Private Practice Prep

There’s a lot that goes into opening a small business as a therapist, but not nearly as much as I thought. With the exception of those few moments where I’m just completely nervous about the future and this crazy endeavor I’ve gotten myself into, it’s actually been kind of fun.

You know what’s totally weird though? Promoting yourself. If there’s one lesson I’ve had people wag their finger at me for and say, “Don’t fail to do that!” it’s been about marketing my strengths, skills, and abilities. I mean, I know I’m a great therapist and I will get the job done, but other people don’t know that. You can’t really measure if I’m the best, you just have to experience it for yourself. A lot of people have a problem with that idea because it means potentially paying for services only to be disappointed by what they paid for, plus feeling even more upset because they really needed help, took a chance, and ended up feeling likely a lot worse.

So, I’ve been placed in this interesting position where I have to step outside of myself and say, “What are my strengths? What will clients see in me that they won’t get from other therapists?” and then tell the whole world about it. So, do you want to see what I’ve been up to?

The Jen Bingaman Private Practice site

Man, Jesse definitely has a fan club and I am its president and CEO. I seriously can’t imagine my life without him as my partner, much less imagine how stupidly difficult and expensive it would be to start this business without his techspertise (I just made that word up… I like it!). I might have to give him my first born child or something…

Anyway, we still have some small tweaks here and there (pictures, glitz, header), but the site is live and all the copy is there. For those of you who are curious, have the time, the interest, or the expertise, please go to the site and poke around. Let me know if you have any suggestions based on your experience or if you see any glaring spelling or grammatical errors. I’ve looked over it so many times, my eyes are turning to mush.

If you’re feeling really wonderful and generous, especially if you live in Seattle, will you share the site with your friends and family, especially on social media? It goes a long, long way.

Jen Bingaman on Psychology Today

So for those of you who don’t know, Psychology Today is pretty much the go-to resource for people looking for therapy services. They are practically a monopoly, but they also have a pretty decent set-up for showcasing therapists and providing people with a good selection of practitioners in their area. I worked long and hard (and may continue to do so) to get my profile as accurate and authentic as possible since I know a large majority of my web referrals will come from Psychology Today.

Jen Bingaman at Seattle Direct Counseling

I’m really excited about this one. I’m a member of a group practice! I working with two other wonderful therapists, each of us with our own style and skills. I’ll be working from a downtown office one day of the week, providing eTherapy other days. If any of you out there have been interested in eTherapy in the past, the time is nigh! If you don’t live in Washington, there can be some tricky rules about state-to-state internet counseling, so look up the laws for your state before you contact me and share what you find. Man, I am so excited about all of this. It’s going to be such a fun adventure.

I’ve done tons of other less exciting things like get liability insurance, open a business checking account (OK, so that was fun until I had to put money in it… and then spend it), get a business license, and pay lots of stupid fees for all of it. Oh well, you have to spend money to make money, right?

Speaking of spending money… I’m going to need an amazing accountant. Does anyone have any recommendations here is Seattle? There’s a reason why I never majored in Finance.

Tomorrow is Friday. So many good things… including puppies!

The Case Files: Robert Downey, Jr.

Sigh. RDJ. I remember when I fell in love with Robert Downey, Jr. I was walking through my living room getting ready for the day. I used to put on VH1 in the early morning hours as a soundtrack to my routine. I was brushing my teeth and Elton John’s video for “I Want Love” just came on and there was RDJ looking at the camera with the sweetest, most forlorn expression. He had some scruff and big brown eyes and I just loved him in that moment.

I was just breaking into my adulthood and had completely missed the memo about RDJ being such a bad boy for the majority of my life. Just as well, because I happen to find reformed bad boys to be just as interesting.

So, Robert Downey, Jr. is like many of our other Case File alums who found their mental health journeys intertwined with that of their parents’. Much like Lindsay Lohan and Drew Barrymore, RDJ got his start in showbiz through his parents. Much like Lindsay and Drew, Downey, Jr. (man that is annoying to actually write out, darn comma) also started using drugs because of his father. At the age of six, Downey, Sr. introduced young Robbie (I’m calling him that) to marijuana.

Father of the Year, I tell you what.

