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52 posts categorized "Therapy"


Learning to Live in Recovery

According to the Transtheoretical (Stages of Change) Model developed by Prochaska and DiClemente, once someone has passed through the active stage of recovery they enter a maintenance phase. As I wrote about in 2009, a big area of focus in this stage is on how to prevent relapse.

But there has to be more to life than just the absence of your eating disorder. Otherwise it's still controlling you and your life. I encourage people to learn how to live in recovery, to build a life where you're dealing with the realities of preventing relapse, but also open to new discoveries and growth beyond what you've ever imagined for yourself.

The truth is that the stages of change and recovery are fluid, and you will move back and forth between them. Part of the challenge is that life will continue to throw stressors and unpredictable things at you – the difference is that now you're not using food or eating behaviors to deal with them. That may seem scary, but it's actually really great.

Imagine just how proud you'll feel the first time get through a tough time on your own – without the old crutches that you used to use. It doesn't mean you're doing it alone, it means you're reaching out for help in a healthy way, from healthy people, and you're receiving and using that help.

Living in recovery requires a totally different way of being. At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we talk about this with our clients right from the beginning, so they can practice the tools they can tap into later. Otherwise, they may not know how to handle it when, let's say, people stop noticing or commenting on their new healthy body weight, or when it's time to replace their mealtime habits of calorie counting or deprivation.

We pride ourselves on equipping our clients with the tools, confidence and self-assurance to be strong in their recovery, and to be aware of potential issues so they can talk about them instead of reaching for old, unhealthy behaviors. We remind them, "This too shall pass," and it always does!

Life in recovery brings the chance to develop healthy relationships with food, with your body, with yourself, and with others. When you're using food behaviors, if you have a problem, then automatically you have two problems. In recovery, when you have a problem, you have one problem, and infinite tools and resources to solve it. That is true freedom.

At the White Picket Fence Counseling, we will be continuing our series of Recovery Stories in the Living Room events, where clients share about their journey to recovery. We're looking for volunteer speakers for this series. Please contact us today if you would you like to share your story. We'll also be doing some specialized workshops on this topic, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, watch the blog and newsletter for additional articles about tools, resources and relationship guidance for the recovery stage.


Accepting Compassion is Not Always Easy

For people who are recovering from an eating disorder, compassionate support from others can be unsettling. You may not know how to receive that support, and you may not feel like you deserve it.

Have you ever heard the expression that "we teach people how to treat us"? What happens in this case is that this discomfort can lead you to send out the message that you want to be left alone – and then you will be.

The first step in practicing receiving compassion is to clarify what help you need. Do you need someone to keep you company while you eat a meal? Do you need to talk about something that's bothering you? Or do you need to forget about something that's bothering you by getting out and doing something fun?

Once you have an idea of what you might need, it's time to ask. Before you think about asking specific people, make a list of the qualities you would like them to have, for example:

Challenges in a gentle way
Feels safe

There may also be people with qualities you want to avoid, such as:

Unreliable, untrustworthy (opposites of all the qualities above)

Now, make your list of the people in your life who have the qualities you want, and who don't have the qualities you don't want. Leave off the list anyone who brings up feelings of co-dependence, confusion or anxiety.  Strive for relationships that are interdependent – equal – rather than dependent or co-dependent.

Start with safe people.  Sometimes it's easier to practice with professional supporters, such as a therapist, dietician or clergy, or friends from a more structured setting such as a 12-step program or a therapy group. Over time, if you keep practicing, then receiving compassion will become more familiar. Though it may still be challenging, once something is familiar it usually feels more comfortable as well.


Weaving in Other People's Words

At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center we offer informational sessions for the friends and families of people with eating disorders. We teach them about what's helpful to say – and not to say – to their loved one who is in recovery. As much experience as I've had myself in working with clients with these struggles, I know that it's reassuring if I can also provide resources from organizations and agencies. 

Sometimes other people can just say things better. 

