Young Adults, Teens & Extreme Anxiety

This New York Times Article, "Why Are More American Teenagers than Ever Suffering from Extreme Anxiety?" is a detailed look into the life of American teens and the often crippling anxiety they live with. As a nation, we are seeing increased rates of anxiety in both adults and our kids. Why the increase? Teens today face an onslaught of stress, all in the palms of their hands. Social media, smartphones, the 24 hour news-cycle, increased academic pressure at school, the list goes on. While there are many reasons anxiety is impacting our kids, it's important to remember that help is out there. Receiving help from school counselors, psychotherapists, as well as considering more intensive treatment programs can help change your child's pattern of cycling anxious thoughts and behaviors. By building coping skills, we can increase a child's resiliency, making them stronger and more confident over time.

If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, give me a call at 805-364-3182. I'd be happy to walk you through different treatment approaches that can help.

To read this fascinating and inspiring New York Times Article, click here:


Are you the parent of a college student? Is your child struggling? Many colleges offer short-term support, but sessions are limited to a certain number per term.  Weekly support by a therapist in the community can make all the difference in helping your child thrive while away from home and in college. This article provides helpful tips for parents who want to offer support, yet may be too far away to help in person. See here:

Life Skills for Kids using Equine Therapy

There's nothing like seeing a child light up around an animal, especially a child who has suffered from abuse or trauma.  E.M.B.R.A.C.E. Solutions is an equine-assisted therapy program which helps kids learn boundaries and emotional regulation, all with the help of a horse. This is great for anxiety, trauma, depression, hyperactivity, autism, and more.  See below for more info! 

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Community Wellness Calendar

The Mental Wellness Center in Santa Barbara has a wonderful month of free mental health groups available to all. There's a bipolar and depression support group, a group helping teens stay connected, and family support groups. We are really so lucky to have this here in Santa Barbara to support us all in being mentally and emotionally well. 



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Autism Support Group for Parents

UCSB's Koegel Autism Center is hosting a Parent Education & Support Group. This is a valuable resource for our community. Please share with those who might benefit. If you or your child could benefit from therapy, please contact me at 805-364-3182. 

autism support group

What is DBT Therapy and Why is it Useful?

Are you curious about DBT and how it can help you? Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a cognitive behavioral therapy model that uses problem solving and acceptance based strategies to promote change. 

It has proven to be effective with challenging diagnoses and behaviors, especially when other techniques have fallen short. It focuses strongly upon skills training and mindfulness to lower anxiety, lessen depression, help with trauma, chronic pain and many other mental health conditions. 

Can DBT help you? Give me a call at 805-364-3182 and I can let you know how DBT can help. For more information, please read this in depth article about Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Remodel Will Help Women in Recovery


The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is invaluable to our community. They provide food and shelter to the neediest in our community, the homeless who are often struggling with mental illness and substance abuse recovery. 

President Rolf Geyling says, "The Rescue Mission has the only walk-in shelter beds that are available 365 nights a year and that's 13 beds for women," Geyling said. "Typically we have 22 to 24 women stay. Some nights, as many as 30."

The Rescue Mission remodel will double its capacity for housing homeless women and is expected to finish in the Spring of 2019.

For more information on the Rescue Mission, please visit:

For the full story, please visit:

Why combine yoga & psychotherapy?

 "With a growing body of research supporting yoga's mental health benefits, psychologists are weaving the practice into their work with clients."

By Amy Novotney         American Psychological Association.   November 2009, Vol 40, No. 10

What was once a practice for a centered few has now become mainstream American: According to a survey last year by Yoga Journal, today more than 15 million U.S. adults practice yoga, and not surprisingly, there is research supporting its physical benefits. Studies show the practice—which combines stretching and other exercises with deep breathing and meditation—can improve overall physical fitness, strength, flexibility and lung capacity, while reducing heart rate, blood pressure and back pain.

But what is perhaps unknown to those who consider yoga just another exercise form is that there is a growing body of research documenting yoga's psychological benefits. Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Researchers are also starting to claim some success in using yoga and yoga-based treatments to help active-duty military and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level," says Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

That's why more clinicians have embraced yoga as a complement to psychotherapy, McGonigal says. They're encouraging yoga as a tool clients can use outside the therapy office to cope with stress and anxieties, and even heal emotional wounds.

"Talk therapy can be helpful in finding problem-solving strategies and understanding your own strengths and what's happening to you, but there are times when you just need to kind of get moving and work through the body," says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a psychology professor at Alliant International University, who has studied yoga's benefits to mental health.

The mind-body meld

According to a study by Sherry A. Glied, PhD, professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, and Richard G. Frank, PhD, professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, published in the May/June Health Affairs (Vol. 28, No. 3), the rate of diagnosed cases of mental disorders increased dramatically between 1996 and 2006—doubling among adults age 65 and older, and rising by about 60 percent among adults 18 to 64. During that same time period, rates of psychotropic medication use rose by about the same percentages among these groups.

