Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: V is for Validation, Part One

This month we continue our exploration of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and its effect on BPD sufferers and their families.

As you may recall from last month’s posts, May was Borderline Personality Month. BPD is now known to be a brain-based emotion regulation disorder that often begins to arise in early adulthood and affects more women than men. The disorder manifests in a devastating emotional sensitivity that makes it difficult for some and impossible for others to maintain the type of close, nurturing, mutually supportive relationships that make life feel worth living.

This explains why, out of the 18 million Americans who have BPD, 10 percent will commit suicide before adequate diagnosis and treatment is offered. Additionally, current statistics state that 33 percent of all youth who commit suicide are found posthumously to have displayed symptoms characteristic of BPD that went undiagnosed.

In my work as Program Director with Southlake Counseling, I have seen firsthand how a lack of knowledge, lack of or improper diagnosis, and inadequate or improper care can lead to the tragic loss of a loved one who has BPD, and the unnecessary total breakdown of family systems. I say unnecessary, because there are some practical, accessible skills that loved ones of a BPD sufferer can begin to employ right now to ease the tension in their relationships and restore valued connections.

In this post, I would like to introduce one such technique: Validation.

Validation is a term that was first employed in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is a therapeutic method designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan specifically to treat BPD. Validation is a DBT-based technique that is carefully designed to counteract the natural emotional response nearly every important communication has the potential to evoke in a BPD sufferer.

In the normal world of a person with BPD, their brain is not wired as sensitively to relational cues as a non-BPD individual’s brain is. So it is much easier for a BPD sufferer to feel invalidated or rejected by even a mundane or routine interaction with a loved one.

Validation is a direct counter to the BPD individual’s assumption that every communication is invalidating until proven otherwise. The rage, the suicidal actions, the emotional outbursts, the self-harming behaviors, the expressed fearfulness and the impulse control issues all stem from a feeling of being rejected, abandoned or invalidated by a person who holds an important role in the BPD individual’s life.

Learning how to successfully communicate with a loved one who has BPD is based upon understanding their inner emotional landscape and working with rather than against their BPD-influenced perception of relationships and events. Using Validation promotes that awareness and understanding, and opens up the door to better communications between the BPD sufferer and those who share their life.

In our next post, we will explore how to use Validation to facilitate communications with a BPD sufferer. So stay tuned!

If you or someone you care about is suffering from symptoms that appear to be related to Borderline Personality Disorder, don’t wait! Seek help right away as BPD can be life threatening. At Southlake Counseling, our staff has received extensive training from Dr. Linehan’s Behavioral Tech Institute. We have more than two decades of experience successfully treating BPD through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. We also offer supportive DBT-based skills-building groups for family, loved ones, and friends of BPD sufferers. Learn more at

Be Well,



Your Weekly Meditation: Fathers Matter

Fathers matter.

Whether our relationship with our own father was close or distant, the impact a father has in the life of a daughter is undeniable. And when we begin a family of our own, whether we share duties of child-rearing with a partner or shoulder the responsibility of both mother and father alone, our experience with our father goes with us. It serves us well to employ what Marianne Williamson, author of a “Return to Love,” terms “selective remembering” – “a conscious decision to focus on love and let the rest go.”

This week I resolve to: Celebrate what I learned from my own father, employing the timeless wisdom of “selective remembering” to pass along love and leave the rest behind.

Your Weekly Meditation: There is Always a Moment of Pure Innocence

There is always a moment of pure innocence.

Sometimes we do things or say things that we regret. Sometimes we don’t say things or do things that we wish we had said or done. We are not going to live perfectly – nor will anyone else around us live perfectly. But we can always find that moment of our own innocence. We can know that we are doing the very best that we can do in that moment as we live. We can learn from less-than-perfect experiences and carry that wisdom forward with us. We learn to forgive. We learn to embrace the present moment. We learn to love. We truly learn to live through our moments of imperfect innocence.

This week I resolve to: find my moment of innocence when anxiety, pain, fear, anger, regret, or loneliness lets me know I am judging myself for any action or decision I can no longer change.

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: May is National BPD Awareness Month

This month, we recognize the power of education and awareness efforts to save lives.

In 2008, May was designated as National Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month by the U.S. House of Representatives. H. Res 1005, spearheaded by Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), passed unanimously when put to a vote, and this year we celebrate the 4th year of ongoing awareness and education efforts by committed researchers and survivors to better serve affected individuals and their loved ones.

Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD as it is commonly called, affects an estimated 18 million Americans. Approximately 10 percent of BPD sufferers will commit suicide before adequate treatment is provided. 33 percent of youth who commit suicide have displayed prior symptoms associated with BPD.

When BPD first begins to rear its head in early adulthood, this brain-based psychiatric illness can have devastating results. Loved ones watch, first with puzzlement and later with fear and hopelessness, as their loved one begins to exhibit the severe emotional instability that characterizes BPD.

As BPD progresses, rageful outbursts, recurrent attempts at self-harm and suicide, extreme fear of abandonment (imagined or real), impulse control issues, and severe relational chaos become the norm rather than the exception. In the wake of the interpersonal devastation BPD causes, loved ones of a BPD-affected individual often feel unable to cope.

The good news is, there are several national organizations that are now actively engaged in year-round initiatives to connect BPD-affected individuals and their loved ones with sources of hope, inspiration, treatment, and ongoing support.

The National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD) has posted information about the history of National Borderline Personality Month and ideas for how to share information about BPD in your community.

Activist Tammy Green, herself a survivor of BPD, serves as a spokesperson for the NEA-BPD and urges BPD sufferers and their families not to retreat into silence and secrecy, but to reach out, speak out, and connect with others who may be able to offer support and assistance. As Tammy states in her article “BPD 2.0 – The Next Wave”:

Onward my friends. We are in this together. And what a wonderful ride it is, if only we will allow it. There is much to celebrate, and much to do.

For survivors like Tammy, it is all too clear how critical education and awareness-building actions are for sustaining affected individuals and their families through the often deadly progression of the disease. She urges affected individuals and their loved ones to educate themselves about the disease, and then pass what they have learned on to others as well.

This month, in recognition of the powerful impact awareness and education can have in the lives of those who suffer, consider sharing information about BPD in your community. I encourage you to use the NEA-BPD literature, posted on their website, to inform others about how BPD develops and progresses, and current recommended treatment programs that can help.

The NEA-BPD offers a wealth of printable and downloadable posters, graphics, and handouts that you can share both with your online social network and in your local community.  Consider accessing the following resources to share information about National BPD Awareness Month this month:

The McLean Hospital BPD Family Guidelines flyer is a comprehensive 11-page lifesaver for families of BPD-affected individuals.

The BPD Fact Sheet gives the latest statistics and initiatives underway to better support BPD-affected individuals and their families.

The BPD Brief offers a comprehensive overview of the origins, symptoms, and current treatment options.

The BPD Awareness Month Flyer is designed to reach out to those who are suffering in secrecy and silence with a message of hope.

Most importantly, if you or someone you love is suffering with BPD, or is displaying symptoms frequently associated with the onset of BPD, do not wait. I encourage you to contact one of the following national organizations for information about BPD support and treatment resources in your area:

National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI):

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD):

And if you live in or near Davidson, North Carolina, visit to learn more about our specialized BPD treatment programs. At the Southlake Center, we offer a full course of individual and group Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) options for BPD-affected individuals and their families.

Be Well,


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Good News – BPD Brains ARE Different!

This month marks the 4th anniversary of May as National Borderline Personality Awareness Month.

Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, is a serious psychiatric illness which affects an estimated six percent of the population – approximately 18 million Americans. BPD is an excruciatingly painful emotional dysregulation disorder that can be both debilitating and deadly.

Affected individuals frequently first begin showing signs of the illness in early adulthood, often suffering for five years or longer before an accurate diagnosis is made. In that time period, BPD sufferers are 400 times more likely to commit suicide than non-affected peers. Affected individuals often cycle in and out of psychiatric care centers, encountering blame, shame, and stigma instead of the knowledgeable treatment BPD demands and deserves.

Symptoms of BPD include recurrent suicidal urges or attempts, chronic emotional instability, relational chaos, intense and persistent fear of abandonment (real or imagined), impulse control issues, rageful outbursts, and self-harm. While some BPD-affected individuals are able to function well in certain areas of life, others are unable to hold down a job or maintain basic relational connections.  Medical professionals estimate that as many as one in five out of every patients admitted to psychiatric care centers are suffering from undiagnosed BPD.

With these statistics, it is clear that much work remains to be done to better understand the origins and development of BPD, and what type of treatment most effectively assists affected individuals with recovery.

What is already known is that BPD is often passed from parent to child, with a nearly 70 percent likelihood that an affected person has had a parent who also suffered from the illness.

What has not been understood to date is whether or not there are true grounds for treating BPD as a brain-based illness, but recent studies at Baylor College of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Medical Center are now changing that.

