Sunday, October 30, 2011

Checklist for Publishable Scholarly Paper (Written Comprehensive Exam)

Almost there and I have until 11:59 pm on Tuesday.  I already scheduled the celebratory mojito lunch!
  1. LAUSD External Research Review Committee Approval for Study (check)
  2. UCLA IRB Waiver (check)
  3. Cover letter (check)
  4. Abstract (check)
  5. Title Page (check)
  6. Introduction/Literature Review (check)
  7. Theoretical Basis for Intervention (check)
  8. Research Questions (check)
  9. Methods (check)
  10. Results (check)
  11. Discussion (check)
  12. References (check)
  13. Letter from Collaborator about their Role in this Study (check)

Collaborative Problem Solving

I don't have all the answers, but if we problem solve together we can probably come up with some good solutions to try.

The Crabs

Everyone says that crabs pull other crabs back into the bucket to keep them down.

I wonder if the crabs in the bucket pull others down in order to maintain community integrity and homeostasis?

I wonder if they are scared for their peer crabs should they jump out of the bucket into the dangers of the unknown?

I wonder if crabs that pull other crabs down are really trying to protect them?

There is safety in the group and safety in numbers, that is true.

But in every group there are vanguards and scouts.  The individual or the few that are born to venture out.  The community needs them and benefits from them too.  The scouts will explore the scary unknown and bring back news for the group. The group can choose to ignore, reject, scoff, ridicule or accept this information tentatively.  I believe this is how progress is made.  Ultimately, the survival of the group depends on it - adapt and change or die.  Support your scouts - they are not running away from the cherished group - they are stepping up and taking one for the team.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Problems Learning Can Be a Real Bummer

"Learning problems predict psychiatric distress - particularly depressed mood and depressive disorder."*
If students present with depression, then mental health professionals working in low-income urban communities would do well to screen for both trauma and learning problems.

Chronic trauma exposure is inordinately high among low-income ethnic minority urban communities and therefore a likely underlying issue.

Learning problems, common in about 15-17% of the general population, can be as high as 30% among students in communities living in poverty.

If we only treat the depression, then students may get a little better.  If we address underlying trauma (through assessment and treatment), learning problems (through screening and referral) and associated anxiety, then students may get a lot better.

*Ialongo, N.S., Werthamer, L., Kellam, S.G., Brown, C.H., Wang, S., & Lin, Y. (1999).
Proximal Impact of Two First-Grade Preventive Interventions on the Early Risk Behaviors for Later Substance Abuse, Depression, and Antisocial Behavior. American Journal of Community Psychology, 27(5), 599-640.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guidelines about Gossip

I picked up these rules about gossip along the way.  Some of these, I learned the hard way.  That's how gossip can be - harsh.

1.  If a friend says something mean about another friend, don't repeat it or tell them.  In this way, you are protecting both friends.

2.  If someone says something nice about someone else, by all means let them know!

3.  If it is not my news to share, then I don't have any business sharing it.

4.  Don't tell anyone at work anything that you wouldn't want to see in the company newsletter.

5.  I don't have to listen to gossip if it is mean-spirited or hurtful.  I can redirect the conversation or walk away.  I am grown up now so wanting to be liked and peer pressure to participate don't hold their former sway.

6.  Sometimes we judge others with jealous eyes.  Despite the urge, we don't gotta be crabs in the bucket by talking badly about others.

7.  Preemptive strike:  If it will make you feel ashamed for others to know what you did or said - don't do it.  If you really want to do something and the only negative consequence is that others will judge and gossip  - fu#$ it, do it anyway.  Don't let the haters keep you down.

8.  Be transparent.  Dispel rumors by always being the first to break your news, as accurately as possible.

9.  What others think about me is none of my business, so if it is mean, please don't tell me.

10.  The next time someone says, "I hear you are too intense," I will have a comeback!  "Don't believe everything you hear, my dear, I hear you are overly concerned about appearances." Yikes, too much?

