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My Reading List

I love to read and often recommend books to the people I work with.

Reading can teach us things – opening our minds to new concepts or ideas – but it also offers us a space to connect with ourselves and others.

I’ve already written a few posts about the top books I recommend (see here and here), but I thought I’d do something a little different – sharing my own reading list.

Currently reading

My favorites

On my list

I’ve found some of these through my own interest and an Amazon search, some have been recommended by colleagues and some have even been recommended by clients.

Rotating these more ‘serious’ books with books for pleasure is important, so have a look at my personal favorites here:

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What’s the difference between a psychiatrist, psychologist, and counselor?

I get this question a lot. What is a Counselor? And what’s the difference from a psychologist or psychiatrist?

In Switzerland, counseling is a field which is not yet well known. Counseling has existed in the USA and the U.K. since the 1950’s and is now a widely known and respected practice. However, there is still some confusion between psychiatry, psychology, and counseling.

A psychiatrist in a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat mental illness using a combination of therapy and medication. Often, a psychiatrist will see client issues within a medical framework.

A psychologist is someone with either a doctorate or a master’s degree who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness within a psychological framework.

Similar to this, a counselor has a master’s degree and is trained to help those with everyday life issues within a psycho-social framework. Counseling puts importance on the relationship between the client and the counselor, as well as identifying patterns of behavior, emotions, relationships, stress, anxiety, and other issues. The counselor listens to what the client identifies as being a problem and the two work together as a team. Normally, counselors do not work with severe mental illness – this would be better suited for a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

For more information on counseling in Switzerland, you can reference the Swiss Association of Counseling website (http://www.sgfb.ch/en/). The counseling program which I completed in Switzerland is recognized by this society.

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Resources for Couples

Being in a couple can be complicated. Luckily, there are ways to improve your relationship. By developing awareness of and skills for healthy relationships, you can already start making things better.

Here are some free resources from the Gottman Institute which can be a good starting point:

Here is one more resource, from me (and Dr. Gary Chapman):

These are of course just starting points. If you need support, please contact me to schedule a session.

Update! Gottman Method Couples Therapy (which I use with couples) is now supported by research to help same-sex as well as heterosexual couples. See more on their research here.

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International Issues

Having experienced my own international transitions as well as being a native English speaker makes me an ideal choice for many people seeking counseling in Geneva. Many people moving abroad underestimate the impact such a change can have, and often don’t know where to turn.

I use my understanding of the international experience to help my clients going through the transition of first moving to Geneva, but also those who have been here for a longer time.

Common things I see include:

  • Increased stress and lack of resources
  • Lack of quality relationships & loneliness
  • Insecurities and self-doubt
  • Questions around identity and purpose
  • Changing roles within a couple
  • Onset of physical symptoms, such as stomachaches or muscle tension
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Stress Management

Stress is something that everyone experiences, however at some point in our lives, we will all have difficulties managing it. This can be due to several factors, including facing stresses that we have never experienced before, such as international relocation, being in a stressful job or relationship, getting married, dealing with grief, and many more life experiences.

Stress can also come out in a variety of ways including feeling out of control of your emotions, crying or getting angry easily, creating difficult personal or working relationships, having trouble concentrating, having physical symptoms such as stomachaches or muscle tension, sleep difficulties, and the list goes on.

My job is to help you learn to effectively manage your stress. Together, we will work on techniques to help alleviate stress as well as look for patterns that could have led to the stress in the first place. My goal is to give you real techniques that can fit into your busy life.

I have written a few articles to get you started here and here.

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Relationship Difficulties

We live in relationship with others. Whether it’s with friends or coworkers, romantic partners or family members, having connection is important.

However, at times we all have difficulties managing these relationships.

The most common relationships difficulties I see include:

  • Difficulties finding and keeping friends or romantic partners
  • Being in unsatisfying relationship(s)
  • A need for improved communication and conflict management skills
  • Not finding the support we need

Counseling can help you better manage current relationships as well as support you in finding durable, supportive ones.

Learn more about individual, couples, and group counseling to see what might be right for you.

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Top 5 Books I Recommend (NEW)

A while ago, I posted about my Top 5 Recommended Books for Clients.

Since then, I have discovered new books which I have started recommending to both friends and clients alike. I’ve had all positive reactions to these recommendations, so I thought I’d share:

Where to Draw the Line
Attached
Shame & Guilt
Self-Esteem
7 Principles of Making a Marriage Work

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Burnout

In an interesting report from the RTS last night which explored burnout in Switzerland, psychologists and victims of workplace burnout explored the burnout experience.

I see this in my practice very often. Many of my clients are either on the path to, in the middle of, or are recovering from burnout. Some have even recovered once before but are again facing the same challenge.

Burnout is becoming all too common. Usually linked to the workplace, burnout is “a chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment” (Psychology Today).

People experiencing burnout can have physical symptoms which are often be the first signs of distress. These can include tiredness, insomnia, loss of appetite, chest pains, stomach pain or nausea, headaches, dizziness, and many others. This can be your body signalling to you that something in wrong.

Further, emotions and behaviors can include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, anger, and other emotions which seems to “come out of nowhere”. Work also suffers with the inability to meet deadlines and finish tasks not only because of the feelings you’re experiencing, but also because of unrealistic expectations placed on you.

So what can you do if you’re experiencing burnout?

