Four Lessons from “Inside Out” to Discuss With Kids

Article by Jason Marsh, Vicki Zakrzewski on July 14, 2015 republished in its entirety from

The new Pixar film has moved viewers young and old to take a look inside their own minds.

Since its release last month, Inside Out has been applauded by critics, adored by audiences, and has become the likely front-runner for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

But perhaps its greatest achievement has been this: It has moved viewers young and old to take a look inside their own minds. As you likely know by now, much of the film takes place in the head of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley, with five emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—embodied by characters who help Riley navigate her world. The film has some deep things to say about the nature of our emotions—which is no coincidence, as the GGSC’s founding faculty director, Dacher Keltner, served as a consultant on the film, helping to make sure that, despite some obvious creative liberties, the film’s fundamental messages about emotion are consistent with scientific research.

Those messages are smartly embedded within Inside Out‘s inventive storytelling and mind-blowing animation; they enrich the film without weighing it down. But they are conveyed strongly enough to provide a foundation for discussion among kids and adults alike. Some of the most memorable scenes in the film double as teachable moments for the classroom or dinner table.

Though Inside Out has artfully opened the door to these conversations, it can still be hard to find the right way to move through them or respond to kids’ questions. So for parents and teachers who want to discuss Inside Out with children, here we have distilled four of its main insights into our emotional lives, along with some of the research that backs them up. And a warning, lest we rouse your Anger: There are a number of spoilers below.

1) Happiness is not just about joy. When the film begins, the emotion of Joy—personified by a manic pixie-type with the voice of Amy Poehler—helms the controls inside Riley’s mind; her overarching goal is to make sure that Riley is always happy. But by the end of the film, Joy—like Riley, and the audience—learns that there is much, much more to being happy than boundless positivity. In fact, in the film’s final chapter, when Joy cedes control to some of her fellow emotions, particularly Sadness, Riley seems to achieve a deeper form of happiness.

This reflects the way that a lot of leading emotion researchers see happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of the best-selling How of Happiness, defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being,combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” (emphasis added) So while positive emotions such as joy are definitely part of the recipe for happiness, they are not the whole shebang.

In fact, a recent study found that people who experience “emodiversity,” or a rich array of both positive and negative emotions, have better mental health. The authors of this study suggest that feeling a variety of specific emotions may give a person more detailed information about a particular situation, thus resulting in better behavioral choices—and potentially greater happiness.

For example, in a pivotal moment in the film, Riley allows herself to feel sadness, in addition to fear and anger, about her idea of running away from home; as a result, she decides not to go through with her plan. This choice reunites Riley with her family, giving her a deeper sense of happiness and contentment in the comfort she gets from her parents, even though it’s mixed with sadness and fear.

In that light, Inside Out’s creators, including director Pete Docter, made a smart choice to name Poehler’s character “Joy” instead of “Happiness.” Ultimately, joy is just one element of happiness, and happiness can be tinged with other emotions, even including sadness.

2) Don’t try to force happiness. One of us (Vicki) felt an old, familiar frustration when Riley’s mother tells her to be her parents’ “happy girl” while the family adjusts to a stressful cross-country move and her father goes through a difficult period at work. As a child, Vicki got similar messages and used to think something was wrong with her if she wasn’t happy all the time. And allthe research and press about the importance of happiness in recent years can make this message that much more potent.

Thank goodness emotion researcher June Gruber and her colleagues started looking at the nuances of happiness and its pursuit. Their findings challenge the “happy-all-the-time” imperative that was probably imposed upon many of us.

For example, their research suggests that making happiness an explicit goal in life can actually make us miserable. Gruber’s colleague Iris Mauss has discovered that the more people strive for happiness, the greater the chance that they’ll set very high standards of happiness for themselves and feel disappointed—and less happy—when they’re not able to meet those standards all the time.

So it should come as no surprise that trying to force herself to be happy actually doesn’t help Riley deal with the stresses and transitions in her life. In fact, not only does that strategy fail to bring her happiness, it also seems to make her feel isolated and angry with her parents, which factors into her decision to run away from home.

