Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
Our patients come to us with a wide range of concerns, but one thing that many people we see have in common is that most of us want to feel happier. We want to experience more joy and contentment in our day to day lives. Sometimes psychiatric symptoms such as depression or anxiety can make it difficult for people to engage in the activities that help them feel relaxed and happy.
We all have busy lives, and making time for fun can be really challenging. What do you think about when you first think about making more time for activities that you enjoy? Many of our patients have a lot of good reasons for having difficulty making time in their schedules, including:
For these and many more reasons, many of our patients report that there are many days where they don’t engage in activities that bring them joy. When we start working with someone experiencing mood challenges, one of the first suggestions we will make is to set aside time every day to do something pleasurable. This doesn’t need to be a lot of time; there are many small things you can do over the course of the day that are fun and can bring you joy. Some examples might include:
We encourage our clients to make time each day for at least one activity that truly makes them happy. We find that when people make time for joy, they experience a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression. We work together with our patients to identify the activities that really bring them joy, and to problem-solve barriers to fitting these into their day to day lives. If you’re struggling to feel happy, try implementing this practice in your day to day life and notice how it impacts your mood. And feel free to reach out to us for a free phone consultation to learn more about evidence-based skills for managing depression and anxiety.
Author: Kari Kagan, Psy.D.
Many women experience both depression and anxiety in the prenatal and postpartum period of having a baby. Although both are commonly experienced, anxiety is often less talked about and less researched in postpartum women. As such, the goal of this blog is to review common anxiety disorders that can be prevalent in the postpartum period in order to increase awareness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be reassured that you are not alone and that you can get help.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
This is a summary of common anxiety disorders and how they can present in the postpartum period. Please note that it is completely normal for women to experience at least some of the above symptoms at any given point during or after their pregnancies. However, if any of these symptoms are causing significant distress to the point of interfering with functioning and do not seem to be improving on their own, it may be a good idea to reach out for help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be effective for treating anxiety disorders in the postpartum period. At SF Bay CBT, we have training and experience in treating prenatal and postpartum distress. Please contact us for a free phone consultation to learn more about how we can help you cope with and improve postpartum distress.
Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
As insomnia specialists we see many people struggling with the duration and quality of their sleep. Many people have inaccurate beliefs about sleep that make it difficult for them to improve their sleep quality. CNN outlines several commonly held beliefs about sleep that are inaccurate. Contact us for more information about how we can help alleviate your insomnia!
Author: Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
As the holiday season fast approaches, we wanted to spend some time exploring the idea of gratitude and ways that you can practice gratitude in your life. The holidays are a busy time for many of our clients and taking time to focus on thankfulness can have multiple positive effects as they embark on their festivities. According to Harvard Health, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. Research has shown that gratitude is associated with subjective well-being, higher self-esteem, and improved relationships. Gratitude has also been shown to be significantly associated with greater happiness in one’s life and improve sleep quality. While the benefits of gratitude are plenty, it can be hard to build a gratitude practice. Below are some ways to begin:
At SF Bay CBT, we work with clients on cultivating gratitude not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. We'd love the opportunity to help support you on your gratitude journey. Please contact us to learn more.
Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
Many of our clients come to us with concerns about one or more important relationship in their lives. Being in relationships is a wonderful part of being human, and a lot of us want to make our relationship as strong as possible. But it can also be really difficult to build strong relationships where we feel emotionally safe and secure.
As CBT therapists, our approach to relational conflicts and concerns starts in the present. We want to understand where your relationship is right now and where you would like it to be, and give you concrete skills and tools for making improvements that you can see right away. As you start to see improvement, we may dive deeper into understanding how your past experiences are shaping your current behaviors. By combining present-focused skills and tools with deeper inquiry, we can help people clarify their relationship goals and improve their most important relationships.
One of the most important elements of close relationships is trust. In order to feel emotionally safe, we need to trust the other person. It sounds straightforward enough, but many of us have had experiences of thinking we could trust someone and finding out later that our trust was misplaced. Dr. Brene Brown developed a seven part definition of trust, which she refers to as the BRAVING technique. These seven components encompass the most essential processes that allow us to trust each other.
