Forgiveness; Is This The Real Deal?

Forgiveness; Is This The Real Deal? – Live Better Live Now. Your life will require you to forgive and to be forgiven by others many, many, many times. The sooner you can learn this and also teach it’s practice to those you love – the sooner you and they can embrace a more free and happy life.

Here’s the “skinny” on what is and is not, forgiveness:


What Forgiveness Is NOT:

1. Condoning, dismissing or minimizing what has happened. Pretending it doesn’t matter only drives the negative inward, it doesn’t make it go away.

2. “Forgive and Forget”; this has got to be some of the worst of common wisdom out there. Forgetting is utter nonsense and foolishness. If you do not remember, you cannot learn and make better decisions ahead. Even the great religious texts do not ask us to forget. (ex. The bible specifies forgiveness, it doesn’t support forgetting…these two are very different.)

3. Reconciling. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a spiritual and internal act. It does not require the other person(s) involvement. Reconciliation is between the offending and the offended – this is a human exchange and unlike forgiveness, reconciling require reciprocity. Forgiveness is an action solely of itself. (forgiveness heals the self, reconciling heals the relationship – sometimes the relationship is not a safe or healthy one and it needs to dissolve).


What Real Forgiveness IS:

1. It’s hard to truly believe in or be open to forgiveness for ourselves when we cannot practice it for others.

2. The conscious choice to not only not seek revenge, but to not harbor the desire for it within ourselves.

3. Allowing whatever injustice we feel to be righted by an appropriate higher system and/or our higher power.

4. Allowing ourselves to see humanity, however flawed, of all involved and not just from a perspective as the offended.

5. Relating the story of what happened with consideration for the above (4) and not an account of accusation that continues to spread injury.

6. Asking, praying, meditating or hoping for healing for the offender – to whatever extent you can. This frees you to move forward in life.


(If you are having trouble wrestling with forgiveness, forgetting and reconciling in your own life, getting some professional guidance might be helpful).

Cultivate Community – Supporting Authentic Growth and Healing

The below is an excerpt from a post by Golden Willow Retreat; a very special place with a very special purpose – they know how to cultivate community – supporting authentic growth and healing. I was struck by this section which talks about the how and why of our need, as human beings, for community in order to grow and heal. It only takes a few minutes to read it, but I think it well worth such a small amount of time.


“…being open and listening to others also allows the individual to feel safe enough to let down their guard and become “real” and share emotion. This sharing allows present and historical emotional wounds to heal and also to become open to connecting with others and to realize that, as humans, we are not supposed to do this world alone. When we find connection, we heal ourselves and others. As our world becomes more and more demanding and we are inundated by information, more and more people are moving into a place of fear and isolating to protect themselves.


As the brain recognizes fear, it starts to shut down the frontal lobe; this is where connection, love, community, values, and morals are located. As the frontal lobe shuts down and the protective part of our brain takes over it becomes difficult to feel. This leads to a feeling of inadequacy, self-loathing, addictive tendencies, rage towards self and others and a sense of futility. The human species is meant to connect in order to heal. We are all healing from our wounds of not being seen, heard, and valued.

The wild thing is that as we begin healing from these wounds, by finding ways to connect and share healthy compassion, empathy and safety, our frontal lobes begin to function healthily. Being vulnerable and choosing to love and connect with others throughout their struggles, victories and humanness heals…”

To learn more about Golden Willow Retreat.


5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders

The path of a first responder is not for everyone. It takes an incredible dedication and a willingness to respond to a calling that demands and is emersed in personal sacrifice. Firefighters and police officers are professions with a very high committment to duty. They work to protect others which, sadly, also means that these are the professionals who are likely to experience Line of Duty Deaths within their ranks. One of the negative impacts that these tragic situations can have is commonly called Survivor’s Guilt.

Survivor’s Guilt is a reaction that might be experienced by officers or firefighters – especially when there is a death in the line of duty. It is not only those who survive the experience, but all those who are touched by the loss, indirectly and even through relationships with others who feel the loss. It might be expressed in self-directed feelings of guilt and anger if the person feels responsible for the death or feels guilty over being alive and trying to move on. Guilt is common among people who have experienced a loss due to natural causes, but it can be heightened in such situations due to the role a police officer or a firefighter might have as a protector.

If you or your department are facing such a tragic loss it is important to know that this reaction can be a part of a normal grieving process or it can become a significant factor preventing you and others from overcoming it. This is especially so if you don’t acknowledge the guilt or if you truly think that you should have done more or could have prevented it despite the objective circumstances.

So, what can be done about survivor’s guilt?

Here are 5 Steps to Managing Survivor’s Guilt with First Responders, as well as some helpful resources:

1. Acknowledge its presence and normalcy

The first step to working with this guilt is for you to acknowledge that it exists. If we are suffering from this guilt we must work to identify what we are feeling as guilt and acknowledge whether it only appears in certain situations or is a constant feeling. It is important to work with the idea that this guilt is normal, that it is expected, but that it is not necessarily rational or reflects reality.

