Author: Dhyana Kearly

Unresolved disputes can lead to long term health issues

Unresolved disputes can lead to long term health issues

Relationship Therapy

New study reveals the long term impact of an unresolved argument on overall health and well-being.

A recent Oregon State University study found that when people feel they have resolved an argument, the emotional response associated with that disagreement is significantly reduced and, in some situations, almost entirely erased.That reduction in stress may have a major impact on overall health, researchers say.

"Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. You aren't going to stop stressful things from happening. But the extent to which you can tie them off, bring them to an end and resolve them is definitely going to pay dividends in terms of your well-being," said Robert Stawski, senior author on the study and an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "Resolving your arguments is quite important for maintaining well-being in daily life."

Researchers have long been aware of how chronic stress can affect health, from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety to physical problems including heart disease, a weakened immune system, reproductive difficulties and gastrointestinal issues. But it's not just major chronic stressors like poverty or violence that can inflict damage.

"Daily stressors -- specifically the minor, small inconveniences that we have throughout the day -- even those have lasting impacts on mortality and things like inflammation and cognitive function," said Dakota Witzel, lead author and a doctoral student in human development and family studies at OSU.

For the study, Stawski and Witzel used data from the National Study of Daily Experiences, an in-depth survey of more than 2,000 people who were interviewed about their feelings and experiences for eight days in a row. The researchers looked at reports of both arguments and avoided arguments, defined as instances where the person could have argued about something but chose to let it slide so as not to have a disagreement. They then measured how the incident affected the person's reported change in negative and positive emotions, both for the day of the encounter and the day after it occurred.

The measure of how an experience affects someone emotionally, an increase in negative emotions or a decrease in positive emotions, on the day it occurs is known as "reactivity," while "residue" is the prolonged emotional toll the day after the experience occurs. Negative and positive affect refer to the degree of negative and positive emotions a person feels on a given day. Results showed that on the day of an argument or avoided argument, people who felt their encounter was resolved reported roughly half the reactivity of those whose encounters were not resolved. On the day following an argument or avoided argument, the results were even starker: People who felt the matter was resolved showed no prolonged elevation of their negative affect the next day.

The study also looked at age-related differences in response to arguments and avoided arguments and found that adults ages 68 and older were more than 40% more likely than people 45 and younger to report their conflicts as resolved. But the impact of resolution status on people's negative and positive affect remained the same regardless of age. The researchers had several explanations for older adults' higher rate of resolution: Older adults may be more motivated to minimize negative and maximize positive emotions as they have fewer years remaining, which is consistent with existing theories of aging and emotion. They may also have more experience navigating arguments and thus be more effective at defusing or avoiding conflict.

"If older adults are really motivated to maximize their emotional well-being, they're going do a better job, or at least a faster job, at resolving stressors in a more timely fashion," Stawski said. While people cannot always control what stressors come into their lives -- and lack of control is itself a stressor in many cases -- they can work on their own emotional response to those stressors, he said. "Some people are more reactive than other people," he said. "But the extent to which you can tie off the stress so it's not having this gnawing impact at you over the course of the day or a few days will help minimize the potential long-term impact."

Read this article on Science Daily: Oregon State University. "Want a longer, healthier life? Resolve your arguments by day's end." www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210325084833.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

In-person and Online Video Counseling Services are now available. Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support to meet your needs. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Study examines benefits of social connectedness

New study seeks to understand how much we feel connected to others we have never met and how that predicts people’s sense of selfless concern for the well-being of others.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who recognize the connections they share with others are more likely to wear a mask, follow health guidelines and help people, even at a potential cost to themselves, a new University of Washington study shows. Indeed, an identification with all humanity, as opposed to identification with a geographic area like a country or town, predicts whether someone will engage in “prosocial” behaviors particular to the pandemic, such as donating their own masks to a hospital or coming to the aid of a sick person.

The study, published March 10 in PLOS ONE, is drawn from about 2,500 responses, from more than 80 countries, to an online, international study launched last April. Researchers say the findings could have implications for public health messaging during the pandemic: Appealing to individuals’ deep sense of connectedness to others could, for example, encourage some people to get vaccinated, wear masks or follow other public health guidelines.

