To Be Happy, We Must Be Grateful

This time of year we are bombarded by that word, “grateful.” We’re expected to be grateful. peanuts thxgvgWhat happens when you don’t feel grateful but you are told that you should be?  What if you feel guilt or pain about not feeling grateful? What if the pain that you feel prevents you from noticing those things for which you are inherently grateful?

David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar gave a TED Talk about the “gentle power of gratefulness.” He says that if we can “stop, look and go,” we will be ok. It takes a lot of practice to do this but if we can stop the negative thoughts, look around at the gifts that we do have and go forward, we can be happy. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy. One way to build these muscles is through meditation. Another way is through neurofeedback. The type of neurofeedback system that I use, NeurOptimal, trains the brain to be more present- it stops the ruminating negative thoughts, which enables us to look at what we do have so that we may move forward.


Steindl-Rast says that we all want to be happy and in that, we are all connected. In order to live gratefully, not just this time of year, we need to be aware that every moment is a given moment and is therefore, a gift. I'm gratefulHe says, “If we didn’t have this present moment, we could have any opportunity to do anything or experience anything. The gift within the gift is the opportunity. What you are really grateful for is the opportunity, not the thing that has been given to you. We can avail ourselves of this opportunity, or we can miss it, and if we avail ourselves of the opportunity, it is the key to happiness. Behold the master key to our own happiness is in our own hands. Moment by moment, we can be grateful for this gift.”

The power of gratefulness can literally change the world. lotus in handSteindl-Rast says that, …”if you are grateful, you’re not fearful, and if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people, and you are respectful to everybody, and that changes this power pyramid under which we live.” In order to be happy, we must be grateful.

To learn more about NeurOptimal neurofeedback, click on this link. If you would like to talk about how neurofeedback can help you or to learn more about how to move through the pain that you are currently experiencing, feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.

When Adopting Is It Better To Use An Attorney Or An Agency?

As an adoption consultant, I am frequently asked which is better, an agency or an attorney? My answer is always the same; it depends on the client, the agency and the attorney. If the goal is to adopt a child from a Hague approved country, one generally needs to work with a Hague approved agency. If one wants to adopt quickly and domestically, an attorney is generally the preferred option.

There are benefits to working with both. Couple with Chinese babyThere are other adoption agencies that are licensed, accredited and Hague approved but they may not, for example, have social workers to write home studies or educational programs for the prospective parents. These types of agencies are the most common but I generally do not refer clients to them unless they partner with a full service agency. It would be too complicated otherwise.

Just as there are many different kinds of adoption agencies, there are many different kinds of adoption attorneys. Since the Hague Treaty on Adoption, most adoption attorneys do not assist with international adoptions but they do help to facilitate domestic Adoptedadoptions. Adoption attorneys are experts in the intricacies of adoption laws that vary from state to state and even county to county. Their goal is to make sure that everything is legal and seamless for their clients. Many are able to complete an adoption faster than an agency because they are paid to represent a smaller case load- therefore, they can be more expensive than an agency. Their services generally do not include the home study, which is always a requirement. Most do not offer emotional support or education services around becoming a family through adoption.

There are many options when choosing to adopt via an agency or an attorney.adopt tee The most important thing is to learn as much as you can. The web is filled with a great deal of information. A lot of it is helpful, a lot is not. It’s also advantageous to speak with people who have adopted. Finally, try to find a confidant; someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing the ups and downs of the adoption process. This person can be a therapist, an independent adoption consultant, a friend, a parent, someone within the adoption community or a co-worker. If you can, find someone who can be objective and willing to listen and make suggestions. A lot will come up for you during every stage of the process. Try to find someone, in addition to your partner (if you are adopting as a couple), with whom you can explore all that comes up for you so that you can feel supported and confident.

If you would like to discuss adoption or have any questions about it, please feel free to contact me. I would like to help you better understand what you need to know in order to have a successful adoption.

How To Deal With Trauma

Frequently, when I listen to On Being, with Krista Tippett, I learn something new and feel more hopeful. Her program can be accessed on NPR on Sunday mornings or on at any time. On July 14th, Krista spoke with Bessel van der Kolk, MD. Dr. van der Kolk  is a pioneer in the treatment of traumatic stress. Here is link to the interview.


