What’s really important

July 24, 2012

I’ve recently been in a period of evaluation and reevaluation. I have decided to focus on 2 categories of things. 1) Things I’m obligated to do. This is as opposed to just sitting down and turning to dust. To not do my obligations is to snuggle up to depression, get morbidly comfortable and die. 2) Things that make me happy and fulfilled. On this list are of course family and church. I also have as a core value a motivation to serve. At this point in life I am more selective about what I spend my time doing. I want to write more, create more art, and show more of my art pieces.


Private practice

July 18, 2012

When I started grad school in 1982 I didn’t have much concern for making money, I merely wanted to help people make sense of their lives.

I’ve been in solo private practice for almost three years and although my income is steadily rising, I’m not getting fat–except in the conventional way.

It is interesting that I’ve been in Springfield, MO involved in the mental health field for 20+ years, as a professor, part of a clinic, and now in solo private practice, but many do not know where I am.

One of my colleagues suggested that I post a billboard near my office. We’ll see-yikes!

For me the bottom line is serving those who need my help.

What can I do about stress? Part 2

November 18, 2010

Many airports have more than one runway because it is sometimes necessary to take a different approach to the process of landing.  If you are stressed it may be a good idea to do some things differently.

When things bother you, let them out rather than hold them in.  Feelings are natural, neither right or wrong-they just are. However what one does with them is very important. If I stuff them and do not bleed off the energy that they can produce then they can grow, fester, and become problematic. We could say that feelings will be expressed one way or another. Either outwardly or inwardly. Stress is one of those inward ways.

Most often stress involves our reaction to the actions, attitudes and behaviors of others. We have two principle choices. One can insist on his or her own way or flex and bend. Obviously some things can not be negotiated–others are not life and death matters, merely preference.  Stress will increase in the presence of unreasonable rigidness.

Speak-up-but I don’t want to make any waves. Again you can make outward waves or inward ones–waves are inevitable. Of course when things are dealt with makes a difference in the size of the wave they produce. Deal with stressors early rather than later. Its much easier and more productive to address issues when they produce a small irritation than when they become a gurgling, bubbling lava flow.  Holding things back can hurt you and others, now or later. Certainly wisdom is needed–no one profits if I just spout off what I’m thinking–get wisdom, then speak.

Stress sometimes is the result of poor planning. I know it’s time consuming but make a list so you can manage your time well. Do your list and limit the things you allow to disrupt your flow. This is because the seemingly urgent matter will create more stress because it delays the addressing the necessary.


What can I do about anxiety and stress?

November 16, 2010

This is one of four posts about stress.

If the bees are flying about your hair get away from them-a natural response to danger. When stressed get away from what causes it.

Can you say no? I know you can!  It may help you feel less stressed. Maybe you’re too nice to say no to someone. If it is a matter of your health perhaps it would be wise to consider un-nice-ness, at least some of the time. Saying no makes the other be more creative, so you may be helping them grow by saying no once in a while.

What’s your interpersonal life like? Do you have people who just send you round the bend. Maybe they are negative, or try to guilt trip you, or only want to talk about their own stuff. Some in our circle of family, friends, and acquaintance can be toxic to our state of mind. This is not about taking on an air of superiority it’s just that they demand so much from us. Sometimes when we are with them we are trying to just stay afloat in all the drama.  Very stressful!

Dale Carnegie said to plan your work and work your plan. Disorganization can be stressful. Now don’t get obsessive on me-just make a plan, even a small one will do the trick. Live you own life-do not allow others people or other situations to live it for you.

Some topics set me off. So I avoid them in interpersonal interactions. If you can discuss politics without bursting a blood vessel then by all means do it. But sometimes we are passionate about a topic and others are not as keen on our view and trying to convince them can be stressful.