“We want to understand to what extent people feel connected with and identify with all humanity, and how that can be used to explain the individual differences in how people respond during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, who co-led the study with postdoctoral researcher Nigini Oliveira at the Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science and Engineering.

In psychology, “identification with all humanity” is a belief that can be measured and utilized in predicting behavior or informing policy or decision-making. Last spring, as governments around the world were imposing pandemic restrictions, a multidisciplinary team of UW researchers came together to study the implications of how people would respond to pandemic-related ethical dilemmas, and how those responses might be associated with various psychological beliefs.

Researchers designed an online study, providing different scenarios based in social psychology and game theory, for participants to consider. The team then made the study available in English and five other languages on the virtual lab LabintheWild, which co-author Katharina Reinecke, an associate professor in the Allen School, created for conducting behavioral studies with people around the world.

The scenarios presented participants with situations that could arise during the pandemic and asked people to what extent they would:

  • Follow the list of World Health Organization health guidelines (which mostly focused on social distancing and hygiene when the study was run between mid-April to mid-June)
  • Donate masks of their family’s to a hospital short on masks
  • Drive a person exhibiting obvious symptoms of COVID-19 to the hospital
  • Go to a grocery store to buy food for a neighboring family
  • Call an ambulance and wait with a sick person for it to arrive

In addition to demographic details and information about their local pandemic restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, participants were asked questions to get at the psychology behind their responses: about their own felt identification with their local community, their nation and humanity, in general. For instance, participants were asked, “How much would you say you care (feel upset, want to help) when bad things happen to people all over the world?”

Researchers found that an identification with “all humanity” significantly predicted answers to the five scenarios, well above identifying with country or community, and after controlling for other variables such as gender, age or education level. Its effect was stronger than any other factor, said Barragan, and popped out as a highly significant predictor of people’s tendency to want to help others.

The authors noted that identifying with one’s country, in fact, came in a distant third, behind identification with humanity in general and one’s local community. Strong feelings toward one’s nation, nationalism, can lead to behavior and policies that favor some groups of people over others.

“There is variability in how people respond to the social aspects of the pandemic. Our research reveals that a crucial aspect of one’s world view — how much people feel connected to others they have never met — predicts people’s cooperation with public health measures and the altruism they feel toward others during the pandemic,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, who is co-director of I-LABS and holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair in psychology.

Since last spring, of course, much has changed. More than 2.5 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19, vaccines are being administered, and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially regarding masks, has evolved. If a new survey was launched today, Barragan said, the research group would like to include scenarios tuned to the current demands of the pandemic and the way it challenges us to care for others even while we maintain physical distancing.

For COVID-19 and future humanitarian crises, the ethical dilemmas presented in the study can offer insight into what propels people to help, which can, in turn, inform policy and outreach.

“While it is true that many people don’t seem to be exhibiting helpful behaviors during this pandemic, what our study shows is that there are specific characteristics that predict who is especially likely to engage in such behavior,” Barragan said. “Future work could help people to feel a stronger connection to others, and this could promote more helpful behavior during pandemics.”


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Washington. “Helpful behavior during pandemic tied to recognizing common humanity.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210310204202.htm.


Cognitive behavioral therapy shown to improve job opportunities

If depression is making it more difficult for some unemployed people to land a job, one type of therapy may help, research suggests. In a new study, 41% of unemployed or underemployed people undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found a new job or went from part- to full-time work by the end of the 16-week treatment for depression.Those who had a job but found it difficult to focus on and accomplish work tasks because of depression said the treatment helped to significantly reduce these problems.

“For the most part, researchers have focused on showing that therapy relieves symptoms of depression,” said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University. “But reducing symptoms isn’t the only goal people have when they start CBT. Many are hoping to find a job or improve their productivity at their current job. Here we found that therapy can help people achieve these goals, as well.”

