Browsing articles tagged with " therapy"

End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Rhode Island

End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Rhode Island

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental illness or some sort of neurological disorder at some point in their lives. This places mental disorders among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide affecting more than 450 million people. However, mental illness is still the highest untreated disease. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 40-50% of individuals with bipolar or schizophrenia go untreated each year, and the number of those suffering from anxiety and depression is greater. Many ask why so many individuals will not seek treatment, and the simple answer is because of Stigma.

Stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Those struggling with mental health illnesses feel fear of disclosing their condition to a complete stranger thinking they may be judged or mistreated. They feel shame or embarrassment that they can’t handle their problems on their own. And others don’t believe they need any help at all.

The populations most affected by stigma include young people such as teens and adolescents, men, minorities, military personnel, and those who work in the medical/health field. These people are found to be in the most need of mental health services but most likely will not pursue them.

Many “A” list celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Catherine Zeta Jones, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams, Demi Lovato, and Chris Brown have all been diagnosed with Mental Health conditions and have openly discussed such topics with the public. Lady Gaga goes as far as singing about being “Born this way” as she suffers from depression. We recently just laid Robin Williams to rest after his battle with depression.

It is not uncommon for many of us to be experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue. However, it is common that many of us will not get help due to stigmatized reasons. No illness should go untreated because of stigma. Here at Anchor Counseling Center, our mission is to provide superior, family-oriented, mental health services through dependability, integrity, and social responsibility across Southern New England through education to understand that mental illness should be regarded the way physical illness is – as something to be diagnosed and treated without judgment or stigma of any kind.

We at Anchor Counseling Center want to help you, no Stigma attached. If you or a loved one is in need of mental health treatment, please call our office at 401-475-9979 to schedule an appointment.

You can also find us on our website at www.AnchorCounselingCenter.com

Written by Sarah Porier

References:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

http://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

http://www.anchorcounselingcenter.com

What is DBT? How does it work? Can it help me?

What is DBT?  How does it work?  Can it help me?

The Queen of DBT

At Anchor Counseling Center, Inc. in RI we offer individuals Dialectical Behavior Therapy or better known as DBT.  Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Founded by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1970’s, is a modification of Cognitive Behavior Therapy that focuses its main goals on teaching clients how to cope with stress, regulate emotions and improve relationships with others and their inner self. DBT can be used to treat a number of mental health conditions including those suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression and mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, those who have suicidal thoughts and feelings, and those who exhibit self-destructive behavior such as eating disorders and substance abuse. DBT works on the foundations of radical acceptance of the self and validation of client’s capabilities and behavioral functioning.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy works in four stages: Emotional Regulation, Mindfulness, Interpersonal effectiveness and Distress tolerance.

Stage one: Emotional Regulation- seeks to regulate client’s emotions by teaching them techniques and giving them tools to regain control of their behaviors. This stage will help the client develop healthy coping skills to dealing with their emotions. The main goal of this stage is to help clients stop self-harmful behaviors or behaviors that interfere with their logical thought process.

Stage Two: Mindfulness -seeks to help the client focus on experiencing their emotions. This stage teaches clients to completely experience all of their emotions without the feeling of losing control.

Stage Three: Interpersonal Effectiveness- seeks to help clients deal with everyday life, its stressors and accepting them for what they are. This stage expands on working to have more successful relationships, careers and social lives by really understanding the self and accepting the inner you.

Stage Four: Distress Tolerance-seeks to reintegrate and connect the client to their everyday world. This is the stage clients will use what have learned in stages 1-3 and put them to use to help deal with relationships, careers and social life. This stage encourages the client to engage and takes steps into making their life more meaningful to challenge what they have learned.

We at Anchor Counseling Center want to help you, If you feel that you or a loved one would benefit from this type of therapy, a number of Clinicians at Anchor Counseling Center offer this treatment please call our office at 401-475-9979 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can visit our website:  AnchorCounselingCenter.com

Article written by Sarah Porier.

Yet Another Diet? There’s Another Option: Intuitive Eating. Erin Schmitz, MA, CAGS, LMHC

Yet Another Diet?  There is Another Option: Intuitive Eating!

Erin Schmitz, MA, CAGS, LMHC

Anchor Counseling Center, Inc.

“Refuse to Sink”™

Counseling in RI

Diets Don't Work

At Anchor Counseling Center we know it’s spring, and summer is on its way!  What’s going on on TV and in other advertisements?  Ads for fad diets and gym memberships!  Are you thinking it’s time to get your eating and exercise “under control”?  Chastising yourself for being “bad” this winter?  Planning a new diet or counting calories?  Starting Monday of course!

