Why do you get out of bed?

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You may think someone has it all together.  But what you don't see is often the very personal and invisible struggle they use to fuel their life each day. You don't see them under the covers in the morning wrestling with themselves to just sit up and put their feet on the ground.  You don't see the very personal reasons they never give up or what the Japanese call Ikigai (ee-kee-gah-ee). 

Many people in my life know my son has cystic fibrosis. It's not a secret.  Just google my name and my work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or being a mom of a child with chronic illness will surely pop up.  Some know what we went through before diagnosis and the trauma he (we) endured. But only a very few know of my personal journey with PTSD as a result and how, while so very vulnerable and wide open, I found some good help and some not so good help.

Why am I sharing this today?

I guess I’m thinking someone will read this today who, on the outside looks ok (maybe even more than ok) to everyone who knows them, but may have no way to even begin to share those thoughtsthose scary moments that send them into a sort of emotional paralysis, maybe even on a daily basis.  And I want them to know, that life is not really about being ok or getting yourself together BEFORE you let someone see you.  I want you to know, it’s about showing up when you aren’t ok and sometimes proving to yourself that you can indeed at least get out of bed today.

I want you to know if (or when) you ever project your own power or beauty or creativity or worthiness or whatever it is you think you don’t have yourself onto that person that has their stuff together just know this...everyone had to decide why they were getting out of bed today.

My Ikigai

For me, on really tough days, I get out of bed for my children and those I love. If that doesn’t work it is then to fight cystic fibrosis with and for my son. If that doesn’t work, it is to get up for and walk along side the children and families I serve who right now may be in an even harder struggle than I could even fathom. A struggle I may find myself in one day.  

Usually the first reason is all I need, but I sometimes need all three to plant my feet on the floor and rise. 

I am human.

I get so very tired. 
I get confused. 
I get sad beyond measure.
I get angry at the messiness of life.

I get sick of disease and suffering. 
At times, I am intolerant of people who make up stuff to be upset about (super judgey I know!).
And at times, I’m intolerant of myself when I make up stuff to be upset about!

Coffee Helps

But on those kind of days, I get up any way. I go through each of my 3 reasons and I put my feet on the ground and I just stand up (and I make strong coffee, good strong coffee).

I know in the deepest crevices of my being that teens need to see someone a little older than them (or a lot) surviving, dragging themselves through the muck, and making it through when it’s hard. They just need to know it’s going to be ok and that sometimes it’s going to be really awesome too; that there are and will be so many (countless really) mornings you can’t wait to wake up. They need to know the struggle is worth it...no matter what...and that staying in the tension may not be easy, or comfortable, but it’s possible, and certainly worth it.

Death sucks. Diseases sucks. Mental illness can suck. Trump definitely sucks. But these things are also part of life and have their place at the table right next to pleasure, awe, fun, peace, and laughter. 

Helping teens find their ikigai

People ask me all the time: “How can you work with suffering or dying children, that’s so sad? Oh, wow, you work with teens, god bless you, that’s a tough crowd!” Well, the answer I’ve come up with is because I have to get up today too. I have to face the very fears I struggle with as well. I have to know I’m not alone in this. And I do know. I’m not alone.  And the quiet presence of someone who simply knows and accepts this is very powerful - in fact, even if begrudgingly, it may be your very super power whether you know it or not!!

It is why I’m a therapist. I really have no choice. It is one of the reasons I get up every morning.  


Jody Pittner, ATR, LPC


The Power of Allowing

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One of the most powerful aspects of art therapy is what it allows to emerge within a session.  At a time when many teens feel overly constrained by obligations, packed schedules, and even the well-meaning advice from adults in their lives, art therapy can provide the space and time to JUST BE.  Art expression allows teens to explore their inner world so that they can begin listening to the whispers of the soul which are so often muffled by the busyness of life.  

Freedom and Control:  Art therapy allows both the freedom and control many teens are longing for in their lives.  During an art therapy session they get to choose what is created, how it is created, the materials they use, and ultimately the narrative they share or choose not to share about their art.  This sense of autonomy can be explored in session and the art therapist can assist teens in developing new, appropriate ways of asserting oneself and the need for more independence in everyday life.

