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Kathy Marshack News

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 Parents (and Stepparents) Can Help Their Children Adjust to Change

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As a young child, your son or daughter counts on you to help him or her make sense of major changes in his or her life. When marital problems can be resolved only through divorce, or when a child is expected to accept a new family configuration through blending, you must take the time to help him or her understand and adjust.

The guiding principle here is to slow down. You may be lonely, or feel you are ready to start a new relationship, but is your child ready for that? Talk to your child or children about what is happening. Answer their questions. If you notice a peculiar behavior, get

professional help. Research shows that following a divorce, children get less attention from their mothers than before the divorce, but more from their fathers. This change is neither good nor bad, but it is a change that children must adjust to. Help them with it.

One mistake you cannot afford to make is to deprive your child of the other parent. Even if you remarry, even if your ex-spouse is a derelict, children need access to that parent. They will always be attached to their parents in profound and inexplicable ways. No stepparent can take the place of Daddy or Mommy.

Stepparents need to understand this and not get their feelings hurt. As a stepmother or stepfather you can become the child's friend. You can be one of the role models your stepchild may imitate. Your stepchild may even prefer your company to that of her Dad or Mom, but in her heart her first parents come first. After all, it is through her first parents, all those years ago, that she had her first experience with discovering herself. That was a memorable period even if only in terms of feelings. Psychologists call this process bonding, and it is something that cannot be learned later in life.

It is important to honor this bond even if the child seldom has a chance to see the noncustodial parent. Being willing to talk about the absent parent, sharing photographs of happier times, and helping the child to learn the story of his or her earlier life keep the continuity of life going for the child. Your children need to know that they have a whole life that is unique to them, that has helped to shape them, that may be slightly different from yours. And they need to know that all they have been through is helping them to grow stronger and more beautiful each day—even extreme hardship. They are not bad because bad things have happened to them; and you can prove this by being willing to experience life with them.

For more information, visit Blended Families.

Money – Is It Creating a Power Struggle in Your Relationship?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Money is one the top reasons why arguing couples seek psychotherapy. One reason is because money is always on our minds. No matter how much money you have, you always have money problems.

Financial problems are really just the tip of the iceberg for couples, concealing deeper, hidden issues. In spite of the power that money has to entangle our personal relationships, few couples seek out psychotherapy when they have a financial crisis. Instead, couples continue to use money in a power struggle with their loved ones. Money is given, then taken away. Money is used to reward and punish. Money is a promise, a bribe, a threat. Rarely is money given as a gift with no strings attached. Can you see the problem?

If you are to truly free yourself of the money trap, you will need to assess your money beliefs, and be honest about your biases and manipulations with regard to money. You need to acknowledge just how important money is to you. You will need to evaluate your financial values and goals and make sure that they are ethical and compassionate when it comes to your marriage and family.

A therapist is fully equipped to help couples faced with this situation. For more information, visit Marriage Counseling or contact my office to set up an appointment.

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.

Couples – Make Time to Really Listen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Listening is at the heart of quality communication. If you learn nothing else about communicating more effectively, at least learn this truth. Without listening skills, you do not have rapport with your partner and you cannot even stay on the same subject.

The next time you are having a discussion with your spouse, instead of planning your next comment, just listen and try to understand where your partner is coming from. Just understand; do not comment; do not judge. Listening goes a long way toward developing trust between marital partners.

There are three basic steps to being a good listener:

1. You must stay on the subject.
2. You must listen to be sure you are staying on the subject.
3. You must be flexible enough to adapt your behavior if you are not staying on the subject.

Don and Maria (names have been changed) were at an impasse and considering divorce when I first met them. In spite of the great deal they had in common, in spite of the love for each other that they had once felt, in spite of having three beautiful children and a successful business, Don and Maria were incredibly poor communicators when it came to listening to each other. Their lives were so full that they had little time to listen; they seldom made time even to fill each other in on the day's events.

Because they spent so little time together, they rarely communicated about anything. Unfortunately, when conflicts arose, the couple had no mechanism for solving them and retreated to their own separate worlds. The first step in bringing Don and Maria back together was to teach them how to listen and to make time for listening. When they scheduled fifteen minutes each day for uninterrupted listening to each other, they began to rekindle their friendship. Maria learned that Don felt very left out of the family because she handled all of their children's affairs without consulting him. Don learned that Maria felt devalued because he handled all of their financial affairs without consulting her. Furthermore, by just listening, this couple began to recognize that they had more in common than they had realized.

Once Dan and Maria made listening a priority in their lives, the problems began to melt away. So make time to listen. Pull out your calendar and schedule in some one-on-one time to communicate. If you need the assistance of a marriage counselor and live near Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington contact my office to schedule an appointment.

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