Have you done all of this before, only to regain the weight when you stop “controlling yourself?” And you end up eating even more than you wanted or needed?  Have you regained even more weight than you originally lost?

Research shows that dieting does not work in the long term.  Most dieters regain the lost weight, plus more.  Researchers conducted the most comprehensive and rigorous analysis of diet studies, analyzing 31 long-term studies.   These were some of their conclusions:

We found that the majority of people regained all the weight, plus more”

“Several studies indicate that dieting is actually a consistent predictor of future weight gain”

“We concluded most of them would have been better off not going on the diet at all.”

“one of the best predictors of weight gain over the four years was having lost weight on a diet at some point during the years before the study started”

See the full article for more info: Dieting does not work, researchers report

We are born with natural, innate hunger and fullness signals.  We eat when we are hungry; we stop when we are full.  Have you ever seen a toddler eat?  They may leave half a sandwich and a bite of cookie on their plate, and run back to playing.  They have had enough and felt full.  They are using food for fuel, not for emotional reasons.   We learn to override these natural signals when we are forced to “clean our plates.”  We override our body’s signals further when it is craving a satisfying meal with fat and protein, and we feed it lettuce with low fat dressing because we only have 300 calories left for the day.  Often, after we eat the lettuce we end up looking for something else, because the lettuce did not fulfill our craving.  We may find the chips or other snack and end up eating more than we would have if we just had what we wanted in the first place!  When we plan a diet for Monday, we go into a poverty consciousness and experience “last supper” eating – eating all you can before the diet starts!

If you have been struggling with these issues there is another way.  A way to reconnect with your body’s natural hunger signals, eat whenever you are hungry, eat whatever you are craving, and stop eating when you feel comfortably satisfied.  It takes practice to help you reconnect with this innate wisdom that your body was born with, but it can allow you to banish the diet mentality forever and return to a natural weight for your body!  No more labeling foods “good” or “bad,” beating yourself up after a diet “failure,” or living your days according to a number on the scale.  Learn how to assess your body’s needs and your emotional needs.  Feed your body’s needs with food, and feed your emotional needs with new ways of coping.

Intuitive Eating is a holistic approach to food, weight, eating, and body image. It is not a diet. It is a process which helps individuals whose eating behavior has become disordered learn to feel, trust, and honor their internal huger signals; to use healthy coping skills in response to feelings; and to reject the diet mentality and escape the cycle of restriction and overeating. Dieting disconnects us from our natural wisdom, including our hunger and fullness signals, and it often creates a cycle of restriction and then eventual overeating, leading us to feel like a failure. You are not a failure – the diet is. Dieting often leads to binge eating, greater obsession with food, and weight gain. Intuitive Eating can help you to regain pleasure and joy in the experience of eating any and all foods, while honoring and respecting your body, and ultimately arriving at a natural and healthy weight for you.  

If you are interested in more information, please feel free to send me an email or simply click on Please tell me more.

If you would like to set up a first time appointment please contact me! One click will bring you to Anchor Counseling Center and just send us a quick email.  We will respond within 24 hours.

You can also call us @ 401. 475.9979

Stay tuned for more blog entries on the principles of Intuitive Eating!  Y

Erin Schmitz, MA, CAGS, LMHC

Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

Anchor Counseling Center, Inc

“Refuse to Sink” ™

Do we need Stress in our lives? 6 Steps to decrease.

Sep 17, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Bay, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Mental Health, Stress, Uncategorized, cranston  //  No Comments

Do you really need stress in our lives?

I know many of you may be thinking “Well of course not, who needs stress?” but believe it or not we do need some level of stress in our lives in order to function.  There is such a concept as good stress (eustress) as well as bad stress (distress).  I think most of us are more familiar with distress but eustress actually helps us thrive in our daily lives.

Eustress (good stress) can be events such as starting a new job, getting married, having a baby, etc.  To most of us, we may think these are great moments in our lives and of course while they are great moments, it also involves some level of stress.

So now let’s switch over to distress.  It’s something everyone has encountered and coped with differently.  If we are able to see challenges in our lives as manageable, it will lead us to handling stressful situations effectively.

