Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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What People Who Grew Up in (Relatively) Functional Families Know

Have you heard the saying, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you likely don’t even realize all the life skills you lack and the viewpoints that those who were raised in more functional environments have that you don’t. So, here’s what you might not know but need to. You can trust people.       Obviously, you can’t trust everyone for everything. You can’t expect everyone to know how to fly an airplane, cut your hair, or advise you on investments. When we talk about trusting people, we usually mean that we can trust them emotionally: Are they honest, ethical, dependable and reliable; will they validate our feelings, be there for us and take care of us? Not everyone will, but many will try their darndest to do so.      If you grew up with parents who couldn’t (because of their upbringing)...
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Where Are You on the Mental Health Continuum?

Many decades ago when I’d just started social work school in Boston, a friend became very sad after his wife left him for another man. I knew them both and their situation and assumed my friend was suffering from betrayal and grieving the loss of his marriage. When he continued to feel down and exhibited other distress symptoms, I finally realized that he was suffering from depression with which he still struggles to this day. With my clinical experience now, I would have seen that he was depressed more quickly. But, even with clinical experience, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between someone simply suffering through a difficult time and someone who has mental health issues that need to be treated. And if I’m not sure of the truth as a seasoned therapist, it’s even harder to discern for people without my experience. This dilemma is the focus of...
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Strategic Silence

Anyone who knows me well would use the words chatty, highly verbal, or strongly interactive to describe me in a relationship—unless I’m employing a technique that therapists call strategic silence. It’s used to help clients sit with and expand feelings by helping the therapist from getting in their way of doing so. This blog is not about how strategic silence is used in therapy. It’s teaching you how to use this technique to improve your interpersonal skills dealing with difficult people. Social discourse generally involves one person saying something and another saying something in return. A back-and-forth volley of words is expected as in playing tennis. When your opponent hits the ball over the net, it’s assumed you’ll hit it back.  To learn to use strategic silence effectively, you must realize you’re breaking a social norm and feel okay about it. You also need a conscious reason for doing so which...
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How Not to Stop Emotional Eating

Have you ever heard of “Mindful Emotional Eating”? I hadn’t until a few years ago when books and articles started popping up on the subject. I even wrote a blurb for a colleagues’ book about it based on the belief that if someone is going to regularly engage in emotional eating, why not make it more mindful. But the more I read about it, the more the concept simply doesn’t make sense to me.  Assuming that someone is trying to end a pattern (key word here) of emotional eating, let’s definitely encourage them to have compassion for themselves when they seek food to deal with the blues or the blahs. Let’s help them understand that there should be no guilt, shame or judgment involved because they are not doing a bad thing; they’re actually trying to make themselves feel better! They’re doing what they know and what most of us do...
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How to Use Incompatible Response Training to Change Habits

While reading a mystery book, I came across a child psychologist character describing his use of Incompatible Response Training, briefly explaining to his companion that it works by substituting one emotion for another. I thought the concept interesting and useful and Googled it to learn more about it. Habit Reversal Training, as it’s also called, involves substituting one habit for another. Why not use it with emotions? So I tried out this strategy with a client that afternoon. She’s very anxious, struggling to overcome perfectionism and people-pleasing, and looking for ways to dissolve her anxiety as she eagerly takes on more challenges in life. Raised by a shame-based mother and an insecure father who demanded she overperform to receive his approval, she grew up as the consummate overachiever and with sky-high anxiety. Both due to genetics and socialization, she couldn’t have turned out any other way. We talked about two large...
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What Is Your Broken Record Playing?

For those of you who know what a record is and have heard them being played, you might remember what happens when one has a scratch that causes it to play the same thing over and over. You never get to hear the rest of the song because the needle of the record player is stuck in the groove made by the scratch. Hence the term broken record which means saying the same thing over and over. Why do we get stuck repeating the same messages to ourselves when they’re not moving us forward, but keeping us caught in some ancient time warp? Here’s an example of what I call “broken record syndrome,” which is usually an unconscious pattern of self-talk which keeps you from focusing on yourself and changing your life. A client was telling me about her yearning for a stable man and how all she’d ever chosen were...
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Asking the Wrong Question in Abusive Relationships

What do you think is the most common and persistent question clients ask me about their abusive relationships? And what’s the most unhelpful question they could ask themselves? The answer is the same question: “Why is my abuser doing this to me?” If this question doesn’t initially strike you as off-base, take a moment to consider why that might be. Unless you’re someone’s therapist, the problem isn’t why someone does something hurtful to another person. It’s why someone who’s frequently hurt by another person puts up with abusive behavior and continues the relationship! Here’s an example. I have a client who’s adult sister is always causing trouble in the family. My client’s mother was alcoholic when she and her sister were growing up and is sober now. However, she’s still narcissistic and critical. My client’s sister and her mother have constant friction. And when they do, the sister blames my client...
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The Secret to Getting Things Done

This blog is for all of you who struggle with getting things done—whether you’re wildly busy or simply have little motivation to do the few important tasks you wish to accomplish. Remember, having alot to do is not necessarily the issue. It’s your inability to execute your (many or few) desires, that is, to go from intention to accomplishment. Be a Schedule Builder, Not a To-Do List Maker by Nir Eyal will put you on the right track by shifting your mindset from checking off to-do lists to structuring your life to suit yourself. Insists Eyal, “It’s time to shed the constant stress and toxic guilt of not checking off enough little boxes and finally understanding why running your life with a to-do list is like running your life on Windows 95.” His point is that we make to do lists to get things we’re ambivalent about doing done. After all,...
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How Temperament Affects Us

As a therapist, I think about temperament a good deal—mine and that of the clients I treat. I often joke that I got the “happy genes” from my dad or am amazed at clients who’ve suffered greatly in life and yet remain hopeful and upbeat. We are the fortunate ones when it comes to temperament. In “How Temperament Influences Support Given to Loved Ones With Eating Disorders,” Dr. Laura Hill, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, The Ohio State University and Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego explains what temperament is and its importance: “Temperament impacts the cost of one’s daily emotional expense.”  She goes on to say that “Temperament is the biological basis of our personality. It is created by one’s genes which set the framework for brain circuit development that evolves and functions over one’s life span. Temperament consists of one’s personality traits....
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Being Okay Being You

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be” is yet another wonderful quote by US author and poet Maya Angelou. I use the term normal here, not the way I usually do as in “normal” eating which follows four rules, but in the quest some people are on to be like everyone else. Being themselves won’t do, and instead many of them want to be anyone but themselves. Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde tells us why that’s impossible via one of my favorite quotes: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” And, after all, what the heck is wrong with being the one and only you? We learn that we are basically not okay and defective from our families and culture. If our parents are always comparing themselves to the proverbial Joneses, we’re going to grow up thinking that this is how one...
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This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.