Mark's Friday Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 9/28/18


As I explained in a previous blog, Waypoints are significant events or moments from my past week that help me stay oriented as to where I am and where I’m going.

The Last Week of Summer

It’s good to reflect on the passing of the seasons. Last week was the last week of Summer and we experienced the Autumnal Equinox the previous Friday. When I ask people about Fall, they generally either love it or hate it. No in-between. I’m one of those that love it. But I want to encourage you to take a few moments and reflect on this Summer. Savor it for a few moments. Stop reading and think about the important dates, holidays, events, places, people, or moments that you remember. For me, it is the Jefferson Forest where I hike every Saturday. It is my birthday and it is my granddaughters that I get to visit every three months and I saw in July. It was the images of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn that I spied one evening with people that I care about. I don’t want to lose these memories. Thoreau wrote, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
I’m certain he meant, “Don’t allow your life (the seasons) to pass you by without a little reflection.”

Book I read this Week

I was excited to read Sarah Ivens’ new book, “Forest Therapy.” Those of you that know me know that I love being outdoors and I love the forest. I’ll be backpacking next weekend in the Red River Gorge. I wrote a full review on her book that you can read here. Her book reminded me of an interview on Tim Ferris’ podcast of Art De Vany. Art is an economist and a really smart guy. He’s in his 80’s. Perfect health. Tim asked him what advice he would give to people that are suffering from depression. He responded, “Spend time in the woods.” I think that Sarah Ivens would agree.

Music I’m listening to

I discovered Inya’s new album. “Dark Sky Island” really isn’t new. It came out in 2015, but I just missed it until now. It had been 8 years since her last album. She is Ireland’s bestselling solo artist. She’s sold 75 million albums worldwide. The song that I love is, “So I could find My Way.” I hope you enjoy it.

For more Friday Waypoints from True North Counseling, follow this link. Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA is the Principal Therapist at True North Counseling in Louisville, KY and will be posting Friday Waypoints once a week. 

Forest Therapy Book Review True North Counseling

Book Review: Forest Therapy

In her new book, “Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You,” Sarah Ivens inspires us to get outside.

I have been a Psychotherapist for about 25 years and an avid hiker/backpacker for about as long. So, as you can imagine, I was intrigued by the title of Sarah Ivens’ new book “Forest Therapy.” I’m a backpacking-gear head and a clinical nerd. I’m always reading books about trails, gear, and current clinical interventions. But I’m also looking for inspiration. This book made me yearn for the forest.

Iven’s work could be summed up as a book that inspires you to get more of you into nature and to get more of nature into you. It begins by thinking about ways to embrace nature. Ivens prescribes a sort of baptism by immersion, immersing ourselves in the dirt, the air, the water, the hills and valleys and all that nature has to offer. For the those that have never hiked a trail, she also suggests a less “hilly” approach or a baptism by sprinkling.

Ivens has structured most of book around the seasons. If you’ve spent much time in the forest know that every season brings different treasures, from fungi in the summer to Ice Ribbons in the winter. Her book has a pleasant, sentimental tone and personal style that reminded me of a series of journals, that I inherited from my mother. I was thinking of “Stillmeadow Seasons,” written by Gladys Tabor, as I read “Forest Therapy.”

I discovered her Mindfulness Exercises and the Testimonials from “embracers” throughout the book. They were akin to finding those delicate woodland flowers or nervous little toads. You stop and embrace and move on. Ivens provides several ideas for getting you into nature. These include hiking, walking on a beach, or visiting a farm. Camping near a stream is one of my ways to embrace nature.

If you want to get more of nature into you, Ivens suggests bringing the smells of nature into your home, and adding plants that add green to the color palate. I bring nature to me by opening the windows on cool nights and wrapping up with a heavy blanket.