11.  Nobody gets to be perfect, no one.  We all have flaws.  We all have strengths.  I am grateful to those who love and forgive me despite my flaws, instead of using them against me behind my back.  I will love and forgive regardless, in return.

Denial, Truth & Acceptance

Growing up, I went to church a lot - sometimes, up to four times a week.  I often attended with my family but sometimes, I even went by myself - it was my refuge.  So when the scandalous news broke, it shook my world.  My beloved (married) Pastor was reportedly seen having an affair with my beloved Sunday School teacher (single and much younger than the Pastor).  At age 16, the only way I could cope was not to believe it - denial.  I staunchly argued that gossip was not proof.  When I got older and stronger, I realized the affair was real.  Fortunately, I also understood that it was none of my business and it was not my place to judge.  I still loved them both - they had been instrumental in my resilience.

This is a stressful time for many.  I am talking to people who are being stressed beyond their normal capacity to cope.  I have my handy list of referrals - healers that have proven effective for me.

Sometimes, people need answers but are not ready to hear the truth or make necessary changes.  What I understand now is that we can work on getting stronger - more resilient and fortified - before we go and consult readers about what lies in our future and before we go trekking into our past to digest and archive what happened then.

Iyanla Vanzant has always had words for my comfort and growth.  Hear are some of her words:
"You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people.

But until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed.

You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life.

You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them."
Bessel van der Kolk, noted trauma researcher, says that sooner or later you gotta face the memory - you gotta tell the story.

So what makes you stronger?  What fills your bucket?  What gives you life?  How can you do more of that so you are ready to take on the story of your life?  And in so doing, let go of the past to live in the now - in the full glory of what your life is really meant to be.

I emphasized in bold my former drugs of choice from Iyanla's list above.  They soothed for a time but often created even more problems.  Now I aim to face things, no matter how painful or scary.  But first I try to get stronger.  A chingona needs help and reinforcements to cope, be resilient and achieve.

I am not afraid.  I have been across the river and back.  It is good to get to the other side despite how treacherous the crossing may seem.  I wish the journey home for you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Program Update

The broom I am jumping now is the publishable paper - it is due November 1.

I started this paper two summers ago but I had to put it away because I didn't know enough about writing a scholarly paper.  It is not as easy as it appears.

I picked it up again last Spring while taking a seminar on how to write a dissertation proposal.  Working on both simultaneously seemed to get the juices flowing.  I submitted an abstract and methods section to my adviser for approval.  A respected editor, he gave me the green light to continue.

Then, I took a stats course specifically for experimental designs to help me conduct the analysis for the paper.  It turns out - less is more.  The more simple the analysis, the easier it is for audiences to understand (at least that was the advice I got from a RAND researcher/child psychiatrist).

If it wasn't for my clinical experience and training, I would not be here.  If it weren't for my research training and experience, I wouldn't be here.  I am now integrating both passions.  Can you see the light explode as they begin to fuse?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

General Info about the PhD Program

I get questions about the PhD program from family, friends and new acquaintances which tell me that we need more information out there.  The information below is specific to the Social Welfare program at UCLA but many elements apply to other fields and elsewhere.

First, most of the time, schools pay you to attend.  Fellowship packages include paid tuition and a stipend.  Some people are surprised to hear this.  In Los Angeles, stipends may not get you very far, especially if you have a mortgage.  You don't get rich becoming a PhD student, but you do get paid.  Also, you can earn money from the university through teaching or research assistantships and you may apply for university and/or external fellowships.

I am beginning my third year in the program and sometimes people ask me, "aren't you done yet?"  This brings me to my next point...