Since that time, RDJ’s appetites were nourished by his father. He starred in his father’s movies and productions while also enjoying the taste of illegal drugs along with his father’s company and approval.

“When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how.” — Robert Downey, Jr.

Onward and downward, RDJ’s career continued to grow in spite of his drug use and trouble with the law in connection with what had developed into a full-blown addiction by his early teens. Things really got going from 1996 to 2001, when RDJ was arrested several times related to his drug use and risky behavior, including an arrest for possession of cocaine, heroin, and an unloaded .357 Magnum handgun while speeding down Sunset Boulevard. It just sounds so Hollywood, doesn’t it?

Well, the sneaky hate spiral didn’t stop there. RDJ was already on three years of probation for the previously mentioned incident, had one of his most infamous moments when he stumbled into his neighbor’s house and fell asleep on their child’s bed. That had to be an awkward story to explain to a kid. [insert joke about how you’re only supposed to wake up to strange men in your bed as an adult after several alcoholic beverages]

“It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.” — Robert Downey, Jr.

There are a lot more little nuggets to this story, but it eventually leads up to four years of jail for RDJ. He was released after one year. He immediately joined the cast of Ally MacBeal playing Ally’s love interest. People naturally ate up everything he did and this stint was no exception. Unfortunately, RDJ was still in the throes of addiction and had not yet reached that point of ‘rock-bottom’ well-known in addictions treatment. The average number of relapses until full recovery and sobriety is about 8, which means RDJ was just hitting right down the middle in this case. He relapsed pretty hard (two arrests, one involving walking around aimlessly barefoot and high on cocaine in Culver City) and lost his spot on Ally MacBeal.

“It was my lowest point in terms of addictions. At that stage, I didn’t give a fuck whether I ever acted again.” — Robert Downey, Jr.

There’s been a fair amount of hubbub over RDJ’s mental state in regards to bipolar disorder. His mother was quoted by People magazine saying he had gotten a previous bipolar diagnosis and several celebudoctors of course weighed in on the issue at the time. Now that he is sober, he maintains he is not bipolar. While bipolar disorder is incredibly common among addicts because they use mood-altering substances to control bipolar mood swings, you cannot and should not diagnose anyone until they are sober.

Oh wait, spoiler alert. Robert Downey, Jr. got sober.

You know how I mentioned rock-bottom? Well it might take longer for celebrities, but everyone reaches rock-bottom. It’s an essential part of the recovery process. RDJ hit rock-bottom.

“When someone says, ‘I really wonder if maybe I should go to rehab?’ Well, uh, you’re a wreck, you just lost your job, and your wife left you. Uh, you might want to give it a shot.” –Robert Downey, Jr.

He was looking down a long road of jail time or a stint in rehab.

“I finally said, ‘You know what? I don’t think I can continue doing this.’ And I reached out for help, and I ran with it. You can reach out for help in kind of a half-assed way and you’ll get it and you won’t take advantage of it. It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems…what’s hard is to decide to actually do it.” — Robert Downey, Jr.

Guess what his first comeback job was?

His video for Elton John! Another reason why I think I’m a good therapist, I just read this stuff in people. I knew he was ready for my adoration.

So we know the rest of the story. RDJ fully recovered and has been sober since 2001. He’s completely revived his career, becoming Tony Stark/Iron Man (could anyone do it better, really?) and Sherlock Holmes. I just adore him.

The Case File

Surprise, surprise… family matters. The people who care for you and the genetics they give you play heavily into your mental well-being from the way you choose to behave from modeling their behavior to already having the genes predisposing you to becoming an addict. I don’t know much about RDJ’s family other than his notorious father, but I can imagine when you choose to walk the same career path as your parent, you idolize everything about them – not just their ability to perform. The role of fathers in modeling for their children is crucial. Your children become the best and worst parts of you, unless you are paying very close attention to the person who you are becoming.

Also, let’s talk about resilience. Yeah, yeah I know. I talk about it in like every other post. Can you imagine being six years old and being allowed to smoke marijuana, wait scratch that. Not only allowed, but encouraged? RDJ had about 20 years of serious addiction and hardcore maladaptive behaviors under his belt. It takes a very strong and very resourceful person to look inside themselves and say, “I’m ready to change“. Not only that, but he probably had so little self-awareness considering a lot of that time traditionally spent cultivating oneself was spent drowning out the self. He had to likely start from scratch to some extent. That’s courage. If RDJ can come back from that and live a fulfilling, successful, and downright sexy life, then I think the majority of us can get over most of the small first world problems that plague us. What a model for resilience!