What’s a more effective route to happiness for Riley (and the rest of us)? Recent research points to the importance of “prioritizing positivity”—deliberately carving out ample time in life for experiences that we personally enjoy. For Riley, that’s ice hockey, spending time with friends, and goofing around with her parents.

But critically, prioritizing positivity does not require avoiding or denying negative feelings or the situations that cause them—the kind of single-minded pursuit of happiness that can be counter-productive. That’s a crucial emotional lesson for Riley and her family when Riley finally admits that moving to San Francisco has been tough for her—an admission that brings her closer to her parents.

3) Sadness is vital to our well-being. Early in the film, Joy admits that she doesn’t understand what Sadness is for or why it’s in Riley’s head. She’s not alone. At one time or another, many of us have probably wondered what purpose sadness serves in our lives.

That’s why the two of us love that Sadness rather than Joy emerges as the hero of the movie. Why? Because Sadness connects deeply with people—a critical component of happiness—and helps Riley do the same. For example, when Riley’s long-forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong feels dejected after the loss of his wagon, it is Sadness’s empathic understanding that helps him recover, not Joy’s attempt to put a positive spin on his loss. (Interestingly, this scene illustrates an important finding from research on happiness, namely that expressions of happiness must be appropriate to the situation.)

In one the film’s greatest revelations, Joy looks back on one of Riley’s “core memories”—when the girl missed a shot in an important hockey game—and realizes that the sadness Riley felt afterwards elicited compassion from her parents and friends, making her feel closer to them and transforming this potentially awful memory into one imbued with deep meaning and significance for her.

With great sensitivity, Inside Out shows how tough emotions like sadness, fear, and anger, can be extremely uncomfortable for people to experience—which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them (see the next section). But in the film, as in real life, all of these emotions serve an important purpose by providing insight into our inner and outer environments in ways that can help us connect with others, avoid danger, or recover from loss.

One caveat: While it’s important to help kids embrace sadness, parents and teachers need to explain to them that sadness is not the same as depression—a mood disorder that involves prolonged and intense periods of sadness. Adults also need to create safe and trusting environments for children so they will feel safe asking for help if they feel sad or depressed.

4) Mindfully embrace—rather than suppress—tough emotions. At one point, Joy attempts to prevent Sadness from having any influence on Riley’s psyche by drawing a small “circle of Sadness” in chalk and instructing Sadness to stay within it. It’s a funny moment, but psychologists will recognize that Joy is engaging in a risky behavior called “emotional suppression”—an emotion-regulation strategy that has been found to lead to anxiety and depression,especially amongst teenagers whose grasp of their own emotions is still developing. Sure enough, trying to contain Sadness and deny her a role in the action ultimately backfires for Joy, and for Riley.

Later on in the film, in the scene described above when Bing Bong loses his wagon, Joy attempts to cognitively reappraise or change how Bing Bong thinks about the situation in order to shift his emotional response towards the positive—a strategy that has historically been considered the most effective way to regulate emotions. But even this method of emotion regulation is not always the best approach, as researchers have found that it can sometimes increase rather than decrease depression depending on the situation.

Toward the end of the movie, Joy does what some researchers consider to be the healthiest method for working with emotions: Instead of avoiding or denying Sadness, Joy accepts Sadness for who she is, realizing that she is an important part of Riley’s emotional life.

Emotion experts call this “mindfully embracing” an emotion. What does that mean? Rather than getting caught up in the drama of an emotional reaction, a mindful person kindly observes the emotion without judging it as the right or wrong way to be feeling in a given situation, creating space to choose a healthy response. Indeed, a 2014 study found that depressed adolescents and young adults who took a mindful approach to life showed lower levels of depression, anxiety, and bad attitudes, as well as a greater quality of life.

Certainly, Inside Out isn’t the first attempt to teach any of these four lessons, but it’s hard to think of another piece of media that has simultaneously moved and entertained so many people in the process. It’s a shining example of the power of media to shift our understanding of the human experience—a shift that, in this case, we hope will foster deeper and more compassionate connections to ourselves and those around us.

Busy Is a Sickness - Scott Dannemiller

I'm busy.

I don't know about you, but anytime I am asked, "How's it going?", I never just say "fine" anymore. Instead, my stock response is always some degree of frazzled. The scale ranges from "busy" to "crazy busy" to "nutballs."

