SK Doctoroff Counseling and Therapy in Southfield Michigan

Communicating Words and Phrases

The interesting thing about being a therapist is that even though it seems that each of my clients are vastly different, on a regular basis I find themes that tie their differences together. It is these consistent themes that make me think about how to assist in helping them come to conclusions that can positively impact their lives. 

In recent months, the theme that seems most prevalent is that of relationships. The most common issue with these relationships is the positive art of communicating.  While they are not bringing in their spouse for couples counseling; while they really want to work on themselves; while they believe that their spouse knows what they are thinking, they are hearing themselves, realizing that communication is not what they thought it was.

Communicating with a significant other can be tricky even during the best of times. When we enter into the murky waters of conversation, many try and determine how their significant other will respond before the interactions takes place. Others deliver information differently than they want because of fear, insecurity or perceived reaction of the one with whom we are speaking. Lastly, there is the ideal that our significant other should be able to read our mind and know how we are feeling or thinking.  “Should” these people be reading minds?

According to Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. (Psychology Today, October 5, 2015), the word “should” is toxic in a relationship. Dr. Bernstein discusses toxic thoughts and how they can hurt relationships. He suggests that instead of talking and thinking in “shoulds” couples ought to try “would likes” so that the toxic communication and thoughts are minimized.

Relationships can be difficult. One thing that can be helpful in a relationship is communicating how one interprets a word. I see common every day words and phrases being interpreted differently. For example, what is “spending time together”; “needing help”; “talking”; “listening”; and, “wanting support”, to name a few, mean to each person in the relationship?

According to one of the definitions of communication is:

“the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else”

What would it be like to sit down and discuss words and phrases with your significant other so that the guessing game is taken out and the true meaning of communication is added back in?  Think of how productive communication could be if this was the model in any of your relationships.

If you would like assistance regarding communication issues please contact me. We can set up an individual and/or partner counseling session. Let’s start communicating.


Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Sessions




It was a beautiful day, the first of hopefully many. I had a full schedule that day with my clients coming in one after another, every 50 minutes.  More than one told me how good they were feeling; how much better they felt when the sun was shining.  Some clients even mentioned that maybe once a week sessions could start going to once every other week or once every three weeks.

Today it is cold and rainy.  If the same clients came in would they make the same requests? Does the sun, the Vitamin D, truly make us feel better about ourselves? Does it make a difference in how we see our problems; our ability to handle the hard times? Does the sun help with depression and anxiety?

Studies have shown that around the world there are low levels of Vitamin D. However, in the article “Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency – Vitamin D supplementation may help depression” ( Nov 14, 2011, James M. Greenblatt M.D.), it is noted Vitamin D is a small part of the larger depression picture. Many doctors now test for levels of Vitamin D and will put patients on supplements for deficiencies. While this shows signs of helping,  it is only part of the mood issue. So while having a Vitamin D deficiency  “…impairs and prolongs recovery from depression” the treatment of depression with Vitamin D is just one aspect.

According to an article written by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 2012 ( July 25,2012, Mark Easton), statistics do not show a significant change in how people feel when the weather changes. Easton mentions that there are parts of the world that do not get a lot of sun but still have lower levels of Seasonal Affective Disorder (Iceland was one example). Why would this be?

This is difficult to answer. Most of the articles I researched are inconclusive. It is dependent on where you live around the globe; if you are male or female; or if you already have a mood disorder (this can actually be triggered with more sun). What I did come across was how nature affects us positively. In order to be outdoors we need to have weather that cooperates.

Carolyn Gregoir wrote ( January 14, 2014 Carolyn Gregoir), happiness levels are correlated with climate. If the winters are warmer than expected and the summers are cooler than expected people have an easier time getting outdoors. This article states that stress levels are lower when spending more time in the outdoors. It is also noted that being outside contributes to more physical activity and “increased well-being.”

So back to my clients and the weather change.  We don’t want to deny anyone the feeling that here, in Michigan, seeing some sun after a long cold winter makes one happier and brighter for the day but, we also need to recognize that our problems don’t go away when the sun comes out.

