Several weeks ago, Dylan Wright (of Families First Learning Lab in Missoula) and I had a successful, albeit (speaking for myself) embarrassing fundraiser for his show, The Wright Stuff on Happiness, at the Missoula Public Library. At that time, we didn’t have the schedule for the show’s debut and season. Now we do . . . and so I’m happily sharing it here with you, so you can tune in and then share it with the world (or vice versa).
The release of The Wright Stuff on Happiness has been scheduled to air, beginning December 12, on MCAT’s TV, channel 189 (Spectrum Cable) or https://mcat.org/watch/ on Mondays at 4:00 PM and Wednesdays at 6:00 PM! The schedule is below. You will also be able to watch the show anytime after it airs by going to The Montana Happiness Project YouTube Channel. We will post each episode as they air. To re-watch or share the teaser that we showed at the release party, please use the following link – https://youtu.be/t3YfBmjzqUo
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and here’s THE SHOW SCHEDULE!
Dec 12th (4:00 PM) & Dec 14th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Dan Salois
Dec 19th (4:00 PM) & Dec 21st (6:00 PM) – Dr. Emily Sallee
Dec 26th (4:00 PM) & Dec 28th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Jayna Mumbauer
Jan 2nd (4:00 PM) & Jan 4th (6:00 PM) – Lillian Martz
Jan 9th (4:00 PM) & 11th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Nancy Seldin
Jan 16th (4:00 PM) & Jan 18th (6:00 PM) – Dr. Sidney Shaw
Jan 23rd (4:00 PM) & Jan 25th (6:00 PM) – Hana Meshesha
After watching the video last night, I experienced an unplanned two-hour bout of insomnia wherein I replayed all the ways in which my behavior at the event (singing as a part of a group name that tune trivia contest) was embarrassing and regrettable. The good news is that I’ve studied insomnia and negative cognitions in the night enough to know that the middle of the night is a particularly easy time to exaggerate and negatively evaluate oneself. I (mostly) pushed out the cognitions with some mindfulness meditation, three good things, and music from David Bowie’s “Changes” (which had randomly or unconsciously gotten stuck in my brain).
This morning I’m presenting on the Art and Science of Happiness with the University of Montana’s Osher Center for Lifelong Learning. One core message from last night woven into today is that that we’re not striving toward unreflective toxic positivity, but instead, we’re working toward an awakened eudaimonic happiness, in the Aristitotean sense of living a balanced and meaningful life.
I’m in Helena today, learning and presenting at the Montana CBT Conference. This is a very cool event, organized by Kyrie Russ, M.A., LCPC, and including about 35 fantastic Montana professionals interested in deepening their knowledge of CBT principles and practice.
I’m presenting twice; below I’ve included links to my two sets of ppts (which may be redundant/overlapping with ppts I’ve posted here before).
Exploring the Potential of Evidence-Based Happiness
On Sunday, November 6 from 6pm to 7:30pm on the 4th floor of the Missoula Public Library (the recent winner of the International Library of the Year award) Dylan Wright and I will co-host the brief and fantastic world premier of “The Wright Stuff on Happiness.”
You may be wondering, “What is The Wright Stuff on Happiness?”
The Wright Stuff on Happiness is a new Missoula Community Access Television show featuring Dylan Wright discussing, interviewing, and pontificating on individual, family, and community happiness. The Wright Stuff on Happiness is a program of Families First Learning Lab and is one of the initiatives of the Montana Happiness Project, L.L.C. (specifically, the Happy Media initiative).
At the World Premier, Dylan and I will introduce the show and Dylan will present a short series of video clips of never-before viewed footage. And then, we will engage the group with a never-before hybrid version of “Name That Tune” and Pub Trivia wherein Dylan and I sing songs and participants work in teams to win prizes by identifying the song title and artist.
Although the World Premier is a fundraiser for Families First Learning Lab and the Happy Media Initiative, you can also attend to learn and participate in the highly acclaimed and world renowned Name That Tune trivia competition.
