Category: Featured Articles

Researchers seek to change behavior by normalizing diversity

"Promoting inclusion and dismantling systemic racism is one of the most important issues of our times."

Scroll Down for Dr. Holland's Perspective on this article

Showing people how their peers feel about diversity in their community can make their actions more inclusive, make members of marginalized groups feel more like they belong, and even help close racial achievement gaps in education, according to a new study. Drawing on strategies that have worked in anti-smoking, safe-sex and energy-saving campaigns, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers decided to try to change behavior by showing people that positive feelings about diversity are the norm.

"In any other domain of public health -- saving for retirement, sustainability, eating healthy -- it's the key thing to communicate: It's the right thing to do, your peers do it, and your peers would actually approve of you doing it as well," says Markus Brauer, the UW-Madison psychology professor whose lab designed the pro-diversity intervention. It's an effect that's reflected in attitudes about ongoing protests over Black people killed by police officers. Exposed to larger crowds, more frequent news coverage and the opinions of friends and neighbors, more people have expressed support for Black Lives Matter groups and activities.

"People are heavily influenced by finding out what their peers have done," Brauer says. "But in the diversity domain, we haven't been trying this." The researchers, who published their findings today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, conducted extensive focus groups with UW-Madison students. "We asked them -- students of color and white students, students of the LGBT+ community: What actually is it that decreases your sense of belonging? What are the kinds of behaviors that hurt your feelings, that make you feel excluded?" Brauer says. "And then please tell us, what are the behaviors that would make you feel welcome?"

The non-white students felt like they were kept at a distance from white students -- not included in class groups or projects, not included in activities, not invited to participate in simple interactions. "When we asked about what decreased their sense of belonging, they didn't complain so much about racial slurs or explicit forms of discrimination," says Brauer. "It was the distance, the lack of interest, the lack of caring that affected them."

Brauer, graduate student Mitchell Campbell, and Sohad Murrar, a former graduate student of Brauer's who is now a psychology professor at Governors State University in Illinois, used what they learned to choose their messages. "We used a social marketing approach, where we identify a target audience, we decide what our target behavior is, and then we show people how their peers support that behavior," Brauer says. They designed a relatively simple poster, covered in students' faces and reporting actual survey results -- that 93 percent of students say they "embrace diversity and welcome people from all backgrounds into our UW-Madison community," and that 84 percent of them agreed to be pictured on the poster. They also produced a five-minute video, which described the pro-diversity opinions reported by large majorities in other campus surveys and showed real students answering questions about tolerance and inclusion.

In a series of experiments over several years, hundreds of students were exposed passively to the posters in brief encounters in study waiting rooms or hung day after day on the walls of their classrooms. In other experiments, the video was shown to an entire class during their first meeting. Control groups came and went from waiting rooms and classroom with no posters, or watched videos about cranberry production, or other alternatives to the study materials. Then the researchers surveyed subjects to assess their attitudes about appreciation for diversity, attitudes toward people of color, intergroup anxiety, their peers' behaviors and other measures.

"When we measured 10 or 12 weeks later, the students who were exposed to the interventions report more positive attitudes towards members of other groups and stronger endorsement of diversity," Brauer says. The differences for students from marginalized groups went further. "The students belonging to marginalized groups tell us that they have an enhanced sense of belonging. They are less anxious in interactions with students from other ethnic groups. They tell us that they're less and less the target of discrimination," Brauer says. "They evaluate the classroom climate more positively, and feel that they are treated more respectfully by their classmates."

The researchers tested the effectiveness of their diversity intervention in a series of UW-Madison courses in which white students have historically received better grades than their non-white peers. In course sections that viewed the 5-minute video during their first meeting -- classes including more than 300 students -- the privileged and marginalized students' grades were equal in the end.

