All posts by Mark Wilhelm

Acceptance and Change: Dr. Aarika V. White on the Role of Validation in DBT

Taking action to improve our mental health can be difficult. On top of the emotional work needed to change our thoughts and behaviors, we might also struggle with the feeling that other people don’t understand us. We might feel like our family, our friends, and even our therapists only want to make us change and don’t actually accept us for who we are.

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is a type of psychological therapy that aims to counteract these feelings. Created by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980s, DBT is a modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy that emphasizes the importance of both acceptance and change in the therapy process. In DBT sessions, clients work not only to change harmful thoughts and behaviors they may have, but also to accept the benefits of doing so.

Of course, it’s easier for someone to accept that they must change their behaviors if they feel accepted by others in turn. This is why validation is an important part of DBT. Early in her development of the model, Dr. Linehan discovered that her clients who were most resistant to therapy were also raised in environments that were highly invalidating.

To better understand the role that validation plays in DBT, we spoke with Dr. Aarika V. White, a psychologist at Cummins who uses DBT as her theoretical framework. She breaks validation into two main categories: validation from the therapist and self-validation from the client.

Accepting the Value of Therapy

Aarika V. White, Ph.D.

One of the core tenets of DBT is that the client must accept that they need help. Uncooperative clients are unlikely to put in the emotional work that’s asked of them, which diminishes the effectiveness of treatment. The client must believe that therapy is the best option for them, and this is best achieved through validation.

According to Dr. White, validation is extremely important but sometimes misunderstood. “Sometimes people think giving validation means they have to tell the other person that they’re right,” she says. “That’s not what validation is. Validation is saying, ‘I can understand where you’re coming from. I can look at it from your point of view and see why you might have responded the way you responded, or why you might have had the interpretation you had.’ “

DBT aims to make the therapist an ally in the client’s treatment rather than an adversary. Using validation as a tool, the therapist builds trust with the client by acknowledging their thoughts and behaviors, but they also point out how changing these thoughts and behaviors can be beneficial. This dynamic can ultimately convince a resistant client to buy into treatment, as Dr. White explains:

“When you’re working with a client in a therapy setting, validation is one of the most important ways to ‘soften’ their attitude and get them in a headspace where they can hear what you’re trying to teach them. If a client comes in and they’re upset, angry or hurt because they’re not feeling validated, either by someone else or by the therapist, the skills work is not going to be effective because they’re not going to be able to hear what the therapist or the skills trainer is saying to them.”

Accepting the Value of Our Disorder

Even a disorderly and chaotic painting can seem beautiful from the right perspective.

Validation is crucial not only for convincing the client to engage with therapy—it’s also necessary for helping them accept their mental disorder or condition.

Due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, people who have mental health issues may believe something is wrong with them. Therapy models that focus solely on changing behaviors can inadvertently increase feelings of shame and guilt among some clients. “This is why Dr. Linehan created DBT,” Dr. White says. “People were getting the message that they were flawed, because they were being told, ‘Change your thinking, change your behavior, and your life will get better.’ She realized she needed to help them understand that they are the way they are for a reason, and that’s not wrong. They have to be able to accept who they are and why they are that way, otherwise they’re going to spend all their energy fighting it.”

If the therapist validates a client’s experience about their mental health and also helps them reframe these thoughts more positively, they can begin to erode the stigma the client feels. This can counteract feelings of denial or self-pity that prevent clients from making therapeutic progress, ultimately increasing the chances that they will embrace change.

As Dr. White says, “That’s where validation turns to self-validation. When you can remove that layer of worry, shame, embarrassment, or whatever comes with the client’s condition, then you can start to see more effective change.”


DBT skills training is one of the many services provided by Cummins Behavioral Health Systems. Our licensed therapists can help you with a variety of mental health needs, from psychiatric assessment to substance use treatment and crisis intervention. Please visit our services page to learn all the ways we can help!

Want to learn more coping skills for managing your mental health? Check out a few of our other posts below!

Dr. Ashleigh Woods Explains How—And Why—To Get a Good Night's Sleep
What Do Food Critics Know About Savoring Life?

What Do Food Critics Know About Savoring Life?