The Trauma Center’s website, of which he is the Medical Director, Dr. van der Kolk’s bio mentions that his current research is on how trauma affects memory processes and brain imaging studies of PTSD.

Trauma is a word that is used more frequently in recent years. A person who is traumatized, may be someone who has witnessed individuals jumping out of the Twin Towers or someone who has been assaulted. It could be a child who has been bullied by classmates. The act of the trauma is not always indicative of the way in which a person deals with the event.

The following is from the transcript of the July 14th show with Dr. van der Kolk; “I think trauma resiliencereally does confront you with the best and the worst. You see the horrendous things that people do to each other, but you also see resiliency, the power of love, the power of caring, the power of commitment to oneself, to the knowledge that there are things that are larger than our individual survival. Some of the most spiritual people I know are exactly traumatized people, because they have seen the dark side. In some ways, I don’t think you can appreciate the glory of life unless you also know the dark side of life.”

Along with yoga, EMDR, sleep and good nutrition, neurofeedback is a powerfully gentle resource that can help to restore a sense of safety.  Dr. van der Kolk’s Trauma Center, in describing neurofeedback for help in overcoming trauma explains,

“Communication between cells and cell groups in the brain generates thoughts, sensations, feelings and actions. The interactive pathways in the brain depend on electrical circuits with different frequencies and amplitudes. While psychiatry has concentrated on the chemicals of emotion, it has largely ignored the circuits of thought and perception. For over twenty years it has been known that one can change perception and attention by altering the electrical rhythms inside the brain. This can be done by providing it with feedback to increase certain frequencies and decrease others. As the brain is rewarded for making specific brainwaves, it can gradually learn to re-regulate its own functioning. The mechanism of action is similar to other forms of learning: the more the brain is rewarded while being trained in a desirable frequency, the more it will function in that frequency after training.”

To learn more about the neurofeedback system that I use and how it can help you deal with trauma, click on the highlighted link. For any questions about how neurofeedback can help, feel free to contact me.

The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the A.D.H.D. Epidemic

Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine section this week entitled, The Not So Hidden Cause Behind the A.D.H.D. Epidemic. 

images-2Recently people who were prescribed low dose, generic medications, used to treat A.D.H.D., found that the drugs they used to were hard to find.  Because the number of diagnoses of A.D.D./A.D.H.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has increased in both children and adults, the demand was greater than the supply. Ms. Koerth-Baker writes:

“Between the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012, people across the United States suddenly found themselves unable to get their hands on A.D.H.D. medication. Low-dose generics were particularly in short supply.” Koerth-Baker goes on to write, “The number of diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has ballooned over the past few decades. Before the early 1990s, fewer than 5 percent of school-age kids were thought to have A.D.H.D. Earlier this year, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 had at some point received the diagnosis — and that doesn’t even include first-time diagnoses in adults.”

UnknownThe article mentions that rates of A.D.D./A.D.H.D. vary not only by state but by country as well. A study that compares the number of children with the diagnosis in this country as compared to those in Britain, shows that “In 2003, when nearly 8 percent of American kids had been given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D., only about 2 percent of children in Britain had. According to the British National Health Service, the estimate of kids affected by A.D.H.D. there is now as high as 5 percent.”

images-3Peter Conrad who is a leading researcher in the spread of A.D.H.D. diagnosis rates, believes that the difference lies in the definition. In this country, we use the D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). In Europe, the I.C.D. (International Classification of Diseases) is used and their guidelines are “much stricter” for diagnoses.

Another reason for the increased diagnosis in children from this country is due to the fact that “American childhood drastically changed. Even at the grade-school level, kids now have more homework, less recess and a lot less unstructured free time to relax and play.” When kids are unable to move their bodies or use their brains to play and not work, they are unable to relax and thrive. One way to help kids do this, is to allow more time for unstructured amusements, including making art- painting, drawing, imagining, etc…

images-4Another way to calm over stimulated minds and bodies so that they can grow and flourish is by having neurofeedback training. The system I use, NeurOptimal®, trains the brain to be more flexible and to perform optimally. To learn more about NeurOptimal®, click on the link. To discuss how neurofeedback can help you or your child feel calmer, more focused and relaxed, contact me, here.

Is Adoption An Affordable Option For You?

I was asked to discuss the financial aspect of Twenty-Five Children Naturalized At DC Citizenship Ceremonyadoption on APR’s Marketplace. To hear an adoptive father discuss his situation and listen to my thoughts about the process, you can access the podcast here. I have a lot more to say about the subject. To learn more, keep reading below.

