The Holiday Season is upon us

By: Verity Brown

Somewhere between back-to-school shopping and snacking on Halloween candy, I blinked my eyes and suddenly, the weather was colder and the trees were colorful.

For many people, winter brings excitement and nostalgia. The smell of pumpkin pies and fir trees can evoke feelings of gratitude and warmth as we gather with loved ones and reflect upon the year. Socks get thicker, blankets get cozier, and fires get crackling! Picture-perfect, right?

Not always.

For all the joys that the holidays can bring, they also bring stress, conflict, overwhelm, and sometimes grief.

If the thought of standing in mile-long lines at Best Buy or facing a dinner with the relatives leaves you with dread… fear not!  Here are some tips and techniques to keep the most magical time of the year from becoming a full-blown nightmare.


Mindfulness practices are the key components to changing our instinctual (ahem- impulsive) behaviors. Pause and notice when challenging emotions arise within yourself; paying close attention to the thoughts that start firing and sensations that start brewing. Perhaps the car honking behind you is increasing your heart rate… perhaps thoughts of “why me?!” are flooding in as you’re waiting for another delayed flight.

Regardless of the context of the situation, observing what is happening internally gives us useful information about the present moment. And, just by observing, we mentally secure a little cushion between ourselves and the emotions, thoughts, and/or sensations we are feeling.

Come to Your Senses

If we find ourselves battling overwhelming emotions, distraction can be a great short-term option. Where we go, our five senses come too- (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell). Take time to pause and notice your surroundings, searching for small pleasures in large crowds.

Maybe it’s the sweet taste of your hot cocoa or the spicy smell of peppermint. Perhaps it’s the feeling of your favorite sweatshirt, or the sounds of falling snow. Find what lifts your spirits and enjoy it with as many senses as you can!

Use a Gentle Manner

The holiday season usually means increased contact with other humans. When stress is running high, it can be tempting to snap, scold, or scrutinize others. Keeping a sense of humor and a gentle manner with others increases the likeliness that both people will walk away from interactions feeling positively about themselves. Relaxing our posture, using an easy tone of voice, and staying aware of our body language can help cue our brains to release tension.

Comprehensive DBT for Complex Eating Disorders


Are you struggling with a severe eating disorder and don’t know where to turn? If you have been through traditional treatment for your eating disorder and are still suffering, read more about our newest program that is coming in Spring of 2019.

Eating disorders are complex and serious illnesses and traditional treatment does not always resolve symptoms adequately. In these instances, Comprehensive DBT can be another option.


Individuals can benefit from comprehensive DBT for an eating disorder when:

  • Traditional treatment for the eating disorder has not yielded desired results

  • Emotion dysregulation is central to the eating disorder symptoms

  • Significant co-morbidities such as substance use, mood disorders, self-harm, or suicidality impacts standard treatment

  • There is a history of significant therapy interfering behavior(s)

If you are interested in learning more about Comprehensive DBT for Complex Eating Disorders, please contact us.

Rock Climbing - Team Building Event


At a recent team building event, members of the PBS team went to Earth Treks in Crystal City for an afternoon of team building. Staff participants had the opportunity to practice individual climbs as well as trust exercises as a team. The team activities in particular helped staff to tap into their skills of communication, listening and observation in order to meet challenges. 

Not only did this experience help to build trust and rapport among the staff, but some staff members who were afraid of heights did their own mini-intensive exposure to help them overcome their fears!  

What is a true friend?

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Have you ever wondered about a friendship in you life? How do you know what a true friendship involves? According to, you choose your friends, not your family, and in many ways, the people we bring into our lives intentionally can mean just as much, if not more. Our friends help us live more meaningful, joyful lives in so many ways, and we should never under-appreciate the value of a true friend who supports us through thick and thin.

1. Good Friends Accept You for Who You Are

A truly supportive friend will love you for the person you are, flaws and all. That doesn’t mean friends have to agree with each other all of the time. In fact, different outlooks can help expand our horizons. Still, a true friend will accept you and even find beauty in your quirks and imperfections.