On first thought, professional food critics don’t necessarily strike us as experts in mental health. While there’s no denying that eating makes us feel good, this wouldn’t lead us to believe food critics know something about mental wellness that the rest of us don’t.

The average food critic probably doesn’t possess any special knowledge about psychology, but they are exceptionally skilled at the art of savoring. Consider everything they pay attention to when tasting a dish, as summarized by one food blog:

  • The visual appearance of the dish, such as the colors, shapes, and arrangement of the food
  • The smell of the dish, including how many individual aromas can be detected and how enticing they are
  • The complexity and balance of all the flavors present in the dish
  • The texture and temperature of the food, and how these enhance or detract from the eating experience

As you can see, a food critic approaches the task of eating differently than most people. When they eat, they are living entirely in the moment. They’re focused on appreciating every element of their food and getting as much enjoyment from it as possible. In this way, food critics are masters at savoring—a coping skill you can use to increase your own appreciation of life.

Finding More “Spice” in Everyday Life

We’ve all heard the adage that “variety is the spice of life,” and yes, psychological research has shown that people are happiest when they experience a wide variety of positive situations. But we can also increase our enjoyment of things that we do on a daily basis. Just like food critics, savoring helps us detect the “spices” that are already present in the “food” that is our lives.

Savoring is closely related to mindfulness, but it takes the idea of living in the present an extra step. When we savor an experience, we focus our attention on what makes it pleasurable. We pay attention to everything that’s happening in the moment, and then we take the time to relish all the ways it gives us satisfaction.

In his book Enjoy Life! Healing with Happiness, psychologist Dr. Lynn Johnson refers to a person’s ability to enjoy life as their level of “zestfulness.” Someone who’s high in zestfulness is naturally good at savoring life’s pleasant events. Although people typically operate at their baseline level of zestfulness, Dr. Johnson argues that we can raise our zest for life by practicing the skill of savoring.

So, how can we begin to develop our savoring abilities? It’s not difficult—all you’ll need is a pen and paper.

An Exercise for Increasing Zest

Here’s an exercise that Dr. Johnson recommends to help attune your savoring skills.

First, choose a simple, everyday pleasure that you enjoy. This could be anything you like to do as long as it allows for quiet contemplation. Some examples might be going for a walk, sitting outside on a nice day, reading a book, practicing an art or craft, or eating your favorite meal.

Next, as you are experiencing this pleasant activity or situation, focus your attention on everything that’s happening around you. What sights, sounds, smells and sensations do you notice? Concentrate also on what you’re thinking and feeling. Do you feel content? Relaxed? Amused? Inspired? Grateful? Let your mind linger on the positive sensations and emotions you experience.

After the experience is over, take out a journal or diary and write down what you noticed. Write about your thoughts, feelings and sensations as vividly as possible so that you almost relive them as you write, and notice how you feel while doing so. Does reimagining the experience that you’re savoring make you feel happier?

If we practice savoring and writing about one pleasant experience every day, we’ll find that there are many small things in our lives that we appreciate. Over time, we can increase our zestfulness and enjoyment of life for what it is, not what it could or might be—and we’ll learn a thing or two about how to be a good food critic in the process!


Looking for more information to help you improve your mood and enjoy life? You might find these posts useful!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Training Ourselves to Be Optimists: Positive Psychology

Why Giving In to Anger Makes Us Dumber

“Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools.” — Albert Einstein

Everyone knows what it’s like to feel angry. Our heart beats faster. Our chest tightens. We become fixated on the person or thing that caused our anger, and we start thinking about how we can get even.

Anger is a natural human reaction to situations that we dislike, but it isn’t a very effective one. If we take a moment to think about the consequences of anger, we’ll realize that it rarely solves whatever problem provoked it. If we become angry about another person’s behavior, it probably won’t result in them changing that behavior. If we become angry about an unfavorable event that befalls us, our anger will do nothing to reverse what has happened.

What’s worse is that anger inhibits our ability to respond to the situation intelligently. Psychological studies have shown that people process information less thoroughly and judge others more harshly when they are angry. This can cause us to behave in ways that only perpetuate anger instead of addressing its cause.