When a couple decides to pursue adoption, one of the issues they should be prepared for is the financial commitment financesrequired to complete the process. The three most common methods of adopting are through the foster-care system, adopting domestically and adopting internationally. The least expensive method is through the foster-care system, which is generally run by states and counties. A sample budget for this type of placement can range from $0 to $2,500, and, in some cases, families may receive stipends from the state. For a domestic adoption, which is generally handled by agencies or attorneys, the cost can be up to $40,000. In an international adoption, the total cost can be up to $50,000 due to the expense of travel and stay in country for extended periods while waiting for the adoption to be finalized.

Typical adoption fees cover things such as; home studies, legal expenses, post placement reports, supervision, paying for a birth mother’s medical expenses and/or making orphanage donations.

There are many aspects to the adoption process and the financial part is constant and can feel overwhelming. When I work with a couple, adoptive familythe husband and wife are almost always at different points in their readiness to begin the adoption process. Along with other worries, this can create financial stress or exacerbate already existing monetary concerns. It’s important for couples to be in sync with regards to money before they begin the process. I work with couples to get them on the same page and to decide if they are at the right point to go forward. If they are ready, I let them know about the different methods and financial resources available.

Some financial resources are: taking advantage of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, which is available to taxpayers who have a modified adjusted gross income (as of 2013) of $194,580 or less. Many employers offer adoption benefits to their workers. I was selectedTo see if your company is one of the top 100 adoption friendly workplaces, take a look here, Dave Thomas Adoption Friendly Workplaces.  Additionally, if a prospective adoptive parent served in the military, there is a small stipend available. There are also government subsidies, adoption grants, adoption loans and adoption registries. Adoption registries are similar to baby shower registries but instead of asking for gifts, prospective parents can request money.

The adoption process can feel daunting and often prospective parents don’t know how to begin to prepare themselves. Many are desperate to just become parents and they did not expect to have to prepare both emotionally and financially in such extreme ways. I can help you to prepare. I can answer your questions and I can help you to find good and ethical agencies. Feel free to contact me for more information.

How To Quell Negative Thoughts

On February 12, 2013, Dr. James Doty hosted Eckhart Tolle at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Dr. Doty is a neurosurgeon. On his academic profile he writes, “More recently, my interests revolve around understanding the neural, social and mental bases of compassion and altruism using a multi-disciplinary approach.” Tolle is described on his website as, “… a spiritual teacher and author who was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey.”



I was drawn to this talk because of my interest in the brain, specifically, the central nervous system and the integration of Western medicine (which is changing) and the spiritual self.  Although the talk is entitled, Conversations on Compassion, its focus is on compassion towards oneself.

meditation-2Tolle suggests that if we step back and observe our thoughts, we may be able to recognize that they can be quite negative. One way to change this pattern is by meditating. I would like to add that since having a neurofeedback training session can have the same outcomes that meditation can have (decrease obsessive thoughts, feelings of anxiety and depression and generally create a feeling of contentedness) it is helpful to include meditation and neurofeedback into a regular practice. The difference is that it is beneficial to meditate on a daily basis but not necessary to train more than once a week and eventually most do not need to train at all.  Also, a meditation practice is most effective when performed daily, while neurofeedback training has an ending but the results remain.

Tolle’s transformation occurred when he observed a particular thought: “I cannot live with myself anymore.” He then asked himself, “Who am I and what is the self that I cannot live with?” He became aware of the separation between himself and his thoughts.

Just asking himself the question, “Who am I and what is the self that I cannot live turning negative into positivewith?” allowed him to separate from his thoughts and his negative inner voice. Then, the next morning, he said that he woke and he sensed that his depression completely lifted. He didn’t understand it but says that since then there was a shift in his life and a feeling of peace. Some days it was greater than others but the underlying peace remains to this day.

negative voicesThe self-talk is conditioned by our past and culture. To move beyond this, one must acknowledge that there is a negative voice in our heads. Tolle says that our sense of self is derived from the thoughts we have of ourselves.

Dr. Doty added that, in looking at the neuroscience of this we can see that if we believe our negative thoughts, we will never able to get break out of the cycle of negative thinking. It can be addictive to stay in those patterns. We’re used to the stream of negative thoughts and we need to break away from them by being mindful.