This study involved 126 people who participated in a 16-week course of CBT at the Ohio State Depression Treatment and Research Clinic. CBT teaches coping skills that help patients counteract and modify their negative beliefs, Strunk said. “It works on the idea that people with depression invariably hold these overly negative views of themselves and their futures,” he said. “For example, if an unemployed patient doesn’t get one job they interviewed for, they may think ‘no one is ever going to hire me.'”

In this study, 27 patients were seeking to improve their employment status (land a job or go from part- to full-time) at the beginning of treatment. Eleven of them (41%) had succeeded by the end of the 16 weeks.

“It is hard to say exactly how good this success rate is since we don’t know how many would have gotten jobs without the treatment,” Strunk said. “But the findings were encouraging and suggest that the CBT is having an impact.”

CBT had a clear impact for those who had jobs and reported at the beginning of the treatment that depression was hurting their effectiveness.

“Working patients reported at the end of treatment that they were much more successful at concentrating and accomplishing tasks at their jobs,” he said. Findings showed that one way CBT had this effect was by reducing patients’ “negative cognitive style,” or the extent to which patients view negative events in overly pessimistic ways, according to Strunk.

“CBT helps patients overcome these views by teaching them that the experience of depression is not their fault and that they can take steps to improve their concentration and accomplish work more successfully even when experiencing depressive symptoms,” Strunk said.

Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. “Depressed and out of work? Therapy may help you find a job: Treatment also helps workers be more effective, study finds.” ScienceDaily www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210222164224.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland PsyD

Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Outcomes for autistic people improved by teaching social acceptance

Efforts to improve the social success of autistic adolescents and adults have often focused on teaching them ways to think and behave more like their non-autistic peers and to hide the characteristics that define them as autistic. Psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, have been focusing on another approach: promoting understanding and acceptance of autism among non-autistic people.

The researchers published their findings online Jan. 20 in the journal Autism. The study showed that familiarizing non-autistic people with the challenges and strengths of autistic people helped to reduce stigma and misconceptions about autism, but implicit biases about autism were harder to overcome.

Desiree Jones, a psychology doctoral student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), is the corresponding author of the paper, and Dr. Noah Sasson, associate professor of psychology, is the senior author.

Autism is characterized by differences in thinking, sensing, and communicating that can make interaction and connection with non-autistic people difficult. Some autistic people are nonspeaking and need a lot of support in their everyday lives, while some are highly verbal and need less support. Jones’ work focuses specifically on the experiences of autistic adults without intellectual disability.

“Previous work in our lab has shown that autistic people are often stereotyped as awkward and less likeable,” Jones said. “Some might think that autistic people don’t want friends or don’t want to interact with people. We want to combat those ideas.”

Promoting autism knowledge among non-autistic adults represents a shift in philosophy about how to improve the social experiences of autistic people. Jones explained that this tactic borrows from research on race and ethnicity.

“Targeting autistic behavior places the burden of social exclusion on autistic people, when we should really be challenging the attitudes that lead others to stigmatize autistic behaviors,” she said. “Research on race suggests that people who have racial biases tend to view that race as a monolith, assigning every member the same features. By exposing them to different people from the group, you can challenge those stereotypes. We believe the same principle applies to autism.”

The study participants — 238 non-autistic adults — were split into three groups. One group viewed an autism acceptance video originally developed as a PowerPoint presentation by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in collaboration with autistic adults. Jones updated it and had narration added. The second group watched a general mental health training presentation that didn’t mention autism, and the third received no training at all. Participants then were tested on their explicit and implicit biases about autism.

“The autism video presents autism facts and promotes acceptance. It gives tips on how to befriend an autistic person and talk to them about their interests,” Jones said. “It also discusses things to avoid, such as sensory overload and pressuring them into engaging.”

Subsequent testing of explicit biases included capturing first impressions of autistic adults in video clips, measuring participants’ autism knowledge and stigma, and gauging their beliefs about autistic functional abilities. Implicit biases also were examined, gauging whether participants unconsciously associate autism with negative personal attributes.