I would like to offer some self-care techniques that can help us cope with stress more effectively.  These are strategies that when implemented on a consistent basis will help improve our mood, overall well-being, and perspective in general.  Please check out the bulleted list below to learn more about these strategies and see if you are already applying them in your daily lives.

v Take time to relax. Seriously this is important.  Try to take mini breaks throughout your day.  Examples include going outside for a brief walk, stretching, taking deep breaths.

v Get enough sleep. We underestimate how much sleep we really need in order to function.  A healthy range for adults is anywhere between 6-8 hours every night.  If you can get more then you’re in good shape.

v Practice positive self-talk. This will help us to view stressors as manageable rather than impossible.  Examples include:  “I will get through this”, “Things will get better”, etc.

v Exercise. Believe it or not adding physical activity to your day will help release energy in a positive way and provide you with a more balanced outlook on life especially stress.

v Make a to-do-list. Getting organized by making a checklist at the beginning of your day of reasonable items you can accomplish will alleviate stress.

v  Enlist social/family support. Talk to friends and/or family members on a regular basis.  It is vitally important that we connect with others and share our feelings.  It is okay to ask for help.

Can you think of a time in which you were faced with what you thought was an impossible thing to overcome?  Think about how you handled and could you have handled it differently.  If so, would it have made a difference on how you felt following the outcome of that event in your life?

The Military presents challenges for all!

Sep 17, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Bay, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, News, Self Help, Stress, Uncategorized, cranston  //  No Comments

At Anchor Counseling we provide therapy to families from deployed individuals.  As a military wife/SO for over 10 yrs I have been a part of many different experiences. Military life is a unique cultural that at times can present challenges to individuals and families as well as lots of successes.  As the war comes to an end, there will be many soldiers returning home that may be dealing with many different changes and expectations.  As a clinician, I think it is extremely important to become educated with this population and be aware of different issues/needs and concerns that they may face on a daily basis.  Reintegration is a joyous and stressful time!  Reintegration is about more than coming home. It is about resuming and establishing relationships that provide pleasure, comfort and support.

Many service members returning from deployment may experience what are referred to as “invisible injuries”. Invisible injuries include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),  traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression and anxiety that can result from combat exposure. Sometimes alcohol, tobacco and drug use, as well as impulsive or aggressive behavior can magnify these conditions.   All of these problems can compromise relationships reducing one’s ability to enjoy pleasurable and health activities.  Here are a few helpful tips for what soldiers/spouses and children may feel/experience.

With deployment comes change. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with changes can make homecoming more enjoyable and less stressful. Below are some hints you might find helpful.

With deployment comes change. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with changes can make homecoming more enjoyable and less stressful. Below are some hints you might find helpful.

Expectations for Soldiers:

  • You may miss the excitement of the deployment for a while.
  • Some things may have changed while you were gone.
  • Face to face communication may be hard at first.
  • Sexual closeness may also be awkward at first.
  • Children have grown and may be different in many ways.
  • Roles may have changed to manage basic household chores.
  • Spouses may have become more independent and learned new coping skills.
  • Spouses may have new friends and support systems.
  • You may have changed in your outlook and priorities in life.
  • You may want to talk about what you saw and did. Others may seem not to want to listen. Or you may not want to talk about it when others keep asking.

Expectations for Spouses:

  • Soldiers may have changed.
  • Soldiers, used to the open spaces of the field, may feel closed in.
  • Soldiers also may be overwhelmed by noise and confusion of home life.
  • Soldiers may be on a different schedule of sleeping and eating (jet lag).
  • Soldiers may wonder if they still fit into the family.
  • Soldiers may want to take back all the responsibilities they had before they left.
  • Soldiers may feel hurt when young children are slow to hug them.

What Children May Feel:

  • Babies less than 1 year old may not know you and may cry when held.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years) may hide from you and be slow to come to you.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) may feel guilty over the separation and be scared.
  • School age (6-12 years) may want a lot of your time and attention.
  • Teenagers (13-18 years) may be moody and may appear not to care.
  • Any age may feel guilty about not living up to your standards.
  • Some may fear your return (“Wait until mommy/daddy gets home!”).
  • Some may feel torn by loyalties to the spouse who remained.

Amy J. Chirichetti, LICSW

https://www.militarymentalhealth.org/

You can also visit our website at www.AnchorCounselingCenter.com

Accepting Transition in Your Life!

Sep 17, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Bay, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, News, Self Help, cranston  //  No Comments

At Anchor Counseling Center we help people quite often with transitions in their life.

Adjusting to a transition is an experience that allows us all to grow in many different ways.  Transition: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc.,to another; change: the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
We all experience it, even daily…transition. A myriad of options allowing us to choose our daily path. We sometimes move along with ease, other times with trepidation, and still others with impulsivity, but all with consequences. Life is never really the same.

