Pets: How They Rescue Us

who rescued who?The other day I saw a bumper sticker in the shape of a paw on a car. It read, “Who Rescued Who?” I knew right away that the driver of the car did not contact a breeder to buy his/her pet. The pet was “rescued.” Rescued is a more commonly used phrase when differentiating between pets that were acquired for a lot of money from a breeder, versus finding a pet through a (generally) non-profit animal shelter.

NPR’s Morning Edition did a wonderful program entitled, How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other.  In it, there are examples of how dogs help sick children prepare for medical treatments and horses help autistic children communicate more effectively with people. It’s a wonderful piece. A link to the show can be accessed above.

man and dog on motorcycleNot long ago, I was visiting a relative in the hospital. The patients were asked if they would like to be visited by an animal. The patients, who were feeling and looking lethargic, instantly seemed brighter and more hopeful. A man in his 70’s excitedly asked if the animal was a dog. When he was told that it was, the man sat up in bed and immediately said, “Yes, bring him in here! Please.” When the dog finally came to visit, the man smiled. He hugged and petted the dog. He even spoke to her and for a little while, he didn’t seem to notice the regular hospital sounds and smells. Or even his aches and pains. He was noticeably happier during his visit with the dog.

dog and child in wheelchairPet Partners, formally, Delta Society, is a non-profit organization that incorporates animals into varies therapies for people.  Their website states “Over 11,000 handler/animal teams bring joy, comfort and compassion to those in need.  These dedicated volunteers and their pets have been credited for helping people forget about their pain, providing distractions so nurses can perform medical procedures on pediatric patients, inspiring and motivating patients recovering from a stroke or other brain injuries to perform more physical therapy exercises than when working with their human therapists alone, and at times have brought individuals out of a coma!”

dog with babyMore than ever before, pets are becoming valued members of society. So when we bring an animal home from a shelter, we may feel as though we’ve rescued that animal but in time, we will learn that we are the lucky ones.

The 5 Most Common Changes My Clients Report When Using Neurofeedback

What is the best part of NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training? Noticing the changes that occur sooner than expected. Before I give you examples of the changes, I want to explain to you what neurofeedback is and how it works. To quote from New York Neurofeedback’s website:

neurohands“Your brain is the most complex system on the Earth, and it is masterful at organizing itself on your behalf. NeurOptimal® uses the EEG — information about the electrical activity in your brain — to train your CNS (the brain and spinal cord) to be at its best, taking advantage of its powerful ability to organize and normalize itself. Because your brain does this in the way that is uniquely right for you, it’s not being pushed or pulled in a provider chosen direction, making the process virtually side effect free.”

What are some of the changes that you strive for? Do you want to have more patience; do you want to spend money less impulsively? Well with neurofeedback, you can have:

1. Better Sleep 

Better sleepDo you have difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you wake up several times during the night? Having a neurofeedback training session can help you to sleep better. My clients tell me that if they do neurofeedback, that night, they are going to sleep better and feel more rested and refreshed the next day.   These changes are likely to become their new normal.

2. More Patience with Others

patience-1Have you lost patience with your spouse or your children? Do you have difficulty “reining in” your temper? Over time, you will notice that you aren’t as quick to snap at others. You may even begin to listen to the conversations that drove you crazy. You may not look forward to the conversations or enjoy them, but you are able to tolerate them and remain present to the people in your life.

3. Less Impulsive Behavior   

impulsiveDo you spend too much money on things that you don’t need? Do you eat/drink too much? Do you engage in dangerous behavior? Sometimes having anxiety or depression can be so overwhelming that in order to calm those feelings, we take in other things. In many cases, it’s done with shopping/food/drink/sex/drugs. When we train the brain to be more present with neurofeedback, we are allowing the CNS to re-normalize itself and not need something from the outside to help us deal with the issues going on inside.

4. A Calmer Disposition  

Calm 2Have you noticed that people are less apt to ask for your opinion or that they’re afraid to bring up prickly topics in order to avoid having another argument with you? If you’ve noticed this avoidant behavior from people in your life and you don’t want them to feel intimidated by you, perhaps you want to find out what’s making you lose your cool. Neurofeedback can help you feel calmer and less angry. After several sessions, you may even notice what triggers you. After more sessions, you may be able to halt your usual reaction and just let it pass. Eventually, you may also notice that the things that used to make you angry, no longer will to the extent that they did before training.

5. Better concentration

golf-concentrationDo you have difficulty sitting down in order to read a book or finish a work/school assignment? Have you been told that you’re “all over the place?” Have you been diagnosed with either ADD or ADHD? If you’ve tried meditation and/or medication and neither works (or you don’t want to take medicine), have you talked with your therapist about alternatives? Much like a mirror that promotes self-correction, NeurOptimal® monitors your brain waves and then provides “feedback” to your central nervous system about what it has just done. When the software detects turbulence in your brain wave pattern, it sends an audible signal (a brief interruption to the music) that encourages the brain to “reset” and self-correct. The work that your CNS is doing will help you to have better focus and help you feel more confident.