Expression and Expansion: Art therapy is also a safe space to express and expand into difficult emotions which may feel too overwhelming or even unsafe to explore in life.  Using color, texture, physical movement, mess-making, and other kinesthetic qualities of certain materials can lead to cathartic release within the body.  Getting what is stuck out in a safe way frees the body and mind to process what may be underneath intense emotions like anger, grief, jealousy, hatred, and frustration.  This powerful form of expression can allow teens to learn how to respect difficult emotions and better understand and meet their own needs.

Containment and Closure:  While art therapy can provide powerful ways to express and let go, it can be equally powerful in offering a way to contain.  At times, it is appropriate to find ways to contain difficult emotions, memories, or aspects of a traumatic experience to establish a feeling of safety and control.  When overwhelming emotion is spilling into every area of life, art expression, especially when combined with mindfulness, can honor the pain while also providing a teen with a safe way to contain it.  Creating boxes, containers, folding drawings, and safely storing representations of pain that feels “too big” can allow teens to feel they are able to approach things in their own time and when they are ready.  Containment art can also allow important endings or closures to be marked and released.  

Whether your teen needs a space to simply be, a safe place to express and explore overwhelming emotions, or a way to contain and safely unpack difficult life experiences when they are ready, art therapy offers a powerful way forward through the simple power of allowing.  

[Hear more from Jody on this topic]

Does art therapy sound like something your teen would benefit from at this time?  Schedule a free 15 minute consult with Jody to learn more and get your questions answered!


Are you are Truly Connected Parent? Do you want to get parenting tips, support, and the latest on all the program offerings for you and your teen?  Then subscribe and stay Truly Connected!

The Cost of Loneliness

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According to a 2009 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, “Health risks associated with social isolation have been compared in magnitude to the well-known dangers of smoking cigarettes and obesity."  Social isolation can also lead to depression and can magnify feelings of helplessness and unworthiness.

Being alone and being lonely are not the same.  Being alone can be rejuvenating, spiritual, and even necessary for our health.  You can be alone and feel a deep sense of connected-ness to yourself and the world.  Loneliness however, is a deep sense of something missing, a profound disconnection, or not feeling relevant. Loneliness robs a person of feeling true joy or a deep sense of belonging in the world.

+ Teens can be particularly vulnerable to loneliness +

While there are of course many contributing factors to consider, increasing use and over dependence on social media can be problematic in terms of connection and self-worth. While social media has its good qualities, for many teens, social acceptance and self-esteem can become so strongly tied to "likes" and "comments" that it replaces true social connection and support. Getting 100's of people to "like" a photo may bring initial excitement, but deep inside teens know many of the people may not really know or genuinely care about them.

+ Being alone versus being lonely +

With so many distractions and constant connection to devices and social media, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be truly centered and connected to ourselves.  We may wander through each day, bouncing from task to task until we no longer feel satisfied or enlivened by anything.  We may even be surrounded by people constantly while still feeling disconnected.  We may avoid ourselves by numbing out with TV, eating, or even drinking or drugs. The busyness has crept in and robbed us of feeling joy when we are simply in our own presence.

+Antidotes to loneliness +

Connection to self.  Let’s start with connection to self.  To highlight the difference between the richness of being alone and being lonely, please take a moment to watch this amazing video:


The poet highlights the task of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-exploration as a way to combat feeling lonely when we are alone.  It is a wonderful thing to give yourself permission to be alone, to take yourself out on dates, to practice an art form, and to learn what really makes you happy.  Self-love is the foundation for any true connection with others, for we can only give from a full cup.  As parent, we must practice this ourselves while also encouraging our children to do the same.

Connection to creativity.  Making time to be creative puts us in contact with the Source.  This connection to raw, creative energy is enlivening, refreshing, and provides a feeling of connected-ness with oneself.  Through the act of creation we come closer to ourselves and can explore the inner landscape while at the same time using the art we’ve created to share our story.  This “going in” and “coming out” through creative expression further develops the the feeling of interconnected-ness we all need as humans.   

Connection to others.  While practicing self-love and enjoying our own company is critical to ward off loneliness, so is actual connection with others.  To understand the difference between connection and contact refer to my previous post here.  We all need positive social engagement.  We all need to feel seen, heard, and understood.  We all need each other.  For teens it is critical to provide opportunities for connection beyond school and social media.  Groups that provided positive social engagement and ongoing support can prove invaluable during the teen years.  Whether volunteering with an organization your teen is passionate about or getting involved in an actual support group like Truly Connected Teen Art Therapy Group, being part of a group will allow your teen to learn how to be deeply connected to themselves, their creativity, and their peers.

P.S. Want a cool tool to help your teen BUST loneliness?  Enter your information and get my favorite Love Yourself First tip sheet.

P.P.S.  Ready to help your teen feel true connection and acceptance?  Learn more about Teen Art Therapy Group here!



Are you are Truly Connected Parent? Do you want to get parenting tips, support, and the latest on all the program offerings for you and your teen?  Then subscribe and stay Truly Connected!

We've been featured on FreshPractice!!


Exciting news everyone! 

Truly Connected Counseling and Art Therapy has been featured on FreshPractice, a website offering therapy office design inspiration for therapists, by therapists. Here’s an excerpt from the interview with practice owner, Jody R. Pittner:


I want my clients to look forward to coming in each week. I want them to feel inspired and comfortable to open up to new perspectives.  I want the environment to allow creativity to flow and ideas to spring up during session.



In the featured post, you’ll discover how Jody went about creating this “modern, cool” office making use of every square inch as well as advice for therapists designing their own spaces.  For the full feature article, click here!

Truly Connected Counseling and Art Therapy is a counseling and art therapy practice in Cleveland, OH that specializes in helping teens through both individual and group therapy. They also offers unique, one-day seasonal camp experiences for teens, giving each participant opportunity to connect to themselves, others, and nature.

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How nature inspires awe and gratitude

Louie Schwartzberg beautifully demonstrates how a connection and deep respect of nature inspires awe and gratitude.  His talk and life's story will remind you how important it is to keep our sense of wonder alive and give our children opportunities to do the same.  Beauty can heal us!

The Nature Effect - How Nature Resets the Brain


I have a confession; the nature world absolutely amazes me!  I can sit and watch a 12 inch by 12 inch square of earth and see a whole universe!  The sunsets. The sunrises. The vivid colors of flowers and butterflies. The way the mist dials back all the colors and the way the rising sun then burns it off, transforming the landscape into a vivid painting.  A rainbow. A flower appearing magically in my yard that I did not plant. The way an owl hoots at what seems like the exact moment I needed to hear it, somehow validating or confirming a thought or a decision I was struggling to make.  It all amazes me.  This connection to nature takes me from my busy monkey brain of to-do lists, worries, criticisms, cynicism, and overactivity to a place of profound presence and stillness.  That is powerful stuff my friends!

Connection to Nature Improves Cognitive Function

Our connection to the natural world is not only meant to be an enjoyable hobby.  It is actually quite critical to our health and well-being. In fact, science can now tell exactly why we feel so much better after we spend time in nature.

David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist with the University of Utah, has studied the effects of nature on performance and brain function. “Motivated by large-scale public health problems such as obesity, depression, and pervasive nearsightedness, all clearly associated with time spent indoors, Strayer and other scientists are looking with renewed interest at how nature affects our brains and bodies.” (Williams, 2016)  His research has shown that being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains that regulates complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning, to rest, much like an overused muscle (Williams, 2016).

Time in Nature Reduces Stress

In Japan, several studies clearly demonstrate a reduction of stress by spending time in the woods.  Research led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University, studied 84 participants who were sent to stroll in seven different forests for approximately 15 minutes, while the same number of participants walked around urban cities. The participants who walked in the forest experienced a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate (Park, Tsunetsugu, Kasetani, Kagawa, Miyazaki. 2010).  In fact, in Japan they have a term for this called “Shinrin-yoku”, or taking in the atmosphere of a forest, and have gone as far to rate each forest for the amount of positive energy you can expect by strolling through it.   