"We know the marginalized students experience discrimination; we know their feelings are valid. But we know, too, from the campus climate surveys and our own extensive surveys, that their fellow students report real appreciation for diversity, and tell us that they want to be inclusive," Brauer says. "They stay socially distant, though, because they worry about putting themselves out there. Our experience is that this intervention is changing those perceptions and experiences, and possibly the behavior, of both groups."

It may be the first result of its kind for such a long-running study with so many participants, and the researchers are hopeful that future work will help better reveal whether students actually change the way they treat each other.

"Promoting inclusion and dismantling systemic racism is one of the most important issues of our times. And yet, it turns out that many pro-diversity initiatives are not being evaluated," says Brauer, whose work was supported in part by funding from the office of UW-Madison's vice provost and chief diversity officer. "We really need evidence-based practices, but for a long time we've had no idea whether the things we do in the diversity domain actually have a beneficial effect. We're hoping to change that."


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Showing pro-diversity feelings are the norm makes individuals more tolerant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125448.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

Researchers are only beginning to delve into the psychology of racial stressors.  As a longtime activist I know that conversations about racism, inclusion and cultural bias are long overdue and something we have neglected to confront in meaningful ways. It will take time to bring racial inclusion to a common ground where we can all flourish and grow.

People experience discrimination in different ways, and struggling with this issue can manifest as anxiety, depression, feelings of emotional vulnerability and a full spectrum of emotional and psychological stresses. The bottom line is we all have a right to be healthy, and that includes mental health.

Teletherapy Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

 

Teletherapy; a good alternative for therapists & clients

The Unexpected Benefits of Tele-Therapy

Santa Rosa Psychologist Dr. Jenny Holland finds that some patients are thriving under social distancing requirements, thanks to teleconferencing’s surprising appeal.

July 6, 2020, Santa Rosa, Ca. -- Back in March when Gov. Gavin ordered California residents to stay at home and businesses to adhere to mandatory closures, it didn’t seem quite real. And for professionals in the mental health field, not being able to meet patients face-to-face presented some very real problems.  “We had to come up with a viable solution and adapt quickly – for our patients and for our own business viability, or our practices would become obsolete and our patients would suffer,” says Dr. Jenny Holland, Santa Rosa Psychologist.

When counseling patients from her office on Cherry Street was no longer possible, Dr. Holland opted to expand on something that had represented only a fraction of her practice up to that point, Teleheath Video Conference Therapy. “Although I have offered Telehealth Therapy as part of my practice for years, most of my patients preferred to meet face-to-face. And, to be honest, the idea of video conferencing with every one of my patients was a little intimating to me at first. It took some weeks for me to adapt to the process and get comfortable with the technology.”

Healthcare institutes all over the country say the coronavirus pandemic can be extremely stressful for people. Fear and anxiety generated by the idea of a communicable disease and worry over what might happen can become overwhelming and stimulate strong emotions in both adults and children.

“I am finding that teletherapy is an amazingly effective means of counseling, particularly for teens and young adults who already have a familiarity for interacting online with friends. I am also finding that video sessions are extremely helpful for people with anxiety – something we’re seeing a significant increase in since COVID-19 became a thing.”

Public health actions, such as social distancing certainly helps keep everyone safer but, social distancing can leave people feeling even more isolated and lonely. Teletherapy is proving to have some surprising benefits for people who are isolated, and for people who have social anxiety.

“It can be quite relieving for a person with anxiety to not have to be face-to-face for a therapy session. In fact, teletherapy actually empowers my patients who might experience anxiety, because it creates a sense of ‘safe distance’ from the therapist. This alone, often makes it easier for them to open up and to feel comfortable with the therapy modality.”

While most of us are dealing with increased social distancing from one degree to another, it is important for everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being to find new, healthy ways to maintain social connections. Virtual communication including phones and video chats with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. And when people find it too difficult to maintain a positive sense of wellbeing, reaching out to a mental health professional can help.

Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD“For people with depression, I've noticed teletherapy is particularly effective. Once a patient and therapist are able to create that virtual connection, we actually share a more intimate space. Even though we may not be in-person, sessions are essentially eye-to-eye and there are fewer distractions. I am finding that video conferencing makes it easier to connect with my patients, and it provides an excellent format for exploring deeper into personal issues.”

Clients are reporting that although they were initially very intimidated and even fearful at the prospect of having a video therapy session, once into the process they say they are finding it easier to connect. One of Dr. Holland’s clients recently emphasized this by saying, “… originally I thought that therapy wouldn't work if it wasn't in person. But I am noticing that you are right here with me. And I'm feeling connected."

To learn more about Dr. Holland’s Teletherapy services or to request an appointment call 707-479-2946 or visit drjennyholland.com.

Increased screen time and sleep loss leads to mood swings in teens

Study emphasizes prevention and early intervention for mood changes due to extended screen time use

Scroll Down for Dr. Holland's Perspective on this article

Sleep patterns around the world have been disrupted as screen time increases and sleep routines change with COVID-19 self-isolation requirements. Negative mood is not unusual in adolescence, but lack of sleep can affect mental health, causing anhedonia (or loss of pleasure), anxiety, anger and significantly increasing the risk of depression, a global study of more than 350,000 teens shows. The results published in Sleep Medicine Reviews connects less sleep with a 55% increased chance of mood deficits and double the risk of reduced positive mood.

From Asia, to Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America, sleep clearly was a modifiable risk factor that can improve or depress mood in adolescents, says Flinders University sleep researcher Dr Michelle Short. "Sleep duration significantly predicts mood deficits on all mood states, including increased depression, anxiety, anger, negative affect and reduced positive affect," she says, with less sleep linked to an 83% higher chance or anger, 62% increased risk of depressed mood, and 41% higher risk of anxiety.

"Fortunately, there are many interventions individuals, family, the community and even public policy can encourage to maintain regular sleep in this at-risk population to reduce the likelihood of these problems spilling over into mental health issues needing clinical treatment," she says.

The researchers also recommend increased parental / guardian regulation of sleep and technology use, delayed school starting times, and monitoring academic and other pressures such as out-of-hours tutoring does not impede sleep routine. Dr Short says that "while positive mood doesn't get much attention, it is still clinically relevant as one of the key symptoms of depression in anhedonia (loss of pleasure). It is imperative that greater focus is given to sleep as for prevention and early intervention for mood deficits," the study concludes.

Read this article on Science Daily: Flinders University. "'Loss of pleasure' found in teen sleep study: But easy interventions can improve mental health." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200505093127.htm.


Dr. Holland's Perspective

It’s important to remember that while teenagers are individuals with unique personalities with their own opinions, likes and dislikes, some things are constant. No matter how much your teen seems to withdraw emotionally, or insist on being independent, or even how troubled your teen becomes, they still need your attention and to feel loved by you.

It is normal for teens to experience physical and environmental changes that lead to mood swings, irritable behavior, and struggle to manage their emotions. There are many ways you can help your teen find healthy outlets to relieve anger. Exercise is especially effective: running, biking, climbing or even dancing, walking or doing push-ups can help. Even simply hitting a punch bag or a pillow can help relieve tension and anger. Some teens respond really well to the use of art or writing to creatively express their anger.

Regardless of the reason behind your teen’s problems, you can help to put balance back in their life by helping them make healthy lifestyle choices and offering reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Fury Book Tour – April in Santa Rosa

FURY comes to Santa Rosa on April 3rd

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Jenny Holland PsyD is one of the contributors to FURY.

Copperfield Books Santa Rosa will be part of the #thefurytour roll out! If you're in Santa Rosa, CA on Friday April 3 at 7pm come by to hear the contributors from this powerful collection of first-person accounts speak on what it's like to be a woman in the Trump era! Get your signed copy at Copperfield Books and support this historic and thought provoking read!