2. Friends Stick Around During the Good Times and the Bad

Life has its ups and downs. Having supportive friends can help us get through the hard times. A true friend, because they love you, will stand by to help overcome obstacles. That could mean giving a shoulder to cry on, listening to our problems, or finding ways to cheer us up. Those small gestures can mean a lot especially when times get tough.

3. A Real Friend Celebrates Life with You

In going through life, a friend’s support not only matters during the hard times. A friend means someone who genuinely wants to see you succeed. Unfortunately, disingenuous people may feel insecure and want you to fail. But a true friend celebrates your accomplishments and feels happy to see things go well.

4. True Friends Will Make the Time to See You

Sometimes our hectic schedules make it difficult to see our friends as much as we would like. A best friend will treat you as a priority and set aside quality time to catch up, whether through a phone call, stopping by the house, or even hopping on a flight to see you.

5. A Real Friend Will Tell You the Truth, Even If You Don’t Like It

If you choose your friends the right way, you’ll surround yourself with people who share your values. In this way, you can always rely on friends to give good advice and help guide you through life. Sometimes, we may not notice ourselves falling off track. A good friend will help us make the right choices even if that means saying something we don’t always want to hear.

6. A True Friend Encourages You to Achieve Your Goals

We should all work to become the best version of ourselves, and a good friend will support you in working toward personal improvement. Whether it means cutting out unhealthy habits, pursuing a dream job, or cultivating a creative outlet, friends will give us the motivation to help follow through with the things we want to achieve. 

7. A Real Friend Helps Us Feel Comfortable in Our Own Skin

Sometimes we just can’t force that special connection between friends. It just happens. Two people come together and feel completely at ease being themselves. Whether it means laughing at silly jokes for hours or talking the night away, a long-lasting friendship involves an effortless connection in which two people understand each other when simply being themselves.

Do you know of a special person who shows all the signs of a true friend? Don’t forget to be a good friend in return and show how much you care. Even if you haven't talked in a while, remember to reach out to the important people in your life who love and support you.



“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” – Anonymous

One of the DBT Distress Tolerance skills is that of distraction with Comparisons. You can practice this by comparing yourself to individuals who are less fortunate, or to a time when you felt different. As we approach the holiday of giving thanks, consider taking some time to reflect on what you are grateful for in your life. Perhaps even start a gratitude list!



Today was the final day of spirit week the team celebrated 80’s day!



It’s “favorite sports team day” at Potomac Behavioral Solutions for our fourth day of spirit week! If you haven’t already joined in the fun, consider doing so tomorrow for our last day of spirit week…which will be 80’s day!



HAPPY HALLOWEEN from Potomac Behavioral Solutions! Our team showed up today with all sorts of creative and festive costumes…we hope you have a wonderful day!



It’s Hat Day at Potomac Behavioral Solutions! We are on day 2 of Spirit Week here at the office…stay tuned for the rest of week!

Spirit Week: Day 1!


Pajama Day at Potomac Behavioral Solutions! Today was just a normal day at PBS…with one small difference…

Remember - All are welcome to join in the fun and accumulate some positive experiences!

Join us for Spirit Week at Potomac Behavioral Solutions!


In the spirit of the season and upcoming ghoulish holiday, we here at PBS will be celebrating the season with a SPIRIT WEEK 10/29 - 11/2!  

Monday (10/29): Pajama Day

Tuesday (10/30): Hat Day

Wednesday (10/31): HALLOWEEN! Costume Day

Thursday (11/1): Favorite Sports Team Day

Friday (11/2): 80s Day!

Come one, come all and please feel free to JOIN IN THE FUN!

Dr. Kim's Lecture at Georgetown University


By: Dr. Aileen Kim

Last month, I gave a talk to post doctorate clinicians at Georgetown University about Mindful Management of Shared Treatment with Borderline Personality Disorder Patients.

