Saturday, December 1, 2007

What If Your Holidays Aren't What You Want?

So often people end up feeling that the Holidays are not what they wish they were. We wish for the return of past traditions, for better relationships with family and friends, or that we could somehow spend the holiday differently. It is easy to look at all of the idealized images in stores, books, magazines, and on television and to think our lives should be more like what we see there.
We all know that we can't go back, that we only control our side of relationships, and that we can't be everywhere at once. We also know that the media view of the holidays just isn't real. No one's house really looks like that, and certainly no one's friends and family ever really behave that way. Nevertheless, we can end up feeling let down or disappointed.
One of the best ways that any of us can get out of this rut is to start practicing Mindfulness, which means staying focused on what we are experiencing in the moment rather than what might be or what should be. Anyone can take a few moments out of their day to try some of these things. You don't have to be particularly wise, lucky, happy, or anything else. All you have to do is stop and try.
Here are some examples:

You're trying to get your decorations up and know you don't have time to get it the way you want it. You are starting to feel cranky and you snap at one of the kids. Then you feel bad because, after all, it is the Holidays.

  • What about stopping, taking a deep breath, and saying to yourself, "If it's not worth enjoying, it's probably not worth doing. This should be fun." Then ask the children what decorations they like the most and would like to help you with. Answer the question for yourself as well. Then while you're working with your children on everyone's favorites, think about the fun you all are having in the moment and know that in reality, this is what's most important.

You've realized that you are not going to be able to spend the holiday where you would most like to be. You decide you hate the season and wish it were over.

  • You can remind yourself that no matter what you do, if you think about paying attention to the present, you can find pleasure in various moments during the day. Where will you be? What about those people or that place do you enjoy or appreciate? Can you add some things to your day that will increase your enjoyment? Can you give yourself cues to stop and enjoy the moment a few times during the day?

There is no rule saying that you can't spend your holidays wishing for something that either doesn't exist or is out of reach for you at the moment. Just know that if you want to try something different, you can always just stop, take a breath and ask yourself "What's happening right now in this moment?"

Peace of the season to you all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Fall Blues?

Do You Love the Fall, or Do You Hate It?

We’ve all noticed it. The days are cooler, the leaves are turning, and its getting dark earlier every evening.
Some people, maybe 10-20% of us, start feeling blue as the days get shorter. If your symptoms are severe and get in the way of enjoying your life, you might want to consider speaking with a healthcare, or mental health professional to see if you have a seasonal depression.
However, if your symptoms are more mild and more of an annoyance than a worry, you might want to try a few of these things to see if they help you feel better.
§ Keep or start exercising. Walk outside in the sun if you can. Practices like yoga and Tai Chi can be helpful, too.
§ Put as much light in your life as you can. Open your blinds and your sunroof if you have one.
§ Sit by the window. Look outside. Pick something about the landscape in this season that you can appreciate.
§ Learn to meditate. Herbert Benson, M.D. wrote a book called The Relaxation Response. You can read it in an evening. It will tell you how to learn a simple meditation technique that is consistent with your personal beliefs and preferences.
§ Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol and other drugs can cause you to feel momentarily better, but a lot worse in the long run.
§ Try limiting your TV watching. It will eat up your time and leave you with nothing rewarding.
§ Try to get enough sleep. Most people need 8 hours a night.
§ If you find yourself hungry or eating too much, plan to have good quality, satisfying snacks available that won’t set you up to gain too much weight. Some good choices are things like fruit, nuts, raw vegetables, whole grains, beans, soups, and oatmeal. Try to keep the fat and sugar down, though.
§ Learn something new. Look through the adult education pamphlet, or check out other opportunities to learn a new skill or refine an old one. Join up with a friend and teach each other something new.
§ Do things that have to be done anyway with other people and enjoy yourself doing them. For example, plan a meal preparation party. Family members and or friends can get together and fix some meals to freeze, or one to share.
§ Whatever you like to do, find ways to enjoy the season. People who like the outdoors can walk or hike. People who prefer indoor activities can do things like reading, playing games, telling stories, baking, doing needlework or woodworking.
As our evenings lengthen, there can be more opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Take advantage of it. Chances are you’ll feel better.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Why "Behavioral"