2. Seek help

If survivor’s guilt is preventing you from moving on, going back into the field, or disrupting your life, counseling or therapy with a seasoned professional who specializes in working with first responders and critical events may be recommended. While some officers or firefighters might feel apprehensive about the idea of goin to therapy, it can be a great asset and help work the guilt and other challenging effects that may arise in a safe and confidential environment. It is useful to encourage other officers to seek counseling or to support it within the system – especially since team cohesion is so important in these fields and not doing so could lead to higher risk to the whole team. Proactive departments will create a way for their team members to be able to easily access counseling anonymously.


3. Talk about it

It’s best to talk about survivor’s guilt in a safe environment, such as a therapeutic setting. However, if you can’t do this at the moment, talking about it to others can also help. Your department may even want to bring in a Critical Incident Stress Management professional to talk with the team on site. Some people you know might withdraw and avoid the conversations. They may feel stuck in a cycle of thoughts and overwhelmed by this feeling guilt. Talking to others about it can help reduce the feelings of guilt. It is important to find people that the first responder trusts and who will offer support and understanding.

4. Allow the grieving process to flow

Some of us find it especially hard to allow ourselves to feel sadness or experience grief. Others will focus on the guilt as it may offer them more control and be an emotion that is easier to deal with, as it places the emphasis on their own responsibility rather than on the reality of the death. It can be especially difficult when the loss is the result of an accident and without any forseeable malace. The grieving process is unique for every one of us and it is important that we allow it to occur. The grieving process is just that – a process, which takes time. Remember too, that the grief experience is both personal and unique.

5. Honor the people who have died

Your losses can not be undone, but they can be honored. If you or someone you know is struggling with survivor’s guilt you might find it helpful and grounding to try to find new ways to remember and honor those who have lost their lives. You can do this on a personal level by engaging in a honoring service to the community or by making a contribution to the community by creating a memorial fund, for instance. Every one of us can all find a noble way to honor the people who have lost their lives.


Survivor’s guilt is a natural reaction to an unnatural loss, especially with LODD among police officers and firefighters. This is a situation that you can improve with professional counseling or therapy and conversely become more problematic without help.


Safe Call Now offers anonymous, peer to peer support for peace officers and firefighters/rescue.

For first responders who are struggling with stress after a traumatic event as well as family/home stressors the one-week Living Centered program at Onsite can be a game changer.

La Hacienda, located in the Texas HillCountry offers addiction and substance dependence help – including a track specifically for first responders.

For more severe conditions, such as PTSD, treatment centers such as Sierra Tucson and The Meadows who are leaders in post-trauma services, may help.

CISM services in Texas and individual counseling services specific to First Responders, LODD, grief and traumatic events can be found at PIR, LLC.

Survivor’s Guilt and First Responders / Houston / Live Better Live Now

Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy

Cancer is not a disease which will only affect a person physically. It is also something which will affect a person emotionally and psychologically. This has always been the hardest to handle and that’s why counseling is recommended for many oncology patients.

Getting to know that you have cancer is a really hard thing for the patient as well as for the loved once. Even though people are happy to get treated and healed. There are many times the treatment itself have greatly affected the patients, psychologically. It is hard to say whether it is the side effect of medications alone or a phase of psychological acceptance of the disease. Anyhow, what has become clear is that counseling for a patient should be carried out throughout the whole time of treatment and sometimes even after a full recovery. This might help a patient develop confidence, self esteem and resilience. Whether you admit it or not, all cancer patients are fighters… GREAT fighters. Their confidence goes down only because, at times, they don’t accept it.


Many psychiatrists believe that the transitional period after an intensive cancer treatment is the most likely period to cause psychological distress. For some patients this period may be as stressful, or even moreso, as it was to undergo the treatment itself.

Further, the people around the patient might expect the patient to be ‘completely normal’ after the successful treatment and may not appreciate what the patient has already gone through…and is still going through. But, many people do not understand that the cancer patients become more sensitive, anxious and uncertain about things around him. It is very easy to understand. A person who has lived for months in the sorrow, fear and uncertainty of leaving the loved once and all the other things takes some time to get back to who he was. Even though a doctor may confirm their full recovery many patients stay uncertain for a while.


How a cancer patient is affected psychologically depends on many factors. Some of these are:

Overall temperament in normal
Coping skills
Social supports
Type of cancer
Family/ friends support
Memory and thinking after chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has many side effects. It does not only kill cancer cells, but it also affects many other normal cells in the body. Among these are the brain cells. About 20% – 60% of cancer patients who undergo standard doses of chemotherapy, experience some degree of cognitive dysfunction and memory problems.

The affected brain is casually often called ‘chemo brain’. The main cause of the chemobrain is presumed to be the neurotoxic effects of chemotherapy. The chemobrain causes diffused mental cloudiness and may affect a person’s cognition, social and occupational behaviours, sense of his own self and the quality of life. Moreover, it affects concentration, memory, comprehension and reasoning as well. And the common byproduct of these is our favorite “S” word; stress.

The studies have shown that many people undergoing this type of cancer treatment have problems with short term memory and difficulty recalling words. Some patients are not acknowledged about these changes and are alarmed at the presence of it and misunderstanding it as a spread or worsening of the disease. But, when people know what they are going through, even when scary, painful or difficult they often experience a much lower stress level and consequently are able to prepare and face these symptoms quite bravely.