FURY is set to be published March 20: "Fury: Women's Lived Experiences During the Trump Era" is a collection of essays by a diverse group of 38 women, from different ethnicity, religions, ages, and sexual orientations. Jenny Holland PsyD is one of the contributors to FURY. There will be two book events scheduled in the Bay area as part of the rollout tour.  A few of our contributors will be at each event. April 3, at Copperfields, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, 7 PM April 4, at Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco, 3 PM

To pre-order the book (promo code FURY_JH will save you on shipping costs): ORDER HERE


Advance Praise for FURY

“If ever a book met the historic moment, it is this one. In an era where women are fighting oppression and sexual victimization, we have elevated unapologetic toxic sexual predators to both the White House and the Supreme Court. The authors in this collection bring us inside their workplaces and homes to show how this kind of politics has affected the lives of real people. If we survive the Trump era—by no means a forgone conclusion– we will have women to thank.”

– John Gartner, Ph.D. author of, In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography and Founder of Duty To Warn

“These are thunderbolts thrown at the ultimate lightning rod in a cultural struggle that goes back to the dawn of human civilization. If only Donald Trump were just a metaphor, or justifiable outrage able to sway willful ignorance. A treat to meet these women in their fury.”

– John Sayles, author of Yellow Earth

“Women are still, in 2019, discouraged from viewing the world or politics or our surroundings too much as ‘women.’ We’re discouraged from so-called ‘identity politics,’ and made to feel silly if we feel personal grief at the idea of a sexual predator in the White House, the Supreme Court, and probably every other branch of government. This collection gives a defiant middle finger to that idea. In it, women discuss how their gender, racial, and sexual identities have all come into play in their experiences of the Trump presidency, and move quickly past Trump himself to the systemic failures he represents: patriarchy, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity. It’s not a wallowing, but a reckoning. An acknowledgement and a claiming of righteous anger, the goal of which is clear: claiming power and building new systems, and a better world. You’ll feel sadness, anger, empathy and more reading these essays, but ultimately you’ll come away feeling heard and empowered to fight.”
– Amy Westervelt, author of Forget “Having It All”: How America Messed Up Motherhood-and How to Fix It.

Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era Tour Schedule Released

FURY comes to Santa Rosa on April 3rd

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:

Jenny Holland PsyD is one of the contributors to FURY.

Copperfield Books Santa Rosa will be part of the #thefurytour roll out! If you're in Santa Rosa, CA on Friday April 3 at 7pm come by to hear the contributors from this powerful collection of first-person accounts speak on what it's like to be a woman in the Trump era! Get your signed copy at Copperfield Books and support this historic and thought provoking read!

FURY is set to be published March 20: "Fury: Women's Lived Experiences During the Trump Era" is a collection of essays by a diverse group of 38 women, from different ethnicity, religions, ages, and sexual orientations. Jenny Holland PsyD is one of the contributors to FURY. There will be two book events scheduled in the Bay area as part of the rollout tour.  A few of our contributors will be at each event. April 3, at Copperfields, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, 7 PM April 4, at Book Passage, Ferry Building, San Francisco, 3 PM

To pre-order the book (promo code FURY_JH will save you on shipping costs): ORDER HERE


Advance Praise for FURY

“If ever a book met the historic moment, it is this one. In an era where women are fighting oppression and sexual victimization, we have elevated unapologetic toxic sexual predators to both the White House and the Supreme Court. The authors in this collection bring us inside their workplaces and homes to show how this kind of politics has affected the lives of real people. If we survive the Trump era—by no means a forgone conclusion– we will have women to thank.”

– John Gartner, Ph.D. author of, In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography and Founder of Duty To Warn

“These are thunderbolts thrown at the ultimate lightning rod in a cultural struggle that goes back to the dawn of human civilization. If only Donald Trump were just a metaphor, or justifiable outrage able to sway willful ignorance. A treat to meet these women in their fury.”