As anticipated, the autism acceptance training group demonstrated greater understanding and acceptance of autism on the explicit measures, including expressing more social interest in autistic adults and resulting in more positive first impressions. However, participants continued to implicitly associate autism with unpleasant personal attributes regardless of which training they experienced.

“Explicit biases are consciously held, evolve quickly and are constrained by social desirability,” Sasson explained. “Implicit biases reflect more durable underlying beliefs — associations reinforced over time that are more resistant to change.”

Many of the stubborn stereotypes about autism are reinforced by portrayals in the media, whether from TV shows like “The Good Doctor” or movies like “Rain Man.”

“A common trope exists of the white male autistic person with savant abilities,” Jones said. “They are really smart but very socially awkward. They can be portrayed as flat or without emotion or passion. These beliefs can be harmful and do not reflect how variable these characteristics are among autistic people. They belie the range of unique difficulties and skills that autistic people can have.

“There’s a saying that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. The community varies so much in individual needs, strengths and difficulties that there’s not a very useful prototype. So getting to know actual people and getting away from preconceptions can hopefully help us improve social outcomes for the autistic community.”

Jones said that autistic individuals themselves are integral in plotting the path forward.

“Autistic people often feel that they simply aren’t listened to, that they are dismissed or not cared about,” she said. “A big part of being welcoming is simply acknowledging actual autistic people telling us what they like and what they want research to be. In our lab, we have several autistic master’s and undergraduate students who play a big role in our research, and they’ve taught me a lot.”

Sasson described the results as promising and indicative of the promise of well-done training, although the staying power of such effects remains unclear.

“This half-hour presentation was engaging and entertaining and included a lot of compelling first-person narratives,” he said. “The fact that non-autistic people experiencing the training were more interested in social interaction with autistic people, had fewer misconceptions about autism, and reported more accurate understanding of autistic abilities after completing it is a success story of sorts.

“Whether the effects persist over time is another question. It could very well be that the benefits are transient, which would significantly limit the promise of training programs like this.”

In future work, Jones and Sasson hope to establish a connection between inclusion and acceptance and the mental health and well-being of autistic people, who experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicide than the general population.

“It’s not easy to be autistic in a predominantly non-autistic world, and making the social world a bit more accommodating and welcoming to autistic differences could go a long way toward improving personal and professional outcomes for autistic people,” Sasson said.

Read this article on ScienceDaily: University of Texas at Dallas. “Reducing biases about autism may increase social inclusion, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208085441.htm.


Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

New Study Highlights Importance of Talk Therapy During Pandemic

Ongoing pandemic stresses leaves some people more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Even at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, people around the world became more fearful of what could happen to them or their family. A new university study of 1040 online participants from five western countries explores people’s response to the stresses of the escalating pandemic, finding more than 13% of the sample had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related symptoms consistent with levels necessary to qualify for a clinical diagnosis.

With ongoing economic and social fallout, and death toll of more than 2 million, the team of psychology researchers warn more needs to be done to cope with the potential short and long-term spike in PTSD cases resulting from the pandemic — as well as related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, psychosocial functioning, etc.

“While the global pandemic does not fit into prevailing PTSD models, or diagnostic criteria, our research shows this ongoing global stressor can trigger traumatic stress symptoms,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Melanie Takarangi. “We found that traumatic stress was related to future events, such as worry about oneself or a family member contracting COVID-19, to direct contact with the virus, as well as indirect contact such as via the news and government lockdown — a non-life threatening event,” says co-author Victoria Bridgland, who is undertaking a PhD studying the triggers of PTSD.

PTSD is a set of reactions, including intrusive recollections such as flashbacks, that can develop in people exposed to an event that threatened their life or safety (e.g., sexual assault, natural disaster). “Our findings highlight the need to focus on the acute psychological distress — including the perceived emotional impact of particular events — associated with COVID-19 and build on other research from the past year that demonstrates the damaging psychological impact of COVID-19 on mental health,” says Ms Bridgland.

