The Dance of Candor, Advice Giving, and Regret

Two Girlfriends Enjoy A Casual Conversation

© Andy Dean –

Recently when traveling to visit my daughter at college, I read an article about the concept of radical candor and how leaders can use this principle to deal with employees, helping them and the company grow.

This prompted me to reflect on this topic and relate it to my leadership role in various settings: as a mental health counselor and supervisor of rising therapists, as a corporate leader, and as a mother. I wondered, how effectively and kindly do I communicate with the people I serve as a leader?

A common struggle I hear from clients is how to be helpful to other people, whether it is a friend, family member, colleague or supervisee. Often, we may tell others what to do (giving unsolicited and possibly unwelcome advice), not say anything at all, or blurt out something, sometimes resulting in regret or self-doubt.

3 healthy ways of sharing feedback and advice

The first way is to NOT share it. This may seem obvious but it isn’t always. Your judgement may be obscured by the deep need to impart your wisdom on others. However, not everyone wants advice or feedback and may feel insulted or annoyed, even if they respond politely. So before you automatically share your advice, ask if the other person would like your input.

The second healthy way to give advice is using the concept of Radical Candor™. Candor, Inc. co-founder Kim Scott says radical candor comes from a combination of caring personally and challenging directly, and that we have a moral obligation to tell others when they’ve made a mistake.

When communicating with children, marriage and family therapist intern Laura MacRae-Serpa says that words can become weapons, and suggests that you carefully consider delivery (how you speak), relationship (does the child know you’re coming from a place of love?) and self-regulation (are your emotions out of control?) when deciding whether to tell a white lie or to speak with candor.

The third healthy way to give advice is something I often talk about in sessions with clients. Before giving feedback, check in with yourself as to your motive for wanting to share. Be honest. Do you want to show much you know, or do you sincerely want to be helpful?

If you have a genuine motive of service, then do your best to speak with kindness and compassion, and be humble. We are all human beings; no one is above or below us — we are all the same. Another aspect of humility is to let go of whether or not your advice is taken.

Once you go through this process a few times and and it starts to feel right within yourself, you can let go of self-doubt or regret. Regret is just a defense to keep us from feeling something more important such as sadness, fear, or even hurt.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable giving feedback to people? Is it any different at work versus at home, or with adults versus with children?

Begin Again – NOW


© amirul syaidi –

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

We are constantly looking for something outside ourselves to motivate us to make a change in our food, body shape or weight, or to stop using an unwanted behavior or substance.

People in recovery from eating disorders or other addictions often talk about “reaching their bottom” or receiving the “gift of desperation,” and how this is what brought them into the rooms of recovery and kept them coming back.

Until that time, they may have had many false starts. Maybe you have, too. You plan a fresh start in September, when there is excitement in the air about the new school year. Or January 1st in the spirit of resolutions, or Monday to launch the week, or on your next milestone birthday. Or maybe it’s an upcoming occasion such as a new job, wedding or family reunion. When is the most common time people say they’ll make a fresh start? Tomorrow morning.

I’ve done this, too, about a lot of different things. As someone who considers herself a “thrivor” (versus survivor), I seek to add things into my life, not just take things away. When I have taken away problematic behaviors, people and things, this has cleared needed space for me to add in, which is glorious!

What has worked for me and what I recommend for my clients is to begin again – NOW.

Don’t wait for some proverbial time in the future. There may not be such a thing as a bottom, or yours could be a serious health incident or even death.

Don’t wait!

1. To jumpstart your new beginning, try journaling every day – in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron calls this writing morning pages. Start writing NOW.

2. Don’t try to do this alone, there is plenty of help available – medical, counseling, psychiatric, self-help, in-patient treatment if needed. Call and book an appointment NOW.

3. Seek an accountability partner and be honest and completely transparent. Reach out and ask NOW.

4. Create or find your support network or team, any combination of professional, family, friends, or 12-step community. Rally your team NOW.

Did I say begin NOW?

The Power of Support Groups

© –

© –

This is a guest post by Jack Bloomfield, CAI and Rachel Borkon, CAI of A Design for Living.

Do all addicts and alcoholics need to go to rehab? From my personal experience and that of millions of others, the answer is no although many people, professionals included, believe that rehab is the only way someone can arrest the disease of addiction.

