Handling Disruptive Events in the Workplace

by Dennis Potter Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Disruptive events are unique in specifics, but often stir up similar reactions among employees. Employees closest to the “epicenter” often have the most intense reactions, while those in circles further removed might have less intense reactions, it is likely the reactions/issues are similar. Being able to anticipate the most common reactions prepares us to provide employees the right handouts and teaching points. Experience has taught me three reactions are universal.

Three Universal Reactions

§   Guilt is usually connected to thoughts employee(s) have about what they should/could/would have done differently to alter or prevent the event. These are usually the result of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” where the person reinterprets their actions knowing the outcome. This is particularly true after a suicide or death of a colleague. It is very destructive and usually inaccurate. A teaching point is to talk about the fact that people are in pain and “wish” the event had not happened. Understanding there is no guarantee anything they could have done differently would have altered the outcome is sometimes helpful.

§  Anger is usually connected to wanting to blame someone or something for the event. If the anger is at the perpetrator, it is probably healthy. The leadership or company is often blamed for not preventing the incident. Anger at God or their spiritual traditions are most common and should be referred back to their spiritual leadership for answers. It is outside our role as interventionists to directly address spiritual issues, except to validate them and state that they are common reactions.

§   Grief after the loss of someone they care about is easy to understand. Disruptive events can trigger a variety of intangible losses. One most common is the loss of sense of personal safety. People think this could happen to me, or my family, or my friends etc. Disruptive events happen because we have no control over them. This temporary feeling of the loss of our illusions of control and safety can be profound. The teaching points here are helping people understand their multiple losses, and that grief is a process they will move through over the next few days. Providing information on understanding they are grieving and things they can do to move through the grieving process is often helpful.

When we are aware of these universal reactions and provide teaching points for them, we help employees understand their reactions, and tap into their natural resiliency and move toward recovery.  This is the crux of helping the employees return to work and return to life.

What suggestions do you give to people to help them return to pre-incident functioning?

Dennis Potter, LMSW, CAADC, ICCS, FAAETS, serves as Manager, Consultant Relations and Training for Crisis Care Network. He is a licensed social worker and certified addiction counselor. Dennis is recognized as a Fellow, by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. He was awarded the ICISF Excellence in Training and Educations Award at the ICISF 2011 World Congress.


Advise | Healing | Mental Health | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Shame | Social Work | Stress | Suicide Bereavement | Suicide Prevention | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Wisdom

The Language of Resilience

by Dr. Les Kertay Sunday, January 17, 2016

The recent Blog, “The Language of Resilience” by Dr. Les Kertay, answers the question what is Critical Incident Response (CIR) for and what is the expected outcome of CIR? Many of the events Critical Incident Response is used for are not typically thought of as a Critical Incident. Thinking in terms of “Critical Incidents” may lead us to assume pathology when the most common outcome to any stressful event is resilience. Dr. Kertay suggests a more accurate term is “Potentially Disruptive Event” as humans are developed to endure stress, manage its effects, and return to life, often more resilient than before. Providing guidance and support to this natural process of resilience is the purview of CIR.

Dr. Les Kertay is a Licensed and Board Certified Clinical Psychologist with extensive experience in mind-body health including disability medicine, chronic pain, and health behaviors as well as being a leader and consultant on strategies to manage workplace absence and a practicing clinician and industry consultant.  Dr. Kertay is currently Chief Medical Officer with R3 Continuum (Crisis Management International, Crisis Care Network, Behavioral Medical Interventions).


Abuse | Mental Health | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Shame | Social Work | Stress | Wisdom

I Want To Switch Therapists, But Don’t Want To Hurt My Therapist’s feelings?

by Aaron Pawelek LICSW Sunday, November 29, 2015

I recently closed my therapy practice in Dallas, TX to relocate to the East Coast to be closer to aging family members. I decided to give my 50 or so active clients 2 months notice to provide ample time for them to prepare and for me to arrange continuity of care. Those 2 months were extraordinary! Because I initiated the ending, I set in motion what therapists call the “termination phase” of therapy. I had told people: “Get ready. We are going to say goodbye”. And we did. What’s extraordinary is that real goodbyes so often never happen for therapists. When clients are either frustrated with their progress or are legitimately ready to end treatment, they either fade away or just disappear.

