Articles Divorce

Divorce – Tragic End or New Beginning? From a Divorce Therapist, Studio City

As a divorce therapist Studio City, I am often asked if divorce is the end or a beginning. It really all depends on your attitude. With the proper support, difficult transitions can be doorways to new opportunities. What we focus on grows. The positive psychologists know this well. If we focus on sadness, fear, anxiety and tragedy, we will likely be depressed and hopeless. Although we do need an opportunity to vent with regard to these fears, we don’t have to stay there. Divorce does not have to be a tragedy, albeit a painful process.

It is a death of sorts and must be grieved. The stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately acceptance must be passed through. Most people have known at least one person who gets stuck in the anger stage. By the way, healthy people tend to avoid those folks. For most of us, listening to the rant of a twenty year old betrayal is not an activity that we are drawn to. The depressing generalizations that those who become bitter are just as unpleasant. “All men cheat” or “Women are only interested in money”. As I mentioned earlier, what we focus on grows, so guess what? If you are a woman who peserverates on the idea that “All men cheat”, guess what sort of men you will continue to attract? If you are a man whose philosophy is “Women only want money” you will probably attract those sorts of women.

Negativity begets negativity.

In addition to a divorce therapist  Studio City, many years ago, i worked in a battered women’s shelter. Being a young novice in the field, I was a bit passive, when we did the support groups for the women. I watched the more skilled and experienced social worker continually “contain” the volatile emotions of the women. In my “professional adolescence”, what I learned from my esteemed supervisor was this. “We don’t want to allow them to remain in the hopeless, negative state.” When I behaved passively with the women, not only was I not helping them, but I would end up feeling depressed at the end of group. What I noticed with my supervisor was that although he was supremely empathic to the suffering of these women, that he did not accept their dictums about life and instead insisted on instilling hope for them and for their children. His creative and artful abilities to teach them to visualize having their own power in their lives both emotionally and financially was inspirational.

Of course, this is a select population and many of you may feel that you cannot relate to these women. But, as some level, no matter what level of education, sophistication or socioeconomic status, most people feel somehwat disempowered while going through a divorce. It shakes people to the core. There are worries about finances, children and the future. There is loneliness and sadness as well as anger. No one gets married to get divorced. Most people make great attempts to repair the marriage before they finally accept that life will be better for all if they end the relationship.

As far as children are concerned, in the best cases, children take about a year or so to make the adjustment. There may be some acting out behavior, a temporary drop in grades, some anger and/or manipulation. Kids have the best chance to readjust when their parents readjust in a healthy way. Although ideally, it is best for children to grow up in a stable, intact family, it is not necessarily a tragedy if the parents divorce. A positive lesson that can result from the family rupture could be that, change does not have to be devastating and that people can survive and thrive after divorce. Social support is an important element. Church, temple, family and friends play an important role.

Sometimes, the assistance of a good therapist who specializes in helping people through the transition can be important. Being mindful of health matters at this stressful time is vital. Speaking with your doctor if you notice any physical manifestations of the stress is imperative.

It is especially important to ultimately attempt to learn from the mistakes made in the marriage so as not to repeat them. It may be either not being careful enough in the selection of a mate or not speaking up assertively or knowing how to negotiate and compromise in an intimate relationship. you may have inadvertently repeated patterns that you learned form your family or your culture. You may have suffered from the “grass is greener” thinking and had an affair when things become too routine. I often recommend to the couples that I work with to “have an affair with each other” and to remember all of the trouble that they went to to ensure romance in the beginning stages of the relationship.

These issues need to be examined as you begin your new life. It is important to remember not to disparage your ex to your children as that can be hurtful to them. You also don’t want to put them in the position of “choosing sides”. it is important to keep healthy boundaries about “adult” details of the relationship. The kids don’t need to know everything. Some things they should be shielded from.

Many people who survive much worse tragedies than divorce know the following fact. When you go through difficulties you have a choice. You can remain bitter and angry and continue to suffer or you can choose to learn from the experience, forgive yourself and your ex for the failure of the marriage, remember the good memories, be grateful if beautiful children were produced from the union and begin your new life!