The good news is, my answer is usually met with sympathetic response, which is as reassuring as it is depressing.

"Tell me about it! We are, too!"

"I know! Isn't it insane!"

"There's never enough time in the day, is there?"

But something changed about a month ago. I bumped into a friend at the gym. Instead of sympathizing when I said I was "crazy busy," he simply asked:

"Really? So what do you have going on today?"

I had to stop and think for a moment. No one has ever asked me to "describe my busy." So I conducted a mental review of our calendar before explaining that I had a worship band rehearsal in the morning, followed by a basketball game for my son, a church commitment for my wife, a birthday party for my daughter, and a date night that evening.

His response?

"Sounds like a full day. Have fun!"

At first, I was a bit resentful. He obviously misunderstood me. I wanted to remind him how horrible all of this was. I wanted to explain how driving from place to place in my comfortable SUV was a huge pain in the ass. Not to mention how Gabby and I would have to split up for part of the day. Buying and wrapping the birthday gift? Don't even get me started! And then only having an hour to get the kids fed and get ready for our semi-fancy date that evening.

Didn't you hear me? I am busy! Sweet Baby Jesus, have mercy on my soul!

Here's the thing. I wear busyness like a badge of honor. Only there's no honor to be had.

Busy is a sickness.

The American Psychological Association has published its Stress In America surveysince 2007. They find that the majority of Americans recognize that their stress exceeds levels necessary to maintain good health. The most frequent reason they cite for not addressing the problem?

Being too busy.

It's a vicious cycle.

Dr. Susan Koven practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. In a2013 Boston Globe column, she wrote:

In the past few years, I've observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it's easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.

We've heard for years that excessive stress causes health problems. But notice that Dr. Koven didn't say stress. She said busyness.

And it's an epidemic.

Dr. Michael Marmot, a British epidemiologist, has studied stress and its effects, and found the root causes to be two types of busyness. Though he doesn't give them official names, he describes the most damaging as busyness without control, which primarily affects the poor. Their economic reality simply does not allow for downtime. They have to work two to three jobs to keep the family afloat. When you add kids to the mix, it becomes overwhelming, and the stress results in legitimate health problems.

The second type of busyness also results in health problems, but it is a sickness we bring on ourselves. Like voluntarily licking the door handle of a preschool bathroom or having a sweaty picnic in the Ball Pit at Chuck E. Cheese's.

It's busyness we control.

Self-created stress.

Ever since my conversation a month ago, I realized that my busyness is this second type. Busyness we control. In fact, many times I create rush and worry where none exists. Any typical morning, you can find me riding my kids like a couple of three-dollar mules in a sea of marbles, begging them to move faster.

"If you don't finish your waffles in the next 90 seconds, we're gonna be late!"

"Do you like being tardy?! 'Cause that's what you'll be if you don't hurry up and brush your teeth!"

The funny thing is, whether I prod or not, we always seem to get to school at the same time every day. Before the bell. And if we're late? Nothing bad really happens, but there is still the voice in my head telling me a couple of tardies today is a slippery slope that eventually leads to 5-10 years in Federal Prison.


After my conversation with my friend, I began to notice how much of my rushing was an overreaction to my "awfulizing" in my head. Most of the time, I manufacture urgency in hopes that it will create urgency in others. Instead, it only creates anxiety, resentment and spite. Which is absolutely counter-productive. And even in the cases where the urgency is real, it's often due to a packed schedule I created.

All of this made me wonder:

Why would a grown-ass man, with a brain and two opposable thumbs, decide to voluntarily create stress in his life?

I found the answer, and it's not pretty.

We are afraid of ourselves.

In America, we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It's the first question asked at parties, and often the first tidbit of information we share with strangers. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.

Now, before you start to think this is just one guy's opinion, consider a recent study published in the journal Science. In one experiment, participants were left alone in a room for up to 15 minutes. When asked whether they liked the alone time, over half reported disliking it.

In subsequent studies, participants were given an electric shock, and then asked if they would pay money to avoid being shocked again. Not surprisingly, most said they would trade money to avoid pain. However, when these same people were left alone in a room for 15 minutes, nearly half chose to self-administer an electric shock rather than sit alone with their thoughts.