What’s your acceptance of transitions? Different, difficult, delicious? I think of transition as possibility, as layers of mystery peeling and revealing a life unfolded. Looking for that which must be articulated in order to propel one self into the world. Of course, not without that familiar armor arising, the sting of abandon, of resistance, of not belonging, of wanting to fix, of not knowing but wanting to.

I try to face this incredible period of life with exploration and personal freedom and see how much a theme of transition has in my life. Just as I begin to get comfortable, kaboom! It changes. A pattern of living that has the possibility of both good and bad choices. I’m moving into it and away from it at the same time, just being in the present. I welcome that change, but I also mourn the loss of the other. It’s important to also find a way to continue to find space to be quiet and investigate inwardly the meaning of it all.

So lets remember that life is Movement. Change is always present. That really is all there is. Nothing stays the same except the space to transition and to choose.

Ask yourself: what was I was born to do, right now? Explore it, share yours, your meaning, your heart. There’s always someone ready to hear it and understand as they are on an adventure full of transition too.

Written by Catherine Cummins, LHMC

Anchor Counseling Center

If you or someone you know can benefit from speaking to someone about this very subject of transition and life changes, please call 401-475-9979 or visit our website @ www.AnchorCounselingCenter.com

Mental Health News: 10 Steps to Prevent Suicide

Jul 19, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Bay, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, News, Self Help, Stress, Uncategorized, cranston  //  No Comments

Anchor Counseling Center is sharing the latest on Suicide Prevention.  As a private practice with locations in East Providence, Cranston, Lincoln, and North Attleboro, we are very involved in the community and reach out to our members with a caring and supportive manner.  Our mission is to provide our patients with the help they want as quickly as possible with reliable, courteous, and professional counseling and psychiatric interventions.

Just as CPR has been promoted to save lives, it is vital that the general public knows how to recognize suicide risk and prevent suicide. Here are the steps:

1. Notice if the person appears quiet and withdrawn, oversleeps, has crying episodes, has loss of appetite and energy, appears dishevelled, the gaze is downward, the voice tone is flat, consistently negative comments, irritability, or says things like, “Life’s not worth living,” or “I hate my life,” etc.

2. Ask: “How would you rate your mood right now on a scale of zero to ten with zero meaning life’s not worth living and ten meaning life is great?”

3. If the person rates the mood as 5 or under, ask: “Have you had any thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself?” *

4. If the person indicates yes, go to the next step. If the person says, “I don’t know,” hear this as a “yes” to the question in #3.

5. Ask: “Have you thought about how you might end your life?” If the person says yes, the risk is increased.

6. Ask: “What have you thought about as how you might do it?” If the plan or method is ineffective or non-lethal, such as cutting wrists, the risk is low. If the method is lethal such as using a gun or jumping from a bridge, etc., the risk is high.

7. Regardless of the method, ask: “Can we agree together that if you have thoughts of killing yourself, you will speak to me personally (not my voice mail) before carrying out a plan to harm yourself?”

8. If the person says “no” or “I don’t know,” to the question in #7, say: “What I am hearing is that you are in a lot of pain right now and thinking of ending your life, so I am wanting you to go to the emergency room right now and get some help to feel better right away. Will you go? I will make sure you get there safely. Is there a family member or someone I can call to go with you?” Or tell the person you will go with them yourself.

9. Arrange for the suicidal person to be accompanied to the emergency room, and call ahead to tell emergency staff the person is coming.

10. If the person refuses, then ask the person to wait there with someone while you call police in another room to report that the person has threatened suicide with a lethal method. Ask the police to come and accompany the person to the emergency room.

If you know someone that needs help please call us immediately at 401.475.9979.

*Note: If the person rates his mood as 6 or over, after feeling consistently depressed, and he now reports life is great and he is smiling, the risk may be increased because he has decided to end his life and has made arrangements.

Article shared from http://www.prlog.org/11928309-mental-health-news-ten-steps-to-prevent-suicide.html

Being alone while still connected! Technology Today!

Feb 14, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Uncategorized, cranston  //  No Comments

We loved this article so much we decided to put it on our own blog.  This article is filled with very insightful information regarding today’s world on how difficult it can appear to be alone.

The End of Alone

At our desk, on the road, or on a remote beach, the world is a tap away. It’s so cool. And yet it’s not. What we lose with our constant connectedness.

