Dangers of Essential Oils

Essential oils have some amazing medicinal and therapeutic properties if used properly, but they can also be dangerous if not used properly.

Because essential oils are made from plant extracts, the likelihood of allergic reaction is high, especially for those who are known to have hay fever or other plant based, pollen, or grass type allergies.

There is also the possibility of toxicity when overused or not used properly. It’s important to note that essential oils, while having therapeutic properties, are not classified as medications and therefore are not regulated like over the counter drugs would be. Therefore, there is not a requirement to list contraindications on the labels and warnings are also not required.

If you plan to use essential oils for any purpose, including simply using them as a fragrance source, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers.

When using essential oils, whether for aromatherapy or for treating certain conditions, it is important to keep the following in mind:

Do not use essential oils directly on your skin if you are pregnant. While there are some that your doctor may discuss with you to use, unless your doctor or medical professional clearly tells you to use them, stay away from essential oils while pregnant or nursing – period.

Do not use essential oils for aromatherapy on anyone under the age of five and then use caution for essential oil aromatherapy on all children, and it is recommended that essential oils not be used directly on the skin of anyone under the age of twelve.

If using essential oils directly on the skin, a skin patch test should be performed to test for allergic reaction prior to any treatment. This can be accomplished by touching a very small amount of essential oil to the inside of the wrist and waiting 24 hours to see if there is a reaction of any kind. If the skin reacts in any way, such as turning red, blotchy, burning, itchy, swollen, etc, then do not use that particular essential oil for any reason, including aromatherapy.

Never use essential oils near sensitive skin, around the eyes, broken skin, or near mucous membranes.

Research each oil before use for toxicity and likelihood of allergic reaction as well as for instructions on how to properly use each essential oil.

Essential Oil Skin Allergy Dangers

Essential oils that are known to have a higher than average allergic reaction on the skin are:

Basil, Bay, Benzoin, Birch, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Cassia, Citronella, Clove, Cumin, Fennel, Fir, Lemongrass, Verbena, Oak Moss, Oregano, Parsley, Peppermint, Pimento Berry, Pine (high), Thyme, Wintergreen, and others that may not be listed here

Remember, just because an essential oil is not listed here doesn’t mean it won’t cause an allergic reaction to your skin; these are just some of the oils known to have a higher than average allergy reaction rate when used on the skin.

Essential Oil Aromatherapy Dangers

When using essential oils for aromatherapy, you should do a bit of research to determine what scent, or as the name implies, aroma, offers the result you are seeking. For example, some aromas will wake up your senses and help energize you, while others will calm you and help you rest or sleep.

As with any drug, if you are using essential oils for relaxation or to aid with sleep, you need to be careful not to use the same oils while operating a car or heavy machinery or at any other time when concentration should not be impaired.

Some essential oils that may cause concentration disruption or cause drowsiness are:

Benoin, Carnation, Camomile, Geranium, Hops, Hyacinth, Lavender, Mace, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Sandalwood, Valerian, Ylang-Ylang, as well as others tha tmay not be listed here

Essential Oil Toxicity Dangers

As wonderful as the benefits of some essential oils are, it is important to note that some essential oils can indeed be dangerously toxic, especially when absorbed through the skin or taken internally. In fact, no essential oil should ever be ingested without first consulting a licensed physician who is trained in the use of essential oils as a therapeutic tool. The risks of oral ingestion toxicity is simply too great – that’s how powerfully effective essential oils can be.

However, there are some essential oils that have a higher than normal toxicity level, and even some that have been banned in the United States due to their potent and toxic nature. Please note that while the names of these essential oils listed below may sound familiar – such as almond or mustard – this doesn’t mean eating almonds or using mustard condiments on your food is dangerous. What it means is that the essential oil extracted from the plant is too potently dangerous for household use.

Some of the essential oils that have a higher than normal toxicity include:

Almond Bitter, Prussic acid (commonly known as cyanide – highly lethal, even in small doses), Boldo, Calamus, Camphor (excellent in small doses for skin conditions, but highly toxic by oral ingestion), Cassia, Horseradish, Mugwort, Mustard, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sassafras, Savin (sabinyl acetate), Tansy, Thuja, Wintergreen (Methyl Salicylate), Wormseed, Wormwood

Again, it is always best to consult a physician when using any household, homeopathic, or over the counter treatment for anything therapeutic benefit, and essential oils are no different. Additionally, be very careful using any essential oils, even aromatherapy, around children, pregnant or nursing women, and even some small pets.

Essential oils aren’t dangerous to the point they should be avoided, as long as you know what you are using and take precautions. Do the research before you use any essential oil and be sure you are using them properly and essential oils can have wonderful benefits both through aromatherapy and therapeutic qualities.

A Guide to Purchasing Aromatherapy Products

The first task that you will need to do when it comes to purchasing aromatherapy products is actually to determine what it is that you are looking for. There are many essential oil choices that you can select from. Each one of these fragrances can provide you with something different whether that is a bit of relaxation or a bit of romance. Determine what you would like the most out of all the options that you have in aromatherapy. There are so many options that you will want to select a few, but make sure you only select what you can use.

Then, you will want to find a high quality merchant to provide you with the right products for the job. You should always use high quality essential oils when you want the full effect (or any effect for that matter) from the aromatherapy process. Look for products that are fresh, in a dark colored glass bottle from a manufacturer that you trust. The good news is that there are some great merchants offering their aromatherapy products on the web so you do not have to look too hard to find just what you need.