In light of these numbers, yoga remains a natural and readily available approach to maintaining wellness and treating mental health issues, says Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, a neuroscientist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who studies yoga's effects on depression and insomnia. Khalsa, who has practiced yoga for more than 35 years, says several studies in his 2004 comprehensive review of yoga's use as a therapeutic intervention, published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (Vol. 48, No. 3), show that yoga targets unmanaged stress, a main component of chronic disorders such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and insomnia. It does this, he says, by reducing the stress response, which includes the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The practice enhances resilience and improves mind-body awareness, which can help people adjust their behaviors based on the feelings they're experiencing in their bodies, according to Khalsa.

While scientists don't have quite the full picture on how yoga does all that, new research is beginning to shed light on how the practice may influence the brain. In a 2007 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine(Vol. 13, No. 4), researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and McLean Hospital used magnetic resonance imaging to compare levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) before and after two types of activities: an hour of yoga and an hour of reading a book. The yoga group showed a 27 percent increase in GABA levels, which evidence suggests may counteract anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. GABA levels of the reading group remained unchanged.

"I believe if everyone practiced the techniques of yoga, we would have a preventive aid to a lot of our problems," Khalsa says. "There would likely be less obesity and Type-II diabetes, and people would be less aggressive, more content and more integrated."

Khalsa's claims are backed by evidence supporting the social benefits of participating in a yoga class, says Stanford's McGonigal. A series of experiments conducted by organizational behavior researchers at Stanford University and published in January's Psychological Science (Vol. 20, No. 1) suggest that acting in synchrony with others—be it while walking, singing or dancing—can increase cooperation and collectivism among group members.

"In a yoga class, everyone is moving and breathing in at the same time and I think that's one of the undervalued mechanisms that yoga can really help with: giving people that sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger," McGonigal says.

Psychologists are also examining the use of yoga with survivors of trauma and finding it may even be more effective than some psychotherapy techniques. In a pilot study at the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Mass., women with PTSD who took part in eight sessions of a 75-minute Hatha yoga class experienced significantly reduced PTSD symptoms compared with those participating in a dialectical behavior therapy group. The center recently received a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to conduct a randomized, single-blind, controlled study to further examine whether, as compared with a 10-week health class, yoga improves the frequency and severity of PTSD symptoms and other somatic complaints as well as social and occupational impairments among female trauma survivors.

"When people experience trauma, they may experience not only a sense of emotional disregulation, but also a feeling of being physically immobilized," says Ritu Sharma, PhD, project coordinator of the center's yoga program, who only began practicing yoga when she started leading the program. "Body-oriented techniques such as yoga help them increase awareness of sensations in the body, stay more focused on the present moment and hopefully empower them to take effective actions."

And in what is becoming one of the most widely applied yoga-based trauma treatments, clinical psychologist Richard Miller, PhD, has developed a nine-week, twice-weekly integrative restoration program based on the ancient practice of yoga Nidra. In 2006, the Department of Defense began testing iRest with active-duty soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were experiencing PTSD. At the end of the program, participants reported a reduction in insomnia, depression, anxiety and fear, improved interpersonal relations and an increased sense of control over their lives. Since then, iRest classes have been established at VA facilities in Miami, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Miller has also helped develop similar programs for veterans, homeless people and those with chemical dependencies and chronic pain.

"The program teaches them skills they can integrate into their daily lives, so that in the midst of a difficult circumstance, they have the tools to be able to work in the moment," says Miller, president of the Integrative Restoration Institute in San Rafael, Calif.

New research is also supporting yoga's benefit for other mental illnesses. An as-yet-unpublished randomized control trial by Khalsa offers insight into how yoga may reduce insomnia. In this study, 20 participants who practiced a daily 45-minute series of Kundalini yoga techniques shortly before bedtime for eight weeks reported significant reductions in insomnia severity as compared with those told to follow six behavioral recommendations for sleep hygiene. And a 2007 study supports yoga's potential as a complementary treatment for depressed patients taking antidepressant medication but only in partial remission. University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist David Shapiro, PhD, found that participants who practiced Iyengar yoga three times a week for eight weeks reported significant reductions in depression, anxiety and neurotic symptoms, as well as mood improvements at the end of each class (Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol. 4, No. 4). Many of the participants achieved remission and also showed physiological changes, such as heart rate variability, indicative of a greater capacity for emotional regulation, Shapiro says.

Putting yoga into practice

While she cautions against teaching yoga to clients without formal training, McGonigal and others say psychologists can use psychotherapy sessions to practice yoga's mind-body awareness and breathing techniques. Simple strategies—such as encouraging clients to get as comfortable as possible during their sessions or to pay attention to how their body feels when they inhale and exhale—teach clients to be in the here and now.

"These by themselves would be considered yoga interventions because they direct attention to the breath and help unhook people from thoughts, emotions and impulses that are negative or destructive," she says.

Alliant International University psychology professor Richard Gevirtz, PhD, agrees that alternatives to traditional psychotherapy may help clinicians make progress with difficult clients.

"Psychologists have painted themselves in the corner by only doing talk therapy," Gevirtz says. "There's much more that can be accomplished if you integrate it with other sorts of modalities, such as biofeedback, relaxation training or yoga."