The effects of chemobrain may exist during chemotherapy and even afterwards up to 10 years, in some cases. These changes may be subtle in most patients, while for some it can be more profound.

At the moment there are no specific treatments and preventive measures known, but, if the patients have problems with thinking or memory, which interferes with the daily work, he/she may seek help from a doctor.

There are different memory training exercises and programs and also many other treatments which will improve the brain function such as problem solving abilities and logical thinking. Finding a counsellor and being familiar with this situation is a brave step for the patient as well as the loved ones.
Other psychological issues after chemotherapy and radiotherapy

People, who suffer from cancer for a long time, deal with a lot of stress. Moreover, they face problems with sleep, concentration and appetite together with physical symptoms such as palpitations, due to the intensive treatment which they go through. Some oncologists also mention that they find patients fearful and hyper-vigilant.

According to many recent studies, one third of cancer survivors have suffered from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which are;

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the event(cancer treatment)

Reliving the event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)

Upsetting dreams about the having cancer and getting treated

Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event

Negative feelings about yourself or other people

Inability to experience positive emotions

Feeling emotionally numb

Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

Hopelessness about the future

Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the event

Difficulty maintaining close relationships

This shows us the huge need of counseling and psychological support for cancer patients together with the cancer treatment. (And caregivers and loved ones also need support during this time.)


Even though being alive is something to be happy about, there are some patients who feel guilty about it. This happens mainly if they have a friend or family member who has died with a cancer. As we know some patients join support groups where there are many cancer patients. Here these patients make very close friendship with each other most of the time. Yes, this is a great support to face cancer than fighting it alone. But, with the time, when members pass away the other patients might experience loss, grief and then guilt of being alive. Hence, there should be a proper counseling support in a support team as well.

Knowing the side effects of chemotherapy
As all the other drugs, even chemotherapy has its side effects too. But every person does not face the same experience during chemotherapy. Some have really less amount of side effects while the others find it very hard to face the treatment.

Fatigue or the feeling of exhaustion is the most common side effect of chemotherapy. Many people complain about the general weakness even up to a few weeks after chemotherapy treatment. It is because the chemotherapy affects many other normal, active cells of the body and the destruction of them may weaken the body.

Next on the list is the pain. This is the main side effect, which most of the patient hate. Pain during chemotherapy may include headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches and shooting pains in fingers and toes. Some patients also feel a burning sensation and numbness in fingers and toes due to nerve damage. Usually this pain decreases with the time unless a person has permanent nerve damage. Permanent nerve damage may cause symptoms up to months or years.

There is nothing to worry as there are medications to relieve pain. These pain relieving medications have been noted to have helped to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy for many patients. (Note: do speak with your doctor about addiction / dependency risks of your pain medications. There are many options – you don’t have to be saddled with an additional challenge down the road.)

Sometimes this medication affects the gastrointestinal tract too. Painful mouth sores which appear after 5-14 days of treatment are one of the most unpleasant side effects. But, a person can prevent it by maintaining a proper oral hygiene. These sores disappear as the treatment comes to an end. Moreover, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting and constipations are some other common side effects of chemotherapy.

Many people experience a loss of appetite during chemotherapy. Some feel full after eating a small amount, while some do not feel hungry at all. This might result in weight loss, lack of nutrition in your body and also this might make it difficult for the patient to recover from chemotherapy. Therefore, it is a must that you keep your body filled with nutrition, so that your body can fight against cancer, even though you don’t feel like eating.


Chemotherapy brings another picture to our mind. Hair loss, some types of chemotherapy results in loss of hair. This is a really hard time, especially for women, but once you finish the treatment the hair will grow back. The person needs to be strong during the treatment and should talk with a counselor about how she is going through.

Chemotherapy can also affect your sexual life. The chronic fatigue, weakness and other side effects may reduce the patient’s ability and interest of having sex. It is not only that, but, also the fertility can be affected in men and women. During chemotherapy, the ability to get conceived and make a baby will be reduced. It is important that patients discuss these issues with a doctor, if it is disturbing your personal life.

The medications used in chemotherapy, can harm a growing fetus. Hence, if the patient cannot be sure of avoiding a pregnancy, it is important to use effective birth control. In case of an unexpected pregnancy during chemotherapy, the patient should inform the doctor right-a-way.

Radiotherapy has side effects too. The side effects of radiotherapy depend, on the part of the body which is being treated, the dose of radiation and the ability of the healthy cells to repair the damage soon.
As with chemotherapy, people‘s body reacts to radiotherapy in different ways, and it is difficult to know exactly how it will affect a person.

One of the most common side effects is ‘sore skin ’. The skin might get red and sore in the area, which is being treated with radiotherapy. Sometimes it may look like a sun burn. These will be healed within a couple of weeks after finishing radiotherapy. Keeping your skin safe and avoiding further irritation may help recover soon.

General weakness, nausea, weight loss, Loss of appetite and other gastrointestinal tract disturbances are common during radiotherapy as well.

Even though hair loss is not a common result of radiotherapy, it can be seen in patients who undergo radiotherapy in the areas of the neck and the head. But unlike chemotherapy, loss of hair will be limited to the areas of treatment.

