Friday, February 12, 2016

Emotional Growth


As people grow emotionally their thoughts become more purposeful.  They naturally become more growth mindset oriented.  They see mistakes as learning opportunities, hold themselves accountable when needed, and spend less emotional energy on outcomes. Now to some degree, they will be irrational, get sad, maybe even depressed, but when life happens these circumstances have less impact on important areas of functioning. 

They basically think less, especially about themselves.  Their thoughts get simpler and more rational.  Their ability to focus gets enhanced as their EQ increases because less circumstances in the environment grab their attention or trigger negative thoughts.  I call this unplugging.

I was talking about this with a friend recently and he asked me if this meant they got "hyper focused."  I think of it more as thinking without distraction.  Imagine trying to hit a baseball while people are jumping up and down next to you, or running up to you with their fists balled up aggressively.  The thoughts about the maybes, what if's and bad experiences from the past are just like those people keeping your eye off the ball. 

People often experience great boosts of emotional growth after only 3 sessions of EMDR because traumatic events from the past that often get triggered by a song, a smell, date, or time of year have less of an emotional impact, which allows them to use their emotional energy more efficiently. They don't notice the colors, or TV commercials that once reminded them of the bad breakup.  They are more at peace.  Life doesn't become easy but it certainly becomes easier.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Importance of Light

We have known for a number of years that light is very important for people suffering from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression common among people living in northern climates who have short amounts of daylight hours during the winter. Deprived of sunlight, these folks really start to feel depressed. Put them under a light box or full-spectrum light bulbs and they perk up enormously!

Now we are coming to understand that up to 50% of those suffering any type of depression are able to benefit significantly from this type of light therapy. Some studies have shown that for many people, light therapy can be as helpful as an antidepressant medication. Light therapy may even help those with Bipolar II Disorder depression. This is certainly something to try if one is depressed and he/she is not gaining relief by taking an anti-depressant medication or engaging in talk therapy. Even if they are benefiting from meds or counseling or both, light may be added for an extra boost.

As many of us cannot be out in the sun for enough time to really help depression (fair skin, concern about skin cancer, etc.), the light boxes and lamps with the right light bulbs are great. Some people buy one of the lamps and keep it on their desk at work. Others sit under the lamp while reading. Other people just bask in the glow of a light box – as if they were in a tanning bed!

If you are depressed, consider adding some light to your life. Couldn’t hurt, hey – and it may very well really help.
Just Google “Full Spectrum Lighting” to find a wide array of these gadgets. Some are expensive, but many are very reasonable in price. And let me know how this lights up your life!

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


What? You really believed that you would outgrow this….that it would simply disappear and never interfere in your life again? Well, for some children that does happen. Some youngsters hit adolescence and their ADHD really quiets down. For a significant number, however, it does not. One learns “coping mechanisms” to deal with it, but the ADHD that dogged them when they were kids continues to cause disruptions in their adult lives: They cannot organize their lives no matter how hard they seem to try; they forget important tasks (you know – like registering the car on time……keeping a dentist appointment) and their tempers just get the best of them, causing them no amount of grief with partners, friends and on their jobs.
But let’s, just for a moment, focus on the benefits of having an attention deficit disorder. You folks can REALLY hyper-focus on something! When something captures your attention, you are onto it 100%. You can juggle several things at once. I’ve never met anyone with ADHD who was not also creative and pretty bright. You have enough energy to power a whole house!
If you are wondering how to manage this “disorder” in your adult life, start with the web site This is an international organization that offers support to both adults with ADHD and to parents of children with ADHD (and their annual conference this year is in September, in Orlando). Their web site is large and filled with great information. Also, check out Edward Hallowell, M.D.’s website – lots of great information there, as well. Once you learn how to manage some of the things that are bothersome to you about this disorder, life can become so much easier.
I am thinking about trying to start a Deland chapter of CHADD. There isn’t a local chapter nearby. Would this be of interest to you? Let me know by e-mailing me at Your input would be most welcome!

