Tools I Recommend
These are some of the evidence-based tools I use in my practice and/or have used personally to overcome my own challenges.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a kind of therapy that arose out of a school of psychology called “behaviorism”. Rather than focus on emotions or experiences behaviorists focus on, perhaps not surprisingly, behavior. CBT looks at a person’s thoughts as behaviors that induce feelings and focuses on the cognitive distortions that create negative thoughts. CBT is sometimes wrongly interpreted as “positive thinking” but CBT is not about simply replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Instead CBT asks users to try and get their thinking to be as realistic as possible. CBT is highly supported by evidence and works for a variety of issues and is used extensively. I had the good fortune of being able to take advanced training in CBT with Dr. David Burns the author of the first layperson’s guide to CBT “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy”. For me, as for a lot of people, CBT was far more effective than medications and other forms of therapy in helping me overcome my own long-term struggles with anxiety and depression.
Shame Resiliency Theory
Shame Resiliency Theory is a model introduced by Dr. Brene Brown based on her research on shame. What emerged from a years-long qualitative research process was a great deal of information about how shame affects us and the fact that some people are more “shame resilient” than others. She calls them “whole hearted” people and she learned these folks are more resilient to shame because they naturally have some skills the rest of us can learn. Dr. Brown has written several books on these topics and done two excellent TED talks. One called the Power of Vulnerability and the other called Listening to Shame. I have been lucky enough to take the on-line skill building trainings she has offered over the years and it has changed me professionally and personally.
Behavior Change Models
Social scientists describe models for how people change and what motivates them. In part because of the challenges I have faced I have always been drawn to this aspect of my field. Harm Reduction is not itself a behavior change model but rather a philosophy. However many harm reduction interventions are based on a behavior change model called the Transtheorethical Model of Behavior Change or “Stages and Processes of Change”– the work of James Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente. They discovered that people progress through various stages toward lasting change and found that that progression can be influenced by cognitive and behavioral processes that encourage change and movement from one stage to the next. This model is one of the most widely used models in public health and has personally helped me change many behaviors.
Motivational Interviewing is the primary modality I use for my coaching practice. It helps folks move toward wellness by encouraging “change talk” and helping folks resolve ambiguity about change. Developed by Bill Miller and Stephen Rollnick in the 1990’s MI was originally used with alcoholics. MI has proven to be successful with many different kinds of people, is robustly supported by evidence and is currently used in a broad variety of settings.
Organizations I Have Worked With
- AIDS United
- Bay Area Community Health
- Behavioral Health System Baltimore
- Berkeley Free Clinic
- Chicago Recovery Alliance
- The Comer Family Foundation
- The Dave Purchase Project/NASEN
- Drug Policy Alliance
- Evergreen Health Services
- Harm Reduction Michigan
- Hotties of Harm Reduction
- Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction
- Maryland Harm Reduction Training Institute
Places to Go for More Information and Help
These sites are cherry picked from years of looking for support and information for folks I have served, my loved ones and myself. I love these sites because they are packed with amazing information and/or information that is hard to find and/or are excellent communities of support. This is not a comprehensive list of sites related to these topics but these sites are amazing!
Body Positivity and Health
Body shame is one of the most painful kinds of shame because it is so personal. But, like most things that involve shaming people into personal change, it doesn’t work. As a supporter of things that do I am a huge supporter of the Health At Every Size which is based on the ideas that people can be more or less healthy at any size and lauds any effort to increase overall fitness and health. If you are looking for more information on this essential topic check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health– ASDAH which is an association of professionals committed to the HAES model and I am a member.
Burn-Out and Vicarious Trauma
As someone who experienced intense vicarious trauma and burn-out their prevention is one of my passions. Most people are subject to burn-out—that is compounded stress from working too much and other life stress. Vicarious trauma, on the other hand, is the experience of picking up on the experiences of trauma due to empathetically bearing witness to it and having PTSD-like symptoms as a result. VT is something that is increasingly recognized as common and specific to helping professionals. The Compassion Fatigue Project is trying to raise awareness about these important issues. If you need immediate support or information, check out the amazing Tend Academy.
Incarcerated Folks and Their Families
As the family member of an incarcerated person I understand how hard it can be to find people who can relate or decent information about your situation. For support and information about particular institutions or processes check out Prison Talk. To support an amazing organization working diligently to protect the civil liberties of folks who are incarcerated check out Prison Legal News.
There are thousands of websites dedicated to mental health and wellness. One of my favorites, which is a little harder to find, is Crazy Meds. Crazy Meds is an extensive website dedicated to the medications often given to those suffering mental illness. It is an excellent combination of good science and the personal experiences of folks who actually use those meds. I am also a big fan of the Icarus Project which is a support network and education project by and for folks who struggle with their mental health who don’t like traditional mental health care. Neither of these sites has all the information you might need so in addition to a variety of commercial sites like PsychCentral I highly recommend non-commercial sites like Helpguide, government sites like the National Institute of Mental Health and consumer advocate sites like the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse.
Safer Drug Use and Care
There are lot of great sites with information on safer drug use on the internet but one of my favorites is the Vaults of Erowid. Erowid is essentially the Wikipedia of drugs and contains indexed information and experiences on literally every inebriant currently known. Another is Blue Light; a message forum-based information sharing platform by and for drug users. Not all of the information there is always entirely accurate but if you want to hear folk’s real-world experience with drugs, drug safety or drug using culture this is a good site.
If you are unhappy with your use and are interested in changing your relationship with drugs or alcohol there are a ton of traditional providers out there, but I know that, though they work for some, traditional 12-step programs are not for many. Some alternatives include the Center for Optimal Living. The Center provide Integrative Harm Reduction Therapy. Another great alternative is the Center for Harm Reduction Therapy which practices harm reduction based drug and alcohol therapy. In addition to professional services there are also lesser known self-help organizations like Moderation Management, LifeRing, Secular Recovery and Women for Sobriety that look at substance misuse from different perspectives and can be very useful.
Sexual wellbeing is essential for human well-being and yet it is often one of the most painful aspects of many people’s lives because shame and fear often make it impossible for us to experience our sexual bliss. Having been through this myself I know how hard this struggle can be. For some of the best, least judgmental sexual health and sexuality information give the nice volunteers at San Francisco Sex Information a call or post your question on their website. The Center for Sex and Culture is also a great organization and a good jumping off place for all kinds of sex-positive information. If you are open to an adult resource that really does have good information on kink check out FetLife. If you want a kink or poly aware therapist or other service providers check out the KAP Guide. If you are polyamorous or looking for information on polyamory check out More Than Two. If you are LGBTQ or trying to figure that out there are lots of good resources for information but of you need support or are being bullied the Trevor Project is a great resource. Finally, if you are questioning your gender or already know you are trans and/or genderqueer Transgender Pulse offers a broad array of resources including resource listings and support forums.
I am extremely sensitive to the impact of trauma on individuals and whole communities and all of my services are trauma-informed. One of the best places on the internet that I found for support as an individual survivor was Pandora’s Place which is an amazing support community for survivors of violence. In addition to Pandy’s there is also RAINN who run the National Sexual Assault Hotline and the National Domestic Violence Hotline responds to intimate partner violence of all kinds. Men can sometimes have particular difficulty recovering from trauma and thus MaleSurvivor is invaluable. If you are LGBTQ and dealing with any kind of violence check out CUAV. For the victims of systemic violence, genocide and torture start with the Center for Victims of Torture. Helpguide also has excellent information on recovering from trauma.