If you're someone who tends towards negative, self-harmful thinking, you can practice using other people's words until they become more natural to you. Here are a few ways you can do this: 

  • Word-a-Day – Create a pile of cards or pieces of paper that each contains one positive word or principle, e.g., commitment, acceptance, freedom, comfort, adaptability, abundance, progress, harmony, detachment, non-attachment or security. Each morning, choose a word and strive to weave it into your thoughts, words and actions for the rest of the day. If that seems too long, try it just for an hour. I use this with my clients, and sometimes we'll just try it until the end of the session.
  • Meditation books – There are meditation books based on topics, methods of recovery, types of goals and more. Find one that inspires you and read it every morning or whenever you think of it throughout the day. Take a moment to write one line in your journal about how you personally interpret the reading. Or just write down your favorite word or phrase from the reading.
  • Professional help – One of my most important roles as a therapist is to help people reframe their language as a way of reframing how they see themselves and their situation. For example, you may find it a relief to see your sadness as grief rather than depression. This kind of help can be very valuable and can help you take more initiative for choosing your own experience of life. 

We have many resources that can help you continue this work. Please contact us for more ideas and recommendations.



Choosing the Words to Share

"Oh my gosh, I'm so stupid!" 

Self-deprecating statements like this can harm your self-worth and affirm negative beliefs that may have been planted earlier in life. It's a worthwhile goal to begin a practice of using different words that are more self-loving

The words we choose don't just affect us; they affect the people we're speaking to. Harsh statements such as the one above can have different effects. The other person may feel uncomfortable, or may want to rush in and reassure us. Either way, it creates uncomfortable tension in the conversation and in the relationship as a whole. 

Another phrase that can have a troublesome impact on relationships is, "I'm sorry." Ideally, when we make a mistake we recognize it right away, apologize and then move on. 

The difficulty starts when you don't consciously recognize you've made a mistake, or you recognize it but don't feel willing to apologize. Either of those scenarios can damage relationships and create emotional turmoil that can lead to unhealthy body image and eating behaviors. 

Another challenge is when we apologize for something that's not our fault, such as the fact that else is experiencing a loss or struggle. Or we spend too much time apologizing or explaining something that really wasn't a big deal to begin with. (For more insights on this topic you can read the article, Make Amends to Make Your Guilt Disappear.) 

I experienced being on the other end of this, when someone was apologizing repeatedly for a simple mistake that was already dealt with. I'd been double-booked for a radio interview, but everything turned out perfectly because the other person was late anyway. But the host just couldn't seem to move on. When I spoke up and let him know that he didn't need to keep apologizing, he said he really appreciated it because he had no idea how it sounded to the other person when he was doing that. 

I always encourage people to find a way to speak your truth to others in a kind way that feels honorable to you and aligned with your values.


Words Carry Weight

Words are vital to personal growth, recovery and sense of self-worth. It's not only about the words said out loud, but the messages behind the words. Even having those messages in your mind can affect behavior in many situations, years after the messages were implanted. 

In her book Learning to Love Yourself, Sharon Wegscheider-Cruise teachers her readers to recognize some of the "garbage messages" that may have been heard as children, and what is taught through those messages. For example: 

  • "You can do better than that!" (meaning: "What you are doing is not good enough.")
  • "Family business is private business." (meaning: "Don't trust.")
  • "Don't speak unless you're spoken to." (meaning: "Being spontaneous is wrong.")

If you continue to hear those messages or repeat them, it can make you feel bad and unloved, affecting self-esteem and contributing to unhealthy food behaviors. 

On the other hand, there are positive messages that help people feel good about themselves – phrases such as: 

  • "That is a great idea!"
  • "I like you just the way you are."
  • "I'm proud of you." 

Consciously choose to spend more time with supportive people who say these types of things, and also make a habit of saying them to yourself. 

People in 12-step recovery programs often use slogans as a way of reprogramming hurtful self-talk and unhelpful messages. Slogans are short phrases that are easy to remember and can instantly evoke the principles of healthy recovery. There are sample slogans with explanations on this page: 

You can also create your own slogans or mantras. Start by thinking about the values, principles or phrases that you consider important and sacred. Then try on different wordings until you find the ones that feel good. After you've been using them for a while, you may notice that your enthusiasm has faded, or that you've begun saying or thinking the words by rote. If that happens, switch them for some new words in order to stay fresh. 

