Low-Cost or Free Mental Health Resources

We all know that therapy can be expensive, but did you know that there are other resources that you can use if you aren’t able to afford therapy, or are geographically too far away to get to services in person?

This is an AWESOME list of free or low-cost apps used to support mental health, websites, and call centers to use for depression or other mental health support.

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81 Awesome Mental Health Resources When You Can’t Afford a Therapist

Sure, pretty much everyone could benefit from therapy. But not everyone can afford it. Thankfully, there’s a whole world of free or affordable mental health care out there designed to help you with just about every issue, whether that’s kicking an addiction, managing your emotions, finding a group of like-minded peers, or recovering from trauma.

Even better? Some of these resources are available whenever you need them. (No need to schedule an appointment between the hours of 9 and 5.) Support groups, hotlines and call centers, websites and online forums, and even apps can be put into action when you have a crisis or just need extra support

But finding out which resources are best for you takes some legwork. We’ve rounded up 81 of the very best affordable (or free) mental health resources. Keep this list handy whenever you need some backup.

Note: Resources are listed alphabetically by type.

Mental Health Apps

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1. ACT Coach

ACT Coach teaches users how to tolerate negative thoughts and feelings by virtually guiding them through awareness exercises and giving tips on how to ditch self-doubt. With an extra focus on mindfulness, this app also provides a log to track your progress. (Free; iOS)


Designed by therapist Rosemary Sword, this app uses Time Perspective Therapy, a method developed to unglue us from unhelpful or obsessive thoughts. Chock-full of visual aids to encourage relaxation and self-soothing, AETAS also arms users with a time perspective inventory that helps them understand how they view the past, present, and future will either help or hinder their happiness. ($4.99; iOS)

3. Breathe2Relax

Sometimes, all we need to de-stress is take a few deep breaths. Created by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, this app teaches users how to do diaphragmatic breathing. Features include educational videos on the stress response, logs to record stress levels, and customizable guided breathing sessions. (Free; iOS and Android)

4. DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach

This app works as a daily mood and thought diary. But it also has a coaching module that gives tips on sticky emotional situations, like how to ask for what you need without drama or how to successfully resolve conflict. And users get positive reinforcement when they’re consistent with their entries. The app also includes a super helpful DBT reference section for more info on coping skills—all backed by research. ($4.99; iOS)

5. Depression CBT Self-Help Guide

Need help managing the blues? Monitor dips in your mood, learn about clinical depression and treatments, try guided relaxation techniques, and learn strategies to challenge negative thinking with this app. It’s all just a few taps and swipes away. (Free; Android)

6. eCBT calm

Implementing some of the many strategies of cognitive behavioral therapy, this app helps users assess their stress levels, practice mindfulness and relaxation skills, and connect their thoughts to feelings and behaviors. The end result is more calm in your everyday life and more awareness of your actions and emotions. ($0.99; iOS)

7. Happify

Want to kick negative thoughts, nix worry, and dial down stress? The array of engaging games, activity suggestions, and gratitude prompts makes Happify a useful shortcut to a good mood. Designed with input from 18 health and happiness experts, Happify’s positive mood-training program is psychologist approved. Even cooler? Its website links to bonus videos that are sure to make you smile. (Free; iOS)

8. How Are You

Tracking your moods can help you fight the blues and teach you to tune into positive things. That’s the premise behind this app. But as a bonus, it also allows you to compare your mood with worldwide averages, see which emotions you feel the most, and export your mood tracking data so you can share it with a mental health professional or trusted friend. ($9.99-$12.99; iOS and Android)

9. MindShift

This straightforward stress management tool helps users re-think what’s stressing them out through a variety of on-screen prompts. At the same time, the app encourages new ways to take charge of anxiety and tune into body signals. (Free; iOS and Andriod)

10. Operation Reach Out

This mood tracker and resource locator was designed by Emory University researchers to aid in suicide prevention. The setup is simple: Users create a personal profile that includes emergency contact information, current medications, safety plans, and reminders for appointments or medications. Plus the app uses GPS to locate mental health care services nearby, should any user enter crisis mode. (Free; iOS and Android)

11. PTSD Coach

If you suffer from PTSD symptoms, this 24-hour tool that’s linked directly with support services is a valuable thing to download. Available as an app or on the Web, PTSD Coach lets users select the specific issue they want to deal with (from anxiety and anger to insomnia and alienation), and then gives them guidance on how to lift their mood, shift their mindset, and reduce stress. (Free; iOS and Android)

12. Quit It

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know all about the nasty health consequences. But it probably doesn’t stop you from lighting up. But this app’s approach is different. It shows you the hit your wallet takes every time you get another pack. Even better: Quit It calculates how much money you save each time you don’t smoke. Think of it as extra financial incentive to kick nicotine and tobacco (and save for something far better!). ($1.99; iOS)

13. Quit Pro

Think of this as a fitness tracker for your smoking habit. By monitoring your cravings over time, the places you puff the most, the triggers that lead you to light up, and the money you save by resisting a cigarette, this comprehensive app is a much better thing to have in your back pocket than a pack of smokes. (Free; iOS and Android)

14. SAM

How do you know what’s pushing you over the edge and reel yourself back in? SAM’s approach is to monitor anxious thoughts, track behavior over time, and use guided self-help exercises to discourage stress. SAM takes it to the next level by offering a “Social Cloud” feature that allows users to confidentially share their progress with an online community for added support. (Free; iOS and Android)

15. Step Away

A study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that this pro-sobriety app helped reduce heavy drinking among users by 60 percent. Step Away offers tips on maintaining sobriety, encouragement, and strategies to avoid drinking during stressful times. You’ll also be able to plug in your top drinking triggers to prepare yourself before facing down any tricky situation. (Free; iOS)

16. Stop, Breathe, Think!

Got five minutes? That’s enough time to cultivate mindfulness, which can improve your mood, lower stress, and help you feel more compassion toward yourself and the world. Skeptical? Well, consider that mindfulness and happiness tend to go hand-in-hand. And as added incentive, this app can also improve your focus. (Free; iOS and Android)

17. Stop Drinking

Relying on the powers of relaxation, visualization, and positive suggestions, this pro-sobriety app has the goal of calming your mind and geting it to a less stressed place—where you’ll be less likely to crave a drink. Take advantage of the reminder feature that gives periodic chimes to prompt you to breathe and focus on the good throughout the day. ($2.99; iOS and Android)

18. Stress and Anxiety Companion

Sure, we know that releasing negative thoughts, practicing relaxation techniques, and engaging in mindful awareness is good for our wellbeing. But that doesn’t mean we actually do it. This app can help make the process a lot easier by guiding you through proven techniques to reduce those off-kilter thoughts and emotions while cultivating a much more present mindset. Additional features allow you to identify anxiety triggers to make sure they don’t catch you off guard. ($4.99; iOS)

19. Talkspace

Bet you didn’t think you could chat with a therapist for just $25 a week. Well, Talkspace makes that possible. For that low fee, you can text message with a trained professional everyday of the week and as many times as you want. They also offer services for individuals and couples. Oh, and the best part? You can do it from your couch. ($25/month; iOS and Android)

20. Worry Watch

We all get anxious only to realize later our anxieties were overblown or irrational. The idea behind Worry Watch is to nip these moments in the bud. This app enables users to track what kick starts their anxiety, note trends in their feelings, observe when the outcomes were harmless, and keep tabs on insights to stop future freakouts. To lower your anxiety even further, Worry Watch is password protected—so whatever you divulge in the diary feature is safe and sound. ($1.99; iOS)

Websites, Online Support, and Forums

21. Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation

People with Body Dysmorphic Disorder have a damaging preoccupation with their appearance and an obsessive focus on their physical flaws. If that sounds familiar, you might find some relief on the BDD Foundation’s website. Resources for better understanding the problem, seeking treatment, and spreading the word about the disorder are all laid out here.