Downey attributes his sobriety to his family, therapy, meditation, yoga, and Wing Chun Kung Fu. Proof that staying busy (with things that enrich the person) is an excellent way to stay away from the bad stuff and focus on what is truly worthwhile. Like, more Iron Man movies, perhaps? Yes.



[Re-Post] Manage Conflict: Repair and De-escalation

There’s not too much of an intro into this post other than to basically say, THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

Take care of yourself and your partner when you have conflict. That means recognizing the relationship is paramount, even to your own ego. Even if the argument didn’t go your way, it’s essential to recognize life is a lot easier when you repair a wound than letting it just sit there, completely uncared for. Make disagreements and discussions something that doesn’t feel so terrifying.

“Discussions invariably end on the same note as they begin.” — Dr. John Gottman


It’s time for that Sound Relationship House party by Mr. John Gottman, the relationship expert extraordinaire. If you’re just tuning in, these are the past posts addressing this theory of couples therapy.

Here we are, still figuring out how to manage conflict. It’s quite an involved piece of this theory, which is not a surprise since conflict still seems to be a central point of all human interaction. Conflict in a relationship is normal. It’s all about how you handle it.

So as you can probably guess from the title, we’re talking repair and de-escalation here.

What is a repair?

Well, let’s say that you wake in the morning and say something sweet to your partner like, “How did you sleep, honey?”

They reply with something like, “I slept like crap. You kicked me all night and your snoring was terrible. I have bruises in my ribs thanks to your clown feet.”

That’s not nice, huh? So you think something like, “What a jerk. Fine, enjoy making your own breakfast. Butthead.”

You go get in the shower and when you come down, there’s an extra cup of coffee sitting on the counter and your partner says, “Here, I made you a cup. You want me to make you some cereal?”

This is a repair. This is your partner’s way of saying, “I was a complete tool and I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Taking this repair and accepting your partner’s apology is big piece of what makes people successful at relationships. It can be tempting to say to oneself, “He didn’t apologize. I don’t hear an ‘I’m sorry’. He can pour that coffee down the drain! I’m not drinking his repair poison.” or “I hate cream in my coffee. Doesn’t he know me? He doesn’t know me at all. How ungrateful. He probably doesn’t even know my birthday is in two months. I hate him. Why can’t I have a unicorn? LIFE SUCKS.”

Both of those are viable options. They will make your relationship really crappy though and drag out a small (but jerky) comment into a 24-hour argument. Not ideal. This is why it’s important to recognize your partner’s attempts at “I’m sorry,” and commend them for recognizing that they were not very nice. Plus, free coffee.

What is de-escalation?

When Gottman was doing he studies on couples arguing, he hooked them up to tons of equipment that monitored all their physiological reactions during a fight; heart rate, body temperature, fidgeting, etc. He wanted to see if the way couples fought and their awareness of their body played a role in how they handled conflict. It did.

We all get pissed off. Whether it’s because of an argument, something our partner has just said, a ‘hot button’ issue, whatever. We all carry around baggage from friendships, relationships, our family. Some stuff just really bothers us. I know I’m angry because I’ll start spontaneously crying and I can’t form words. Generally, that’s when I know I need a time-out. I used to think that it was bad to walk away from a fight because I was surrendering or admitting defeat or something.

Turns out, a time out is the best thing you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a conversation you’re having with your partner.

It’s actually physically impossible to hear and respond to what your partner is saying if you’re physiologically aroused. People cannot be reasoned with. There’s no amount of “I feel” statements or “I’m sorrys” that can fix an argument when one or both partners heart rates are above 100 beats per minute. That argument is doomed. It’s scientifically proven.

So, it’s important to take a walk, step outside, take some deep breaths, say “I need a moment, can we revisit this later?” Whatever you need to do to get back to your normal state of mind where a healthy and productive conversation can take place. Then come back, chat it out, agree to disagree, have a dance party.