By Neil Swidey
February 8, 2009 http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/02/08/the_end_of_alone/

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. It’s magical how it makes the world closer, and more immediate. Take, for instance, the real-time way we learned about the plane that skidded off a Denver runway and burst into flames in December. One of the passengers on Continental Flight 1404 used Twitter to share everything from his initial profanity- and typo-laced reaction to making it out of the fiery jet (“Holy [bleeping bleep] I wasbjust in a plane crash!”) to his lament that the airline wasn’t providing drinks to the survivors who’d been penned into the airport lounge (“You have your wits scared out of you, drag your butt out of a flaming ball of wreckage and you can’t even get a vodka- tonic.”)

Technology also makes life infinitely more manageable. It’s what allows me to begin writing this essay from a packed coffee shop on a snowy winter afternoon while still being connected with my editors and finish writing it from my kitchen in the middle of the night, when all the interruptions of the day have faded away (unless I want to check Facebook to see how many of my friends are also nuts enough to be staring at a computer screen at 3 a.m.). And technology simply makes things more fun, like the way my wife will hold her iPhone up to a restaurant ceiling speaker and instantly be told that the vaguely familiar tune of funky ’70s cheese she hears is “Sky High,” by the one-hit-wonder band Jigsaw, rather than letting that little mystery make her cerebrum ache for the rest of the day.

So please don’t confuse what I have to say for that tired Luddite screed about how technology is ruining us. It isn’t.

Except it just might.
Because of technology, we never have to be alone anymore. And that’s the problem.

I’M SITTING IN A PEW near the back of St. Anne’s Church in Fall River, a soaring structure of Vermont blue marble that could rival a lesser European cathedral. It was built in the late 1800s, when the southeastern Massachusetts mill city’s French Canadian community was big enough to warrant a church able to seat 2,000. On this blustery afternoon, the crowd is more like a tenth of that. The priest is talking, but the lousy PA system makes it hard to hear what he’s saying. So I’m doing what I’ve done before in this situation: trying to keep my young daughters occupied by whispering for them to study their surroundings — the exquisitely carved red-oak woodwork near the high ceiling, the enormous pipe organ in the rear balcony, the colorful stained-glass windows on every wall. With its combination of architectural grandeur and crumbling-plaster fatigue, the place is like Venice in the unforgiving light of morning, rather than the soft-lit romanticism of night. It’s honest and beautiful.

Then I hear an odd chirping. My eyes follow my ears to a pew to my left and behind me, where a guy with slicked black hair and dark glasses is sitting. He’s chewing gum and wearing one of those Bluetooth cellphone attachments in his ear.

Hey, man, I’m bored, too. But, c’mon, take that infernal thing out of your ear. Say a prayer. Collect your thoughts. Or just do what my 4-year-old is doing and stare at the ceiling.

Did I mention it was Christmas Day Mass?

Not long ago, I was sitting in the “quiet study” section of my local public library when a middle-aged woman wearing an annoyed expression plopped down in the green upholstered chair next to my table, her teenage daughter in tow. She flipped open her cellphone and dialed her daughter’s therapist. After giving the therapist’s secretary her full name and slowly spelling her daughter’s — loud enough for every soul in that wing of the library to hear — she said, “We have an appointment for next week, but I want to know if he has any availability before that. She is really not doing well.”

I looked up from my laptop, incredulous that a mother could be so blase about violating her daughter’s privacy, not to mention library decorum — and convinced that the therapist and the daughter must have no time to discuss anything besides mother issues.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. There have always been boors blabbing in places where they should be quiet, blithely ignoring the shushes from librarians or the stares from fellow elevator passengers while behaving as though they’re the only ones whose problems matter. Bad manners are bad manners, irrespective of technology, right?

Yes, only technology has vastly expanded this bad behavior, eroding much of society’s stigma against it, and making it everybody’s problem. But here’s the real point: It is dulling our very capacity to ever be alone, or alone in our thoughts. The late British pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott popularized the phrase “the capacity to be alone” in the 1950s, to describe a pivotal stage of emotional development. Winnicott argued that an adult’s capacity to be alone had its roots in his experience as a baby, learning to function independently while still in the presence of his mother. Yet today we’re seeing this capacity weakened, whether we’re in public places known for contemplation, like churches and libraries, or whether we’re just sitting by ourselves at home, losing the fight to resist answering our BlackBerries (just ask our new president) or checking our laptops for Facebook updates.

“We’ve gone from an American ethic that championed the lone guy on a horseback to an ethic of managing multiple data streams,” says Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University and author of the new book Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got From the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety. “It’s very hard for people to unplug and be alone — and be with the one data stream of their mind.”

What’s fueling this? Conley says it’s anxiety borne out of a deep-seated fear that we’re being left out of something, somewhere, and that we may lose out on advancement in our work, social, or family lives if we truly check out. “The anxiety of being alone drives this behavior to constantly respond and Twitter and text, but the very act of doing it creates the anxiety.” This is particularly true among young people, mainly because they don’t know life when it wasn’t like this.

I HAD A GREAT TIME in college and was fortunate to make lots of close, lasting friendships. But if I want to be honest with myself, I can remember plenty of times when I felt uncomfortable. And many of the earlier ones involved eating alone in the dining hall. I didn’t eat by myself often, and when I did, it was usually a simple matter of conflicting schedules with my friends. But my unease sprang from my inability to convey that to the strangers around me. Honest, I’m not a loner. I had to learn to deal with the discomfort. Sometimes, it would force me to strike up conversations with strangers or be receptive when they engaged me. Other times, I would just sit alone and read or think. The discomfort never went away entirely, but it sure receded with practice.

If I were in college nowadays, I doubt that would happen. I would be filling my alone time texting any friend I could think of.

Whenever I’m on a college campus these days, almost all the students I see sitting by themselves are furiously thumbing their iPhones or BlackBerries. For all I know, they could simply be playing Sudoku. Yet the message they’re sending is unmistakable. I am not alone.

Sure, texting a friend can make you feel less awkward. But, in the long run, so can learning to step outside of your shell, or becoming at peace within it.

This change in campus life isn’t restricted to dining halls. The quads are teeming with ear-budded students texting and talking on cellphones rather than sitting with an open book or talking to the person next to them. In important ways, they’re not fully there.

To see how these technological patterns are changing the college experience, University of Toronto researcher Rhonda McEwen tracked the communication behavior of students across their freshmen year. She found them delaying the full plunge of forming new friend networks and breaking away from their old ones. In their first semester, the freshmen generally hold on tightly to their high school friends, talking with and texting them frequently and keeping up with them on Facebook. As the year moves on, they generally shift their high school friends to Facebook and instant messaging while focusing more of their texting and phone calls on their new college pals. In the summer, they shift back, with high school friends returning to the top of the communication hierarchy.

There are things to be happy about in these patterns. The lifeline of old friends can help staunch the feelings of loneliness that are as common to the freshman experience as rapid weight gain.

But those old contacts can also turn into a crutch that prevents students from truly engaging with the new world around them or learning to be alone in their own mind. One of the freshmen McEwen interviewed confessed that every day she spent her lunchtime sitting on the steps outside a campus building, calling or texting her sister. That was less painful for her than sitting alone. Yet like the helicopter parents who hover over their children at the playground in the hopes of shielding them from bumps and bruises, we can delay the hurt only so long. As the Talmud tells us, sometimes a little bit of pain can be a blessing.

“Loneliness is ubiquitous,” says Amherst College political science professor Thomas Dumm, whose new book, Loneliness As a Way of Life, grew out of his experience of losing, in short order, his wife and mother to death and his daughter to college. “But people are less equipped to deal with it. Rather than going deeper, they try to push it aside.”

How will this all play out in years to come? Leysia Palen, a University of Colorado computer scientist, worries that “how to be alone in a public space is a skill that is going to disappear.” And that hole could become glaring when people’s life circumstances change. “As friends die, do you find yourselves in a different reality than before? I don’t have any problem being alone, but it’s something I learned — through living it.”

More than anything, McEwen found in her University of Toronto study that college students are constantly connected to the point of having no concept of a truly unplugged life. There’s a time- honored tradition in Canada of “going to the cottage,” usually in the summertime, and being blissfully disconnected from the rest of the world. “The participants in my study had real discomfort going to the cottage,” McEwen says. “If there’s no cellphone reception, no Internet access, they think, ‘What the hell am I doing out there?’ ”

It’s hard to imagine a Henry David Thoreau emerging from this millennial generation, someone motivated to log two years and two months alone in the woods around Walden and wax about how he “never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” He’d have no time to observe the bullfrogs or water his bean plants. He’d be too busy searching for a Wi-Fi signal.

DESCARTES, NEWTON, LOCKE, Spinoza, Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard — they share the distinction of having been some of the greatest thinkers the world has known. They also share this: None of them ever married or had their own families, and most of them spent the bulk of their lives living alone. In his provocative 1989 book Solitude: A Return to the Self, British writer and psychiatrist

Anthony Storr made a persuasive case for the value of deep, uninterrupted alone time. He found it in ample supply in the lives of not just philosophers and physicists, but also some of the greatest poets, novelists, painters, and composers.