In short, being angry makes us dumb. Fortunately, it’s possible to live without anger if we train our brains to respond to anger-inducing situations differently.

The Function of Anger, Then and Now


In his book Enjoy Life! Healing with Happiness, psychologist Dr. Lynn Johnson suggests that anger is closely related to our instinctual “fight or flight” response. Anger is marked by physiological activity that prepares our body to fight off an aggressor, such as the release of adrenaline in our brain and increased blood flow to our muscles.

For our earliest ancestors, Dr. Johnson argues, anger was a useful emotion. It helped them confront or kill animals or other humans who posed a threat to their life. Anger’s natural intensification of “us vs. them” thinking also might have been useful for protecting the tribe during conflict, thereby increasing the individual’s chances of long-term survival.

However, the survival benefits of anger have been rendered mostly obsolete by modern civilization. Physical assault and murder are not acceptable in our society,  nor are they necessary for day-to-day survival. To solve interpersonal disputes today, we must use logic, reason and understanding—which is much harder to do when we feel angry.

So, how can we become better at relying on these higher-level problem solving skills? By changing our thought patterns to weaken anger’s control over us.

Rewiring Our Brains for Calm


According to Dr. Johnson, anger is caused not only by what happens to us, but also by how we habitually think about these things. For example, if a stranger on the street makes a rude comment toward you, you can view it in one of two ways: as a personal attack on your character or as an outburst that reflects more on the speaker than on you. If you think about the situation in the first way, you are much more likely to become angered by it.

Fortunately, it’s possible to change our way of thinking so we’re less easily angered. The first step is to desensitize ourselves to our environmental “triggers.” Make a list of every situation you can think of that typically makes you angry, and then imagine these situations in your mind. As you picture each one, concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths and relaxing the muscles in your body. With practice, you’ll become much better at controlling your emotions and staying calm when confronted with these anger-inducing situations.

Once we’re desensitized to our anger triggers, we can work on reframing our thoughts about them. If we take some time to think about why we become angry, we’ll discover that it’s usually because we assume the worst intentions. Work on questioning these assumptions. Consider if there could be a positive intention behind the behavior, if there are compensating factors that make it more understandable, or if there might be a hidden benefit that comes out of the situation. In the above scenario, for example, you might consider that the rude person could simply be having a bad day. Alternatively, you might decide that their actions provide you with a good opportunity to practice compassion.

If we work on changing the way we think about situations that anger us, we’ll find in time that anger no longer controls us. This is the best way to help ourselves make smart, effective decisions in anger-inducing situations—instead of ineffective and dumb ones!


For more tips and information about dealing with life’s stressful situations, give these posts a read!

Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)
Remember This Next Time You're Feeling Stressed
Some Say Yoga Is Simple Physical Exercises. They're Wrong.

Dr. Ashleigh Woods Explains How—and Why—to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” — E. Joseph Cossman, American businessman and author

It’s hard to overstate the good that sleep does for the human body.

Sleep is our natural recovery period, when all of our bodily systems can recuperate and reenergize for continued use. It plays a pivotal role in the functioning of our endocrine and immune systems, and it’s essential for maintaining mood, memory and cognitive performance. Unfortunately, too many of us take for granted the benefits that sleep provides.

The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours. However, the CDC reported that 35.2% of all American adults did not meet this threshold in 2014. (In Indiana, rates of insufficient sleep surpassed the national average at 38.0–44.1 percent.) This is a worrying trend, because not getting enough sleep can lead to serious issues for physical and mental health.

To learn more about the connection between sleep and mental health, we spoke with Cummins psychologist Dr. Ashleigh Woods. Below, she explains some of the negative health consequences of chronic sleep deprivation and a few simple things we can all do to improve the quality of our sleep.

Dr. Ashleigh Woods on the Psychological Power of Sleep

Ashleigh Woods, Psy.D., HSPP, Staff Psychologist at Cummins Behavioral Health

Ashleigh Woods, Psy.D., HSPP, holds a degree in Clinical Psychology and is a staff psychologist at Cummins’ Indianapolis office. As part of her work, she helps clients who are struggling with insomnia and other sleep disorders.