22. Center for Complicated Grief

Hosted by the Center for Complicated Grief, this long list of resources gives people a ton of alternative outlets, social support groups, and organizations to connect with when healing from the loss of a loved one.

23. CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

Founded in 1994 as an alliance to promote and maintain LGBTQ community centers, CenterLink’s helpful services have now moved online. Check out all they have to offer—from links to health centers across the U.S. to advocacy groups and educational services.

24. GLBT National Help Center

A great resource for folks identifying all across the LGBTQ spectrum, this site includes information on everything from support to education to community organizing. One of the center’s best resources is its online volunteer-run chat room. All chats are confidential (read: no transcripts or recordings are saved). Chats are open during 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST during the week and between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. PST on weekends.

25. Healing From BPD

For anyone with borderline personality disorder, this peer run chat is the perfect online space to ask questions about BPD and its treatment, especially considering that mental health professionals often chime in. It’s also a place to share experiences, discuss progress and challenges, and potentially make some new friends who get where you’re coming from because they’re right there with you.

26. IMAlive

If you’re in a place where picking up the phone seems too daunting, you can still access support through IM Alive’s virtual crisis chat. Staffed by a network of trained and supervised peer volunteers around the country, IM Alive’s goal is to empower individuals in despair, address their situation, and help them navigate the darkest and most difficult emotional times.

27. International OCD Foundation

An invaluable space for those struggling with obsessive compulsive disorder, this site has many links, resources, and opportunities to get involved in the ongoing fight to preserve mental health. Find help, learn more about the illness, and even apply for grants here.

28. MentalHealth.gov

The main goal of this government-sponsored resource: Educate as many people as possible about the realities of mental illness in America while offering resources to those seeking help. Consider this your go-to site for a rundown on what mental health disorders look like. It also includes information on how to get help, support someone you love, or start a dialog about mental health in your community.

29. National Alliance on Mental Illness

From education about mental illness to updates on insurance coverage, NAMI offers a slew of resources. People who want to get informed about the workings of the mind and our government’s recognition of mood and behavioral disorders will get the full scoop here. But arguably the most helpful resource is the heart-wrenching and hopeful personal stories from individuals across the country sharing their accounts of living with mental illness.

30. National Center for Victims of Crime

This impeccable resource enables victims of all types of crimes (think: bullying, physical abuse, stalking, and even terrorism) to secure the specific type of help they need. Individuals in need can plug in their desired assistance, from case advocacy to counseling, along with their state and county for immediate, local help ASAP.

31. National Eating Disorder Association of America

A pioneer in the education and treatment for eating disorders, NEDA extends a wide range of support services, learning tools, and opportunities to advocate on behalf of those with an eating disorder. You can also get involved with the association’s sister program, Proud2BMe, and join a community geared toward promoting a healthier relationship with food and weight.

32. National Institute of Mental Health

One of the most comprehensive and trusted sources for information about mental illness, the National Institute of Mental Health’s site is packed with educational tools designed to promote awareness and provide funding for research. It serves as a hub on a variety of topics: the latest news on a range of disorders, updates on new treatments, and reports on insurance coverage. And yes, you can also search for support via NIMH’s site as well.

33. OK2Talk

Designed for teens and young adults with mental illness, this site offers an online outlet for people to come forward with their own stories, find support, and discuss the diagnoses they may have received. OK2Talk comes with plenty of motivational posts and mantras as well. And one quick look at the site will tip you off that, whatever you’re struggling with, you’re most certainly not alone.

34. Stalking Resource Center

You probably already know that stalking is an extremely serious issue. But you may not know what type of help to seek if you or someone you know is a victim. Here’s where the Stalking Resource Center can help. They present a number of options for anyone struggling with endless unwanted attention or obsessive behavior. From a brochure explaining what stalking is (and how to tell if you’re being followed) to tips on developing a safety plan, this site should be the first stop for anyone in need of assistance.

35. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

This government-sponsored resource is chock-full of data, research insights, grants, and educational tools about substance dependencies and mood or behavioral issues. But SAMHSA also offers many resources for people suffering from these issues.

36. Trevor Space

Are you a young person seeking support for an identity that falls along the LGBTQ spectrum? This site, an endeavor sponsored by the Trevor Project, is an excellent safe haven to connect to other young gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans*, or queer people. You’ll also pick up news about LGBTQ issues and get tips for joining in the community, wherever you live.

Hotlines and Call Centers

37. Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center: 1-888-694-2273

If you’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder—or you have a hunch you or a loved one may be displaying symptoms of BPD—the social workers staffing the Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center’s hotline can arm you with all the information you need about local resources and provide immediate over-the-phone counseling.

38. Crisis Call Center: 1-800-273-8255

Another 24-hour helpline, this crisis call center is free of charge, confidential, and geared toward providing support to anyone in emotional distress—whatever the reason. Pick up the phone when you need to talk or text “ANSWER” to 839863 to connect.

39. Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990

If you’ve recently been the victim of a disaster (whether caused by nature or man), this is your go-to contact for all things related to counseling and relief. The trained counselors staffing the Disaster Distress Hotline provide help to those suffering in the wake of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts, and earthquakes as well as incidences of mass violence or health epidemics (like the Ebola crisis). The call center is also open to friends and family members of victims. An alternative way to connect: Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

40. GLBT National Help Line: 1-888-843-4564

Need to talk to someone who gets it when it comes to coming out, being bullied for your sexual orientation, or navigating same-sex relationships? Look no further than the GLBT National Help Line, run by peers and allies of the LGBTQ community. This hotline is ready to hear your concerns and can connect you to the GLBT National Help Center’s massive list of resources for LGBTQ-friendly services and organizations near you.

41. GLBT National Help Center for Youth: 1-800-246-7743

If you’re under 21 and looking to speak with a peer counselor who really understands issues related to gender or sexual identity, this is the number to call. Similar to the national help line, this version for youth lets young LGBTQ-identified individuals dial in to talk about hardships faced in their day-to-day lives. Callers can also access a ton of resources to help bolster them well into their 20s and beyond.

42. GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project: 1-800-832-1901

Domestic violence or sexual assault can happen to anyone. If it’s happened to you and you identify as LGBTQ, this hotline can help. It’s free and confidential and offers you the opportunity to speak with a counselor and to obtain information about safety plans, safe houses, legal resources, and additional crisis intervention options.

43. Hair Pullers Anonymous Nationwide Phone Meetings

Trichotillomania is a disorder involving compulsive pulling of the hair and can also be accompanied by obsessive skin picking. If you’re suffering from this behavioral issue, it can seriously help to speak with people who can relate and share coping mechanisms. Use the link above for an email that will give you access to the confidential telephone number and call times.

44. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-800-931-2237

Need more info on eating disorders? Looking for treatment for yourself, a friend, or a loved one? ANAD’s national helpline is here for you. Whether you’re looking for immediate counseling or recommendations for treatment and support, this is the number to call. Folks who prefer to connect with a volunteer or counselor but aren’t in the mood to pick up the phone can take advantage of ANAD’s services via email.

45. National Crime Victim Helpline: 1-800-394-2255

If you’ve been the victim of any type of crime, this toll-free, confidential help line can connect you with the resources that best address your current situation—from directing you to specific counseling centers and resources to connecting you with legal advice. Whatever the crime, this hotline is a trustworthy first step in getting you the assistance you need, STAT.

46. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7223

Trained domestic violence advocates are available to help those trapped in dangerous home situations 24/7. To receive immediate counseling free of charge and gain access to local resources that can assist you in implementing a safety plan and seeking refuge, call The National Domestic Hotline’s toll-free number ASAP.

47. National Eating Disorder Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237

Need some help figuring out where to go and who to turn to when dealing with an eating disorder (your own or someone else’s)? Call a trained NEDA representative at this hotline and they’ll hook you up with information about eating disorders, treatment options, and referrals.

48. National Organization for Victim Assistance: 1-800-879-6682

Whether you’re a victim or a witness to a crime (or even if you’re a criminal justice or mental health professional seeking services for a client), NOVA’s hotline can help you. Though the association doesn’t offer counseling, NOVA representatives can connect you within minutes to a counseling hotline that best fits your needs. They also provide information about crime and crisis recovery as well as referrals to victim advocacy.

49. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’ve been sexually assaulted. This hotline can offer counsel and link you to resources that can help you navigate this traumatic situation. The group’s website also hosts a free and confidential online chat, if that’s easier than picking up the phone.

50. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

With the primary aim of keeping you going even in the darkest of times, this suicide prevention hotline is available 24/7 to offer a compassionate ear—no matter what you’re dealing with. Pour your heart out to a skilled staffer without fear of being judged, and if you’d like referrals to local mental health care services after your call, hotline representatives can set you up.

51. Obsessive Compulsive Anonymous Nationwide Conference Call: 1-712-432-0075

Maybe you want to connect with others who can relate to the obsessions or compulsions that are weighing on you, but you can’t attend in-person meetings. That’s where this call center can step in. The conference call can help lift you out of isolation and link you up with peers who know exactly what you’re going through. Modeled after AA, OCA’s conference calls follow the basic format of a 12-step meeting. Visit the group’s website for times of calls and additional resources related to OCD.

52. Samaritan’s Crisis Hotline: 1-212-673-3000

Staffed by rigorously trained volunteers, this 24/7 suicide prevention hotline is free of charge and here to help by lending a compassionate, non-judgmental ear when you’re in crisis. This is the ideal resource for anyone who can’t afford therapy but desperately needs to talk and be heard. Call the Samaritans morning, noon, or night if you’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or isolated and can’t turn to family and friends.

53. Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

For LGBTQ youth who need help grappling with urges to self-harm or thoughts of suicide, this number can literally be a lifeline. Available free of charge and at all hours, this number is manned by a trained staffer ready to field your call and let you open up about whatever issues you’re facing. Not into phone calls? Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 to connect with a skilled support line responder.

Addiction Support Groups

54. Alcoholics Anonymous

The granddaddy of support groups, AA has been helping alcoholics since 1935. Founded by two former drinking buddies, the program was loosely modeled on a popular religious movement bent on owning your errors, assessing your character, and making amends. Today it boasts over two million members worldwide and welcomes folks of any age and all political, sexual, and gender orientations. No dues or fees required.

55. Al-Anon

Sometimes the issue is not your drinking, but a friend’s or family member’s whose issues with alcohol have disrupted your life. Al-Anon supports individuals affected by others’ alcoholism and even offers a specialized program for teens (Alateen).

56. Cocaine Anonymous

Started in Los Angeles in 1982, Cocaine Anonymous counts around 30,000 members across the globe. Like its name implies, CA is modeled after the 12 steps and peer-support design of AA. People wrestling with addictions to other substances in addition to cocaine are also welcome to address that here. Meetings are free and open to all. The only requirement: You want to stop using.

57. Crystal Meth Anonymous

Crystal Meth Anonymous was also born out of AA. After witnessing an upsurge of crystal meth addicts joining AA to get sober, one former addict began this offshoot in 1994. He figured meth addicts could benefit from a 12-step model, but they needed their own tailored version of support. Turns out, that hunch was right, as today you can find over 600 CMA meetings worldwide.

58. Dual Recovery Anonymous

Dual Recovery Anonymous offers a specialized 12-step program for folks grappling with chemical dependencies on top of emotional and psychological disorders. Similar to other 12-step peer support programs, the only requirement for entry is a desire to get sober and, in this case, a desire to manage your mood.

59. Gamblers Anonymous

The 12-step system doesn’t just apply to substances. People who find themselves frequently in debt or otherwise stressed by excessive gambling habits have made good use of this support group. And it’s no newcomer; it’s been on the scene since 1957.

60. LifeRing

LifeRing doesn’t involve any official “steps.” And there’s no need for sponsorship here, either. The organization does, however, provide forums and face-to-face meetings to help people who wish to be sober design their own recoveries in a way that makes sense for them.

61. Marijuana Anonymous

Sure, pot is now legal in some states, but like other legal substances (ahem, alcohol) that doesn’t mean it won’t trigger addiction issues. If your tokes are getting in the way of your life, these national meetings can help bring back some balance.

62. Narcotics Anonymous

Designed for drug addicts grappling with all types of chemical dependencies, NA models itself after, you guessed it, the traditions and steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. And it’s been in the business of keeping folks around the world drug-free since 1953.

63. Nar-Anon

Similar to Al-Anon and Alateen, Nar-Anon offers support to the family members and friends of people struggling with addiction. Meetings give a safe space for people to sort out their feelings and make sense of their loved one’s addictive behavior and its impact on their lives.

64. Overeaters Anonymous

Yes, you can get hooked on the highs associated with food. And if you are, you’re not alone: About 11 percent of us are addicted to food . Thankfully, there are over 6,500 OA meetings across the globe designed in the 12-step spirit of AA to help people manage compulsive eating habits and cultivate a healthier relationship with food.

65. Sex Addicts Anonymous

We’re all for a healthy and happy sex life. But sometime people use sex to self-medicate, self-destruct, and, in the process, wreak havoc on their own and others’ wellbeing. Researchers estimate between 3 and 6 percent of the population is at risk . Men and women can learn to manage their behavior, gain insight into their impulses, and start their recovery through peer support with 12-step SAA meetings hosted across the globe.

66. Secular Organizations for Sobriety

An alternative to AA, this support network is for anyone seeking sobriety. SOS backs individual empowerment while also declaring a strong respect for science and healthy skepticism surrounding treatment. Meetings are held across the U.S. and abroad.

67. SMART Recovery

Twelve-step programs not your thing? No problem. SMART recovery offers another alternative to AA and its offshoots. Modeled after research-based cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, SMART meetings do not require you to identify as an addict or alcoholic. It’s also less steeped in spirituality and puts greater emphasis on empowering members. The group isn’t exclusively for alcoholics; SMART doors are open to individuals struggling with all types of addictions.

68. Women For Sobriety

Women For Sobriety is based on the belief that there’s a bit of a gender divide when it comes to getting clean. Rather than emphasizing humility and lack of control over your drinking habits, WFS aims to bolster women’s self-worth, personal responsibility, and problem-solving skills. And instead of 12 steps, WFS offers a variety of strategies to practice acceptance and avoid getting strung up on the past. Groups can be found in the U.S. and Canada. Ladies only, please.

Other Support Groups

69. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

If you’ve lost someone you love to suicide, AFSP support groups will give you a place to discuss your feelings and manage grief in the company of others who get it—because they’ve been there too. While some meetings take place during a set time span, others are ongoing and open to attendees showing up as frequently as they wish.

70. Anxiety and Depression Association of America Support Groups

ADAA offers an extensive, searchable list of free or affordable resources that cater to specific anxieties, phobias, and mood issues. The organization also offers resources for general support for faulty thinking and behavior patterns, relationship problems, and self-esteem issues.

