Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: a good time to listen

Listening is the heart of communication. Listening is an essential part of communicating and empathy is often needed. You may or may not agree with everything that is communicated to you but you can still be empathetic and listen to what someone is sharing with you. The good news is that successful and authentic communication often lead to the wonderful feeling of bliss.

I wish you and your family a great thanksgiving day and a great venue to share food, thought and love.

Raymond Bokenkamp

HealthPanda offers a therapist directory to help you find all types of Philadelphia therapists and psychologists. Find a therapist that fits all your needs in our fast growing directory today.

Discussion Question
How do you react when you are conversing with someone who is primarily interested in expressing themselves?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Finding a therapist: Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

Parade Magazine, Dr. Ranit Mishori explains why a positive attitude can be good for your health. In her article she suggests that most people know whether they are have a positive or negative outlook on life. In addition, she cites research that shows that people with a positive outlook suffer less from conditions such as heart disease then people who think more negatively. A popular field called "Positive Psychology" focuses on the benefits of positive thinking to individual and community health. Local University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Martin Seligman is considered the father of the modern positive psychology movement. Dr. Seligman is also the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

I like that positive psychology focuses on the strengths and virtues of individuals and that by pursuing these virtues, an individual is generally happier, open and connected to others. I would say that this powerful medicine is generally referred to as bliss. States of expansion and bliss are a natural part of life through which we can release the old and let in the new. Yes, we all need bliss in our lives!

When we get stuck in repetitive negative cycles (such as anxiety or depression), positive psychology can be a useful tool to help us move past these cycles. Seeking the support from friends and family also can help when moving through challenging times as well as the exciting times, too!

Just like birds expand and contract we all have positive and negative experiences in our lives. The cycle of life often goes through ups and downs and it is valuable to be open to all experiences. This is when you allow personal growth to happen and just as suggested in the Parade Magazine article, this process can take time and that it is important to recognize our thought patterns. Dr. Mishori adds that, “Resilience training usually requires work with an experienced therapist.”

Finding the right therapist can be challenging, but locating a directory that allows the patient to safely and confidentially review a therapist’s background and treatment approach will help speed along the process. Some directories (such as allow you to search for all therapists by modality (such as Positive Psychology).

Raymond Bokenkamp

HealthPanda offers a therapist directory to help you find all types of Philadelphia therapists and psychologists. Find a therapist that fits all your needs in our fast growing directory today.

PS To see your strengths and virtues a test is available on the Positive Psychology website listed below.

Discussion Question:

Do you have unwanted negative patterns in your life? If yes, can you think of anything that you are prepared to do about it today?

Useful links:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Power of Peer Relationships

We play many roles in our lives such as parent, child, teacher, student, boss, employee, friend, spouse and the list goes on. The relationships that we develop in these roles can be more meaningful when we treat people as peers rather than subordinate or boss. By treating someone as your peer you share vulnerability, create a connection and develop a more authentic and meaningful relationship.

Dr. Stephen Treat suggests that parents that treat their children as peers have far more meaningful relationships with their children. Based on his experience it is the biggest factor that determines how long the marital relationship of the child lasts later in life. One of the key aspects in relationships is that power is given and not demanded. Of course this still means that as a parent you are responsible for establishing boundaries and enforcing them (consider the Art of Dialog as a useful technique). You may be surprised to see how authentic relationships that are not based on “power trips” will lead to an improvement of the quality of your life as well as the ones around you. Is this worth trying today?

Useful Links:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The art of dialog : A communication tool for improving your relationships

Last night I attended a presentation by Dr. Stephen Treat that was organized by the Mount Airy learning tree. Based on his extensive therapy experience, Dr. Stephen Treat presented and discussed a model for improving relationships with loved ones through better communication.

We are all co-creators (or active participants/players) when it comes to family dynamics and interpersonal relationships and we all have choices. We can choose to get upset, angry, shut-down or be passive aggressive when our buttons are pushed. In fact that is usually our instinctual reaction. Dr. Stephen Treat offered a better strategy which is to actively participate in a dialog by returning a question about the content presented and the way it is presented (context). For example when someone says: "This is ridiculous", you have the choice to become angry, shut down, OR you could ask: "What's ridiculous about it?". The latter choice will start a dialog that usually leads to a deeper understanding of what's really going on. I compare it to a dance, rather than blocking or repressing negative energy you find a flow through which the dialog is opened and continued.

Discussion Question:
Are there situations in your relationships where opening a dialog is useful?

Did you know?:
Did you know that the Council for Relationships conducted 50,000 therapy hours last year of which 8,000 where billed at $10 or less (based on individual circumstances).
Did you know that the Mount Airy Learning tree has already raised $40,000 for the purchase of the MALT office building?

Useful Links:

Stephen Treat Quotes:
"The relationship you have with the opposite sex parent is a big determinate on the relationship you will have with your spouse."
"The relationship you have with the same sex parent is a big determinate on the relationship you will have with yourself."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Choreographed Dance Movement to promote health and balance.

I just came back from Kripalu in the Berkshires, MA, where I completed the JourneyDance(TM) teacher training. It was a demanding experience with many gratifying moments. Mostly, seeing a group of 38 woman and 4 men coming together as one and dance like we danced together for years after just 40 hours of intensive training in 5 days.

There is plenty of literature available concerning dance and its therapeutic properties mostly concerning anxiety, depression, dementia, group dynamics, personal development, authentic communication, trans-cultural (and let me add cross-gender) relationships, and transformational leadership (i.e. Dance Movement Therapy by Helen Payne, Dance As a Healing Art : Returning to Health Through Movement & Imagery by Anna Halprin and Dance and other Expressive Art Therapies, and Therapy in Motion by Maureen Costonis). Perhaps still little is known about this “up and coming” modality called JourneyDance (TM).

Toni Bergens, M. Ed developed JourneyDance(TM) as an opportunity for personal growth and healing. Her authenticity, experience and energy draws many students and teachers into a choreographed journey of dance and music. Starting with embodiment, the student experiences movements on the floor, grounding herself into the body (and out of the mind). I valued the experience of crawling like a baby again. It made me feel in the moment without concern of future or past activities. Once embodied, the student goes through the awakening and immersion stages that (among other benefits) lubricate the spine, knees and other joints. The student is then lead into an expansion stage. Toni is a gifted leader that reads the energy of the group. She brings the students together on movement when needed, but leaves a lot of time for self-exploration. Toni refers to this powerful leadership tool as the “accordion technique.”

All stages are guided by complementing movements, music and sounds. In the expansion stage, students are encouraged to let go of the old and let in the new. This stage releases stuck energy and leaves a student feeling big and clear. The next stage, “Shamanic Empowerment” brings the student back to African rhythms and rituals. This stage stimulates release and students can go into a mild trance like state that brings them back to primordial memories. This particular stage is associated with a primordial masculine energy.

After the student has reached an expanded stage and a higher awareness, the JourneyDance teacher holds the space and safely guides the group back to a centered stage. This is done through heart and prayer dance and returning to the earth for deep relaxation. You can learn lots more about JourneyDance by visiting You will find a listing of classes for your area. I had a great time and want to thank Toni, the staff and my fellow students for this incredible experience.

JourneyDance has had an impact in my own life to help me promote health and balance. These experiences have significantly improved the quality in my own life and made me launch a free online directory for therapists: Health Panda. The Directory makes it easy for clients to research therapist referrals and find a good match. Visit the directory by clicking here. The website is called I am always curious about your feedback. You can reach me by dropping me an email at

Raymond Bokenkamp