You read that right.



(Which is so not punny.)

Think about what this means. Just being is so painful that we are willing to hurt ourselves to avoid it.

And this is perhaps the saddest truth of all. I am created in the image and likeness of God, yet somehow that isn't good enough for me. So I fill my Facebook feed and my calendar with self-important busyness to avoid just being. In the process, I not only miss out on the peace and beauty that lies within myself, but I also miss seeing that same beauty in others, because my manufactured urgency has covered it up with anxiety and worry.

It's time I let my busyness rest in peace.

So my prayer today is this. That I stop defining myself by my doing, and start defining myself by my being. That I stop measuring time by the clock on the wall, and start measuring it by the experiences I share with those around me. And that I stop seeing my life as "busy," and instead, see it for what it truly is.


Writer's note: For the past month, I have tried my best to eliminate the word "busy" from my vocabulary. The result? I feel lighter. Now, when people ask how things are going, I just say, "Life is full." What works for you?

* This post originally appeared on the blog The Accidental Missionary. Follow The Accidental Missionary on Facebook or Twitter @sdannemiller.

No time for hide and seek?

In her entry to the blog world, my dear friend Caryn reminds us of the importance of play for everyone.

We live in a serious world. Terrorism, genocide, climate change, disease, systematic oppression, financial crises- it can all feel like too much at times. Life is hard, not just for our clients, but for ourselves as well. Sure, as responsible adults, we are serious about our lives because we have all kinds of obligations and challenges that need to be tended to daily. Yet what if our seriousness, in all of its enormity, tips the scale to the point of utter disequilibrium? Is that the point of no return, a place from which we cannot recover? And in this somber state, what chance at happiness do we have?

These are questions that have flooded my mind at various stages of my adult life, especially after I became a parent and my responsibilities increased twenty fold. How many times have my kids begged me to play hide and seek only to be met with another “no” because I have to prepare dinner? How many evenings before going to bed did my kids’ requests for tickles go unmet, because I was anxious for them to get to sleep so I could attend to my “to do” list? I realize now that at these critical junctures my kids were teaching me all I needed to know about keeping my scale from tipping too far in one direction.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended a workshop on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction with Elisha Goldstein, an expert in the field of mindfulness. Goldstein emphasized the importance of play in the context of personal life and career; he deemed it “ a natural anti-depressant”. To drive this point home, he asked us to engage with a partner in a word game. The object was to have a conversation, but each sentence had to start with the letter that had finished off our partner’s sentence. It turned out to be quite difficult, and quite hilarious. Before long, the room was filled with laughter and everyone loosened up; the game had created a jovial atmosphere and had made strangers into friends.

In his book, Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, Elisha Goldstein describes play as “a flexible state of mind in which you are presently engaged in some freely chosen and potentially purposeless activity that you find interesting, enjoyable, and satisfying”. He touts the importance of play because it has tremendous benefits like stress reduction, creativity, productivity, openness, and rejuvenation.

In the clinical world, the misconception is that games and play are reserved for clients who are children and teens. Our adult clients can also benefit from playful interaction, especially when it comes to building rapport in the therapeutic relationship. Moreover, making space for play in the therapeutic environment is good modeling for our clients; it shows them that they can approach their life with earnestness, but still have fun at the same time. In essence, we are demonstrating the value of having balance in our lives.

As therapists, we absorb so much pain and intensity in our work, so it is even more imperative that we hit the “pause” button and engage in some play ourselves. The question is, how can we be conscious about infusing a sense of play into our lives and our work? Here are a few suggestions:

1/ Remember what types of play you enjoyed as a child. Where can you make space for this activity in your schedule, and how can you make it a priority?

2/ Try to schedule your playtime so you don’t ignore it. Put that bowling date on the calendar, or sign up for that ceramics class.

3/ Give yourself permission to be silly and purposeless. Play hopscotch! Have a dance party! Make an obstacle course for your kids and join in!

4/ Acknowledge when life feels way too serious and overwhelming. Take a few minutes to make silly faces at yourself in the mirror or sing at the top of your lungs to diffuse the situation.