Also consider which words you want to let go of. For example, we often use violent terminology for everyday activities without even realizing it, such as:  "I'll shoot you an email later." 

Other words may not be violent, but they de-motivate instead of being motivating, such as telling yourself that you need to exercise (exert) or work out (work), instead of inviting more movement into the day. 

Another example is how marketing experts teach business owners to use only positive language in any materials. Instead of, "Please do not hesitate to call me," you'd want to say, "Please feel free to call me." Can you feel the difference? 

Changing your wording is not an overnight project – it takes time and practice. As a much-loved 12-step slogan reminds us, it's about "progress, not perfection."


Planting the Garden Within

How are you doing?  Are you making progress in the direction you hoped for?  Or are you starting to get a bit discouraged?  Dealing with food and weight can be very “cunning, baffling and powerful” (to borrow from Alcoholics Anonymous). This is a l-o-n-g process and many give up way too early! All it takes to feel like you are struggling again is a couple of “slippery” days. Or some life-chaos and the all-or-nothing thinking leads you to believe you have failed – again. You start thinking if I am not a glowing success, then I am a lowly failure. We understand.
However, there is hope.
It just calls for a revitalization of that enthusiasm and commitment. May and June are an opportune time to dig into your program, your personal process of healing. There is something refreshing and re-energizing about feeling summer approaching. It is a time of hope, a time of promise, and a time of renewal. This time of year may be your cue to make a change or renew your dedication to that part of you that has been hibernating.
When everything in mother earth’s nature is budding with the promise of new life, it’s a favorable time to move closer to your true nature. It’s time to refresh the spirit within and reenergize the soul with a renewed sense of hope. 
The first step in planting a garden is preparing the soil - the “groundwork.” Just as we cultivate the earth, we develop our intention in this renewed direction. Before you can plant the seeds that will grow into thriving plants, you must plan and prepare, ensuring that the soil is ready -- rid of debris, and rich in nutrients. 
Can you identify any areas you may need to clear away? What groundwork is needed before moving toward your true nature? See if any of these resonate with you:
  • Clutter  
  • Negative thinking
  • Commitments  
  • Relationship troubles
  • Memories
  • Possessions that have outlived their purpose
What are you doing to prepare your garden within?  Are you ready to take the steps towards a richer life? Journal, if that is helpful. Create a vision board. Discuss your thoughts with understanding friends or family members and create your Garden Within.
And in case you want to talk to a professional, set up a counseling session.  If you want to meet with one of us at White Picket Fence Counseling Center, please email or call our office. We are offering a special program for May and June to help you achieve some movement and growth. We will help you with the design and implementation of your Personal Action Plan. Action Planning Sessions can help you set up and grow your plan. These sessions are structured as a series of 30- or 90-minute sessions for greatest effectiveness. We invite you to take that step to cultivate renewal in your life. Come on in…


IAEDP™ Symposium 2012: A Perspective

(IAEDP is the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals)

As a licensed clinician, supervisor of interns, and adjunct professor of psychology working in and focusing on the field of Eating Disorders and Food Addiction, I have to say, I love my job. I love helping people work on recovery from conditions and often debilitating eating disorders that preclude them from leading their happiest, healthy lives. This field of study is uniquely gratifying, and even more so when the work we do on a daily basis is not only validated, but enhanced by experts in our field who pose not only the very problems and concerns we routinely encounter as therapists, but who also offer the kinds of innovative solutions we seek.

What I found particularly exciting about this year’s symposium, entitled Journey Through the Looking Glass: Complex Issues/Creative Solutions, is the number of conference sessions that focused on Food Addiction education, which included not only presentations by researchers, but by treatment professionals who offered some inspiring perspectives, studies, and methods of treatment. The impressive number of presentations with supportive research maintaining that FOOD ADDICTION is a very real problem is extremely important in today’s world and one worthy of being further addressed and researched.

In addition to sharing my enthusiasm about these remarkable professionals, their sessions, and the ideas they shared with the professionals in attendance, there are some particular highlights worth mentioning:

  • In his keynote address, Dr. Mark Gold, Distinguished Professor, Eminent Scholar, Chairman McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida College of Brain Medicine, presented comprehensive research on the cause and potential treatment of addictions to foods and eating. His presentation was supported by Dr. Nicole Avena, PhD of University of Florida College of Medicine and Princeton University, who, like Dr. Gold, presented compelling research about the brain’s reward centers and the preference in rats for sugar -- over anything else!
  • Joel Robertson, PharmD, explored the relationship between potentially problematic brain chemistry and one’s body image. In addition to a variety of non-medicating options and methods of treatment, Robertson presented his idea that brain chemistry is affected by disordered eating, posing the notion that healthy eating can improve brain chemistry and become a successful treatment option.  
  • Kevin Wandler, MD and Elizabeth Dizney, PsyD, representing University of Florida’s Eating Disorder Recovery Center, presented  ideas about the relationship between eating disorders and a variety of today’s most prevalent addictions. They noted the importance of treating ALL addictions (food, drugs, alcohol, and shopping) in order to prevent behavior relapse.
  • Similar research was included by Carolyn Coker Ross, MD of the Ranch, and Dr. Kimberly Dennis, of Timberline Knolls, in their break-out sessions, Addiction, Food Addiction, Obesity and Binge Eating Disorder. Dr. Dennis provided insightful information about 12-step recovery programs to clinicians who may have received feedback from clients, but haven’t experienced these kinds of benefits directly.

Each of these outstanding presenters affirmed not only the importance of addressing the relationship between the brain and eating behaviors, but the relationship between the brain AND addiction, relative to specific foods and volume eating.

Beyond emotional recovery work (therapy), exercise, and eating at a slower pace, I would like to have seen more innovative treatment-related ideas. That being said, I feel a certain hope that if we continue the open dialogue about food addiction, discuss and share the effects it has on so many lives, talk about what has been helpful in the past and what we can do today and in the future, we can continue to improve the probability and success rate of the recovery process.

When the conference was over, I felt a wave of satisfaction that Food Addiction was addressed at such depth at the IAEDP conference this year, reaffirming confidence in my treatment approach and our work at White Picket Fence Counseling Center.

To address your questions, request information, or to schedule speaker engagements for Sandee S. Nebel, MS, LMHC, please contact her via the White Picket Fence Counseling Centre website.


Why a Team Approach?

JakiBy Jaki Hitzelberger, MA, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Surrounding yourself with a team of people who are knowledgeable, who support you, who understand and care, and who work towards helping you help yourself to a better, healthier life – that is an important part of our approach at White Picket Fence Counseling Center. 
One of the trainings on the treatment of eating disorders I recently attended featured Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, FAED, Director of the University of North Carolina Eating Disorders Program. Dr. Bulik has published over 400 scientific papers and chapters on eating disorders. Her new book is The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are (Walker, December 2011). She is also author of Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop (Walker). Her research includes treatment, laboratory, epidemiological, and genetic studies of eating disorders. I found the information presented to be very applicable in my work with clients.
Dr. Bulik touches on many ways to make treatment more effective, including the importance of a team approach for recovery. In addition to meeting with the individual who has eating concerns, it is necessary to include participation of the counselor, physician, psychiatrist, dietician, family and friends in the course of treatment. All members of the team must work together to support the individual through communication and understanding. I believe in Dr. Bulik’s team approach philosophy and think it is important to work closely with the client and other practitioners in the field (my colleagues).
Depending on the individual in therapy, working with the family is another important piece of our team approach atWhite Picket Fence Counseling Center. We understand that the home environment and support from family provides the individual with strength throughout treatment. We also acknowledge that the word “family” is not always meant in the traditional sense. For some, family encompasses different important people in their lives, such as friends, extended family, or mentors.
Dr. Bulik’s research shows that couples counseling is also highly effective in the treatment of individuals who have eating concerns. Part of recovery involves helping couples re-build the connection that may have been damaged due to ongoing and sometimes secretive eating disorders. The UCAN (Uniting Couples in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa) approach involves re-teaching the couple relationship skills such as sharing thoughts, expressing feelings, and problem solving. I find it helpful to add working to break through the barriers shame and guilt unduly provide.
Dr. Bulik’s research sheds light on many significant issues with eating concerns. It supports and affirms our approach at White Picket Fence Counseling Center, where our goal is to provide a holistic experience to recovery. We believe in the importance for all individuals with disordered eating patterns to receive the holistic support and treatment that will allow them recovery, both physically and emotionally, as well as socially – with fulfilling relationships.
I invite you to take advantage of our workshops and counseling services and utilize them as part of your support team through your personal journey.  We know that this is YOUR journey and we are honored to be a part of it. 
My best to you,
Jaki Hitzelberger, MA
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern


Have you been feeling stressed lately?