First, take care of your physical symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what you can do. Next, decide if you want to continue in your current job and in what capacity. Will setting boundaries at work help things, could you work part-time, or do you need to change jobs altogether?

Next, take care of your emotional health. Get help from a professional and get support from friends and family. You will often see your physical symptoms improve after gaining control over your emotions.

Once you’re in a better place physically and mentally, try and figure out what contributed to the burnout. Oftentimes a lack of clear boundaries at work can cause issues. Are you often working more than your 40 hours a week and into the weekends? Answering emails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night? Have you been taking on more tasks than your colleagues and realizing only after that you don’t have enough time to finish them? Although setting boundaries can be scary and difficult, it is necessary and will provide you with a better working environment. To learn more about boundaries, check out this book or research them online. Through the help of a professional, you can also learn more about boundaries, what holds you back from setting them, and how to set meaningful boundaries in your personal and professional life.

Lastly, realize that burnout is not the sign of a weak person. Very often, people experiencing burnout are highly competent professionals who work hard and get results. They often strive for perfection and high standards at work, but at some point lose control over their work and personal lives without realizing it.

My advice would be to know the signs and get help early. Recovery is possible.

 

 

 

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My Expat Story

A few months ago, I did an interview with expatarrivals.com, a site aimed to help smooth the transition for new expats coming to Switzerland. They wanted to know what my transition here was like and how I coped with it.

I’ve hesitated sharing the interview here, as I usually don’t share much about my personal life on my website, but I think it could be helpful for expats in Geneva to know that struggling after the move is completely normal- even I did!

If you or someone you know is having difficulties adjusting to life in the Geneva area, feel free to contact me and check the workshops and groups section of my site for more information on a support group I’ll be starting to help expat women cope with their transitions.

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Top 5 Mental Health Apps

Technology is quite amazing these days, with even phone apps addressing mental health needs. Whether you’re travelling or waiting around for public transportation, they’re accessible!

Here are 5 apps you might want to check out:

Mindshift – for managing anxiety and stress

Headspace – to learn how to apply mindfulness to everyday life

Habitica – a fun way to increase productivity and manage time

Mood tracker – get in touch with and track your emotions

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock – for better sleep

As most of these apps make clear- these are not an alternative to therapy, but merely a tool to be used, possibly in conjunction with therapy. If you try these apps, let me know about your experience!

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Book Review: Year of Yes

In 2013, Shonda Rimes, creator of series such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, realized that she was always saying no. A working mother and a highly creative professional, she told herself she was happy…ish.

She then decided that she would spend an entire year saying yes, especially to the things that scared her. In her words, she was “going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until you have to bury me”.

What ensues is a year of saying yes to scary things –  interviews she would normally have refused, appearances that terrified her, and also saying yes to the things which she didn’t realize she was saying no to – like spending quality time with her children.

Witty and vulnerable, Rimes is able to capture what many of us face daily – saying no to the things that matter while saying yes to the things that don’t. All while channeling Beyoncé.

Check out her powerful Ted Talk as well as her book. A funny, meaningful novel which is easy enough for a summer read.

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Book Review: The Happiness Project

At the beginning of the New Year, I was hearing a lot about The Happiness Project. I went to New York and people were buzzing about it. I saw it in bookstore windows, heard about it on the news and TV talk shows. But what was it? I decided to find out.

A happiness project is “an approach to changing your life… by identifying what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse… then you make the resolutions, then you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness”. Embarking on such a project doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily unhappy, but it’s an approach to getting more out of life, along with more happiness and satisfaction.

Gretchen Rubin starts her book, The Happiness Project, by saying “I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis”… but I was wondering of life “is this it?”.

She then decided to dedicate the next year trying to be happier, all of which she would write about on her blog. She started by doing research on happiness, trying to find out not only what could bring her more joy, but what others had discovered about it. She read books from philosophers, psychologists, and writers all to trying to find a universal ‘formula’ for happiness.

She was confronted with skeptics, including friends, who questioned how women all over the world could relate to an upper-east side, privileged, white woman.

Nonetheless, she made some happiness goals, spreading them throughout the year, breaking them down into smaller parts. Some of these goals included having more energy, appreciating her husband more, spending more quality time with her children, being calmer and less angry, finding hobbies that she loved (and doing them!), reevaluating what friendship meant while creating lasting relationships, contemplating the meaning of life, dabbling in mindfulness, and questioning her attitudes and behaviors. all while smiling more.

I can’t say that I loved the book. As she readily admitted, her perspective was subjective and coming from a certain American social strata. Putting that aside, I think she did make many good points which got me thinking… What is happiness? What does happiness look like to other people? What does happiness look like to me? And what steps should we be making to fulfill our happiness goals?

I think many of us make excuses for why we can’t be happier. We don’t have the time, the money, we have too many other responsibilities, and many people, especially women, think it’s selfish to focus on ourselves as opposed to others. As if we don’t deserve to take time to be happier and take care of ourselves. But if we’re not really enjoying life, what are we doing? And what could we be doing better?

So, at the end of The Happiness Project year, what happened?

Although she couldn’t objectively measure her happiness, she reported feeling happier and smiling more. Thanks to her blog, others reported feeling happier as well after doing their own happiness projects.

And you? What makes you happy? Are you making time for the things you love? How would you know if you were happier? What would that look like? I hope you can explore those possibilities.

For more on starting a happiness project, visit the happiness project website.