5/ Integrate a bit of play into your therapy practice, especially if you are first getting to know a client and could use some icebreakers, if your client has anxiety and needs to loosen up, or if you are at an impasse with a client and the mood needs to shift. Try something kinesthetic, like engaging a client in free association while tossing a ball or hopping on one foot.

6/ Recognize the value of smiling and laughter in our interactions with clients, friends, and loved ones.

Taking advantage of the opportunities for play keeps our scale balanced. A little bit of play goes a long way towards creating joy in our lives, and keeping us feeling vibrant, regardless of our age.  As George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”


Goldstein, E. (2015) Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. New York, NY: Atria Books.

Caryn Malkus, MA

The Biggest Myths about Therapy

The Biggest Myths about Therapy →

by Margarita Tartakovsky

Since 2011, I’ve been interviewing therapists from all over the country about their work and life. In this series, “Clinicians on the Couch,” I always ask the same 10 questions. One of those questions examines the biggest myth about therapy. Below is a selection of these responses. Some of the myths overlap. But I think the words are powerful, because, again, myths stop people from seeking much-needed support.

Myth: Therapy is just a pricey way to get a person to listen to you.

Fact: “Well, it is true that you’re paying for someone to listen, but a psychotherapist’s skills go beyond that of ordinary listening. When you’re in therapy, you’re working with an Olympic medal listener. People don’t realize that so much goes into becoming a psychologist — years of theoretical, practical and scientific training and hundreds of hours of clinical experiences.

“As a client, you’re not just sitting and schmoozing in a therapy session. There’s a lot of specific, active work going on. That, combined with your therapist’s clinical objectivity, enables a client to get a balanced, unbiased frame of reference in treatment that cannot be compared to the listening of a friend or family member.” – Deborah Serani, PsyD.

Myth: Therapy is only for people who are in crisis.

Fact: “I find that therapy is often least effective during times of crisis, as therapists can only serve as crisis managers. I far prefer someone come into therapy seeking change outside the specter of crisis.” – John Duffy, Ph.D.

“While therapy definitely needs to address potential psychological disturbances and life problems, the goal of therapy need not be merely the absence of distress. Therapy can help you recognize and develop your strengths and creativity. After all, even professional athletes who are already exceptional in their field have coaches and physical trainers to point out slight or major adjustments the athlete can make and help him or her achieve their potential. It can be the same with therapy — often people want to go from ‘good’ to ‘great.‘” – Rachel Fintzy, M.A., MFT.

Myth: Therapy is about talking.

Fact: “…Therapy is so much more than this. It is an evidence-based science and a craft that requires a great deal of skill and creativity. Therapy is a process that involves learning to change one’s subjective experiences (thoughts, feelings, behaviors) through skills acquisition, insight, and the generation of new mastery experiences, which lead to a positive shift in one’s perception and is reflected in their more adaptive functioning.” – Marla W. Deibler, PsyD.

Myth: Going to therapy means there’s something wrong with you.

Fact: “I have heard this over and over again, and it’s just not true. Attending therapy means that, like every other human on the planet, you have come up against challenges in life, and you could use some support from a safe, supportive, impartial person. That’s all it means.” – Carla Naumburg, Ph.D.

“Going to therapy means you are interested in understanding yourself and your automatic habits so that you have more opportunities to live a purposeful and satisfying life.” –  Ashley Eder, LPC.

Myth: Therapy is for crazy people.

Fact: “I hear this myth both with new clients as well as outside the office with acquaintances, and I suspect it is the main reason why a lot of people use therapy as a last resort, long after the problem they’ve been dealing with has amplified.

“The origins of this myth whether social (transmitted from generation to generation) or from media portray the therapy goer as someone out of touch with reality or psychotic. In reality, therapy is effective and helpful not only for people who struggle with severe clinical issues, but anyone who feels stuck or needs a change in perspective.” – Diana Pitaru, MS, LPC.

“Going to therapy offers a better understanding about yourself and learning better opportunities to live a healthier life. If a person goes to their primary care physician for medications to help them fight off the flu or virus, are they considered crazy? Going to therapy shows that you are looking for better opportunities to resolve certain issues that are troubling you.” – Helen Nieves, LMHC.

“The truth is, all of us are human and each of us goes through a very personal journey in life that is full of both joy and pain.” – Clair Mellenthin, LCSW.