“There’s a huge connection between mental health and sleep,” Dr. Woods says. “If you’re not getting enough sleep or good quality sleep, you’ll have a harder time managing your emotions, and you could have trouble focusing or thinking clearly. Let’s face it—everything is harder when you’re not well rested.”

In fact, research has shown that sleep deprivation is closely related with psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia and alcoholism. Many people who have these conditions experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and evidence suggests that chronic sleep deprivation may even contribute to the development of some of these disorders.

However, it’s possible to break the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and psychological impairment if we make an effort to follow good sleep practices. In many cases, treating a sleep disorder can alleviate the symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions.

Best Practices for Falling (and Staying) Asleep

So, what can we do to improve our sleep habits? For the average, healthy person, the simplest and most obvious solution is to get enough sleep each night. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep every day, but this number could be higher or lower based on your individual physiology. As a general rule, if you don’t feel sleepy during the day, especially when sitting quietly, then you are getting enough sleep.

But what about people who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep? Fortunately, there are many interventions you can try for better sleep hygiene, as Dr. Woods explains:

“To get a good night’s sleep, be sure to use your bed for only sleep or sex. Reading or watching TV in bed keeps your brain active and makes your body associate your bed with wakefulness. Also be sure to create a good bed time routine to help your body wind down in the evening: limit screen time, use lamps instead of overhead lights, don’t drink caffeine past 2:00 p.m., limit alcohol and cigarette use before bed, and most importantly, add some relaxing activities to your evening, such as taking a warm bath or doing some gentle yoga stretches.”

Relaxation techniques such as autogenic training can also be helpful for falling asleep and promoting deep, restorative sleep. However, autogenic training should be performed with help from a mental health specialist before you try practicing it on your own.

For more tips and suggestions for healthy sleep habits, check out the following resources:


Want more easy mental health and wellness strategies from Cummins BHS? Take a look at the posts below!

Laughter: Do It Just for the Health of It!
Journaling: A Simple Way to Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Laughter: Do It Just for the Health of It!

“The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” — Mark Twain, novelist and writer

Take a moment to think about what you were doing the last time you laughed. Were you with someone or by yourself? Were you reading or watching something humorous, or simply remembering something that happened in the past? And were you already feeling happy when you laughed…or did the act of laughing make you feel happy?

Laughter is a peculiar and remarkable phenomenon of human behavior, and scientific research has shown that it can be beneficial for physical and mental health. For example, several studies have found that laughter can reduce feelings of distress, improve functioning of the immune system, and even help prevent heart disease.

Additionally, psychologists know that laughter is an effective coping mechanism for countering negative thoughts and emotions. According to Tom Kixmiller, a therapist and counselor at our Avon office:

“One of the best ways to heal the body in general is physical activity, and if you’ve ever belly laughed, it can leave you tired. Physical activity and laughter burn off stress and re-balance the body chemistry.

Tom Kixmiller, LMHC

But how can this help someone who is feeling anxious, upset or depressed? After all, we often think of laughter as something people do when they’re already feeling happy, not when they’re sad. While it’s true that we’re more disposed to laugh when we’re in a good mood, the physical act of laughing can also cause us to feel happy.

Laughter and the Facial Feedback Hypothesis


When we think about emotion, it’s easy to assume that physiological changes occur in our body as a result of the emotion we’re feeling. When we’re stressed, we take quicker breaths and our heart beats faster. When we’re sad, we feel lethargic and wear a frown on our face. And when we’re happy, we smile and laugh.

However, our physiological state can also be the cause of our emotions. This is why controlling our breathing can calm us down when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and it’s why the 19th-century psychologist William James famously concluded, “We don’t laugh because we’re happy—we’re happy because we laugh.” Tom elaborates:

“Your brain is constantly monitoring your body, which is why dialectical behavior therapy uses the premise of the ‘half-smile.’ If you make yourself smile, it can shift your mood. It isn’t going to fix everything, but it starts to move you in the right direction. Some studies have shown that even forced smiling or forced laughter can have a positive effect.”

Therefore, laughing can make us feel happy even if we weren’t before. Of course, it can be hard to find the motivation to make ourselves laugh if we’re struggling with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. This is where humor and comedy can help.

