Trump style slurs: you don’t have to get your feelings hurt.

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With the Trump administration ahead of us, many Americans will witness or receive hate-filled comments meant to devalue, belittle and shame anyone who is demographically different.  The major uptick in hate crimes dates back toward the end of 2015, which corresponds with Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.  Since the presidential election results came in, national news and social media sites have already begun documenting a new surge of confrontational hate-mongering behaviors aimed at racial/ethnic/sexual/religious minorities.  Generally speaking, the most important response to hate mongering is to ensure one’s physical safety first and foremost.  This article is not meant to provide guidance on physical or legal protection tactics, but rather outlines the most accurate and effective way to emotionally immunize yourself to this type of ignorance.  You don’t have to get your feelings hurt.  You don’t have to feel the blow of belittlement when ignorant remarks are flung at you.  You don’t have to feel insulted or devalued.  In fact, when someone says or does something racist/misogynistic/etc, it’s an instant opportunity to recognize the disposition and circumstances surrounding the offender.  You will know immediately that this person is experiencing one or more of the following:

  1. People who feel compelled to point out their categorical superiority to others based on race/gender/religion/sexual orientation differences often do so because they feel a deep sense of resentment about not feeling good enough about themselves.  (They will vehemently argue that nothing could be further from the truth, but there is something called the subconscious (part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings) and it is working furiously in overtime to correct low self-worth.)  By actively engaging in a game of “I’m better than these people” (through various verbal or behavioral acts) they can give themselves a short-lived burst of much-needed self confidence.  It quickly dissipates, so they often choose to surround themselves with like-minded people so they can commiserate and boost each other up through mutually insulting group outsiders.
  2. People need to blame and find fault in whole categories of people out of fear: when older regions of the brain dominate a person’s cognitive style, more complex intellectual processing is superseded, limiting more complex comprehension of circumstances surrounding their perceived ‘problems’.  Attempting to solve one’s problems by persecuting a whole group of people in a scapegoat fashion is usually a tell-tale sign of shortsightedness that does not result in lasting solutions.  Failed solutions often leads to increased blaming and anger.  It’s a vicious cycle which some people remain stuck in, and then pass on to others as a narrow worldview.
  3. The bottom line is, people who are effective and successful in pursuing their life goals, feel a sense of personal resourcefulness, and are benefiting from genuinely loving relationships do not need to actively engage in hate-mongering and devaluing/disrespecting whole groups of people.  There is no need to assert oneself as superior at the expense of other’s basic rights, to the contrary, they enjoy embracing a spirit of generosity because they can afford to give and share without feeling threatened.  Being chronically unhappy does not give way to hate-mongering behaviors, but there’s a good chance they are prone to certain habits that perpetuate their own unhappiness.

That said, people who feel compelled to a seek momentary boost of self-importance through hate-mongering in the name of Trump support or otherwise, are likely doing so because they don’t feel adequately important enough in the world, prefer to indulge in overly simplified, fear-based solutions to their problems (or are less intellectually equipped or compelled to grasp more a complex understanding), and see anyone different than themselves as a threat to their well-being and/or way of life.  The last thing you should feel is slighted by someone else’s irrational fears and ignorant solutions to protecting and improving their station in life.  Recognize the pattern as something that has ensnared them, not you.  

Move forward by choosing to focus on the positive aspects of your own life rather than toil in the negativity that someone else is stewing in.  Stay true to your core beliefs and values.  You may feel discouraged and understandably frustrated with the influence of Trump’s hateful rhetoric that has emboldened some people to lash out against America’s longstanding value of inclusion.  The point is, you need not allow those people’s efforts to bring you down and keep you there.

 