71. Co-dependents Anonymous

If you struggle with low self-esteem and find yourself frequently sucked into relationships where your needs remain unmet or minimized, this support group can help you set healthy boundaries. CoDa meetings are modeled after AA’s 12 steps and seek to empower individuals to break free from self-destructive habits and develop healthier relationships.

72. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

This alliance offers over 700 national groups with peer support. It’s a judgment-free discussion zone where you can open up about life’s challenges brought on by living with depression or bipolar disorder. The best part? All groups are totally free.

73. Emotions Anonymous

Even if you don’t have an addiction, you can still apply the 12-step model to manage negative thinking, self-esteem issues, loneliness, and other destructive feelings with the support of over 1,000 EA meetings worldwide. (And if you are wrestling with substance or behavioral addictions, you’re still welcome to attend.)

74. GLBT Near Me

The GLBT National Resource Database offers over 1,000 support services for people of all genders, sexual orientations, races, and ages. Plug your zip code into their handy local resource finder and voilà: You’ll be connected to an affordable (if not entirely free) support group catered to your needs that’s close to home.

75. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

These eating disorder support groups come in a few different formats. Most are led by a psychotherapist, while others are run by a nutritionist. The vast majority are free. The main goal of these programs is to offer a safe space for people struggling with disordered eating to openly discuss their turmoil and receive guidance on how they can heal. To find the closest one to you, click your state on ANAD’s support groups page.

76. National Eating Disorders Association

Like ANAD, NEDA offers an extensive list of support groups for individuals with eatingd disorders. All you have to do is plug your state into their search engine and find groups nearby. For those who want more personalized peer support, check out NEDA Navigator, a program that connects individuals looking to overcome disordered eating with a person who’s been there and can act as a guide during recovery.

77. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

If you’re a friend, family member, or parent of someone who identifies anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, PFLAG is your go-to resource for all things related to education, advocacy, and social outreach. PFLAG can also help those struggling to come to terms with a loved one’s sexual or gender orientation. Plug in your hometown to their search engine to find a local chapter.

78. Heal Grief

At some point in our lives, all of us will have to wrestle with the many stages of grief. But it helps if we’ve got people to talk to about our loss—especially someone in the midst of a similar grieving process or someone who have come through to the other side. Heal Grief’s support services extend across the U.S. and can be found, organized by state, via the drop down menu on the group’s website.

79. International OCD Foundation

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder affects millions of people across the globe. About 2.3 percent of Americans have the disorder . Thankfully, there’s a ton of support out there, and it’s likely closer than you think. Check out the listings on the International OCD Foundation’s website to find a group near you.

80. Sidran’s HelpDesk

The Sidran Institute offers services for all kinds of people grappling with PTSD, from military vets to white-collar workers. Trauma can trigger a huge amount of emotional suffering, and without help, some people can be debilitated by their symptoms. If you’re wrestling with these shockwaves, contact Sidran to get more info on support groups.

81. Trichotillomania Learning Center

Trichotillomania is an obsessive compulsive disorder where sufferers compulsively pull out their hair or incessantly pick at their skin to the point of bruising. Symptoms can be damaging, but so can the isolation people feel with this disorder. This organization’s support groups can help people manage their impulses, find better coping skills for their anxiety, and find company in their struggle.

10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression

This is a great article that can help partners, family or friends of people with depression.

If you are living with someone who is suffering from depression, remember to start small–it will still have an impact and help!

Do You Love Someone With Depression?
If you have a partner or are close to someone who struggles with depression, you may not always know how to show them you love them. One day they may seem fine, and the next they are sad, distant and may push you away. It is important that you know that as a person who is close to them and trusted by them, you can help your friend or partner have shorter, less severe bouts of depression. Mental illness is as real as physical illness (it is physical actually, read more about that here) and your partner needs you as much as they would need to be cared for if they had the flu.

Your relationship may seem one-sided during these times, but by helping your partner through a very difficult and painful affliction, you are strengthening your relationship and their mental health in the long term.

1. Help them keep clutter at bay.
When a person begins spiraling into depression, they may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The mail may end up in stacks, dishes can pile up in the sink, laundry may go undone as the depressed person begins to feel more and more overwhelmed by their daily routine and unable to keep up. By giving your partner some extra help sorting mail, washing dishes or using paper plates and keeping chaos in check in general, you’ll be giving them (and yourself) the gift of a calm environment. (I’m a fan of the minimalist movement because of this, you can read more about that here.)

2. Fix them a healthy meal.
Your partner may do one of two things when they are in a depressed state. They may eat very little, or they may overeat. In either case, they may find that driving through a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza online is just easier than fixing a meal. Eating like this, or neglecting to eat will only degrade your partner’s health, causing her to go deeper into her depression. Help your loved one keep her body healthy, and her mind will follow. This is a great article that talks about the “Brain Diet” which can help the symptoms of depression, and this article talks about how our modern diet could contribute to the recent rise in depression. Here is a recipe for a trail mix that is quick to make and has mood-boosting properties.

3.Get them outside.
The benefits of getting outside for a depressed person are huge. And it is possibly the last thing on earth your partner will want to do. Take them to be somewhere in nature. Pack a picnic and lie in the sun, take a leisurely hike or plant a garden. Being barefoot in the dirt, or “earthing” helps ground the body and reverse the effects of living in a world of emf’s, and digging in soil can actually act as an antidepressant, as a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Sunshine increases Vitamin D production which can help alleviate depression. My friend Elizabeth wrote an excellent post about Vitamin D and its link to depression here. For more information about other sources of Vitamin D, this is a great post as well as this.

4. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling.
If your partner is able to articulate what they are going through, it will help them and you better understand what you are dealing with, and may give insight into a plan of action for helping your partner. Also, feeling alone is common for a depressed person and anything that combats that feeling will help alleviate the severity and length of the depression.

5. Encourage them to focus on self-care.
Depressed people often stop taking care of themselves. Showering, getting haircuts, going to the doctor or dentist, it’s all just too hard, and they don’t deserve to be well taken care of anyway in their minds. This can snowball quickly into greater feelings of worthlessness since “Now I’m such a mess, no one could ever love me”. Help your loved one by being proactive. Tell them “I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you go enjoy a bubble bath?” can give them the permission they won’t give themselves to do something normal, healthy and self-loving.

6. Hug them.
Studies show that a sincere hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of the giver and receiver. Depressed people often don’t want to be touched, but a sincere hug with no expectation of anything further can give your partner a lift.

7. Laugh with them.
Telling a silly joke, watching a comedy or seeing a stand up comedian will encourage your partner to laugh in spite of herself. Laughing releases endorphins and studies show can actually counteract symptoms of depression and anxiety.

8. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings.
Your partner may be feeling worthless, angry and even guilty while they are depressed. They may be afraid that they will end up alone because no one will put up with their episodes forever. Reassure them that you are in the relationship for the long haul and they won’t scare you away because they have an illness.

9. Challenge their destructive thoughts.
A depressed person’s mind can be a never-ending loop of painful, destructive thoughts. “I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m stupid”. Challenge these untruths with the truth. “You’re not unlovable, I love you. You aren’t a failure, here are all the things you’ve accomplished.”

10.Remind them why you love them.
Look at pictures of happy times you’ve had together. Tell them your favorite things about them. Reminisce about your relationship and all the positive things that have happened, and remind your partner that you love them and they will get through this.

My friend Julie who blogs at Real Fit Mama has a great post about more things you can do to help with depression. Go have a look here! She also wrote a post about finding true happiness here.

This list is in no way exhaustive. I’d love for this to start a conversation, please leave the ways you have found to love someone with depression in the comments.