You can learn more about the merchants that are available on the web through doing a bit of research about them. A great tip to let you know how well they will treat you is to send off an email about their products. Ask a question that is not too obvious about the product itself. How do they respond if they do? What quality of service are you getting? It is likely that good customer service will lead to high quality products too. Keep in mind that if your purchase something that is not a pure essential oil that is in date then you will not get the benefits that the product should provide to you.

Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy

Home remedies have grown in popularity over the last decade as more families are looking for ways to treat common ailments on a very limited budget. If your family is struggling with an illness, and if you do not have the money to pay for traditional medical care, it is important to consider home remedies as a safe option but only under limited circumstances. Hydrogen peroxide, found in most households, is one such home remedy that can provide a use when illness befalls your family.

Hydrogen peroxide therapy is a common home remedy for many families, especially for conditions that even afflict children – including ear infections and ear pain. If you are concerned about the health of your family, having a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the house will be important to curing many typical family ailments.

While some therapies, such as progesterone therapy in pregnancy, requiring physician’s prescription and physician supervision, the modest use of hydrogen peroxide does not require this same supervision. It is important, however, to use the hydrogen peroxide minimally at first to see how the respective infection responds to the home remedy option.

For many people with ailments such as ear infections, hydrogen peroxide therapy, by placing a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the ear, can clear up infection in just a few days. To be effective at treating bacterial infections, the hydrogen peroxide must be applied three times per day, typically for seven to 10 days. In most cases, side effects are not seen however there can be some discomfort with the use of the remedy at the first application.

When cutting costs in your healthcare budget, if you are concerned about the health impact of a bacterial infection, be sure to consider hydrogen peroxide therapy as a viable option. For many families, this is a great addition to the medicine cabinet and cures many bacterial infections with just a few applications – saving hundreds of dollars on physician office visit and prescription medications.

Sources: Traditional Home Remedies, by Martha White

Is Genetic Counseling for Mental Illness Playing God?

Because of serious mental illness being recognized as a real medical condition and a chemical imbalance in the brain and also because of its tendency to be hereditary, scientists have been conducting research to find a genetic marker or groups of genes that will determine a person’s subjectivity or likeliness to suffer from psychiatric illnesses.

Although it is highly controversial, scientists hope to be able to offer genetic counseling to the offspring of those suffering from mental illness in order to be able to treat and diagnose the illness earlier.

Because of the lack of knowledge of its determining factor, up until the present moment, psychiatrists are only able to diagnose based upon the reported symptoms of each individual, which has the propensity to be faulty if the patient does not report a symptom or recognize a symptom as a symptom.

Currently genetic disposition can be established for some illnesses. These illnesses include Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and Huntington’s disease.

There are some setbacks currently with finding a genetic link to mental illnesses. One of the issues is that most mental illnesses are not determined by one gene only. There gene factors also vary depending upon their families and ethnicities.

The patient’s environments also have a strong influence on mental illness as well. So one gene alone can’t determine a person’s susceptibility to a mental illness, the person’s environment also plays just as much of a role.

And lastly there is the controversy that surrounds genetic testing for mental health illnesses. Those who oppose the testing are concerned about the confidentiality of the results of the genetic tests. The main concern is that insurance companies having access to the results and limiting or outright denying coverage to those with “pre-existing” illnesses.

It may also be possible for larger companies to have access to the information and discriminate on prospective employees because they are labeled or branded with the diagnosed illness.

They would also like to see the testing regulated by the federal government to make sure that it is valid and handled properly. Some would even like to see that genetic counseling be made mandatory. This could deter some people from becoming pregnant with a child that they are not able to provide the proper care for.

On the flipside, if the genetic counseling is made mandatory to determine whether the mother should give birth, the government in efforts to “normalize” society may try to abort all affected fetuses. Therefore choosing who deserves to live and who deserves to die.

If used solely for the purposes of diagnoses and treatment, then genetic counseling to determine mental illness would be very beneficial to society. However, if we use it to start playing God, then I find it highly unethical and inappropriate.

Retrieved from:
http://www.healthtree.com/articles/genetic-testing/disease-risk-profiling/mental-illness/

And They Say I’m Crazy.

I have been in therapy on and off for 25 years. My poor self-image, lack of confidence with girls, and insecurity led me to finally call a therapist at age 20. I didn’t know where to begin so I figured browsing through the Yellow Pages would be my best bet.

Big mistake.

I picked the closest therapist and made an appointment. She told me she worked out of her house. When I arrived, I was greeted by a heavy set middle-aged woman. She introduced herself and led me down to her basement office. She knew I was nervous and told me to sit on the floor and relax.

She brought out some huge fluffy pillows and encouraged me to get comfortable. Sitting on the floor and lying on oversized pillows seemed unusual to me, but what do I know. I told her my story and she made some helpful suggestions. She pointed out that my parents had mistreated me and I was clearly a victim.

Later, I found out that the patient is always told they’re the victim. It’s only your fault if somebody else is paying. (You learn that the first day of therapy school.)