PhD programs take at least four years of full time work (at least on paper it looks like four years):

  • The first two years consist of coursework in theory, research methods, statistics, policy, and so on.  It may take longer than two years to complete the required coursework. 
  • At the end of the first year, we had to pass a comprehensive exam. That is, five in-class essays over the course of two days, for four hours each day.  The questions came from professors who taught our foundation courses - Epistemology, Research Methods, Policy Formulation, Policy Analysis and Evaluation.
  • In the second year, in addition to coursework, we were expected to participate in a research internship.  Dr. Sheryl Kataoka was my research mentor.  I worked with her on a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research grant (R21) that she was awarded for a pilot evaluation study in partnership with LAUSD. 
  • By the third year we have a second written comprehensive exam, it is expected that we write a publishable scholarly paper as a sole author.  It is reviewed by at least two professors and may be sent to a journal for publication.  This is in addition to the dissertation.  At first, I thought - so many hoops! But now I understand it is an attempt to make sure we are more marketable at graduation.  A product showing our integration of the material and our emerging scholarship.
  • Also in the third year, it is expected that we draft a dissertation proposal.  This is no small (pull an all nighter and get it done) feat.  The proposal is about 70 to 80 pages in length and includes some of the following sections:  Introduction/Statement of Problem, Literature Review, Theoretical Framework, Intervention Design, Summary of Research Questions and Hypotheses, Methodology/ Planned Analysis, and Timeline.
  • The dissertation proposal has to be defended in front of a committee (about four professors) that you have pulled together for this purpose.  Choosing professors that are expert in your research question or methods AND can get along and agree AND will support your work in a timely manner takes a lot of finesse.
  • After all that, you can proceed with your dissertation.  If you are collecting your own data, then this may take longer than if you are doing secondary data analysis (taking an existing data set and asking a new research question).  You will also have to defend your dissertation before a committee of your making.
  • Human Subjects Review approval is required for the publishable paper and dissertation, if applicable.  This is another major hill to climb.  There may be multiple committees to seek approval from depending on where you are conducting your research.  For my studies, I have to get approval from both UCLA and LAUSD.
  • I word about the Literature Review.  This is an important and difficult aspect of any scholarly work - publishable paper, dissertation proposal or dissertation.  It isn't just about reading 20 articles and summarizing what you read.  It may mean reading 50-100 articles, understanding and making sense of the conversation, the history, the controversies, and then jumping in with your own point of view.  This does not come together in an all nighter.
In the social welfare doctoral program at UCLA, most of my classmates accomplish all of the above steps in about six to eight years.  They are brilliant and good students.  

In my entire doctoral program, I am the only Latina/o doctoral student.  I started the social welfare PhD program in the Fall of 2009 along with four other students.  There are only three of us left.

For anyone that believes someone would do all of this just for bragging rights:  This is too grueling to do just for bragging rights.  The main reason I came back to school was to learn how to become a researcher.  I am passionate about working with low-income ethnic minority urban communities - children, youth and families.  We need more empirical evidence about what works and then we need to do a better job of disseminating this important information.  This is what drives me. 
  
If you feel the call to continue your education, please feel free to reach out to me or others.  I would be happy to support any brother or sister looking to take the leap...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Publishing & Conference Workshop

I attended a workshop for doctoral students about the publishing process and presenting at conferences.  The faculty panel presenters were Stuart Kirk (my advisor), social welfare, and Randy Crane, urban planning.

The agenda topics and sub-questions were as follows:

• Publishing
o How to collaborate with multiple authors on scholarly papers
o Peer review process: from the perspective of journal reviewers/editors - what are the common mistakes made, what makes a good paper, etc.
o What are some tips to writing a publishable manuscript?

• Conference
o How to submit to them - what makes a strong abstract?
o How to get the most out of them/etc.


My notes:

General Comments about Publishing

Helpful questions -
Is my research question or article useful?
Is it relevant to practice?
Does this fill a gap in the literature somewhere?
What is the literature gap that I want to make contribution to?
Knowledge of literature and the contribution of others vs. being off on your own and doing something "smart"

The nature of my contribution is that I'm addressing a gap in the literature that is useful

Various abstract formats – 5 part – 1) What is the problem? 2) What is the purpose of paper? 3) Results? 4) Where does this fit into the lit?