In some cases, the 24/7 protective environment of an inpatient facility along with medical detox is truly necessary but from decades of experience, I have seen thousands recover without ever going to rehab. Today’s column is for sure not meant to negate the great work that some treatment facilities do. It is more to educate those who might not know about the power of support groups.

Although the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert “Bob” Smith both had been admitted multiple times to hospitals and sanitariums over the years, where they finally were able to achieve life long sobriety and recovery was when they realized that they needed EACH OTHER to stay sober. This is what the recovery movement phenomena is all about.

The original story goes like this. When Dr. Bob first agreed to meet with Bill Wilson (Bill felt that if he could find another alcoholic to talk to that it might help him to stay sober) it is written that Dr. Bob, a struggling alcoholic himself, stated “OK, I’ll give him 15 minutes.” What actually occurred was that this meeting between two struggling alcoholics lasted a little over 5 hours. When Dr. Bob was asked how come he spent all that time with Bill after originally saying that he would only give him 15 minutes, his reply was “because he spoke my language.”

This is why AA and many other support groups have been able to help save millions of lives, a large majority of those who never entered a rehab. It is here, for the first time, that those who are in need of healing from addiction are able to hear others speaking their language. This is the magic that permeates the rooms of support groups and that has ultimately helped millions to find healing and a new way of life free from addiction.

Wishing you peace and all good things,

Jack & Rachel

Note: AA was founded by these two men in 1935. Neither picked up another drink in their lifetimes. Dr. Bob died in 1950 with 15 years of continuous sobriety and Bill died in 1970 with 35 years of continuous sobriety.

“A new life has been given us or if you prefer, a design for living that really works.” – A.A. Big Book pg. 28

Landau, J., & Garrett, J. (2008). Invitational Intervention: The ARISE® Model for engaging reluctant substance abusers in treatment. O.J. Morgan & C.H. Litzke (Eds.) Family Intervention in Substance Abuse: Philadelphia, PA: Haworth Press.

This was a guest post by Jack Bloomfield, CAI and Rachel Borkon, CAI of A Design for Living Interventions. Jack brings more than 30 years of continuous sobriety to his skills as an interventionist, and Rachel has been on the front lines of working with mental health and addicted individuals and their families for more than twenty years.

Jack and Rachel are both certified (CAI) in the ARISE® model, which focuses not only on helping the alcoholic or addict to find recovery but includes the whole family as well. Learn more at:

Enjoying Your Food

happy child girl loves to eat vegetables and showing thumbs up

© MediablitzImages –

In recovery from eating disorders, there are many different approaches – even controversies – to food. Some programs talk about food as fuel, some talk about mindful eating, some have weighed and measured plans with no exception, others promote three meals a day with snacks in between.

There may even be a variety of suggestions amongst your treatment team (therapist, dietician, doctor, etc.) and support groups (a 12-step group like OA or FA). None of these approaches are right or wrong. The right one is the one that’s right for you.

I encourage clients to see food as fuel, with life in between. Otherwise they can easily dwell on it too much. For example, instead of struggling to make a healthy version of a dessert you used to crave (that will probably not satisfy you anyway), you can experiment with new types of dessert that use healthy fats, fresh fruit, or homemade smoothies.

For people who have spent their lives obsessing about and trying to control food, it may take some time for recovery to evolve to a place where food is enjoyable. What does it mean to enjoy your meals? It means choosing colorful, nutrient-dense and appealing foods, while still living a full life in between.

For some people in recovery from eating disorders, it’s best to take a “harm reduction” approach and focus only on cutting back on certain behaviors like binges or purges. After that we would look at a secondary purpose such as weight management.

Eating well is essential for clear thinking, healthy heart and other organs, strong bones, and healthy skin and hair. To recover from an eating disorder, people need proper nutrition – and enough of it – to fuel their body and brains and fix their thinking.

Wherever you turn for guidance about finding an approach to food that works for you, be sure it’s to someone who specializes in eating disorder recovery.


12 Motivational Tools to Keep You Moving

© Stephen VanHorn –

© Stephen VanHorn –

When you go online these days to look at Facebook, blogs, or even your own email, you can see lots of people proudly sharing their extreme fitness accomplishments. What you don’t hear nearly as much about are the people who are quietly maintaining a sane, consistent, moderate movement routine.

How do they do it, and what can the rest of us learn from them? Because unless you’re someone who naturally moves, you might need some inspiration to keep moving on a regular basis.