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

Thursday, June 9, 2011


With Congressman Weiner’s recent gross indiscretion, this topic is on my mind. Why in heaven’s name would any sane person take the risk of sending suggestive messages or pictures to someone they do not know….that they have never met? I love the explanation by one commentator I saw on TV. “ NARCISSISM! “

All of us know by now, or should know by now, that our new communication gadgets and technologies bring with them many risks. There is the illusion when texting or e-mailing someone that we actually do know that person. We meet through chat rooms, dating services, whatever, and we rapidly develop a “relationship” of some sort. Please note the word ILLUSION, for that is exactly what that is. I “converse” with you via one of these methods and we become waaaaay too familiar with each other waaaay too soon. I would never assume such a “close” relationship with you if I had met you in person (certainly not so quickly).
Then, if I am a true narcissist, I simply assume that you want to really “know” me (with the narcissist, it is always all about me… know, “Hi, how are you?.....and, how are you feeling about ME?). I assume you want a photo of me in my skivvies or in the nude. Of course, you never asked me for this, but I just assume that you want this and I send it off to you with a “cute” message. And, I am totally bewildered when you are offended….or when my spouse finds out about this and is heartbroken. Repeatedly, I work with people who have made this very grave error. Many times one is married and comes for counseling after finding this type of communication taking place by their partner. They feel betrayed……and rightfully so. The pain all of this brings to relationships is enormous. Many relationships are unable to recover from this type of infidelity (and very often, the offender, regardless of multiple promises to his/her mate is unable to stop the egregious behavior without long-term counseling).

I suppose that sexting can be rather fun between committed couples – it is still far too risky. None of these communication systems is all that secure and a picture intended for just one can end up being sent to many – or being placed on YouTube.

What is the answer? So simple……just don’t do it! Don’t start this behavior, and if you are engaging in it stop. If you cannot stop on your own, ask for help. The consequences are just not worth it.

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Pill people. WHAT is with pill people? It used to be that we only took pills when we were sick (oh, yeah – I am really showing my age here, hey?). Now, they are a source of recreation. They are a way to leave reality when life becomes too hard.

Sometimes, a person develops a significant pain issue (think “The Back From Hell” here , folks). When we hurt….really hurt….we will do just about anything to stop that pain. Enter pills. Narcotic-type pills like Vicodin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Methadone, etc. These medications are designed to be used for a short period of time to help someone through truly God-awful pain. Sometimes a doctor will allow a patient to remain on them longer, in moderate doses, if nothing else addresses the pain. The problem is that the dose that worked yesterday may not be enough to control the pain today. The hurting person wants more…and then more… in order to stop the pain. Perhaps the doctor will even raise the dose somewhat. There comes a time, though, when the dose cannot be increased without placing the patient in jeopardy, and the ethical doctor balks. Too much of these medications can cause us to stop breathing (uh…isn’t that what happens with death?). So when a patient’s tolerance for the drug gets to a certain point, the doctor will not increase the dose. Sometimes patients whose pain is out of control will then hit the streets trying to get the drug without a prescription. Problem is, when we purchase such drugs in this manner we have no idea what we are truly getting (anybody remember some years back when heroin was being cut with rat poison and we watched a rash of deaths from this around the country?).

Sometimes, the person who initially took such a drug for pain develops a craving for the “high” they experience when they take such pills. I always thought that, with pain, narcotics only addressed the pain and did not produce euphoria or cause an addiction. I was wrong. Working on an in-patient unit in a drug-rehab facility showed me just how wrong. As two different doctors I spoke to stated, “It’s a very slippery slope!” Many people become seriously addicted to these pills quite rapidly. Any addiction is a serious problem, but the alarming increase in the number of people who are becoming addicted to these narcotic pills is almost unbelievable. The devastation such an addiction wrecks, not only on the person taking the drugs, but on their family members, friends, work situation, etc., is truly tragic. Relationships end……people lose their jobs…..quality of life goes down the tubes. Getting off such pills when one is addicted is not pleasant, and absolutely not easy. Here in Florida, with so many pill mills – supposed pain-management centers that are just a front for dispensing these pills –it makes obtaining prescriptions much easier than in other parts of the country.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with pills, there is help available. Sometimes only in-patient treatment will work. For others, working with a team comprised of a psychiatrist, a counselor, a support group and family and friends, one can “get off” pills and regain his/her life. There are ways other than these pills to manage pain. In addition, there are important, new, non-narcotic, pain management medications on the horizon (can’t get here too soon!).
To take such potent narcotic medications simply to get “high” is to tempt fate. ANYONE can become addicted to these pills. Please do not think that because you have used them and been able to stop that you will ALWAYS be able to stop. You are not the exception… just may take a little longer before you are captured by them. Please, smarten up and stay safe. This is definitely not a problem you want to create in your life.