Stress. It’s everywhere. Like a bad penny, it keeps turning up, affecting your mood, your personality, your effectiveness, and often causing anxiety or irritability on the job, at school, or at home. It’s not a pleasant feeling when you want to enjoy life, but can’t. Wouldn’t it be nice to live your life stress free? Now you can. Through education and identification, we can help you better cope with stress and rescue you from this daily demon.

As a professional, I needed to find a way to reduce stress in my own life and studied and researched stress and methods of coping with it. That’s when I discovered SIT – Stress Inoculation Training. It is a prescribed program of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that can help individuals cope with stressful situations. This methodology helps us to better understand the nature and cause of stress in our lives and teaches effective coping mechanisms to release and cope with stress effectively.

SIT is a treatment that is flexible and can be tailored to fit your needs. The goal of SIT is to enhance your artillery of coping skills and increase your confidence in applying these skills by employing three phases of intervention:

1st Phase: Conceptual Education
2nd Phase: Skills Acquisition and Consolidation
3rd Phase: Application and Follow-through

How does SIT work?

1. Conceptual Education

The first phase of SIT focuses on enhancing awareness and understanding of what is causing your stress, how it is impacting your life, and how well you are or are not able to deal with it or cope effectively.

2. Skills Acquisition and Consolidation

The second phase of SIT helps you learn about and acquire the coping tools and the necessary skills you need to add to your current skill arsenal. In this phase, you will also learn about and rehearse the coping skills you need to combat stress so that your responses become more natural in the face of immediate stressors.

3. Application and Follow-through

The final phase of SIT provides opportunities for you to practice your newly acquired coping skills in increasingly stressful situations. We all know that practice makes perfect. It can turn a learned response into a natural habit. Through guided practice, you will become more confident and better able to handle stress naturally and effectively.

I’ve tried this on my own and with groups of individuals like you. It works! SIT is a widely successful intervention in helping us cope with stress in a healthy manner. If you are interested in learning more about SIT and want to live a happier, healthier, stress-free life, please join us in our upcoming workshop on Monday, May 7, 2012. You are welcome to call me today to set up your appointment and make this the first day in the best of your life.

Best regards to you,
Erika Bent, B.A., Graduate Student Intern
UCF Clinical Psychology Masters Program



What Does it Mean to Surrender?

"The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." – Anais Nin

Twelve step programs have many recovery tools that can be beneficial to those who are struggling with food addiction, emotional eating, anorexia, compulsive eating or bulimia. One of these valuable concepts is surrender. This admission of powerlessness is at the core of Step One, and is really the heart and foundation of 12 step recovery.

In order to make a positive change in your life, you need to have a heartfelt commitment. Everyone who comes to our office shares that they want to make changes, but they're not always at the point of true surrender. They may not have given their whole selves over to the process of change. They're not willing to experience the discomfort, stress and uncertainty – the risk of blossoming.

Twelve step programs have a saying that it's the "the gift of desperation" that often leads people into successful recovery. This happens after years of trying over and over again to change something, control something or give something up. They may succeed for a short time, yet as soon as a tricky situation comes up they go right back to their familiar behaviors.

At that point, the truly desperate will realize that they must surrender. Their way is not working.

Merriam-Webster says that by surrendering, we "cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority."

Note that this authority is not your counselor, sponsor or any other person. Some think of it as the compulsion or behavior; other see it as the food. Surrendering to this "enemy" means having a healthy respect for the seriousness of the problem and acknowledging that we're powerless over controlling it by ourselves.

Overeating and restricting food not only make people emotionally isolated and miserable, but can lead to many serious health issues and even death. Change is scary, but the consequences of not changing are even scarier.