An article is a bid to join the conversation – the conversation may have gone on for decades or may be a new conversation – with people who don’t know you but you know them.  The abstract and opening is a bid saying I have something to contribute to this conversation.  I understand where what I have to say fits into that conversation. Intellectually pull together themes and significance of conversation shows my mastery of the conversation vs. have something to say but don’t know where it fits

SW Research (NASW) – research journal – not read by practitioners, only read by small group of researchers.  Be very familiar with the journal you are submitting your manuscript to - their role, history, audience.  Your manuscript has to fit journal.

Read a journals abstracts to get a feel for topics, lengths, etc. of journal to which you will submit your manuscript – does journal have a specific abstract format?

1) you have to write – the smart & brilliant sometimes can't write (writers block) – so write frequently
2) you have to send it – get it out the door asap (even if you don’t think its quite done or perfect)

Common Mistakes

"Rejected" pile vs. "can be fixed" pile

Ask your advisor about the journal before manuscript submission

If manuscript queue is long, then the journal rejection rate is likely high to get queue shorter

Rejection: Don’t be oblivious about topic or try to reinvent the wheel, serious mistake about approaching topic, taken on a problem but just don’t know enough

To be fixed pile: ask for some changes up front, associate editors review, editor sends out manuscript for referee reports, double-blind process (author and reviewer don’t know each other, conceal author), peer review process (sent out to experts – experts write report of manuscript, up to 5 experts hard to agree)

Just like an advisor manages disagreement on your committee, an editor manages disagreement among reviewers/referees

Weak editor view and strong editor view – summarize vs. take a stand when it comes to reviewer reports

Purpose & Problem should be clear in abstract and introduction

Appeal to and negotiate with editor if rejected

2 referee reports may contradict each other

Acknowledge all questions, concerns and feedback from all referees/reviewers

Feedback vs. Conditional acceptance

Only half of papers where revisions are requested are resubmitted

Production process: Copyeditors, copyright issues for illustrations


Rejected with constructive advice about how to proceed or not good enough for our journal

Talk to someone who has experience with that journal (author, editor, review/editorial board)

Reviewers disagree quite a bit – you get contradictory feedback

When you get a manuscript to review – how far do you get into the paper before you get some feeling about whether the manuscript will be published (by page 2, 1st page, title – you can tell if it’s a smart title – did they capture and convey something interesting?)

Editors and reviewers have formed pretty good impressions in the first few pages – what do they see in a few pages that tells them that? Is it well written, clumsy, does it keep or spark your interest, engaging, well written, polished, voice with credibility and authority? In the space of a few pages, does the author encapsulate argument in a way that is interesting even if reader (reviewer/referee) is not an expert on your topic?

Article acceptance is a series of judgments made, decisions made early on.  Is writing clumsy or hard to follow in opening paragraph? 

Don’t show your first draft to anyone, revise and edit before sending out, take out every 3rd or 4th word and make it better, make every word/sentence count (concise)

Stuart is a lot better after 40 years of writing - he cringes at early career jargon.   Advice:  comfortably write bad drafts and successively revise, labor on for quite a while.

Some journals have a quick turnaround (few months), others take a year

Don’t send things in that are not ready - don’t waste their time

Start reviewing manuscripts early on in your career – practice – best way to keep up in the field

Sharing referee notes among referees ups their accountability

When resubmitting, draft an essay that addresses every referee problem and how it was responded to in the paper

"Thank you for the reports – they have increased the quality of the paper – deep respect for your assistance" sample language for responses

Lip service, disagree, to all referee feedback, don’t be dismissive, manage emotions but don’t have to coddle them, do it in a spirit of negotiation and respect