Pin this post for later HERE
10 Ways to Love Someone With Depression

For more insight into blossoming during the difficult seasons we experience in life, you may be interested in my friend Ariana’s book “Pruned“
Click here for more information.

Find the original article at: http://www.thedarlingbakers.com/love-someone-with-depression/

Available now: The Open Relationship Handbook

Great news! My first book, the Open Relationship Handbook, is  available for purchase to read on Kindle and other reader apps. Stay tuned for information on possible paperbound publishing.

Here’s the link if you’d like to take a look:


If you would like to be on the mailing list for this or other publications, please use to contact form to send me your email. I look forward to hearing from you!

New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You from the Scientific American

New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You

What swinging couples and committed polyamorists can teach monogamists about love

By Stephanie Pappas and LiveScience

Image: stock.xchng/mai05

On Valentine’s Day, images of couples are everywhere. They’re buying each other diamond rings, making eyes over expensive restaurant meals and canoodling over chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. But two-by-two isn’t the only way to go through life. In fact, an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex — with their partner’s full permission.

These consensually nonmonogamous relationships, as they’re called, don’t conform to the cultural norm of a handholding couplein love for life. They come in a dizzying array of forms, from occasional “swinging” and open relationships to long-term commitments among multiple people. Now, social scientists embarking on brand-new research into these types of relationships are finding that they may challenge the ways we think of jealousy, commitment and love. They may even change monogamyfor the better.

“People in these relationships really communicate. They communicate to death,” said Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont. All of that negotiation may hold a lesson for the monogamously inclined, Holmes told LiveScience.

“They are potentially doing quite a lot of things that could turn out to be things that if people who are practicing monogamy did more of, their relationships would actually be better off,” Holmes said. [6 Scientific Tips for a Successful Marriage]

Examining nonmonogamy

The study of consensual nonmonogamy is a relatively new field. In the 1970s, partner-swapping and swinging (recreational sex outside of a relationship) came into the public eye, and psychologists conducted a few studies. But that research was limited to mostly white, heterosexual couples who engaged in swinging for fun, according to Elisabeth Sheff, a legal consultant and former Georgia State University professor, writing in 2011 in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

That means little is yet known about who participates in consensual nonmonogamy and why. Research is largely limited to self-report and surveys, in which people can be tempted to present themselves in a positive light. There are, however, some key definitions to understand. Consensual nonmonogamy contains multitudes. It includes sex-only arrangements, such as two committed partners agreeing that they’re allowed to seek no-strings-attached sex with other people. It also includes polyamory, which involves multiple committed relationships at once with the consent and knowledge of everyone involved.

Consensual nonmonogamy does not include cheating, in which one partner steps out without the permission of the other.

While there are no national statistics on consensual nonmonogamy, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley has estimated that about 5 percent of Americans are in one of these types of relationships at any given time. From the little data collected, scientists know lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are slightly more likely than heterosexuals to enter nonmonogamous relationships, said Amy Moors, a graduate student in Conley’s lab. So, it seems, are people high in the personality trait of openness, which indicates high interest in new experiences.

So far, studies suggest that polyamorous individuals are well-educated, holding more master’s and doctoral degrees than the general population, said Champlain’s Holmes, who is conducting ongoing research of an online sample of more than 5,000 polyamorous individuals. Despite their smarts, they’re not particularly wealthy. [5 Myths About Polyamory]


“That tells me that it’s probably people who are often more focused on experiences in life,” than money, Holmes said.

Jealousy & love


One thing that seems to unite the polyamorous community is a real enthusiasm for digging into emotions. Honesty, openness and communication are cornerstones for polyamorous relationships, Holmes has found.

“They’re talking a lot, they’re negotiating a lot, they’re bringing their feelings to the table a lot,” he said.

It’s this intensive conversation that might be wise for monogamous couples to emulate, Holmes said. His work also suggests that basic emotions work very differently in polyamorous relationships.

Take jealousy. If you ask most people how they’d feel if their partner had sex with or fell in love with someone else, the responses would be pretty negative: fear, anger, jealousy, rejection. Ask a polyamorous person the same question, and they’re more likely to tell you they’d be thrilled. It’s a concept called “compersion,” which means the joy felt when a partner discovers love outside of you. It’s similar to the feeling the typical person might get after finding out their best friend scored her dream job, Holmes said. But in this case, the happiness stems from a lover’s external relationships.

That finding challenges much of what traditional psychological research has established about how jealousy works.

“It turns out that, hey, people are not reacting with jealousy when their partner is flirting with someone else,” Holmes said. “Good science tests theories and predictions … you need to see if it holds up even in extreme situations.”

In another example of polyamorous people potentially turning typical psychological reactions upside-down, Holmes conducted a preliminary analysis of about 200 polyamorous people, asking them about feelings of jealousy. Typically, he said, you’d expect to see that women are more anxious about emotional infidelity, while men worry more about sexual infidelity. That wasn’t the case among the polyamorous individuals. In fact, there were no gender differences in rates of sexual and emotional jealousy to be found.

None of this suggests that polyamorous people are somehow immune to jealousy, Holmes said. But when jealously does occur, it’s discussed. The person feeling jealous is encouraged to examine their own psyche to find out what’s bothering them and which of their needs aren’t being met. Then the pair (or triad, or quad) can negotiate boundaries.

Safe sex

Holmes is careful to say he’s not advocating any particular relationship structure. But in some cases, consensual nonmonogamy may be a more responsible choice — at least if monogamy is proving too tough.

The University of Michigan’s Moors has found that people who cheat on their partners sexually are less likely to engage in safe sex while doing so than are people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships. The findings, published in March 2012 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, apply to condom use, use of gloves for genital touching, discussion of sexually transmitted disease and sexual history and sterilization of sex toys. [50 Sultry Facts About Sex]

“Individuals in consensually nonmonogamous relationships were just safer across the board,” Moors told LiveScience. A second study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Sexual Health, found that individuals who had permission to “cheat” were more likely to use condoms correctly than actual cheaters.


Part of the reason for the difference may be that consensually nonmonogamous people often explicitly stipulate that outside sex is okay, as long as it is safe. Cheaters were also more likely than consensually nonmonogamous people to be drunk or on drugs during their outside encounters. Finally, skipping safe sex may be a way for cheaters to rationalize their behavior, Moors said.

“If they had gone out and gotten protection then it might have seemed more planned,” she said. “It might have been like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t be cheating on my partner if I have to walk to CVS to pick up condoms.'”

There are many open questions left about polyamory and other nonmonogamous arrangements, but research is picking up, Holmes said. This weekend, the first International Academic Polyamory Conference is being held in Berkeley, Calif. TheInternet has likely boosted interest in polyamory, said Sheff, who is working on a book about polyamorous families.

“The Internet has revolutionized things for sexual minorities in general,” Sheff told LiveScience. “It offers people a way to find out about it, and it offers people a way to find partners.”

Polyamory is complex enough and time-consuming enough that it will likely never overshadow serial monogamy, Sheff said. Nonexclusive hook-up culture has young people negotiating consensual nonmonogamy like never before, she said, and people are increasingly thinking of relationships as build-it-yourself rather than prepackaged.

“I think polyamory will co-exist as a less popular option” than monogamy, Sheff said. “Or people will phase in and out of it at different times in their lives.”


Reposted from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-sexual-revolution-polyamory&page=3

10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition by Annika Penelope

This is a great article written by someone who has experienced life in both genders. This perspective is very helpful for understanding what life is like for transgendered people. Enjoy!