If you are having problems in the areas of depression, anxiety, grief and loss, cancer issues or parenting please contact me and let’s talk.


Sad and SAD

Now that the days are shorter and darkness looms much earlier, are you finding your moods changing? Some people react negatively to the fall and winter months but when spring arrives they become happy again. This affliction is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. 

How do you know if you have SAD or just have a decrease in your mood? According to Winter Blues or Seasonal Afftive Disorder (SAD) (Psychology Today, February 12, 2014), Dr. Jonathan Fader mentions Dr. Kelly Rohan’s definition of  SAD as “a regular seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes during the fall and winter months with periods of full improvement in the spring and summer.” While this is her definition she doesn’t believe that one should self diagnose or self treat.

One of the most important aspects of SAD is that people are not blue or down constantly. Fighting these blues is possible with the correct strategies. According to her Huffington Post blog (Jan. 26, 2013), Beating the Blues, Dr. Debbie Magids gives us three good themes that have goals attached to them. She talks about pushing ourselves forward and not just waiting for the blues to go away. The themes are:

“Theme #1: Activities that touch your soul; Theme #2: Activities that get your creativity flowing; and Theme #3: Activities that focus on others versus allowing you to remain focused on yourself.”

As someone who thinks they have SAD looks at these themes they must be able to find, from within themselves, what activities will excite them. It may take effort to get moving but, in life, we have choices. Each person must figure out a way to not continue to give into their sadness and create a manner to move forward and live life with joy and passion.

Even though those with SAD will come out of their blues in spring and summer, it does not diminish the need to talk through this seasonal crisis and create the motivation and resources to get through this difficult time.  Along with Dr. Magids’ plan, there are other ideas to assist you in finding a place of peace.  Make an appointment and let me help you find a way to navigate through these winter months. If you are feeling down, call me for an appointment and together let’s make the winter months as bright as the spring and summer.




You’re sitting on the couch and can’t find it in you to get up. You’re leaving work and all you feel like doing is getting home and doing nothing.  You wake up in the morning feeling torn between exercise and the snooze button and the snooze button usually wins. Where is your motivation? Did you lose it? When do you remember last having it? Do you feel as if you have ever felt motivated?

 As mentioned in Psychology Today, How to get motivated (, “It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals – and research shows you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control.”  What does that mean to you? You may think, “So, I set a goal….how is that going to get me motivated?”

 It takes more than setting a goal; it takes a mind-set. At different times of our lives we may have decided we wanted something and we went after it. That is the definition of motivation.  We see an idea or an event we want to get to and we are willing to endure whatever it takes to get to that point.  More often than not, we have to work through different obstacles to get to our final goal. These obstacles may include: not giving up, the physical or mental challenge that it may take, time constraints, work or family. Yet, what does it feel like when you have reached that goal? Is it euphoric? If this is the feeling you get then forcing yourself to be motivated it is worth all of the hard effort.

 In Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.d.’s article, “16 Ways to Motivate Anyone” (Psychology Today July 14, 2014), he talks about intrinsic and extrinsic goal content. Is it better to be motivated from the inside of oneself (intrinsic) or from what others may think of them (extrinsic) or can we combine these and then prioritize them in order to become the best and happiest person we can be? Each person has to decide whether they work best with intrinsic or extrinsic motivations and then follow that path. Also, be aware, that different situations may help guide which of the two motivational patterns will work best. Ask yourself, for whom are you completing this task? The answer may give you that internal or external motivation that has been lacking.

 What will it take to get you to change jobs; exercise; take the next step in a relationship?

 If you are having a difficult time getting motivated or figuring out what or who can motivate you, make an appointment and let me help you through a goal setting dialogue. At different times in our lives it takes talking these things out to decide the best way for you to reach your goals.


Life’s Transitions

Transitions happen in our lives often and sometimes without advance warning. Some of these are involuntary (ie. middle school to high school, puberty, adulthood, menopause, loss of a loved one), others are voluntary (ie. changing friend groups, changing jobs, getting married, having children, retirement) and some are thrust upon us (death, end of a relationship, loss of a job). The reality is that transitions may create different emotions from within us.  

