No One, No Couple, and No Family is Above Therapy: A Therapist’s 15 Cents on What Mental Health REALLY Means and 15 Tips to Improve it.

Michele Levin

By Michele Levin

As one of the owners of a Mental Health practice, I’ve spent a lot of time in my head over last month regarding “Mental Health Month”. The world right now is a heavy place. Fact is, we were seeing a spike in depression, anxiety, loneliness, and substance abuse BEFORE the pandemic.

Fast forward to now, combined with everything we have collectively experienced within the last two years, the psychological ripple effect on our mental health is very real and very serious. More than ever, we must prioritize taking intentional action to take care of our mental health.

Rather than trying to find the “right” thing to say, or reposting constant statistics and facts, or expressing how “mental health awareness should not be just a month, it should be every day,” I’ve decided to just share with you some things our team has learned about Mental Health and our recommendations. Not from the endless years we all spent in school and the heavy literature we’ve all engulfed; from ourselves and what happens every day within the walls of Blueprint Mental Health.

Let’s start with how we define “mental health.”

Mental health is so much more than “psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing.” To us, it’s how you feel. It’s how you think. It’s how you act. It’s how you communicate. It’s how you cope. It’s how you regulate your emotions. It’s knowing your triggers, while also owning and being accountable for how you react when you are triggered. It’s how you think about people, relationships, and the world around you. It’s how you think and feel about yourself. It’s how you treat yourself and others. It’s knowing what you deserve. It’s knowing what your boundaries are in order to set them with others. It’s being aware of your defense mechanisms and the areas you need to work on that impact your relationships. It’s being able to step back from your perspective and understand someone else’s. It’s being able to truly listen to someone else and try to see where they are coming from, even if you disagree with them. It’s being open to feedback and change. It’s being honest with yourself and those around you. It’s doing things for yourself that make you feel good, while staying away from things that aren’t good for you. It’s managing and coping with stress in healthy ways and rewiring the unhealthy coping habits that are self-destructive. It’s the ability to get through adversity and build up resilience, while at the same time acknowledging hurt, pain and struggle. It’s reaching out for support when you need it and knowing that asking for help is a human need and not a weakness. It’s building a meaningful life, being present in the moment instead of just passing time and going through the motions. It’s accepting things as they are that can’t be changed while taking control over changing things in your life that you can. It’s how all of this was modeled to you from your parents/caregivers and how you were brought up. We could go on, and on, and on. Mental Health is literally EVERYTHING.

With that being said, here are 15 ways to work on your mental health so you can work toward living your best life:

1.) Limit Social Media and catch your judgements. Catch yourself from comparing yourself and your life to others, especially based off other’s social media. When you are scrolling, scroll mindfully instead of mindlessly. Check what information you’re absorbing and how it’s impacting you. Remember that what people are posting online is what people are intentionally putting out there. That “perfect family picture” might have come off from an explosive fight the night prior, with parents threatening leaving and the kids storming off. That teenager that “always is out with friends” can still feel lonely and be struggling with depression and anxiety. That person who “is always posting selfies” might have struggled with their self-esteem their whole life, or struggling with an eating disorder, and working on building their confidence through sharing more pictures. That picture of “the perfect couple” could be going through fertility treatments. That job promotion someone posts doesn’t include all the other positions they went for and didn’t get. The point is that for all the pictures and moments you see, there’s a whole life that you do not. We don’t see the fights, the depression, the loneliness, the struggles, the medical scares, the grief and loss, the addiction tearing through a family…. You just never know what people are truly going through.

2.) Be vertical more than horizontal. In general, evaluate your routine and lifestyle. Way too often we hear in sessions from our teens/young adults that their day is routinely spent laying in their bed and scrolling on their phone. Higher screen time hours correlate with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Don’t quote me on this, but I would bet it also leads to increased difficulty focusing and procrastinating. People feel better when they tend to be more active and feel worse when they are more sedentary. Work on a healthy sleep routine, keep your days relatively structured, be mindful (and not rigid) of what you’re putting in your body and get outside often.

3.) Stay in the present moment and pay attention to your thoughts. Most people are in their heads all day long, either worrying about the future, what someone might be thinking about them, replaying something from the past, stressing over things they have to do…. It’s all time spent thinking that takes you away from just experiencing the present moment and what the present moment has to offer. As my husband John (and co-owner of our practice) often says; “If you’re lying on the beach, listening to Bob Marley’s “One Love” but you’re in your head and thinking about the work you have to do and everything stressful in your life- then you’re not really on that beach.” Pay attention to not only what you’re thinking about in the moment, but how you generally think about the world around you. Notice patterns of worrying, criticism, judgement, and negativity and make conscious efforts to shift towards turning towards being more in the present moment.

4.) Learn to control, understand, and cope with your emotions, while also managing stress in a healthy way. Chronic stress leads to chronic health problems. Learn how to notice your feelings and sit with them. Let yourself FEEL. Don’t avoid them, don’t push them down, don’t numb them away, don’t let them drive your behavior… allow yourself to feel them, identify what they are and where they are coming from in order to help you cope with them. Take notice of your unhealthy coping mechanisms- whether it be self-medicating, numbing, escaping, avoiding, exploding, taking it out on yourself, taking it out on others, procrastinating… think you get the point. Learn how to control your emotions so your emotions don’t control you, destruct your relationships, and cloud your perspective.

5.) Talk to strangers, tend to your relationships and be open to feedback. (Warning: This is a long one. Given that I specialize in relationships I can’t help myself. There will be a whole article in the future about relationships.) Ok, I’m about to sound old (please don’t tell the teenagers that I work with). When I went to college, when we got to a class early, we interacted and small talked with other people when we got there. It’s how we got to know each other. We had to – we didn’t have the option to instantly bury our heads into a cell phone. Nowadays, as soon as people sit down anywhere, they immediately pull out their cell phone. All of these are missed opportunities for simple basic human interactions. Be open with those around you. Initiate face to face contact. Smile at someone. Look someone in the eyes and say hi and thank you when you’re buying something on the check-out line. Take the time to connect with people that are around you. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at school, work, or the gym. You never know how it might make someone’s day to feel noticed. We have been in an epidemic of loneliness for years. Take time to think about others. Check in with people you care about. When someone does reach out and ask how you’re doing, tell the truth. Be open to feedback and reflective about yourself. Gaslighting and Narcissism has gained a lot of popularity lately, it’s important to know what those words truly mean and not quickly jump to a conclusion about someone else and label them a Narcissist. We have to be aware that we can also have toxic traits that trigger other people- it’s not always the other person. When you mess up and say something hurtful, own it and apologize. Apologizing goes a REALLY long way- if you struggle with apologizing for how your word or actions make others feel your relationships will suffer. Know what you need to work on in order to heal. Take responsibility for your actions and if you are defensive or passive aggressive. Process through your hurt in past relationships instead of labeling yourself with trust issues. Don’t bring past relationship unhealed issues from someone else, into a new relationship and project them on someone new. “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people that didn’t cut you”. A new relationship deserves a fresh start, if you are unable to provide that to someone then work on yourself until you can. Know your boundaries, don’t avoid or dismiss red flags, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Listen to your nervous system in relationships, it will guide you.

6.) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. There’s a whole book on this, it’s literally called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Dr. Richard Carlson. Recognize when you’re stressing or reacting over the “small stuff”, when you’re making assumptions, when you’re taking things personally and learn to let it go.

7.) Do you and let others be. Think less of what other people will think and just do you! Notice when you’re being influenced and ground yourself. If you’re changing yourself when you’re around someone or a group- than you’re not truly connecting with that person or group, you’re trying to fit in. People you truly connect with should help you feel comfortable being yourself in your own skin. Think for yourself and make your own decisions based off what feels right for you- not based on what others think or what social media says is “right”. You don’t need to agree with others if their ways or opinions are different than yours, and you certainly don’t need to express your opinion constantly and put others down on social media when there’s a post you don’t agree with. Putting down others to try to prove a point isn’t cool and it also doesn’t prove your point. Social media is incredibly divisive- don’t let it be and don’t let yourself be manipulated by it. If you won’t be open to understand or embrace differences, at a bare minimum learn to tolerate without reacting internally and externally. Simply… let others be. How you treat people matters and is a reflection of your character.

8.) LISTEN & COMMUNICATE. We cannot stress this one enough! Tell people, out loud, how you feel in a healthy way. If you don’t communicate how you feel, it doesn’t give people around you an opportunity to hear you or to make changes. What we bottle up gets internalized as depression, anxiety, anger and resentment. There is a biological release of cortisol when you express your emotions, literally where the phrase “get it off your chest” comes from. It’s physically healthy to communicate and crucial for doing your part in a healthy relationship. Just as important is learning to truly listen. Listening is not just the act of hearing someone talk, it’s genuinely stepping into their shoes and understanding how they’re feeling and where they are coming from, even if your perspective is different. Ask questions to help you better understand and reflect what you’re getting from them to make sure it’s on point with their intention. If you’re reacting, you are not listening. *If you don’t feel like you can open up to the people in your life, then take it to the journal and write out how you feel.*

9.) How you talk to yourself and about yourself matters. Know your worth. How we feel about ourselves and how we view ourselves impacts everything. If you’ve seen the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower, then you know the famous line; “we accept the love we think we deserve”. How you treat yourself sets the standard for how others can treat you. If you are consistently putting yourself down, it sets the tone that it’s ok for others to put you down. We teach people how to treat us by what we allow. At the same time, you are in your head talking to yourself all day long. We often ask the question to our clients “If someone else talked to you the way you talk to yourself, would that be ok with you?”. If that answer is a hard no, it’s time to work on yourself.