Introducing Mental Health America’s “Laughing for the Health of It” Comedy Show!


Tammi Jessup is the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Hendricks County (MHAHC), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting mental wellness in the community. The organization serves people who have mental health conditions through a combination of school-based and adult education programs, support groups, individual advocacy, and initiatives like its food pantry and holiday gift drive.

When facilitating a mental health support group, Tammi leverages the power of laughter whenever she can. “We talk about whatever is going on in each person’s life, whether they’ve had a good week or a bad week. And we laugh, intentionally, as much as possible. If you have your group of people together and you can get them to laugh about something, it has all those positive impacts on the body and mind.”

As part of its mission to promote mental health, MHAHC hosts an annual event called “Laughing for the Health of It.” One part speaker dinner and one part comedy show, “Laughing for the Health of It” aims to remind people that life can be joyful even with a mental health condition. Tammi explains:

“One in four people is going to have a mental health condition at some point in their lives. We want to help those people and their families lead their best and healthiest lives, and we feel like laughter is an important component of that. We want to help people realize that even when they have a mental health condition, they can still laugh and have a good time.”

Tammi Jessup, Executive Director of MHAHC

7th Annual “Laughing for the Health of It” Dinner and Comedy Show

Sponsored by: Cummins Behavioral Health Systems and Hendricks Regional Heath

When: September 21st, 5:30 p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Where: Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds & Conference Complex, North and South Halls


Comedian Brent Terhune, writer for the Bob & Tom Show

Jefferson Award Winner Nikki Ford

Live music by local band “No Criminal Record”

Catered dinner and cash bar

Silent auction, photo booth, and games & activities

To purchase tickets, click the button below or call the MHAHC office at (317) 272-0027


Supplement Your Journaling Routine with These Easy Therapeutic Exercises

In our last post, we spoke with Cummins therapist Mindy Frazee about the mental health benefits of keeping a journal. Studies have shown that journaling can have a wide range of physical and mental heath effects, from lowered heart rate to less distress and negative emotions. Although we covered a lot of the basics last time, there’s still so much more that can be said about journaling!

“Journaling helps us think in different ways,” Mindy says. “It aids in stress reduction, emotion regulation, increased awareness, but it also impacts and touches different parts of our brains, which is really fascinating.”

To help our readers supplement their journaling routine, we asked Mindy about her favorite ways to use journaling in a therapy setting. Here are a few exercises and prompts you can try for yourself!

Therapist Mindy Frazee on Her Favorite Journaling Exercises

Mindy Frazee considers herself a Rogerian, and as such, she doesn't believe in one-size-fits-all journaling therapy. "There's no manualized treatment for Carl Rogers, and I love that. So, for me, it's about whoever is sitting across from me. It's really tailored to what would work for that person," she says.

Self-Affirmation Journaling

“Some people that come into my office have very low self-evaluation and self-esteem, for a variety of reasons. One of the things I’ll do is tell them, ‘Write down everything you like about yourself.’

That’s really uncomfortable for people. Many of us don’t like to talk about ourselves. We’re in the Midwest; it’s not what we do. But on top of that, we may have been told negative things about ourselves. This exercise challenges those ideas. Then, if we read what we wrote out loud, it helps us accept those good things about ourselves. We think, ‘I wrote it about myself, I read it out loud, and then this person sitting across from me who’s completely unbiased accepts this about me. I guess I can accept that about me, too.’ “

Reframing Traumatic Experiences

“Usually in trauma work, I encourage the person to read their own words out loud in our sessions. And when they’re reading what they’ve written about a traumatic experience, I’ll pause them and ask, ‘What do you think about that experience right now? What is it like now, today, in this moment, to be saying these things?’

What was present then is often what trauma survivors fixate on. ‘I was so angry, I was so scared, I was these things.’ But as a therapist, I encourage them to think about what’s happening today, in this moment. This helps them be more present and stop living in the past, which is really pivotal and impactful in trauma work. They realize it’s OK to feel the way they did and that they’re not in that place anymore.”