 According to How To Cope With Transition and Change by Dr. Cheryl MacDonald, RN, Psy’D (August 1, 2011, Health Psychology), one of the emotions that transitions bring to the surface is fear which then may turn into anxiety.  When fear surfaces and before anxiety sets in, one has a chance to change the way they think about the transition. As Dr. MacDonald mentions, if one can understand that mistakes are made in their lives and that learning from mistakes can help them move forward, they may have an easier time adapting to transitions. One’s ability to understand and accept their mistakes may lower their anxiety and allow them to create new positive experiences.

How we feel about ourselves also plays a role in how we handle transitions. A person that has a lower sense of self may experience a more negative reaction to the transition while a person with a higher sense of self may be able to look at the transition as something that could lead to fun and new experiences – – being positive.  This is often evident in our children when they move to a new school or in an adult moving to a new job or new relationship.

It is helpful as one is living life to maintain self-talk asking themselves questions about how they would feel if they decided to make a change or if a change happens. This type of thinking helps with not having a complete rupture with one’s sense of self during transition periods. We can not always be 100% prepared for the unknown but we can walk ourselves through the unknown when trying to keep the positive aspects of change in perspective.

Michael F. Kay in Life (and Money) Transitions (May 29, 2014, Psychology Today) writes “Like in nature, root systems work behind the scenes, invisibly. And what you can’t see sometimes gets in your way”.  This shows that our mindset can affect how we handle these transitions. When one recognizes that they can let go of their past and begin thinking in a positive manner, transitions may not be as difficult.

If you know a transition is coming, it is often good to discuss it ahead of time to help be prepared.  As always, I am here for these short term changes and would love to set time aside to assist you in turning a potential negative into a complete positive.  Or, if you have experienced or are experiencing an involuntary transition and need to talk it through, call me.



Stop! Before you read this take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
How did that feel?  Is this the first time today that you have truly taken an opportunity to take a breath?

Each day we run through life going from meeting to meeting; store to store; blog to blog; or one kid’s activity to the next kid’s activity. During this frantic pace, we forget to stop and just breathe.

What is the impact on us when we don’t stop; when we don’t take in that deep relaxing breath?

Steve Sisgold’s article Breathe: your life depends on it (Psychology Today, June 2012) gives us an understanding of the positive affects breathing has on us if we take in a deep breath closer to our abdomen. This is what activates the part of our nervous system that slows down our heart rate (Parasympathetic Nervous System) thus allowing the age old adage, “just take a breath and feel better.”

How many scenarios, already today, have you had when your heart is racing along with your mind? During these times we have a tendency to react instinctively and then look back and regret what we may have said or done. If we would only have stopped, taken a deep breath, given ourselves just that extra minute or perspective….what would the outcome then look like? Maybe, less aggravation with a co-worker, a spouse or child or, a stronger feeling of productivity? 

Breathing is not the answer to all life’s problems but it gives us an opportunity to also help lower our anxiety levels. Leslie Becker – Phelps Ph.d. encourages readers in her article Stop Your Anxiety Now! (Psychology Today, May 2013) to try “square breathing” — imagine building a square as you inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. This type of breathing technique, one of many, gives us the opportunity, during what we feel is a fight or flight situation, to calm ourselves down and make behavioral and emotional choices based on calm feelings as oppose to those feelings we have when our heart is racing.

Stop! Take a deep breath, count to five, and exhale.  Don’t you already feel better?

Remember, if you need help with your stresses and with learning the art of breathing I am here for you.  Just call, make an appointment and together we can make your life stresses easier to handle. 


Taking care of them….What about me?

When our kids are born, we watch for anything and everything that may show signs of unhappiness. “Why are they crying?” Ok, I will feed them. Ok, I will change their diaper. Ok, I will rock them, hug them, and hold them….anything to make sure they are fine.

As they get older, we may be more careful about scraped knees, bad colds or a big bruise. We take them to urgent care, the doctor’s office, or even the emergency room.  Whatever it takes to keep them safe.

