Author: Kathleen Smith

Dr. Kathleen Smith is licensed professional counselor. A graduate of George Washington University and Harvard University, she also works as a freelance writer on the topics of mental health, anxiety, and relationships.

Facing the fear of incompetence

Doubt-624x416.jpgWhen Karena Heyward and Jessica Lloyd-Hazlett were enrolled in graduate school together at the College of William & Mary, they agreed to split the cost of a hotel room while attending the American Counseling Association’s annual conference. The two counselors didn’t know each other very well, but over the course of the weekend they found themselves engaging in long, authentic conversations about their lives. Returning home, they reflected on the topic of vulnerability, and the two began to build a friendship based on helping each other through difficult moments in the counseling profession and life in general.

Read the rest at Counseling Today.


Is it OK to have it all?


In January issue of Counseling Today 

As Lindsey Mitchell approached the end of her doctoral program in counseling at George Washington University, she wasn’t quite sure what was next. After a decade of intense focus on her education, she found her career options in the field both exciting and intimidating. When Mitchell began talking to other women in her program about career choices, she realized that questions about ambition, leadership and family were common among female counselors.

Energized by these discussions with her colleagues, Mitchell decided to take the conversation to the American Counseling Association’s 2016 Conference & Expo in Montréal. Her idea took shape as a panel session called “To Lean In or Not to Lean In: The Diverse Experiences of Women in the Counseling Field.” The title alone was enough to catch the attention of many women at the conference and set the stage for an engaging talk between four ambitious and thoughtful counselors.

Read the rest here.

Sculpting a Less-Anxious Brain


“Brain architect” sounds like a profession from science fiction, but in the book Mindsight, psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that we have the ability to fashion our own brains. When we pay attention to our mind and the minds of others, we develop a sort of superhero seventh sense, which Siegel terms “mindsight.” Though Agent Phil Coulson might not be calling you up, this remarkable ability allows us to physically change the structure of the brain itself, long after we leave childhood.

How do you fashion a healthy brain? Mindfulness practices are essential to observing and rerouting our mind’s circuits. When we’re mindful, we slowly learn how to gain control over our reactions rather than smashing that bright red panic button. Mindfulness can look like meditation, but it also can be accomplished through small but significant changes in a daily routine. Here are some of Siegel’s suggestions.

Read the rest at Huffington Post

The Emotional Emancipation Movement

In the wake of the disturbances in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray this spring and other protests throughout the country in response to police shootings of young black men, the subject of racial injustice and what to do about it has received intense national attention. A New York Times poll reported this summer that 61 percent of Americans think race relations in the United States are generally bad, and 4 in 10 people think they’re getting worse.

In turn, many therapists have been considering how they can help address the problem of racism in America. One response that has rapidly gathered momentum since the unrest in Baltimore came not in the form of developing some new therapeutic approach, but in the shape of a growing self-help movement developed by and for the black community. Known as Emotional Emancipation Circles, it’s part of an effort to bring African Americans together to share their experiences and struggles with what Enola Aird, a lawyer, activist, and one of the founders of the movement, has called “the lie of black inferiority and the truth of black humanity.”

Read the rest at Psychotherapy Networker

7 Signs Your Therapist Is Good At Their Job (Because Some Of Us Are Weirdos)

madmenFinding a good therapist is a lot like shopping for a good pair of pants. You’re going to have to try a few on and maybe even make a few alterations before they start working for you and help you feel great about yourself. Science tells us that psychotherapy works just as well if not better than medication, but unlike a pill, your therapist is a human. This means that personalities can clash, misunderstandings can occur, or occasionally people can just be outright weirdos. But once you get started, how do you really know you’ve found a good therapist?

Read the read on Bustle.

No laughing matter?

My latest in Counseling Today

A client comes in for his first counseling session. He has a carrot sticking up his nose and a banana in his left ear.

“Help!” the client cries. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with me?”

“Simple,” the counselor says calmly. “YoLaugh_smallu’re not eating properly.”

Laughter is an essential part of the human experience, so it’s no coincidence that a profession that tries to make sense of the complexity and absurdity of human nature occasionally finds itself the butt of a joke or the punch line of a comic strip. In its ongoing quest to be “taken seriously,” however, the counseling profession seemingly sometimes forgets that humor can be a key component of wellness and even the therapeutic relationship.

The profession’s squeamishness with jokes arguably can be traced back to the image problem that psychotherapy has in the media, with TV show counselors often portrayed as zany bohemian personalities in offices full of waterfalls and wind chimes. If Tracey Ullman as Ally McBeal’s karaoke-singing shrink and Lisa Kudrow on her Web Therapy comedy series have served as our ambassadors to the world, then no wonder we’re so nervous.

Read the rest here.

Trauma in Ukraine

From April issue of Monitor on Psychology

Since the regioelenans of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine last March, thousands of people have been killed in the ensuing conflict and close to a million have been displaced or have fled to neighboring countries.

Psychologists in Ukraine find themselves practicing and teaching in the midst of armed conflict accompanied by mass traumatization of civilians, where some mental health facilities have been completely destroyed, and no one has money to pay for their services.

To help mental health professionals rebuild the psychological health and stability of their communities, Elena Cherepanov, PhD, an expert in global mental health and community trauma, has conducted psychological first aid training via Skype for mental health professionals and students in Ukraine.

Read the rest here.

I’m sorry, but women on TV apologize too much

My latest from Salon

A few days ago on the subway, I triptvped over the foot of a dude casually draped across his seat. And those two horrible words sailed out of my mouth faster than my palms hit the floor. I’m sorry. Rather than directing my anger at the manspreading offender, I claimed the fault and hated myself for it.

 The apology is the punctuation to the female sentence. Though we’re experts at chastising each other for the behavior, we can’t seem to stop. Even science says we do it too much. Every day I watch as women apologize to me for doing their jobs. For sweeping under my table at the coffee shop, or not returning a phone call during an important meeting. It’s an epidemic where we’re all patient zero.

Read the rest here.

The Rise of Distance Therapy

From the March/April issue of Psychotherapy Networker

e-therapyFor many, psychotherapy is still a rarefied, face-to-face encounter outside the normal rhythms of the world, a time in which cell phones are turned off, and we’re uninterrupted by an ever-replenishing email inbox. But we no longer live in a world in which we can so clearly partition ourselves off from the electronic information grid. Many occupations no longer require a clearly defined workplace or a physical presence. Many employees never see their boss in person. Increasingly, surgeons are slicing patients open from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Why should psychotherapy be any different?

Read the rest here.