Experimenting with Format

“Some people just don’t want to sit down and write, to be honest. Not everybody is going to say, ‘Dear diary, today…’ So, I try to meet those people where they’re comfortable. They can journal with logs or bullet points. They can write poetry and prose. It’s whatever makes sense for that person in their mind.

Another idea that’s really fascinating is photography as a way of journaling. Most people have some type of a phone, so I might ask them to capture pictures, but in a very focused way—with a specific quest, kind of. I’ll say, ‘Define this concept using photos throughout your day, and then bring them in and we’ll discuss them.’ “

We’d like to thank Mindy Frazee for sharing these exercises, which can be used in both clinical and personal settings. But you needn’t stop here! There are countless ways to express yourself through journaling—the only wrong way is a way that doesn’t feel right to you!

What are your favorite ways to journal?

If you’d like to read more about mental health and wellness strategies, check out some of our other posts below!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)
Remember This Next Time You're Feeling Stressed

Journaling: A Simple Way to Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent.”  — Susan Sontag, essayist, filmmaker and activist

Would you believe that spending a few minutes each day with a pen and paper can be highly beneficial for your mental health?

Journaling, which you might also call keeping a diary, is the practice of regularly recording your thoughts, feelings and life events. It’s a great way to get difficult thoughts and emotions “out of your head” and into a private, judgment-free space. In fact, psychologists have known for many years that journaling can work wonders for mental health.

In one influential paper on the topic, psychologist James Pennebaker found that people who participated in journaling exercises later reported less distress, depression and negative emotions. Amazingly, some people even experienced improvements in their physical health and behavior. In a few studies, people who journaled went on to earn higher grades in school or find a new job more quickly after being laid off from work.

So, how does journaling work in a clinical setting, and how does the exercise translate to mental health benefits? We spoke with therapist Melinda (“Mindy”) Frazee to find out.

Mindy Frazee on Journaling for Mental Health

Mindy Frazee is an outpatient therapist at our Crawfordsville office, where she finds journaling to be an invaluable tool in her work with clients. “It can aid in emotion regulation and increasing awareness. I do a lot of mindfulness-based work with clients, and it can help them become more aware, more present, more tuned-in to what’s happening to them internally instead of reacting to what’s happening externally,” she says.

According to Mindy, journaling can be an effective therapeutic exercise for just about anyone. However, she finds it particularly useful for people who have experienced trauma. In her therapy sessions, Mindy often asks clients to read aloud portions of what they have written in their journals, and then they discuss topics that either person thinks is important.

Mindy says that journaling forces us to confront our thoughts and feelings head-on rather than avoid them. Although this process can be uncomfortable at first, it’s often a crucial step on the journey toward self-discovery or psychological healing:

“When people first come to work with me, especially when they’ve experienced trauma, I compare it to looking down a very long hallway with a lot of doors shut. It’s scary and dark, and we don’t like to go down there. But in my office, we go down there. It’s very disorganized in that area of our minds, and journaling can help us start to organize it. We revisit the traumatic event, we look at it in a safe way, and we make a different sense of it.”

How to Start Your Own Journaling Routine

Keeping a journal is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health. All you need to do is pick up a pen and start writing. You can write about anything you want, from the events of your day to something that has made you happy, sad, excited or nervous. If you keep up the routine long enough, you’ll start to know yourself better and work your way through problems that once seemed too difficult to approach.

Your journaling exercise will be most effective if you can make it a regular part of your day. “My recommendation is to be very intentional about when you’re going to journal,” Mindy says. “Sit down and walk through your schedule. When do you have 20 minutes where no one is interrupting you, you’re relaxed, and you’re able to just sit, think and write?”

Here are some other tips and suggestions to consider:

  • If at all possible, try to write in your journal every day. Be strict with yourself about maintaining your schedule.
  • Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about things like sentence structure, grammar and spelling.
  • Don’t censor yourself or worry about what other people might think. Your journal is for your eyes only.
  • If you don’t know what to write about, try choosing weekly or monthly themes. Examples could include “joy,” “anger,” “memories” or “aspirations.”
  • Instead of keeping a written journal, you could also record audio or video logs. Any format that feels right to you is fine.

Journaling is one of the many client-specific behavioral treatments used by our therapists at Cummins BHS. While journaling is useful in clinical care settings, it can also be practiced outside of therapy for your general mental and emotional well-being.