Comprehensive long-term documentation of COVID-19 related traumatic stress reactions will allow health professionals to help people who could otherwise fall through the cracks, the research team concludes. The online survey examined a range of responses to common post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as repeated disturbing and unwanted images, memories or thoughts about the COVIC-19 pandemic. COVID-19’s psychological fallout has been dubbed the “second curve,” predicted to last for months to years, the paper notes.

“Notably, while most of our participants reported experiencing some form of psychological distress and 13.2% of our sample were likely PTSD positive when anchoring symptoms to COVID-19, only 2% of our total sample reported they had personally tested positive to COVID-19, and only 5% reported that close family and friends had tested positive. It therefore seems likely that the psychological fallout from COVID-19 may reach further than the medical fallout,” the paper concludes.

Read this article on ScienceDaily: “PTSD link to pandemic fears.” ScienceDaily, 22 January 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210122102024.htm


Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

It’s no question that these are very trying times for all of us, so I want to let you know that you are not alone. No matter what is coming up for you right now it is important to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I invite you reach out to me to see how we can start getting you on the path to feeling better now.

Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

COVID-19 front line workers vulnerable to mental health problems

COVID Stress Takes a Toll on Mental Health with Health Care Worker

The daily toll of COVID-19, as measured by new cases and the growing number of deaths, overlooks a shadowy set of casualties: the rising risk of mental health problems among health care professionals working on the front lines of the pandemic. A new study, led by University of Utah Health scientists, suggests more than half of doctors, nurses, and emergency responders involved in COVID-19 care could be at risk for one or more mental health problems, including acute traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, problematic alcohol use, and insomnia. The researchers found that the risk of these mental health conditions was comparable to rates observed during natural disasters, such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

"What health care workers are experiencing is akin to domestic combat," says Andrew J. Smith, Ph.D., director of the U of U Health Occupational Trauma Program at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the study's corresponding author. "Although the majority of health care professionals and emergency responders aren't necessarily going to develop PTSD, they are working under severe duress, day after day, with a lot of unknowns. Some will be susceptible to a host of stress-related mental health consequences. By studying both resilient and pathological trajectories, we can build a scaffold for constructing evidence-based interventions for both individuals and public health systems."

The study appears in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. In addition to U of U Health scientists, contributors include researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Central Arkansas VA Health Care System; Salt Lake City VA Healthcare System; and the National Institute for Human Resilience. The researchers surveyed 571 health care workers, including 473 emergency responders (firefighters, police, EMTs) and 98 hospital staff (doctors, nurses), in the Mountain West between April 1 and May 7, 2020. Overall, 56% of the respondents screened positive for at least one mental health disorder. The prevalence for each specific disorder ranged from 15% to 30% of the respondents, with problematic alcohol use, insomnia, and depression topping the list.

"Front line providers are exhausted, not only from the impact of the pandemic itself, but also in terms of coping day to day," says Charles C. Benight, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. "They're trying to make sure that their families are safe [and] they're frustrated over not having the pandemic under control. Those things create the sort of burnout, trauma, and stress that lead to the mental health challenges we're seeing among these caregivers."

In particular, the scientists found that health care workers who were exposed to the virus or who were at greater risk of infection because they were immunocompromised had a significantly increased risk of acute traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. The researchers suggest that identifying these individuals and offering them alternative roles could reduce anxiety, fear, and the sense of helplessness associated with becoming infected.

Alcohol abuse was another area of concern. About 36% of health care workers reported risky alcohol usage. In comparison, estimates suggest that less than 21% of physicians and 23% of emergency responders abuse alcohol in typical circumstances. Caregivers who provided direct patient care or who were in supervisory positions were at greatest risk, according to the researchers. They say offering these workers preventative education and alcohol abuse treatment is vital. Surprisingly, health care workers in this study felt less anxious as they treated more COVID-19 cases.

"As these health care professionals heard about cases elsewhere before COVID-19 was detected in their communities, their anxiety levels likely rose in anticipation of having to confront the disease," Smith says. "But when the disease started trickling in where they were, perhaps it grounded them back to their mission and purpose. They saw the need and they were in there fighting and working hard to make a difference with their knowledge and skills, even at risk to themselves."

