The Pomodoro Technique



Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique?  The above picture is a simple illustration of the process.  Basically, it's a simple way to better manage your time by focusing on one specific task for 25 minutes straight, then taking a 5 minute break.  You repeat this process four times, then take a 15-30 minute break.  Pretty simple, right?

The theory behind this concept is you can accomplish much more in less time by creating a systematic and focused approach to accomplishing tasks.  Think about how easy it is to become distracted while at work.  Checking email seems to be one of the biggest distractors for many people, as well as checking your cell phone.  Other distractors are conversations with co-workers, or simply doing mundane, unimportant tasks to avoid getting things done.  The Pomodoro Technique allows you to focus on one specific task at a time.  The technique requires you to use a timer (the technique is named after the pomodoro tomato shaped timer the original author used to track his time) so that you don't have to concern yourself with time.  Simply work hard on the task until you here the sound of the buzzer.

Here is an article on the topic that is excellent by Chris Winfield.  In the article, Chris discusses his process of using the Pomodoro Technique to reduce the amount of hours he works each week, and even become more productive in the process!

If you give this technique a try, leave a comment and let me know if you found it helpful.

The Eisenhower Matrix



I recently came across this efficient, simple way to organize my tasks.  To learn more, click here for more details.

With so many "things" to do now, and even more distractions from getting "things" done, this is a simple way to determine what's important and what's not.  Give it a try, and see what you think.  The goal is to simplify and focus only on a few tasks to complete now.  

Create lists of other tasks to schedule at a later date if it's not urgent.  For example, schedule a meeting for a later date rather than scrambling to squeeze it into a packed day.

Delegate everything that someone else can do.  These are the non-important tasks that can be given to someone else, especially when it comes to tasks that someone else is likely better at than you.  For example, delegating the minor daily tasks to a virtual assistant can drastically free up your time to complete the more urgent/important tasks.

Finally, the "delete" category.  This is probably the area that we have to be the most diligent about.  Think of all the time you spend on unimportant/non-urgent tasks.  Looking on the Internet, checking Facebook, or any other way you kill time to avoid the important/urgent tasks.  Delete as much as possible.  In doing so, you simplify daily goals and tasks to complete everything you need to get done.  Hope this helps.

Why Are There No Mental Health Issues in Costa Rica??

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  Here’s a picture I took while visiting Costa Rica.

Here’s a picture I took while visiting Costa Rica.

I’ve traveled to multiple beach towns in South America and the Caribbean.  As a therapist, one thought continues to stand out:

There are no mental health services in these places.

Why?  It’s a question I ponder a lot!  In America, we seem to be stressed by work, life, family, friends, and all other obligations.  We take pills to feel better, and mask the problems through modern medicine.  Psychotropic medications such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills are considered an easy solution to life’s stresses.  Unfortunately, all it seems to do is create a dependence on medication to feel better.  When you go to Costa Rica, it’s simply “Pura Vida”!  You don’t see stressed out people (even though they have far less “things” then the typical American).  You don’t hear people complaining about the boss, or what someone said on Facebook, or about anything.  It’s simple, calm, and people appear to feel content.

Why do we force such stress on ourselves and then escape to islands to only feel good for a week?  Sadly, some people don’t even take a week of vacation because they have “too much to do”, or “can’t afford it”, of fear being fired. If you don't believe me, check out this article to see how many people don't even take all their paid vacation each year!

Do you live to work, or work to live?  When I talk with people from other cultures, I find that life isn’t centered around THINGS and WORK.  They’re not concerned about driving a fancy car, having a big house, or “keeping up with the Jones”.  They are at peace with being free from the constraints of THINGS.  A good wave on their surfboard.  A slow walk on the beach.  A moonlight dinner while eating fresh ceviche.  These are the experiences (rather than things) that hold value. 

Why is there no need for mental healh services in Costa Rica?  Because there is no self-induced stress. 

How do we reduce this self-induced stress? 

For starters, take a good, long look in the mirror.  What do you see?  If it’s a tired face that is stressed due to bills and debt, it might be time for a change.  If it’s a person concerned with how people will perceive the car they drive, how they’re dressed, and house they own, it might be time for a change.  If it’s a person that feels overworked and undervalued, it might be time for a change. 