Stiff joints and muscle stiffness are also in the list. This will also occur only in the areas which are being treated. Sometimes the patients might experience a discomfort due to the swelling of the affected area. This stiffness of muscles and joints can be eliminated by special exercises and it is advised to go to a physiotherapist in the presence of these symptoms.

Other symptoms of radiotherapy are almost same as in chemotherapy. The only difference is that the location of the side effects appearance is almost always the same and is related to the location of treatment.

Childhood cancer and getting treated:

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the parents and the loved once have to be acknowledging on how they are going to cope with the kid, as a childhood cancer, unlike cancer in an adult, may cause a lot of late health effects.


Thanks to the advanced methods of treatment, more than half of the children who are treated survive a long time or get cured. Even though, the cancer is being treated, this treatment itself may cause a lot of problems in a child’s health when they grow. The reason of these late effects is the damage caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery to the healthy body tissues and cells. When these growing cells are killed or damaged, they may lose their function or the ability to function well.

Treatments for a brain tumour during childhood may affect the normal growth and function of the brain. Some kinds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy may cause cognitive impairments such as low IQ, low academic achievement, poor hand – eye coordination and behaviour problems as the child grows.

Mathematical skills and logical thinking are more likely to be affected. Moreover, this treatment may cause vision and hearing disturbances as well. It is clear that almost all the system of the body may get affected after a childhood cancer treatment.

The next thing which get’s affected most commonly is the growth and development. Many children with chemo and radiotherapy show a lower growth rate than the growth rate of a child without cancer in the childhood. It is believed that this occurs due to damage of hormone secreting endocrine glands and tissues of the body.


Other than the physical disturbances, there might be issues with the emotions as well. Even though cancer is fully treated, the child and the parents might live with an uncertainty, whether it will return. The physical changes as mentioned above may also cause psychological concerns. Concern about future, career and marriage may come up too.

We know that nobody chooses to have cancer. But some childhood cancer survivors embrace their past struggle and use it to forge meaning and purpose in their life – they add a value to the experience and in my opinion, to the world in doing so.

A great family support, friends and loved ones in the background may help the child overcome the physical as well as the psychological obstacles which he might have to face after an intense childhood cancer treatment. When a little more is needed, a seasoned counselor who specializes in working with children and cancer may be helpful to all concerned.


Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas / Challenges and struggles in response to chemo and radiation therapy



Counseling for Disease

Why is counseling needed for recovery from a disease?

Today the importance of counseling for disease is more widely recognized and recommended than ever before. Many hospitals and rehabilitation centers offer counseling programs for people who are battling cancer, struggling with addiction or are facing other serious health problems. This raises the question of why would a person with cancer or addiction benefit from a service that works with a person’s mental health.

It has been established that most diseases have some sort of psychological component. In many cases, this involves stress. Let’s take as two examples, two very distinct illnesses, such as cancer and addiction.


Example One:  Counseling for Addiction

In the case of addiction, it seems easier to establish the need for counseling. The person who has a substance abuse problem usually has certain alteration in the brain, but also specific flawed ways of thinking, deeper problems that may be masked by the addiction, other mental health disorders and other issues might also be present that might benefit from counseling. Let’s take a closer look.

A addict who is active in their disease may frequently engage in flawed ways of thinking. They may deny the problem or try to minimize, justify it or rationalize it. The person might feel angry or sad and not know how to handle these emotions. There commonly are also other factors that contribute such addiction in the family or a trauma history. An experienced and well-trained counselor can help the individual explore the ideas that have led to addiction and may be supporting it, changing negative thinking for a more positive thinking process and learning to adopt new behaviors that support recovery. Counseling can also give the individual tools for the healthy expression of emotions and healthy relationships with others.

Often, addiction appears together with other issues in the person’s life. These issues might involve loneliness, family troubles, low self-esteem or as mentioned earlier, a history of trauma and abuse. Counseling can address these issues, helping the person overcome these situations without using substances as a way of coping.

Addiction often co-occurs with other disorders. Frequently, these disorders are ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and many others. Counseling can work with the symptoms of the other disorder, improving the person’s overall state and condition, which can also benefit the treatment for addiction. In general, it is now generally an accepted best practice that co-occurring disorders need to be treated in tandem, together, to achieve a significant and lasting improvement in the person’s life.


For example, a person with bipolar disorder might consume alcohol during their manic episodes, as one of the characteristics of this state is the increase of euphoria and engagement in pleasurable activities, but that may have dangerous consequences. The same person may then again drink during their depressive episodes, where they may use alcohol, mis-guidedly so, as a pick-me-up or simply to mask or hide from their feelings. If the person does not receive treatment for the bipolar disorder, for instance, receiving mood stabilizers, it’s likely that it will be difficult for them to comply with the treatment for substance abuse due to the shifting mood and the specific symptoms of each episode. However, a joint treatment of the comorbid conditions can more effectively benefit the person.

In general, few people deny that addiction requires counseling, not just medical help. In the case of cancer and other diseases which are viewed as being purely “medical”, there may be more controversy.

Now let’s take a look at why counseling can help a person with a disease such as cancer.

Example Two: Counseling for Cancer / Serious Medical

The first thing that counseling can offer is dealing with the grief of having such an illness and going through a process that culminates in acceptance. Many diseases confront the person with their own impermanence or mortality and with many regrets, pain and fear. Counseling can help the person live through this process, avoiding additional damage and providing a safe environment.