Ivens has provide a map for finding nature, a legend for overcoming obstacles and waypoints to help orient us to where we are and where we’re going. In her introduction, she suggests that this book isn’t necessarily for the outdoor extremist. I beg to differ. Everyone is looking for inspiration and simplicity. “We are,” she writes, “creatures wrapped in walls and trapped by to-do list, hibernating while the world sprouts, grows, and changes.” “Forest Therapy” is an invitation to wake up from our hibernation and embrace the forest.  In return, the forest embraces us and helps us sprout and grow in a very hectic world.


Mark K. Neese, LCSW, BCBA

Clinical Director

True North Counseling

Louisville, KY

Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own funds and no expectations from the author and/or publisher for a positive review.

True North Counseling Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 9/14/18

Welcome to My Waypoints!

As I explained in a previous blog, Waypoints are significant events or moments from my past week that help me stay oriented as to where I am and where I’m going.

Lessons From Clients

I want to share, as often as possible, the things I’ve learned from my clients. This week, I was training a small group of Direct Care Staff on a Behavior Plan that I had developed for a very challenging young man. I could tell that they were exhausted. He had been verbally abusive to them. They were in crisis and feeling discouraged. I decided to stop the training and ask them a question. “What is our overall goal for Trevor?” (Not his real name.)

After a short discussion, I asked, “Isn’t it to help him grow?” And of course, they agreed. He was 24 years old. He had been in foster care his whole life, and now, these past 6 years, in a staffed residence. Because of his behavior, they had gotten stuck with thinking that their job was to get him to behave. I saw some hope and compassion in their eyes when I suggested that we were there to help him grow.

I learned from my clients that I too get stuck with trying to change behavior. Sometimes, we lose sight of our real purpose and mission, such as with Trevor. Helping people grow is so much more satisfying. I could see it in their eyes. They had a newfound joy. We continued the training.

Meaningful Moment

I spent some time this past week at the Gettysburg Battlefield. I have been to a few other battlefields. The Perryville Battlefield comes to mind. Standing in the place where 12,000 men stood, waiting for Pickett’s Charge, was heart-wrenching. I walked the battlefield, following the path that they took. A total of 20,000 men (Federal and Confederate) were killed or wounded that day. The tide was turned that day and the Confederacy never recovered. It was a moment, a day, 150 years ago, that changed our country forever.

Book I’m Reading This Week

“Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Become Your Own Therapist: A Practical Step by Step Guide to Managing and Overcoming Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Panic, and Other Mental Health Issues,” by Jessica Greiner.

I’ll be doing a review on this book later in the week, but in short, this is an informative and concise book on CBT. Ms. Greiner is not a mental health professional, but she has provided an excellent book for the layperson and professional. The three chapters focusing on “affirmations” are worth the cost of the book and can be used in conjunction with mindfulness meditation.

For more Friday Waypoints from True North Counseling, follow this link. Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA is the Principal Therapist at True North Counseling in Louisville, KY and will be posting Friday Waypoints once a week. 

True North Counseling's Crossroads Blog

Introducing Friday Waypoints

I do a lot of hiking and backpacking. I’ve backpacked down into the Grand Canyon 15 times. I’ve hiked in most National Parks and in many states. I know what a Waypoint is. Waypoints are places that you look for, that tell you where you are and where you’re going.

I’ve hiked the Knobstone Trail in Indiana. It’s about 50 miles long. When I’m hiking this trail, I look for Waypoints to help me stay oriented as to where I am. That’s what they do; Waypoints help you stay oriented. They could be roads, streams, a series of switchbacks, or anything of significance.

I’m going to begin sharing Waypoints with you each week. These are significant moments or events in my life during the previous week that help me stay oriented as to where I am and where I’m going.

I believe that everyone has a True North. It is a direction that you move and travel. Your True North is determined by what you value. And when you are living a life consistent with what you value, you are content, and yes, happy.

I value love, growth, living life to its fullest, giving, exploring, being physically active, family, friends, work, and many, many more things. When I am engaged with these things, I’m headed to my True North. Waypoints help me know where I am and where I’m going.