The first step to reducing stress is to be honest about your current lifestyle.  The most precious commodity we have is TIME.  To make best use of our limited time here, try an exercise that might help keep you focused: 

I call it a Vision Map, but you can call it whatever you want.  It’s simple: cut and paste pictures that depict the ultimate lifestyle onto a blank sheet of paper.  Take that collage and tape it to your mirror so you see it daily.  The goal is to think and visualize the life you want, and focus on obtaining that lifestyle in an effort to live a healthier lifestyle (rather than continuing to build stress).  You might be tempted to put a bunch of “things” on the collage (like a fancy car, big house, etc.), but that is not the goal.  Yes, we all have our certain things we want, and you can absolutely put those into your vision map.  In addition, think about the lifestyle you want, not the things you want. 

Give it a try.  If you do, and would like to share yours, send me a picture of your vision map and I will post it to the blog.

Great Quote

One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.
– Bruce Lee


How easy is it to get lost in the idea of MORE?  More money...  More cars... More friends...  More Stuff!
It seems to be an American lifestyle to desire more of everything, but why?  Seems like it becomes a never ending cycle, leading to more insecurity and problems.  I'll guess most of us have times where we desire more, and feel "jealous" of others.  Though it may be human nature to have these thoughts and feelings, it's important to consider why?  Why do we need more?  

Maybe it's time to try something new.  How about trying to eliminate rather than accumulate.  What could you eliminate today?  Could you eliminate clothes from your closet?  Could you eliminate that snack in the afternoon?  Could you exercise more to eliminate extra weight?  Could you remove those people in your life that cause drama and are unhealthy for you?  Could you eliminate anxiety by taking action and completing those tasks you've been avoiding.

Focus on the people and things that matter most to you.  Keep it simple and work to cultivate a few close relationships.  Search for the few "things" that matter most to you, and eliminate the rest.  

Create a schedule and routine that simplifies the day and reduces the stress of deciding what to do each day.  Tim Ferriss posted a great article about "Ego-Depletion" that discusses the process of automating your decisions to help simplify your life.  By automating many of your decisions, not only does it keep things simple, but you will have the ability to make better decisions when faced with difficult situations.

What will you eliminate?

Counselor Salary Reality Check- Round #2


A while back I posted some available job opportunities to show the lack of value many people place on counselors.  Today, I went to Travis County's website (Austin, TX) to look at current job opportunities and below are two of the openings I found:

Notice this is a "Senior" level position!!


What stands out to you about these two job openings?  For me, it's the reality that a Senior level counselor (with a Master's degree and at least 2-4 years of experience) is offered the same compensation as an individual with a high school diploma and a electrician's license.  On top of that, the counselor position is inside a county jail!!  This post isn't meant to disrespect the electrician profession, it's about helping counselors recognize their value and expect more.  

Counselors spend 4-5 years earning a Bachelor's degree, then another 2-3 years earning a Master's degree, and THEN ANOTHER 2-3 years interning before even starting a career as a fully licensed counselor.  When it's all said and done, a counselor has spent as much time in school as some medical professionals (and accrued a ton of debt along the way).  

It's our job as professional counselors to demand and expect fair compensation for the important work we do.  Why settle for a salary that doesn't reflect your value.  How can you create your own business and help your clients while earning a living that equals your true worth?

Virtual LPC Podcast #23 featuring Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT

Founder and Clinical Director of the Center for Relational Recovery in Leesburg Virginia, Michelle Mays LPC, CSAT has over 13 years experience in providing individual, couples and group therapy to those struggling with sexual addiction, trauma and relationship issues.

Michelle is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist trained under Dr. Patrick Carnes. She is also trained in Post Induction Therapy by Pia Mellody for the treatment of relational trauma. Michelle is sought out as a writer, trainer and speaker on sexual addiction, partners of sex addicts, the developmental model of trauma treatment, and relationship issues. In addition, she mentors and supervises upcoming therapists. Michelle is in the process of completing her certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples.

