The Drawbacks of Online Scheduling

by Sherry Katz Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The obvious value of online scheduling is efficiency and convenience.  Therapist and patient do not need to talk with each other to schedule their appointments.

Since our entire method of professionally offering service relies on talking to people, what, if any, areas of our work are affected by utilizing online appointment scheduling? 

The initial phone contact from the patient was once referred to as an “intake”.  

This was a chance for the therapist to assess an overview of the case and whether they or their agency, would be able to handle the level of care required.

This was also a way for a prospective patient to get a firsthand feel of working with either the particular therapist or the overall view of how the agency would address their matter.

The question for therapists to consider is whether the demographic and “check the box” information of online scheduling, is an equal substitute for a phone assessment intake.

Maybe in fact the first in person session has become the former phone intake. 

Only now we have a hopeful new patient sitting in front of us who may not be a good fit for the type of therapy work we do.

What if, when scheduling an initial appointment, instead of prioritizing time efficiency and convenience only, we limit our online scheduling gadgets to situations which do not actively require our professional skills?

Sherry Katz, LCSW is clinically trained in systems relational therapy, and practices marriage and family therapy in her solo practice located in Ridgewood, NJ.  Comments and questions are welcome

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Advise | Anxiety | Mental Health | Self-Awareness | Social Work | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Video Therapy | Wisdom

Are You Serious! I can be normal….? STRESS!

by Cheryl Johnson Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HelpPRO brings you the final in our Jan/Feb series of practical tips and suggestions from Cheryl Johnson, certified WRAP and NAMI instructor, to help people with mental health issues and all of us, cope with and rise above challenges. Cheryl suggests lifestyle choices we control.

Stress is one of the primary 'triggers' for people who deal with mental health issues.  If our lives were stress free we may not have the preponderance of mental health challenges we face.  Understanding and managing stress is key to managing mental health issues.

The Mayo Clinic has a great tool to help you understand and learn more about your stress triggers.   Normal, everyday stress may help motivate us to find a good job, support our families, eat healthy, and exercise.  However, everyday stress often builds up and turns into chronic stress which feeds mental health symptoms.  Make a list of the top 10 issues you face right now. 











Circle the issues above that are external exasperations. Check those issues that are within your control.

Are any of your top 10 issues internal irritations?  Please list them below.

The good news is we have the ability to control our thoughts when we manage our mental health issues by caring for ourselves both physically and emotionally and taking medication (where appropriate). The bad news is our fears, attitudes and expectations have been our companions for a long time and it is not easy to change.

Here are some simple stress relievers to help you manage stress more effectively.






Deep Breathing

Spending time with friends and loved ones


Learn more about stress relievers here and relax your way to positive mental and emotional health!

Cheryl Johnson is a certified NAMI and WRAP instructor and regularly teaches courses that provide families and individuals who face mental health challenges information to help them lead full and satisfying lives. To get more information on Cheryl’s work or programs you can be in touch with Cheryl at

Are You Serious! I can be normal….? Choose Your Food. Choose Your Mood!

by Cheryl Johnson Thursday, January 30, 2014

To help people with mental health issues and their families and all of us for that matter, cope with and rise above challenges, HelpPRO brings you this Jan/Feb series of practical tips and suggestions from certified WRAP and NAMI instructor, Cheryl Johnson. Cheryl “connects the dots” between lifestyle choices we control and our ability to live a ‘normal’ life. Explore your options below and these next few weeks with the HelpPRO Blog and Cheryl.

It’s no secret food affects your mood.  Skip a meal and you feel sluggish and may get a headache.  But can food actually make you more positive and upbeat?  There is growing evidence certain foods can improve your mood.  Food is not a cure or a substitute for medication for diagnosed mood disorders, but it can serve as another tool to keep your perspective bright.  Here are some simple suggestions, but if you do research on your own, there is a wealth of information on foods to improve your mood.