Then the fun started. She asked me to pick up the fluffy pillow and hit her with it. She would then hit me back she explained. We then whacked each other for a good 5 minutes. I was just starting to enjoy it when she ordered me to stop. She then suggested that we hug for the last 5 minutes of the session. She said she was trying to show me that there was time for anger and time for kindness and I needed to learn the difference.

I awkwardly grabbed her and hugged away. I remember thinking how ironic this was. Here I am paying big money hugging this 60 year-old therapist and the real reason I’m here was that I couldn’t get a 20 year old girl to hug me. When she let go she asked me to make another appointment. I politely told her that she was not quite right for me. But when I bent down to tie my shoe as I was about to leave, she took the opportunity to smack me in the ass with that pillow. And they say I’m crazy…

My search for the right fit continued. This time I got a personal referral from my cousin. He raved about this psychiatrist. He said he was compassionate and smart as a whip. I gave his office a call. Feeling safe, I set up our first meeting.

My psychiatrist was a tall, distinguished man about 55. His office was very professional. Leather chairs, a mahogany desk, and hundreds of impressive psychology books in plain sight. This was the real thing I thought. My words poured out effortlessly. He encouraged me to bare my soul.

He seemed genuinely interested and concerned about my problems. But then the incessant twitching started. This man had every tick in the book. He shrugged his shoulders, he wiggled his nose, he scratched his ear, and his right foot never stopped tapping.

As you might imagine, this was a bit distracting. Here I am looking for answers to my problems and this guy is looking at the wax he just pulled out of his ears. He made a Turrets sufferer look like they were in a coma. Then it hit me. Maybe this was a test. Maybe he was conducting some kind of experiment. Maybe he wanted to see how I would cope with an uncomfortable situation. That has to be it I thought. No one could take this guy seriously if he really had that many nervous and annoying habits.

So, I decided to play along. Instead of getting turned off by his actions, I would show him my adaptability and patience by mimicking him. The next few minutes were reminiscent of a good Three Stooges episode.

He wiggled his ears and so did I. He smelled his fingers and so did I. He kept sticking out his tongue and so did I. As the session ended I thanked him and was determined to see him again. He informed me that this was our first and last meeting. Further more he chastised me for mocking his afflictions. I tried to explain but to no avail. I could not convince this insecure doctor that I was not mimicking him in a cruel way. As I left he charged me $200. Trying to stay in the spirit of our session I charged him $200 right back. You should have seen him twitch then. And they say I’m crazy…

After years of trial and error, I finally found the right psychiatrist in Dr. Harvey. He was my age and we had a lot in common. We shared the same culture and grew up in the same city. He helped me work through a lot of confusing feelings. I realized that by understanding my past behavior I could react differently when the situation came up again. This was a real breakthrough.

I looked forward to our sessions with one exception. I was always afraid of seeing someone I knew in his office. Then it happened. As I walked out into the lobby, there he was — Teddy Cohen. Teddy was a high school buddy of mine. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years. After the initial panic past I tried to be rational. After all Teddy was here to.. A sense of relief came over me. “It’s been 20 years how you doing?” Teddy said. “How do you think I’m doing Teddy? I’m coming out of a psychiatrist office,” I said with confidence.

“Steve, I’m Dr. Harvey’s CPA,” Teddy exclaimed. “I’m here to do his taxes.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day.

From then on, every time I visited Dr. Harvey’s office I protected myself by going dressed as a mailman. That way if somebody recognized me I could tell them the letter I was delivering was certifiable, not me. And they say I’m crazy…

How Play Therapy Can Boost a Child’s Self Esteem

Do you feel your child can use a boost of self-esteem? If you answered, “yes” then play therapy could be just the thing to help your child increase their level of self-esteem. To help understand what type of impact a low level of self esteem can have on a child’s overall life and how play therapy can help boost a child’s level of self esteem, I have interviewed therapist Matthew Morrissey.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed psychotherapist in full-time private practice in San Francisco, California. I work with children, teenagers, and adults who are dealing with such issues as depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, and relationship difficulties. I grew up as a pretty nerdy kid but then discovered skateboarding when I was 13. I was hooked and became obsessed with the sport for the next six years, becoming a sponsored amateur. Then in college I discovered a real love for philosophy and psychology. I ended up making the latter a profession and the former an abiding passion. I feel like I lead a pretty blessed life at the moment.”

What type of impact can a low level of self-esteem have on a child’s overall life?
“The impact can be extensive and should not be underestimated. Children with low self-esteem find it harder to develop close friendships. They tend to be shy and more isolated. Therefore they are at higher risk for being bullied. They are also more at risk for becoming depressed, and when this starts to occur the child may begin to develop sleep problems, have difficulty concentrating (and thus fall behind in school or act out in the classroom), and even develop physical ailments that are ways of communicating the distress. Furthermore, as the child is actively forming ideas about who she or he is as a person and what to expect from the environment, the child is at risk of developing skewed notions and expectations, and these can follow a child into adulthood.”

How can play therapy help boost a child’s self esteem?
“First, let me say a little about how play therapy works. In beginning a treatment relationship with a child, the therapist says something like this to him or her: “In my office, as you can see, there are lots of toys and things for playing. In playing here with me, I will start to understand who you are and what is most important to you.” The therapist then “gets out of the way” so to speak and lets the child run the show for the entire 50 minutes. The child may choose to play alone, in which case the therapist will make tactful, ongoing comments about the child’s play'”attempting as much as possible to enter the child’s world. Or the child may invite the therapist to assume a role in the play, in which case the therapist tries earnestly to become who the child needs at that moment.”