Boundaries: When someone has good boundaries, they respect your limits and your nos, and they clearly communicate their own limits. If they are unsure of your boundaries, they ask before making assumptions about what is OK.
Reliability: People who are reliable do what they say they are going to do and honor their commitments.
Accountability: Taking accountability means owning up to mistakes, big or small, and taking responsibility for our actions. It also means trying to make amends whenever possible.
Vault: People who we can trust keep our confidences. When we ask that something remain confidential, they comply.
Integrity: People who have integrity choose “courage over comfort,” meaning that they will do what’s right even if it’s harder or less fun than doing something else. They live by their values and actively practice them, rather than just talking about them.
Nonjugement: People who we can trust don’t judge us for expressing our needs, and they meet our needs with gentle curiosity rather than criticism. Both people in the relationship feel safe expressing what they need.
Generosity: People who are generous of spirit assume the best intentions from people that they trust. When someone we trust hurts us, we talk about it kindly and directly and trust them to receive it gracefully. We assume that they are coming from a place of love and trying their best.
We hope that this tool is helpful as you assess your most important relationships. When we work with our clients around relational concerns, this is one tool we can use to assess the relationship quality and to determine whether there are areas of growth. We work with clients to understand the role they are playing in relationship and to improve their own skills. We also work with people to help them understand the behaviors of those they are in relationship with, and to set strong boundaries to help navigate more challenging relationships. And as licensed psychologists, we can also treat psychiatric conditions that may be exacerbating relationship conflicts, such as depression, anxiety, or other disorders. Feel free to reach out for a free phone consultation to learn more about how we can help with these concerns. And stay tuned for more blog posts in our Improving Relationships series.
Author: Kari Kagan, Psy.D.
The first step in making a change in your drinking or other substance use habits is to better understand the function of the substance in your life. In other words, understanding how you end up drinking or using when you did not intend, and what you might be getting from it, could help you to make different choices around your drinking or other drug use in the future. Below is an outline of a tool called a functional analysis. Working through this tool will help you take a detailed inventory of typical triggers and both positive and negative consequences of your substance use. The ultimate purpose of completing this inventory is to increase awareness of the patterns that lead to using and subsequently make changes that help you to achieve your substance use goals.
Functional Analysis Tool
Identify your external triggers:
Identify your internal triggers:
Use or Drinking Behavior:
Short-term positive consequences:
Long-term negative consequences:
After working through this tool, we hope you have a better understanding of both the triggers and consequences of your substance use. This information can be very useful in helping you to avoid common triggers in order to prevent drinking. In addition, having a better understanding of the positive effects of your substance use can help you to identify alternative ways you can achieve similar positive experiences. For example, if you find drinking helps you to relax, you might try taking an exercise class at the time you would usually drink. Further, reminding yourself of the negative consequences you experience as a result of your substance use could help to motivate you to make choices that align with your goals. At SF Bay CBT, our goal is to teach you a variety of tools that you can use to help you manage your substance use and related mental health issues. Feel free to reach out to us for a free phone consultation to learn more about the tools we use in our work.
Author: Diana Gordon, Psy.D.
As anxiety specialists, we often work with patients who are struggling to manage anxiety about one or more major areas of their lives. We have a lot of different strategies that we use to work with anxiety, including skills from CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy), and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Our goal is to teach people concrete skills that they can carry with them after therapy is complete to continue to manage challenging emotions, including anxiety.
One thinking pattern that is very common in anxious people is catastrophizing. Catastrophizing simply means imaging the worst case scenario, or the worst possible outcome, for any given situation. In this blog post, we will take you through a CBT tool for decatastrophizing. This process will teach you to identify your thoughts, evaluate whether they are factual, and identify alternative beliefs.
Step 1: Specify the catastrophic consequence clearly
Step 2: Change any “what if” statements into concrete declarations of fact
Step 3: Challenge your thoughts
Step 4: Come up with at least three true, balanced thoughts that reflect the evidence you discovered in step 3
Step 5: What are your next steps?