Make a list, check it twice if you must. But make it short and manageable. I heard it said when you develop a to do list, do the easy ones first. Actually it would probably work better if we made a list of about 3-5 things and rank order them in terms of their importance. For instance, “I absolutely have to get my car inspected today or I’ll be driving on expired plates.”  That is time sensitive and the two loads of laundry will have to wait until I get back.  Now, turn the list in such a way as to put the most difficult, disgusting, or difficult ones on top and tackle them first. The list gets easier from here on.

Peace to you,

Dr Jim


November 4, 2010

President Roosevelt, in his 1933 inaugural address said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and in so doing fairly well summed up what is meant by anxiety. It is the nebulous, distasteful emotion that we experience as we fear an imagined misfortune that probably will not occur.

Some events or anticipated events should make us nervous. I think of public speaking, going to court, taking a test, just to name a few. Unfortunately we sometimes overreact and our fear about an event becomes bigger and bigger, taking on a life of its own with the prospect of dominating our thinking. Then the fear about the fear ensues.

If left to meander though our mind it can become as Arthur Somers Roche described it: “worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

In some cases anxiety can be useful. Charles Frankel said, “Anxiety is the essential condition of intellectual and artistic creation.”  As we employ a creative pursuit as an intervention against anxiety, we marshal its negative powers and turn them into useful energy which can jettison us forward out of our rut.


Dr. Jim


Its not my fault

August 4, 2010

I read, with interest, the news story about the gunman who recently killed 8 others and himself. He had been dismissed for stealing beer. While being escorted from the building he opened fire.  The story went on to report that the family claimed racial bias caused the man to kill.

In working with people I have observed some things that seem to be aspects of human nature. Its some kind of avoidance that morphs into projection. When God confronted Adam about why he was hiding and why he had eaten the apple, Adam deflected the blame, he said, “its this woman you gave me.”

There seems to be a predictable course in the early stages of the counseling relationship. Almost always, its, “I’m here with issues and its his, her, or their fault.” On rare occasions people begin the course of therapy stating that they have issues and want to find out how to grow and change to avoid these concerns in the future.  They own their stuff.

In our culture we’ve grown up with statements like, “you make me so mad.”  I am not choosing to experience and in some cases express anger on my own but I do so because you have taken control of my will and are manipulating me to feel and behave as I do. Get a grip on your own actions.

Was the man in the report the victim of racial bias? Maybe, perhaps, and probably, but what did he do with the negative stimulus?  He chose not to process it and deal with it in constructive ways and ultimately exploded.  We all are exposed to this kind of stimulus to one degree or another. We don’t have control of others but we have control over ourselves.

He did not kill 8 and himself because others made him do it. He chose to do what he did in response to how he felt in that environment in light of how he was being treated.

If you want to get a grip on your stuff, examine how you are reacting to such stimulus and find constructive ways to deal with it. Killing others and self is an answer but it is clearly not profitable for self or others and all the others that these deaths touch.


Dr Jim

I’m back

June 22, 2010

I fully intended to keep pace by posting to my blog weekly–easier said than done.

The practice is growing slowly but steadily. I am getting referrals from many diverse sources.

My major bugaboo now is wrangling with the insurance companies. Shh… please don’t repeat what I just said in case some liberal health care reform Nazi is listening.   This system is not running well but the answer from DC is not in the best interest of everyone. This site blog is really not about politics-that just slipped out.

As is often the case, people who need my services cannot afford them or the insurance mystery persists in its baffling ways or legitimate government funding is cut, thus leaving them under served or completely on their own.

The issues with insurance for me is that it alone can sink my little boat.

I will write more later.


Dr. Jim

Psychology: Philosophy or science?

May 13, 2010

The answer to this question may inform the struggle some have with psychology, especially some in the Christian world. Other religious systems may also take exception to psychology and question the  need for it, see it as foolish, or as a competing ideology.