While searching for updated guidance on cross-cultural eye contact in counseling and psychotherapy (for the 7th edition revision of Clinical Interviewing), I came across a young therapist with over 1 million YouTube subscribers. She was perky, articulate, and very impressive in her delivery of almost-true information about the meaning of eye contact in counseling (from about 5 years ago). There were so many public comments on her video . . . I couldn’t possibly read or track them all. Sadly, although she waxed eloquent about trauma and eye contact, she never once mentioned culture, or how the meaning of eye contact varies based on cultural, familial, and individual factors. Part of my takeaway was her retelling a version of a John Wayne-esq sort of message wherein we should all strive to look the other person in the eye. Ugh. I’m sad we have so many perky, articulate influencers who share information that’s NOT inclusive or deep or particularly accurate. Oh well.
Curious, and TBH, perhaps a bit jealous of this therapist’s YouTube fame, I clicked on her most recent video. I discovered her in tears, describing how she needs a break, and detailing a range of symptoms that fit pretty well with major depressive disorder. Oh my. This time I felt sad for her and her life because it must have turned into a runaway train of influencer-related opportunities and demands. My jealousy of her particular type of fame evaporated.
Many therapists—including me—aren’t as good at practicing as we are preaching. Every day I try to get better and fail a little and succeed a little. Life is a marathon. Small changes can make their way into our lives and become bigger changes.
Because of our Clinical Interviewing revision, I’m saying “No” to presentation opportunities more often than usual. That’s a good thing. Setting limits and taking care of business at home is essential. However, in about one month, I’ve set aside a week for a gamut of presentations and appearances. These presentations and appearances all include some content related to positive psychology, positive coping, and how we can all live better lives in the face of challenging work. Here they are:
On Friday, November 4 at 8:30am, I’ll be doing an opening keynote address for the Montana CBT conference. The keynote is titled, “Exploring the Potential of Evidence-Based Happiness.” The whole conference looks great (12.75 CEs available). I’ve also got a break-out session from 1:15pm to 3:15pm, titled, “Using a Strengths-Based Approach to Suicide Assessment and Treatment in Your Counseling Practice.” You can register for the two-day Montana CBT conference here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/montana-cbt-conference-registration-367811452957Helena
On Monday, November 7 at 11am in Missoula I’ll be presenting for the University of Montana Molli Program. Although in-person seats are sold-out, people can still register to attend online. https://www.missoulaevents.net/11/07/2022/the-art-science-and-practice-of-meaningful-happiness/ The presentation title is: The Art, Science, and Practice of Meaningful Happiness. Molli is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UM – which focuses on educational offerings for folks 50+ years-old.
One of my long-time friends from graduate school in the 1980s had lots of corny, pithy, and funny commentary on life. He was adept at noticing when professors repeated themselves, often snarking that particular professors had graduated from the “Department of Redundancy Department.” I enjoyed his commentary so much that I forgot to snarkily notice the redundancy of his jokes.
Somewhat later, another colleague told me of his educational motto: “Redundancy works!” After years of counseling and doing presentations, he decided that most people aren’t listening very well and so saying things over and over gives teachers and counselors a better chance of being heard and remembered.
Back when we lived in Great Britain for several fortnights, we learned that the Brits used the term redundant to refer to employee layoffs. For example, when employers cut staff, they referred to staff as having become redundant (or unneeded), and consequently, unemployed.
I bring up redundancy today because I’m posting two things here that are almost exactly the same as what I posted earlier this week. Yesterday and today, I had and have the honor of presenting to STEM graduate students from Montana Tech (yesterday) and the University of Montana (today) on how to integrate a few happiness skills into their lives. The handouts (below) are virtually identical to those I provided on Monday (for the Belgrade Teacher presentation) . . . and so you should bear in mind that I’m clearly a graduate of the Department of Redundancy Department because I’ve learned that Redundancy Works! . . . and I’m hoping I’ve not quite become redundant myself.
Back in May I received an email from a Belgrade High School AP Biology teacher asking if I could present to Belgrade teachers on mental health. The details have worked out. I’m super-excited to do this for several reasons:
I’m very passionate about supporting teacher mental health and well-being. For as long as I can remember (but especially during these past three years), teachers have been over-stressed, over-worked, under-paid, and under-appreciated. I even happen to have a grant proposal submitted that would give teachers access to very low-cost graduate credit on an Evidence-Based Happiness course. Happiness knowledge and mental health support for teachers is essential.
Education is the central “plank” on my personal political platform. IMHO, to quote myself, “The road to economic vitality, the road to environmental sustainability, the road to excellence in health care and social programs, and the road to good government always has and always will run through education.” We need excellent teachers and we need excellent public education. We need it now more than ever.
Belgrade is conveniently located just off I-90, a freeway that I regularly drive on my way from Missoula to Absarokee and back again.
And best of all, I’ll get to see the famous Nick Jones. Nick is a cool Aussie transplant, a former Carroll College basketball player, and a graduate of our M.A. program at the University of Montana. He also happens to be a school counselor at Belgrade High School.
My big theme will be that although advice is cheap, knowledge is power. We all benefit from knowing more about mental health and happiness. One of my main topics will involve information on understanding sleep. . . because we all have better mental health when we sleep well.
Next week, the Montana Happiness Project and the Families First Learning Lab have a variety of educational offerings. I’ve listed them below, along with links that can provide additional information.
If you’re a STEM grad student at the University of Montana, and you want to attend a short (2.5 hour) evidence-based happiness workshop on Friday, August 26 (and get a free lunch), click on this link for more information and to register. https://umt.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3yjFgwKqfmE7Qt8
As you can see below, I’m doing the same workshop for Montana Tech in Butte on Aug 25.
If you’re working with an organization that might want a speaker on happiness or strengths-based suicide assessment and treatment, you should check out the Montana Happiness Project “Speaker” page: https://montanahappinessproject.com/speakers . . . and contact us to let us know of your interest.
Okay. Here’s the list of events for Aug and Sept.
August 23, 2022 – John Sommers-Flanagan presents on “The art and science of happy teachers” to the Belgrade School staff. Belgrade, MT.
August 25, 2022 – Dylan Wright presents on “Parent Engagement” to the Youth Dynamics staff. Webinar.
August 25, 2022 – John Sommers-Flanagan presents on “Evidence-based happiness skills” to the Montana HOPES Project at Montana Tech. Butte, MT.
August 26, 2022 – John Sommers-Flanagan presents on “Evidence-based happiness skills” to the Montana HOPES Project at University of Montana. Missoula, MT.
September 1, 2022 – Dylan Wright presents on “The Art, Science, and Practice of Meaningful Happiness” for Mountain Home staff. Missoula, MT.
September 20, 2022 – John Sommers-Flanagan presents on “Suicide assessment and treatment: A strengths-based approach” for the Wallowa Valley Center for Wellness. Enterprise, OR.
Albert Ellis used to offer “Five Buck Friday” night presentations in New York. What a cool idea. People would show up and he would teach them Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
I do lots of presentations. I like to think I do lots of presentations because I’m good at doing presentations, but I also know I’m not a perfect presenter and need to be consistently open to feedback and new learning. Anyway, lately I’ve been doing more consultations with young professionals on how to do presentations. This humbling new “gig” is related to our work on the Montana Happiness Project (click here for to see the MHP website: https://montanahappinessproject.com/). Our MHP vision is: “To help create a world where people listen to and value one another while also living lives that are personally meaningful and saturated with eudaimonic happiness.” To help move toward our vision, Rita and I are doing more training of young professionals who want to help infuse more positivity and happiness into the challenges of life.
The young professionals are amazing. Sometimes I wonder when they sleep. Today, as part of supervising and consulting one of our amazing presenters, I responded to some specific questions he posed in an email.
This is my free blog-version of Ellis’s Five Buck Friday consultation.
The staff of this organization works directly with parents. Some things they struggle with are listed below:
The staff struggles with self-regulation
The staff would like to be able to be curious (and not activated) when a parent is yelling at their kid, etc.
I’m glad you got this information. One key to a great presentation is to dovetail the process and content to meet the group’s specific goals.
Issues 1 and 2 are great topics to focus on in a staff training/presentation. Self-regulation is almost always adversely affected when there are surprise triggers. Although break-out groups would be good for discussing staff triggers, because the director said the staff doesn’t like break-out groups, you could do live polling on the staffs’ “buttons” or triggers. The goal would be for staff to become very familiar with personal triggers so they can develop a plan for their “best possible responses” to their triggers, and then practice their best possible responses with imagery and rehearsals or role plays. You can’t be curious (Item 2) unless you’re READY for the trigger and have a plan for what your curiosity will look like.
The other issue is that sometimes the staff will need to enforce behavioral limits. When presenting, you are the parent/role model; when working with parents, the staff members are the parent/role model figures. They need to be clear on inappropriate parental behaviors and have a plan for setting and enforcing limits will help them (and possibly the parents) with self-regulation. As I sometimes say about nightmares and tantrums, it helps when the adult “looks forward” to the dreaded incident/trigger. I know that sounds weird, but the incident is inevitable anyway and when it occurs, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to try out the new plan.
In the context of Family Based Services, the staff could use help with:
How to engage when parents don’t want to be there.
Going to be transitioning to going back into the homes of clients – this could be hard on clients and counselors.
Using a positive or meaningful frame for parents who are “involuntary” or un-enthused about therapy is essential. Below I’ve listed and described some positive framing ideas and a couple strategies that might help.
Thank the parent for being there.
If the parent appears negative or reluctant, thank them even more sincerely and with empathy by acknowledging the reality in the room (e.g., “I REALLY appreciate you being here especially because I can see you don’t feel like being here.” – Obviously tweak that wording and all other wordings to fit your own style.)
Identify at least one positive reason why the parent showed up (e.g., “You must really love your son/daughter to get yourself here to work with me even when you don’t feel like it.” Or, “Lots of parents don’t follow through on the commitment to show up for these sessions. I really appreciate you showing up. It tells me how committed you are to doing the right thing and being here to do the work.”)
Bring gifts. Find out the parents’ favorite non-alcoholic drinks and bring them along. Find out their favorite salty snack and bring it along. Hardly anything calms irritability better than sincere positive gestures that include food😊.
Listen, listen, and listen to the parent’s perspective and complaints and paraphrase the heck out of them before moving on to issues of substance.
Before, during, and after you share these ideas in your presentation, be sure to be prompting the group to add to the list, while acknowledging how much insight there is in the room.
Consider helping the staff to establish a positive family-based therapy dynamics checklist to think about before doing family sessions.
I like to THINK of myself as not being a complainer, but in reality, I do my share of complaining. One of my personal goals is to complain less and thereby avoid becoming a whining old curmudgeon. That’s a tall order because for me, there are always a few particular moments and experiences when it just feels VERY GRATIFYING to let the complaints fly.
Today, I’m offering some small complaints about the process of publishing in academic journals. I’m limiting my complaining and keeping a positive tone because too much complaining would be inconsistent with my anti-curmudgeon goal AND inconsistent with my topic: publishing happiness research.
Over the past year, I’ve started working on three different happiness manuscripts. We (my research team and I) submitted the first one (Manuscript 1) to a good journal, waited 3+ months and got a rejection. The rejection was understandable, but the reviews were IMHO uninspiring and uninformed. The reviewers critiqued parts of the manuscript that were absolutely solid, raised questions about non-issues, and completely missed the biggest flaw (of which I am very familiar, because I analyzed the data). In response, because reviews should nearly always be two-way, I provided a bit of congenial feedback to Editor 1. Editor 1 responded quickly and we had a cordial and constructive email discussion.
Manuscript 1 is now out to a second unnamed journal. We’re closing in on four months and so after recovering from my CACREP virtual site visit hangover (more minor complaining here in the midst of my major complaint) and using my congenial colleague voice, I emailed Editor 2. Again, I got a speedy and pleasant response. As it turns out, academic journal editors are generally lonely people who field so many hostile emails, that they’re very chatty when they get something nice. The editor of journal 2 shared a few frustrations. I responded with commiseration, and Editor 2 let me know we should hear about our manuscript’s status by the end of the week. Just in case you’re a lonely and frustrated academic journal editor and want to steal away this manuscript and publish it before Friday, I’ve pasted the abstract below. My Email is email@example.com.