This decatastrophizing process is one way to cope with anxious thoughts that are based on feared outcomes that are unlikely to actually happen. When we are able to look at our situation rationally, we often find that anxious thoughts are not based in reality. When we decatastrophize, this often helps us bring our anxiety down to a manageable level so we can decide what to do next. At SF Bay CBT, our goal is to teach you a variety of tools that you can use when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed to help yourself feel better. Feel free to reach out to us for a free phone consultation to learn more about the tools we use in our work.
Many of our patients come to us with sleep difficulties. Sometimes we may have trouble getting to sleep at night, and when we do it can be especially challenging to wake up in the morning. If you’re struggling with sleep difficulties, take a look at our blog post on CBT for Insomnia, or schedule a free phone consultation to learn more about how we can help with these concerns.
For those struggling with more occasional and/or less severe sleep concerns, getting up in the morning can still be challenging. In this blog post, we will explore some strategies to help you get out of bed and tackle the day, even when you’re not feeling as well rested as you would like. The single most effective thing you can do to help yourself sleep better is to wake up at the same time every day. In our clinical experience, this is often a suggestion that is very difficult for patients to implement. Common concerns our patients express about this are:
Sometimes it can be challenging to overcome these concerns and get out of bed anyways. In our practice, we observe that people who do manage to get out of bed at the same time every day are more satisfied with their sleep and well rested than those who do not. These are some strategies that our patients have found helpful when they are trying to get themselves out of bed:
Author: Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
In part one of this series, we introduced you to three components self-compassion and highlighted the main differences between self-compassion and self-esteem. Today we will teach you numerous ways to practice self-compassion in your life. Since there is a wide array of ways to practice self-compassion, try out the ones below a few times and see which ones resonate with you. As with any new skill, it’s like working a new muscle. It may take some time to get used to but as you continue to practice it gets easier and more automatic.
Ideas for Practicing Self-Compassion
There are various guided meditations that exist. Dr. Kristin Neff's self-compassion website has seven great ones to choose from, all of which can be downloaded to your computer.
As you breathe in and out, see if you can allow yourself to enjoy the sensations of breathing. Let it be a pleasant sensation and enjoy it as deeply as you can. Repeat for five breaths.
Ask yourself: How would you treat a friend? What would I tell a friend in this instance?
Often times, we are far less critical and judgmental of our friends than we are ourselves. These questions allow you to tap into a more compassionate stance.
Ask yourself if there is any part of you that resists self-compassion. If so, ask that part, “How are you trying to keep me safe?” Can you attend to those needs rather than attacking?
Journaling: Critical Voice vs. Compassionate Voice
One a piece of paper, write for 1-2 minutes in a critical voice. Then, switch to writing in a compassionate voice. Notice the difference between the way these two voices sound and the way that they make you feel. It’s likely the compassionate voice makes you feel good compared to the critical voice, why not try using that voice? Try saying to the critical voice, “I know you criticize me because you are suffering. I want to care for you.”
Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a big hug for five breaths. Try saying, “I love you just as you are.” Notice how these words make you feel.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Check in with your body. Ask if needs anything to feel more comfortable. To stretch, walk, relax, sleep, breathe? Give yourself permission to enjoy whatever action you take.
Put your hands on your heart and say to yourself, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be loved.” Repeat four times.
Identify Positives About Yourself
Name three things that you like about yourself. Notice how receiving recognition makes them that much stronger.
Notice an unpleasant emotion.
Allow for it to be for a few moments.
Watch it Go.
If you're interested in learning how self-compassion can help you and other ways to incorporate it into your life, please contact us to schedule a free phone consultation.
Diana Gordon, Psy.D., Kari Kagan Psy.D., and Katie Leoni, Psy.D.
Drs. Gordon, Kagan, and Leoni practice psychotherapy in downtown San Francisco and Oakland. Their areas of expertise include anxiety, sleep, stress, depression, and addiction. They blog about these topics to provide research-based information about common problems and strategies to help manage them.