Articles Individual Therapy

Therapy for Worrying | Three Steps to Reduce Worrying

I’ve often been asked about Therapy for Worrying in my Sherman Oaks office.

Do you drive yourself crazy playing the “What if” game? Do you try to foresee every possible catastrophe in order to head it off? If you find it difficult to relax, are easily angered, irritable and always three steps ahead of yourself, you are not alone, there is therapy for worrying.

We live in a culture that promotes “productivity”. Difficulties present in the economy may be at the source of some of this imbalance. Activity is at an all time high and we are paying a high price for not having enough “down time” Some of the valuable family meal time and opportunities to check in with each other in a relaxed manner have been lost. Time spent chatting with a neighbor improves the emotional atmosphere of a community. Children are overscheduled.

The cost involves loss on many levels. It affects the quality of relationships, family bonding, mental and physical health. If there is no escape from the “buzz” of intense, pressure filled activity, quite often, people feel justified in indulging in some excessive rewarding behavior at the end of it all. In a desperate effort to relieve the anxiety, people may use a bit too much alcohol, overeat, overspend or become addicted to computer games. The effects of the excessive behavior then causes stress on family and marital relationships and it becomes a vicious cycle.

Here are three ways to manage the anxiety that comes from dealing with our day to day stress.

  1. Self Care
  2. Prioritizing
  3. Setting up a support network

Self Care

Remember the basics that your mother taught you. Get enough sleep, eat your vegetables, take your vitamins and everything in moderation. Get your annual physicals so that should some health change occur, you have the best chance at accessing treatment at an early stage and oftentimes preventing a more serious problem. Get exercise, spend time with loved ones and have fun! Laughter really is good medicine as it actually changes brain chemistry, relaxes muscles and promotes healing. Let your anxiety be a signal that you are needing more self care.


Remember that you cannot do it all! Make a list of things to do daily, beginning with the absolute “non-negotiables”. In other words, things that must be done and then you can work your way down to activities that are optional and could possibly wait for another day. Make your list at a time when you are most relaxed so that you can think clearly. Also, be realistic about how much time it takes to complete things and don’t forget to schedule in breaks.

If you are having difficulty deciding which things to let go of, then ask yourself the following question to ascertain whether you are placing too much importance on a task. ” At the end of my life, how important will it be whether I have completed this task?”

Sort of puts getting to the cleaners in perspective, doesn’t it?

Create and Nurture a Support System

Having people around to both commiserate as well as to celebrate with us helps to lessen anxiety. Nurture relationships that support both personally as well as professionally. Sometimes we go through changes in relationships where people are not as accessible. In that case, it is sometimes helpful to contact a therapist for some brief assistance during that period. And above all, remember one important fact. Most people in our culture at this time are experiencing some anxiety related to the pressures of a faltering economy. The good news is that “We are not alone”.


Addiction Therapy Articles Individual Therapy

Addicted to Love? | Relationship Addiction

Do you tend to get involved quickly? Do you have relationship addiction? Have you gone from relationship to relationship? Are you like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride where you don’t know how you like “your own eggs?” Do you find yourself in a relationship before actually getting to know someone?

People who are addicted to love end up projecting an ideal onto a relationship and often being disappointed when the reality of the relationship does’nt match witth the idealized version. The media does not help. Romantic movies give unrealistic messages and encourage idealized relationships where couples meet, become enmeshed and immediately end up happy together. Love songs which use language such as “I can’t live without you” or “My world is empty without you, babe”
basically describe and romanticize obsessive love.

In a normal relationship, some of this does happen. Of course in the beginning, it is very exciting and “infatuation” can seem like love. it IS possible that real love can develop from something that starts out as infatuation but the difference is, that time is allotted so that it can develop. Real bonding needs time to develop.

Romance or love addicts are loathe to spend the time slowly getting to know the other person because they refuse to give up the “high” of romantic love, lust or infatuation.

As with many addictions, denial is often at work. Many women report being frustrated with friends who seek advice from them about relationships. They say things like, “I don’t understand it, in all other areas, she proves to be intelligent and reasonable. At work, with fitness and health and with her friendships, but with this one issue, this very “pulled together” woman ends up acting like a teenager, over and over. She knows no logic.