Carbs – those evil carbs that make you gain weight and are not healthy.  Not necessarily.  Good carbs contribute to serotonin production, the calming, feel good brain chemical that can help alleviate depression.  (

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – fish, flaxseed and walnuts are rich in Omega-3 and also help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.  Fish is a good mood food!  Personally I like walnuts, but moderation is important.  Walnuts can contribute to weight gain, another factor that may contribute to a sour mood. (

Vitamin D – Plenty of sunshine can improve mood.  Get outside, enjoy the sun and eat food rich in vitamin D.  But keep in mind that without K vitamins – vitamin D has limited effect on mood.  (

Chocolate and Caffeine – The milk chocolate many of us love only has minimal impact on mood.  The best chocolate for mood is more than 50% cocoa and the higher the better.  Cocoa rich chocolate is an acquired taste so give it a chance and enjoy the added benefit of a calmer and more relaxed mood.  (  And what about caffeine?  Moderation is best.  Caffeine may affect sleep and lack of sleep can affect mood, but a cup or two of coffee will not hurt and may help perk you up and focus to get your work done contributing to a good mood…. 

Take time to learn more at the links provided (or any others) or talk to your doctor and nutritionist. 

Focus on good mood food! 

Cheryl Johnson is a certified NAMI and WRAP instructor and regularly teaches courses that provide families and individuals who face mental health challenges information to help them lead full and satisfying lives. To get more information on Cheryl’s work or programs you can be in touch with Cheryl at


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Mental Health | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Social Work | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Treatment Modalities | Mood

Eating Disorders Triggered by the Holidays

by Janine Vlassakis Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Believe you can and you're halfway there.                                   

Theodore Roosevelt 

The “most wonderful time of the year” can be tough for those suffering from an eating disorder. The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful with so much focus placed on food in social environments.  As a result many, and especially those with eating disorders, become anxious, upset or engage in disordered eating behaviors to attempt to mitigate their anxiety.  Here are suggestions to get through the holidays:

·          Remind yourself or your clients of common self-soothing practices and avoid dangerous coping mechanisms. 

·           Identify or encourage yourself or your client to identify what is “happy” about the holidays.  That simple reminder can help focus on the positive aspects of the season.

·          Families can play an integral part in helping the holidays be joyful. Remind your family or your clients’ family what a trying time this may be.  While food is an inherent part of most events during the holidays, families can help diffuse the focus by planning activities such as a craft or family game to focus on as a distraction. 

·          Remind your family or your client’s family that discussing your appearance may do more harm than good.  Help close family understand that statements such as, “you look so much better!” can translate to “I look fat” in your or your client’s mind.  Ask family to make other family members aware as well, so time with family can be remembered as positive rather than triggering negative emotions. 

·          If you or your client is taking a break from treatment over the holidays, be sure to address any concerns about being away and social situations.  Be sure to strategize and discuss skills to continue recovery. 

·          Arrange a time to start back into therapy after the holiday to continue treatment in the New Year.

·          Be mindful and encourage clients to be mindful of the positives of this time of year.  Focus on time spent with people supportive in recovery, and to create new happy memories to reflect upon next year.

Janine Vlassakis, M.Ed. is the Mid-Atlantic Professional Relations Coordinator for the Cambridge Eating Disorder Center.  Her role at CEDC is to provide clinicians and other professionals with information about the levels of care which CEDC offers.  In addition, with her background in counseling and education, she speaks regarding various topics relating to the complexity and treatment of Eating Disorders.  


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relationships, friendships | Self-Care | Social Work | Treatment Modalities

Suicide Prevention Blog Series: Clinical Tip #2

by Staff and Faculty of the QPR Institute Saturday, October 26, 2013


In honor of the launch of the HelpPRO Suicide Prevention Therapist Finder (see Press Releasewe bring you this five part series of clinical tips with the most up to date research and thinking on suicide prevention.  

Paul Quinnett, PhD, President and CEO, The QPR Institute, Inc, says 22 veterans will take their own lives today.  So will someone's daughter, a brother, a co-worker, and far too many working men and grandfathers.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in just one day, more then 105 of our fellow Americans will die by suicide.  Perhaps this clinical tip will save just one.

Clinical Tip #2 -- Documenting Reasons to NOT Hospitalize

When deciding not to hospitalize a patient at risk for suicide, it is important that the clinician conduct a risk-benefit analysis.  The reasons for hospitalization may include the relative assurance of a safer, more controlled environment, a beneficial milieu, multidisciplinary staff evaluation, initiation of stabilizing medications, etc.  The reasons not to hospitalize a suicidal person might include potential loss of self-esteem, stigmatization, risk of losing a job, fostering unwanted dependency, failure to benefit from prior hospitalizations, etc.  When confronted with a possible hospitalization, the patient may also express a willingness to participate in outpatient treatment and adhere to a medication regimen. 