Natural Mood Enhancer

In Finland, the government funded research which asked thousands of people to rate their moods and stress levels after visiting both natural and urban areas. Their findings indicate that even short visits to urban nature areas have a positive influence on mood, and lower cortisol levels resulting in a formal recommendation that people get a minimum dose of nature (about five hours per month) to ward off the blues. (Tyrväinen, Ojala, Korpela, Lanki, Tsunetsugu, & Kagawa. 2014)

How can you encourage your teen to spend more time outdoors?

Encourage them to go outside every day!  It doesn't matter if it’s your backyard, a nearby park, a little car ride to a forest nearby, a trip up to the lake or nearby river, or a whole weekend as a family camping in the remote woods.  Just get them outside.  Even just 20 minutes with some direct sunlight everyday improves Vitamin D levels and mood!

Encourage them to join outdoor activities like a rock climbing club, hike trails with friends, mountain bike in the Metro Parks, snowshoeing, downhill or cross country skiing clubs, archery classes, or anything they might be naturally drawn to do. Consider going bigger with programs like Outward Bound or Coyote Trails in the summer!  

Most importantly, model the behavior and invite them along!  The benefits of time spent in nature are just as powerful for adults!  By reconnecting to nature yourself you will not only reap the same rewards you may also foster deeper connections with your teen discovering new adventures and activities together!


Jody R. Pittner, LPC, ATR

P.S  Grab your Free Nature Effect Worksheet to help you talk with your teen about the importance of getting outside!  It even includes local area resources!  Just pop in your email address for instant access.

P.P.S  And don’t forget our Fall Art and Nature Camp for teens ages 12-18 is now enrolling!! The deadline for enrollment is September 30th so hurry!!!  Enroll Now!

P.P.P.S Every Saturday until September 30th you can meet the instructors of the camp!  This week meet Sandy and Cal Reed, our Primitive Living Skills Instructors!  Watch the Video


Park, B. J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T., & Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), 18.

Williams, L. (2016). This is your brain on nature. National Geographic Magazine.  Article downloaded from: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

Tyrväinen, L., Ojala, A., Korpela, K., Lanki, T., Tsunetsugu, Y., & Kagawa, T. (2014). The influence of urban green environments on stress relief measures: A field experiment. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, 1-9.


Are We Truly Connected?

As I try to write my first blog post, I think of all the information we now have at our fingertips. I can barely remember a time before Google and Facebook, yet I survived without a phone and information being available 24/7.  As a mom and therapist I also wondered to myself if this constant contact with technology is now replacing deeper, more meaningful connection to ourselves and each other.

I feel it in my own family as we settle in after long days, each separately experiencing to world without one another, only to go to our respective comfy spots to connect to our various devices. Hours pass and I think we would all be hard pressed to relay what we each even read, viewed, or watched.  What did we do before these distractions?  I wonder to myself, were we a closer family then?

Contact is not Connection

While we may be able to text someone and get instant replies, see our nephew's birthday photos on Facebook, and be in constant contact with our loved ones, contact is not connection.

Have you ever been aware of the difference when you contact someone versus when you truly connect?

Connection has these 3 Qualities

  1. True Connection is Felt in the Heart:  Next time you are speaking with someone notice where your awareness travels. Is it in your mind, as if the contact is simply a box to be checked off?  Or can you really sense and feel the connection you have with that person in your heart?

  2. True Connection Enlivens You: Do you remember the last time you really had a great conversation with someone?  What was it about that exchange that felt so good? Many times it is simply that you felt seen and understood. Your basic need for human connection and compassion was met.

  3. True Connection is a Craving: If we pay attention, over time when all we have done is made contact with someone mind to mind, text to text, post to post, we may find a craving for something more.  We may begin to feel isolated or alone despite our many "contacts".  This is because we need connection as much as food, water, and shelter.

Make Time for True Connection

Don't be fooled by constant contact.  To end the cycle of contact-only communication, try:

  1. Call a friend and talk to them in a quiet place with no interruptions.

  2. Establish a "no phone" rule with loved ones so they know you expect and wish to really be present when you are together.

  3. Leave your phone home and take walks or go places without the temptation of constant contact.

  4. Practice awareness when you are with someone and truly feel your connection to them in your heart,

With a few subtle changes and a commitment to true connection, you to can begin feeling more satisfied by your relationships.  My hope for you is that you and your family experience less contact and more true connection.