A second aspect of counseling for recovery is that stress and negative emotions play a big role in the progress of disease. While there is no clear link between stress and cancer, it does affect the person’s health indirectly. Constant stress wears down the body, reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and has many other negative effects that could be dangerous to the health of the individual. Stress often is not connected just to the situations a person lives through, but also to their interpretation of this situation, their beliefs and ideas.


For example, let’s consider a cancer survivor who has been a workaholic throughout most of their life. This might be a person who places a high value on working “till you drop” and that doesn’t know how to relax. This is an attitude that might bring them problems if they find it hard to adjust it to their new life circumstances. Counseling can help them develop a new attitude that they are more comfortable with and that is not harmful to their health, reducing stress. It can also help the person use strategies for relaxing and for establishing their new workload. This may be especially important during periods of chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

Counseling for disease can help with the adjustment process in general, helping the person accept the changes that have occurred in their life, solidify their commitment to resilience, address their emotions and talk about the many things they may not be comfortable sharing with their family members or friends. The counseling process can help the patient and their loved ones not only to move forward, but also to make the most of the experience.

Counseling for disease can be said to engage the higher executive functions. A disease can bring forward and activate some of the more deep and unconscious parts of our minds, such as our limbic system and the body’s fight-or-flight response. The person might feel overwhelmed with fear, so a process such as counseling that favors integration and engages higher functions related to the prefrontal cortex, for instance, can help the person ground themselves in reality and overcome their difficult emotional state to give them hope for the future.

There are many good counselors out there. You will find the one who is right for you. Whomever you choose, take the time to be sure they are experienced, seasoned, appropriately trained/licensed, communicate clearly, honestly and with compassion.

Thank you for reading. Our heart and prayers are with you on your path wherever it takes you.

Survival Is Science, Living Is Art


Counseling for Disease / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas






SPOTLIGHT – Who Is Ben Carrettin?

SPOTLIGHT – Who Is Ben Carrettin?

Benjamin is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC under which he has built two initiatives: Live Better Live Now and Texas Recovery Support. He has served as a founding board member with Greater Houston Area Treatment Providers / GHATP (the largest independent behavioral collaborative organization in Houston), as an active member of Houston Group Psychotherapy Society / HGPS, and is the Founder and Lead Administrator of Greater Houston Wellness / GHW (a focused collective of seasoned specialists in the Houston area). He is also the founder of a unique human behavior consultative service for business and law; called ESI.


Benjamin Carrettin has been working in the mental health field since 1992. He has worked in a variety of settings including private practice, private and grant-funded intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs and full inpatient hospitalization. Benjamin earned his undergraduate from the University of St Thomas and attended Texas Southern University under a full scholarship for his Masters in Clinical Psychology. He is a fully and independently Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Texas as well as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). Ben is nationally Board Certified by the NBCC, is a Certified Anger Resolution Therapist (CART) and has received intensive training in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISM). In 2012, Benjamin completed a sixteen week Lay Chaplaincy training program in pastoral care with a specialized focus on the hospitalized, infirm and terminally ill and their loved ones. Benjamin is an active volunteer with the Texas Society of Addiction Medicine (TSAM); the state chapter of the well-known national organization and has served on several other community boards, service groups and task forces. He has completed advanced training in stress and pain management for medical patients as well as over seventy-two hours of direct training in Positive Recovery (a specialized program blending best practice addiction recovery with neurologically-supported principles of Positive Psychology).


Throughout his career Benjamin has continued to improve his knowledge and expertise through advanced training courses, field application training, specialized training in corporate and legal processes, as well as additional graduate level coursework and advanced training programs. The areas of his focus include neurology/biology, behavioral cues of deception, positive psychology and epigenetics (gene expression), cancer resilience, medical meditation, violence in the workplace, bio-mechanical basis of behavior, Eastern philosophy and the mind, critical incidents in industrial and corporate settings, first responders and traumatic events, opiate addiction recovery and much more. He is also a professional trainer in the area of social media and ethics.


In addition to working in mental health, Benjamin has also worked in behavioral managed care, both in a clinical capacity and as a Federal Network Manager as well as State Network Manager for Texas. One of his many duties included investigating concerns regarding physician and clinician quality of service, adherence to best practice guidelines, as well as both business and clinical ethics issues of contracted hospitals, physicians and clinicians. To this end, Benjamin is keenly aware of current best practices in the field of counseling as well as up-to-date, proven techniques to increase successful outcomes for his private clients. He continues to be actively sought for by behavioral health hospitals, physician groups and facilities to assist them towards more effectively negotiating their contracts with insurance / managed care organizations (MCO) as well as conducting private training workshops for private practitioners, teaching them how to build and improve their practice and work more successfully with insurance companies.


Beyond the more commonly known field applications for a specialist in human behavior, Benjamin Carrettin provides behavioral analysis and solution-oriented services for business and law. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), Human Resource (HR) professionals, Law Firms / Plaintiff Attorneys and Business Leadership can access the follow services; Voir Dire Consultative Services, In-Service Training and Workshops, New Hire/Employee Assessment, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills for Leadership, Pre-Trial Focus Group Video Analysis, Clinical Assessment / Resource Identification and Workforce Transition Coaching. Benjamin’s own experience working in the business sector and the field of human behavior, his graduate education in Clinical Psychology as well as advanced training in Human Resources, Organizational Psychology, Strategic Management and Pre-Trial Focus Groups have helped him to successfully support clients across a much wider array of industries.


In his private practice, Benjamin still provides individual, couple and family services for cancer patients and their families, heart disease and depression, peace officers/first responders (traumatic events), professionals in addiction recovery, complicating anxiety/fear, grief and bereavement, survivors of suicide (SOS), death/dying and life transition.



Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified and Licensed Professional Counselor and is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical and targeted Business and Professional Services to individuals and businesses. 


Written and Posted by Live Better Live Now editorial staff

Grief and Addiction – Interview with Ben Carrettin

Grief and Addiction

Below is an excerpt from a recent interview with Ben Carrettin, MA, NCC, LPC on


“There are two prominent factors in early addiction recovery: one is based on the “old” brain or limbic system; the other is based on the “new” brain or prefrontal cortex.

During early recovery, the “old” brain drives our reactions and experience towards a rawness or hyper vigilance of our emotions, essentially magnifying what we experience. We weep at a touching commercial, rage at a cashier who spills our change and hold a grudge all day against the co-worker who failed to make a new pot of coffee. Normal feelings with an abnormal intensity or reaction. This increased rawness of emotional experience can make grief seem nearly insurmountable.

We also experience at times, a painful clarity which I often call “raising the veil”. This is when our new brain, which analyzes, quantifies, judges and defines – stands in the face of and takes account of the losses we’ve experienced. Shame, guilt, regret and more are stepping stones in the path of recovery from a plight or disease; grief and addiction included.


Most importantly, all addicts in recovery have to deal with the many exits or “little deaths” of the physical, emotional and even spiritual losses that have occurred and that may or may not be casualties of our active addiction.”

Go here to read the FULL INTERVIEW





Live Better Live Now / Houston / Grief and Addiction

Defense Mechanisms

Defense Mechanisms

The concept of defense mechanisms was introduced originally by Freud and were a part of the psychoanalytic theory. The definition of defense mechanisms concerned the idea that these were the conscious and unconscious tools the person used to protect their mind from anxiety, fear, guilt and other negative experiences. Since then, the concept of defense mechanisms has been widely adopted in other psychological theories. In particular, defense mechanisms have been used in the study of addiction, outlining the different mechanisms that addicts use to avoid accepting their problem, seeking treatment for the disease or taking active responsibility for change. Let’s examine these mechanisms.


This is a simple enough mechanism and it concerns the lack of awareness that a problem exists. The person will simply say that it’s all fine and that there is nothing to worry about. The person is usually aware on some level that there is a problem, but this is intolerable for them, so they deny it. They can deny it to themselves or to others. The difference between denying and lying, as seen next is that the person who is in denial is not aware of the problem, while lying involves consciously saying falsehoods. Denial is often the first reaction to the problem, but it can be hard to overcome, as it doesn’t allow for the possibility of accepting the situation and often represents a strong barrier.


Lying involves distorting the truth, omitting details or changing the facts. For instance, a person might lie about how much alcohol they consume, how often they use it or how they feel about the situation. Lying can appear as a way of protecting the self, but also of maintaining the situation’s status quo rather than changing anything. Lying might persist until the other person has caught on and confronts the individual or even beyond that. Usually, with lying there is more awareness of the issue, but still there is the unwillingness to accept it as an issue, while the main goal is to keep the others off of the addict’s back.



Here, the person will try to make the other individual feel guilty or confused about the situation so that the person with the addiction is not bothered. A person might mock the accusation, say that it’s ridiculous or complain about what the other person does. For instance, an alcoholic might respond to an accusation about his drinking problem with “You’re accusing me of what? That’s just silly! Though maybe I could cut down on drinking if you were more supportive”. The person might blame the other individual for their problem and they try to make the person feel bad for even suggesting it. They might try to elicit sympathy by mentioning the hard circumstances of their life as well.


Here, the person might accept that something is wrong, but they will put on the blame on other people or situations. They might say that their partner is responsible for their decision or accuse the partner of something else in turn. An alcoholic might say that he drinks, but then blame his wife for being too cold or watching too much TV or having other flaws. They might use gaslighting – saying that what’s happening is not really happening, rather that the other person doesn’t know how to have fun, that they are too sensitive, too “prudish” or other things used to accuse their partner.


This will usually involve demanding that the other person drop the subject or else… The threat can be of leaving the person, of drinking worse or even of hurting the other individual. Threats can escalate to violence, emotional, psychological or financial abuse. The person might even threaten to kill themselves in order to get the other to comply with what they want.


Judging involves shifting focus to the actions of the other person and asking them to do something differently. It places the responsibility for the addict’s behavior on the other individual. For example, a person might say that their wife is too controlling and doesn’t know how to relax, so if she were more easy-going, the husband wouldn’t have to drink. The person might label the concern of the other partner as a desire for control or insecurity, putting a label on it to make it seem like their partner is the one on the wrong.


First described in psychoanalysis, projection is a mechanism in which the person ignores their own flaws in themselves, places them on the other individual and then criticizes or judges them. For instance, a person might say that their partner is the one who is weak-willed and dependent. To make it more clear, a cheating partner might suspect their spouse of cheating and get angry at the idea. In addictions, the person might place all the blame and all the problems on their partner.


Blaming is directly placing the responsibility on the other person, without making it subtle or indirect. The person will admit to drinking, but say it’s the fault of their wife, who doesn’t get them, of their friends, who make them go along with it, of the economy, that doesn’t allow them to get a job and so on. The person fully denies being responsible for their own actions and presents the situation as the fault of someone or something else.



Humor involves making light of the situation and deflecting accusations through jokes and sarcasm. A drug user might say: “Sure, I’m a crackhead. Can’t get through the day without a dose.” Other addicts can talk about similar things and make it seem as though others are exaggerating or that the accusations are ridiculous. The person might be sarcastic about their tendencies to use substances or kid around the situation, making light of the concern of their family to make it seem as if they are paranoid.


This involves the use of logic and arguments grounded in theory to justify the problem. A person might say that drinking alcohol is good for their health or that using substances is the best way to have spiritual experiences and broaden their horizons. Intellectualizing often involves turning to “authority”, such as studies or psychologists or important church members to twist their words or take them out of context in order to justify the situation. A person might have a whole theory worked out to justify their addiction or to use faulty logic to support it.


Although similar to intellectualizing, rationalizing is more focused on finding mundane reasons. A person might say that they can’t be alcoholics because they don’t get drunk every day or because they have never gotten in trouble at work or because they make money, for instance. Rationalizing might involve saying that alcohol is just their way to wind down and other similar arguments that are focused on explaining away the situation. The classic “If I wanted to quit, I would quit” can be a rationalization, as the person uses the argument to calm themselves and others, not seeing that it’s a faulty argument.


Silence involves simply withdrawing from others and not saying anything. The person might refuse to respond to any accusations or pleas and act indifferently. This mechanism involves simply ignoring the situation and either hoping that others will tire of it eventually or showing that the person finds the whole matter beneath them. Indifference can be very frustrating and hard to overcome, as the person refuses to engage in discussions or to change their behavior, rather, they usually continue as they were without responding to other people.


Outwardly this may appear as though the person is complying so that the others will leave the matter to rest. The person might say they will stop using substances and seek treatment, agreeing with the accusations, but in reality they will usually not do any of these things or do the bare minimum, just for show. If a person uses this mechanism, they tend to lack the motivation for real change and still don’t see the real problem. Rather, they think that the problem is the insistence others have on a change and such, so to solve this problem they make false promises or outwardly seem to go along with the treatment to get back to the way things were as soon as they can.


Minimizing is making the problem less. The person might say that they drink, but they don’t drink that much, that other people drink they more, that they are functional and so who cares and other similar matters. The idea is to make the problem look like less or to make it seem small by comparison, for example, by saying that, sure, they use drugs, but it’s not like they do it at work and, besides they only use like once a month, so it’s not a problem. The addict might also minimize the problem for themselves, hoping to believe that it’s under control and, even if it’s not, it’s just a small, unimportant matter, so it doesn’t mean anything either way.


Cockiness is a general attitude. The person will percieve themselves as being invincible, better than others, stronger and smarter and, thus, able to handle the situation. They might challenge themselves to drink more, for instance, believing that they can give up at any minute and that they are not like those other folks who get addicted. This is a narcissistic belief and an illusion the person might cling to to feel safe and untouchable. The idea that they can quit any time can also be associated with a cocky attitude.


Justifying is finding reasons for the problem. It can overlap with blaming and with rationalizing, for instance. Justifying is saying that anyone in their position would use substances or saying that they need it or that it is medical.


The next mechanism is explaining. It involves weaving a story concerning a particular situation to show that their behavior was necessary or expected. For example, an alcoholic might say that they knew they shouldn’t have been drinking, but that all their friends were there and it would have been offensive to reject a drink and that it was tradition and so on. An explanation involves finding a way in which the person’s behavior seemed possible and that it was related to the circumstances, not associated with any larger problem, for instance.


This one usually involves a monologue that involves justifications, explanations and rationalizations for why the person is acting in a specific way. The person might say that they had always suffered from unfulfilled affective needs and that they drink in order to cover them, though they know it’s not right. An analysis usually means that the person is not connecting emotionally to the situation and that they haven’t fully accepted the reality of the situation.


Defiance involves actively resisting treatment and any attempts to change or talk. The person might state that it’s their life and that they don’t agree with the treatment and they won’t comply with it. They might sabotage the treatment in some way or show that they are displeased with the whole situation.


ereThis mechanism involves simply leaving the situation. The person might leave the room, the house or even the treatment center, rejecting the situation. It often occurs together with silence.


Finally, there is the self-explanatory shouting. The person might yell and insult others to intimidate and to be left alone.

One more thing…

Defense mechanisms are a part of who we are. They are built in to help us protect ourselves in physical and emotional situations where we perceive a threat of some sort. They are not a symptom or sign of being “broken” or a problem in and of themselves. However, they can get out of hand, be a strong indicator of something we need to face and have consequences when we let them lead us through our lives. A seasoned and experienced counselor can help you address challenges in your life where defense mechanisms may be serving more as a harmful hindrance than a help.