Target journal in mind, journal that is cited in my literature, manuscript that cites other work published in the same journal, send the paper to the best journal – shoot high – revise and resubmit – reject and revise with feedback in mind and send to the next journal on the hierarchy list – work your way down the list and improve your manuscript

Revise, reframe, re-analyze before resubmitting

Marty Wax – revise & resubmit response within 48 hours – better chances than 1st submission – very few cold acceptances on first draft – review & revise is a half-acceptance (vs. rejection)

Set specific due dates for your work

Forcing your self to get things done in a short period of time

Journals have a stake in publishing best work

Think things through better and see things clearly

Journals like provocative and controversial papers, also papers skeptical of accepted wisdom, papers that will get people talking and reading.  Say early on – I think these people are wrong and I’m right – get people’s attention – spend a lot of time on titles – will title suggest something that is interesting to read?

Settle up front about collaborators, co-authors, how many articles and who will lead on which article, who will do more of the work, if unspoken and lots of work gets done, then potential for misunderstanding/hard feelings, make it explicit up front and can change it later, decide ahead of time and don’t wait, clarify up front, my work and you're helping me, your work and I'm helping you, order of authors based on who does the most work, if mentor reads the work and gives suggestions - this is not sufficient for co-authorship, PI of giant study may review manuscript and be co-author.

Mid-Career review – between earning PhD and getting tenure, need sole author work to attain tenure

If collaborations lead to more papers then it is always a good thing, unless you are always the fifth author on 20 papers, think about how clearly your value is coming through, collaborative work always makes my work better (clarifies and cleans up thinking and writing), take turns taking the lead

All things being equal, controversy is interesting but things that are different are too hard to review, when you try to do something so different, make it easier for reviewers to understand (too brilliant and risk being rejected/misunderstood because others are not familiar)

Methodologically unusual study – persuasive critique in lit review about what was missed, when making a departure from the mainstream – meet the mainstream on its own terms.

Toughest intellectual task is laying foundation in lit review – pointing out a gap and showing what has been missed – the way an author summarizes a state of knowledge and how we got here – summarizes for someone that is not an expert, use lit review to advance a topic

Conferences

Getting to know colleagues in the research community, socialize with people doing same work, valuable in stimulating ideas for work, get you to do things, economists can be mean (conference question from economist:  it took 4 people to do that paper?)

Only do conference presentations for papers you are working on for publication (don’t have time to do both) – can't afford to squander time on presentations vs. papers

Great networking – 300-400 people – know for years only through conference – you get known and know – find yourself calling on these people

What makes an effective presentation? What works? What is boring? Good info from observation for job talks – what works in an effective oral presentation – don’t overscript self (nervous that I won't know what to say – prepare 1 page of notes and wing it)

Too dense vs. more streamline in early career presentations

3 big points to make and lots of pictures/photographs

You have to be really comfortable about what youre talking about

Job talk – sound smart, sophisticated about research, “I used binomials logit" without going into too much detail about it

Conference abstract is a marketing pitch and a promise – you’re gonna give it a shot – provocative, engaging, I’ve identified a gap and this is how I’m going to fill it, don’t show up without results

Preliminary results, "we fry ours in butter" topics, "this is how we teach HBSE"

Make conference presentations that will turn into papers

Paper on a speaking tour – make yourself available for talks – to soften the crowd and hit referees with a talk – get feedback before submitting paper – access to older scholars that might not read your work and give you feedback

Some course papers can become conference presentations or articles – stop writing for professors

Ideas I’m working on now will be developed over the next 10 years. Don’t work on just one thing in order to be productive. Work on multiple papers to publish 3 per year.

Drafting articles from dissertation, collaborating, starting new projects, when you get sick and tired of one paper, put it aside and go to another project, come back to paper that you are stuck on, mix it up to write more over the long haul.

Nutrition Consultation

In the first year of the program, I sat for 12-16 hours a day while in class, commuting, reading and studying.  I snacked when I felt stressed.  I gained 15 pounds.  I vowed when this was all over, I would move a lot.  At then end of the first year, I delved into a nutritional cleansing program and began to move more.  Now that I am beginning the third year of the program, I am trying to move a lot every day.

