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Kathy Marshack News

Stressed? New Research on How to Retrain Your Brain

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"The way we live our lives now is like running marathons. ... In some ways, that's great, but you can't run marathons all the time." - Dr. Leslie Sherlin, neuroscientist and chief science officer of Neurotopia.   

I'm sure you would agree with the statement above. Life is increasingly stressful. That stress leads to a weakened immune system with an increased risk for serious health problems. How can this problem be combated? Brain retraining. To learn how this is being done, take note of athletes and soldiers.    

Sports psychologists are using brain mapping and neurofeedback when working with athletes to help train for peak athletic performance. Once they find out an athlete’s optimal brain wave pattern, they then teach them to techniques to control their thinking especially when under stress or as recovery. 

Virtual reality is being used to help soldiers prepare for the stress for combat. Some of these therapies are done before the fact, but others focus on after, taking the soldier back to the scenario, helping them to deal with what happened. (Read Training the Brain to Stress Less)   

These stress "tools" are not available for the public, but hopefully will be in the future. Even though they are not now, the core principles are there. Work now to train your brain to deal with stress. There are many methods that are being used with the help of a trained mental health care professionalSeek out their assistance today to learn how to cope with stress!   

Visit Managing Stress for more information. 

New Addition to Recommended Links

Sunday, November 04, 2012

As a convenience for visitors on my website, I have a feature called "Recommended Links." I have compiled links that I recommend for additional information outside of what I provide for my clients. ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, Depression & Anxiety, and Alcohol & Drug Abuse are all topics that I have included.    

I have added a new topic in Recommended Links - Smartphone Apps. I recently blogged about Smartphone Apps being used as supplemental psychotherapy. I do not recommend that these Apps replace psychotherapy, but I believe they can be used in addition to psychotherapy. I will be adding Apps to this area of my website. Please check periodically for new additions.     

If you have found any Apps to be effective mental health tools, please contact me or add a comment. 

Can You Adjust to Life's Big Changes?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Change is a natural part of life. Nothing ever stays the same. Getting married, getting divorced, moving, kids graduating, getting promoted, getting laid off, retiring – the list of life changes goes on and on. For some individuals, adjusting to change comes easily, but for others it can cause an inordinate amount of stress. 


How can you effectively adjust to change? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:


  • Let go of the idea that life has to be a certain way. 


  • View each change as an opportunity to grow. 


  • Identify the different strengths and different weakness that the change brings out in you. Maximize the positive.


  • Don't ignore the emotions that change cause. Feel the emotion, but learn to let it go. 


  • When you decide to accept the change, the process to moving past it will feel much quicker. 


  • Avoid placing blame on yourself or others. 


If you find that you are not able to move with the change in your life, you might be dealing with Adjustment Disorder. This is a short-term disorder that occurs after a major change. The individual is unable to cope with that change. If this sounds like you, seek out the help of amental health care professional. They will be able to guide you through this adjustment process. 


For more information, visit Depression and Stress

Smartphone Apps for Supplemental Psychotherapy

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Millions around the globe use a smartphone. Smartphones offer a variety of applications, but there is a new wave of apps that caught my attention – apps to help with mental illness. posted an article - Smartphone Apps Become 'Surrogate Therapist' - which spoke about this supplemental psychotherapy. 


There is a wide array of apps for different mental health illnesses and disorders. Some apps offer mood tracking, positive reinforcement, depression and anxiety screening, goal strategies and much, much more. The cost for many of these applications are either free or just a few dollars. 


It is important to remember that if you suffer from any type of mental illness, these applications should never replace psychotherapy. They should only be used in addition to psychotherapy with a trained mental health care professional

I am interested in learning more about these applications. If you have tried any apps and have found them helpful, I would like to hear about them. Please leave a comment with your favorite smartphone app or send an email to


Childhood Trauma Linked to a Troubled Future

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Children are asked this question from a young age. Would you ever imagine a child telling you they would like to be an alcoholic, obese, suicidal, or cancer victim? Hardly! It sounds preposterous. Sadly, many children might have these issues looming in their future. 


In the past, the blame for these issues was placed on the material or physical background of a child. For example, maybe they grew up in the ghetto or had a poor diet. There has now been a shift in understanding. Childhood trauma, including psychological trauma, has a major impact on the future success of a child. Divorced parents, a parent in prison, a mentally ill parent, or abuse are all factors that can cause emotional stress and trauma. (Read article - The Psych Approach)


This doesn't mean that if you were a child who experienced these types of traumatic events, you will automatically have the serious issues I mentioned above. The risk is just greater. What does this mean then for these children? They must get the assistance of a mental health care professional immediately. If help is sought out promptly, the child will be in a better position to gain the coping skills that are necessary for a successful future. Parents, there is no need to be ashamed if you need to get help for your child. Taking this step is showing love for your child and it will help them now and in the future. 


For more information, visit Parenting - Am I a Good Parent?

Retrain Your Brain to Cope with Stress

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's an understatement to say that Americans are stressed out. The reasons why people are so stressed today are almost too numerous to count. Stress is a serious danger to our society. Chronic stress leads to weight gain, heart problems, insomnia, depression, and strokes. 