Listen to the episode in iTunes by Clicking Here!

Please welcome Michelle!  Between operating a counseling practice, writing a book to help partners of sex addicts, and developing a website ( should be coming out soon), she is able to maintain a balanced lifestyle.  One of the keys to her success is that she leaves her evening open throughout the week.  That seems to be a struggle for so many people in private practice, due to the "need" to see clients in the evening to accommodate client schedules.  Michelle offers some excellent insight into running a counseling practice and maintaining balance in life.

Some resources she uses and recommends are:

Wellness: "artist way" (you can learn what this means listening to the podcast!); meditation, exercise, play, and prayer.

Books: "Presence" by Amy Cuddy; "The Truth" by Neil Strauss; "Do the Work" by Steven Pressfield; "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk

Internet Resources:; Scrivener for Mac

To learn more about Michelle, you can visit her website HERE!

You can also listen to the episode directly from your browser by clicking here!

NEW: You can also listen through Google Play by Clicking Here!

Virtual LPC Podcast #22 featuring Courtney Armstrong

Courtney is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Master Practitioner in a method called Rapid Resolution Therapy™, a process that integrates both the rational and emotional systems of the brain to quickly calm anxiety, heal emotional pain, and create renewed joy and purpose in your life.

Through her 20 years experience as a counselor and hypnotherapist, Courtney discovered that the emotional part of your brain learns better through an experience and your five-senses, not from logical analysis and discussion about a problem. That’s why you can’t just talk yourself out of a bad mood, panic attack, or flashback. Instead the emotional brain responds to connection, imagery, metaphor, movement, or music. What’s more- integrating these elements seems to accelerate healing so that you feel better within 1-6 sessions, not years.

In her therapy sessions and her workshops, Courtney provides a compassionate, supportive space and shows you how to deal with your emotions, clear any blocks that have been keeping you “stuck,” and move your life forward in a positive direction.

Click Here to Listen to the Episode on iTunes!

Please welcome Courtney to our little spot on the Internet.  She's an extremely busy lady with all the different things she has going on.  Courtney owns a private practice, mentors other counselors, conducts workshops, and has published a book, The Therapeutic "Aha".

In this episode, she discusses her path to the counseling profession, and the experience of becoming a published author.  Courtney serves as an inspiration to all of us- she reminds us that we can create multiple ways to help others and grow our income.  Below are some valuable resources she recommends utilizing:

Wellness: yoga (since we sit most of the day in our job, it's important to stretch and move)

Books: "Trauma and Memory" by Peter Levine; Books from David Sedaris; and of course Courtney's book

Internet Resources: Online Scheduler such as Full Slate; finding a Virtual Assistant.

For more information on Courtney's work, visit her website HERE!  If wanting to learn more about her mentoring work and therapist resources, check out her other website HERE!  I have to say, her websites are extremely well done.

You can also listen to the episode directly from your browser by clicking here!


Virtual LPC Podcast #21 featuring Eric Strom

Eric's bio from his website:

As an attorney and a mental health counselor, I understand the unique legal considerations of the health care profession. I have had many years of experience providing legal counsel, consultation, and guidance to a wide range of health care professionals including psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, psychiatrists, physicians, nurses, eastern medicine practitioners, and first responders. In addition, I am licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in Washington State and am currently providing counseling and psychotherapy services to combat veterans in Everett Washington. As an attorney in the US Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, I spent more than 10 years conducting legal training and providing legal services to mental health and medical professionals employed by the Federal Government in California and Washington State. I have also served as legal counsel on Navy Domestic Violence Case Review Committees for many years. 

In this episode you meet Eric.  It's an awesome interview that you are definitely going to enjoy.  Eric has a unique perspective because he is both a counselor and a lawyer!!  On top of that, he is also the co-founder of Counsel Chat.  Click the link to check it out!

Eric talks about his journey from being a lawyer to counselor, being a father, and developing new ways of helping people utilizing the Internet.  He also discussed the importance of avoiding professional isolation through networking with other mental health professionals.  Here are some excellent resources Eric recommends:

Wellness: mindfulness and breathing exercises.  Working to remain present in the moment.