Find the original article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/annika-penelope/10-things-i-wish-id-known-when-i-started-my-transition_b_2698504.html


Annika Penelope

Transgender blogger and activist

10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition

Posted: 02/18/2013 8:15 am

Exactly two years ago, I sat apprehensively in the reception area of the public health clinic in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, waiting for my name to be called. If all went according to plan, I would leave that evening with my first prescriptions for estradiol and spironolactone — day 1 on hormones. I had just come from work, and because only a handful of my colleagues knew about my transition, I was still presenting as a boy (albeit an androgynous one wearing gold eye shadow). I remember looking around the room at the other trans girls sitting nearby. I couldn’t wait to be just like them — to have people see me as my true gender and to finally start feeling comfortable in my body.

It was hard to believe that I had been closeted only two months earlier, and yet here I was, about to embrace the part of myself that I had been ashamed of for nearly all my life. I was ready. Since coming out, I had pored through several radical gender books, watched transition videos on YouTube and researched the hormones I was about to take. I knew what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

Day 1 on hormones
Two years and 4,860 pills later, I now realize how little I actually understood back then. There were so many aspects of transitioning and being treated like a woman in society that I was totally unprepared for. And today I’d like to share 10 lessons that I wish I had known in February 2011.

(Note: This advice is based on my own personal experience as a queer, femme, white, upper-middle-class trans girl with “passing privilege,” so some of it might not be applicable to you.)

1. Brace yourself for beauty culture.

This is especially true for my fellow femme girls, and there’s a reason it’s #1 on my list. Before I started presenting as female, I had no idea just how toxic beauty culture is in this country. Women are constantly inundated with airbrushed images and messages aiming to tear down our self-esteem and make us feel inadequate. Fashion magazines and the beauty industry make billions every year by exploiting these insecurities with the promise that if we only try harder to be prettier, we too can be happy.

As a trans girl, beauty culture can be especially difficult to navigate, because most of us have haven’t been exposed to it very long. Our cis partners and friends have been dealing with it since middle school (if not earlier), and many have had years to develop effective coping strategies, so we DMAB (“designated male at birth”) ladies have to make up for lost time, and on top of that, cissexist standards of beauty add another way for us to feel insecure.

It helps to maintain a sense of perspective. Many trans girls, including me, have a habit of romanticizing the cisgender experience. A month or two into my transition, I told my girlfriend that I couldn’t wait until I could look in the mirror and see a pretty girl staring back at me. “You realize that’s never going to happen, right?” was her response. “You’re going to look at your reflection and feel unsatisfied — just like every other woman.” And it’s true: Even the most gorgeous of my friends can list a dozen things she’d change about her appearance. So the next time you’re feeling unattractive, don’t blame yourself; blame capitalism and a beauty culture designed to make you feel that way.

2. Say goodbye to male privilege.

If, like me, you presented as a normative guy before transitioning, you probably didn’t realize just how many privileges you were about to give up. I took so many little things for granted, like being able to walk outside or go to a bar without random men feeling the need to comment on my appearance. Sexual harassment is such a routine thing now that I can’t even remember what life was like without it.

You’ll probably also notice that people take you less seriously at work because of your gender and presentation. You’ll have to be twice as assertive as you were before in order to get people to pay attention to your contributions, and you’ll possibly be labeled a “bitch” for doing so.

3. People will surprise you.

Coming out as trans* is a great way to find out who your true friends are, and it’s not always the people you’d first suspect. In my experience, if someone is a fundamentally good person, they will almost always be accepting, despite any religious or political misinformation about trans* people they may have learned. It’s a lot harder to otherize being trans* when you know a trans* person personally. So try to give people the benefit of the doubt when coming out to them; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.

4. Prepare for (micro)aggressions.

I grew up in a mostly white, conservative suburb where my family was considered “middle-class” because we didn’t have a house on the water or a yacht. In other words, I lived in such a privileged bubble that I had never even heard of microaggressions until I started experiencing them after coming out. If, like me, you were presenting as a heternormative white boy before transitioning, these can seem a little jarring at first, but it’s something that nearly everyone but straight, white cis men have to deal with on a regular basis. So what are microaggressions, exactly? In my case, it’s every time a well-intentioned friend posts an article about a trans* person on my wall or remarks on my physical changes since the last time they saw me, or every time someone asks if my girlfriend and I are sisters (even if we’re holding hands). It’s the little interactions that happen every day that remind you that you are “different” in some way.

(Unfortunately, many trans* people, especially trans women of color, face more than just microaggressions. They are often subjected to discrimination, violence and institutional hostility. I realize that I am incredibly privileged, and in no way am I trying to diminish the struggles of others, but microaggressions are still unpleasant and something that I was not prepared for.)

“Oh, are you two sisters?”
5. Go to therapy.

Seriously, you should go to therapy. I don’t think it should be required to “prove” your gender before starting hormones, but it’s something that I’d recommend for every person going through transition. It’s an incredibly emotional time, full of triumphs and setbacks and too many feelings to process all by yourself, so take care of your mental health by discussing them with a therapist. I didn’t start seeing one until more than seven months into my transition, and in hindsight I think that waiting as long as I did was a mistake.

6. Pursue other interests.

Transitioning is such a monumental undertaking that it’s easy to let it consume all the other aspects of your life if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s important to maintain other hobbies and interests during this time. Make time to read books that have nothing to do with gender, listen to music, learn a new language, go for a walk, you name it. The important thing is to take a break from thinking about being trans*, even for an hour or two. You’ll start to drive yourself crazy after a while if you don’t.

7. Take a deep breath and be patient.

Hormones are incredible, but they take time to work their magic. You’re not going to notice results overnight. When I first started HRT, I couldn’t wait for the weeks and months to go by. I looked forward to each new dose, because it meant that I was one step closer to feeling comfortable in my own body. I fantasized about ways to fast-forward the next couple of years so that I could finally start enjoying life as my true self. But in constantly looking to the future, I often neglected all the amazing and wonderful things happening around me. I found it hard to simply be in the moment.

My girlfriend and I have recently started practicing mindfulness meditation, and it’s been a really useful tool to help me stay present. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to slow time down and experience life in the moment. A little anticipation can be a good thing, but our life will pass us by if we’re only focused on what lies ahead.

8. Save money.

Transitioning is really expensive. Currently only a handful of insurance companies offer trans*-inclusive health care benefits, which means that many people have to pay for medications, lab tests and doctor’s visits out of pocket. Laser hair removal and electrolysis are also quite pricey and are never covered by insurance, because they are considered “cosmetic” procedures. Changing your legal name and gender in California will set you back at least another $500. And buying an entirely new wardrobe isn’t cheap, either. Bottom line: Start saving now. Your future self will thank you for it.

9. Don’t expect transitioning to solve all your problems.

When I was still closeted, I often blamed every unpleasant experience or emotion on the fact that I had to pretend to be a boy. “One day,” I would tell myself, “I’ll be able to finally be myself, and I’ll be pretty and carefree and never have to deal with this again.” And it’s true that transitioning has made a lot of things better. I connect on a much deeper level with my girlfriend and other people. I’m a kinder and more empathetic person. Little things like painting my nails and getting to express myself through fashion make my days more colorful and enjoyable. I’m so much happier now that I’m no longer hiding who I really am.

But transitioning is not a panacea; it won’t solve all your problems. If you were prone to anxiety before coming out, you’ll probably still have to deal with it afterwards. I still sometimes get in stupid arguments with my girlfriend for no good reason, just like I did two years ago. I’m still addicted to caffeine, and I sometimes forget to turn the lights off when I leave my apartment in the morning. At some point in my transition, I came to terms with the fact that living as my true gender wouldn’t magically fix everything. And it felt really good to let go of that impossible expectation.