Effects of a Brief Workshop on Counseling Student Wellness in the Age of COVID-19
Counselors-in-training (CITs) often experience stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Teaching counseling students wellness and positive psychology skills, particularly in the age of COVID-19, may help CITs cultivate greater well-being. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of a brief happiness-oriented workshop on CIT well-being. Forty-five CITs participated in either a 2.5 hour online experiential evidence-based happiness workshop or control condition. Eight wellness-oriented self-report questionnaires were administered pre-and post-intervention. Compared with the control group, CITs who attended the online workshop reported significant reductions in depressive symptoms. At six-month follow-up, workshop participants were reported using several of the interventions (i.e., gratitude, savoring, and three good things) with themselves and in their work. Despite methodological limitations, this study provides initial evidence that a brief, online happiness workshop has promise for helping CITs cope with the emotional burdens of graduate school and COVID-19.
Manuscript 2 is based on one of my recent doctoral student’s dissertations. It’s a solid quantitative, quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest design with interesting and positive outcomes. We submitted it to a journal, waited 3 months, and then were informed that they liked the manuscript, but that it wasn’t a good fit for their journal. Being that I’ve become pretty chummy with various journal editors, I emailed the Editor using my happy voice, while also noting that it didn’t seem quite right that we waited 3 months to hear the manuscript wasn’t a good fit. We didn’t even get reviews. . . other than the editor’s mildly positive feedback. Editor 3 got right back to me and essentially agreed with my concerns and shared frustrations about journal editor and editorial board transitions. Just in case you’re tracking the pattern, it appears that academic journal editors are super into professional email exchanges. After getting Manuscript 2 rejected, I decided to start pre-emailing journal editors to check to see if the topic is a good fit for their journals. The responses have been fast and helpful. If by chance, you’re a fancy journal editor who’s feeling frustrated and wants a colleague like me for some email chats, you could increase your chances of hearing from me if you contact me and offer to publish Manuscript 2 . . . and so here’s the abstract.
Effects of a Multi-Component Positive Psychology Course on College Student Mental Health and Well-Being During COVID-19
Even before COVID-19, college student mental health was an escalating problem. As a supplement to traditional counseling, positive psychology (aka happiness) courses have shown promise for improving college student well-being. We evaluated a unique, four-component positive psychology course on student mental health and wellness outcomes. Using a quantitative, quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest design, we compared the effects of the happiness course (n = 38) with an alternative class control condition (n = 41), on eight different mental health and well-being measures. Participants who completed the happiness course reported significantly higher positive affect, increased hope, better physical health, and greater perceived friendship support. In a post-hoc analysis of six happiness class participants who scored as severely depressed at pretest, all six had substantial reductions in self-reported depressive symptoms at posttest. Multicomponent positive psychology courses are a promising supplementary strategy for addressing college student mental health.
I know you’re probably wondering now, about Manuscript 3, which is under construction. The bottom line for Manuscript 3 is that it’s fabulous. Of course, because I haven’t submitted it anywhere yet, I’m the only reviewer offering feedback at this time. Manuscript 3 is the sort of manuscript that, I’m sure, a number of journals and journal editors will get in a bidding war over.
In the end, complaining is mostly unhealthy. Complaining can be like noxious weeds, with the negativity taking root, and spreading into areas where we should be staying positive and grateful. Too much complaining contributes to a sour disposition and outlook. On the positive side, complaining offers an opportunity for emotional ventilation, and can recruit interpersonal commiseration, both of which feel good. But IMHO the biggest potential benefit from complaining comes from social feedback. When people hear you complain, they can provide perspective. And yes, we all need perspective.
Happy Wednesday to everyone! May your complaints be minor and your perspective be multidimensional.
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