True North Aging Blog

Preparing for the Last Ten Years

You have to prepare for the last ten years of your life. No one likes to think about getting older. When people are asked, “How long do you want to live?” many say that it depends on how healthy they are. Most of us have seen an unhealthy or unstable loved one and our hearts go out to them. Usually, soon after, we make a promise to ourselves that we will not grow old.

What I have learned as a therapist and fitness professional is this…

Potentially, the most difficult years ahead of all us are the last ten years, especially if you do not prepare for them. Professionals typically refer to this group as the frail elderly. During this time period, we are less stable and prone to falls. We have nutritional problems due to poor dental health. We become isolated and lose touch with friends and family because of our lack of mobility. And it is during this period that we “pay for” our chronic bad habits, that for some include smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and excessive drinking, to name a few.

So the question is, how do we prepare for the last ten years of our lives?

First, take stock of where you are right now. Are you overweight? What does your diet look like? How strong are you? How often do you exercise? What does your social support system look like? What are your stress levels? How would you describe your relationships? Are you happy? Do you feel depressed or anxious most of the time? Do you have any chronic health problems? Hypertension? Type 2 Diabetes? Heart Disease?

Second, how old were your grandparents and/or parents when they died? This gives you some sense of when your last ten years will be. For me, this is likely going to be in my mid to late eighties but could be later since my father was a smoker and would have lived into his late eighties. My last ten years will be my eighties. I have twenty years to prepare for my last ten years.

Third, make a plan to do something. It really doesn’t take a lot to prepare. I teach people about: The Common-Sense Diet, Common-Sense Exercise, Stress Management (to include Mindfulness), Healthy Relationships, and How to be Happy.

I started on my journey, preparing for my last ten years, two decades ago. But honestly, I’ve been preparing most of my life by staying active, eating right, and doing all the things that I teach my clients. Your last decade can be meaningful, active, and enjoyable if you start preparing now. And consequently, the benefit of preparing now, will be a strong and healthy life now. What a nice thought.

True North Counseling Website

True North Counseling Opens

True North Counseling, a New Therapy Practice Dedicated to Helping Struggling Teens and Their Families, Opens Doors in Louisville, Kentucky

True North Counseling derives its name from the common saying “true north”. The term is defined as “the place where one is at peace with themselves and others.” The mission of the therapists at True North Counseling is to help those who are facing life’s barriers and obstacles. The therapists help their patients overcome these issues through guided counseling. The practice has a special interest in working with struggling teens and their families. The team of therapists incorporates innovative approaches to encourage healing and growth.

Explaining his decision to open this unique practice, therapist and business owner Mark Neese explains, “I have worked for decades helping teenagers and young adults successfully navigate personal problems and life’s challenges. I believe there is a real need in our community for a counseling practice that focuses primarily on this population. That’s why we’ve started True North Counseling. Our team looks forward to serving the Louisville community with a unique and experienced therapeutic approach that builds confidence and inspires independence.”

The True North Counseling team has over 80 years of combined experience working with individuals, couples, teens, and families. True North Counseling offers a wide variety of counseling services to their clients. Those services include Teen Therapy, Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, Crisis Management, and Behavioral Support.

Read more…

True North Advice Blog

Unsolicited Advice – How To Give Advice

There is one thing, above all others, that can hurt a relationship more than anything. It’s insidious and most of us have experienced it. At the time, you may not have been able to name it, but you knew that there was something going on that you did not like. As the title of this blog suggests, it’s unsolicited advice.

I know some of you are already asking, “is giving advice that bad?” No. I give advice as a therapist all the time. My sons have asked me for advice as have my friends. When they ask, I give it. But there is a huge difference between solicited and unsolicited advice. Believe it or not, unsolicited advice is a subtle form of disapproval.