In 2008, Baylor College of Medicine conducted a first-of-its-kind research study that aimed to identify whether the brains of BPD-affected individuals function differently than the brains of non-affected peers. This study paired a BPD-affected individual with a non-affected partner to play a game of trust. Researchers used fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans to measure how the brains of BPD-affected individuals processed emotional and relational cues from their non-affected partners as the game progressed.

To do this, Baylor research scientists measured blood flow to the anterior insula of the brain, the region that is thought to be responsible for sending up a “red flag” that something is wrong.  As the games of trust progressed, fMRI scans showed that when trust was broken, the anterior insula in the brains of non-affected individuals would register increased blood flow. No such activity was measured in the brains of BPD-affected game players, which for scientists was a clear signal that BPD sufferers do not process relational cues with the same acuity and intensity as non-affected peers.

The outcome of the Baylor study showed that BPD-affected individuals lacked the basic ability to pick up on social cues from their non-affected partners. Scientists now believe this difference in brain function is responsible for the persistent and often pervasive relational instability which BPD sufferers exhibit.

In a second study conducted just one year later in 2009 at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, research scientists snapped into place yet another piece of the brain-based puzzle that is BPD. In the Mount Sinai study, researchers set out to discover why BPD-affected individuals experienced chronic inability to self-regulate emotions. Paired against a control group of non-affected peers, 19 BPD sufferers viewed a series of pleasant and disturbing images, and researchers used fMRI scans to measure blood flow to the amygdala, or emotion processing center of the brain. When BPD-affected participants viewed the disturbing images, blood flow to their amygdala far outpaced amygdala responses of their non-affected control group peers.

Mount Sinai researchers are using this information to better understand the origin of the extreme emotional reactions BPD sufferers often display. The hope is that in the future, this information can be used to target medications and treatments to better serve the recovery needs of BPD-affected individuals.

Both the Baylor and the Mount Sinai studies offer good news to BPD-affected individuals and their loved ones. With now conclusive evidence that brain-based differences exist between BPD sufferers and non-affected individuals, a new and hopeful horizon for better treatment options for BPD sufferers is coming into view.

To read more about the Baylor study: CLICK HERE

To read more about the Mount Sinai study: CLICK HERE

If you or someone you love is suffering from BPD, or if you have or observe in a loved one symptoms that match those outlined in this post, I urge you to contact Southlake Counseling today for assistance in recovering from this painful but very treatable disease. Learn more at

Be Well,


Your Weekly Meditation: We Are All Mothers

We are all mothers.

As Mother’s Day approaches this Sunday, we can contemplate our relationship with our own mothers, but also all of the important connections we maintain, and the critical role our relationships play in easing not only our own loneliness and uncertainty, but that of others as well. In this way, we are all mothers. Seldom do we give our presence in this world the credit and appreciation it deserves. We matter. Our simple presence can heal hearts, inspire hope, and uplift others….and ourselves.

This week I resolve to: send some appreciation my way. Buy myself flowers. And chocolates. Go out in nature or watch a favorite film. Call someone I love just to tell them I love them….then do the same for myself.

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: The Importance of Following Your Dreams

Marianne Williamson once wrote, “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

A few years ago, I received a note from a former client. In her letter, she wrote to me, “Kimberly, thank you for following your dreams, therefore providing me a safe place to recover.”

When I first conceived the idea to use my own experiences recovering from an eating disorder to open a treatment center to help others heal, was I a bit daunted by my dream?


Were there days I thought, “what was I thinking – I must have been crazy. I just can’t make this work.”

Of course.

Did I quake in my own shoes a bit as I commenced to learning what I needed to know about choosing a location, hiring and managing staff, learning about financials and recordkeeping, marketing and public relations, and designing the kind of program I would have wanted to attend when I was in the midst of my own healing journey?

Without a shadow of a doubt.

Yet today, Southlake Counseling has been in existence for more than 12 years, and we have helped literally hundreds and hundreds of people reach for their dreams within the safety and support of our walls.

It is important to follow our dreams. We all have dreams, and in those dreams, we see the very pinnacle of who we can be, expressed as that stretch-goal we call a dream….the one we think is very nearly impossible but which simply will not go quietly away.

Our dreams show us who we really are, and what we are truly capable of.

The only obstacle standing in between us and the culmination of those dreams exists in our own minds, in the place that insists, “But that is impossible. You can’t do that.”