Sandy Fournier, M.A.,. LMFT

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Are there any among us who don’t have some mother issues? Even those of us who love our mothers dearly usually have some small things that bother us about this oh-so-primal relationship. After all, this is the person who gave us life (as she frequently may remind us in the midst of disciplining us). This is the person who was (or was supposed to be) our primary caretaker when we were small. The one who actually kept us alive! She is the one who watched us step onto that school bus the very first day of school – albeit with tears in her eyes (and then returned home to FINALLY relax, all alone thank you, over a quiet cup of coffee). So, for all of this positive stuff, why do so many of us feel ambivalent about this important relationship – this relationship that is the basis for all future relationships?

Mothers guilt us, protect us, defend us, scream at us, count to ten over us, spank us, despair about us, put us down and build us up. Doing all of these things is what mothering is all about. Until we have our own children, and struggle with being the very best parent we can be, we really cannot understand how gratifying, and how frustrating, parenting really is. It is hoped that we “grow” as mothers (and as fathers), that we are able to take in new information about parenting and incorporate it effectively. After all, as the saying goes, “When I know better, I do better.”

Accepting that our relationships with our mothers (even with our deceased and long-gone mothers with whom we still have our inner dialogues) will never be the perfect “I Remember Mama” relationship that we have seen depicted on both the large and small screen is a start at some resolution of our “mother issues.” Accepting our mothers as the flawed folks they are, who never had an owner’s manual handed to them when presented with their little bundle of joy………accepting our mothers as people who usually try to do their best (and often really miss the mark)……and accepting the fact that our relationship with this all-important woman will never be exactly “right” is a start at healing some of our “mothering hurts.” Let’s give this lady a break, accept our life’s choices without blaming them on her, and enjoy what we can about our Moms. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

Friday, April 1, 2011


I absolutely-without-a-doubt know that when I present a positive attitude to the world I feel better. When I smile, or laugh, I feel better. This is not news – this information has been around for more than a few years. We feel better when we think positively, smile and laugh. So, if I know all of this – why do I engage in entertaining negative thoughts, catastrophizing, complaining, bemoaning, and being grumpy (Yep – I can really complain. Want references?). I mean, I am supposed to be an expert in this positive thinking stuff (and, I do know a lot about it). So, why would I not always smile and always be positive. I mean, I don’t think that I am a masochist!

We now know that each one of us is somewhat pre-programed to be either a positive or a negative person. We enter the world with a tendency toward one or the other. In other words, we have an attitude default. But if we consider the nature or nurture info, we also know that we have influence over our attitude, and we can change it. Actually, we have CONTROL over our attitude (and remember, there is not much in life that we actually can control). We get to choose our attitude.

I think that negativity becomes a habit. Even if our pre-programming called for us to be positive, we can override it, and choose to be negative. And that override becomes easier with time. Oh, come on! Even the most positive of us do this occasionally when we just want to have a good sulk (we feel justified to get a good grump on). The person born with a tendency toward negativity doesn’t have to work as hard to stay perpetually negative (Oh, and we sooooo enjoy being around these folks, don’t we?).

I’m working on this. I am trying to remember that what I project to the world is what comes back to me (in spades). I am definitely NOT a Pollyanna, but If I can choose to find something ludicrous in a situation instead of feeling irritated by it (like the guy who cuts me off when I’m driving and I really want to engage in sign language), I benefit. On the days when it seems like everything in the morning is going wrong, I can choose to stop, take a deep breath, force a smile on my face, and start the day over. I can choose not to dump my annoyances with the world onto others (I shall save that for my therapist – after all, she’s getting paid to listen to me), because when I do that I really don’t feel better and I have definitely rained on another’s parade. I can remember the saying that has become rather a cliché, but is still true: Give me an attitude of gratitude.

I’m inviting you to come along with me as I work on this. Send me some feedback. Smiles really are contagious. Spread the virus!

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT