Navigate / search

Ask Julie: Am I Really Bipolar?

Q: I have just recently dealt with the trauma of being molested by a friend’s father. I thought all of my erratic behavior resulted from this, but now I’m hearing that I am Bipolar. I am confused and scared. I have been given lithium, but the doctor has not spoken to my family and only spoke with me once for about 20 minutes. His assistants did separate interviews with me as well. I don’t have insurance so I am paying a lot and don’t if I can afford to get a second opinion.

Read more

Ask Julie: My Ex Has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Is There Hope For Us?

Q: How can I explain to an ex-boyfriend who left state and returned that he needs help for is DID? My current psychologist couldn’t answer this question, but flipped it off as insignificant.  I fell in love in Jan. 2010 with a foreign worker who was here to repair damage in the condo after carpet removal and air scrubbing.  I texted him I was interested and we had a first date.  He ran out unexpectedly, with no excuse and did not return.  Gone then for 3 months to his “country”, back once, ran out with no reason, gone another month, “for a funeral”; back, ran away, then back after another 3 months saying he was emotionally sick and went back to his home country, and was sorry he didn’t call.  During all this strange interims, I hired a detective, then, found out in July he ran to another state… Read more

Ask Julie: Is It OK To See More Than One Therapist At A Time?

Q: Is it okay/appropriate to see more than one psychotherapist at the same time?  After all, we sometimes have more than one massage therapist!  Just wondering about your take on this.

A: In general, I recommend having a primary individual psychotherapist who is “in charge” of treatment. That being said, there are situations where it may be appropriate and helpful to work with additional therapists simultaneously.  If you and your therapist desire additional interventions that are outside of your primary therapist’s specialties then your therapist may refer you to another therapist for specific interventions, like EMDR or neurofeedback, for example.

It’s also appropriate and often recommended to have additional therapists for different treatment modalities, like group, marriage, or family therapy. In marriage counseling or family therapy the client is actually the “marriage” or the “family” instead of the individuals. I hope this helps answer your question. Feel free to write again with more specific details about your situation.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Ask Julie: Can Dream Journals Be Helpful in Understanding Weird Dreams?

Q: Having weird dreams and therapist is questioning if they are happening because i could be repressing  internal battles. My new therapist is having me keep a “Dream Journal.” Freud has said that “dreams are the royal road to the unconscious mind.” I’m wondering if you think that this could be helpful/not helpful/why would she be having me keep one, and how many people here are keeping a dream journal???

Click the arrow above to listen to my response.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Ask Julie: Eating Disorder, Depression, Insomnia, & Cutting

 

Q: I have an eating disorder, depression, insomnia, and now I’ve started cutting. No one cares. My mom said things could be worse. My dad ignores it. My boyfriend says its in my mind and I can get over it on my own. I’ve started cutting and no one knows and it’s embarrassing. I need help. What should I do? (24 yr old female college student)

A: Click the arrow below to hear my response to your question…

Click here to find a therapist in your area

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Ask Julie: My Best Friend Is Suicidal

Q: My best friend is suicidal and I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her. She has already told her parents but they really aren’t doing anything to stop her. I have told a teacher at our school and the counselor but all they do is recommend seeing a psychiatrist. I am really worried about her she almost always has cuts all over her body arms, legs, and stomach. Her mother has been in and out of prison even before she was born. Her mother is also in right now and has been since she was 7. In the past few years she has had a lot happen, she lost her grandmother on her dad’s side two days before Christmas in 2008. Right after that she moved from a big house to a small one and in the process lost connection with her former best friend. Many of her animals outside died and she sat with one of her cats and had to watch it die after it got attacked by a dog. This past year she had her aunt on her dad’s side die and lost a lot of her friends. She also found out that her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by four different psychiatrists and borderline personality disorder by one or two. We were in seventh grade this year and for most of the second semester she was labeled a whore because of how she dresses and who hangs out with. This past summer is also when the cutting started it started off pretty bad but not frequent. It then went to minor burns and small scratches and then blew up again to bad cuts and they were very frequent. At the current moment she only has scars but is thinking about cutting herself again. I would just like an idea of what I could say to her to get her not to cut anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read this (and respond if you do).

Read more

Ask Julie: I’m Sexually Attracted To My Therapist

Okay, so recently I started getting therapy for a few issues in my life and I have this therapist. Obviously, it’s their job to listen and what not, but it’s such a new thing for me to have someone listen and understand!! I have normal relationships and what not, but I don’t talk about what’s going on in my life. And well, like I said, this therapist, he listens!! And I don’t know how it started, but now I’m attracted to him and think about him all the time. Yikes! And I had therapy the other day and I was feeling a bit awkward sometimes because in my head I was thinking about him sexually!! And he was right there in front of me. Not good but so good at the same time! But yeah nothing will happen anyway because 1. he’s my therapist and that goes against code and 2. he’s married anyway. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about him that way. I don’t know if I have control over my actions but don’t want to lose him as a therapist! And if I ask him for help about it, I guess I probably will. I can’t ask anyway… too awkward. And I don’t want to start again with a new therapist. So please give me some ideas! Oh, and if this helps in anyway, I have bipolar…. but I guess I’m not the first person in the world to be attracted to my therapist so maybe it doesn’t! (18 year old female who recently started therapy)

A: How wonderful that you are able to open up to your therapist and feel listened to. You are not alone in having a sexual attraction to your therapist and there’s a name for it — erotic transference — and it’s actually a quite common experience in therapy.  Transference can be worked through in the therapeutic relationship and that process can help you experience and resolve the deeper issues in your life. I hear that you are afraid of losing this relationship if you disclose your feelings to your therapist and that you’ll have to start all over.  Assuming your therapist is skilled and experienced, he will be able to help you work through this attraction.  Start slow in sharing your feelings. Let him know that you’re scared to share these feelings and that you want help to understand what they really mean.  When sharing your transference with your therapist, remember that your feelings are information about your deeper emotional longings, wounds, and needs, and are not about your actual relationship with your therapist. You’ll get through this. Thanks again for having the courage to write to “Ask the Therapist.”

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Would You See A Virtual Therapist? Psychology Meets Technology SXSW

I had a great time in Austin last weekend presenting on a South By Southwest Interactive panel about the uses of technology, (Read a summary of tweets on Storify) with Dr. John Grohol, Audrey Jung, and Sarah White. Since the presentation I’ve done a couple of interviews on the topic of how technology can help provide support and education to those struggling with mental health problems.

Here are some highlights from interview this week on the benefits of technology, online therapy, and social media for mental health patients, and some words of caution…

Read more

Ask Julie: How Do I Know If I Still Need Therapy?

Q: I am a married woman of 24 years with 3 grown children.  I have had a pretty rough past and struggled with mental illness most of my life.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional violent family with an alcoholic parent.  I was abused and neglected.  I attempted suicide at the age of 17.  Through the years I buried my past and attempted to live a normal life.  I did not have an identity, I did what everyone wanted of me, and even believed the beliefs of the people around me. I was an empty shell being filled up by other people.  I had another breakdown in 1999 and attempted suicide again.  That is when I began therapy.  It took me a realy long time to open up to my therapist.  It seemed I got much worse before I got better.  I began cutting and binge eating became  a huge problem.  I had always coped with food but now it brought my weight up to 322lbs.

As the years went by, and with medication I began to slowly deal with issues and start to rise out of my depression.  I trusted my therapist and told her things I would never tell another soul.  I was getting better and I decided to improve my life. I had gastric bypass to lose weight and in the past year I have lost over 120lbs.  I was using good coping skills and having more rational thoughts.   Unfortunately my bones suffered from the weight and degenerative bone desease.  This past October I had a total hip replacement and this past February I had a total knee replacement. It has not been 2 months yet and it has been a slow painful recovery.

My therapist retired this past December.  I do not have a regular one yet, although I did meet with one just one time to feel it out.  I am unsure if I need to stay in therapy.  I have been in it for a very long time and although I am better than ever before, I still have depression and dysfunctional thoughts.  I am still on medication, Wellbutrin, Lexapro and Neurontin for mood disorder.  I have been labeled as PTSD and BPD. I am starting to binge eat again and I am afraid the gastric bypass will be worthless to me someday.  I do not want to gain all that weight back as I could hardly move then.  I feel very sad that my therapist retired and I feel pretty lost right now. Is it normal to be in a therapy program for as long as I have been? Do some people stay in therapy all of their life?  I feel that I will never get out of this dysfunctional rut. Is there hope for me? I am very tired and very afraid to live this way.  I just want relief and to feel a bit of satisfaction in how I live.  I appreciated any input.
Thank you 🙂

A: What a brave women you are to have faced your past trauma and to have actively sought treatment to move toward a healthier and happier life. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have your therapist retire after working so hard to develop enough trust to open up and share things you’ve never shared with anyone else. It is very normal to feel lost, sad, and to grieve the loss of this therapeutic relationship, just as you would if you said goodbye to a close friend or family member. I imagine that finding a new therapist and developing that trust again is a scary thing to consider, but a necessary one.

Some health problems, like diabetes, are chronic and require lifelong attention, management, and treatment, while others are acute, like strep throat, and generally require one course of antibiotics. Mental illness can be conceptualized in a similar way. Your mental health history, your history of abuse and neglect, and your psychological symptoms seem to fall in the chronic category. It is common for individuals with severe childhood abuse and neglect to be in treatment on and off throughout life to help manage the emotional and psychological consequences of the early experiences.

Your continued struggles with dysfunctional thoughts, depressive symptoms, and binge eating suggest that you need to get back into therapy to maintain the progress you’ve made and to continue to develop coping skills and insight. You may in be in treatment throughout the rest of your life. If that’s what you need to continue to move forward, to manage your symptoms, and continue to create the life you want, then that is nothing to be ashamed of.  You deserve to have nurturing and support.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW