Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Intelligent Divorce Research Center

It is with a lot of excitement that we are announcing the creation of a new website for news and current research on divorce. We call it: The Intelligent Divorce Research Center. The site will have up to date information about the latest research on divorce. It will keep tabs on divorce in the news and will make its own news by conducting national surveys regarding divorce that may be of interest to the media and to the public at large. We plan to be up and running in April, 2011.

The Intelligent Divorce Research Center is a joint venture with Jill Brooke, who is a media personality, having worked for CNN, CBS and most recently, as a columnist for the Huffington Post section on divorce.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Four

For the final piece from the Taking Charge of Sleep series here are some great tips from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day—even on the weekends.

  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. A large meal can cause indigestion that interferes with sleep. Drinking too many fluids at night can cause you to awaken frequently to urinate.

  • Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep, if possible. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure, or asthma medications, as well as some over-the-counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns.

  • Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. Naps can boost your brain power, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night. Also, keep naps to under an hour.

  • Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything that might distract you from sleep, such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. Also, keeping the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side can help you sleep better.

  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes each day.

  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

  • See a doctor if you continue to have trouble sleeping. If you consistently find yourself feeling tired or not well rested during the day despite spending enough time in bed at night, you may have a sleep disorder. Your family doctor or a sleep specialist should be able to help you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local Event in Westchester, NY: Do You Want to Write a Book?(What You Need to Know)

The Katonah Study Group For Integrative Medicine

March 23, 2011

Katonah Library


$15 (unless you are a member)

Most people have a book in them, just waiting to come out. In this workshop you will learn the steps required to produce a really good book. Writing a book is one of the most joyful things to do, because it’s a creative act; but a good book requires more than inspiration, it also needs perspiration and organization.

The program will be interactive in nature, allowing for Q and A. And, since you may not want to do it all alone, we’ll be providing resources that could prove invaluable.

Who Should Come: Anyone itching to write a book, on any number of topics.

Guest Speakers:

Mark Banschick, MD: author of the The Intelligent Divorce series.

David Tabatsky: author/editor of many books from The Chicken Soup for the Soul - The Cancer Book, Children’s Letters to Obama and Marlo Thomas’ The Right Words at the Right Time.

Penny Cohen, MSW: author of Personal Kabbalah: 32 Paths to Inner Peace and Life Purpose


  • Finding the Book Idea that is Inside of You

  • Developing that Idea (and Table of Contents)

  • The Book Proposal – What’s Involved

  • Learning How to Write for Your Audience

  • Getting the Help You Need (writing, editing or marketing)

  • Getting Published

Membership Privileges

Fifty dollars lasts all year (Compare to 15 dollars a meeting at the door!)

Future Scheduled Dates:

April 27th, May 25th, June 22nd

For Directions consult our website:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Three

We all toss and turn when under stress. The mind loops around, again and again. Do I have the right lawyer? Will I have enough money to live? What is happening to my children? What if I get sick? Have you ever noticed that anxiety comes out at night, just before you go to sleep (or at least try to go to sleep). Bedtime is a vulnerable time for the soul and this anxiety can undermine how much sleep you get.

Sleep is required for all human beings. When we fail to get enough (7+ hours a night), you will feel tired, burnt out and more regressed. The brain needs to heal from all the stress of the day, and sleep was designed to aid in this healing.

Here are some pragmatic ways to ensure a better sleep:

  • Physical and mental pain both interfere with sleep. Seek professional help when these problems inhibit your ability to get the rest you need.

  • Exercise during the day. It relaxes the body and helps to work off excess tension.

  • Before bedtime:

    • Take a warm bath.

    • Read a good book.

    • Drink warm, decaffeinated tea or warm milk.

    • Call someone with whom you’re close, like a parent or friend, to talk about your day.

  • When it comes to sleep aids, melatonin, valerian root, or chamomile tea may help you.

  • As a psychiatrist I am well aware of the use of pharmaceuticals in the treatment of sleeplessness. For the record, I am very cautious about using them for many reasons. That being said, they may be useful for some patients with life interfering sleeplessness. For example, low doses of Trazadone or an anti-psychotic mediation like Seroquel, can be helpful on a short term basis. The most commonly prescribed sleep agents are hypnotics, like Klonapin and Ativan, and non-hypnotics, like Lunesta and Ambien. See your doctor before pursuing any of these options.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Active Listening and Effective Communication: Part 1

Active Listening and Effective Communication

Active listening is a set of techniques designed to slow down hostility and anxiety in the present moment. It introduces something that’s often lost when a marriage falls apart—the willingness to respectfully listen to one another. Active listening defuses reactivity and ongoing power struggles. It includes joining, curiosity, mirroring, clarification, and two additional called “sticking to the problem at hand” and “ striking when the iron is cold”. Active listening presupposes that you feel safe and that your ex is open to compromise.

Joining- Joining occurs when you remind your ex that the two of you are “in this together” for the sake of the kids. In the heat of an argument, this statement can defuse the tension and get you back on track.

“Michael relax, I want to remind you that we’re in this together.”
“Rachel, I know you worry about the children. I do, too.”

By reinforcing the idea that the two of you are working together, it eliminates the potential power struggle and makes you equals in this difficult time. Sometimes this can be done as a concession in which you relinquish control of a situation, and other times it can be done as an assertion in which you bring yourself up to an equal level of power as your ex. Joining also helps to define the goals you both have, whether they be to reach a separation point or to make sure your kids come out of this process the best way they can.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part Two

In an interview with Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon, Dr. Thomas Wehr (NIMH) said, "Grief, which leads to depression, disrupts your sleep one way; falling in love, which can lead to mania, disrupts your sleep another way."

It’s no secret that sleep is tough to get when you’re stressed out. One study found that sleeping for six hours or less was more common among divorced and separated men and women than among adults in other marital groups (Schoenborn & Adams, 2010). This is a problem, because while some adults may require more or less sleep, 7-8 hours of sleep is believed to be a healthy amount (NINDS, 2007).

So, what can you do? Try to maintain a regular schedule. When you don’t have your kids, make sure you get the rest you require. You’re not much use to anyone exhausted and sick.

Caffeine after 1 pm will make it hard for you to sleep. Try cutting your consumption down to no more than two cups of Joe a day (or the equivalent), and have all of it before the afternoon.

If you want to pleasure of coffee, order a 1/2 caff when you go to the coffee shop. This way, you get the experience and pleasure of coffee with half of the caffeine. And don’t underestimate the amount of caffeine in one of our favorite comfort foods—chocolate. It has a ton of it.

At bedtime, a good book, a cozy couch, chamomile tea, and perhaps some soothing music can help settle you down. Melatonin is the only hormone secreted exclusively during sleep, and a small, non-addictive dose from a health food store may promote a good night’s rest for some people.

Be cautious of using alcohol as a sleep-inducing agent because it will work poorly and ultimately lead to dependence. Booze may put you to bed, but it’ll almost certainly give you REM rebound and wake you up four or five hours later more restless than you were before.

When nothing else works, you may want to temporally use a hypnotic agent prescribed by your doctor. This is a second choice, but when sleep is elusive, it may be needed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taking Charge of Sleep: Part One

If the average person lives 70-80 years, consider that 15-20 of those years are spent sleeping—that’s no small thing. All mammals sleep; it’s an essential part of life.

Since ancient Egyptian times, sleep has sparked the interest of philosophers, religious leaders, and scientists alike. The buzz around dreams alone is enormous. Everyone wants to know what they’re all about: Do they predict the future? Do they say something about who we are? Are they arbitrary?

Sigmund Freud’s first great contribution was The Interpretation of Dreams (1900). He tells us that our dreams are not random; they teach us about our lives. As Virginia Woolf wrote: “Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

Sleep is meaningful, restorative, biological, and yet, even today, an enigma. We don’t know what it does for us precisely, but we know that we can’t live without it (NINDS, 2007). In fact, sleep deprivation is a technique used in torture to retrieve information.

People who have psychological issues, whether it’s anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or worry itself - are all soothed by slumber. The brain needs time to recuperate just like a sore muscle needs to be still. We may not know how neuronal firing, dreaming, and the REM stages of sleep heal a wounded brain, but it’s fair to say that this is exactly what it does.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be more at risk for Type 2 diabetes and obesity, and sleep apnea is associated with cardiovascular disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007b). Indeed, research has found that sleep problems (like trouble falling asleep or waking up early in the morning without being able to return to sleep) are associated with a shortened life-span for middle-aged men and women (Nilsson, Nilsson, Hedblad, & Berglund, 2001).

Your divorce is probably not a dream. More likely, it’s a nightmare. But getting a good night’s sleep can help you stay the course and stay rational (National Institutes of Health [NIH], 2006). A tired brain yields a tired mind, which means a higher likelihood of doing or saying something you might regret.