How to Get Through Mother’s Day When You’re Dreading It

Woman in blue tam leaning on her arm with blue teacup and book, looking sad. Photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on

Mother’s Day got you down? Or maybe it’s her birthday. Or Christmas. Thanksgiving. The last day of school. Father’s Day is the one that gets me weepy and blue. Certain anniversaries? Please. Whatever your reason, whatever the season, holidays and special occasions can be mental health challenges, even in the best of times. Not to mention the period before said occasion, when the anticipation and dread can build to almost unbearable levels.

What to do about holiday Blues

There are 3 approaches you can use to help you get through the day or the season in good shape.

1. Ignore and avoid. Sometimes this is possible. Leave town. Distract yourself with a shopping trip. Get involved in a community event. Volunteer and help someone less fortunate. When it isn’t possible, though, you may need a stronger plan.

2. Minimize exposure. This may involve getting off social media, TV and radio. Avoiding stores that place the music and display the trappings. But you may have to tolerate some exposure, in which case, it’s good to have an even stronger plan.

3. Remake the day into what you need it to be—or not be. This strategy involves doing some self-examination so that you understand not only what you are feeling, but also what you need in terms of self-care in order to get to the other side of the occasion in good shape.

Some examples of this would be celebrating an alternative event or sentiment, one that matters but that doesn’t cause pain. Instead of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, how about celebrating you as a daughter or a son? Or celebrating your own children? Or celebrating someone else’s parent.

Other thing that fits into the category of remaking the day is to make it a self-care day. Take your inner child on an adventure. Request no gifts. Arrive late and leave early. Bring an ally. 

The point is to examine what will make your mind, body and spirit thrive. That usually involves looking at unhealthy habits and making an effort to substitute something less destructive, facing the “shoulds” and the guilt of the day and reinventing your reality based on your true experience, and learning some better ways to manage your energy.

If the suggestions above sound like something you’d like to explore further, you’re in luck. Because I’ve just completed my Holiday and Special Occasion Survival Playbook with people like you (me, us) in mind.

I am gifting this to you as a commemoration of all the special days when other people celebrate, but you or I, for our own valid reasons, cannot or do not.

Get your free copy of the Holiday and Special Occasion Survival Playbook!

Feeling Suicidal?

Help is available. Talk to someone. Call 988.

Check out Lifeline for more information.

When Your Client Is Silent. Don’t Panic! Try Therapeutic Writing.

Is it down to making faces?

It happens: Your session begins in the usual way, either sitting in expectant silence, or posing an open-ended question. Your client looks at you blankly and says, “I really don’t have much going on today.”

You ask a few more pointed questions. No, everything’s going pretty well, actually. Yeah, feeling pretty good. 

Great. Session over? Time to talk sports? Share recipes? Therapist tap dance? 

Yikes, you think, so this is how it ends. There is an actual end to talking. Time to sign up for electrician school.

Yeah, no. First of all, yay, that there are no big fires brewing and your client sits in relative serenity before you. Secondly, go with it. Take whatever comes up, including “nothing” and go with it.

“No kidding, how does that feel?”

“Wow, tell me more.”

Perhaps because I’ve been a reticent, shy speaker at times in my life, I don’t freak out when clients have “nothing” to say. I put “nothing” in quotes because just because there are no immediate needs crowding through the doorway of the mouth to get out into broad daylight where they can be tended to doesn’t mean there are no needs and that the client is actually empty. 

And maybe because I’ve always found creativity a soothing and familiar backdoor to my psyche, I have naturally gravitated toward bringing that into my sessions with clients. Don’t forget, the back door is the one that leads to the kitchen table, where there’s a big slice of apple pie, or where the bills are piled up, several months behind, or where the report card landed when it came home from school. The back door is where it’s at.

So use the back door if that’s the one that’s open.

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can always invite your client to draw or collage. (Be sure to your copy of 40 Art Prompts for Therapy.)

Or, you could do a directed writing exercise.