“A play therapy session is like administering a concentrated dose of relationship vitamins. The “vitamins” are the 100 percent uninterrupted attention of an adult, the lack of intrusion of the adult’s needs on the child’s play, and the delicate focus brought by the therapist onto the child’s feelings and conflicts as expressed in the play. Over time, the child absorbs these “vitamins.” The child is seen and heard by an adult in a way he or she probably did not imagine was even possible. This naturally raises self-esteem because the child gets consistent validation for many aspects of her or his self.”

What would a typical play therapy session be like for a child?
“Children are constantly looking for attention and recognition from adults. Yet it is all too easy for us adults to become consumed by the demands of our adult world. Therefore a play therapy session for children is like a special oasis in the week where very little demands are placed on them and where a kind of relaxation and exploration of self become possible. It is an artificial situation to be sure, but children drink it up like a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day. They look forward to their visit with the therapist and they become upset when something interferes with the visit. Therapy is a time to get some extra-special recognition. Parents often report that their children’s mood improves markedly right after a play therapy session.”

What last advice would you like to leave for a parent who is considering play therapy to help boost their child’s self esteem?
“I would tell the parent(s) to find a therapist who she or he thinks will really connect with the child. I also would encourage the parent(s) to work closely with the therapist to identify ways the parent(s) can cement the gains made in the treatment.”

Thank you Matthew for doing the interview on how play therapy can boost a child’s self esteem. For more information on Matthew Morrissey or his work you can check out his on www.morrisseymft.com

Recommended Readings:
Art Therapy for Children
The Benefits of Clinical Hypnotherapy
Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy

How to Save Money on Therapy with a Psychologist or Psychiatrist

“The whole world’s in therapy!” my wife said the other evening as we were getting ready for bed. To be fair, she’d been reading a magazine about the number of celebrities who see a psychologist or psychiatrist on a regular basis, but she had a point. It sometimes seems as though therapy is the “trendy” way to handle one’s problems these days, but it can also be a healthy method of coping with trauma. If you’ve decided to seek therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist, however, you might be looking for ways to save money on that exorbitant bill.

It’s supply and demand. Since a growing number of people are seeking therapy with psychologists and psychiatrists, these professionals know that they can charge more money and still keep their patients. The upshot is that this means a serious problem for those whose insurance coverage doesn’t pay for the entire cost of therapy, and it might seem almost impossible to save money.

1- Decrease Intervals

Although it is standard, you might not need therapy with your psychologist or psychiatrist once a week, or even once every two weeks. In fact, you might need therapy only on an as-needed basis, such as when feelings of depression begin to escalate, or during certain seasons of the year. You can save money on therapy by decreasing the intervals at which you attend sessions. For example, you might want to move down to once-a-month visits.

Of course, you don’t want to save money on therapy at the expense of your mental health. Some patients need weekly or twice-a-week visits in order to keep their mental stability in check, so you should discuss decreasing the intervals with your psychologist or psychiatrist. Weigh the benefits against the risks, then make your decision.

2- Negotiate the Price

In most cases, a psychologist or psychiatrist is operating as a one-man show, or in a private practice with two or three other professionals. In this case, he or she is free to set whatever rates seem appropriate, which means those per-session fees are totally negotiable. For example, if your therapist decides to raise the rates, you can save money on your therapy by negotiating a lower price. You could say, “I can’t pay this new amount, but how about we split the difference?”

To keep your business, a psychologist or psychiatrist may be willing to lower fees even without an across-the-board increase. If you have specific circumstances that require you to cut down on expenses, but you really need therapy on a regular basis, ask about a break on your bill. It doesn’t hurt to inquire, and you can always go with someone else.

3- Take Off-Hours

There are always times during the day that a psychologist or psychiatrist simply can’t get patients in their offices. Mid-mornings, for example, are notoriously difficult to fill because patients are at work or taking classes or otherwise occupied. If you are willing to take one of these off-hours slots, you might be able to save money on therapy.

How to Legally Purchase Hormones

Although the sale of hormones is regulated, there are certainly ways to buy them legally. Perhaps you have an imbalance that needs to be corrected, or maybe you’d just like a supplement. Whatever the case, there are several different ways in which you can legally purchase hormones, but make sure you are following federal and state law when you take part in this practice.

In order to legally purchase hormones in the United States, you usually need a prescription from either a doctor or a nurse practitioner. The physician will run blood tests and examine your medical history to determine why you need hormones and how much to prescribe. The reason for this is that hormones are powerful substances that need to be regulated in your body. Taking too much can have nasty repercussions, so make sure you’ve consulted a doctor.

The most popular type of physician to visit when you want to legally purchase hormones is an endocrinologist, but you can also get them from gynecologists and general practitioners. For transgendered individuals, it is best to obtain your prescriptions from the facility where you have been treated to date, as they will have your most complete medical history on hand.

Of course, there are other ways to legally purchase hormones. For example, online pharmacies are popular for this type of prescription, and many will write you one after answering just a few questions. They will want to know why you are looking to buy hormones and how you have been treated in the past. Have your last prescription bottle handy so you can tell them your dosage and how long it has been since you last took them.