To which we eventually must say, “Oh really? Says who!” if we want to ever have the opportunity of a lifetime to live out our own vision for who we are.

This is why we are so addicted to reality television. We see other people going for it, succeeding, crashing and burning, getting up, trying again. We see that their motivation, be it money, fame, self esteem, health, love, self expression through the arts, seeing the world, is so powerful that they are willing to expose their innermost intimate thoughts and fears in front of us all in order to reach for their dreams…..just so they can know if it was really possible to be all they can be or not.

This is also why we are alternately horrified or inspired by their example, depending on where we are in our relationship to our own unexpressed dreams.

It can be such a rush to celebrate a hero, but at some point our longing awakens to be the hero we are celebrating.

This is why the note I received from that former client was so meaningful to me. It is why I love the quote from Marianne Williamson, because I can look back and see that all the courage and perseverance it took to follow my dream of opening Southlake Counseling has not only liberated me to embrace my highest vision for my own life as truth, but has liberated others to follow in my footsteps in their own lives, as I have followed in the footsteps of Marianne Williamson and others who came before to inspire me.

You never know who is watching – your spouse, your children, your best friend, your boss, your colleague, the homeless person on the corner, your own self – when you take your dreams by the hand and say “lead me there”.

You never know who you will inspire and liberate. You never know who you will meet – outside and within yourself – when you switch off the reality television show and jump in to live it for yourself.

At Southlake Counseling, we have a personalized “Say Yes to Life” Wellness Program that encompasses all facets of life from body to mind to heart to spirit. At Southlake Counseling, we define “wellness” as the pinnacle of your ability to say Yes to the challenges, choices, opportunities, and relationships in your own unique and unfolding life. Saying “Yes to Life” means saying Yes to placing your health and wellness goals first in your own life. When you are living in the presence of your own remarkable wellness, you can also fully enjoy and be present for your loved ones, your colleagues, your peers, your community, and your world. If you are dreaming of a life lived fully, contact us today to find out more about saying “Yes” to your dreams through a personalized wellness plan designed just for you.

Be Well,


I Don’t Need Others to Change to Be Happy

It is a very painful place to live – on the edge of our seats, chair’s edge cutting into our legs, holding our breath as we watch those around us to see if they are going to change in the way we think we need them to change in order for us to be happy. Today, we can begin to perceive that it is not others who need to change, but we ourselves. Today, we can begin to ask ourselves, “Is it true that I need so-and-so to do such-and-such in order to experience happiness? Is that really true?”

This week I resolve to: challenge my assumptions that I need others to change in order for me to be happy, and ask myself how I can find happiness in each moment even if others stay exactly as they are.

‘Tis Always the Season for Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be an un-gentle topic – especially in a time of year when we are striving with extra-special effort to feel charitable towards others and ourselves. We can be tempted to hurry ourselves along through the process of forgiveness in order to exude the kind of good cheer we think the season requires of us. But forgiveness takes the time it takes in any season of the year. So this week, take some time to identify relationships or situations that carry with them some unresolved stress, and remind yourself that you are entitled to feel your feelings, to process your pain, and to engage in the five stage grief process of denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and letting go until forgiveness flows naturally rather than feeling forced.

Today’s Affirmation: I don’t have to rush myself through the process of forgiveness just because it is the holidays. I can take my time, feel my feelings, and let go of un-forgiveness as I feel ready.

You’re Talking, But Am I Really Listening?

You’re talking, but am I really listening?  

Too often couples are seen in therapy due to communication problems. Phrases like, “he/she just doesn’t understand me,” or “I just don’t feel like he/she is listening to me,” are all too common phrases.

Many times when we are in heated discussions with a loved one, we are thinking about what we are going to say next, or trying to jump in to get our point across. Subsequently, we are not being “mindful” of what the other person is saying. Being “mindful” is being fully present in the moment you are in just as it is unfolding in front of you.  If while your loved one is speaking, you are thinking about what you are going to say, you are already in the future and not in the moment.

Mindfulness is a skill that is the core of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It’s a skill that requires practice because our society tends to promote being “mindless” by encouraging multi-tasking. One way to get started in becoming more “mindful,” or more fully present in the moment when having a neutral or pleasant discussion, (for both parties) with your loved one is to focus on what they’re saying, pay attention to their tone, and focus on understanding. If you feel the urge to “jump in” to assert your view, just notice that urge, but bring your attention back to what your loved one is saying. Feeling understood and listened to are powerful tools in strengthening relationships.    

Shannon T. Brewer, M.A., L.P.A.