In fact, some psychologists say yoga may not really be so special when it comes to improving one's mental state, and that several forms of exercise may provide mood-enhancing benefits.

In a 2007 study by researchers at Bowling Green State University, 36 participants kept mood diaries during the first and final four weeks of a 16-week weight-loss program. On the days participants engaged in planned exercise—typically walking for 30 to 60 minutes—they reported a better mood at night as compared to in the morning, before exercising (Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, Vol. 29, No. 6).

"It seems that many types of exercise—particularly non-competitive exercise—are related to positive mood alteration," says Bonnie Berger, EdD, one of the study's co-authors and professor and director of Bowling Green's School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies.

Psychologists may also benefit from using yoga and other forms of exercise for their own care, Greenberg says. In a 2007 survey of licensed APA members by the APA Board of Professional Affairs Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance, 48 percent reported that vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue are likely to affect their functioning.

"Practicing yoga personally and adopting a stance based on yoga principles such as non-judgment, compassion, spirituality and the connection of all living things can help relieve stress, enhance compassion and potentially make you a better therapist," she says. "If you can come to a level of peace with yourself, there may be more nurturing that you exude toward your patients."

Amy Novotney is a writer in Chicago.

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Tips to Quit Smoking: Tommy Rosen's Stop Smoking Protocol

Tommy Rosen is an addiction expert and mentor of mine. He's founder of the movement Recovery 2.0, a groundbreaking online platform and book for those in addiction and in recovery. He is truly inspiration and offers tons of free lectures and support online.

Smoking goes hand in hand with drug and alcohol addiction. Many people can stay sober but cannot give up their daily cigarettes. Tommy has a great "Stop Smoking Protocol" to help you quit smoking once and for all. These are great tips for recovery in general. Here are a few steps to get you started, with a full link to the PDF. 


1. INTRODUCTION Ok, you totally rock. Congratulations on deciding to quit smoking. By letting go of this destructive, insidious addiction, you are setting yourself up for the next phase of your life, a phase that would not have been possible if you had continued to smoke. If you loosely follow even some of these instructions and stay vigilant and kind to yourself, you will find success. You are beginning an important process and the Universe is taking note of your effort. You only need to take one step toward the Universe and the Universe will take 10 steps toward you. 


a) Choose your quit day wisely. It is unwise to decide to quit on a day where you know you will have a lot of work or stress or be in a place with great temptation. Pick a day where you can rest, nap even and take it pretty easy.

b) Gather your community around you. Start making calls and tell everyone you can that you are quitting smoking and that you’d like to have their prayers and support.

c) Pick 1-2 accountability partners. Choose accountability partners who you trust and check in with them often. It can be face-to-face or by phone. Text and email are less desirable. Connect with people who are there to support you through this process You must check in regardless of what is going on, even if you have smoked. 

To continue reading the "Stop Smoking Protocol", click here:


Tommy rosen

Yoga & Self Care Retreat with Jenni Rawlings and Emily Benaron

Two of my favorite yoga teachers, Jenni Rawlings and Emily Benaron, are hosting a Yoga & Self Care Retreat in Ojai this November.  This 2 night retreat is at a magical private estate with a pool, jacuzzi, and hiking trails! 4 All Levels yoga classes, amazing meals, massage, and lots of time to recharge your batteries! Go to this link for more details:


Cottage Hospital's Mental Health Fair

Join me at the Mental Health Fair this Saturday, May 20th from 10am - 12pm.. Officer Hove will be speaking about Mental Illness and Homelessness in Our Community in Santa Barbara (at 11am) and Dr. Ericson will be speaking about adolescent depression and suicide (at 12pm).


Is your child naughty? Think again.

When a child acts naughty, it's possible one of their basic needs aren't being met. In today's busy world, kids can easily become overstimulated or be responding to a situation at school or at home. Psychology Today has this great list for you to check the next time it feels like your child is plotting against you!

For creative play therapy for your child and family, contact Cara for a free consultation. Strengthening families through healthy communication and self expression in Santa Barbara. 


Photo by ulkas/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by ulkas/iStock / Getty Images

How Does Yoga Help to Heal Trauma?

Yoga is widely recognized as a great form of exercise. It helps to keep the spine flexible, by loosening up tight muscles, stretching the mind and body in new ways. Yoga has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression, chronic stress, and PTSD as more evidence-based research is gathered. Yoga has been shown to help heal the traumatic experiences of our lives.  Linda Sparrowe writes about the powerful impact of a gentle yoga practice for trauma  in this article:

"Yoga's ability to touch us on every level of our being—physical mental, emotional, and spiritual—makes it a powerful and effective modality for trauma victims. Most experts agree that trauma's effects live in the body—and that's why yoga works."

Recovery 2.0: Tools for Addiction Recovery

Tommy Rosen is one of my mentors. He is changing the way we look at addiction and has helped so many people by sharing his path to recovery. Having trained with him in Yoga for Addiction recovery, I am continually inspired by his philosophy in healing addiction. 

Learning how to thrive in recovery is key. If you or someone you love is in recovery, check out his free online conference Recovery 2.0.