I work with adults who struggle with their relationships. Unsolicited advice is a common issue that comes up when individuals are struggling with their relationship with their parents. Most of the time it looks something like this…

You join a parent, or parents, for dinner and there are a lot of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ coming up in the conversation. A common line among those who give unsolicited advice is “What you need to do is…” It can be very subtle and often is. A great way to see if you are receiving unsolicited advice is to ask yourself some of the following questions when leaving the person, or people, in question.

  • Are you leaving feeling like you are not doing enough?
  • Do you feel like you need to do more?
  • Are you leaving feeling like you’ve got a lot of newfound self-doubts?
  • Are you feeling disappointed in yourself?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes then you’ve been given unsolicited advice.

It isn’t just parents who offer unsolicited advice. Siblings and friends do it as well. Recently, I spoke with a father who was constantly giving advice to his grown daughters and he couldn’t figure out where all the conflict within their relationships was stemming from. When I pointed out that it might be the unsolicited advice he was giving, he stated that he worries about them and wants to help them avoid the same struggles he faced. I told him that was fine, but his strategy was backfiring. Instead of taking the advice, his daughters were avoiding him and tuning him out. He was a wonderful man, but he had let his anxiety spill into his relationships with his daughters and hurt them. All because of unsolicited advice.

My parents never gave me unsolicited advice. Well, I take that back. Once upon a time, my mother tried to give me and my brother unsolicited advice about a problem between us. She was well-intentioned and hated seeing us struggle over the issue, but we gently told her that this was something we’d take care of ourselves. She surrendered and we solved the problem!

Now, I know you’re not asking for my advice, but stop giving unsolicited advice to your grown children, your friends, your siblings, and for that matter, anyone. No one likes it. It sends a message that you don’t approve of them and, do I dare say it, that you’re better than them. Nothing sours a relationship like talking down to people. I once heard Norman Lear interviewed and he was asked about his youthful demeanor. At the time he was 93 and he responded, “I talk to everyone like I’m their peer” and that’s great advice!

Children's Behavioral Support Louisville, KY

2 Things Every Child Needs to Learn

I have worked with lots of children and teenagers throughout the years. When I begin treatment, I almost always tell the child’s caregivers that every child needs to learn two things, including theirs. Then, I ask the caregivers to guess what those two things are. It is a blast hearing the things they come up with before I tell them what I was thinking.

Two Things Every Child Needs to Learn… Really!

  1. You don’t always get what you want.

  2. Sometimes, you have to do some things that you don’t want to do.

These are the two things that I am convinced every child needs to learn. And I’ve never had a caregiver disagree with me.

When you think about it, you can usually tell how mature a person is by the degree to which they have learned these two lessons. Over the past 35 years, I’ve met plenty of adults who haven’t learned these two concepts. Relationships often falter because one of the partners hasn’t learned these two lessons.

Sure, there are plenty of things that I want as soon as I realize I want them. As I’ve gotten older even, it seems that I have a greater sense of entitlement to these things I want. It’s so sad, but I tell myself, “grow up Mark Neese” because I’ve learned I can’t always get what I want.

Sure, there are plenty of things I don’t want to do. Do I really need to run down the list? We all have things that we don’t want to do because they aren’t fun or are too difficult. But we do them anyway because we’re mature adults who know that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.

I’ve seen households and families where the children have no rules, no structure, and no expectations. The homes of these families are usually a wreck. The kids are a mess. And the main cause of these situations of disarray is the caregiver forgot that they needed to teach their children two simple things.

In my therapy sessions, I talk about this a lot with older children and younger adolescents. I tell them that they need to learn these two rules and then I have them recite them. I tell them that life is going to be much harder for them than it needs to be if they don’t learn and accept these two rules. I tell them that it’s much easier to be cooperative. That’s it. Learn to be cooperative and life will be much easier.

I am happy to say that most of the children I work with and teach these rules to grow and mature as soon as they learn these two important life lessons. Watching them grow is one of the perks of my job. Remember – every child needs to learn these two rules and that’s all it takes.

  1. You don’t always get what you want.

  2. Sometimes, you have to do some things that you don’t want to do.