Monday, July 14, 2014

Urban Green Area Residents are Happier


BBC News article Green spaces have lasting positive effect on well-being says that urban dwellers who move to a greener urban area experience more positive effects than if they get a promotion or a new job.

I know New York City's wonderful parks contribute to emotional well-being. Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes spent in a natural setting improves mood.

I feel fortunate that my office is a five minute walk from both Central Park and Riverside Park. Many of my
clients make a segue through one of the parks on their way to or from my office.

Find some "green time" for yourself. It makes a difference.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Upper West Side Psychotherapy

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sleep Therapy Seen as Aid for Depression

According to the New York Times article, Sleep Therapy Seen as Aid for Depression, curing insomnia can double the chance that people with depression will recover fully.


Why am I not surprised? Because for more than 25 years that's been my experience treating depression. When sleep improves, everything gets better. Depression can appear to cause sleep loss - the famous 3am staring at the ceiling depression wakeup - and sleep deprivation can trigger depression.

Helping my clients with sleep issues has become an important part of my work.

It's always seemed like a chicken or the egg question to me. I'm really happy to see it being studied.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Upper West Side Psychotherapy

Monday, April 14, 2014

Is There a Glut on Anti-Depressants?

New York Times writer Roni Caryn Rabin wrote a thought provoking article last fall titled, "A Glut of Anti-Depressants.

Two alarming statistics she cites:
  • One in ten Americans now takes anti-depressants.
  • For women in their 40s and 50s, this rises to one in four. 
Why? Rabin references research led by Dr. Ramin Mojtabai of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She says,
The study, published in April in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, found that nearly two-thirds of a sample of more than 5,000 patients who had been given a diagnosis of depression within the previous 12 months did not meet the criteria for major depressive episode as described by the psychiatrists’ bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or D.S.M.).
Dr. Mojtabai's study indicated that this is particularly true among the elderly.

Given the side effect potential and costs, as well as the possibility that a different treatment would be more helpful or that treatment is unneeded, this is worrisome indeed.

A good counselor can help you determine if a depression diagnosis is right for you - and what could help with whatever got you that diagnosis, whether it's accurate or not.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Psychotherapy for Change

Monday, March 10, 2014

Talk Therapy May Reduce Biological Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD changes the brain - in the way certain genes express themselves, for example, and in shrinkage of the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory consolidation.

This Science Daily article, Talk therapy may reverse biological changes in PTSD patients, describes recent Hungarian research using cognitive behavioral therapy. The results demonstrate that these changes to the brain can be reversed by therapy.

The expression of a specific gene associated with risk of developing PTSD, and to a lesser extent the growth of the hippocampus, actually predict symptom improvement. Other positive brain changes were also observed.

This is obviously good news. It validates the anecdotal experience of therapists working with people with PTSD.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Upper West Side Psychotherapy

Monday, February 10, 2014

Are Herbal Supplements What They Say They Are?


Here's a short summary of a recently published study that, alas, reveals that many herbal supplements don't contain what they say they do. The summary was published in Nutrition Action, a nice, inexpensive newsletter that my mother's doctor introduced me to. It's put out by The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The name of the article is Are Your Herbal Supplements Really What They Say They Are? This is a concern to me as a psychotherapist because there are many supplements that can be helpful with mood.

The article doesn't really tell you what to do, other than to be suspicious. What I've done myself is ask healthcare professionals I trust - my nutritionist, a holistically-minded psychiatrist I know, for example - what brands they trust. I try to stick to those brands.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Upper West Side Counseling

Monday, January 13, 2014

Meditation and Compassion

Dr. David Steno, director of the Northeastern University Social Emotions Group, wrote an interesting article in the New York Times this summer titled The Morality of Meditation.

Meditation has gotten a lot of good press in recent years, with research indicating benefits in everything from lower blood pressure to improved job performance.

Dr. Steno's recent research addressed a very different question than health or work improvements: Does meditation increase our level of compassion - and therefore our moral choices? The very cleverly designed study indicated that the answer is yes.

Participants who had been meditating as part of the study were tested against a control group who were merely on a waiting list. The researchers wanted to see if they would offer their seat to a person on crutches (even though two others in the room didn't). The participants thought they were waiting for the research activity to start; they didn't know this was the research.

The results: Those who had been meditating were three times more likely to offer their chair than those who hadn't. Dr. Steno speculates that this may be because meditation tends to increase the experience of being interconnected.

An impressive result.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
New York City Counseling

Monday, November 18, 2013

2013 How to Survive the Holidays

Years ago, when I was in training to be a counselor I was the assistant to the leader of a workshop called How to Survive the Holidays. Jill Raiguel, MFCC, author of Life Skills: Keys to Effective Living was the leader. It was the best attended workshop we did, which told me how much of a problem holidays can be for people!

Since then, I've watched for opportunities to be helpful around the holiday season - in my psychotherapy practice and, since it's inception, in this blog. Here it is, that time again. If you have a dysfunctional family, it's important to have a plan for self care. The suggestions below have been tried, tested and added to since that workshop.
  • Make sure you get time away from the house. Go for a walk, run an errand, see a movie. This is easier when you're the visitor, but sometimes just five minutes alone in the backyard or the back room can help.

  • Have a support person lined up. That could be your good friend from where you live now, ready to
    remind you over the phone that you have a life outside your family. Get counseling if you need it.

  • If you are the visitor and there are people you like who live in the same town or city as your family, make plans to see them on your own during the visit.

  • Conduct an experiment: Study your family members as if you were meeting them for the first time. This will give you some helpful distance and perspective. What you see can be surprising.

  • Remember: You are not your family; you are a separate person.
Please ask questions or make comments here, or you're welcome to email me. 

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
Psychotherapy in New York City