I met with a personal trainer and nutritionist today (a Stanford alum) and she gave me the following 5 nutritional guidelines for weight loss and management:
  1. Always eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking.  Eating jump starts our metabolism.  In fact, it takes 150 calories to digest a meal.  Therefore, eating a 75 calorie apple actually burns 75 calories (nice).  Her breakfast meal recommendation is oatmeal or oat bran with 1/2 cup of frozen fruit.  
  2. Eat every 2-5 hours.  Eat as soon as we start to feel hungry but not starving!  Feeling like we are starving leaves us vulnerable to overeat.  This means eating 4-6 small meals and snacks per day.  Recommended snack foods include egg whites, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt (low or nonfat).  Add 1 tbsp of ground flax seed to yogurt for fiber and omega-3 fatty acid.  Avocados and olive oil are good foods for slimming the midsection.  High intensity cardio is also good for slimming the midsection.
  3. Do not eat more than 600 calories per sitting.  The body cannot digest any more than that and stores the remaining calories as fat.  Eat half your meal at restaurants - ask for a to go box as soon as you get your meal.  Look things up before you go to the restaurant to plan meals accordingly.  Try to eat 300 to 400 calories per meal and a 200 calorie snack.
  4. Do not eat less than 1,200 calories per day.  If you eat less than this, your body hoards body fat because it thinks it is in starvation mode.  Keep a food journal and track each meal (food and calories) as you go.
  5. Sleep 7-8 hours every night.  The hormone, leptin, tells us when we are full and does not function properly when we are sleep deprived.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Harmonizing Mind-Body-Spirit

For the last two years I have been conducting a dangerous experiment:  How far can you stretch a girl before she breaks?

This experiment would not have made it past the Human Subjects Review Board.

The experiment is now happily suspended indefinitely.

What I learned along the way about coping is now coming in handy for others.

It is that time of the year - school has just started and people are already stressed.  I have been getting calls from people trying to cope.

Here is a list of what has worked for me.  This list is entirely subjective so please experiment with an open heart and mind.  For instance, I love, love, love acupressure but my husband went to the same guy and felt nothing.  On the other hand, my husband really vibed off our massage therapist-turned-acupuncturist and I did not.  So there you have it.  Have fun exploring healing practices that might work for you.

Please remember, as I learned (finally!), no matter how much you try to cope, there is a limit.  Take a step back and reflect on whether you have taken on more than you can chew.  Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our appetites and we have to say no to a project even if it seems really juicy.  There is time enough for it later if we take care of ourselves now.  Work up the courage and faith to make a big change if necessary, including changing your unrealistic expectations. Your spirit may be trying to tell you something with all that discomfort and dis-ease. By all means ask yourself, what do I really want? and trust your inner voice.

The List:

Prayer and/or meditation. Regular practice is key.

Supportive friends and/or family.  Regular contact with people rooting for you and who you can talk to about almost anything.

Eating well.  We have so many food allergies we are unaware of - listen to your body or go to the doctor to get tested.  Because of my gall bladder disease, I stay away from butter, cream and fat from red meat (I miss caldo de res, chorizo, and cream-based soups). If I eat these foods, my belly swells up six-months pregnant-style or I wake up in the middle of the night to a burning ring of fire around my torso.  Generally speaking, our bodies need and thrive on plant-based foods. Food is medicine.

Supplements & Medication.  Find a healer to help you find the combination that works for you. For me, high grade Salmon Oil, the Vitamin B series and Vitamin E (makes my eyelashes longer even) works.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame around taking medication for mental health. Please don't let that stop you from being well.  I know a lot of wonderful, intelligent and beautiful people who swear by it, including myself.