Whatever your reasons to not hospitalize a consumer who has expressed suicidal ideations, prior plans or suicide attempts, it is strongly recommended that the primary care provider seek consultation and/or supervision regarding the decision and to carefully document the reasons for this decision.  In a world of increasing litigation for suicide malpractice, and if a bad outcome is experienced, an uniformed jury will need to be convinced that 1) you thought the problem through, 2) you weighed the risks and benefits carefully with the patient and his or her family, and 3) you took a reasonable and prudent course of action.

The QPR Institute ( provides Online Advanced Suicide Prevention Courses for a wide range of professionals including: Mental health professionals, school counselors, crisis line workers, substance abuse professionals, EMS/firefighters, law enforcement, primary care providers, nurses and correctional workers.

For more information please visit our full library of advanced courses!


Paul Quinnett, PhD., Founder & CEO QPR Institute,


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Self-Care | Social Work | Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention | Treatment Modalities

A Dream Come True

by William L. Blout LICSW Monday, September 9, 2013

We founded HelpPRO on a simple dream: “Everyone should be able to find needed mental health services quickly and easily.” We believed that a dedicated group of people and technology offered the possibility that this dream could become a reality.

In1998, a few years into the development of HelpPRO, I found out about the tragic suicide of the publisher of a local newspaper.

Suffering from severe depression, Timothy Hogan tried in vain to find a therapist who could help. He called a Massachusetts professional association referral line, his insurance company and a local hospital but instead of help, he encountered frustration.

In the end, Mr. Hogan wrote in his suicide note: “My only hope is that my death will awaken the healthcare community and lives will be saved.”

Thanks to 500 HelpPRO therapists who already joined, on September 10th, Suicide Prevention Day, we will launch the first Suicide Prevention Therapist Finder.

And the staff in 160 crisis centers nationwide will use this finder as a resource for people calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Mr. Hogan, we heard you.  

In 1995 Bill founded HelpNet, Inc. and developed HelpPRO Therapist Finder at Bill is an active advocate for mental health services in his community in Lexington, MA. Bill served as chair of the Lexington Human Services Committee and was a founding member of the Lexington Youth Services Council. Bill is a founder, past president, and clinical consultant with Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS), a walk-in adolescent crisis counseling service that began in 2011. From 1978-1994 Bill was the Director of RePlace, Inc., a community-based,  adolescent and family counseling center in Lexington. Bill also maintains a part-time mediation and clinical practice.


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Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention

Will a marriage counselor tell me my partner is “right” and I’m “wrong”?

by Anita M. O'Donnell Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Couples counseling requires a balancing act in order to work well. If one person feels slighted or picked upon, the overall work is compromised. You don’t want to feel that the person who is supposed to be helping you is siding with your partner.

Typically, the subject that your partner and you disagree on feels crucial. Both people are bringing strong emotions to the discussion. For example, if you’re arguing about the frequency of sexual intimacy, one partner may feel very strongly that sex isn’t important enough to the other partner. This partner may feel rejected and undesirable as a result. The partner who looks like he/she is avoiding sex might be experiencing increased stress in daily life and may feel overwhelmed generally. The emotions this partner holds on a day-to-day basis can be debilitating. Is one person “right” and the other person “wrong”? No.

Both people are affected negatively by this disconnect in the relationship. The counselor might want them to talk to each other in the counseling session about their feelings on the topic, to explore the significance of sex, perhaps to even try some problem-solving around this subject. The counselor might help the couple build upon their knowledge of each other and their friendship. The relationship may exhibit other issues that could lead the counselor to work with the couple in building specific skills to improve the relationship. Additionally, do other factors exist that affect the sexual aspect of their relationship—medical problems, substance abuse, depression? These factors would need to be addressed as well.

In most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” person. Counselors can look at the process of how the couple relates. Counselors can help couples focus on resolvable issues, rather than perpetual issues. Counselors can help couples learn new skills and improve upon existing skills.

Counselors that help couples transform how they relate to each other, stand a great chance of helping couples gain the knowledge to improve their relationship and love fully.