We hope this post inspires you to start journaling for your own mental health! 


For more on wellness and simple exercises for improving mental health, give these other posts a read!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Calm Down Quick with This Simple Trick: Extended Exhale

Building Connected, Healthy Communities: National Night Out 2019

Tuesday, August 6th is National Night Out!

The website for National Night Out—an initiative of the National Association of Town Watch—includes a quote from former Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that nicely sums up what the organization is all about:

“The best way to build a safer community is to know your neighbors and your surroundings. National Night Out triumphs over a culture that isolates us from each other and allows us to rediscover our own communities.”

United States Permanent Representative to NATO and former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Celebrated in most places on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out (or NNO) is an annual event with the goal of creating safer, tighter-knit communities. One way this is done is by strengthening relationships between community members and law enforcement. To this end, local police departments have a large presence at each event. Officers put a positive face on law enforcement by interacting with community members, and they also get residents involved in programs like neighborhood watch, drug prevention, and other anti-crime efforts.

However, NNO is also about strengthening ties between everyone in the community. As Senator Hutchison said, the best way to build safe communities is to know your neighbors! That’s why Cummins BHS is proud to be participating in this year’s National Night Out celebrations!

Recapping Montgomery County’s NNO Events with Jeremy Haire

Jeremy Haire, LMHC, is a Youth and Family Therapist at our Montgomery County location in Crawforsdville, IN.

In Montgomery County, National Night Out was celebrated a week early on Tuesday, July 30th. The event was held at Milligan Park in Crawfordsville, IN and hosted by several organizations including the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau and Drug Free Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and Fire Department were all present to interact with the public. Additionally, there were many fun activities for children and families to participate in, such as an obstacle course, a bounce house, face painting, caricatures, and a special “Silly Safari” show.

Two of our staff were also there to speak with attendees about Cummins’ services and answer their behavioral health questions. Jeremy Haire, LMHC and Youth & Family Therapist, headed the booth at the event. “We had a display for doing deep breathing and a couple of activities to get kids engaged, and while they were playing, the parents might ask us about our services. It was a great time to get information to community members who maybe hadn’t heard of us or didn’t know exactly what we do,” Jeremy says.

In addition to letting people know about the health services available to them, Jeremy says the event was a good opportunity to connect with other local organizations:

“It’s nice to be able to meet some of our community partners and discover how they can help people who are currently in our services. For example, we met an organization that provides hygiene products and household items for adults and families. That was a resource we weren’t aware of. Having relationships like that will help us connect folks who are in need with the appropriate resources.”

A photo of the deep breathing board that was displayed at Cummins' booth. The two techniques listed, "bubble breathing" and "balloon breathing," presented healthy breathing exercises in a way that was engaging for children.

Attending National Night Out is a wonderful way to get involved with your community and discover the health and wellness resources that are available to you. We encourage all our readers to check with their local civic organizations to see if National Night Out is being celebrated in their town!

Cummins BHS will be in attendence at the NNO event for Putnam County. Come out to see us Tuesday, August 6th from 5–8 p.m. at Robe Ann Park (Splash Park) in Greencastle!

If you enjoyed this post on National Night Out, you might also like our article featuring Police Officer Chase Lyday and the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition!

How One Indianapolis Police Officer Is Fighting Teenage Substance Abuse

Shining a Spotlight on Minority Mental Health Month with These Indiana Organizations

Every person deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and economic status. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

People who belong to “minority” groups are less likely than the rest of the population to have access to care, and the care they receive is often of a lower quality. This is especially true when it comes to mental health care. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that in 2017, 42% of all youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35% of African American youth and 33% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition.

This long-running disparity in treatment led the U.S. House of Representatives to establish July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. This month, organizations across the country are advocating for better mental health care for members of minority groups.

Here are a few of the organizations and events celebrating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Indiana!

The Indiana Youth Institute

"If an organization impacts youth and families, we act as a catalyst in their efforts and provide resources to help them achieve their goals," says Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at the Indiana Youth Institute.