Many patients with BPD see a therapist for psychotherapy and a psychiatrist for medication management. This treatment model is commonly called "split treatment", but I prefer to describe it as "shared treatment" which I consider a more accurate reflection of what is happening when the model is being used effectively.

We examined ways that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy principles can be applied by non-prescribing therapists and prescribing clinicians alike to integrate care for BPD patients. Additionally, we discussed how using our own skills as clinicians can be part of care for caregivers and create an effective professional culture. 

Interview with Alyson Nuno


Interview with Alyson Nuno

What inspired you to become a mental health clinician?

As a child I was drawn to idea of working in a helping field, such as being a nurse or doctor. It was a natural calling for me, but I didn’t know I would eventually become a mental health clinician until after I graduated from college. In I majored in foreign languages with a dream of working in teaching and translating, but when I entered the “real world” after school I found myself in jobs that did not quite fit where I saw myself long term. At some point I decided to just go for it and pursue a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling. To me, it was a life worth living goal.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Potomac Behavioral Solutions?

I really enjoy the team aspect. It is comforting to know that I don’t have to operate alone and that supportive colleagues are always right around the corner. It makes the environment more comfortable, and enhances the work I do so that I can be a more effective clinician to my patients. Additionally, I truly enjoy working with my patients and feel lucky to be part of their journey toward their life worth living. I come to work everyday knowing that I am in the field I love, and it’s a good feeling.

What is your favorite Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) skill, and why?

Checking the facts is my favorite DBT skill because it really helps me to slow down and get out of Emotion mind. Sometimes, it seems like what I’m feeling in the moment is truth or factual, but once I’m able to sit down and objectively examine the data, it makes it easier to think things through and problem solve effectively. Basically, it help me get to wise mind faster since I’m able to detach from some of the emotions that might cloud my view on Wise Mind.

How do you find a balance of acceptance and change in your own life?

Well, I’m very naturally change oriented so I don’t have to work much for that part. However, I carve out time every day to work on acceptance. I make it a daily practice to use mindfulness and radical acceptance to notice when I’m not in acceptance, and pushing for change when it is not effective to do so. Intentionally practicing this helps me find that balance in my own life.

Now, for a bit of fun: What is your favorite hobby, and why?

Crossfit is one of my favorite hobbies and one of my favorite PLEASE skills. I find that the physical activity helps me to unwind, and it’s actually one of my favorite forms of self care as it reduces my vulnerability to stress. Not only that, but I also use it as a mindfulness practice since I focus on what I’m doing in the present moment and increase awareness of what’s going on with my body. The community aspect of Crossfit is something else that draws me to it, because I form relationships with the people I work out with, and we share that common bond. It’s empowering and a lot of fun!

Is there anything else that you’d like the readers to know?

I speak 3 other languages, and I have an interest in art and art history. If you ever want to practice Italian, French, or German, stop on by my office! I learned these languages in high school and actually wanted to be a translator. In college I studied this further and traveled abroad to enhance my foreign language skills. Another fun fact about me is that I have 2 cats and that I love ALL furry creatures! I am hoping to get a dog one day, too, but right now that decision is up in the air.

OCD Awareness: OCD and Anxiety in the Classroom


Did you know?

“OCD and anxiety are very common in children and can take a tremendous toll on the child’s school performance and social functioning. Approximately 1 in every 200 children in the United States suffers from OCD or a related disorder.

  • Over half of adults with OCD report that their symptoms began before age 18.

  • The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that around 30% of youth have experienced an anxiety disorder.

  • A recent IOCDF-funded study has shown that OCD significantly impairs an individual’s ability to take advantage of educational opportunities.

  • A recent study showed that OCD has a pervasive and profound impact on education across all educational levels, particularly when it has an early age of onset.

Unfortunately, the professionals who interact with youth the most (such as school personnel and pediatricians) are not trained to recognize anxiety/OCD in children. This means that the average child with a mental health condition will wait years after displaying symptoms to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Anxiety in the Classroom was developed by the International OCD Foundation to reduce the negative impact of anxiety and OCD on youth.”