Negative thinking (self-talk) is worrying about images-3what is going to happen or thinking about what might have been. There is only ever the present moment. The past and the future come from thinking. The present moment is all that we have.


If you would like to learn more about neurofeedback and how I can help you with your negative self-talk, contact me.


What is Your Definition of Compassion?

One of my favorite things to do is listen to Krista Tippett on NPR. Her show is called, On Being. It used to be called, Speaking of Faith compassionbut I think that turned some of people off because it sounded too religious. Krista has a made for radio voice. She is also a brilliant and thoughtful host who clearly does her homework before each interview. Krista asks the most provocative questions without putting her guests on the defensive. Some of her guest have been: Sylvia Boorstein, Seth Godin, Jean Vanier, Mehmet Oz, and Joe Carter. The programs vary every week but the theme always seems to be compassion.

Eat Pray LoveElizabeth Gilbert describes Krista this way: “In a day where religion — or, rather arguments over religion — divide us into ever more entrenched and frustrated camps, Krista Tippett is exactly the measured, balanced commentator we need. Her intelligence is like a salve for all thinking people who have felt wounded or marginalized by The God Wars.”

In a wonderful Ted Talk given by Krista Tippett, Einsteinentitled, Reconnecting with Compassion, Krista gives her definition of compassion by sharing stories and quoting great minds, such as Einstein and Aziza Hasan (an interfaith communicator from California). 

The following quotes are from this talk. I hope that they will give you an idea of how Krista can make you think, question and have more compassion for yourself and others:

science and religion“One of the most fascinating developments of the 21st century is that science is taking a virtue like compassion definitively out of the ream of idealism. This is going to change science, I believe, and it will change religion.”

“What a liberating thing to realize that our problems are probably our richest sources for rising to the ultimate virtue of compassion.”

To watch Krista’s talk on compassion in it’s entirety (15mins 53secs), click on the arrow below.

To learn more about how I can help you to have more compassion for yourself and others, feel free to contact me.



Traumatic Brain Injuries in Teens Are More Common Than We Think

A recent study from Canada, by Dr. Gabriela Ilie, shows that one in five students suffer from concussions fragile growing brain(the most common form of traumatic brain injuries). That is a staggeringly large population. The paper goes on to note that this one of the first studies to focus on traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in adolescents. The story source was found in JAMA.

The incidence of TBI is more common than was assumed, as head injuries are not always reported. It seems common that teens will hurt their heads during a sporting event or simply from playing sports injury to headand falling but adults do not always seek medical attention for them. Perhaps the student feels better quickly and tells the adults that they are making too much of the situation and perhaps the adult erroneously thinks that the child is fine. If the child seems better, why would the adult take the child to the doctor or worse a hospital where the wait can seem endless? Hopefully, studies like these will have greater influence on the reactions of the adults.

The problem is that concussions can have long-term effects. The adolescent brain is still developing and the risk of another concussion seems to be more probable than it is for those who have images-1not had a TBI in the past. Successive concussions can create problems including, “lasting cognitive impairment, substance use, mental health and physical health harms. But, Traumatic brain injury is preventable,” said Dr. Ilie. “If we know who is more vulnerable, when and how these injuries are occurring, we can talk to students, coaches, and parents about it. We can take preventive action and find viable solutions to reduce their occurrence and long-term effects.”

One of the many wonderful ways that neurofeedback can help is in the treating of TBI. In an article called, Neurofeedback Treatment for Traumatic Brain Injury, by D. Corydon Hammond, Ph. D., ECNS, QEEG-D, BCIA-EED; he writes that “Neurofeedback research has documented its value in the treatment of a variety of symptoms relevant to a brain injury population, including seizures, memory, concentration and attention, unstable mood, impulsiveness, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, and even anosmia and physical balance. Preliminary research on neurofeedback treatment of TBI is very encouraging, but certainly more rigorous research is needed. child receiving nfThe accumulating work on neurofeedback led Frank H. Duffy, M.D., a Professor and Pediatric Neurologist at Harvard Medical School, to state in an editorial in the January 2000 issue of the journal Clinical Electroencephalography that scholarly literature now suggests that neurofeedback “should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy it would be universally accepted and widely used: (p. v). “It is a field to be taken seriously by all” (p. vii).”