– John Sayles, author of Yellow Earth

“Women are still, in 2019, discouraged from viewing the world or politics or our surroundings too much as ‘women.’ We’re discouraged from so-called ‘identity politics,’ and made to feel silly if we feel personal grief at the idea of a sexual predator in the White House, the Supreme Court, and probably every other branch of government. This collection gives a defiant middle finger to that idea. In it, women discuss how their gender, racial, and sexual identities have all come into play in their experiences of the Trump presidency, and move quickly past Trump himself to the systemic failures he represents: patriarchy, white supremacy, and toxic masculinity. It’s not a wallowing, but a reckoning. An acknowledgement and a claiming of righteous anger, the goal of which is clear: claiming power and building new systems, and a better world. You’ll feel sadness, anger, empathy and more reading these essays, but ultimately you’ll come away feeling heard and empowered to fight.”
– Amy Westervelt, author of Forget “Having It All”: How America Messed Up Motherhood-and How to Fix It.

Cancer patient caregivers deal with significant impact to emotional health

Researchers conclude that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group

The number of informal caregivers who look after older adults with cancer is on the rise. Caregivers could be relatives, partners, or even friends who provide assistance to people in order to help them function. Most older people with cancer live at home and are dependent on informal caregivers for support with their cancer treatment, symptom management, and daily activities. Caregiving itself can also take a toll on a caregiver's own physical and emotional well-being, which makes it important to ensure the proper supports are in place.

Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers' emotional health or to their quality of life. Recently, researchers studied a group of adults aged 70 or older who had advanced cancer (as well as other challenges). This study used information from older patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers from local oncology practices enrolled in the "Improving Communication in Older Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers" study conducted through the University of Rochester National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base between October 2014 and April 2017. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Cancer patient caregivers deal with impact to emotional and physical health

The researchers learned that the health problems of older patients with cancer were linked to a poorer quality of life for their caregivers, including poorer emotional health. This fact is confirmed by many other studies, which show that caregivers may even experience more emotional health challenges (such as anxiety, depression, and distress) than the people they care for, the researchers added. What's more, poorer patient health (measured by a geriatric assessment) was also associated with higher levels of caregiver distress.

The average caregiver in the study was 66 years old, though 49 percent of the caregivers were aged 70 or older. The majority of caregivers were female and white (non-Hispanic), and 67 percent were the patient's spouse or partner who lived with them. Close to 40 percent of the caregivers had serious chronic illnesses of their own. Nearly half (43.5 percent) said they experienced moderate to high distress, 19 percent reported having symptoms of depression, and 24 percent were anxious.

Interestingly, older caregiver experienced less anxiety and depression and better mental health, said the researchers. However, they were in poorer physical health. Being female was associated with experiencing less distress. An income of more than $50,000 a year also was linked to having better physical and mental health.

The researchers concluded that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group. Thankfully, there are strategies caregivers can incorporate into their routines to help keep their own health and well-being top-of-mind. Talk with a healthcare provider about your own stress related to caregiving. If you prefer, you can ask to talk privately, without the person you care for present. Your healthcare provider may suggest ways to address the burdens you may experience with caregiving. There are strategies that have been found to help with specific tasks and challenges, decrease caregiver stress, and improve quality of life. You can learn more -- and take a free and private assessment of caregiver health -- at HealthinAging.org.

Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily ---> American Geriatrics Society. "Caring for an older adult with cancer comes with emotional challenges for caregivers, too." ScienceDaily,  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190402124355.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandAccording to the AARP as many as 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child. It's extremely important that caregivers pay attention to and honor their own needs. Without self-care in mind caregivers risk burning out and becoming unable to care for their loved ones. In fact, one of the most reported factors in a family’s decision to move an ailing relative to a long-term care facility is the caregiver’s own failing physical and emotional health.