Among the study's limitations are its small sample size. It was also conducted early in the pandemic in a region that wasn't as affected by the disease as other areas with higher infection and death rates. Moving forward, the researchers are in the final stages of a similar but larger study conducted in late 2020 that they hope will build on these findings. "This pandemic, as horrific as it is, offers us the opportunity to better understand the extraordinary mental stress and strains that health care providers are dealing with right now," Smith says. "With that understanding, perhaps we can develop ways to mitigate these problems and help health care workers and emergency responders better cope with these sorts of challenges in the future."

Read this article on Science Daily: Dr. Smith, Hannah M. Wright, Tiffany M. Love, and Scott A. Langenecker of University of Utah Health contributed to this study. The study, "Pandemic-related mental health risk among front line personnel," was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.


Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Pandemic Taking a Toll on Mental Health and Addictions

COVID Presents Increased Risk of Addiction for Unusual Groups

The pandemic’s effect on addiction has become a hot topic for researchers and mental health specialists alike. "The COVID-19 pandemic is a particularly grave risk to the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder, who—already vulnerable and marginalized—are heavily dependent on face-to-face health care delivery," researchers stated in "An Epidemic in the Midst of a Pandemic: Opioid Use Disorder and COVID-19," a recent study that examined the effects of the unprecedented situation.

In addition to those wrestling with addiction even before the pandemic created challenges in receiving care, it is now being reported that everyone from retired baby boomers with no preexisting addictions to millennials struggling with job loss and COVID related family challenges are now finding it harder to put a limit on emotion-numbing substances.  According to national surveys alcohol sales are up 250 percent, a trend that is compounding both emerging and preexisting mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression.

“In my practice I have been working with a lot of people during quarantine around addiction,” explains Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD. “The longer COVID restrictions continue, the more potential there is for temporary behaviors based on escaping emotional turmoil to turn into full blown addictions.”

Addiction is not always about drugs, alcohol, or other substances. It can also take on forms including uncontrolled gambling, shopping, gaming, smoking, food, and sex addiction. When these activities become compulsive or unstoppable, they have essentially hijacked the brain’s otherwise 'normal' pleasure functions. At this point, when a behavior becomes a habit or addiction, getting back to ‘normal’ or getting control over compulsions can be a challenge for most anyone.

The Toll of Long-Term Use

Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) as a brain disease indicated by cravings, an inability to abstain from the behavior or substance, dysfunctional emotional responses, and a loss of behavioral control. Compulsive behaviors are often unconscious and can result in making questionable choices. Although breaking an addiction is tough, it can be done. The sooner it is addressed, the better the chances are for recovery.

With any addiction, the recognition that something that may have started out as a distraction has now become a problem is the first step on the road to recovery. While denial over the loss of control that leads to addiction may be a way of coping with sudden changes in behavior, knowing when to seek help is key to recovery.

Healthy alternatives to addictive behavior

“My job as a mental health professional is to help my patients restore balance by guiding them toward healthier coping mechanisms,” explains Dr. Holland. “The focus of addiction therapy in my practice highlights how attachment and connection is the opposite of addiction.”

Treatment also incorporates behavioral therapies, counseling, and other supportive measures to build new and improved habits and life skills. Through this process stress and anger management as well as communication skills are combined with relapse prevention tools to create new coping mechanisms that support well-being.

As a highly qualified drug and alcohol counselor, Dr. Holland provides the most effective treatments for managing compulsive behaviors and addictions and offers individualized therapy to address the unique behaviors that the client may want to change.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

It’s no question that these are very trying times for all of us, so I want to let you know that you are not alone. No matter what is coming up for you right now it is important to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. I invite you reach out to me to see how we can start getting you on the path to feeling better now.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

 

 

Young adults benefit from strong social support systems

New study confirms that social support improves mental health among young adults

A team of McGill University researchers has found that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support reported fewer mental health problems.

In a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the team led by Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill, reassessed the impact of the presence and awareness of social support, such as family and friends, as a safeguard against mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Their results indicate that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support -- the feeling that there is someone who they can depend on for help should they need it -- at the age of 19, showed lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms one year later.