This is only a short list of the many amazing changes you will find with neurofeedback . If you have any questions about NeurOptimal® neurofeedback or would like to set up an appointment, call me at: 917-817-8575 or email me.

Adoption Language

questions about adoptionWords are powerful. Consider the following: Giving up a baby, put up for adoption, real family, natural children, own child, to keep, foreign adoption, natural parents or where is s/he from, how much did s/he cost?

20 Things...It is important to be aware of our language. It is particularly useful as a teaching tool for professionals in the field to be sensitive to the words that they choose. Prospective adoptive parents are looking to the professionals for guidance. A wonderful book that explores the power of language is called; 20 Things Adopted Kids Wished their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge.

Years ago I ran a workshop for prospective adoptive parents. One day a mother and her daughter joined our group to talk about some of their challenges and what they learned being a visibly adoptive family. The mother and her then-21-year-old daughter, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, told a story about an incident that occurred at a supermarket when the daughter was three or four years old. Although the daughter did not understand what the stranger was really asking, she did not like the way it made her feel. The conversation went something like this:

“Is she yours? Where is she from?”  images-2

“Excuse me?”

“That girl, is she Chinese?”

The mom bent down and asked her daughter if she wanted to answer the man’s questions. The daughter thought about it and said, “No.”

The mother said to the stranger, “We don’t feel like answering your questions. Have a nice day.”

The prospective parents at the workshop were shocked. They wondered how strangers could think that they had the right to ask such invasive questions. The mother said that she and her family lived in area where adoption, especially international adoption, was very uncommon. She also said that most of the time she sensed that people were just curious and were not judging. She added that sometimes, as in the example above, it was hard to tell.

Eventually the mother decided that her daughter’s story was her own and therefore, when she was old enough to express herself, she could decide whether or not a stranger’s question would be answered. The mother also said that it took many tries before finding the response that felt right to them.

Sometimes they responded with, “mind your own business” or “none of your business.” Other times the mother sensed, because she had been a curious images-1prospective adoptive parents, that maybe the stranger was asking because he or she was interested in adopting and wanted to connect with an adoptive family. The mother told the workshop participants that they should be prepared that there would be questions. Some were judgmental but most were asked because the stranger was trying to decide if adoption was the best way for them to expand their family. In either case, the mother wanted the prospective adoptive parents to know how powerful words can be and that what people say can have an effect on their children. She said that it was not fair and it was exhausting but adoptive parents were bequeathed the role of educating the public. In her own situations and if she had the energy and felt like it, she did share the information with strangers that her daughter allowed. It wasn’t the daughter’s entire story, just a part of it.

The Day After the Boston Marathon

Today is the day after the terrible explosion that occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This morning, I ran into a friend who took a spinning class at the gym. She mentioned that the instructor kept telling the class to “make it to the finish line.” Maybe I was thinking like a therapist or maybe I became a therapist because I think like one; I asked her how that made her feel. My friend said, “he was just in the zone, trying to encourage everyone to keep going no matter how difficult it was.” I noticed that she didn’t say how it made her feel only why he said what he said.

I feel for the runners who trained so hard for this most difficult of marathons. In order to even be considered as an applicant to the Boston Marathon, runners must prove how quickly they ran the New images-2York Marathon. In other words, these runners are some of the best in the world. Most of them tried to reach the finish line but not all of them did. Some who were able to reach it, left terribly hurt.

I also saw something wonderful. Along with all of the terrifying images, were people running towards the hurt and wounded athletes and spectators. I noticed camaraderie, support and concern for one another. I noticed human kindness along with two terrible acts of violence.

Helping handsAs I was taking a look at one of the social network sites, I read a wonderful quote by Fred Rogers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” We saw many helpers yesterday and I imagine, that help continues today and will continue for a long time.

When we don’t see the helpers during tragedies, it may be a sign that we are depressed. Being able to discuss and feel one’s fears and concerns can be difficult. Speaking with a therapist or counselor can help. I would be honored to help you deal with your fears and concerns. If I were not the right fit for you, I would still encourage you to speak with someone who could help you. Yesterday’s events were tragic. How we move on from them today is the next step. If you’re considering psychotherapy, I encourage you to contact me or go to my resources page to find someone in whom you can trust.

Despite your own tragedies and those from yesterday (in this country and abroad), I also encourage you reach your own finish line and to be proud of that accomplishment.

Finish Line

Neurofeedback vs. Procrastination

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth. Not going all the way and not starting.” Siddhartha Gautama (on procrastination)

NeurOptimal® neurofeedback has the ability to help people make profound changes in gentleHilly Road and subtle ways.