Long-term caregivers are also vulnerable to something called compassion fatigue. When this occurs caregivers may experience symptoms including; exhaustion, trouble sleep, increased anxiety, frequent headaches and stomach upset. When irritability, numbness, loss of purpose and emotional disconnection sets in the caregiver may also experience problems with their own personal relationships and suffer health issues. Finding a balance between the needs of family and self is key for caregivers to remain healthy in mind and body. It's important for family caregivers to reach out for help when they need it to create a plan for maintaining health, including tending to their own medical concerns and taking respite from their roles.

Dr. Holland works with caregivers suffering from overwhelm, burnout and caregiver fatigue. She helps clients to creatively work with the situation to discover a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, as well as important ways to stay healthy. Dr. Holland will help you learn how to help yourself so you can continue to do the work you love of helping others. Call 707-479-2946 to schedule a free consultation today.

Domestic violence leads to mental health setbacks

Relationship violence created signs of mental illness in both women (depression) and men (anxiety disorders)

Some forms of domestic violence double victims' risk of depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to new research. The study found many victims of intimate partner violence at 21 showed signs of mental illness at the age of 30, with women more likely to develop depression and men varying anxiety disorders. Intimate partner violence classifies physical abuse as pushing, shoving and smacking.

University of Queensland researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the team also found equal levels of abuse by men and women. "The number of men and women who experience intimate partner violence is very similar, leading us to believe couples are more likely to abuse each other," Professor Najman said. "People generally don't end up in the hospital or a shelter, but there is a serious mental burden from this type of abuse."

The research showed defacto couples and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be involved in these types of abusive relationships. Emotional abuse involves comments that make the person feel worthless. Then there is harassment -- a constant and distressing nagging that may have long-term consequences for those on the receiving end.

"It also raises the question, to what extent is this type of violent behavior not just a characteristic of the relationship the couple has with each other, but with other people around them and possibly their children," Professor Najman said. "There is a range of treatment and counseling programs available for couples and families to try and improve the way they relate to one another."

Story provided by Science Daily: University of Queensland. "Unhealthy and unhappy: Mental toll of troubled relationships." ScienceDaily 29 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129091511.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandDomestic violence can take the form of either physical or psychological abuse, or both, and it can affect anyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, economic status or education. Domestic violence can manifest in behaviors meant to scare, physically harm or dominate a partner. This type of violence typically involves an unequal power dynamic where one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. Narcissism can also be considered a form of domestic violence.

Women are most often the battered party in a violent relationship according to statistics which report that more than 38 million American women have been victims of domestic violence. Men can be victimized as well, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Therapy in domestic violence situations often focuses on the client's inevitable loss of self-worth, feelings of anxiety and bouts of depression. Most victims of domestic violence need time and counseling to overcome the overall sense of helplessness that can be the hallmark of abuse.

To make an appointment, or to schedule a free consultation call 707-479-2946 or visit the contact page to send an email now.

Pain and Gratitude

Blogging with Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

The Dubious Connection between Physical Pain and Depression 

As a psychologist I understand that pain and depression are closely related. Pain can be a two-edged sword, and studies have shown that depression can cause pain just as pain can cause depression. Sometimes this kind of cycle of pain and depression or feeling low, can wear us down, create added stress and interfere with our lives and disturb sleeping patterns. To get symptoms of pain and depression under control, it’s important to take proactive steps to keep yourself on an even keel.

My Own Experience

Though I don’t often talk about it, I live with physical pain every day. When the weather is cold and damp, life becomes even more challenging. This past month has been particularly intense in this way. As such, I notice my own thoughts automatically drifting toward the negative. The mental list of things that are difficult or ‘wrong’ tabulate in my mind without effort. And I understand that the weather will probably be getting worse for the next couple of weeks, at least. As a way to tackle my own discomfort and to lift myself out of the cycle of pain and depression I thought I would blog about gratitude and how this practice has helped me.