The Internal Weather Report and the Care Label exercises are my favorite creative writing tools for therapy. They also work in group settings, where group members enjoy hearing other people’s ideas, and often play off of one another in collaborative ways.

How to use writing in therapy

Like all new things you try in your sessions, introducing writing can be intimidating. Just remember to treat it like everything else your client shares with you—and follow these few guidelines to have a successful therapeutic writing experience.

  1. Try it yourself first. Take one of the writing prompts, set a timer, give the instruction and start writing. Do this as many times as it takes for you to feel you’ve had experience with this modality. Notice all the emotions associated with writing for therapy: how much resistance or eagerness comes up, how it feels doing it, how it feels to contemplate sharing it. 
  2. Try reading it aloud, as you will request your clients do. See how that feels. What boundaries would you need to place around this? (I cover this in 40 Writing Prompts for Therapy.)
  3. Remember that writing can bring out more sensitive material than the client intends, surprising both of you.
  4. Writing can be freeing for some, inhibiting for others. It’s not for everyone. You’ll know, because the person for whom writing doesn’t click will either write a just few words and stop, or begin telling you the “answer” to your prompt verbally.
  5. Let the client decide what to share and what to do with the written material when the session is over. Agency over your own output is essential. Many people have creative trauma over people co-opting their work, deriding it, making it public when it’s meant to be private, and a thousand other painful boundary violations.
  6. Stay away from evaluative feedback language, such as “that’s really good,” even if you think it is. Stick with I-language when responding to a client’s shared writing. “I am so moved by your description of…” 
  7. Use the simplest prompts, even just one word. You’ll be surprised at how much comes out. 

Have Your Therapy Sessions Gone Stale? Try These Pro Tips

Therapists love their work. But the truth is, even the most dedicated therapists can face times when their sessions feel stale. There’s nothing quite as difficult as trying to infuse your sessions with life when you yourself feel uninspired—and a little panicked.

There’s nothing wrong with developing a grab bag of tried and trued activities and approaches that, while still helping your client toward their therapeutic goals, will also shift the energy of the sessions when things start to feel stagnant.

The number one thing to remember is that All Roads Lead to Rome. In other words, give yourself permission to deviate from the road you’re on to try a different route to get to the same place, your clients therapeutic goals. 

We often feel we can’t take those kinds of risks. I’m here to tell you, we must. The more we try new things, the more we trust our instincts in our sessions.

So, let’s start right now with perhaps the simplest way to deepen engagement and get to deeper material in your therapy sessions.

Change Things Up

So, here’s how that might look in practice.

1. If you’re primarily talking, do something else: draw, write, walk, listen to music

Check out my free article: 40 Art Prompts for Therapy

2. If it’s primarily you who’s active, have the client ask questions. Have them tell you what questions to ask. Have them ask and answer those questions. Have them ask you about how you handle things they are struggling to handle.

3. If you’re primarily asking questions to draw the client out, switch it up and make observations. Almost any observations. Make sure they’re objective, not assumptions or mind-reading. Then, check them out. “I notice you’re fidgeting with your pen. What’s up?”

4. If you’re talking a lot about not much, try silence and breathing. See what you feel instead of what you think. Sometimes clients’ feelings are right on the surface, waiting for the space to emerge. You can invite your client into the silence. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Breathe. Then invite them to say what they notice inside.

5. If you’re talking feelings, talk daily routine or habits, hobbies, relationships, dreams, aspirations, fantasies (hello, Dr. Freud!) humor, pop culture.  

6. If you’re talking ideas, bring the focus to the body. Ask the client how their body is feeling. Take some time to breathe and focus. Ask a tense body part what it’s trying to communicate. Accept what the client says. It could be as simple as, “I’m sore from so much computer time.” Is it about self-care? Hiding in their home office? Putting in too much overtime? Not being able to afford a decent chair? Not willing to spend the money on themselves? 