You can also legally purchase hormones from other countries, where the sale is less regulated. This is dangerous for a number of reasons, but many people feel this is the only way. For one thing, any medicine you buy from out of the country may not be the same as what you purchased in the States. The dosage levels and manufacturing can vary widely, so make sure you know what you are getting.

If you aren’t comfortable with purchasing online or from another country-and I don’t blame you-it might be a good idea to pursue alternative options to legally purchase hormones. Some of the nation’s health stores provide either hormones in natural form or substances that serve the exact same purpose. While you should always research an alternative therapy carefully, these can be a cost-effective way to affect the changes you are seeking.

The best thing to do is to go to your local health store and talk to the pharmacist on duty. Explain your symptoms and what you have taken in the past, and request recommendations based on those facts. More often than not, he or she can direct you to a plethora of options, which you can then research on your own time.

Using Laughter to Deal with Stress and Situations that Make You Angry

Ok guys, come on now. You’ve been there. So mad you were ready to rip off the head of the closest thing that so much as rolled their eye your way. But reality is all that angst isn’t good for the digestive system and tends to produce wrinkles from all that furrowing of the brow. I knew that would get your attention ladies.

Now often we get to the breaking point because of a build up of stress. Ever heard the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” ? There is a reason that saying is popular. How many times have you said as a parent “If I tell you ONE MORE TIME?”. Yup, there is your build up. The problem is most of us are so busy trying to get through the daily grind of living our lives that we feel we don’t have the time to stop and deal with every little problem that comes our way. That advice your high school counselor gave you about stopping to work out every problem is great advice, don’t get me wrong. This article is not going to promote avoidance of your issues. But, the reality is there is a right place and time to deal with your issues and in the middle of traffic, your kid’s play, or the boardroom evaluation meeting just isn’t the right time. So if we can’t take the time to stop and deal with our anger at the co-worker who took our bottle of Evian for the 100th time, what do we do? Well, for future reference I would suggest bringing a cooler which will help you avoid the problem, but that is beside the point. This article will give you some tips on balancing that anger with a healthy dose of the chuckles each day.

Do you know how you are supposed to “eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away”. Ok, well I don’t know if that works since I eat plenty of apples and see the doctor all too frequently, but I do know that a day full of laughter makes you slow to sizzle when you hit the small bumps in life. I am going to give you some preventative and intervention techniques all using humor as the medicine. What I mean is that there are things you can do to expose yourself to smiley moments and even bales of laughter throughout the day, and a few tricks to cool your jets quick when tempers flare.

First, we’ll discuss the preventative art of laughter. Too many of us lead depressing lives. I don’t say this to depress you more, but seriously, think about your life for a minute. Most of our day is spent under pressure. We are thinking about bills, responsibilities, obligations, appointments, work load, duties, debts, and problems we have to solve. No wonder we are all depressed. Ugh! Top a day of this stuff off with the violence and drama of the evening news and no wonder you are snapping like a rotted band of elastic when your kid tells you the mash potatoes taste funny. So, first things first, replace this stuff with something a little happier. Now, I am not saying you have to stop facing the reality of life or that you should never watch the evening news. I am not advocating escape, just balance. But, let’s be real. If you made a list of the times you thought about something that made you happy and a list of the things you thought about that upset you each day, the scale would be tipped onto the negative side so far the scale wouldn’t even stand upright anymore. Now, we all know those disgusting little Suzy Sunshine’s, who never seem to have a care in the world and walk around with a perpetual smile. You know, the one who says in her chipper little voice “And how are You today”, before you even have your second cup of morning coffee. But, those people are not the norm, you are, so buck up and chuckle it up. I promise, even Ms. Suzy Sunshine will seem less abrasive.

So know you want to know. “Ok, Ms. Smarty Pants, exactly how am I supposed to spend my day laughing when my life is filled with stress, drama, tragedy, and problems?” Now, granted if your dog really did just die this morning, this really isn’t going to work, but if all your troubles are the normal junk life dumps on you, you can combat it with things that make you laugh. Now, for everyone the actual intervention is different. Your going to have a to do a little work here and think about what makes you laugh. Maybe you enjoy reading the comics, or an old fashion knock-knock joke makes you smile. I can’t give you all the answers of what you think is funny, but I will give you some ideas to get you started. Then you just have to implement them into your daily life.

Here are some ‘make me smile’ gems:

1.Paste cute pictures drawn by the children in your life (this includes nieces, nephews, amp; neighbors) around the space you work in. Pick the really silly and colorful ones that bring a smile to your face and a memory of a more carefree time.

2.Join a joke a day email list or if your work allows it, even post a joke a day or share it with your co-workers.

3.Decide on some internal visual place that makes you laugh, like antics at the local swimming pool or your little brother squirting milk out of his nose. Bring this image into your mind a few times a day and have a private chuckle.

4.Ditch the news a few times a week and take the time to sit and watch a stand-up or raunchy comedy (if you’re only with grown-ups) or a nice family friendly silly-thon if you are with the kids. The key is to spend time watching something that amuses you; this does not include episodes of serious dramas, crime shows, or talk shows about marriages dissolving. I realize these shows might be your favorite, but often too much of this kind of television will only depress you more.

