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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”.


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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”!

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HOW TO CHOOSE A THERAPIST | Therapist Sherman Oaks

Need a Therapist Sherman Oaks or and Los Angeles area? You know you need hep but where do you start? What kind of help?How do you know if someone is good, or more importantly, “a good fit”? There are many things to consider when choosing a therapist.

First, it is important to have a clear understanding of the professional qualifications of a therapist and what exactly the letters after their name really mean. What degrees/licenses do they hold?

An M.D. (medical doctor, as most are aware) is psychiatrist and is at the highest level of education of a therapist that you can see. However, this does not necessarily make this professional the best choice. For one thing, they will be the most expensive. In the 40’s and 50’s, most psychotherapy was done by psychiatrists and the most common modality was psychoanalysis. This took lots of time and money. Most people, these days are not capable or interested in this sort of therapy. These days few psychiatrists engage in extensive long term treatment. Mostly they focus on areas such as evaluation for possible hospitalization or the prescription of psychotropic medication.

Next are psychologists. They hold a Phd. in psychology. They have done some primary research as well as having had extensive education with regard to secondary research (studies, that others do). They are qualified to do testing.

Two other types of psychotherapists are LMFT’s and LCSW’s. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers hold Master’s degrees in their respective fields. Some therapists work especially with children or families. Some work exclusively with couples. Some work with groups or individuals. Some are generalists. Another issue to consider is what that person’s specialty or experience is and how long they have been in practice.

As in any profession, when someone specializes in one area, they will have more knowledge, experience and expertise as well as comfort and confidence in that area. So, as one psychiatrist states, “If I were on an elevator with a woman who suddenly went into labor, I could deliver the baby, but she would much rather have her obstetrician do it. ” Each field has it’s own regulatory board. The AMA, American Medical Association for doctors, the APA, the American Psychological Association for Phd’s. and for LCSW’s and LMFT’s, there is the BBS, Board of Behavioral Sciences.

And then, and this is most important, there is the “human factor”. This pertains to the “vibe” of the particular professional in question. Let’s say that you have checked the person out and that they come highly recommended, but that upon meeting them or speaking on the telephone, there is something “off” In other words, even the most accomplished, educated and successful psychotherapist may not be right for you. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! If the first encounter goes badly, it is likely that it will not change. Most therapists do offer at least a 20 minute telephone session (gratis) so that you can check them out. Don’t be afraid to ask for their license number, their educational background and their experience.

Remember, even if you only work with this person for 3-4 months, it is a very personal relationship. It is important that you feel comfortable, so that you can make the most of the help that they can provide. You can ask your primary care physician as they are often a good resource for a referral. In fact it is probably good to get 3 referrals and compare how you feel with each of them. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries to find the right fit. It is worth it!

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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?