Here is my advice (It may sound a little harsh, but hear me out): tell us what’s going on, say goodbye, and don’t worry about our feelings. If you’re ready to finish work with us, we will have feelings about it, rest assured. We will miss you! But if we let those feelings cloud our professional judgment, or if we take your departure personally, then we’re not keeping our part of the bargain. Remember, when we agreed to work with you, we agreed to ensure your best interests.

Here’s why I really want you to say goodbye when you’re ready to leave. Goodbyes are hard. They hurt and often bring about profound expressions of sadness and grief. In many ways, this is the essence of psychotherapy: learning how to communicate deep and painful truths in caring ways and developing the courage and willingness to do so. By practicing “goodbyes” in the therapy room, you will learn how to do it successfully in life.

Furthermore, it may be time to switch therapists. If you don’t feel comfortable telling your therapist, then there may be unaddressed issues in the therapeutic alliance. It’s possible these issues—at least your role in them—reflect the very things you are trying to resolve in your personal relationships. By intentionally entering into the termination phase of therapy and saying goodbye, you give yourself and your therapist a chance to explore and resolve these issues, so you don’t carry them into your relationship with your next therapist. Your therapist may also help with a referral to a therapist who may be a better fit for you, but cannot help if he/she does not know.

One more thing—sometimes clients want to switch therapists because the therapy has stagnated or become stuck. Again, bring it to our attention. That may be just what your therapist needs to hear to get the treatment going again. You might find it’s not goodbye after all. Maybe we just needed a nudge!

Aaron Pawelek, LICSW, has been providing psychotherapy to adults, couples, and teens for 10 years. He is a graduate of both the Boston University School of Social Work and the Boston University School of Theology. He is in private practice with the New England Pastoral Institute in Salem, NH. Prior to moving to New England to be closer to aging family members, Aaron was the training director and a staff therapist for the Pastoral Counseling Center of Dallas, TX. Aaron has a variety of clinical interests including working with people with disabilities, adults raised by parents with mental illness or addiction, people in addiction recovery themselves, couples in crisis, and people in the GLBT community. As a pastorally oriented psychotherapist, Aaron helps people integrate their spiritual and religious resources into the therapy process if they wish.


Advise | Anxiety | Healing | Intimacy | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Wisdom

Things Your Therapist Should Never Do

by Bethany Raab Monday, July 6, 2015

You will find all sorts of blogs and checklists out there of what to look for in a therapist. These can be incredibly helpful. However, the DO NOTs of therapy deserve some attention, too.

There are many obvious things a therapist shouldn’t do (see: psych central blog).

Here are some less obvious problems that should raise a red flag.

They fail to seek your informed consent.
Any therapist you see will have you sign a consent form at the beginning of your relationship. This is good, ethical practice. However, they should continually seek your consent as you move forward. Before any exercise, whether it be written, verbal, art or something else, they should check in with you to ensure you’re comfortable with what they are asking. You are always allowed to say no.

They do not ask for feedback from you (or can’t accept it).
Your therapist will be asking about how you are doing and what your experience is with various interventions and conversations. This is good. If they’re not asking, tell them. If they don’t listen, get a new therapist.

Manipulate you into remaining as a client.
Assuming you are attending therapy voluntarily and are not a danger to yourself or others, you have a right to decide who you see for therapy and how long you see them. (Patients in hospitals and in involuntary treatment have rights, too, but that’s a different conversation.) Signing a consent form is not a contract for length of services. You are free to leave whenever you want. If a therapist does not feel like a good fit for you, you can decide to see someone else.

Talk to other people about you.
Your therapist should never talk about your case with anyone. Exceptions do exist to this rule including: you give written permission, the therapist receives a court order, you are suicidal/homicidal or discuss child/elder abuse. This also applies to your written therapy record. If these boundaries are crossed, it is inappropriate and grounds for you to file a complaint against the therapist with their licensing board.

Try to be your friend, business partner or lover.
This is a big no-no. Your therapist is expected to follow the ethics of their profession regarding personal relationships with clients. These rules go something like this: No personal relationship with a current client is ever appropriate. Some professions allow for relationships if your therapy ended 2 years ago. Many professionals err on the side of keeping that boundary in place permanently. If your therapist is making sexual advances, suggesting you grab a drink or asks to borrow money from you, stop seeing them immediately and call the licensing board in your state. This is completely unacceptable behavior.