Twelve step programs have many tools, resources and supports that can help you get to a place of surrender. Our counselors at the White Picket Fence Counseling Center can help, or we are also happy to make referrals to someone in your area.

Have patience and respect for your own time line. Some people surrender quickly, and others hold on for years. Commit to the process and stick with it – because you never know when it's going to happen for you. Another much-loved saying in the rooms of recovery is:

"Don't quit 5 minutes before the miracle happens."

  • How willing are you today to surrender your harmful eating behaviors and commit to change?
  • Are you willing to let go of control?
  • Are you willing to embrace something new?
  • Are you willing to let go and trust the unknown?
  • Are you willing to seek support from someone who's been where you are (e.g., in a 12-step program or support group)?
  • Are you willing to seek support from a professional who is highly trained and experienced in helping other people with similar issues as you are facing?

Click here for a list of 12 step recovery programs and links to their websites.


Guilt and Shame in the Land of Oz

Erika-bentBy Erika Bent, B.A., graduate student intern

In the Wizard of Oz, the entire community was built upon the reputation of a powerful and knowing wizard. The tin man, lion, scarecrow and Dorothy admired his great power and sought guidance. They succumbed to his great voice and awing appearance. However, when an innocent dog peeled back his masterful disguise, the Wizard of Oz was revealed as an ordinary human. As a result, he became insecure, self-conscious and ultimately felt ashamed of his failure to exercise his great and supposed power.

In this classic story, the Wizard of Oz experienced significant shame for failing to live up to his own and his community’s expectations. We have all experienced forms of guilt and shame at some time during our lives. Many situations can bring about feelings of shame or guilt, such as making a mistake or crying in public. Feelings of shame are different from feelings of guilt in that guilt reflects a wrong-doing, whereas shame indicates something inherently wrong with oneself as a person.

Both guilt and shame can be debilitating and isolating. It is important to express these feelings in a healthy way and develop healthy coping skills. Some techniques that can be helpful to deal with the painful feelings of shame and guilt are listed below: 

  • Express your thoughts and feelings through journaling
  • Relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, deep breathing and muscle relaxation
  • Turn to your support system
  • Work through your guilt/shame with trusted people in your life, such as friends, family, therapists, etc.

There are several ways to cope with debilitating shame and guilt in a healthy manner. It is important that you find techniques that work for you. 


Make Amends to Make Your Guilt Disappear

12-step programs such as Overeaters Anonymous and Eating Disorders Anonymous contain many useful tools that any of us can use. When it comes to healing guilt, one of the best methods is found in steps 8 and 9.

Step 8 reads, "Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." Step 9 continues with, "Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

The 12-step process recognizes that guilt over our unresolved issues with people, places and institutions are what cause us to reach for unhealthy behaviors such as food addiction, emotional eating, bulimia, over-exercising and restricting.

When they feel guilty, a lot of people are quick to apologize. Unfortunately, they're just as quick to repeat whatever it is they just apologized for. There's no relief for either person, because there wasn't any action or change behind the apology.

The 12-step process of making amends goes beyond an apology, to actually changing the words or actions that harmed the other person. If we have acted out of integrity with the kind of person we wish to be, we can do something to repair the damage in a real way.

This is rarely an easy process, and that's why it requires spiritual guidance and strength. Sometimes it's not clear how to make up for what we did, and we need some extra clues or insights. Other times we may see what we have to do, but we feel afraid or reluctant to do it. We need extra strength and courage – especially if there may be consequences for admitting what we did wrong.

Whatever the situation that is causing your guilt, it's important to be thorough in the process of making amends. Otherwise you can put a cycle in motion where you keep hurting the other person or you keep hurting yourself. As part of your amends, you can create a new plan of living when it comes to that person or situation. How would you like the relationship to look and feel? How would you like to behave in the situation? What kind of person do you want to be?

In some cases, even after you've identified a person or institution that you owe an amends to, you can't do it right away. Maybe you don't have the financial means to fully repay a debt. Maybe the person you harmed has died or moved away. The important thing is to get yourself to a place of being willing to make the amends, and then find a way to do it.