#Squadgoals for grownups: how to build your social crew with confidence

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The Bay Area is home to a large number of people who relocate here for improved work or educational opportunities.  After settling in, most find themselves wanting to establish new local friendships, set up a social community, and increase their sense of group inclusiveness.  Lately I’ve been working with millennials on how to optimize their experience of social group dynamics.  In other words, I help them develop their social crew with confidence, a.k.a. #squadgoals for grownups.  For some, building new friendships in an area brimming with overachievers in tech can feel intimidating, and lead to a sense of social isolation and loneliness.  Others who feel more comfortable in high achieving social contexts may find networking for professional purposes easier, but feel uncertain about how to read social cues outside of structured work settings.
One of the first things I do as an executive coach and therapist to help someone strengthen their social skills and expand their friend group is to understand the role they typically take on in group settings.  Most people can look back to childhood and notice re-occurring patterns in their social lives.  What influential experiences or people shaped your beliefs about friendship growth?  How did you come to understand yourself in comparison to others in a group dynamic?  Taking historical inventory can help people better understand and reflect upon their unique social development.  Why did some groups feel enjoyable and easy, whereas others felt uninteresting or even toxic?    Here are a few social situations that clients are addressing in our sessions:
29 year old  Jason “I’m bummed that some friends who said they’d do a 10k with me a few months ago ended up flaking- it felt pretty rude.  One person basically said they’d go if another mutual friend was going, but not if it was just me.  I feel like my social value in the group is lower than I thought, and now if I don’t go, it just proves I don’t have much influence.”
25 year old Sunako “I have a lot of anxiety in group settings, even when everyone in the group is a friend of mine.  I get worried that I don’t have anything interesting to contribute to the conversation, and I feel like everyone is smarter and funnier than me.”
28 year old Kiaan “I haven’t found a group of friends like the ones I had in NYC- I used to have a group of friends I could just hit up for random stuff, you know, grab a drink or a bite, shoot some hoops, whatever.  I can do that with work people here, but it’s just not the same, you know?  I don’t really connect with people here in the same way.”
Around the same time I decided to pen this article on #squadgoals for grownups, my daughter (who’s in the 3rd grade) hosted a sleepover for ten of her friends.  There’s nothing like watching a group of kids resolve social predicaments over and over as a way to examine the social nuances of group functioning.  As someone who’s well liked by her peers, makes new friends easily, and has successfully welcomed newcomers into her friend group, I wanted her to weigh in on what can help people feel confident in social situations.  I was hoping she’d give me a few basic points of reference to build upon how and why friendships grow stronger, and how to best enjoy social groups.  (The secret is out- multi-tasking parents are not opposed to having our kids do our work for us whenever possible!)  She offered the following tips in plain language, pointing out the most important tenets of developing friendships and navigating social groups.  These universal concepts are timeless, and I truly believe apply to all ages and social strata.  As we get older, we can overcomplicate things, take things too personally, and assign unnecessary value to social roles that undermine our confidence and ability to enjoy others.
  • If you’re feeling shy but would like to make new friends, it helps to remember: no one wants to play alone.  Everyone likes the feeling of being included.  By being part of a social group you can enjoy things differently than when you’re alone.  A group is only fun if people in it are getting along well.  How you can help this happen?  There are different ways you can be included in a social group.
  • If you want to build a leadership role within a group, you have to gain other people’s trust that a suggestion you have is going to go well and be fun.  Some people really like coming up with new ideas for the group, and other people like to add their opinions to a new idea.  A good leader pays attention to other people’s opinions and preferences when they’re coming up with suggestions for the group.
  • Everyone feels good when their idea is used for a group activity, so it’s good to take turns and let other people suggest ideas.  Be enthusiastic about their idea, and pay attention to how they’d it to go.  They’ll probably invite you back to do stuff with them again.
  • Move on from an activity that isn’t working well and don’t take it personally.  Focus on paying attention to what people find fun, and accept that some times an idea doesn’t go as planned.  Just let it go, and do something else.
  • It’s ok if you don’t enjoy coming up with ideas for the group- other people will still really like including you because you make a point to enjoy their suggestions.  They’ll keep including you because by participating you add to the fun of the group, and you’ll become closer friends with others that way.
  • Sometimes you might want to do an activity that other people in your group don’t want to do.  You have to decide what’s more important to you in that moment – doing the activity you had in mind, or doing something with the group.  If other people aren’t interested in joining you for this activity, you should focus on the reasons unrelated to you to that have probably influenced their decision.  You should not take it personally.  Just move on and stay focused on having fun, what ever you decide to do with your time.
  •  If you decide to do something different than the group, you can always meet up with them later, you don’t have to feel like you’re not part of the group anymore.  By getting together with the group another time, you get a chance to do different things, and other people can do the same.  If people in a group get mad anytime someone wants to do something different for a change, it’s probably not going to feel as much fun in the long run.  The best groups should still be able to have fun when people come and go at different times.
  • Most new friendships are established and reinforced because people enjoy doing the same types of things- even doing them alone these activities are fun, but by sharing the experience with other people, it adds to the fun.  In the beginning maybe you don’t feel that close to someone new, but as you do an activity with them, you end up feeling more comfortable and closer to them.  Before you know it you’re very close friends.
She makes it sound pretty simple, right? 🙂
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Follow @nxtlvlgoddess on Instagram to learn about an amazing new community

Thank you for including me as a featured member, founders of Next Level Goddess- a new Instagram community of individuals who inspire, educate, and empower one another.  I look forward to learning more from the group and it’s members, and seeing it flourish and grow!