Sometimes, people get “hooked” on the feeling of what they think is “being in love” when in fact, as in other addictions, this process is actually being used to avoid other issues. It could be anxiety about developing a relationship, fear of true intimacy and a sense of hopelessness about connecting in a healthy way.

These men and women who are caught up in this addiction have often not seen models of healthy relationships in their early years. in normal development, children get to see that in functional relationships, that is not perfect or exciting all the time. They get to see a healthy model of compromise and negotiation as well as commitment. They also get to see that good relationships take a lot of work and although love is important, that it is not the only element and certainly not the one that keeps people committed in a functional way. It is maturity, accepting that there will be things that you don’t like about your partner, that your roles may change from time to time and that commitment and flexibility are very important.

“Love Addicts” have typically either only seen terribly dysfunctional relationshps or social isolation. They may have seen violence or abuse whether physical or emotional and they may have an idealized version of a “perfect relationship” that will heal the effects of a difficult childhood. The problem is that at first, the infatuation appears to “fix it all”, but unfortunately it doesn’t last. So the beginning of a relationship fuels the “feel good” brain chemistry and they are off!

Individual treatment for people who become aware that they have this issue can be helpful. There are also 12 step programs such as SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). So, if you are finding that you have a pattern of getting involved in these sorts of relationships, think about getting some professional help and beginning a better relationship with yourself first. As Whitney Houston said in one of her hit songs, you can learn to have “The Greatest Love of All”!

Addiction Therapy Articles Individual Therapy

12 Step Therapy – What’s next? | Therapist in Los Angeles & Sherman Oaks

If you are searching for a Therapist in Los Angeles or Sherman Oaks, Linda Engel can help you with your 12 step therapy success.

So, you have finally committed yourself to your 12 step program (AA,NA, Al-anon, SLAA,OA). You have followed all the rules. You have gotten a sponsor, done your readings, attend meetings regularly and you are even at the point of being of service in that community, but somehow, something is missing.

Every once in a while, some of the symptoms that you have tried to manage for so long by self medicating begin to arise and become troublesome. People get caught up in addictive behavior for a variety of reasons. Some people may have a biological predisposition towards addiction. Hence, if you have had a biological relative (whether you were raised with them or not) who suffered from addiction, you may be more prone towards it than the general population.

There may be “modeling” of certain behaviors. For example, if you saw family or community members who typically coped with the stresses of life by excessive use of substances (alcohol, drugs, food) or behaviors (shopping, sex, gambling), then you will be more likely to succumb to those behaviors as well.

Multiple other factors can be involved. Undiagnosed learning disorders, add/adhd, difficulty accepting one’s sexuality, abuse, neglect or overindulgence during childhood. Overindulgence contributes to the “lie of addiction” which goes something like this. “I can’t stand this pain, hard work, difficult transition, etc. ”

At times, addictions are culturally sanctioned. As one alcoholic states, “When you work really hard, you have to go crazy once in a while”. There may be pressure at work/school to overindulge as a way of fitting in. As a college student recently told me, “In college, it is normal to behave as though you are alcoholic, these days. You’re weird if you don’t drink a lot”

12 step programs do address some of these issues, but at times there are deeper issues that remain. If a person is dually diagnosed (an addiction along with another disorder), they may be pressured by their

12 step community to ignore the other disorder. This can be dangerous.

Sometimes it takes a psychiatric professional to determine whether that person needs more intensive treatment like medication, individual psychotherapy or even temporary hospitalization in the case of suicidality or major mood or thought disorders.

Working with a therapist along with the 12 step program can be a very helpful combination. It is very important  for someone in a 12 step program to locate a therapist who has a healthy respect and familiarity with how the self help community works, including it’s limitations. A therapist of this sort can help guide an individual through times of crisis in which the self help program is not enough.

Conversely, working with a person who is involved in a 12 step program can make the therapy much easier. The two work very well in conjunction with each other to promote psychological health. So, why not take THE NEXT STEP and add psychotherapy with a 12 step therapist to your toolbag of recovery?