10. You do you.

Most trans* people spend years pretending to be someone we aren’t in order to please others: our parents, our friends, our classmates or society in general. And most of us make ourselves miserable because of it. With each passing day, it gets harder for me to remember what it was like to interact with a world that perceived me as a boy, but I’ll never forget how exhausting it felt to be cast as the wrong character in a seemingly never-ending play.

Before coming out as trans*, I never allowed myself to fully relax. I constantly policed my gender presentation and mannerisms to make sure that I wouldn’t raise suspicion. I was terrified that someone would learn the truth about my gender. But one thing that transitioning has taught me is that life is too short to worry about what others think of you. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet, and some of them are inevitably going to disapprove of you and your life choices. For me, the decision is simple: I’d rather face the possibility of rejection then spend another minute in the closet.

Most people don’t ever get the chance to spontaneously and completely reinvent themselves, but trans* people do. Take advantage of this opportunity by being the most authentic you that you can be, and don’t worry about trying to conform to society’s expectations of how someone like you is “supposed to” look or act. If you’re a trans girl who enjoys rugby and hates dresses, don’t let anyone try to deny the validity of your gender. If you’re a trans guy who loves sparkles and makeup, own it. And if you’re trans* but don’t feel comfortable in either binary category of “male” or “female,” resist the pressure to pick one. Be proud of who you are, and don’t be afraid to show it. You deserve to live an authentic life.

* * * * *So there you have it, 10 things that I wish I’d learned before embarking on the incredible adventure of the past two years. There are many others that didn’t make the list, such as realizing that girls can sometimes be just as gross as guys. (I thought the transition would mean an end to unpleasant public bathrooms, but I was wrong.) I’m undoubtedly still learning; I don’t claim to have everything figured out at this point. But my two-year anniversary on hormones seems like the perfect time to begin the next chapter of my life, a chapter that focuses less on my gender and the fact that I was DMAB.

Lonely on Valentine’s Day? Seattle and Online Dating are a Perfect Match from the Seattle Weekly by Matt Driscoll

In case you missed it, in late January Men’s Health magazine ranked Seattle the eighth best city in the country for online dating. Titling its survey piece “Where Couples are Clicking,” Men’s Health ranked Atlanta as the top spot in the country for online dating, followed by Denver and San Diego. Laredo, Texas – among other shortcomings – came in last in the list of 100.

As mentioned, Seattle ranked 8th – an impressive (and perhaps predictable) showing for a city that has staked a heavy claim in the tech industry.

But how much stock can be taken in such an obviously silly list? Is Seattle really a hotbed for online dating? And, perhaps more important, does online dating even work?

Seattle-based dating coach and psychotherapist Kate L. Stewart thinks it can. And she thinks the folks at Men’s Health were right to rank Seattle so highly.

“I think Internet dating is a really great opportunity to access a large group of single people in a much more convenient format than going to coffee shops and bars and trying to strike up conversations with strangers, specifically because it seems that in Seattle most people will give you weird looks if you try to talk to them in public,” says Stewart. “The only other options would be to join softball teams, volunteer every week, and go to as many dance clubs and parties as possible. Here in the real world, most of us don’t have time to do all of those things, and Internet dating is something that can be done in small windows of time, any time of day.

“I think the stats are absolutely true,” Stewart says of the Men’s Health rankings. “Seattleites have a really hard time interacting with each other as strangers, so we need some kind of interface to connect us, and there are so many techies here that most people feel comfortable with that setting.”

Of course, as Manti Te’o can surely attest to, finding love on the Internet can have its risks and drawbacks. Despite the fact Stewart says she does recommend online dating to people looking to find a connection and build a relationship, she acknowledges some of the limitations and frustrations.

“I think that it can take a while to learn to filter out the things that people write about themselves that probably aren’t true,” says Stewart. “If you take a peek around any of the dating websites, most people report that they like to go hiking every weekend and travel. How many of us hike every weekend and leave the country four times a year? It’s just not realistic. You have to be savvy about reading profiles online – sometimes people use old photos from before they went bald or gained 40 pounds, or maybe what they write about isn’t an accurate description of their life. Take everything you read with a grain of salt – very few profiles are 100-percent accurate.”

Shocking, right?

Stewart also notes that dating via the computer can lead people to be pickier than they might be in person – which can lead to frustration for those who don’t quite live up to society’s standard measures of beauty and success.

“I think the other downside of internet dating is the level of frustration most people endure,” says Stewart. “Maybe you’re a kind, funny, well-educated man or woman looking for love, but you keep getting weeded out of the searches because most women set search parameters for height at on inch or two taller than you.

“People who use Internet dating websites can be very harsh in their judgement of someone’s profile, and can eliminate potential matches based on not having a college degree, not being tall enough, pretty enough or thing enough,” Stewart continues. “But sometimes that same person would seem totally different in person, and would come across as being datable.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Seattle.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom survey on consent.

Interested in joining the discussion on consent in regards to sexuality and the BDSM community? Have a look at this page on the website of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. As a practitioner working with the kinky community, I feel the rules and boundaries of BDSM are very important, for people engaging in kink, and also for the general population to understand this population better and hopefully for kinky people to be accepted for who they are.


“What’s in a Chair?” From the New York Times

If you would like to see the pictures with this article, click here to see the original link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/06/garden/06shrink.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

What’s in a Chair?

Saul Robbins

Saul Robbins, a New York photographer, has photographed therapists’ chairs in a series called “Initial Intake,”


Published: March 6, 2008

ANN LOFTIN could write a textbook on the nuances of modern psychotherapeutic methods — and the personality types of their practitioners — based on the home office décor of the therapists who have treated her. There was the strict Freudian whose couch was covered in plastic and who barely spoke, though every once in a while a phrase like “mother’s milk” might have slipped out. Another’s office featured phallic African statuary and pictures of a young wife, who was herself always audible somewhere in the background. A licensed clinical social worker had lots of comfy, overstuffed furniture and encouraged patients to sit anywhere (sessions ended in long hugs that suggested much countertransference). Her last analyst, with whom she spent a fruitful decade, did not see patients in his home, but in an office building, and his room there held nothing more than two nondescript leather chairs, a bookcase lined with medical texts and a table holding a box of tissues.

“I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Ms. Loftin, a 53-year-old freelance writer from Lakeville, Conn., with 20 years of therapy behind her. Like many patients, Ms. Loftin learned long ago that a therapist’s office — particularly a home office — and the stuff that’s in it can be freighted with more revelations than Sunday morning in a Baptist church.

Therapists have been working out of their homes ever since psychoanalysis was invented, but recently the meaning and message of that setting have come under particular scrutiny. As viewers of the HBO series “In Treatment” will attest, a home office can be a very problematic space. In an early episode of the series, starring Gabriel Byrne as a therapist named Paul Weston, Laura, a repellently narcissistic patient with a bad case of erotic transference (that’s shrink talk for having a crush on your doctor), nearly claws down the door that separates Weston’s office from his house in an attempt to get to a bathroom (the bathroom in his office is broken). Agitation on both sides ensues. For the writers of “In Treatment,” Weston’s office becomes a metaphor for how the boundaries are breaking down between his work and his personal life. But even in the real world, therapists are increasingly aware that their office space can have a profound impact on their patients.

Last year, an article in Psychoanalytic Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, created a ruckus by questioning the ethical considerations surrounding therapists’ home offices. Its author, Karen J. Maroda, an analyst and the former ethics chair of the division of psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association, wrote that the sights and smells of the doctor’s home were “keyholes” into his or her life that could be overly stimulating or overwhelming. “Oedipal material, for instance, should arise when a patient is ready to face it,” she wrote, “not when he or she bumps into the analyst’s spouse in the driveway.”