It Could Get Messy <gasp>

 Switching things up could get a little messy. As in, you may not know where things are going, what will come up, how to finish what you’ve started, how to understand what does come up. And that’s okay. You may have messy to figure out, but you probably will not be bored.


I’d love to stay in touch. Join my list and get my very latest product and articles to help you level up your therapy sessions. 

Join today and get a free copy of 40 Art Prompts for Therapy: How to bring drawing into your therapy sessions and 40 prompts to get you started.

Tips for Printing, Cutting and Folding Your Instant Download Printables

Intimidated by downloading and printing at home?

Some people shy away from using instant downloads out of fear that the final printed product won’t measure up. It’s true that print-at-home will not have the same quality as a professional printshop. But once you weigh the factors that matter in your situation–quality of print vs. expense and time of getting it printed outside the home, you can choose which one makes the most sense for you.

Continue reading “Tips for Printing, Cutting and Folding Your Instant Download Printables”

Making Complex Medication Management Simple and Stress-Free

I Hit the Ground Running

When I took over caregiving responsibilities for my Mom, it wasn’t the best of circumstances. My brother was dying of cancer, and I was getting ready to move our mother 500 miles from New Jersey to Maine. She would be leaving the assisted living facility where she’d lived for four years and moving into a board and care home near me. Even though I’d hire a caregiver to administer her twice daily medications, I would be managing them.

Continue reading “Making Complex Medication Management Simple and Stress-Free”

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

9 Strategies for Getting Through Minute-at-a-Time Days

And some of those minutes can be difficult to navigate. Our minds—or our hearts—are racing. We’re at loose ends. We have nothing scheduled. 

We all have jangled, disjointed, difficult days. Some of us have heard the advice to take it a day at a time. But then there are the days that are sooo impossibly long and difficult that we have to take it a minute at a time.

Rather than wringing our hands, or, worse, finding our way to old, unhealthy behaviors, let’s look at 9 basic types of activity to choose from that are not only healthy in and of themselves, but also help us build new, healthy habits for the long haul.

Continue reading “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do”

Does an Oracle Know Something I Don’t Know?

Last March (2019), I took a leap. I created 30 mandalas with music and a video in 30 days. I’d never drawn mandalas before, never committed to drawing something for 30 days, let alone sharing them publicly, had never written a song a day, had never recorded myself making up songs on the fly, had never made a movie of myself drawing…. I had a blast.

Continue reading “Does an Oracle Know Something I Don’t Know?”

A Flexible and Fun Tool in Your Wellness Toolbox: Cards Decks

Besides relieving us of the job of generating ideas just when we’re least likely to generate good ones, card decks give us ultimate flexibility to experiment and discover new strategies and new information about ourselves, in the process of looking for ways to feel better.

Continue reading “A Flexible and Fun Tool in Your Wellness Toolbox: Cards Decks”

7 Simple Soothers for Anxious Times

Way back before I had any coping skills, my life was pretty stressful, and I found drugs. There’s a lot more to that story, but that’s the gist of it. Drugs calmed me down. Booze seemed to melt all my fizzling and jangled wiring. I found more and different drugs to put into my body, but my goal was always the same: get through the day and feel as little as possible. I confused feeling numb with feeling calm.

After I got clean, no drugs; but also, still no coping skills! In many ways I was back to square one, with this exception: I had good information about what doesn’t work for me. Now all I had to do was find out what does.

Continue reading “7 Simple Soothers for Anxious Times”

10 Ways to Use Wellness Cards in Your Therapy Practice

TL;DR: Download the free tip sheet

As a therapist, you know all too well that talking doesn’t always cut it. Neither do thinking, intending, wishing and praying. In fact, none of these alone creates change in your clients’ lives.

The thing that makes for real change in people’s lives is behavior. And all the cognitive processes that go into making choices–trial and error, habit, novelty, and curiosity, to name a few–are where the real learning, growing and changing actually happen.

Continue reading “10 Ways to Use Wellness Cards in Your Therapy Practice”