Creating Healthy Boundaries

Creating healthy boundaries is important in every day activities including among family, friends, in social interactions, at work, at school, and in community settings.  Watch this video to find out how to assess and create healthier boundaries.IMGP4581


Assertiveness: When to address distress?

Perhaps you know someone at work who continues to behave in a way that is causing distress. Maybe they talk very loudly when on the phone and you share an office space with them, or possibly they critique your work in a tone that is condescending.  You might feel like you have given the person the benefit of the doubt, but it seems that this behavior is getting more and more troublesome for you.  When do you decide to address this?  Will talking to this person only make things more awkward and uncomfortable?  Is there something you are doing that is contributing to this co-worker’s behavior?

My first recommendation is to take time to think this out and bounce it off someone you trust.  Dealing with sticky situations in the heat of the moment can make them even more sticky.

Photo by topgold.  Attribution license

Photo by topgold. Attribution license

Practice how you might approach this conversation.  Find a way to create a private space to talk to this person.  Start the conversation with an appreciation, such as “I really appreciate how much you help me.”  When addressing the issue, provide example of what occurred and how it made you feel.  Then allow the person to take in what you say.  They may need to clarify some things and ask some questions.  Finally, see if you both can find a way to try to resolve what hasn’t been working.  If you don’t have time for that or need more time to consider what might work, make an agreement to check in again to see what either of you might come up with.  Finally, agree to some time frame for seeing if new solution/plan is working for both of you.  This will allow you time to tweak things in the future if needed, and it also keeps the conversation going.

Finding Sovereignty in Social Work

*This post was previously published while I worked at The Prevention Researcher on September 30th, 2009; a journal on adolescent development.

“To own and wield the wisdom of leadership is to claim ourselves, to recognize the strong force that we already are, to stop falling into the traps of social conditioning that would keep us small, and to stand in full sovereignty over our own lives.” –Dede Henley in The Secret of Sovereignty

Personally I’ve always pushed myself hard, whether it is to do well in school, to become a more advanced soccer coach, a better pet owner, a more rounded person, or a stronger life partner and friend.  During the spring of 2008 I went to a one-day conference on Women’s Leadership sponsored by the Dede Henley Group.  Inspired by this one-day conference, I signed up for a 9-month course called “Women Leading Women.”  Our entire class met once a month for a half day and once or twice a month in small groups to work on leadership building exercises and to process the curriculum with one another.  I graduated from this course this past July, and I have continued to meet with members of my class once a month.

During the conference we had the opportunity to hear Dede Henley speak.  Hearing her personal story and commitment to self-improvement was empowering.  Some key points she touched on were the low level of self-care, extreme self-doubt, and lack of confidence women leaders have.  Ms. Henley explained that while more and more women are in leadership roles, they are still are being paid unfair wages, are less likely to be CEOs and still undermine their importance in their organization.  One piece of information that really stuck with me was the fact that corporations and businesses that are more equally lead by women AND men are the most successful (  This got me thinking about the agency I work for, Integrated Research Services, Inc.  One way I’ve see our company really progress over the three years I have been here, has been the strengthening of my working partnership with the Director, Dr. Steven Ungerleider.  As an Administrator I’ve found, the better he and I communicate and work together the better our entire team works together, both with us and with one another.

This month I had the opportunity to read NASW’s “A Broader Vision for the Social Work Profession” by Elizabeth J. Clark, and I was struck by some of the similarities between Dede Henley’s course curriculum and the vision of the social work profession.  The strongest similarities between the two were the messages of hope and calls to take action in life.  Ms. Clark states “As a profession, we have the capacity to prevent hopelessness, to restore hope, and to change society for the better.”  She further discusses how social workers impact social justice, advocacy, and change and describes them as “holders of hope.” Much of the Women Leading Women course focused on re-realizing the hopes and dreams of our childhood or younger adulthood, while hoping and dreaming more for our future starting with NOW.

As I look towards the latter part of 2009, with 2010 around the corner, I am reminded that finding hope in the challenges of the here and now is of utmost importance.  I’m eager to utilize the resources I’ve been given and am committing myself to the calls to action that both the NASW and The Dede Henley Group have provided us, in particular to find ways to be that “holder of hope” and continue to find ways I can empower myself and others to create change.IMGP2477

Familiness & Strengthening Family Resilience

*This blog post was first published on December 11th, 2010 in The Prevention Researcher blog, a journal on adolescent development that I worked for.  The journal’s last issue is being published 9/2013.

Over the past month, I have been reading and thinking about this concept called familiness.  “Familiness reminds us as individuals and as members of particular families to think always about possible alternate structures and sets of functions that constitute family for others” (Shriver, 2011, p. 274).  This concept has been helpful when looking at the challenges of the holidays.  Often there is a mixed bag of emotions as the holidays approach: who do we include in our holiday planning, how are members included or not included, which family members are no longer living, and how might we celebrate with our friends or others we consider family instead?  These are just a few questions that come to mind.

In researching this topic and how we define family, thinking about the holidays and coping with those positive and negative stresses, I found a great book by Froma Walsh, titled Strengthening Family Resilience, 2nd Edition (Walsh, 2006).  Using a systems view of resilience, as a foundation for a Family Resilience Approach, she defines three keys that are particularly important when looking at how families cope as a functional unit.  Family resilience can be defined as a family’s ability to cope and adapt as a functional unit over time.

Here are her Keys to Family Resilience:

1. Family Belief System

-Making meaning of adversity

-Positive outlook

-Transcendence & spirituality

2. Organizational Patterns



-Social & economic resources

3. Communication Processes


-Open emotional expression

-Collaborative problem solving

As you prepare for the close of the year and the year to come, and continue your work with youth and families, I hope you find this definition of familiness and these keys to family resilience helpful.

Starting Private Practice

Will have photos of new private practice office later this week.  Hoping to get my first clients set up as soon as possible!  My profile is on Psychology Today.  I will also be offering counseling via Skype for people who live outside of Lane County Oregon.  I’m excited about this new endeavor and hope you’ll consider referring someone for support.  Using a holistic strength based approach, I hope to support individuals, couples and families as they transition through major life changes from chronic illness, mental illness, death, trauma, divorce, or other challenges.

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Checking In

Ignite has been busy as the Apocalyptica Chromatics Card Deck Kickstarter succeeded so March has been a month full of filling orders for over 600 people and many trips to the post office!

I’ve also been wrapping up my last semester at graduate school, with less than a month of classes left I’m back to the crossroads – looking deeply at what my goals, passions, and what’s next?  This week I’ve had the opportunity to engage some coaching skills – helping a friend of mine meet her physical health goals.  She’s great at setting goals, but needed someone to hold her accountable.

Being the school geeks we are, I thought- why not create a special class just for her?  This means I built a tiny simplified curriculum, gave her due dates to check in with me where she has to write up her progress and then I provide her with feedback.

What I’ve realized doing this is that sometimes we can get so stuck.  For one, while the ultimate goal is to help her lose weight, what also needs to happen is for her to re-engage with her mind and spirit too (Deepak Chopra & Oprah right now are talking about this with a free meditation course they are providing).  Something I’m in the process of doing right now too; I get back to this place thinking – again?  How did I get stuck in these patterns again?  Back to writing in my journal, taking photos, calling my wider support system, working out, and eating healthier.