Frequently a client is interested in neurofeedback to help with a specific issue, such as anxiety Frequently, after the first session, they notice changes. A client may tell me that they’ve slept well for the first time in years. The next session they may mention that they’ve procrastinated about starting (or completing) a project at work (or home) and all of a sudden, they’ve tackled the issue.

Change is often scary. Some people prefer to procrastinate even if that means they will continue to be miserable. Sometimes we feel safer with the known than we do about the unknown.

procrastination1Some people come to neurofeedback because they are obsessed with consumption, whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, sex or shopping. They consume too much in order to fill a void. There’s always a desire for more but this desire can affect how we feel about ourselves. It is wonderful when we notice that we no longer have the desire to eat until we feel sick or buy another article of clothing that we do not need. I love it when a client tells me that they are no longer wrestling with their demons and that they are feeling better about themselves.

Proud3Taking little risks everyday helps to instill a sense of accomplishment and that creates a sense of wellbeing and also confidence. Neurofeedback can with procrastination.

For more information about how neurofeedback can help you, contact me here. I look forward to hearing from you.



Family and Boundaries

This past week many of us had the opportunity (some may use another word) to spend time with our families. Whether we celebrate Easter, Passover, Higan, Noruz or the Spring Solstice, many of us get together this time of year with our families.  In an ideal world, family events are happy occasions. In reality, they are more complicated. Perhaps part of the time spent with one’s family is glorious but some of it may be filled with anxiety and disappointment.

When the majority of the time spent with one’s family brings more heartache than joy, it may be time to reconsider the frequencies of the visits. What happens when it’s time to visit with your extended family and preparing for your trip makes you feel vulnerable rather than excited?


Every spring, Penny (not her real name) travels to the Midwest with her husband and her daughter to celebrate Easter with her mother, father, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Penny is generally a confident and serene woman. However, once she enters the town where she grew up and where her parents still live, she breaks out into hives. Penny’s body is telling her that something is not right as she prepares herself for the jabs about her weight, the teases about having “only” one child and the dinner that generally leads to yelling matches.

Last year Penny finally had enough. She understood that although she may always feel obligated to visit her parents, she actually has a choice. Even if it is our family that makes us feel poorly about ourselves, it is ok not to interact them. In fact, it may be better to set limits. These limits can range from visits every few weeks (instead of everyday) to never. We are practicing self-care and teaching our children that no matter who it is, we do not have to put up with people who are consistently unkind.

Maya Angelou

The great poet and author, Maya Angelou wrote that: “When people show us who they are, believe them the first time.” We may want to see our relatives as kind and interesting but they keep showing us that they are close-minded, unsympathetic and hostile. See them for who they really are and create your own family and celebrate the holidays with them.

Last week, Penny and her new family consisted of her husband, her daughter and their friends. Their Easter celebration was a joyous occasion. Everyone felt heard and loved. They all had a great time and decided to make a tradition it.


Music Has the Power to Heal

It’s the end of March in New York City and everyone seems to be ready for the light and warmth of the sun. It’s dark and it’s cold.  Clients tell me that they’re ready to come out of hibernation. They need a lift, a “pick me up” for the times they’re not getting neurofeedback. The clients who have been coming for neurofeedback for a while have, what I call, “the dark day blues,” much less acutely and much less frequently.

I started thinking about how much I love to hear the music that accompanies the neurofeedback training in my office. I never get tired of hearing the same piece. It’s so relaxing, calming and beautiful. It just makes me feel good. The experience of having a training session is extraordinary. There is absolutely nothing like it. But what other options do people have if they need a “pick me up” and their session isn’t for a few more days?  blue jay

The natural music that many of us take for granted; the songs of the birds, the rustling of the leaves as the squirrels chase each other and hearing children play outside (because the windows are open) are the sounds of everyday life. They are beautiful pieces of music that exist even in New York City. However, these sounds are rarely audible until some time in April.

I was reminded by my good friend and colleague, Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW, of New York Neurofeedback, that listening to up-tempo music can improve one’s mood greatly. Why not put on an up-tempo song and dance around your living room?

Here’s a list of a few songs that always put me in a good mood. I hope they make you smile; take you out of your chair and into a good mood too. Enjoy!


Bill Withers- Lovely Day                       music 3

Colbie Caillat: Brighter Than The Sun

Kelly Clarkson: Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)

Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Stop

Barry White: You’re My First, Last, My Everything


Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

What would it be like to go through your day without feeling stress? Is it impossible? There are people who are so used to feeling stress that they feel more anxious when they are calm. They’re not used to it and it makes them uncomfortable.

Some people walk around every single day “carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders” and they believe that something catastrophic will happen- soon. Do you know anyone like that? weight of the world

Before I worked in the Human Resources department at a financial firm, I coordinated adoptions from Latin America at an adoption agency in New York. Most days at the agency were geared towards getting a child out of a dangerous situation and into a safe and loving home as quickly as possible. Time was of the essence and I was used to feeling a great deal of stress.