Philosophy as a discipline generally deals with fundamental questions of human existence such as the definition of  knowledge, truth, values, morality, reason, mind, and language. A PhD is a doctorate in the philosophy of a particular discipline. If  one has a PhD in Education he or she is not educated so much in practical foci but look at the underside of  knowledge, truth, values, morality, reason, mind, and language of that discipline. The PhD is trained to ask about the why, how, and where of a specific ares of their discipline. In spite of what is often practiced, PhDs, though highly educated are not conversant on myriad topics. They are not trained to know everything about everything. In fact the PhD dissertation represents a  very small, specific “sliver” of new knowledge extracted from the data according to a very strict set of research rules from either quantitative or qualitative methods of research.

So when considering psychology it may be helpful place more stock in the science of psychology than psychology as philosophy.

To the Christian philosophical questions are most often sought from the Scriptures. So they would first come down on the side of the Bible as their source of truth then philosophical elements of the study of human nature and behavior second.

My next post will address the quest about the delivery of counseling and psychological services. Are they science or art?


Dr. Jim

Choosing a therapist, Part III

May 1, 2010

By the way, counselors and therapist are sometimes called psychotherapists. Notice that psychotherapist is one word. I recommend avoiding psycho therapist–oh yes, they are out there.

What you do not want in a therapist?

One who:

1. Talks too much. The session you are paying for is not for the therapist to share their stuff with you. Self-disclosure on the part  of the therapist is a tool that we use sparingly.

2. Over-identifies with you. This gets at a variation of countertransference. In fact, we are trained to attend to the milieu of the treatment room to the extent that we are aware of when the client is casting in a role of someone from their past and when we are doing the same.

3. Cannot or will not keep confidences. Therapy has been described as psychological nudity. Just like physical nudity, most people believe that it only occurs in certain circumstance and under certain conditions. Ie.: with your spouse, your doctor, showering at the gym, after P.E. at school, or after participation in a sporting event. In some cases physical nudity occurs in families. If you cannot trust us with your private story then you will probably not trust us.  One of a therapist primary commodities is his or her commitment to keeping confidences. A good therapist will follow common practices of our field to insure your privacy.

4. Does not behave professionally.

5. Is not attuned to gender, cultural, or faith diversity.

6. Is too free with his or her opinions.

7. Seems clueless and incapable of tailoring his or her work to you as a unique individual. Look for one who practices informed eclecticism. In counseling one size does not fit all.

8. You just do not fit with. Nothing personal. Not every one gets on well with everyone.


Dr. Jim

Choosing a therapist, Part II

May 1, 2010

Systems oriented therapists are also a good choice since besides looking at the mind, emotions, and behaviors, they also account for one’s social and relational context, thus treating the whole person.

Faith issues and worldview are aspects of human life that have been downplayed in the history of mental health service delivery. You may want to consider a mental health professional that is highly invested in personal faith or one that is at least accommodating to your faith focus.

Take into account the education and credentials of a therapist. Though appropriate education and licensing or credentialing does not insure competence, consideration is warranted. Those who would be counselors who do not have appropriate education and licenses or credentials can be of service to you, but with limitations. In auto mechanics, there were those who were called “shade-tree mechanics.” When cars were not so dependent on microprocessors, this was a good alternative to the professional mechanic. Would you go to a self-taught dentist, ride on a plane piloted someone for whom flying was just a hobby, or have surgery performed by someone who had merely read about the procedure? We all laugh at the ads from a national chain hotel, in which someone is performing a highly technical task and find out their only qualification is that they got a good rest in one of these hotels.

Our health, whether mental or physical, is greatly valued. If we focus on healthy growth rather than waiting for problems to develop, we stand a better chance of being better adjusted and healthier. For example, when people experience marital discord they often wait on average, 5 to 7 years before seeking treatment. By then the prognosis is not good. As in the case of cancer, many are curable if detected and treated early. If undetected or ignored, cancers are harder, if not impossible, to treat.

Deal with your stuff before it becomes an issue and then perhaps a disorder.


Dr. Jim