Do not despair though! Stress can be controlled. Research is pointing to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a powerful tool to control stress. The first step in CBT is to note activities that put a strain on energy and time, trigger anger or anxiety, or precipitate a negative physical response such as a sour stomach or headache. Also note positive experiences, such as those that are mentally or physically refreshing or produce a sense of accomplishment. The next step is to attempt to shift the balance from stress producing to stress-reducing activities. 


In a nut shell, CBT works to identify the sources of stress, restructuring priorities, changing one's response to stress, and finding methods for managing and reducing stress. By implementing this process, the goal is change the way you deal and respond to stress because stress is inevitable. After time, it becomes your new and automatic way of thinking!


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is most effective when you work with a specialist. Set up an appointment with a mental health care professional who uses CBT. Until then, visit Managing Stress to read about 8 specific methods to reducing stress. 

The Negative Impact on Alcohol Revealed on the Recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nearly 1 in 13 Americans abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. The consequences of alcohol misuse are serious. There are serious health problems that can arise. Drinking also increases the risk of death from automobile crashes as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. Homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking. Of course, alcoholism also has devastating effects on relationships with family, friends and coworkers.

Unfortunately, many turn to alcohol to help them cope with trauma. However, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies recently noted the connection between the heavy use of alcohol and the difficulty of recovering from a psychologically tragic event. They believe that heavy drinking rewires the brain.

NIAAA scientist Andrew Holmes, PhD, comments, "A history of heavy alcohol abuse could impair a critical mechanism for recovering from a trauma, and in doing so put people at greater risk for PTSD. The next step will be to test whether our preclinical findings translate to patients currently suffering from comorbid PTSD and alcohol abuse. If it does, then this could lead to new thinking about how we can better treat these serious medical conditions." Understanding these issues can help in assisting individuals with alcohol problems and PTSD. For more details on this new research, read Heavy Drinking Rewires Brain, Increasing Susceptibility to Anxiety Problems.

If you are suffering from PTSD or battling alcohol abuse, I recommend you speak with your doctor and find a mental health care professional who can help you. For more information on confronting these issues, visit Alcoholism Recovery and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Exposing Depression – Should You Go Public?

Friday, September 14, 2012

For a long time, the topic of depression was hush-hush. No one wanted to talk about it. Times have changed. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are finally being exposed to what they really are...a threat! Exposing this threat is liberating and encouraging many to get the help that they so desperately need.

Remember when Catherine Zeta Jones spoke about her battle with Bipolar II disorder? I found her decision to do so courageous. Many other public figures have stepped forward to share their own personal battle with depression. Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Crow, and Patrick Kennedy have all admitted to suffering from depression. CNN's Kat Kinsman decided to open up about her experience with depression in a revealing article entitled Going Public with Depression. She was diagnosed at age 14 and says therapy and having support from others who have depression was her saving grace.

Ultimately, the decision to share your history of depression is up to you. However, this reaffirms that it’s okay to be open about personal struggles. You never know who you may encourage or inspire to seek help. You should never view depression as a negative label.

For more information on depression, visit Overcoming Depression. Depression is treatable! Speak to a mental health care professional today.

Eating Disorders Skyrocket Among Children

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Childhood should be a time of fun, laughter, and a carefree attitude. Sadly, children are being diagnosed with eating disorders and the numbers are skyrocketing. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, hospitalizations for eating disorders for children under the age of 12 from 1999 and 2006 rose a shocking 119%. Children are worried about being fat. What is causing this to happen to children?

There are many possible factors. It can be linked to personality type. Perfectionism, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive tendencies are commonly linked with eating disorders. The media also plays a role. There is an incredible amount of pressure to look a certain way. Children are in tune with what is going on in the world. They can easily pick up on what the media is putting out there. There is also the idea of food being a reward or a punishment. This can lead to an unhealthy view of foods. (To read about a 9 year old girl's struggle with an eating disorder, read Child Eating Disorders on the Rise on

I encourage all parents to keep an eye on this fast-growing problem. Is your child losing weight? Is their hair thinning? Have they changed what they eat or how much they eat? The warning signs are there, so don't delay if you sense a problem.

Seeking out the help of mental health care professional is recommended if your child has an eating disorder. For more information on how to identify eating disorders, read Understanding Eating Disorders.

How to Help a Troubled Friend

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friendships are a beautiful part of life. Friends fill us with joy, happiness, and companionship. As much as we love our friends, there are times when a friend may be dealing with some serious difficulties such as alcohol abuse, drug addiction, being in an abusive relationship, or financial problems. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing your friend struggle, especially if they are in denial or shirk their responsibility.

Friends are often the first to recognize serious problems even before the individual with the problem. This can make for an awkward situation. You love your friend and do not want to see them hurt, but you don't want to add to the hurt.

What should a true friend do? Here are some things to consider if you choose to confront your friend about their problem:

Tactfully and kindly bring up the situation.

Ask questions to draw them out.

Avoid lecturing.

Mention how it makes you feel and why you feel that way.

Keep control over your own emotions.

Reassure them of your love for them. You love them but not what they are doing.

If they deny it, don't take it personal.

Offer to help them. Reassure them of your support and offer practical suggestions. Perhaps have in mind a list of referrals.

Each individual will react differently. You may need to prepare yourself for the fact that your friend may be mad or angry with you. Even though they may respond negatively, remind yourself that you did this out of love and respect for your friend. Usually once the person seeks the help they need, they will then acknowledge you as a true friend.

If you have a friend in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area who is in need of therapy, please have them contact my office for more information.

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