At the financial firm, the same feelings permeated the air but the goals were different. I remember working with an employee who was on the verge of being fired and she wanted to take time off for medical reasons. My team had to discuss the relevancy of the medical situation and determine whether or not it warranted time off.  The firm’s medical director had to weigh in along with an on site nurse, the employee’s manager and the managing director of the employee’s department. Additionally, the firm’s legal department had a point of view.  We all spent so much time trying to come to a decision about whether or not the employee actually had a medical condition and if she did, whether or not she was entitled to time off.

If she was entitled to time off, we needed to determine how long she was entitled to take. The concern was that she was trying to prevent herself from getting fired by pretending to be sick. My colleagues and I were trying to do the right thing for her and for the firm but there was an emergency to her request that reminded me of helping children get out of their birth country before the coup took over their government.

anxiety, stress

The level of anxiety we all shared seemed ridiculous and I was having a hard time dealing with the bureaucracy. I kept comparing these meetings to the ones I had at the adoption agency and I couldn’t justify my anxiety, nor could I curtail it. Thankfully, around the same time that I started at the financial firm, a friend introduced me to a specific kind of meditation that teaches ways to harness stress. It is called, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR. On the website for Mindfulness Meditation New York Collaborative it is explained that:

“MBSR uses meditation, yoga and inquiry as a way of training people to relate differently to stresses in their lives and in fact, relate differently to each moment of their lives.  It was originally developed for patients in chronic pain, but has since expanded and been incorporated into the daily lives of ten of thousands of people whether they are dealing with the serious stress of illness or simply the day to day stress which at times seems like it can be too much to handle. (After learning this technique there is) a greater ability to cope more effectively with short and long term stressful situations; an increased ability to relax, lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms; and most importantly a greater energy and enthusiasm for life.”

Once I learned how to be more present and not allow myself to be pulled into the stress that I created around the responsibilities of my job (and in my life), I was able to release tension and be more productive.

We can all learn the tools needed in order to become less stressed. Take a moment several times everyday. Step back and assess each situation from an objective point of view, you may find that your default is to react with stress but you will learn how to harness those negative reactions and be more present. That is one way to reduce the amount of stress in your life.  relaxed


What is the most common question asked when meeting someone new?

It’s generally, “what do you do?” bigstock-Brain-profile-made-by-typograp-32324291

At a party the other day, an old friend came up and asked me, “so what are you doing these days?”

I began with, “I’m still a therapist in private practice and I also do something called, neurofeedback.”

The old friend asked, “is that like biofeedback?”

A new friend, overhearing the conversation asked, “neurowhat?”

I answered them both. “Yes, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. It’s a way to train one’s brain to better deal with life’s stressors. You sit in a comfortable chair in my office with five non-invasive sensors, which are reading the electricity on the surface of your scalp. There is nothing going into your head. You simply sit back and listen to beautiful and relaxing music for 33 minutes. There’s nothing else you have to do. It’s a non-medical way to overcome some of life’s challenges such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, addictions, ADD/ADHD, etc. It’s also great for people who have experience with regular talk therapy and want a change. It’s complementary with talk therapy and it’s often the missing piece for those who have done a lot of therapy and other forms of working on themselves.”

neuroBeing that we were on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I assumed that many people in the room had at some point worked with a talk therapist. My friends were both very interested in learning more about how neurofeedback works and how it would specifically work for them. One mentioned having repetitive thoughts while the other discussed bouts of insomnia. They asked if neurofeedback could help with both of these issues. I told them that it could and that I currently work with clients who are being treated for those exact issues. The clients were responding very well and in a much shorter period than they expected.

What happens is this: The system I use is called, NeurOptimal®. When your brain shows turbulence, the music makes a minute pause. What happens is that the turbulence the system is flagging for the brain is what happens whenever our brain shifts from one state to another. The pause in the music is a wakeup call to the brain to come back to the present and choose whether or not the shift is a good idea. The system flags ANY state shift, not just problematic ones. Our brains prefer to use energy efficiently. Even when the pause in the music is indecipherable, the brain notices it. The decrease in the regular stress creates calmness and increases the ability to return to the present moment.

Eventually there become fewer and fewer episodes of recycling the past and you are allowed to see and respond to what is actually happening in your life rather than react to it out of habit. Also, as the brain gets calmer, the part of the brain that controls relaxation responses becomes more dominant than the part of the brain the guides the “fight or flight response.” Your body then is able to repair itself and become healthier.”

It was exciting for me to share what I know and exciting for my friends to learn about neuro-what? I mean neurofeedback.

If you’re interested in trying neurofeedback, call me at 917-817-8575 or email me.