For more information, check out Anxiety in the Classroom, an online resource center for school personnel, students, and their families.

OCD Awareness Week: Get UNSTUCK!


Have you taken a look at the International OCD Foundation yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Their website has tons of information, resources, stories, and videos - and can be a support through one’s journey with OCD.

This week make sure to also check out this wonderful resource to find free screenings of UNSTUCK: an OCD kids movie, which are showing in honor of OCD Awareness Week 2018.

“Thousands of kids, teens and adults with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are trapped in a vicious cycle of worries, intrusive thoughts and rituals. And while families and loved ones are desperate to help them, fighting OCD takes time and specialized therapy. To uncover what OCD is, and what it isn’t, filmmakers Kelly Anderson and Chris Baier focus on an unlikely group of experts: Kids!

UNSTUCK is an award-winning short film that documents OCD strictly through the eyes of young people. The short documentary avoids sensationalizing compulsions and obsessions, and instead reveals the complexity of a disorder that affects the brain and behavior. As the group of resilient kids and teens roadmap their process of recovery, the film inspires viewers to believe it is possible to fight their worst fears and beat back OCD.”

Additionally, take a look at this free facebook therapist chat on Wednesday night, hosted by an OCD therapist who is also a parent of a child with OCD.



I never pictured myself as a person who would struggle with OCD. When I started treatment, it was because I was at my breaking point. Here is a brief synopsis of my path to recovery (which I am still on), and I hope my words can reach someone who needs to hear them. 

For 3 years, I struggled with terrifying intrusive thoughts. It started a few years ago, after some stressful life events, with a thought I had about taking a knife and cutting my wrist. I was terrified. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, and when I tried, I’d become more obsessed with figuring it out. Was I a suicidal person? No. Did I have any reason to want to hurt myself? No. I felt crazy. I started avoiding knives and having anxiety attacks and googled about it until I started getting other instructive thoughts. Thoughts about sexuality, assault, child molestation, leaving the gas on when I made tea, germs, you name it. My major “compulsion” was reassurance seeking - I spent hours googling the thoughts, and I asked everyone that knew me if they thought I was going to be okay. It was taking over my brain and I could not believe the person I had become. I was sure I was going insane and would end up in a mental hospital. It was rock bottom for me. 

I had struggled with anxiety for years, but OCD was different. OCD feels like a personal attack that you can’t control. It feels like something horrible is in your brain, making you think or imagine terrible things that don’t align at all with your morals or beliefs. Yet you have no control over it. It is the WORST feeling I’ve ever had. However, there is a silver lining to this story. 

When I started going to treatment, I never thought anything would help me. I was ready to give up and live in this anguish forever. OCD had taken my independence, my confidence, my relationship, and any positive beliefs I had about myself. I was DONE letting it take over. I started therapy, accepted an OCD diagnosis, and eventually began ERP (exposure and response prevention) therapy. I won’t sugar coat it - it was torture to face my worst fears head on, but...slowly, IT WORKED. I was amazed. It felt so freeing and empowering to take back my mind. Little by little, I regained my confidence, I stopped googling, I began thinking in a healthier way, and I stopped fearing the intrusive thoughts. I also did an intensive program with PBS for a week, which seriously tested my patience and my endurance, but which rid some of those thoughts for good (or at least for a while).

Now, I have rebuilt myself and feel stronger than I have in YEARS. I truly never thought it could happen. I got on medication, faced the horrible thoughts coming from this disorder (over and over and over again), took care of my self, and worked extremely hard to separate myself from OCD. I may have lost a few people along the way, but I am better for it and now know how much support I have in my life from others. I can honestly say I feel amazing and I am so proud of myself. I have my life back! And I couldn’t have done it without my treatment providers. OCD does not have to take over - and for what it’s worth, it made me realize how strong I am and how resilient we all can be.



The second week of October is OCD Awareness Week!