To learn more about neurofeedback and how it can help with traumatic brain injuries, contact me.

What Does Father’s Day Bring Up for You?

Father's DayYesterday was Father’s Day. Similar to Mother’s Day, these “celebrations” seem to bring up a lot of feelings for a lot of people.  I thought about children who could not be with their fathers yesterday. Maybe he was traveling for work, maybe he was in prison, maybe he was with another family, maybe he died. What happens when one has a complicated relationship with a parent?

 Sad parentWhen I worked in the adoption field many newly adoptive parents were concerned that their children would think about their first parents on Mother’s and Father’s Days.  They were afraid that the child would feel a sense of loss again, that these days would bring up fears of abandonment. I also thought about the parents who chose to place their child for adoption. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day must be difficult for them too.

mom and childrenToday, in the United States, there are more single parent households than ever before. Do you know who’s running these households? Mothers run most of them. Grandparents, cousins, friends, etc. run some of them too. What happens when a father is no longer around? How do fatherless children celebrate Father’s Day?

I am constantly inspired by the presentations on the website, TED stands for Technology, Education and Design. From it’s website, it is described as, “a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from (these) three worlds.” It has grown into so much more. I visit the site frequently if I want to be inspired or learn something.

I found a wonderful talk by Angela Patton of Camp Diva. Camp Diva “provides opportunities for girls to prepare themselves spiritually, socially, emotionally, intellectually, and culturally, for their passage into womanhood.” In just over eight minutes, Ms. Patton talks about girls finding a way to connect with their fathers via a dance. When the idea is explored further, she describes one girl who cannot invite her father because he is in prison. In this inspiring talk, I enjoyed learning ways to think creatively in order to move through loss.


How was Father’s Day for you? I’d love to know.

Children’s Fears and How We Can Help

Unforeseeable disruptions to regular life can be explaining to childrenfrightening, especially for children. It’s difficult enough to explain to adults why tornados happen but try telling a child. Try explaining a job loss or the end of a relationship to an adult. Intellectually we may understand but it’s still complicated. And children do not yet possess the same intellectual capacity as adults.

TornadoMonday’s tragedy in Oklahoma affected not one but two elementary schools. School, like home, is supposed to be a safe place. As I write this article, there are 24 deaths, including 10 children. That’s a lot of information for anyone, adult or child, to wrap his/her head around.

As residents of this small town begin to literally pick up the pieces from Monday’s ruin, they will try to understand how to continue living their lives. Eventually, most will learn a new way to live and they will adapt to their tragedy.

There are, unfortunately, times in children’s lives when they may experience unwelcome disruptions to their routine. There could be a natural disaster, such as a tornado or the divorce of a child’s parents. The following are just four suggestions about what we as adults can do to help children deal with fears:

 1. Express:

Encourage children to talk about their feelings. expressionIf they’re too young and/or don’t have the vocabulary yet, let them express themselves through drawing or playing. Have them show you how they feel. Support their feelings and try not to minimize their fears.

 2. Visualize:

grandma's armsRemind children that they are loved and although bad things happen, most of the time, they don’t. Help them to think about a place that makes them feel safe. Maybe it’s in grandma’s living room or it could be in your arms. Help your child to imagine that safe place and the feeling that comes from being in that safe place. Let them know that when they feel scared, they can always think about that place and feel safe.

 3. Consult:

If you’ve tried many ways to help your child feel safe and nothing seems to work- consult with a therapist who works with children. Licensed therapists who have experience working with children, are often able to get at the root of the child’s fears and offer suggestions that a parent may be unable to see. Most parents just want their children to be safe, happy and healthy. A child specialist wants these things too but they are less attached to the child than a parent and can therefore see the entire picture.

 4. Neurofeedback:     childtherapist

One of the amazing things that NeurOptimal, the type of neurofeedback training that I use does, is to help children (and adults) no longer fixate on a fear or an unpleasant thought. Whether there is a real or a perceived trauma, it is common for us to focus all of our attention there. Neurofeedback helps us become unstuck. The thoughts and obsessions that we’re used to focusing on, no longer have as much power after training. To learn more about neurofeedback, take a look at my website.

Most children (and adults) have fears. The power that we give to these fears effects how quickly children are able to move past them. The next time your child expresses a concern, notice how you respond. You may see that you already have these tools in place. If you don’t or you want some help, let me know.