There are countless wonderful, ethical therapists but there are also a few bad apples. Keep an eye out for these red flags to protect yourself when you see a therapist.

Bethany Raab is a licensed clinical social worker in Denver, Colorado. She owns a private therapy practice where she works with teens, families and young adults.

Surprise! They’re Not Changing. How About You?

by Sherry Katz Friday, June 12, 2015

Is one of your reasons for starting therapy because every approach you’ve tried in a particular relationship increases your frustration, hurt, and sadness?

And after explaining your outlook and reasoning to this person many times, the relationship patterns are still the same?

Therapy will give your sincere and heartfelt effort and concern, a new direction. 

Step One is accepting the profound realization that you are only able to change yourself. 

Despite your many good ideas and earnest care, the other person in the relationship, whether partner, sibling, adult child, any meaningful family member, may not want to understand your point, or want to agree with it.

The deeper problem is not necessarily that you have bad ideas or that the other person is intentionally being difficult.  

The discontent you are facing in the stressed relationship, is a pathway to knowing more about your own standards and satisfactions in relating.

If you are upset because the other person does not accept your suggestions, instead of inwardly disapproving, utilize this feeling of rejection as a sign of how highly you value that your advice is followed. 

If the other person criticizes what you consider key points in your value system, then allow yourself to appreciate that you have a clear value system.

If the other person dismisses your feelings, then this is your moment to be even more aware that your emotions are a way to express yourself.

All of these interactions are painful and tiring to some degree. 

Your reason for talking with a therapist is to stabilize and ground your perspective, believe in your right to be who you are, and strengthen your confidence in handling your part in a relationship that is currently stressed, and any relationship that develops in your world.

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.  www.newviewsfamilytherapy.com

Video Sessions Improve Therapy

by Buck Black Thursday, December 11, 2014

In this age of connectivity, clients expect therapy to be accessible. I continue to see unmet demand for video therapy. Few therapists offer this service which I started doing a few years ago. My clients benefit from video therapy in many ways. I have clients traveling who want to keep their appointments.  I use video to meet with college students who return home for the summer and breaks. I use video to meet with clients during snow days, transportation problems, forgotten appointments (just log-on for a session so the appointment time can still be used) and for those whose illness was contagious, yet they needed their session because they felt so bad, both mentally and physically. I also have business people who want their session, but cannot afford the travel time on account of their busy schedule.

It is difficult for rural residents to get services.  Video sessions make this easier.  Rural clients, however, often do not have a fast enough internet connection, but this will improve in time.  Some rural clients have a high quality cell signal, which allows them to hold a session, but this cuts into their data allotment. I have had success relying on a phone call for the audio and tolerating a lower quality video feed.

In my experience offering the option for video sessions helps me give my clients a higher level of care and means my clients are more likely to keep their appointments. If the client is comfortable with the technology, it works well. If their internet connection goes out, then the phone is a backup. There are many clients not comfortable with video sessions and choose to only come to the office. This is OK too. Over time I believe more people will be comfortable with video sessions. 

There are some situations where video sessions are not appropriate. Examples include clients who pose a high risk, such as homicidal and/or suicidal ideation, psychosis, or who simply need a more intense services.  I never use video sessions with someone who is court ordered or having problems with denial. I don’t feel video sessions are powerful enough in this situation.  However, if someone is looking to better themselves and is higher functioning, video sessions are often ideal.

Remember, it is important for both therapist and client to have a history of using video conferencing services and have quality internet, a high quality router and computer, and good lighting. We need to ensure the technology adds to the therapy experience.

Therapy must embrace technology to remain relevant and to help clients.  If licensed therapists do not embrace video therapy, those in need of therapy will seek less qualified people who are using video services.  Lets not let our profession be left behind.