Books: "The Body Keeps the Score" by Besser van der Kolk, MD and "Do Fathers Matter" by Paul Raeburn

Internet Resources: and Person Centered Tech by Roy Huggins (a former guest on the show)

If you are attending the ACA Conference this year, drop by and say hello to Eric.  Counsel Chat is hosting a coffee social at the conference!

You can also listen to the podcast directly from your browser by clicking here.

Virtual LPC Podcast #20 featuring Dr. John Pellitteri

Dr. John Pellitteri is a board-certified clinical psychologist who offers neuropsychological assessment, neurofeedback and psychotherapy in private practice. He is an educator with a specialty in the brain and how it processes information.  He has worked with many types of clients as a psychologist, including assessing risk, police, couples, children, individuals, and families.  He has presented on a variety of topics, always with the notion of building relationships, being cognizant of the way the brain works, and entertaining and inspiring his audiences as his focal points. He has performed stand-up comedy at the Improv, taught martial arts to children, and spoken about parenting special needs children – himself a father of an amazing boy with special needs. 

Check out the episode on iTunes by clicking here!

Dr. Pellitteri is a joy to talk with!  In this episode, we discuss his practice and specialty in Neurofeedback.  On top of his private practice, he is also a professor!  In the episode we talk about the struggles for time, and learning to say "NO".  We also talk about being okay making money as a mental health professional and the importance of specialization.

Below are some are some resources Dr. Pellitteri offers that he finds useful in his practice:

Wellness: mindfulness training, racquetball, and hanging out with friends

Book: "The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy" by Louis Cozolino and "Getting Rid of Ritalin" by Robert W. Hill

Internet Resources: Square for credit card payments; BCIA

For more information about Dr. Pellitteri, you can find him at his website HERE!

You can also listen to the podcast directly from your browser by clicking here

Virtual LPC Podcast #19 featuring Patty Gonzalez

Patty Gonzalez, M.A. is a marriage and family therapist intern and began her training at Los Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,and Transgender Center in 2012. At that time, Ms. Gonzalez was completing her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, with a specialization in Latino/a Family at Pacific Oaks College. Patricia’s approach to client work is strengths based and her clinical experience includes the following groups: persons identifying as LGBTQIA, people of color working through trauma, positive and non-violent parenting, childhood social skills and mental health, and mental health related to aging in older adults. 

Patricia has focused her work on specializing with people of color and persons identifying as LGBTQIA. She is committed and passionate about providing well informed mental and affirmative health care to this richly diverse group. Ms. Gonzalez is a longtime advocate of culturally competent mental health care for communities of color and the LGTBQIA community.  She is passionate and knowledgeable in both her role as a clinician as well as a lecturer and workshop facilitator.  In 2015, Ms. Gonzalez joined Creative Insights Counseling to further develop her work, under the supervision of Dr. Lowenthal, in a private practice setting. Together with Dr. Lowenthal and other staff of Creative Insights Counseling, Patricia now collaborates to provide training and outreach in many different settings.  Her writing is featured on the Creative Insights Counseling webpage and she is looking forward to this November when she will be a guest lecturer at the School of Education at the University of Redlands in their Masters of Counseling program. 

Click Here to Listen to the Podcast on iTunes

Recently, I had the privilege to interview Patty, and it was a wonderful experience!  Patty is currently an MFT Intern, working under Dr. Traci Lowenthal (podcast interview #17).  I thought it would be interesting to change things up a bit and get perspective from an intern in counseling about topics like: finding a supervisor (Patty found her supervisor through Facebook!), jumping straight into private practice, and building a practice while interning.

In the interview, Patty offers some really good insights into the supervision process and developing her private practice.  She also offers the following resources that have helped her along the way:

Wellness Activity: Guided Meditation through Youtube; using a running app on her phone

Book: "All About Love" by Bell Hooks

Internet Resource: Utilizing Facebook groups to connect with other counselors

To learn more about Patty, check out her new blog HERE!  You can also visit Dr. Lowenthal's website to learn more about Patty and connect with her.  You can also find Patty on Facebook.

Click here to listen to the episode directly from your browser!