A 12-step sponsor or a therapist can be very helpful during this process. This person can also make sure that you haven't slipped to the other side of the equation where you're taking on responsibility for something you haven't done, out of a sense of people pleasing or co-dependency.

Reflect on all the people or institutions you have hurt or harmed, and get yourself to a place where you're willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage that was your part. Sometimes the action takes place right away; sometimes the action is deferred or done through someone else.

Before making amends, be sure that you have forgiven the other person for any harm they may have done to you. The amends process cannot work if you are still full of rage, resentment or defensiveness.

No matter how much love you may have in your heart when you approach the other person, you can't expect them to accept your amends or be ready to forgive you. They may not be able to do that right now and you have to accept that. You're making these amends to relieve your own poisonous, toxic guilt. You can hold your head high, no matter how the other person responds.

The biggest amends you may have to make is to yourself, for putting yourself through all of this guilt. If you can change your perspective and behaviors so they're more loving and kind – to yourself and others – that will change our relationships, alleviating our guilt and replacing it with relief and gratitude.

There are three key benefits of making amends are. First, an apology for hurting someone in the past can be a great way to build a bridge to a better future relationship with others or with oneself.

Next, it's ideal for removing the weight of guilt, shame and remorse. Finally, step 9 leads right into step 10, which is a daily reflection on how we behaved. We can use step 10 and the journaling process to clean stuff up every day so it never builds up beyond 24 hours. It's a beautiful way of living.



Five Things That Get in the Way of Your Spiritual Connection

This month we've been discussing the spiritual piece of the recovery puzzle. For some, spirituality is an untapped resource. Once you learn about ways of accessing your own spiritual connection and make a conscious effort to do that, a whole new world is opened for you.

Sometimes, though, the path to spiritual awareness can be blocked, and the door to that spiritual world might seem locked to you.

Here is a list of five things that may keep you from making a spiritual connection:

  1. Lack of sleep: Feeling tired can impair your judgement, shorten your temper and magnify your challenges so they seem impossible to overcome. In that state it's hard to remember that you have access to an inner source of wisdom, and harder still to listen to that quiet voice. Try getting to bed earlier and/or sleeping later, and practicing other good sleep hygiene habits.
  2. Obsession: When your mind is so busy turning over every detail about something in the past (what you should have done or what you wish you hadn't done) or the future (what you should do next, what you're afraid to do or what you hope will/won't happen), there's no room to be open to spiritual suggestions. It's a well-known paradox that sometimes the minute you stop thinking about yourself and your own problems, solutions can magically appear. Try doing something nice for someone else.
  3. Focusing on the negative: Another common theory, known as the Law of Attraction, says that whatever you focus on is what you will attract into your life. Try thinking about and showing appreciation for the positive people and things in your life.
  4. Strong feelings: In a similar way, strong feelings of resentment, fear, depression, anxiety or grief can all cloud your perception. You may be sure that you know what someone else is thinking or feeling or you may underestimate your own capability. You may lack the confidence to know the difference between your own negative thinking and a message that may be from your spiritual intuition. Try speaking about your feelings to a therapist or trusted friend, or writing in your journal.
  5. Using food in an addictive way: When you overeat, undereat, purge or over-exercise, it brings on all four of the previous situations, as well as many other problems. Food can create a false sense of connection, but for food addicts, anorexics, bulimics and compulsive overeaters, food actually drives a wedge between you and other people, and between you and yourself. The deeper into the addiction you sink, the farther away you feel from your spiritual connection. Getting a handle on your addictive behaviors should always be your first concern. We're here to help

If you've been trying different strategies to make a spiritual connection and you're still struggling, check which one of these five situations may be present in your life.


How I Incorporate Spirituality into my Life

In last week's article we discussed how spirituality is a vital part of the recovery puzzle, just as important as your emotional and physical healing.

Here's how I incorporate spiritual practices into my daily life:

Yoga – I've been doing yoga on and off since I was in high school. My mother was even a yoga teacher for awhile, and shortly after she had surgery she needed me to assist by teaching a class. That's what really propelled my interest. There are many types of yoga, including some that are very active. I do a style of yoga that's very gentle and restorative. I feel more spiritually connected when I allow myself to be still and get centered.