"Our study shows that even in cases where people previously experienced mental health problems, social support was beneficial for mental health later on," says Prof. Geoffroy, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention. "We discovered potential benefits of promoting and leveraging social support as a means to protect the mental health of young adults, even in individuals who experienced mental health problems at an earlier developmental stage in life. That social support is not only beneficial for depression, but for other salient mental health outcomes as well."

The power of perception

The team used data from over 1,000 participants of a representative birth cohort of individuals born in the province of Quebec. Following participants since their birth in 1997 and 1998, the researchers looked at their levels of perceived social support at the onset of adulthood. The researchers found that people who experienced greater levels of social support experienced 47% less severe depression and 22% less anxiety than those with less social support. The team also found that those who reported higher levels of perceived social support were at a 40% decreased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts.

"Our study was conducted before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so we do not know whether our results will apply in the current context," adds Sara Scardera, a master's student in McGill's School/Applied Child Psychology program under the supervision of Prof. Geoffroy and co-author of the study. "However, in a 'normal' context, youth who perceived that they had someone to rely on reported better mental health outcomes. We believe that is beneficial to offer help to those in need, and to make sure your friends know that they can count on you."

The data collection is ongoing, therefore new mental health data will be available when participants turn 23 years old over the course of the 2021 winter season. The researchers will verify whether the same patterns of association have been present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future lines of research will examine whether certain types of social support -- for example, parents vs. friends -- is more beneficial to the mental health of young adults.

Read this article on Science Daily: "Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults: Awareness and presence of social support may guard against mental health problems." 11 December 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201211115455.htm.


Therapy for tweens, teens and their parents

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

  • The birth of a sibling
  • The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty or homelessness
  • Natural disaster
  • Domestic violence
  • Moving to a new place or attending a new school
  • Being bullied
  • Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate
  • Parental divorce or separation

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule a teletherapy appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Friends who are interconnected make the best friends

Having a network of people who know one another helps to make social support more beneficial

It's good to have friends and family to back you up when you need it -- but it's even better if your supporters are close with each other too, a new set of studies suggests.Researchers found that people perceived they had more support from a group of friends or family who all knew and liked each other than from an identical number of close relationships who were not linked.The results suggest that having a network of people to lean on is only part of what makes social support so beneficial to us, said David Lee, who led the study as a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at The Ohio State University.

"The more cohesive, the more dense this network you have, the more you feel you can rely on them for support," said Lee, who is now an assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo. "It matters if your friends can depend on each other, just like you depend on them." Lee conducted the study with Joseph Bayer, assistant professor of communication, and Jonathan Stahl, graduate student in psychology, both at Ohio State. Their research was published online recently in the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

The researchers conducted two online studies. In one study, 339 people were asked to list eight people in their lives that they could go to for support in the last six months. Participants rated on a scale of 1 to 7 how much support they received from each person. (Most were listed as friends or family members, but some people also named co-workers, romantic partners, classmates or roommates). Crucially for this study, participants were also asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how close each possible pair of their eight supporters were to each other (from "they don't know each other" to "extremely close.") Based on those answers, the researchers calculated the density of each participant's network -- the closer and more interconnected their friends and family were to each other, the denser the network.

Results showed that the denser the networks, the more support that participants said they would be able to receive from them. "We found that our support networks are more than the sum of their parts," said Bayer, who is a core faculty of Ohio State's Translational Data Analytics Institute. "People who feel they have more social support in their lives may be focusing more on the collective support they feel from being part of a strong, cohesive group. It's having a real crew, as opposed to just having a set of friends."

A second study, involving 240 people, examined whether the density of a social network mattered in a specific situation where people needed help. In this case, participants were asked to list two different groups of four people they could go to if they needed support. One group comprised four people who were not close to one another and the other group consisted of four people who were close with each other. Participants were then asked to imagine a scenario in which their house had been broken into and they went to their network for support. Half the people were told to think about going to the four people who were not close to one another, while the other half imagined reaching out to their four connected supporters. Results showed that those who imagined going to their tight-knit group of friends or family perceived that they would receive more support than did participants who thought about going to their unconnected friends. The results also offered preliminary evidence of two psychological mechanisms that could help explain why people feel better supported by a tight-knit group of friends.