5.Better yet, shut the t.v. off and do something outrageous. I mean something really out there. Have a water balloon fight, play catch the pumpkin in the back yard (watch out when it breaks), jump on the trampoline with the kids, finger-paint, or put your bathing suit on and play in the sprinklers. The more child-like the more amusement you will have. I know, I know, you are entirely too grown up for these activities. But, let me ask you, consider the ratio of happy children to depressed children and compare it with the ratio of happy adults to depressed adults. Being old is depressing, lighten up and have some fun.

6.If you’re an internet geek you know where to look for the silly clips, those that will really get you rolling. If not search for ‘funny’ and ‘clip’ and you will be taken to a host of make you laugh stunts and bloopers.

7.Speaking of bloopers, if you are having a really rough day, do some of your own. Have an unconventional dinner, like waffles and ice cream. Then top this off by playing Operation or something equally silly. You don’t need kids, just get out the old gameboard and have fun.

These are only a few examples of the things you can consciously choose to do each day to counterbalance all the rough stuff life throws your way. Once you get on the right track, you’ll be coming up with plenty more on your own. So, are you getting the hint here? The key is, whatever event you choose to bring some chuckles into your day, from watching America’s Funniest Home Video’s to making a play-doh meal, the key is stop taking life so seriously. Yes, we all have bills, we are all going to die, and our problems will all be there when we are done, but healthy doses of laughter help us deal with these problems better. Reality is, you don’t have forever on this Earth, and why waste the time you have by worrying every minute. Take a risk. Have some fun. If you make a conscious effort to do this each day, before you know it will come naturally and you’ll have a whole new perspective on life. The road rage will diminish, you’ll actually be able to smile at your spouse again, and when your boss gives you grief you can literally ‘grin and bear it’.

Now on to laughter intervention. I am going to give you some scenarios and ways to use laughter to diffuse them when your in the most precarious of anger inducing positions.

Scenario: Your boss is telling you for the 1,001 time today that you need to include a cover sheet with your fax. Now if your boss is a woman picture her bald. If your boss is a man then picture him in the fairy dress your friend’s daughter wore to that recital. The key is to find something completely alien to what they normally look like and garb them in it while they are talking. It is entirely impossible to be anger while doing this, try it some time and you’ll see. Now, just be careful not to smirk too much. Your boss might decide you aren’t taking their drama seriously and decide to fire you. Ouch!! You’ll need a much stronger intervention for that. They key is to use some subtle humor only you know to keep you from focusing on how much the person is upsetting you.

Scenario: You worked all day, your beat, your feet hurt and your head aches, you just ran over the kids bike and you walk in the front door with your only desire to sink into some kind of black oblivion and your spouse says. “Dear, what do you want for dinner?” Now, this is one of those straws and the dominoes fall. This innocent question is met with snide or sarcastic remark, which elicits a hurt and defensive answer and the fight ensues. SO, this is what you do. When your spouse asks you this question, look them dead in the face and say. I was thinking I’d like worms and dirtballs for dinner actually. Your spouse is going to think you quite lost your mind, but the laughter that erupts from you both will diffuse your tension and help your spouse see just how close to the edge you are. After you stop laughing, either offer a suggestion for dinner, or gently hug your spouse and tell them if you make one more decision today your brain will melt and you would really appreciate if they would just surprise you.

Scenario: You have worked very hard all day cleaning the house, your youngest child (or your dog for that matter) spills grape juice (or pees, that’s always terrible) right in the middle of the carpet, and you have guests arriving in 15 minutes. Now, don’t explode. This situation is easily fixable by some quick carpet cleaner, deodorizer, and a rug. BUT, before you can even get to that you have to stop. Just stop. Look at this from the viewpoint of Real Problems. Yes, you have one more mess to clean up, but this very fixable. However, if you feel like you really are going blow your top, first let yourself let off some steam. Try this – Stand in the middle of the room, stand on one leg, and recite this “A flea and a fly in a flue, Said the fly ‘Oh what should we do’, Said the flea ‘Let us fly’, Said the fly ‘Let us flee’, So they flew through a flaw in the flue” Can you even picture yourself doing this? Trust me the gales of laughter that erupt from your kids (or the strange looks from your dog) are infinitely more satisfying than counting to ten. Now, go get that rag and rug. Take a breathe, and while your at it. Sick that tickle monster on that kid (or the dog-though be sure your dog doesn’t bite tickle monsters).

Scenario: Your sitting in traffic, you are late for a meeting, and you are getting more and more desperate by the minute. Your road rage is reaching dangerous levels. So, let’s see what is the worst that can happen. No, I am not talking about that therapeutic catastrophizing, but the REALLY outrageous stuff. The more unlikely the better. “So your in traffic, and your going to miss your meeting. Obviously that means you have lost this deal and your job. Now you can’t take that trip to the Bermuda Triangle like you wanted so you can lose the spouse and kids, you certainly can’t hire that Swiss masseuse to whip your hot chocolate to a perfect texture. So, you certainly have to lead a life of crime now. That’s it you’re going to be the Panty Bandit. You’ll wear panties on your head, sneak in unsuspecting people’s homes while they are sleeping, and raid every pair of underwear they have. Then you can sell them on the black panty market. Eventually, you’ll get caught of course and you’ll end up doing community service for the rest of your life by digging out all those feminine products that people actually flush down the septic system instead of using the little trash cans. You’ll only take so much of this and eventually blow up the world using your teenage chemistry set.” Ok, is this going to fix your problem with that meeting? No. You’ll have to call your boss, explain and reschedule. And in the case of worst case scenario, put your resume back out. But, the moral of the story is that there are many things that will happen in life that you have NO CONTROL over. Obsessing about it won’t change that fact. So, all you can do is work through it. In reality, we all tend to catastrophize in small amounts and things are seldom as bad as we think. Not that many people lose their jobs due to being stuck in traffic. And if the catastrophizing doesn’t stop you from worrying it will atleast keep you busy while your in traffic and stop you from doing something stupid to the car behind you that keeps honking its horn for absolutely no reason.