Sleeping well.  We need 8 hours.  Every night.  Insomnia is epidemic and you are not alone.  It is a sign that our mind-body-spirit is out of balance.  There is so much to do to address this.  Reach out to healers.  I like to try exercise, chamomile tea, a super dark room, a warm bath, counting my breaths, getting up in the middle of the night to write if I have a lot on my mind, George Lopez or the Pixies on my iPod, etc.  I talk more about hypnotherapy later but I found a free downloadable podcast at HypnosisDownloads.org to stop insomnia.

Exercise.  Do whatever seems fun and safe and do it often. I like to sweat it out at the gym as often as possible.  I like to blast a tennis ball weekly to channel my aggressive drive.  I like to dance whenever I can to move the spirit.  My massage therapist said I can naturally re-align my body through dancing - woot woot.  My shaman said I need to spend more time in nature, so I am taking it outside and adding hiking to the list of things I do to move my body.

Laughter.  Whatever it takes to make you laugh, baby.  Laughter releases the body's natural painkillers - really good medicine. Even if she doesn't get the joke, my daughter laughs when I laugh, enough said I think.

Sex.  Yes, energy for sex and sex for energy.  The more sex we have the longer we live - I would add the happier we are, too.  As long as it is mind-body-spirit safe.   Good medicine.

Forgiveness.  I went to a workshop at a local church about forgiveness. The speaker, Connie Domino, is a public health nurse who developed a curriculum for achieving your goals.  She found that some people got stuck and others bounded ahead.  She noted the least successful were bitter and resentful and the most successful were forgiving.  So now she teaches how to forgive.  She has a book, The Law of Forgiveness: Tap in to the positive power of forgiveness and attract good things to your life, with a great script for releasing people, dead or alive, with forgiveness. I heard Oprah quote that resentment and not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Forgive and live.

Reading or Listening.  I love reading books, mostly non-fiction.  Okay! If you must know I have read a lot of self-help/self-improvement books.  I hate that the genre is stigmatized.  Cynics and hipsters, please look away now.  One of my favorites is, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  I really believe it is important to be selective about what we feed our brain.  What or who are we reading, listening to and letting in?  We have a choice.  It makes a difference.  I read a Children's Bible to my daughter at bedtime.  I learn something new every time I read the same stories over and over.  I love Paulo Coelho, Iyanla Vanzant, Napolean Hill, Martin Seligman, Emmy Werner, and so on.  Check out the recommended reading list on the right hand side of this blog.  The words of these wonderful spirits now live on in me because I have read them and internalized them.  Some lyrics have the same effect on me - Susana Baca, Tears for Fears, Bad (live) by U2, and many others stir the passion in my soul and make me feel bold or happy.  Or they help me to embrace sadness and pain before letting these feelings go.  I like singing and reading the hymns at church on Sunday mornings as well.  I like filling myself with good stuff.  Good stuff in - good stuff out.

Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.  I know many people who use alcohol and other drugs to manage their emotions.  I have no judgments, I get it.  Personally, these methods don't work for me.  I don't have a strong taste for alcohol and I don't get a buzz, I get a headache.  One time I tried medical marijuana for stress and it gave me allergies.  When I was a kid in East Los Angeles, I participated in an after-school program called "Get High On Life" at Salazar Park.  We played, did crafts, went camping.  Hearing my daughter laugh, laughing at my husbands jokes, dancing to live music, watching fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl, playing tennis and so on - all these things give me a natural high.  If you are looking for alternatives to coping, please read on.

Hair, Face, Hands & Toes.  Getting your hair did, getting a facial or wax, getting a mani or pedi - it all feels like a getaway and love wrapped into one, especially if they throw in a massage.  Good stuff.  Sometimes you just want to leave work at lunch time and have someone wash your hair, like mama did when you were a baby.

Acupuncture.  I have gone for stress or body pain.  I know others who have gone for weight loss assistance and fertility issues.  I have a really good referral for this type of healing - email me if you are interested.