Maybe this concept of the lone genius is somewhat exaggerated. While Newton was celibate, many of these other thinkers had transient affairs and interacted to varying degrees with the world around them. Even Thoreau would leave his cabin every once in a while and stroll into downtown Concord to visit with friends. But the point is, they were all able to remove themselves from the bustle of daily life for long stretches, in order to contemplate and create. We’re all the richer for their having done that. Now, ask yourself, when was the last time you were truly alone and unplugged for a long spell? How many of you can even say you’ve gotten this far in this essay without having once stopped to answer a call, reply to a text, or check your in-box? I must confess that I haven’t. (Another confession: To ensure that I finish writing this, I’ve now moved myself to an undisclosed remote location where I’m sitting in a small windowless room with some sort of orange carpeting material on the walls — no lie — and where no Wi-Fi is available. Something tells me Descartes never had to go to these lengths for quiet time.)

It’s important to distinguish between being alone and being lonely. In the new book Loneliness, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and his Massachusetts coauthor William Patrick argue the pangs of loneliness that we sometimes experience are the evolutionary equivalent of the shooting pain we feel after touching a hot stove. These pangs are ingrained reminders of how bad social disconnection is for our well-being. Cacioppo uses everything from brain imaging to blood-pressure analysis to demonstrate the serious drag on our health that loneliness can have.

At first pass, this line of thought would seem to contradict the argument Storr made in Solitude and pretty much everything I’ve written to this point. Yet that’s not the case at all. It turns out that research shows people who feel lonely are no more likely to be physically alone. Cacioppo acknowledges that solitude can be very healthy, and he compares loneliness to a sort of thermostat, a state of mind that kicks in at different points for different people.

While we humans need social interaction, he’s in agreement that we won’t find it through Twittering and texting. Cacioppo points to research showing that electronic communication can increase social isolation and depression “when it replaces more tangible forms of human contact.” Another team of psychologists termed this form of communication “social snacking.” But, as he writes, a snack is not a meal.

So why do we feel so compelled to swap messages with people who aren’t next to us and rack up hundreds of friends to keep electronic tabs on?

Dalton Conley, the NYU professor, says it’s worth looking back several decades, to two groundbreaking social-science studies. (Both, as it turns out, are tied to the Boston area — who knew we cold New Englanders could be so social?) The first is the 1967 experiment that indirectly made us all aware of the disturbing pervasiveness of Kevin Bacon in our lives. Psychologist Stanley Milgram gave a letter to a bunch of people in Omaha, Nebraska, and instructed them to hand-deliver it to someone they knew. The unstated goal was to get a copy to a stockbroker in Sharon, Massachusetts. The experiment laid the groundwork for the popular notion of “six degrees of separation.” (Conley says newer research suggests the number is actually closer to eight.) The second study, based on interviews with Boston professionals that psychologist Mark Granovetter conducted in 1972, suggests that your closest friends are less valuable to you in finding new jobs or new mates than the friends of friends whom you don’t know that well. The idea is that you’re probably already aware of the same job openings or single people that your close friends know about. But those tangential acquaintances hold the key to new and potentially valuable information. Granovetter’s paper, called “The Strength of Weak Ties,” could have been used as the business plan for LinkedIn, the fast-growing site for professionals

that is like Facebook except stripped of all mildly interesting content and about as much fun as a Chamber of Commerce networking night.

Here’s the irony: The explosion of all this electronic networking and friending may ultimately rob weak ties of most of their strength. If we’re all linked up with hundreds if not thousands of people, there is no longer much value to the information they possess. It’s no longer exclusive. A stock tip whispered in your ear by someone in the know can make you a mint (if it doesn’t land you in jail). But what good is a stock tip broadcast on CNBC?

SCHEHERAZADE QUIROGA has a heavy name but a buoyant personality. In August, the 28-year- old left her parents’ home in Caracas, Venezuela, where she has lived her whole life, and moved here to begin a master’s program in television management at Boston University. The first time she left her family was 10 years ago, when she and her sister took a guided tour of Europe. As soon as they arrived in Madrid, the first stop on the tour, she found a pay phone and called her mother in tears. “Mama, Mama!” she cried, “I miss you so much!” This past November, when she returned to Venezuela to vote and saw her family for the first time since moving to Boston, her mother came running over, saying, “I need to hug you!” Quiroga thought to herself, “It’s no big deal.”