I think you get the picture. In the end, just give yourself a daily reality check. Lots of people deal with bad stuff, everyone has bad days, and if can induce a health dose of laughter into your day everyday your going to deal with these moments much better. Now a word of caution, if you have gotten yourself into a true funk, or your problems seem so overwhelming that nothing could ever be funny again, you are becoming physical with your children when angry, or you are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else you need to seek some professional help to deal with your problems. Often people have a chemical imbalance that no amount of laughter can help and you really should seek some outside intervention before it’s too late. But, if like me you just get up to your ear in dealing with the drama everyday, take that apple and carve a pumpkin face into it. The sillier the better.

Don’t forget a chuckle a day, keeps the straitjacket away.

Art Therapy with Adolescent Clients

Art therapy is a versatile modality that can be utilized with a wide range of human populations in a variety of settings (Malchiodi, 3). As a therapy, it is particularly suited to adolescents because it requires the active participation of the client to physically create art objects and discuss them (5). Art therapy is useful with clients who have “ordinary” problems, as well as the mentally ill, the sick or disabled, and those affected by trauma (46). It can take the form of individual therapy, family therapy (Riley, 66), or group therapy with peers (193).

Art therapy is a relatively new field. Although many factors paved the way, from Jung’s ideas about archetypes to an interest in the artwork of the insane (Malchiodi, 24-26), the specific concept of art therapy emerged in the mid-20th century. In the 1940s, psychoanalyst Margaret Naumburg began having her patients draw their dreams as well as talk about them. She believed these images were symbolic forms of communication, and as such, her approach was oriented toward the meaning of the final art product (35).

In the decade following Naumburg’s initial ideas, Edith Kramer became known for her ideas on the power of artmaking to initiate psychological healing. She emphasized the creative process in the act of expressing one’s inner experience (36).
The field of art therapy is still growing today and is practiced by therapists with a wide range of therapeutic orientations. Art therapy, which focuses on the visual arts, is now considered a subset of the genre called creative arts therapies (or expressive arts therapies), which also includes music therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy, and movement therapy (Malchiodi, 38).

Although art therapy can be useful to a variety of client populations, it is especially well suited for adolescents. Teenagers are in a very creative but ambivalent period of their lives; art therapy can harness this creative energy and show them that “when creativity is introduced into problem solving, the art can provide fresh viewpoints and excitement” (Riley, 38). Art therapy usually succeeds with adolescent clients where other therapies may fail because, although teenagers have a strong desire to express their feelings and opinions, they are wary of talking to adults. However, they are willing to indirectly express themselves through art images because “the art form is safe and under their control” (21). Furthermore, art therapy doesn’t seem like “real” therapy to adolescents; it is creative play with the help of an adult who is not controlling (65).

Adolescents are in a time of volatile transition, both physically and emotionally. They are slowly moving into abstract and logical thinking, learning social skills, developing sexual feelings and individual identity, and trying to figure out social roles and their place in the world (31). Two processes of growth occur during the teen years: puberty (physical changes) and adolescence (psychological changes) (29). Riley states that the distinction is important: “No two teenagers are on precisely the same path of maturation. I no longer evaluate the teen chronologically, I consider him or her developmentally” (19). Because adolescents are in such a time of flux, art therapists working with teenagers must have a strong sense of humor, be comfortable with sexual issues (usually presented crudely, such as teenaged boys building clay penis sculptures), and not have lost touch with the pain and confusion of their own adolescence (79, 225).

Riley emphasizes that there is no one correct or unfailingly effective way to treat adolescent clients (27) and suggests that the therapist approach each new individual as if he or she were a member of a new and unfamiliar culture (35). Social context is an important complicating factor in treating teenagers because they are subject to so many different social influences: “regional, urban and suburban, poverty and wealth, culture and ethnicity” (28). Riley proposes that art therapists treating adolescents take a social constructionist view; that is, “the adolescent is viewed in the context of his/her environment and included in the co-construction of the treatment goals” (18). Rather than applying particular therapeutic techniques, the therapist working with adolescents should remain open to learning from each client and genuinely engage him or her (40-41).

At the beginning of a therapy session, the client will enter to find that the therapist has already laid out art materials on an appropriate surface. Riley recommends these materials: broad tipped felt pens, oil pastels, collage pictures (already cut out) as well as glue stick and scissors, and a roll of white butcher paper from which varying sizes of paper can be cut. Adolescent clients also respond well to plasticine (oiled clay that doesn’t dry out) (58). It is particularly important for materials to be presented casually and not appear “precious” (57-8). Also, the therapist must provide culturally “flexible” media. For example, if the client is offered collage materials, they must include magazine pictures that can be representative of his/her experience, rather than all being cut from fashion magazines; also, materials such as plasticine and markers are available in a variety of skin tones (35). Riley suggests that the therapist offer the same limited range of media at each session because adolescents prefer the stability of sameness (57). She notes that her clients tend to prefer drawing with black or red markers or working with collage materials (53).