Myth: The therapist is going to fix you.

Fact: “That’s not it at all. Therapy is a partnership, and when both parties do their part, change is the result. The therapist offers insights, suggestions, and tools, and the client implements them in his or her life. That’s what therapy is all about.” – Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D.

“The biggest myth about therapy is that the therapist has the answers. The curative factor in therapy is not the therapist, it is the mutuality between the patient and therapist and the journey they share. I have been teaching doctoral students in clinical psychology for over 25 years and I always remind these wonderful and passionate young professionals that they will never know more about the patient, than the patient.

“What they offer is their clinical training to see and hear what the patient knows but cannot yet access because of history, pain, fear, addiction, trauma, etc. No matter what type of therapy, it is the collaboration between therapist and patient that makes change and healing possible.” – Suzanne B. Phillips, PsyD.

Myth: Therapy is supposed to help you feel happy all the time.

Fact: “To me, that’s impossible. My goal is to help people deal with the painful feelings that accompany many of life’s circumstances and help them see that they don’t need to be afraid of certain difficult feelings.” – Jennifer Kromberg, PsyD.

“… I find the idea of everlasting happiness to be a very unfortunate myth in our general American culture. That’s one of the reasons why I love both ACT and Oliver Burkeman’s book [The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking]: They are both well-grounded in the reality that we are always going to face struggles, negative thoughts, painful feelings and a whole host of other uncomfortable things in life due to the simple fact that we’re human.

“It’s how we respond to these things that matters, not trying to get rid of them so we can be constantly happy. In the interest of full disclosure: I am a bit of a happiness grump. I once wrote an article for my blog, ‘Bounce,’ entitled ‘Happiness Irritates Me.’ ;-)” – Bobbi Emel, MFT.

Myth: Real change and progress will be sudden and striking.

Fact: “People naturally seek ‘aha’ moments and can fail to see the gradual progress they are making. In my experience, the most important, lasting and meaningful changes happen bit-by-bit, step-by-step, not all at once.” – Jonice Webb, Ph.D.

Myth: Therapy is needless. You can just vent to a friend.

Fact: “I’ve heard people say that if they need to talk or vent, why should they go to a therapist? Can’t they just go to a friend? Two issues with this: 1) not everyone has a close friend to go to; and 2) while venting is fully welcome and can be part of therapy, therapy is for more than just venting. Venting can be useful to temporarily relieve stress (and venting can actually increase stress, if not careful), but at some point, a person in therapy will have to look into themselves and their own cognitive and emotional processes.

“The process that makes therapy effective isn’t as likely to happen effectively with a friend (even if the friend is a therapist). Therapy isn’t only talk and conversation, nor is it advice-giving (another myth).

“Therapy involves a dynamic relationship in its own right, which a personal history conflicts with. That’s why it is unethical for therapists to work with their friends. Therapy is most effective when entered pure — without personal history. Therefore, while it’s nice to be able to vent to friends, if you’re looking for an effective therapy experience, this is much more likely to happen with a therapist than when talking to a friend.” – Nathan Feiles, LCSW.

Myth: Therapy has an end goal.

Fact: “I don’t mean that people need to be in therapy for an indefinite time, but there’s a faulty notion of achieving some end state. This focus makes therapy more difficult as the mind is cluttered with an expectation instead of focusing on learning.

“Even if insurance only covers 10 sessions and wants to hear the end goal, we have to always keep in mind that therapy is a vehicle for learning, and while we can begin to master certain ways of being, growing and learning about ourselves in life never ends.” – Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Myth: Therapy is about blaming your parents.

Fact: “I find that a frequent concern that people have coming in is that therapy will somehow find fault with their parents and create a rift. The idea is that if you look too closely at your past, it could bring up things better left unexamined and hurt your family. But I find on the contrary that therapy is often about the present moment, and that it often increases our tenderness for our parents.” – Elizabeth Sullivan, MFT.

Myth: Going to therapy means you’re weak.