Buck Black LCSW, CST is a therapist who has several years of experience using video conferencing with clients to address anger, stress, and relationship issues.  Therapy appointments are also available at his office. His information is at www.BuckBlack.com Follow him on twitter @BuckBlack

Black and White Thinking

by Julie Davis Sunday, September 21, 2014

Believing “black and white” (always/never/all/nothing) thoughts about yourself and others can trigger feelings and actions that harm health, relationships, productivity, and emotional stability: 




I always screw up

Ashamed, angry, hopeless, defeated

Beat self up, medicate,   screw up more, quit,       isolate

He never helps around the house

Angry, resentful, helpless, victim,

Nag, control, complain,       fix, explain, defend, manipulate, fight

All the good jobs are taken

Hopeless, scared, angry

Give up, settle,         medicate, complain

There’s nothing I can do about it

Powerless, afraid, angry

Give in, quit, seethe,        hide,

Over time, black and white thinking can lead to depression, obsessions, addiction, panic, rage, and trauma.  Thus, it is important to “hold every thought captive!” This week, I invite you to catch your black/white thinking and reframe it in a way that leaves you feeling calm, open, flexible:





I always screw up

Sometimes I blow it. 

Humble, interested, motivated

Improve skills,     try again.

He never helps around the house

Sometimes he forgets/puts things off. 

Curious, collaborative

Ask for clarity; discuss and       set  boundaries.

All the good jobs are taken

Many good jobs are taken.   

Disappointed yet determined, creative

Keep looking.     Ask for help.

There’s nothing I can do about it

There is something I can do. 

Curious, creative, collaborative

Get wise advice. Ask for help. 

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to: julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.


The Story Behind The Story

by Julie Davis Monday, July 14, 2014


Consider this week that everything coming at you - anger, fear, judgment, criticism, avoidance - isn't personal; that it has a story behind it: 

-Spouse's anger might really be fear about his job.

-Child's resistance might actually be a natural development towards individuation.

-Boss's criticism might be rooted in his fear of being criticized by his boss. 

-Neighbor's avoidance of your "dog poop" letter might be he's busy taking care of sick grandma.


The only way to know is to ask.  This week - instead of getting defensive, offended, scared, angry - ask for the story behind the story.


Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to: julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.


Anxiety | Couples | Healing | Intimacy | marriage | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Social Work | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy

How to "Shop" for Your Therapist

by Jake Jacobsen Monday, June 16, 2014

How can I "shop" for a therapist and what are the essential qualities of a good therapeutic relationship?

These questions go hand in hand, although they are different in content. First, ask yourself: Do you feel more comfortable talking with a male or female therapist? Is it important to you if the therapist is heterosexual or openly gay or lesbian? Do you need individual therapy, couples, family, or group therapy? Are you looking for a structured therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy where you are expected to do homework addressing your problems or do you want a therapy that uses a more relational method?

You should be clear about all of these questions when shopping for a therapist. If, however, you are not clear about what you need, that’s OK too. Start the ball rolling by going to a therapist that has some of what you want. For example someone might choose to work with an openly lesbian therapist that specializes in substance abuse. Once in therapy, the therapist can further assess if the client needs additional help, such as, weekly AA meetings or harm reduction as the main treatment method in the therapy. 

During the first session with a therapist, you will experience first hand how the therapist forms a good therapeutic relationship (or not) by how they interact with you. In that initial session, you can start by asking what the letters after their name signify, and what their training was in psychology. For example: an LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker that was trained in psychology, and psychotherapy techniques. An ATR is a registered art therapist that was trained in the psychology of imagery, psychotherapy, and the creative art process to help people express their emotions. If the therapist isn’t forth coming answering these questions or if the interactions feel too awkward or it just doesn’t feel like a good fit, then that therapist is probably not right for you. I often suggest clients initially come for three sessions to assess the fit. Usually, people know within the first or second session if it feels like a good fit. People are often anxious in the first session so it can be difficult to make an accurate assessment then.

The essential qualities for a good therapeutic relationship are a therapist’s compassionate warmth, professionalism, and transparency with how they are working with you. You want a therapist to be someone with whom you feel you can say whatever is on your mind without feeling judged or pathologized for expressing what you think and feel. A therapist is someone with whom you can feel heard, validated, and challenged by in a compassionately thoughtful way.

Jake H Jacobsen, ATR, LCSW works in Portland, Oregon specializing in working with the LGBTQ community, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Jake uses both online (Skype) therapy, and in-office therapy.  For more information visit http://jakehjacobsen.wix.com/therapyinportland



Anxiety | Intimacy | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Social Work | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Treatment Modalities

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 cherstinane@readwritetechnology.com.


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