Generally, the art session will begin with the therapist offering a directive-guidelines for a specific kind of image. However, the client is free to reinterpret the directive and do whatever conveys his or her desired meaning (39). Riley states that it is best, when working with a new client in a not-yet-established therapeutic relationship, directives should be “once removed”-that is, phrased so that the therapist is inquiring about teenagers in general rather than this client in particular. For example, the therapist might say, “Draw a picture that shows what most people your age worry about the most.” This approach allows the client to express an expert opinion and to safely reveal information about himself or herself (44).

Riley finds certain directives particularly useful with this age group. She employs “polarity drawings,” in which the client is asked to divide a sheet of paper in half and then respond to a question such as, “How do your parents punish you? How do you punish your parents?” (48). Often she suggests projects involving the embellishing of a box, such as decorating the outside of the box to represent the client’s outer self and the inside to represent the hidden inner self. In this way, the box becomes a safe container for overwhelming feelings about identity (160, 167). The therapist might instruct the client to draw or collage a message to someone with whom they are in conflict (52). Clients that demonstrate significant talent or interest in making art can be encouraged to keep a visual journal outside of therapy time (61). In family therapy, artmaking can be metaphorical and encourage communication among family members. For example, family members might be instructed to construct clay figures of themselves, which can then interact with each other (a metaphorical interaction). Or the family could be instructed to cooperate in making a mural on one large piece of paper, with the therapist pointing out how family dynamics affected the process of making the picture (202).

Riley believes that having a series of directives pre-planned for a particular client is comfortable and easy for the therapist but doesn’t serve the client-the client must feel in control of what happens in therapy and not feel subjected to an adult agenda (45). In general, she avoid one-session directives and instead offers long-term projects that give a sense of continuity and relationship-building. One example is an illustrated Life Story Line (164). Adolescents like the challenge of complex long-term projects, and an ambitious approach keeps the art process from being boring or seeming like busywork (167).

Riley states her interest in both the product produced by the client and the process of creating it (18). She prefers to avoid the concept of “assessment” through viewing artwork, except as “an ongoing comparison of the artwork that the client offers from session to session” (21). She notes that if an image reveals dysfunction in the issue at hand, the image can be “corrected” by the client in several ways-by using a different color to add to the original drawing, or by altering the image (ex, cutting it up and reassembling it) (48). In this way, the product can again become part of the process.

A particular challenge of working with this age group is an absolute need to maintain confidentiality, even more so than normal. The therapist should never show client artwork to anyone-including the client’s peers or family members, or even the therapist’s colleagues-without explicit permission from the client. Riley states bluntly, “Adolescents are unforgiving if betrayed” (51). One such incident means the end of the therapeutic relationship. It is also important to respect the client’s rights in other aspects of the therapy. For example, if it became necessary to report a member of the client’s family to social services because of reported abuse, it should not be done without the client’s knowledge; the client needs to be in the room when the reporting happens and be able to present his or her side of the story to the caseworker (230). The therapist must be cautious and aware of client’s suspicions of adults. According to Riley, “a false move of interpretation or an imposition of the therapist’s agenda on the relationship” will jeopardize the therapeutic relationship (40). Riley emphasizes that the art therapist should never make judgments or assumptions about the content or meaning of the client’s artwork; the therapist must always request input from the client and take social contexts into account (34).

It is not surprising that active therapy with adolescents will frequently involve power struggles initiated by the client. Riley suggests that if the client resists revealing the meaning behind their creations, the therapist should respect this resistance. In fact, she states, “Resistance should be reinterpreted as appropriate withholding of private revelations” (44). In other words, the therapeutic relationship is defined by the client’s willingness to be vulnerable; if the client is not ready, it is his or her right to abstain from sharing too much . In the case of clients who do not come to therapy willingly, it can be expected that they will refuse to cooperate with the goals of therapy. One approach to this dilemma is to temporarily abandon the idea of therapy altogether and suggest that the client just make art for the pleasure of it. Usually even the most reluctant client is willing to draw graffiti-type images or play with colors abstractly, especially if he or she believes that the therapist will not be able to decipher the meaning of the images (47). Occasionally there will be times when a client simply refuses to make art at all. Riley believes that a therapist needs to be comfortable with the concept that some clients sometimes will not want to produce artwork: “If the therapist needs to control the production of art it is anti-therapeutic” (223).

An art therapist working with adolescents will frequently have to treat depressed clients. Riley suggests that the therapist should begin by acknowledging that no one can truly know or understand another’s pain, and then indicate a willingness to accompany the client on their journey despite not having the answers (139). If a therapist can engage a depressed client in artmaking, the process of creation itself can be very healing. It shows the client that they can choose not to be passive and that “they have power that can be activated” (145). Artmaking also has been associated with the psychosomatic release of stress, which in itself begins the healing process (184). Riley states that sometimes an art-related gift from the therapist to the client (for example, a small set of felt pens to use at home) can work as a transitional object to keep them engaged in the process (118).

References Malchiodi, C. (1998). The art therapy sourcebook. Los Angeles: Lowell House. Riley, S. (1999). Contemporary art therapy with adolescents. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.