The Study of Gratitude

In recent years, the study of how a simple action such as practicing gratitude can boost happiness and alleviate depression has gained attention and momentum among psychologists and mental health professionals all over the world. Scientists say that these techniques shift our thinking from negative ruminations to positive outcomes. Gratitude practice has been shown to produce a surge of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and helps to build enduring personal connections.

Count Your Blessings

Many people find putting pen to paper to compile a gratitude list, or to start a gratitude journal provides a sort of ritual experience that lets us focus on the positive events of the day. As we journal, we can write more detail about the events that make us feel appreciative. When I put some energy into focusing on my own situation and turning my thoughts toward what is right about my life, I can begin to build a list of items that I appreciate such as:

  • I am grateful for my children and my husband. Adam and I have been together almost 25 years! That’s almost half of my life now.
  • I am grateful I am healthy and that those that I love are healthy.
  • I am grateful to have a few lifelong friends that support me, always.
  • I am grateful for my Jewish Communities.
  • I am grateful to have a job that allows me to be with people in meaningful and hopefully, in helpful ways

Expanding Gratitude into Work

Showing up and doing what I can do to help make a difference has a strong impact on my experience of pain and helps me to maintain an active, rather than a passive focus. About a year ago, I took a big leap and launched a private pay practice. Today it is thriving, and I am re-invigorated. In addition to seeing individuals, I have started a professional consultation group that is going well.  I also currently run a grief group, and I am starting groups for people with disabilities and their families. I will be traveling a bit in the next few months to spread the word about a book that is coming out in March in which I am a contributor. Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences of the Trump Era. I also started a book club this year that is feisty and fun. And on my favorite weeks, I get to do a little singing with my friends at Ner Shalom.

Gratitude is an Effort Worth Making

To count our blessings or to focus on the positive when dealing with pain, depression and/or anxiety is challenging for everyone and it takes a conscious effort. However, when we adopt the practice of gratitude as a daily habit it can become an important routine and step towards self-empowerment.

Get Started with Your Own Gratitude Practice

Journaling is probably the easiest gratitude enhancing practice we can undertake. Creating a gratitude journal can be as simple as buying a blank notebook and writing down a few things you’re grateful for each night before going to bed. You can enhance your journaling experience by turning it into a ritual such as first lighting a candle, making yourself a cup of tea, sitting quietly for five minutes before you begin, etc. Whatever you choose as a ritual, do it consistently. It strengthens the ability to turn what you’re doing into a positive habit. Anything fun and relaxing, will give you motivation to form a new habit.

 

Therapy dog study results: students reported feeling more supported, less stressed

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students proving beneficial for mental health

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students are an increasingly popular offering at North American universities. Now, new research from the University of British Columbia confirms that some doggy one-on-one time really can do the trick of boosting student wellness. "Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students," said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study's lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology. "Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity."

In research published today in Stress and Health, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later. The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

"The results were remarkable," said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. "We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session."

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study. Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

"These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods," said Frances Chen, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC. "Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful."

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC's Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.


Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily & University of British Columbia. "Sit, stay, heal: Study finds therapy dogs help stressed university students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312085045.htm.


Dr. Holland offers Canine Assisted Therapy

Dr. Jenny HollandConnecting with a dog can be powerfully healing and comforting for individuals of all ages and walks of life. In some cases, it can help an otherwise “stuck” patient overcome hurdles in treatment and begin making progress again. The friendly, accepting nature of these beautiful animals makes them ideal “co-therapists”. Canine-assisted therapy has been around for several decades, and will continue to be used for years to come due to its many benefits. The use of dogs as part of therapy and other forms of treatment can be beneficial for a wide range of disorders, issues, and conditions.


About Tallulah – Canine Assisted Therapy

Tallulah is a highly trained service dog who works with Dr. Holland to provide assistance to clients in a variety of ways. She is warm, friendly, and very intuitive. This Labrador Retriever provides a connection that goes beyond words and straight to the heart.  Depending on your needs, Tallulah can be merely a quiet presence in the room or be actively involved in therapy.