Defense Mechanisms / Live Better Live Now / Houston


What to do if a loved one is Suicidal

Depression Suicide: What to do if a loved one is Suicidal

Depression, characterized by erratic mood swings, loss of interest in hobbies and activities is a very serious emotional disorder affecting about 9.5 per cent of the nation.
Needless to say, it is could be a lot more fatal if a depressed person is heading towards suicide.

Here are some signs to know if your loved one is considering suicide as a result of depression.

Depression Suicide: Warning Signs to be Aware of

1. Mentions of Suicide or Death
2. Wanting to tie up loose ends or give away personal belongings
3. Engaging in reckless behavior such as heavy alcohol and drug use
4. Withdrawing from family and friends
5. Erratic mood swings
6. Inappropriately saying goodbye.
7. Verbal behavior that is ambiguous or indirect: (for example: “I want to go to sleep and never wake up.”, “I’m so depressed, I just can’t go on.”, “Does God punish suicides?”

Though the signs and warnings may vary from person to person, it is important that you are able to recognize such warnings and take some steps to help your loved one.

Helping a loved one who is showing signs of Depression Suicide

If you believe someone is contemplating suicide do seek help immediately. Keep in mind that there are several suicide prevention web sites and hotlines available to help those in need, but in case these are not within your reach, you can try the following:

1. Cultivate Physical Closeness: Simple hugs, kisses on the cheeks, loving pats and compliments go a long way in healing a broken heart or depressed mind. Remember, sometimes the little things DO count.
2. If the person is acutely suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Call for help.
3. Remember: suicidal behavior is a cry for help. Thus if someone contemplating suicide turns to you, it is likely that he believes that you are more caring and more informed about coping with depression, and more willing to help. This in itself is a positive, so this can be the time to empower yourself to be what the suicidal person views you to be; stronger and you are.
4. Other steps to take include reassuring them that help is available and that with appropriate treatment they can feel better. Try not to patronize them by simply telling them that “everything will be fine,” or that “they have everything to live for”.
5. Try to search the house for dangerous items such as guns and knives that could be potentially harmful. You cannot stop a determined person, but you might reduce options from the environment- especially if they may act impulsively.

In addition to the factors above, if you are of a spiritual inclination, this will be a good time to pray according to the framework of your faith. Indeed, prayer when used effectively can work wonders to aid in curtailing depression suicide. But don’t push your faith traditions on the suffering – support them at their framework, not yours.

Naturally we all would get concerned or frightened if a loved one seems on the brink of suicide resulting from depression, however as with all life’s problems, if we can catch it early and treat it, depression-fueled suicide can be prevented.

Don’t dismiss or diminish the seriousness of symptoms of suicide. Professional help is a must. Call a hotline, get an emergent appointment with a psychiatrist or counselor. If things have gotten more advanced, then it may be time to call emergent response or go to an ER. Remember – over action is not nearly as tragic as what may be if we don’t act.

LiveBetterLiveNow – Houston


HEADS UP HOUSTON ! Look what’s coming –

Suicide Prevention Symposium: Coming Together to Care 2015
Texas Suicide Prevention Council and Mental Health America of Texas.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 Houston, TX


Grief & Bereavement Support Services

Grief & Bereavement Support Services

Confronting our own impermanence is one of the most difficult things we will ever do.

Whether we are facing the death of a loved one or our own impermanence we may experience all kinds of difficult and surprising emotions, such as shock, anger, and guilt. Sometimes it may feel like the fear and sadness will never let up. While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are normal reactions to loss. Accepting them as part of our grieving process and allowing ourselves to feel what we are feeling is a necessary part of our journey and healing.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss does often cause the most intense grief. Equally powerful is our own internal evolution that happens as we are faced with terminal or potentially terminal illness.

Some of the losses that grief counseling or LifeRecovery sessions can help with are:

Death of a family member or friend

Cancer – in ourselves or family


Loss of financial stability or employ

Diagnosed with chronic/terminal illness

Multiple losses in a short period

A loved one’s serious injury or illness

Loss of a marriage or intimate friendship

Loss of safety after a trauma


Three Tips to Get You Started:

1. Everyone grieves differently

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried – and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving.

2. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

But there are healthy ways to cope with the pain. You can get through it! Grief that is expressed and experienced has a potential for healing that eventually can strengthen and enrich life.

3. Don’t do it alone

The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone. Connecting to others will help you heal.


Live Better Live Now / Grief & Bereavement Support Services – Houston, Texas

Individual LifeRecovery Sessions are provided by Ben Carrettin, MA, NCC, LPC, a state licensed and nationally board-certified counselor who is also a lay chaplain trained specifically in pastoral care. Sessions are personal, compassionate and respectful of each and every person’s dignity, beliefs and suffering. LifeRecovery is a blend of personal coaching and clinical consultation that uses both contemporary Western approaches as well as Eastern philosophies to address the logistical, emotional, relational and existential aspects of the grieving process. This is not traditional psychotherapy, but an alternative for support, guidance and expression.