Here are 12 tools that I use myself or recommend to clients:

1. Expert advice – I mentioned my personal trainer in a previous post, and how he helps me find variety in my movement routine. Seek out recommendations from your treatment team (doctor, nutritionist, etc.) about the best movement plan for you.

2. Fitness trackers – Fitbits and similar wearable devices can keep you motivated on a weight loss, weight management, or weight gain plan. They help you stay mindful about your activity level so you can stay safe and not over-exert yourself, and still make progress on your goals. On the other side, my Fitbit will tell me when I’m sitting too much. It’s amazing how much activity these devices can track even when you don’t have a formal exercise plan. A restaurant server once told me she’d logged 17,000 steps since her shift started. Imagine the sense of accomplishment!

3. Journaling – Aside from the wearable variety, there are also fitness tracking systems and journals you can write in or update from your smartphone. You can explore applications like Map My Walk, My Fitness Pal, and guided journals like Fit Happens, where you can write about things like what you are grateful for, your goal to “live fit today,” and something you appreciate about your strong body. Journaling your process always helps, like writing about how you felt before and after your movement session. You can also create a chart or calendar that you update from home.

4. Stories – It can be very inspiring and motivating to read biographies and blog posts from people who are pursuing an active lifestyle – especially people who didn’t come to it naturally or easily.

5. Variety – Boredom is one of my own personal challenges with keeping a consistent movement routine. Other people like to do the same thing all the time. This is a personal decision for balancing your healthcare and self-compassion. Whatever the specific movement and however often it changes, moving needs to be a permanent part of your life and your normal routine.

6. Hydration and nutrition – While moving, we become inspired to eat healthy and hydrate. If I know I’m going to be walking on the hot beach on Saturday, I’ll start hydrating on Friday to prepare. Your body needs the right fuel to move. Speak to your treatment team about the specifics of your situation.

7. Equipment – The right clothing and shoes can support your efforts – literally. There are other essentials like sunscreen, and options like an armband for carrying your smartphone or digital music player. Walking poles, yoga blocks, resistance bands, and balance balls can all help you create your own home-based or portable fitness studio. What could make your movement experience more enjoyable?

8. Support – Maybe what you’d really enjoy is having a buddy or companion you can talk to while you’re moving. This can make the time go quicker, and you can help each other keep your commitments.

9. Schedule – I prefer to exercise early in the day, or you may like to blow off steam after work with some movement. There are plenty of ways to move even when you’re short on time. Whatever time works, put it in your calendar as an important appointment with your self-care. If an injury or vacation interrupts your regular schedule, recognize in advance that these things happen, and book it back in your calendar for later.

10. Creative multi-tasking – Try doing some philanthropy while you’re walking, like carrying a bag and picking up trash along the way. Or how about an art walk where you gather found objects to create something with later?

11. Nurture – It’s always important to add the restorative part of movement – stretching and cooling down your muscles, restorative yoga, or using a foam roller to improve your mobility. This reinforces that movement is a self-loving activity, not a punishment or torture session (instead of “no pain, no gain,” my philosophy is “No pain. No pain!”).

12. Portable workouts – Most of what I do with my trainer I can also do at home with a yoga mat and one or two hand weights, or in a hotel room when I travel. Your movement routine can be just as portable. Check out the Sworkit app for a huge collection of exercises with no equipment required. There are also lots of yoga apps.

If you’ve been searching for motivation to start or follow through with a movement routine, pick up some of these tools to get moving and stay moving!

Four Common Obstacles to a Healthy Movement Routine

© Obak –

© Obak –

In Move Your Body, Tone Your Mood, sports psychologist Kate Hays writes about how exercise can be your therapy.

Healthy-for-you movement definitely changes your mood. I exercise firstly for a clear mind, second for strong bones and longevity, and lastly because it is energizing – and with my busy life I’m always looking for ways to find energy.

Yet while we all know the benefits of physical activity, there are several things that can block motivation to keep moving. Can you relate to any of these?

  1. Rest leads to inertia – As Newton’s first law of motion attests, a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. So whether I do 30 minutes with my personal trainer, a one-hour yoga class, or a 10 minute walk around the block, what’s most important is that I do something. Once I’m up and moving I’m pretty good at staying that way.
  2. Boredom – When I’m bored I want to stop. By varying my movement routine with cross-training, I hold my own interest. Working with a personal trainer is a big part of keeping this variety. My health is a major priority and worth the investment. Even if I’m doing the same type of movement like walking, I plan scenic locations so I have different things to look at.
  3. Wrong fit – There are plenty of choices out there, and while variety is important to me I also look for classes and teachers that are aligned with my own beliefs. For example, some teachers preach “no pain, no gain,” but my philosophy is “No pain. No pain!”
  4. Mother Nature – I love her, but weather can certainly come into play when it comes to movement activities. High temperatures, cold, rain or other unpredictable weather events can all put a damper on outdoor plans.

For some, the motivation to move is not the problem, it’s actually over-exercising. Over-exercise can be harmful to the body, causing stress fractures or other injuries. Your treatment team is there to help you determine if you’re doing too much or not enough.

Healthy movement is all about finding balance and your own personal place on the continuum.

In a follow-up post, we’ll go through a long list of motivational tools for sticking with a healthy movement routine.

On Belonging

© jul14ka –

© jul14ka –

Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are so self-focused and isolating, it’s very tough to have healthy relationships. So what comes first? Healing the disorder, or healing your relationship issues?

We know that it’s really important to fill that “belonging” need that we get from being part of clubs or groups. Yet according to Maslow’s hierarchy, we have to have our physiological needs and basic safety and security in place before we seek that feeling of belonging.

The answer may be that it all has to be done at the same time. That may sometimes mean taking one step forward with support, and then another step forward with the food, and vice versa.

12-step groups provide a wonderful atmosphere of support, yet some people find it too painful to witness other people’s hardships. When people are fully immersed in the disorder, it can be hard to support someone else. How can you comfort another person when you’re feeling so uncomfortable yourself?

It can also be hard to create that supportive relationship artificially, like in a therapy group of people who are all struggling to recover both physically and emotionally. In one group I used “speed therapy,” a new take on speed dating. Since the group members weren’t naturally reaching out to each other in between sessions to connect, I paired them up and had them answer a series of questions – deep topics they wouldn’t necessarily bring to the whole group. I appreciated how they were willing to try it, too.

How to find and develop supportive friendships

Outside of therapy and recovery groups, there are many places to meet people and strike up friendships (here is some advice from Wall Street Journal and Fast Company). To find people who share your interests, look for groups dedicated to your passions. It’s a very deliberate way of forming a community.

How about something you’ve always wanted to learn or explore, like a foreign language or some kind of creative outlet? Learning something new together helps form a “newbie” bond with others. You could join a yoga class, art group, book study or choir, or look for Meetup events.

Another reason it may be difficult to reach out is the fear of getting better, of letting go of the protection of being in the eating disorder. Moving towards new people means leaving that familiar life behind. Author Jenni Schaefer helps people transition from life with an eating disorder. She called hers Ed and equates recovery with getting a divorce from the disease. That separation can open your life up to having healthier relationships and achieving true love and belonging.

When I Call on My Own Community

© Sandee Nebel

© Sandee Nebel

I recently had a challenging situation in my personal life. As the weekend approached when I knew I’d be dealing with it, I intuitively scheduled visits with a few friends, and also some client and supervision sessions. I even held an informal counseling session for someone as a favor to a friend.

In other words, I created a community for myself. By the end of what could have been a very difficult weekend, I realized that there had been 14 women who had touched my life and supported my journey over a three-day period.

It’s not always in my nature to reach out for help, but it’s becoming more and more the norm as I experience just how amazing it feels to have a personal community to draw on for support.

Another benefit of asking for help is that it actually makes it easier for people to bond with us. In her powerful TED Talks The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame, Brené Brown talks about becoming vulnerable and piercing shame with vulnerability.

Sometimes there have been people I haven’t cared for, but as soon as they’re vulnerable with me and the barrier in them is down, I look at them so differently. Their vulnerability humanizes them and that’s such an important ingredient in a relationship. That’s true intimacy, being able to share grief with someone, being able to witness someone’s stories.

In fact that’s one of the main reasons 12-step groups are so successful. There is no other place you can find a community of people who understand what you’re going through. Even without the steps, even without abstinence, just to be in the community, to belong, to be one among many, with no hierarchy, that’s where the magic happens. You can’t recover in a vacuum by yourself. It takes other people.