Guided imagery – I use guided imagery to quiet my mind. Listening to the audio recordings help me connect to the present moment. At, you can pick up a free guided meditation sample. If you like it, they have many other resources for you.

Taking walks in nature – If you keep your eyes out, you might spot me walking all around Winter Park with my dog, usually with a ponytail on top of my head! The sights, sounds and smells of nature instantly remind me that I am part of a big, beautiful world.

Healthy exercise – Aside from yoga and walking, I regularly experiment with other forms of healthy exercise. This grounds me in my body and helps me to appreciate my health and mobility. 

Healthy meals – When I make the effort to prepare pleasing, nourishing and delicious foods, I feel as if I'm giving myself a type of spiritual nourishment.

Gratitude lists – I use this technique to remind myself every day of everything I have to be grateful for. It's also something I used in my general psychology course at Valencia College. As they arrived in class, the students had to stop at the whiteboard and write down one thing they were grateful for. Most of them said it was a really positive experience, though some found it a bit embarrassing. On the last day of class, one fellow wrote, "I'm grateful I don't have to write my gratitudes in the front of the classroom anymore, but I will keep on writing them for me!""

Philanthropy – When I do something for someone who can't, it makes me feel connected and part of the world. This isn't always about giving money; it can mean volunteering at the food bank or offering workshops or groups at a reduced rate so everyone can access therapy if they need it.

Having fun – Making time to laugh and get together with people I care about definitely enhances my spirituality. It lightens my load and clears away any negative clutter that's blocking my connection.



The Spiritual Piece of the Recovery Puzzle

While therapy is primarily about emotional healing, at White Picket Fence Counseling Center it's also important to us that we don't shy away from addressing physical recovery.

Yet there is another piece of the puzzle that hasn't always been getting the attention it deserves, and that is spiritual recovery. While it's easy to push spiritual recovery off to the side until the other areas are "handled," we want to start emphasizing it as an important part of the overall recovery process.

Consider this analogy: Calcium is an important nutrient that our bodies need to carry out many important functions and keep our bones strong. Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium – without it, whatever calcium you take in won't be able to do its job properly. Spirituality is like a form of Vitamin D that helps you make the best use of your emotional and physical healing.

If you've had unpleasant or even traumatic experiences with organized religion, you might be very resistant to this idea. Yet even while honoring those feelings, you can open your mind to spirituality. Because spirituality and religion are two very separate things, and I wouldn't want you to close yourself off to a powerful source of support for your recovery.

Whether you are recovering from an eating disorder, food addiction, depression or another emotional issue, developing or maintaining a spiritual practice can have many benefits, such as:

Acceptance – A spiritual practice can help you achieve and deepen your level of acceptance, so that you see yourself, other people and situations as they are – without judgement. This is really important, because so often when we hurt ourselves or others it's because we're not accepting something or someone as they are.

Detachment – Instead of getting caught up in solving or changing a situation or person, accepting them helps you to detach in a neutral way and go on with whatever you've decided is most important to you.

Inspiration – When you make a spiritual connection, it can lead you to things that will inspire you to your core. Sometimes just in seeking your spiritual path you can discover exciting things about yourself and the world around you.

Joy – Spiritual activities can lighten up your day and your mood, infusing your life with humor and passion.

Calm – The quiet space of a spiritual practice can give you fresh insights and perspectives about a particular situation or the bigger picture of your life.

Connection – The act of seeking a connection to something bigger than yourself can help you to feel more a part of the world around you. And spiritual connection also helps you to know yourself better and hear the wisdom within.

Presence – Tuning into the spiritual world brings you back to the present instead of living in the past (perhaps suffering from guilt or low self-esteem about choices you've made) or the future (maybe full of worry, anxiety or doubt about what's going to happen next or what you should do about it).

So how do you start developing a spiritual practice? You have so many choices. At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center we're developing some workshops that will help you learn more about things like guided meditation and imagery and writing. You can also try prayer, yoga, quiet reflection time or communing with nature.

Next week I'll share some of my own favorite spiritual activities.

Spirituality is a very individual thing, so feel free to experiment. We can also work with you in your group or individual therapy sessions to help you find the version of spirituality that works for you. This important "piece" of recovery can bring you "peace."