When they are teenagers it becomes a little trickier. They are in their rooms, not communicating. Are they sick? Are they depressed? Some parents may just leave them be and others keep checking. Both parents are worried.

Through these years of parenting, we, moms and dads, spend a great deal of time thinking about our children and their happiness. Yet, how much time do we spend worrying about our own happiness? How much time do we give to ourselves to internalize why we may not be happy? Do we just go through the motions of life ignoring our own issues not adequately looking for personal relief?

When we are parents, we often forget to ask, “When is it time to take care of me?”

When we forget about ourselves for too long the effects can be negative. Just think about waiting too long to see the dentist when your tooth is hurting.  Can you say, “root canal?” Or, waiting a long time to see the eye doctor when you can’t see well. Can you say, “headaches?” The same goes with one who puts aside mental health issues. These issues have a tendency to grow when pushed aside for too long causing potential heartache.

When our kids cried, we figured out what they needed. When an adult seems to be crying more often than normal, when is it time to starting figuring out why? It is not necessary to “bottom out” on an issue or a life event to seek out therapy. Being proactive or catching issues before they grow too big can be a way of taking care of oneself. Then, when others need us, we are stronger and healthier to assist them.

Whether you are being proactive or something seems to have gotten out of hand call me and set up an appointment. In the end, your positive mental health will mean better things for you and those you love.




Good Mood Exercising

While I may not be a fitness instructor or a nutritionist, I am a (limited) licensed therapist who knows our body plays a role in our day-to-day happiness. When we are overweight, we are less motivated to help ourselves. Daily tasks such as: working, playing with the kids, keeping up with the house work, become daily struggles. Yet, exercise is not always about the weight.

In therapy, we talk about “putting you first”, “coping mechanisms” and “releasing stress.” Exercise is a tool which a person can use to assist themselves not just physically but also mentally. In December of 2011, the American Psychological Association’s cover story, by Kirsten Weir, was about the effect of exercise with regard to stress and moods which include depression and anxiety. According to this article there is research stating that while exercise helps with short-term issues it also can help with “long-term depression.” One of the more important points that the article stated was that exercise helps with preventing relapses of depression.

This sounds so simple. Exercise equals feeling better. What if one is having a hard time getting started or staying the course? Each person is motivated differently and sometimes, while in therapy, the client and therapist can, together, find the motivation, keep the client accountable, and track the changes in stress, anxiety and/or depression.  One of the most important ways to track the changes is for the client to make certain they continue to exercise when are feeling stress.

 As we continue in this cold weather, know that I am there for all of my old and new clients to talk about how exercise cannot only help your physical well-being but your mental well-being too.


Holidays To Remember

The holiday season has started and for some, this is a time to rejoice, to be with family and/or to see friends who are in from out of town. Maybe this is a time when an adult can look back at their childhood and relish in the giddiness they had while opening gifts, lighting candles or singing songs.

The holiday season can bring on other memories which could include the anniversary of the death of a loved one, the time when one decided that divorce was imminent or when a child moved away to a new state.  The feelings of gloom, sadness, or darkness may have been a surprise or one may have been slowly feeling them come on from the beginning of one holiday into the next.

Some allow these feelings to take over as they know from years past that this is short lived. After the New Year, the emotions of happiness and peacefulness come back. Others don’t find it as easy to release themselves of their sadness/darkness.

Everyone is different as some really don’t want to feel the unhappiness anymore and they get to a point when they have had enough sadness. At that point, they may try to find a way to remember the good things allowing themselves to change their way of thinking. 

Imagine giving yourself the freedom to think differently. What would it be like if this year you embraced the holiday your loved one enjoyed?  If you allowed yourself to live in the moment of the holiday?  If you allowed yourself to reach into the times when holidays were enjoyable? In the end, what is the worst thing that will happen if you gave yourself the chance to take pleasure during these times?

Remember that Cognitive Behavioral therapy helps when one wants to change their current thought pattern.  If you are a person who feels the holiday blues, give yourself the gift of therapy so that you can learn to enjoy this time with those you love.