Last week the agency announced its name change from Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center to Kennebec Behavioral Health. Since that time we have gotten some feedback on the change, most of it positive, but also some expressions of concern that we may have abandoned our commitment to people living with mental illness or that we are implying that people are somehow to blame for their illness and just need to "fix their behavior." These concerns are understandable, but neither is an accurate reflection of our reasons in making the change. Changing the name of an organization with a forty-seven year history is a complex and involved process. It also offers an opportunity to speak with the community in a very basic way about who we are, who we can help, and what we are able to do.

For at least the past fifteen years, we have heard that the word "mental" in our name was a barrier to many people seeking help for problems in living. In the five decades since our inception the word has unfortunately gained pejorative meaning. For many people the word increasingly carries an impression of hopelessness and "other-ness." That is not what we want to reflect back to our community, either about ourselves or the people we serve. People do not have to label themselves in order to seek out and benefit from help. We believe that changing our name will improve access.

We understand that many people have brain-based or mental illnesses. We know that it is not possible to just "get over it" and behave better. We also know that people do not have to define themselves by their illness alone and that, as for all of us, much of life is what we make of it. 'Behavioral' seems to reflect that opportunity better than 'Mental.'

There is, for example, the opportunity for a person to become an active partner in managing their chronic illness. People can increase their insight and knowledge about their illness and how it affects their lives. They can learn skills for keeping their symptoms more under control and lowering their overall distress about their condition. They can learn to increase their effectiveness as well as their sense of meaning and purpose in their relationships, hobbies, and work. All of these are behaviors and they are things with which we can help.

Finally, this agency has also made a commitment to helping people with substance abuse and dependence issues. The word 'Mental' does not reflect their needs at all and can be a significant barrier to service.

No name is a perfect reflection of any person or agency, but if we are able to improve community access, highlight the power of people to take control in their lives, and reflect a more comprehensive and inclusive mission, many of our goals will be met.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness and interest of people who have questioned our choice. These are fair questions. I hope these comments add some clarity to the discussion.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Collaboration with Community Professionals

Staff at Kennebec Behavioral Health are always interested in developing close working collaborations with other professionals who care for their clients and patients.

KBH understands its responsibility to the community. We know that we offer a number of services that are either difficult or impossible to access anywhere else in the area. We feel a responsibility to keep those services available to clients who are seen in other agencies or practices. Along with that, we also understand that the best services are always well coordinated.

Many of you are in regular contact with KBH staff who see your clients. If you haven't been and share a client, I am inviting you to either contact your client's treatment staff directly, or call me and we will be happy to work with you. Our release of information form is available on our website so that it can be downloaded and signed before you call.

If you have an issue with a client that you need to problem solve, I am happy to speak with you about the situation without your identifying the client. I know a lot about resources in the area and might be able to help. I am at least willing to try or to suggest someone else with a particular expertise. My phone number is 626-3455 and if I'm not there when you call, I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Meet Dr. Karen Mosher

Karen Mosher, Ph.D., Kennebec Behavioral Health's Clinical Director
What is a Clinical Director? Kennebec Behavioral Health is a large behavioral health agency that provides different services for people who have various, and sometimes complicated needs. It is the job of the Clinical Director to support and maintain overall quality of care. That involves making sure that clinical staff and supervisors have the support, supervision, materials, and training that they need, are looking at treatment outcomes, staying current with new ideas and research about assessment and treatment, reviewing problems if they occur, answering questions about clinical issues and services, and making sure that different services are working together as well as possible.

What are your qualifications?
I earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Purdue University in 1979 and have been licensed as a psychologist in Maine since 1980. I have worked at Kennebec Behavioral Health since 1979. During this time I have done a lot of different things at the agency. This includes doing individual therapy, assessment and consultation, training new psychologists, and managing or supervising many of the the programs offered by the agency. This has given me the opportunity to learn about providing mental health services that are helpful to people with all sorts of different issues.