A day in the life of a psychologist

dr-paul-newMany folks wonder—what does a psychologist do? So, I thought I would share a typical day with you, of course changing any identifying details of the many people I see. I consider myself fortunate. I have a great job! I get to come to work everyday and help both kids and adults become the individuals that they want to be. It’s very gratifying. I also have the opportunity to be the Director of the Behavioral Health Department at The Everett Clinic (TEC), which is also very meaningful. I enjoy mentoring many outstanding mental health clinicians and to participate, in some small way, in the growth of TEC.

So here we go! Read more »

Important realizations of family life

important-realizations-family-lifeWhen my daughters were little, I had two important realizations that changed the course of my parental life.

I realized that their childhood was going to fly by like a flash of lightening in a summer sky. Before I knew it, they would be out of our nest. And, I recognized that as a full time working parent, my moments with them would be limited. Like most parents, I had to balance work, parenthood, household responsibilities—in other words, the laundry of life. How was I going to approach this time limited opportunity?

In that moment, I made several major parental decisions. And I stuck with them for their entire childhood. Read more »

Will you still love me when I’m 64?

will-you-still-love-meDiane and I were sitting in the living room Friday night, talking about some friends of ours, also in their 60’s, who were struggling with marital problems. Diane laughed and said “Well I guess you’re stuck with me.” I laughed too, “After 41 years, I think your right.” We both consider ourselves lucky to have found each other so many decades ago and to have such a strong bond. But she noted that there are couples that do break up after many years of marriage.

Interestingly, in the 2010 census, one in four divorces occurred in the 50+ age group. In the 1990 census, the ratio was one in ten. Since 1980, the divorce rate has been decreasing. But it is increasing in the mid-life group.

Why? Read more »

To tell the truth?

to-tell-the-truthBill and Mary tried to conceive a baby for two years. After some medical tests, the young couple finally accepted that it would be impossible for them to have a baby of their own. After days of anguished discussion, they decided to try AID or Artificial Insemination by Donor. After a few months, Mary became pregnant and later they were both the proud parents of a beautiful baby daughter, Amy. But now they wondered, when Amy is old enough, should they tell her how she was conceived. Should they tell her that Bill is not her biological father?

Most families have had complicated life experiences of one kind or another. Some parents may have been less than perfect teenagers. Their histories may include drug or alcohol abuse, school problems or even legal difficulties. Some adults may have had a previous marriage when they were young that they would just as soon forget about. Should parents tell their children the truth, no matter what the consequences? How do parents decide when to tell their kids the truth? Read more »

Becoming an Orphan at 63

becoming-an-orphanEarly this September, my brother (David), an old family friend (Colin) and I, went on our yearly “boys” hiking trip. Growing up, my brothers and I had a tradition of yearly outdoor trips. When I was 11, my two older brothers and I went on a 5-day canoe trip down the Delaware River in New Jersey. When I was in college, we always went on summer backpacking trips. On one trip, David proposed to his girlfriend—they have been married now for 41 years.

We took a break, when our kids were little, but started up again when they were older. Some years, we took along my oldest daughter (she was 15 the first time), and then later, our oldest family friend Colin and my friend Tracy. It’s a tradition that we look forward to. My wife calls us the “Cascade Cadets”. Now, as we have aged, we rent a cabin, go on day hikes, and come back to hot showers and a glass of wine. Read more »

How do you see yourself?

how-do-you-see-yourselfAmy wonders: “What is my worth”? She measures her income, material wealth, appearance, and weight. She adds it up, subtracts her age, divides by the size of her family, and multiplies by the dimensions of her house. Out comes the sum of her worth.

Fortunately, net worth has little to do with self-worth. Having it all—good job, beautiful high-performing children, nice home, and respect in the community—doesn’t necessarily bring high self-regard. Instead, self-esteem is elusive. It’s hard to grasp in the maze of everyday life, but everyone wants it. Read more »

Turn on the lights! Seasonal Affective Disorder

turn-on-the-lights-sadAutumn has finally arrived!

No one disagrees, we had a fantastic summer! The weather was great and the sun was shining, starting in June all the way through the middle of September. Okay, it did sprinkle a bit on July 4th, but that’s typical. We can all look back at those lazy, bright days of summer with warm nostalgia.

One of my favorite aspects of life in the Puget Sound are the long days of summer. On July 4th, we had almost 16 hours of sun. The sun rose at 5:17 a.m. and set at 9:10 p.m. The western sky is lit until almost 10 p.m. It’s tough to get kids to bed in the summer and they are up with the birds. Everyone in the Northwest seems fueled by the summer sun. Read more »

Surviving the Adolescence War

surviving-adolescence-warAt 15, I knew everything. At 16, I could do anything. In my eyes, my parents grew dumber every year I grew smarter. What could they know? Their adolescence was a distant, faded memory—like worn-out jeans thrown away long ago. I could no more picture them as pimply peers than I could imagine letting them know my innermost thoughts.

Truth be told, I was no model teen-ager. I was an indifferent student who preferred to read long, depressing Russian novels rather than go to school. (Now the truth is out! I was a high school truancy officer’s nightmare!) Ancient black-and-white photos show an angry sullen young man. When I look at those photos through my parent’s eyes, how they must have worried. Read more »

The homework wars

homework-warsI know. The new school year’s homework resolutions are starting to fray, and it’s only the middle of September. This year, Junior promised that he would get his homework done before he turned on his X-box. He assured his parents that this year was going to be different. No more battles over homework. No more procrastination. No more incomplete assignments. No more last minute, late night scrambling to complete homework.

Sound familiar? The road to hell is lined with good intentions. It’s the follow through that is tough. When kids make these resolutions during late August, they are totally convinced that they will turn over a new leaf. After all, who wants to go through the same misery they experienced last year? Read more »

Parenting with consistency and predictability – Part II

parenting-consistency-predictability-IIJoey, aged 7, pitched a fit at the grocery store when his mom wouldn’t let him have a candy bar. His mom was embarrassed and it seemed like every eye at the store was on her. She relented, and let him have the candy “just this one time”.

Mary, age 15, came home one hour after curfew. Dad was furious and grounded her for two weeks. After two days, she begged and pleaded to be let out of jail. “I promise I will never be late again” she pleaded. Dad felt bad about the severity of his punishment. He relented.

Bill’s bedtime was at 8:30 p.m. All games were to be shut off, teeth brushed, and in bed by 8:45pm. Bill begged and pleaded to finish his video game—“Just one more level! I promise! I’ll turn it off!” Mom relented. Read more »