Acupressure. Wow, this cleared out a lot of stuck energy.  Sobbed for awhile.  Good stuff.  My acupressure guy moved away :(

Massage.  This has been really good for me after sports activity. If you tend toward being anxious/worried or have a high stress job (hello, social workers!), then this is good on a regular basis, say weekly or monthly.  I see a lot of sidewalk signs for $45 massage while driving on Fair Oaks, Wilshire Blvd., or Santa Monica Blvd.  I would say buyer beware.  Get referrals and experiment.  I have a great referral who charges $70 an hour and does home visits if you are in the Northeast Los Angeles area  - email me if you are interested.  I also have been to dtox spa in Atwater Village (a referral from Josh) and Burke Williams in Pasadena (I like going on a Friday night when I feel like I got the whole place to myself. Beware: bathing suit or birthday suit in the Jacuzzi?  I have seen both.  Wear whatever you are most comfortable in.)

Chiropractor.  Sometimes life throws me out of alignment.  I usually need to go to a chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist all in the same week if I am really in a bad way - from structural to soft tissue repair.  I have a great referral in Silverlake.

Yoga.  A lot of research dollars have poured into testing this ancient spiritual healing practice.  So far the results are really good for anxiety, depression, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and so on.  After the final resting pose, I feel as calm and relaxed as I do after a one hour massage.  $10 per yoga class if you can muster the energy to move the energy yourself or $45+ if all you can do is crawl to the massage table.  Again, I got a good referral for the Northeast Los Angeles area (my massage therapist extraordinaire also teaches yoga).

Energy Healing.  Okay, I can't explain this one very well but my practitioner clears away negative energy and charges me up with healing energy.  I have referred nearly a dozen friends to her and most all come back to me with stories about healing and transformation. When I interviewed her for a paper on healers for a UCLA class on Latin American Medicine, Shamanism & Folk Illness, she said most people come to her saying they are stressed and need something. She trained at the Lion Heart Institute and charges $70 an hour.  Email me if you are interested in this referral in the Northeast Los Angeles area.

Hypnotherapy.  I have yet to try this professionally myself.  When I was in grad school for the MSW, one of my preceptors was in an LCSW exam prep group and all but one of the members tried hypnotherapy before the oral exam.  All but one passed the exam on the first try.  Anxiety can make our thinking brain shut down so any treatment that calms and relaxes our mind-body helps us to perform better.  I hear this type of treatment is especially good for weight loss efforts, I have to track down the reference for that one. I downloaded some podcasts from HypnosisDownloads.org on weight loss, positive affirmations and how to stop insomnia.  I listened to the positive affirmations at bedtime with my daughter.  It is a very sweet recording and reminds me of the things a loving parent would say.  According to the website, we don't hear the good stuff enough.  One of my mentors swears by this type of treatment for his PTSD and anxiety.  I have a referral in the Pasadena area if you are interested...

Talk Therapy.  There is room for all healers in the 21st century.  I have met helpful therapists for individual, group, family and couples counseling.

Shamanic Treatment.  I had focused on mind-body-spirit healing for most of my life and neglected soul healing.  I didn't realize spirit and soul were distinct.  Shamans do soul retrieval and spirit helper work.  In traumatic situations, pieces of our soul can check out and not return until it is safe.  A shaman can journey to retrieve parts of our soul that have checked out.  We don't have to walk around with a maimed soul.  Spirit helpers are like guardian angels and may show up in the form of animals consenting to help and protect us.  Shamanic practices are part of almost every culture in the world, originally from Siberia, you will find shamanism in Korea, China, Australia, Africa, Latin America, Medieval Europe, Alaska, Native America, etc.  My ancestors are from Latin America and I had been completely cut off from our traditional spiritual healing practices, until now.  I met a gifted and experienced shaman in the greater Los Angeles area who charges $75 per hour or a flat rate of $100 per treatment and anything in between as you are able, please email me if you are interested...

Be well.