few steps backwards may be difficult and frustrating, yet it also can provide valuable learning and growth opportunities as long as you are still facing forward.  By facing forward, I mean that you are focused on getting better, improving your life, and achieving a better place for yourself.  It’s when you turn your back on trying to get to that better place that significant problems can arise.

There’s a quote by Vincent van Gogh that seems to speak to this lesson:

Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

Practice is Essential

It is likely that you have heard someone (perhaps a teacher or a parent) say Practice Makes Perfect!  And it is also likely that you may have rolled your eyes when you heard that for the tenth or one-hundredth time.  For the sake of an exercise, let’s focus not on making things “perfect” but on making them better.  One of the most effective means to make significant and long-lasting changes in life is to make repeated attempts at that change.  When you were younger, you didn’t learn how to ride a bike or jump rope by doing it once – – you learned how to master these fun skills by doing them repeatedly.  The reality is that practice is essential when we are interested in learning a new skill and having that skill become part of our life.  Take a look at what you are interested in learning at this point in your life, and see if you can carve away a little bit of time on a regular (weekly, if not daily) basis to practice . . . and then evaluate how far you have come over the course of a month!

Facing Bad Events

Bad things happen in life.  You may not have planned for it and you may not deserve it.  But bad things happen anyway.  Many moons ago, one of my heroes gave me the following advice: “You may not be able to choose what or when something bad happens to you, but you are definitely in charge of how you respond to it.”

Do you curl up in a ball, pull the bedsheets up over your head and try to ignore the world passing you by?  Do you drink yourself to oblivion in an attempt to forget?  Do you impulsively retaliate against someone to try to even out the bad news?

Or do you take a few deep breaths, talk with a trusted person, vent and strategize how best to proceed?  I am not suggesting that taking this approach is easy.  In contrast, it can be very difficult depending on the size of the bad event or the duration of a series of bad luck.  But after years of working with clients and helping them navigate the bad news in their lives (as well as handling bad news in my own life), I am confident that it is more favorable in the long run to be thoughtful and methodical about how to proceed – – whether it be by no action at all, or by careful evaluation of what to do next.  After all, if bad events are unavoidable, don’t we deserve to make them the least damaging to our lives?

Is Recovery a Destination or a Journey?

I’m regularly asked what recovery looks like, whether it be recovery from depression, an eating disorder, a loss such as a divorce or a death, or other experiences.  I’m not certain that I have the perfect answer, but here is how I think about recovery.  I view recovery as a journey, not a destination.  What I mean by that is that you don’t get to the point of not having any symptoms (of depression, grief, anxiety or an eating disorder) or returning to your normal baseline functioning without having worked very tediously to get there, and likely needing to continue to work to maintain those gains!  Thus, while there is a time to celebrate the achievement of abstinence from symptoms, it is not a time to stop doing what you have been doing.  Rather, keep doing those things that have helped you!

Psychotherapy = Science + Art


Effective psychotherapy is a science and an art. The scientific component comes using evidence-based practices that have been shown to be effective for the particular area of concern. The artistic part of psychotherapy is personalizing your psychotherapy to your past experiences, present situation, and available resources. Continue reading

My Approach to Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy is not easily described in general statements. It varies depending on the personalities of the psychologist and patient, and the particular problems you are experiencing. In order for the therapy to be most successful, you will have to work on things we talk about both during our sessions and outside of the office. Continue reading