In answers to survey questions, participants suggested that they thought of their group of close friends or family as one entity. They also were more likely to see a closer-knit group as part of their own identities. Both of these factors were related to perceiving more support, results showed. The researchers said the results of both studies show it isn't just the number of friends and family you have in your network that is important.

"You can have two friends who are both very supportive of you, but if they are both friends with each other, that makes you feel even more supported," Stahl said. On a practical level, that means it is important which friends we think about when we most need help or when we are feeling lonely in the midst of daily life. "Focus on those friends who are connected to each other," Bayer said. "That's where we really perceive the most support."


Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. "Why some friends make you feel more supported than others: People feel most backed when their network is connected." ScienceDaily, 7 October 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201007085609.htm.


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Pets improve mental health and reduce loneliness amid COVID stressors

Owning a Pet Shown to Relieve Stresses Caused by COVID Restrictions

Sharing a home with a pet appeared to act as a buffer against psychological stress during lock-down, a new survey shows. Most people who took part in the research perceived their pets to be a source of considerable support during the lock down period. The study (UK) -- found that having a pet was linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness. Around 90 per cent of the 6,000 participants had at least one pet. The strength of the human-animal bond did not differ significantly between species with the most common pets being cats and dogs followed by small mammals and fish.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96 per cent said their pet helped keep them fit and active. However, 68 per cent of pet owners reported having been worried about their animals during lock-down, for example due to restrictions on access to veterinary care and exercise or because they wouldn't know who would look after their pet if they fell ill.

Lead researcher, Dr Elena Ratschen from the Department of Health Sciences University of York said: "Findings from this study also demonstrated potential links between people's mental health and the emotional bonds they form with their pets: measures of the strength of the human-animal bond were higher among people who reported lower scores for mental health-related outcomes at baseline. We also discovered that in this study, the strength of the emotional bond with pets did not statistically differ by animal species, meaning that people in our sample felt on average as emotionally close to, for example, their guinea pig as they felt to their dog. It will be important to ensure that pet owners are appropriately supported in caring for their pet during the pandemic."

Co-author, Professor Daniel Mills said: "This work is particularly important at the current time as it indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lock-down. However, it is important that everyone appreciates their pet's needs too, as our other work shows failing to meet these can have a detrimental effect for both people and their pets."

Dr Ratschen added: "While our study showed that having a pet may mitigate some of the detrimental psychological effects of the Covid-19 lock-down, it is important to understand that this finding is unlikely to be of clinical significance and does not warrant any suggestion that people should acquire pets to protect their mental health during the pandemic."

More than 85 million households are estimated to own at least one pet in the U.S.

The study also showed that the most popular interaction with animals that were not pets was bird watching. Almost 55 per cent of people surveyed reported watching and feeding birds in their garden.

READ this article on Science Daily: "Pets linked to maintaining better mental health and reducing loneliness during lock down, new research shows." ScienceDaily, 26 September 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200926145210.htm.


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"Pets, especially dogs and cats, have been proven in studies to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and ease loneliness. Pets naturally encourage exercise and renew a sense of playfulness in pet owners. Some studies clearly show that owing a pet can improve your cardiovascular health. Psychological studies show that caring for an animal can help children grow up feeling more secure while increasing their likelihood of staying active. As I well know, pets also provide valuable companionship for adults of all ages. For me, interacting with my new canine companion Olive brings a real sense of joy and unconditional love that goes both ways."

While we individually and collectively continue to navigate social restrictions imposed by COVID , it is important for everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being to find new, healthy ways to maintain social connections. Virtual communication including phones and video chats with friends and family can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. And when people find it too difficult to maintain a positive sense of well-being, reaching out to a mental health professional can help. Dr. Holland offers Teletherapy to fit individual needs including; short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland for more information and to help get you on the path to feeling better. Or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.