Sure, she’s a decade older than that girl crying from the pay phone in Madrid. But the real difference is that, although she’s living abroad now, she hasn’t really had to leave her family. Every night at 9 o’clock, she logs on to the Internet video chat service Skype and catches up with her mother, usually for two or three hours at a stretch. “I don’t feel the distance as much,” she says.

What’s wrong with this? On one level, nothing at all. Quiroga is sociable, happy, and well adjusted. She’s managed to form close friendships with other students in her program while still keeping strong ties with her family.

But if international travel and study were once surefire ways for people to learn deep truths about themselves as they experienced new cultures, that’s probably not the case anymore. Contrast Quiroga’s Boston experience with the backpacking tour Dalton Conley took alone across Bolivia and Peru in the early ’90s. Once, after making vague plans to meet up with a friend in La Paz, he took a hellish bus ride clear across the country, suffering altitude sickness along the way, only to arrive at the station in the Bolivian capital and find out that his friend had just left. He spent much of his time in South America feeling lost, miserably alone, and utterly disconnected from his normal life. “But I look back at it as one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he says. “It helped in forming a sense of who I am.”

I ask Quiroga when she feels truly unplugged and off the grid. (I’ve learned to be specific with this question. Another college student I posed it to said her definition of being unplugged was keeping her cellphone on vibrate.)

She pauses. Her green eyes widen. Then she smiles. “Hmm. I think only when I’m on the T and we go into the tunnel. As soon as the Green Line train hits Kenmore and goes underground, I think, ‘Well, that’s it. No one can reach me now.’ ” She smiles again. “Isn’t that sad?”

Neil Swidey is a staff writer for the Globe Magazine. E-mail him at swidey@globe.com © Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Human suffering and the Journey to The Other Side

Jan 26, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Bay, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, News, Self Help, Stress, cranston  //  No Comments

A Whisper of Light

By: Aryssa Washington

To where is escape but after the dive—a liberating plunge

I may find it, or an abyss of nothingness

Face over the edge—barely breathing

Or should I hold it in forever?

Until breaking past the first cold sweep of water shivering over my body, pushing me deeper into the dark

The murky puddle remains expansive to my sight

My toes lurk at the edge in anticipatory trepidation, tipping and teetering toward the damp darkness as one lonely droplet scantily clad in ache, sears a path into icy cold bleakness

Down towards the plunge

Into the dark, out of the light

Out of the dark, into the light

I know not the escape.

A wavering shape, she stares back at me mirrored in the murky pools

Heated eyes, pelt livid drops of rain lightly across the shimmering abyss

Stretched and taut, I poise my body firmly for flight

I let my feet leave the sturdy form of concrete, diving in

An inferno of blazing anger and fight crash into the stark impact of cool, ice swarming to attack the invading heat

The fire-lit scar indolently marking my life draws out the light

Mouth formed to scream the words, hands itching to gouge free, digging deep, tearing it apart to burn by the drop, by the dive, to melt away in the dark.

Uttering a shriek I break in, seeping into the darkest chasm

Dismal lights fade, giving way to the waves of deeper ocean, a different sea

The tears and pain once searching, relax into a calming ebb and flow

The last flickering blaze burning out, melding into icy cold waves

Towing and tugging me willingly to the cold pillow lit to drench my rest in serenity

I see her, standing over me, before she dives, after the dream—liberated from a sleeping image, replaced by her, by me.

My minds whisper a lit by the wish that tranquility remain.

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In need of a counselor or therapist in Cranston?

Jan 19, 2012   //   by Richard Figueira   //   Blog, East Providence, Lincoln, Rhode Island, Marriage, Mental Health, Self Help, cranston  //  No Comments

Alex Irving, LMFT

Alex Irving is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) who received her Master degree from the University of Rhode Island. Alex recently completed an Approved Marriage & Family Therapy Supervisor Program from the University of Rhode Island. She is currently supervising students and clinicians who are pursuing their Marriage & Family Therapy degree and license. Alex is a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) and the Rhode Island Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (RIAMFT). She is also supervising an intensive home based clinical program providing crisis intervention services to emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children, who are at imminent risk of hospitalization, and their families. With over 10 years of experience in the field Alex provides individual, couples and family therapy. She has experience in treating children, adolescents and families. She primarily uses a strength-based, family systems approach to improve individuals overall well-being and develop healthier families. Alex works hard to develop positive relationships with her clients and empower them to achieve the changes they are looking for in their lives

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