According to The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), “OCD Awareness Week is an international effort taking place during the second week in October each year to raise awareness and understanding about obsessive compulsive disorder and related disorders, with the goal of helping more people to get timely access to appropriate and effective treatment. Launched in 2009 by the IOCDF, OCD Awareness Week is now celebrated by a number of organizations across the US and around the world, with events such as OCD screening days, lectures, conferences, fundraisers, online Q&As, and more.”

Check out the International OCD Foundation for more information and for resources.

OCD International Foundation & Mental Health Advocacy Capital Walk


According to the OCD International Foundation, “One out of 100 people live with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) — a serious mental disorder affecting not only the lives of those who struggle with it, but also those of their family, members, friends and loved ones. OCD is one of many mental health conditions, which altogether impact 1 in 5 people in the US alone.”

International OCD Awareness Week is October 7–13, and TOMORROW kicks it off with the Mental Health Advocacy Capital Walk in Washington DC!

Check out this link for more information.

BFRB Awareness Story: A Journey towards Acceptance and Freedom

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I’ve tried for a long time to feel “perfect.” I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I yell at those I love, I eat when I’m not hungry and sometimes I’m too tired to brush my teeth before I go to sleep. When I’m stressed, I pull my hair. When I’m bored, I pull. Or excited. Overwhelmed. Highly caffeinated, or not caffeinated enough. I frequently wake up in the middle of the night, subconsciously pulling my hair. But I’m not writing this to tell you how I pull my hair (or used to) all the time. I’m writing to let you know how I don’t let it control my life.

Pulling makes me feel out of control. When I first started pulling, I had dreams about cutting my hands off. I felt like a monster with a broken brain. For some reason, my brain urged me to pull hair from my own body, look at it, play with it, and discard it. Something must be terribly wrong with me.

There were times when I wished I had a different condition, something more socially acceptable. Hair pulling felt so obvious. At the peak of my pulling, people asked my boyfriend if I was sick. Like, my hair was so thin people wondered if I had cancer. It felt awful to know that I had done that to myself.

I would spend hours getting ready to go out with friends, styling my hair in 100 different ways to cover the bald patches. Often, I would decide at the last minute to stay in. Or, I would go out, have fun, only to feel punched in the stomach when I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. “You look stupid,” I would say to myself. “You are so ugly.” “You are embarrassing.”

Here’s the truth that I have learned: I am not a monster. My brain is not broken, nothing is wrong with me. I am not stupid or ugly, nor do I need to be embarrassed by who I am. I pull my hair out, and though, through self-acceptance, I’ve significantly reduced my pulling - I may always pull my hair out. And that’s okay. I am not defined by my hair.

Who am I? I am a kind and caring friend. I am an accomplished teacher, a loving fiancé. I love ice cream, college football, and playing board games. I’m not perfect. I am not my hair.

Singer/songwriter India.Arie writes:

“Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?

Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?

Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?

I am not my hair.

I am not this skin.

I am the soul that lives within.”

Let me be clear - it took me a long time to work through self-acceptance. It’s something I continue to work on every single day. It’s not easy. But it’s so, so worth it.

So I smile when I look in the mirror, even though I wish my hair was thicker. I carry fidgets with me everywhere, and when people ask, I let them know that I’m working on not messing with my hair. I ask friends and family to tap me on the shoulder or say my name when I’m lost in pulling, because it’s not embarrassing to have those who love you help out. It’s so much easier for me to be honest. For me to recognize, “I have a big deadline coming up, so it makes sense that I’m pulling more.” “I’m sitting down to watch a movie, so I should grab a hat.” “I pull the most right when I get home from work, so I’ll leave a fidget by the door.” And I celebrate the times I’m a few steps ahead. When we took a road trip and I wore a bandanna the whole time - including on gas station bathroom breaks. When I take the time to go to yoga so I’m more calm going into a stressful week at work. When I leave myself notes on the bathroom mirror like, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

I learned my truth by embracing the parts of me that I love: by rewarding myself for love, not punishing myself for pulling. By working through the stress that causes me to pull. By being honest about who I am.