Twelve-step groups and other personal communities act like a safe miniature version of the rest of the world, giving us a place to practice being better friends and better people.

Relationship issues may be what got someone into an eating disorder; cultivating healthy and supportive relationships can help them climb out.

Can You Help Too Much?


help-too-muchA lot of therapists aren’t comfortable with getting paid professional fees for service. They’re tempted to lower their fees or offer free services. Yet therapy is a valuable and necessary service and therapists should be compensated, and fairly. As well, people don’t necessarily value free things.

I set fees that reflect my training, experience, and expertise, but I help where I can. I offer scholarships through our not-for-profit foundation, volunteer in certain settings, and provide referrals to self-help resources and other settings where people can get the help they need. So I get to do both, volunteer and also get paid for helping people.

That same type of balance is important for people in recovery from an eating disorder or other addiction. Though the AA Big Book talks a lot about helping others, the classic picture of a recovering alcoholic is very self-focused, including doing a thorough self-assessment.

With people recovering from food issues it can be the same, or sometimes it’s completely the opposite and they need to be prompted to practice self-care and focus on themselves and their recovery.

Doing things for other people can border on co-dependency, where you’re assuming that the other person isn’t capable. It can also serve as a distraction from the person’s own troubles and choices. Or it can be people-pleasing to avoid confrontation or seeing others struggle. This may interfere with someone else’s personal journey of growth and healing.

Helping others is important, but are you doing enough to help yourself?

Being of Service to Others

© Sandee Nebel

© Sandee Nebel

Helping others didn’t get passed down to me from earlier generations; I didn’t receive any formal guidance or modeling. It’s not that I was taught that giving is a conditional thing where you expect something in return, we just didn’t talk about it one way or the other.

What I do have are fearful memories associated with helping others. I would be walking with my parents down the streets of New York City, dressed up and holding my mother’s hand as we embarked on our annual New Year’s Day Broadway theater date.

As we passed by the people sitting on the sidewalk begging for change, I was rushed past and told not to look. I heard these people referred to as bums or beggars, who lived off society, and I came to fear them. Occasionally my father would give one of them some money, but I never understood why he did this some times and not others. We now know that many homeless people have mental health disorders or are victims of a culture where disadvantaged suffer.

Even as a young child I always wanted very much to help people, but was met with the attitude that there was no reason to volunteer if you could be doing something for pay. Though I didn’t have support or praise from my family of origin about being philanthropic, I did from my former husband and friends in my community.

Over the years I’ve volunteered much time, skill, and money to my children’s pre-school and schools. I’ve served food for the Coalition for the Homeless and volunteered at religious and community events. I give presentations or am a speaker whenever asked and have mentored women in recovery, students, and colleagues. I give interviews to the media so I can be a resource for the community.

Volunteering has taught me as much as or more about people than all of my professional training and experience. As I said goodbye and handed them a package of food to take with them, homeless men and women shared extraordinary stories that broke all the assumptions I’d held on to from my childhood.

It’s only recently that I’ve really come to understand that you truly get when you give. One time I was feeling down about not knowing the next time I was going to see all three of my kids. The telephone rang and it was someone asking me if I wanted to cook a meal for someone who just had surgery for breast cancer. I said yes, made the meal and delivered it later that week. I still missed my kids, but I also felt like I was helpful to someone who was in need at the time. I felt grounded again.

On another day, the White Picket Fence Counseling Center team participated in a walk to raise funds for NEDA. It was a fun day, when we got to share anecdotes about conferences and fundraising and spend time together, which we rarely get to do.

In early April I ran/walked in a 5K for my daughter’s sorority at UVA, raising money for breast cancer research and awareness. Out of hundreds of participants, I was one of 12 who wore the pink survivor shirt. It was a moving experience (as evidenced by my tears in the photo!).

I never expected to be so moved by the passion of everyone else doing the walk and raising funds, or someone calling out, “Oh look, she’s a survivor!” as I passed by. People noticed, people cared. The high energy of these amazing young college women was contagious amongst all the participants and donors.

Service can be very personal and informal, not necessarily part of an organized effort or event. Holding a door for someone, smiling at someone, or just listening without interrupting or offering advice, can be service. Or be like a Boy Scout and help someone cross the street.

If you haven’t tried the recovery tool of service, wherever you are on your path, go ahead and see what it does for you. I would love to hear about your experiences.