Empathy and closeness enhanced in siblings of children with disabilities

Siblings of children with intellectual disabilities score high on empathy and closeness

New study reveals that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities can be incredibly positive

The sibling relationship is the longest most people will enjoy in their lifetimes and is central to the everyday lives of children. A new Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa study finds that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities are more positive than those between typically developing siblings. The research examines the relationships of typically developing children with siblings with and without intellectual disabilities through artwork and questionnaires. It was conducted by Prof. Anat Zaidman-Zait of the Department of School Counseling and Special Education at TAU's Constantiner School of Education and Dr. Dafna Regev and Miri Yechezkiely of the University of Haifa's Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies. The study was recently published in Research in Developmental Disabilities.

"Having a child with a disability in a family places unique demands on all family members, including typically developing siblings," Prof. Zaidman-Zait explains. "Although challenges exist, they are often accompanied by both short- and long-term positive contributions. Through our research, we found that relationships among children with siblings with intellectual disabilities were even more supportive than those among typically developed siblings. Specifically, we found that children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored higher on empathy, teaching and closeness and scored lower on conflict and rivalry than those with typically developing siblings."

Until now, research on how having a sibling with a developmental disability affects children's social-emotional and behavioral outcomes generated mixed findings. At times, the findings suggested that having a sibling with developmental disabilities led to greater variability in typically developing children's behavior and adjustment.

"But these studies did little to tap into the inner worlds of children, which really can only be accessed through self-expression in the form of art or self-reporting, independent of parental intervention, which is the route we took in our study," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says. The scientists assessed some 60 children aged 8-11, half with typically developing siblings, half with intellectually disabled siblings, through drawings and a questionnaire about their relationships with their siblings. Mothers of both sets of siblings were also asked to answer a questionnaire about their children's sibling relationship quality.

"We drew on the basic assumption that artistic creation allows internal content to be expressed visually and that children's self-reports have special added value in studies measuring sibling relationship qualities, especially in areas where parents might have less insight," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says.

Both sets of typically developing children, with and without siblings with intellectual disabilities, were asked to draw themselves and their siblings. Licensed art therapists then used several set criteria to "score" the illustrations: the physical distance between the figures; the presence or absence of a parent in the illustration; the amount of detail invested in either the self-portrait or the sibling representation; and the amount of support given to a sibling in the picture. The children were then asked to complete the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, which assessed the feelings of closeness, dominance, conflict and rivalry they felt for their siblings.

Reviewing the children's illustrations and questionnaires, as well as the questionnaires completed by the children's mothers, the researchers found that the children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored significantly higher on empathy, teaching and closeness in their sibling relationship and scored lower on conflict and rivalry in the relationships than those with typically developing siblings.

"Our study makes a valuable contribution to the literature by using an art-based data gathering task to shed new light on the unique aspects of the relationships of children with siblings with intellectual disabilities that are not revealed in verbal reports," Prof. Zaidman-Zait concludes. "We can argue that having a family member with a disability makes the rest of the family, including typically developing children, more attentive to the needs of others." The researchers hope their study, supported by The Shalem Foundation in Israel, will serve as a basis for further research into art-based tools that elicit and document the subjective experience of children.

Story Source: ScienceDaily, 14 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200114123525.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland"As a physically disabled person and a parent of a disabled child, I have a unique perspective on parenting children with disabilities. I am offering two new support groups beginning in January that are geared toward helping both parents of children with disabilities and teens & young adults with disabilities to gain a sense of empowerment and control. We will offer coping and practical skills as well. The goal of the groups is to give participants a chance to talk openly and honestly about feelings, share stories and gain support through the process."

More about upcoming support groups:

Parent Support Group

Support group for teens with disabilities

Dr. Holland also offers counseling services for people with disabilities on a on-going basis. To learn more visit Living with Disabilities or call 707-479-2946.