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I’ve Never Met A Shrink Who Didn’t Need One

[25/365] On the couch (Explored)

My grandpa used to say, “I never met a shrink who didn’t need one,” as if that was a valid reason for not seeking help for mental health problems. After being a therapist for nearly two decades, I totally agree with my Grandpa.

Therapists are an interesting and colorful bunch and we definitely have our own share of mental health problems. I’d take grandpa’s phrase even farther by saying I’ve never met a person who didn’t need a shrink. We can all benefit from examining our experiences and getting an outside perspective from a mental health professional during difficult times.

The most effective therapists I’ve worked with, as a colleague and as a client, are those who’ve already worked through some of their own mental health and relationship struggles with a therapist, have a handle on their own pain and vulnerability, understand their family relationship patterns, and are comfortable walking with others through their pain. Not only is working through issues with your own therapist good for your own mental health and personal relationships, it’s also good for your therapy practice.

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What A Great Way To Start 2012!

On Dec. 31, 2011, a day I was really struggling emotionally (yes, therapists struggle, too), I received a message on Facebook. This thoughtful expression of gratitude lifted my heavy heart and reassured me that my efforts are in some small way making a difference for good in the world. That’s all I can hope for. Welcome 2012.


“Dear Julie,  I can’t end this year without sharing my story and thanking you for the role that you played in it. As a child I survived horrible traumas that I suppressed until adulthood. The beginning of this year I knew that I needed help and prayed for guidance on how to get the help that I needed. You have always been one of my favorite LDS artists and in May you posted a song on your Facebook page. I can’t remember who sang it or the name of the song, but it mentioned that sometimes crying can be so healing. That night for the first time since the trauma, I allowed myself to cry and mourn what had happened to me. It felt so healing. It gave me the courage to seek help from Wasatch Family Therapy and I began therapy with Melanie Davis. She is exactly what I needed and is amazing. I am so excited to say that I am doing so well right now and I feel like I have my life back. I can’t even begin to thank you for the difference you have made in my life. I am a survivor and know that I can accomplish anything. I hope that you have a wonderful 2012…I know that I will.”


The song she’s referring to is “Blessings” by Laura Story -  a song I wish I’d written.

Top 10 Posts of 2011 on

It’s always fun to see which posts catch your interest over 12 months. Looking back over 2012 the top posts are a mix of music, personal posts, parenting tips, marriage topics, and mental and emotional health advice…and that list just about sums up my life!

A big surprise is #1 — guess you haven’t forgotten that I’ve been a performing songwriter for, oh, 25 years. But, the biggest surprise on this top 10 list is #2 because I only posted it last week! So, many of you have shared it with friends and family online. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing my articles and posts, for great blog discussions and social media comments, and coming to live events this year. I am grateful to have you as part of my “virtual” family.

OK…so here’s the top 10 posts of 2011…

  1. 3 Generations of Azevedo Performed in Church Today
  2. Letter To Santa That Made Me Cry
  3. How To Stop Overreacting and Keep Your Cool
  4. To Forgive Or Not To Forgive?
  5. National TV Appearance On Nov 3 Secretly Pregnant on Discovery Health
  6. Tuesday Tunes: Window To His Love
  7. Avoiding Parenting Clashes With College-aged Kids
  8. Q&A: Is Date Night Too Much To Ask? & I’m Never In The Mood!
  9. 8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Mess Up Your Kid
  10. Keep Your Marriage Emotionally HOT

I am a social media lover so I hope you’ll stay connected in 2012.

Ask Julie: Will My Therapist Have To Tell My Parents When I Cut Myself?

I am 14 and recently my parents have discovered I struggle with self-injury. After discovering this, they are going to send me to see a therapist to help with the issue. They, of course, know I struggle with self-injury, but I would prefer if they did not hear about it if I tell the therapist when I self-injure. Is this possible, or is it required that they inform my parents when I cut? As a minor, do I have any confidentiality from my parents?

A: First of all, I’m glad that your parents are going to take you to a therapist to address your cutting. Your cutting is a warning sign that something in your emotional life needs to be addressed. While there is confidentiality between client and therapist, there are limits to that confidentiality.  Therapists are required ethically and by law to intervene when a client is threatening serious harm to self.  Since cutting can  range from minor surface scratches to life threatening wounds, and I don’t know how serious your self-injurious behavior is, I am not able to fully answer your question. Your question can be best answered by your specific therapist when you meet with him or her. At your first session, I suggest that you ask your therapist how he or she will handle your disclosure of self-injury.  Because you are a minor, it is likely that your parents will be involved in some way in your treatment. Many therapists will require family therapy  when working with minors because family dynamics often play a part in a child’s distress, and because parents play an important role in the healing process.

My biggest concern regarding your question isn’t whether or not your therapist will tell your parents, but why you don’t want your parents to know the full extent of your self-injury. Is it because you are embarrassed of what they will think? Is it because you don’t want to upset them? Is it because they will be angry with you? Is it because they will overreact? I hope you will address this important question with your therapist.

The fact that your parents are taking you to therapy to get help tells me that they are concerned about you, that they care about you, and that they acknowledge that you are in pain and need professional help. Consider that they may be able to help and support you through this difficult time as you sort through your emotions and resolve the pain underlying your self-harming behavior. You are 14 and it’s their job to make sure you are safe.

Take good care of yourself, and let your parents take good care of you, too.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Do You Suffer From “Christmas Perfectionism”?

If you already struggle with perfectionism, the holiday season can be particularly difficult for stress management. For one thing, there are often higher expectations, more on your to do list, and more people to please. So, whether you struggle with perfectionism when it comes to buying the “perfect” gift, decorating the house “perfectly”, sending out the “perfect” Christmas card with the best family picture (mailed the day after Thanksgiving), or whether your obsessed with what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. Never fear! Here are a few tips to help you take a step back and let go of holiday perfectionism.

1) Says who?

Perfectionists tend to have rules about how things should be.

  • Write down a list of a few of your Christmas “shoulds” that weigh you down.
  • What if you thought about every tradition, decoration, gift as optional, as something you get to choose to do or attend or buy, or not?
  • Add the question “says who” at the end and actually answer the question. For example, if my rule is “I should give a handmade neighbor gift to everyone on my street…says who?” my answer may be “Martha Stewart”
  • Ask yourself if you want to accept that rule or reject that rule. Read more listed #1 Online Depression Influencer by Sharecare

I have a passion (bordering on obsession) with using technology to blog, tweet, post, and answer questions about mental health and relationships because 1) I love what I do as a therapist 2) I want to make a difference in the world for good by educating and providing helpful resources.  So, this morning when I woke up to an email letting me know that I’d been recognized for my online efforts by an amazing national organization Sharecare it’s icing on the cake. Thanks to technology, anyone’s voice can be heard and anyone can make a difference–even a little social worker in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you’re not familiar with check it out! It’s an amazing online Q&A platform website founded by Jeff Arnold, founder of WebMD & Dr. Mehmet Oz, with partners Harpo Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Discovery Communications.


Read more about the top 10 online influencers


Here’s how the top 10 are selected…

“Ask The Therapist” Live Facebook Event Dec. 21

The holiday season can bring out the best…and the worst in all of us, and in family relationships. Here’s your chance to get FREE advice to help you during the holidays and those cold winter months.

I’m excited to be participating in’s Ask the Therapist Live Facebook Q & A event with Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker. We will both be available to answer YOUR mental health and relationship questions on Wed. Dec. 21st at 5:30-6:30PM MST in real-time in our Ask The Therapist Facebook Group.

Click here for details

Send you question to PsychCentral’s Ask The Therapist column anytime here

My Turn On “The Couch”: Psych Central’s Margarita Tartakovsky, MS recently interviewed me for a new series featuring therapists  called “Clinicians on the Couch. She was delightful to interview with. Check out her body image blog  Weightless.

So…if you’re interested in knowing what I wish my clients knew, what psych books I’m reading, what’s surprised me about being a therapist, how I cope with stress and more, click the link below…

Clinicans on the couch: 10 Questions with Therapist Julie Hanks

Ask Julie: I Don’t Feel Anything

The problem that I have is that I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Last summer, I tended to wake up without any emotion at all, then I would be all depressed and thinking I’m fat. Around 1-4 in the evening, I would become apathetic and it would feel like I didn’t have any more feelings. Then, around 6 or so, I would have emotions again. I don’t know if there is anything wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like I have no emotion at all and then out of the blue I start to have emotion. It feels like I overreached my limit to how much I can feel at one point and then I have to wait for my emotions to heal or something. Is there a limit to how much I can feel? Is there a limit to how much I can feel one thing? I feel really bored a lot of times but I still have a lot to do. Sometimes, though, it feels like I have to force myself to feel feelings and emotions. I don’t know if there is a problem or something.

A: It does sound like there is a problem, but I need more information before I can provide an answer for you. I suggest that you get in to see a therapist for a mental health evaluation for depression. Feelings of emptiness, lack of enjoyment in life, and focusing on negative thoughts may be symptoms of depression.

I’m curious what was happening around you or inside of you when you’d start to feel again. What activities were you engaged in? How would you describe the transition from not feeling to feeling? I also have questions about what it felt like to have no emotions at all.  Also, I’m curious about your relationships with family and friends and how you’re functioning in other parts of your life, like school or work.  Please write back with more information if you’d like additional advice. Until then, I urge you to seek therapy to help you get to the bottom of your confusing emotional patterns and start working toward enjoying your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my column