Anita M. O’Donnell, M.Ed., LPCMH, NCC provides individual and couples counseling in Wilmington, Delaware through her company SuccessWorks Unlimited, Inc. She also offers telephonic and face-to-face coaching. Ms. O’Donnell earned her M.Ed. from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1991. You can follow her at and through her website

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marriage | Therapeutic Relationship

Friendship, Love and Marriage

by Gil Shepard Thursday, April 18, 2013


When someone says, “She (or he) is just a friend,” this generally means the relationship is not romantic, not sexual and not too intimate. It is also understood to mean, “You need not take this too seriously.”

On the other hand we sometimes hear someone say in a reverent way about a spouse, or a partner, “He (or she) is my best friend.” This is saying, “Yes, lots of people are married, lots of people have sex and live together, but what we share is a special trust, support and a rich love.”

What does it take to have this rich enviable friendship? For a start it takes risking being open about one’s feelings, being gently honest about what one thinks and does, being able to deal with disagreements in a relatively calm manner and being able to negotiate differences.

Unfortunately these skills are rarely taught in childhood. Instead many of us learned not to trust because we found caregivers not safe, not trustworthy and it was not smart to trust. Suspicion and fear are often survival skills in childhood but as an adult they can impede love. To learn how to be a true friend and how to choose someone trustworthy may take relearning in a safe environment.

In effective relationship therapy you may learn techniques, like how to let another person know that you heard what they said by repeating what you think you heard back to them and checking to see if you are correct. You may learn certain "no-no's" like telling someone they "should" do or be a different way. That is a sure way to create distance in a relationship very quickly, almost as fast as by telling someone they are stupid. These things certainly do not gain intimacy.

But most effective may be observing the therapist's style and emotional tone. Or you may notice that the therapist may see things very differently from the way you have seen them and wonder what he sees that you don't. You may explore why your partner's comments are so upsetting to you. What does it remind you of in your history? It can be very helpful to have a wise and experienced guide to do this and feel safe.



Gil Shepard is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Walnut Creek, California


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Social Work | Therapeutic Relationship | relationships, friendships | marriage

Does Your Therapist Like You? One Therapist's Perspective

by Lynn R. Zakeri Tuesday, February 22, 2011

William Blake - Friendship

Most professionals in the helping profession chose their job purposefully.  We enjoy helping, listening, and problem solving.  I found an online quiz that supposedly determines if one would make a good therapist.  It asked questions about one’s understanding, ability to help others control emotions, make decisions, give feedback and read social cues.  These are definitely telling questions, but is there more to it?  Do therapists ever think of their clients as more than a job?  Do clients feel that they are genuinely liked?  I’ve written previously about the chemistry one must have with their therapist.  That chemistry can go both ways.

Are there clients I particularly enjoy seeing?  Yes.  Is it because they are nice?  Sure, they are nice.  But it is more their motivation to work during our sessions.  As a therapist, I am easy to please:  Show up for our scheduled appointments, call if you can’t or are running late, and then use your time well.  However, that doesn’t mean I “like” you any less if you don’t do these things.  I care about my clients.  I like them too.  Some I can say I really like, especially after having known them for many years.  But let’s be honest.  It is a one-sided relationship.  They may leave a session feeling better than ever, and I am fulfilled knowing together we worked hard, but while they may ponder our work well after the session is over, I am completely focused on my next client.

Many clients come into our session with a list of topics they want to discuss and work on.  But what is he or she feeling when they leave?  Some of my clients probably feel that I am proud of them based on our talk and the progress they have made, and that feeling may transfer to feeling like they pleased me and that they did well.  They leave with a smiling “thank you so much” and will sometimes tell me they repeated some of our conversation with their loved ones.  Feeling liked is part of that along with feeling accepted and cared for.   I have never been asked the question during therapy “do you like me”, but I confidently believe my clients would all say that I genuinely do.

Sometimes a client’s issue might be insecurities and that will transfer over to our relationship as well.  A client may leave wondering if he or she pleased me and answered “correctly” instead of processing situations through their own glasses (as opposed to mine).  Once confidence is built, it is my hope that their habit of changing behaviors to please me will become pleasing to themselves.

Some therapists say it is too draining to think about work when not working.  I can’t help but brainstorm and process throughout my days.  Is it draining?  Possibly.  But again, doing a good job is fulfilling.  I think 100% of my clients would tell you that not only do I like them, but that I like them best.  And for that 45-50 minute session, I do.

Lynn Zakeri


Lynn R. Zakeri is a licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Northfield and Skolie, Illinois. For more information view Lynn's website at

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