The Indiana Youth Institute is a statewide organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Indiana children. IYI provides data, resources and training to organizations that directly interact with youth, such as those in the areas of education, workforce development, health care, the Department of Corrections, and the State Department.

IYI’s mission is to understand the health issues that affect children and teens in Indiana, and one way it does this is by collecting data. Each year, IYI compiles the Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book to provide a snapshot of youth health in the state. According to Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at IYI, one of the things this data does is help organizations identify and remedy disparities in mental health treatment for minority groups.

“As an example, we know that 1 in 5 high school students in Indiana has thought about suicide. We can break this down by gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity and take a deeper look. If we break it down by sexual orientation, we see a huge disparity. Suicidal ideation occurs in 15% of heterosexual youth, but it occurs in nearly 47% of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. When it comes to race and ethnicity, we see higher rates of suicidal ideation in Hispanic, African American and multiple-race youth compared to their white counterparts. We want to educate the state of Indiana about these disparities so that we can provide better interventions and preventions in the field of mental health.”

Visit the Indiana Youth Institute on Facebook to learn more about how the organization is promoting the health of minority populations and all youth across Indiana.

Hendricks County Health Partnership

"We accomplish our mission through education, advocacy and collaboration. Collaboration is really the heartbeat of the partnership," says Chase Cotten, Partnership Coordinator of the Hendricks County Health Partnership.

On the county level, the Hendricks County Health Partnership is a grassroots community service organization with a mission to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of residents. It consists of seven local coalitions that each focus on a specific facet of public health, such as the Physical Activity & Nutrition Coalition, the Mental Health & Wellness Coalition, and the Substance Abuse Task Force.

One of the newer additions is the Minority Health Coalition, which meets the first Thursday of each month to discuss the physical and mental health of the county’s minority populations. When it comes to mental health, the coalition recognizes that members of minority groups face unique barriers to receiving treatment in Hendricks County, as explained by Partnership Coordinator Chase Cotten:

“If you are a member of a minority population in Hendricks County, the lack of intercultural competency is a large barrier. If I’m a Spanish-speaking resident and English is my second language, it’s going to be very difficult to connect with a therapist or counselor if they don’t have any sort of translation services on site. Another example would be the lower income barrier. Maybe I’m an uninsured patient and there are only one or two providers that accept a sliding-scale fee instead of an insurance fee or a standard fee, so my options are very limited. Or let’s say I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ population. Not all providers are affirming of that, so that adds another layer of barrier and stigma that I have to fight through. The ‘why’ behind the coalition is to increase intercultural competency for providers and community members so that everyone has an equitable chance to get the help they deserve.”

Visit the Hendricks County Health Partnership Facebook page to get in touch with the coalitions and see how you can help make a difference in Hendricks County.

2019 Indiana Black and Minority Health Fair & Shalom’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair

Cummins' Michelle Freeman (pictured here), Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be at the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair on July 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

In celebration of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems will be in attendance at two local events over the weekend!

The first is the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair, which is part of the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. The goal of the Health Fair is to raise awareness of chronic disease prevention and treatment among minority populations. To this end, there will be a wide variety of free health screenings available as well as health education, demonstrations and activities!

The 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair runs from July 18th through the 21st. It’s being held in Halls J and K of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Cummins’ own Michelle Freeman, Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be there to answer your mental health questions on Saturday the 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.! Please consult this flyer for additional information.

Also on Saturday, Shalom Health Care Center will be holding its annual Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair. This health fair welcomes more than 3,000 people—including children, their families, and other members of the community—to participate in free health screenings, games and activities. There will also be music and dancing, backpack giveaways in preparation for the new school year, and exhibitions from more than 100 community health partners.

This year’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair will be held on Saturday, July 21st at Shalom’s Primary Care Center at 34th Street and Lafayette Road. The fair runs from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and members of the Cummins staff will be in attendance! Please visit Shalom Health Care Center’s website for more information.

This Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins BHS wants you to know that no one should be ashamed of their mental health struggles, and help is out there! Our health care providers can offer assessments, evaluations and interventions based on your needs.

For more on mental health care for underserved groups, take a look at our recent post for LGBTQ Pride Month!

LGBTQ Pride 2019: Explaining the Gender Unicorn withYouth MOVE