We're proud to celebrate NLGs who have personally inspired us to be our most splendid selves 👊🏻 Writer, mental health professional, educator and a woman of fierce independence, Dr. Christina Villareal dances to the beat of her own drum. She commits her time to opening the eyes of others to live to their fullest potential. Straying from conventional therapist-client methods, she vulnerably shares and speaks from her own experiences when appropriate. By creating an atmosphere of complete non-judgement, she's helped me see that no one can take control of my narrative without my consent. A goddess through and through, she embodies the belief of sharing the wealth that is the human experience. Her words can be found on DrChristinaVillarreal.com. x Rosa #NLGcommunity #nxtlvlgoddess

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5 key components to finding a therapist quickly and efficiently: tips from a Clinical Psychologist

You finally realize it’s time to find a therapist. For many people, this task is daunting; you need help, but have no idea where to begin. The following list includes key components to finding a therapist that can help you with your mental health needs, quickly and efficiently.

1.) What do you need?
First you should consider why you are seeking to begin therapy, and what you need right now. If you are seeking help because you are in a crisis situation (you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, for example) call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (if you are in the United States.)

If you are not in a crisis but have never seen a mental health provider before, once you find a therapist, you will schedule an intake appointment with them for a full assessment to determine a diagnosis, if any, and develop a clear treatment plan should you decide to work together. If you are taking any medications be sure to bring these with you to your first appointment. You’ll also want to bring the contact information for past therapists (if any) and your primary care physician so that your new therapist can better coordinate your mental health care.

2.) How much can you afford to pay?

If you have health insurance, start by calling your insurance company and inquiring about your mental health benefits. Do they cover outpatient treatment? Is there a co-payment involved? Is there a deductible? How many sessions are covered? If your insurance only covers certain therapists, the insurance company should be able to provide you with a list of approved providers. Most insurance companies will provide coverage for you to see therapists who are considered “Out of Network” but there will likely be a different co-payment associated with an Out of Network provider.

Many therapists accept different payment options, so it is important to determine what types of payment they accept during your first phone consultation. Some therapists only accept patients who are paying out-of-pocket. In this case, most will provide a receipt so that you can submit it to your insurance company for reimbursement, if possible. You should also ask whether they will consider a lower fee (often referred to as a “sliding scale” if their cost is above your means.

3.) What style of therapist is right for you?

Different therapists come from different schools of thought about how therapy works and what methods produce the best outcomes. These schools of thought are called “theoretical orientations.” For example, someone with a Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT) orientation believes that thoughts and behaviors are directly related to feelings and symptoms, and will conduct therapy aimed at changing problematic ways of thinking as a means to improving your symptoms (usually through in-session exercises and homework). In contrast, someone with a Psychodynamic orientation believes that symptoms are related to processes outside of the patient’s awareness that come to light through interactions with the therapist.

There are many other orientations, and some therapists subscribe to more than one. Think a little about what might be most comfortable or the best match for you (i.e. the more “hands on approach” of CBT, or a more “process-oriented” approach of psychodynamic therapy.) Your first phone conversation with a potential therapist is a good time to ask about their theoretical orientation, and how they describe their approach to conducting therapy. Beware of therapists who describe themselves as “eclectic” and are unable or unwilling to clarify their style of working with patients. In my opinion, these therapists do not follow any one school of thought, and their approach to helping you may include a hodge-podge of treatments that ultimately, may prove to be unhelpful.

4.) When and where will the therapy take place?

Make sure that the therapist has office hours and availability that match your schedule. Many therapists work out of different offices, so be sure to ask about all of their locations. How far are you willing to travel? Do you need a therapist who is accessible by public transportation? Are you willing to travel farther for a therapist who has special expertise or is an especially good match personality wise? Remember, therapy only works if you are able to make it to your appointments consistently and on time.

5.) Where can I find a variety of therapists?

Many people want to be able to read about, and see a photo of potential therapists before making phone calls. Using online search engines can help streamline this process. There are excellent online resources to help you find a therapist, including psychologytoday, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the American Psychological Association.

You can also call professional schools of psychology to ask for recommendations of people trained or in training within their programs, as a way to make therapy more affordable. Bay area doctoral programs in psychology include The California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Campus, and The Wright Institute. Psychology interns are closely supervised by licensed psychologists, and are often very motivated and effective in providing psychotherapy.

Check with friends and family in your area- they will likely know of a therapist that has been helpful to someone they know.

Finding the right therapist for you can feel like a huge project, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Do not underestimate your intuition when talking to potential therapists on the phone. If you feel comfortable and relaxed, chances are you will be able to connect with them in person, and you’ll be on your way to improved mental health.