Dr. Maroda remembered her own experience as a young analyst and patient being seen in her therapist’s tony home, replete with family members and an ample household staff. “I didn’t realize the negative effect on me as a patient until years later when I had more objectivity,” she said last week.

“The session was on Saturday mornings and so I’d see her son, the glaring teenager, who was obviously resenting her time away from him. I felt guilty. I felt angry. They were wealthy; I was just starting out. The first session, the door was opened by a maid. For someone who didn’t come from money it was very intimidating.” At the same time, it was a deeply nurturing experience, she said, adding this caution: “Just because it feels good in the moment doesn’t mean that it’s ultimately therapeutic.”

What she hadn’t bargained on, continued Dr. Maroda, was how angry the response would be to her article, expressed in follow-up pieces published in the journal, as well as affronted comments to its editor and to her. “I had someone say that I was conducting a witch hunt,” she said. Clearly, Dr. Maroda had touched the analytic community right where it lived. At home.

TWO Sundays ago, Lewis Aron, director of New York University’s postdoctoral program in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, organized a salon for his peers. The topic? “In Treatment.” Two hundred analysts showed up. “It went like this,” said Dr. Aron. “Someone would stand up and say, ‘Hi, my name is Judy X and I’m addicted to ‘In Treatment,’ and then everybody would say, ‘Hi, Judy!’ ” For two hours, the analysts discussed the various mistakes Weston makes regarding boundary issues, and one analyst broached the idea that the placement of his office in his home was the cause of his many transgressions.

“Someone brought up Maroda’s article,” said Dr. Aron. “He didn’t agree with her. I don’t either. I think there is always a dialectic tension between the personal and the professional and we lose a lot by making the setting too clinical. There is something engaging in seeing the therapist has a real life, and is a real person.”

Few therapists today would contend that it’s possible or even desirable to present oneself as a true blank slate, with an office and treatment style utterly free from personal influence. And so the conversation now centers on degrees of influence and revelation: is a family photograph too much? What about the family dog?

Consider the experience of Betsy Israel, a Manhattan author, as a case of rather too much revelation. When she was in her 20’s, Ms. Israel, now 49, was treated by an elderly female analyst who was “so strict, so doctrinaire it was like being analyzed by Anna Freud,” she said. “I had a brilliant transference: she was my mother, and for two years we were trying to get through talking about sex and denial.”

One day, Ms. Israel was waiting for her session in the long hall that led to the office, which was in a cavernous apartment on the Upper West Side. She began to focus on the faded, 50s-era nude watercolors that lined the hall and realized with horror that the subject of those nudes was her doctor.

“She was a very proper lady in tweeds, not a naked person at all, if you know what I mean,” said Ms. Israel with an audible shudder. “I never brought it up. I felt like that was a failure on my part, but it also began the process of turning away” from treatment, she said, which perhaps was not such a bad thing. Ms. Israel speculated that the nudes’ placement was intentional, possibly to “raise the stakes” for certain patients. But what the child psychologist who treated Ms. Israel’s young daughter after 9/11 intended by laying out a book of Robert Mapplethorpe nudes in the waiting room was beyond her reasoning. “I couldn’t make sense of it,” she said.

The presence of a pet in a therapist’s office can be similarly confounding. Tom Cashin, a vice president at Jed Johnson Associates, was too embarrassed and shy, he said, to address the “four eyes” of his therapist and the therapist’s German shepherd. And Shannon Birk remembers choosing a therapist from a list provided by her H.M.O. seven years ago, when she was “smack dab in a major depression.” The doctor’s office contained a dog bed, housebreaking training pads and a small dog. One day, Ms. Birk found herself in the waiting room well past the appointed session time. When the door finally swung open, there was the dog, outfitted in a Halloween devil costume. “The doctor had the little red-horned headband and scissors in her hand,” Ms. Birk remembered, “while she explained the headpiece was too big. Apparently she had been attempting to alter it while she kept me waiting.” During another session, recalled Ms. Birk, the doctor paused to give the dog a biscuit for performing a trick.

SO what do therapists think about when they decorate an office? Ann Maloney, an interior designer turned psychiatrist, works on the ground floor of the Manhattan brownstone where she also lives (the entrances are separate). She knows a thing or two about the semiotics of objects and the meanings that lurk behind décor. Working as a designer in her 20’s, “I realized that when my clients were arguing about the drapes,” she said, “it was never really about the drapes.”

Dr. Maloney continued, “My bent is, the most important thing about your space is that you’re comfortable enough to do your work well, and that it reflect you,” she said. “I don’t mean your inner dark secrets, but something about you as a person. It’s a market, and patients are savvy. Your home and your office are reflections of you. Why would you want to see someone who doesn’t appear to have their act together?”

Though as Christian McLaughlin, a movie producer explained, grotty décor can be therapeutic. “I always had this vision of therapists’ offices as fairly posh and leathery, with degrees on the walls from Ivy League institutions,” said Mr. McLaughlin, 38. In other words, aspirational. But then Mr. McLaughlin, who moved to Los Angeles from New York eight years ago to produce “Legally Blonde,” found himself in therapy for the first time, in a dump of an office in the Valley next to a casting agency.

“The large couch on which I’d sit every week was covered with cheap stuffed animals caked in dried tears and snot,” he recalled. “I never started a therapy session in which I wasn’t physically repulsed by the surroundings, like an animal fearing for its life. Therapy was already so wildly uncomfortable to me, and since the setting was, too, it just all went hand in hand and I had to embrace it.”

Florence Fellman, a movie set decorator, said that when she creates a set for a psychiatrist character, she uses “clichéd objects” so the audience can read the scene immediately, like American Indian baskets and African art and “all kinds of familiar ethnic art that says, ‘I’m accepting of all cultures and customs so anything you say here won’t shock me.’ ” When her son was a teenager, “and needed help coping,” she said, he was referred to a psychiatrist whose office looked like one of Ms. Fellman’s sets come to life. “I tried to suppress my instinct that his advice would be as clichéd as his office.” Four $400 sessions later, her instinct turned out to be right.

The set of “In Treatment” displays none of these clichés. In fact, Weston’s overstuffed office, with its huge boat models, parchment-shaded lamps and books, reads most like the living room of a Harvard academic with a trust fund, or maybe a Kennedy relative. Suzuki Ingerslev, the show’s production designer, dressed it thus not in service to any ideal she carried about a therapist’s office but “to create interest behind the character’s heads. If we had blank walls in there, people would die watching it,” she said.

“It’s like an antique shop,” said Robert Langs, a Manhattan psychoanalyst. “And the bathroom inside it! I think the whole show is chaos, and he’s trying to drive his patients crazy.”

Tchotchkes and plumbing aside, for Dr. Langs, who described himself as a revisionist Freudian with a sparsely furnished office in an office building, “there is only one archetypal unconscious view of a home office. And that is that the home office is totally inappropriate and destructive to the patient. And what about the impact on the therapist’s own family?”

David Tolchinsky, a 45-year-old screenwriter and chair of the Radio, Television and Film department at Northwestern University, has thought a lot about that question. He grew up with an analyst father who saw patients in the family living room. This was closed off by two double doors, and no family member could walk around during sessions or enter or leave the house when patients were doing so. Mr. Tolchinsky admitted it was an oppressive environment, but it was also a boon, he said. One of his screenplays in development, “Reflections on a Teenage Antichrist,” is about a heavy metal loving teenager who slowly begins to believe his psychiatrist father may in fact be the devil. “A lot of the scenes take place in his house, with the teen hero listening at the double doors of his father’s office. O.K., so I don’t think my father was the devil, but he did give me a great gift as a writer, which is the image of those closed double doors.”

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