Fact: “… Life is hard. It just is, and that means that sometimes we need support. Talking with a therapist or taking medication does not make you weak. Would you consider someone who has a broken leg wearing a cast to be weak? If that person engages in physical therapy does he or she deserve our harsh judgment and stigmatization? Should we shame people for having asthma and needing to use an inhaler? Of course not. Wounds can be physical, mental, and emotional. Those of us who need to heal deserve to seek the help we need without feeling ashamed for doing so.” – Casey Radle, M.Ed., LPC.

Asking for help and committing to one’s own therapy process takes courage for many clients. Each time a new potential client reaches out and connects with me, I am struck by their ability to bravely step into vulnerability by asking for help and support. This feels especially big to me because clients usually feel anything but courage when it comes to asking for help. As a therapist, I am continually honored to be able to accompany clients on their brave journey to understand and work through their strengths, struggles, and story.” – Amy Tatsumi, MA, LPC.

Myth: Therapy isn’t fun.

Fact: “I find therapy fun because we are often able to laugh at ourselves, increase our perspective and gratitude, and see the absurdity in this life.” – Elizabeth Sullivan, MFT.

Therapy can help individuals with a variety of conditions and concerns. The earlier you go, the sooner you can start healing or getting better. And remember that seeking support is a strong, courageous act.

Whose Fault is It?

In this short and witty video short, Brene Brown shares a personal story that illustrates why we place blame and why it's not helpful to ourselves or our relationships.

When we rush to figure out whose fault is it? we give ourselves the illusion of control over our situation. When we blame, we stop listening and lose our ability to empathize with others.

The research shows that blame is how how we discharge discomfort, pain, and anger. The more we blame, the less able we are to be vulnerable with others. Try holding yourself accountable for your difficult/painful feelings and notice what shifts for you and your relationships.

#damnyousteve #brenebrown

#TheDress : Perception Versus Reality

The internets are buzzing over #thedress. If I am just introducing you into the crazy making, my apologies. The top trend on Twitter for the last couple days has been #thedress with passionate debates erupting over its color.

A frequent exploration I engage in with clients is in raising awareness around the difference between perception and reality. Whether the dress is blue and black or white and gold (or other colors for that matter), we passionately believe the color of the dress to be what we see with our eyes (if you want to know the science of why, read this). It is our reality. But our reality may or may not align with actual reality or other people's reality. When our reality is challenged, we often feel defensive or confused.

It can help to bring awareness around the knowledge that everything we take in through our senses is based on perception. And while our experiences feel real to us, other people experience their own reality. Our struggle is to own our reality without feeling the need to impose it on others or feeling threatened by conflicting realities.

And my truth... it doesn't matter what color #thedress is. It's ugly.

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
— Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

"Coming Home" - Chinese short film encouraging families to talk about homosexuality goes viral

On the eve of Chinese New Year, "Coming Home", a Chinese short film tells the story of a young gay man who feels pressured by his parents to be attracted to women, coming out to them as gay, and the parents' coming to terms with revelation.

In the credits, mothers urge children "Don't think of the love of your parents as a burden," "Share the story of your life with your parents," and "Be brave and be yourself." One mother urges other parents "Don't allow social convention and traditional views of marriage to get in the way of your kid coming home."

The video has gone viral in China, with over 100 million views.

Be Yourself to Win at Online Dating

In her TED talk The Mathematics of Love, Hannah Fry tells us that in online dating, attractiveness doesn't predict popularity. In fact, it can be to your advantage to have some people not like you.

When representing ourselves online, we often minimize or hide the things we think others might find unattractive, cropping ourselves into that perfect snapshot. But the math shows that success comes from playing to what makes us unique, even if we're afraid that some people will be turned away. We all like to be liked, but we really don't want the ones who don't like us. And the ones who do, will still like us real and unedited.

SCCC adds LGBTQI Teen Support Group

Southern California Counseling Center

Is Proud to announce the addition of the

Outreach Services

Conversation and Support Group


Monday Evenings
7:00 to 8:30  PM
Room 14

Starting January 26th, 2015 

PIZZA and/or SNACKS provided by SCCC

There is no fee for this TEEN GROUP

Please refer youth who might benefit from a supportive and non-judgmental space to be themselves.

Please contact: Marianne Diaz, Director of Outreach Services EXT 3211

Brandon Chiang, Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at EXT. 3180
Laura Koonce, Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at EXT.  3153

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