10.) Know the things that make you happy, both in the moment and in the long run. Increase time spent having FUN and force yourself to create balance in your life. Stop chasing destination happiness (“I’ll be happy when….”), focusing on the grind and the “stuff”. Focus on the positives, what you have and what you’re grateful for. We’re in a world now where everything is fast paced and “working towards the next goal” and “for the social media post”- slow down and allow yourself to be and appreciate where you’re at. Plant the seeds to work towards your future goals, while at the same time being present in the now. Be intentional with your mindset and do more things that make you feel happy and fulfilled- what you focus on grows. Know when you need to slow down and take a day to yourself to self-soothe when you’re having a tough time and need to unwind. (We might be biased, but we really believe that spending time with puppies and dogs can be a game changer on a rough day.)

12.) Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions. Know what you need to work on, own it, and do the work. Take control over the things you can to make changes in your life. Recognize that you have choices everywhere. Take responsibility for the energy that you’re exerting around you and make changes to help yourself feel better. When your words or actions impact someone else, apologize. Taking responsibility for yourself, your growth, and the ability to take action in order to make changes will help you recognize that you have so much more control over your life and mental health than it might seem.

13.) Be HONEST. With yourself and others. With how you feel. With what you need. When you need help. When you’re struggling. When you can’t do something. When you have to let go.

14.) If you’re a parent- model to your kids all of the above. Their biggest influencer on their own mental health development… big gulp… is from you. Learning from you. Absorbing from you. Watching you – how you cope, how you communicate, how you express your emotions, how you take care of yourself, how you model relationships, how you model self-esteem and boundaries, how you communicate with their other parent (together or not) … everything. Taking the best care of your Mental Health is also taking the best care of your kids.

15.) No one, no couple, and no family is above therapy. Let other people support you and help you. Some of us are more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and addiction simply through our genetics. Whether it’s struggling internally or a reaction to external circumstances, there is no shame in taking anti-depressants and other psychotropic medication. Life can be very overwhelming and to be blunt, people can be dealt some really shitty cards that they have absolutely no control over. How people are brought up and traumatic experiences can have long standing impacts on them and their relationships. Try to avoid feeling shameful and ask for help.

Thanks for reading this far. If you need help with any of these things, or simply need someone to talk to and an ear to listen, give therapy a shot. Therapy is not only for those who are struggling, it’s a space to check in with yourself about how you’re doing, how you’re taking care of yourself and how you’re handling things.

Anyone else think your Mental Health is just as important as your Physical Health? Mostly everyone goes to a doctor for check-ups… we think it’s just as crucial for everyone to have a therapist for emotional check-ups. Personally, we believe that your Mental Health is literally EVERYTHING.


Alright, it’s time for us to spill the beans and tell you what all the hype is about.

We’ve gotten some wild guesses – a reality show, a dog rescue, a book, and the most common one – a baby. Well, it’s none of those. The only other Mopper’s right now are Toby and Charlie. Let us assure you that when that time does come for us, we probably won’t be making an announcement that there’s announcements coming at BP 😉


No, we are not opening a second location. Our current location is about to grow, as well as our team, clinical services and team members roles. Let us explain…


We love our home at 73 West End. In fact, we love it so much that we’re in the process of expanding it. In four short years we are filled with both shock and gratitude that we have outgrown our space. If you are familiar with our spot, you will know that we have two outdoor decks on the back of our building and a detached garage. While we toyed around with the idea of a second location, we decided to build upon what we already love and continue to all work together under the same, yet larger roof. In the next few months we will be enclosing our two back decks in order to add two more offices. In addition, we are renovating our garage into a really cool functional spot. We don’t know what it will be just yet but have some really great ideas for it. Homework Café… BP Jam Garage… we’ll see!


Our services are growing – We are on the way to becoming a MENTAL HEALTH POWERHOUSE!


We have been sharing Carly with another treatment center. As of June, Carly is going to start transitioning over to us full time. Huge win for us (she is amazing) and win for people who have been waiting on Carly’s wait list.


Lindsay Sowder

At Blueprint we believe in and support our team members growth and provide CEU benefits to all of our team members. We’re very excited to announce that Lindsay is currently going through the training process for EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), which is a leading therapy approach using rapid, rhythmic eye movements to heal emotionally charged memories or traumatic events.


Blueprint Junior Varsity Program


There’s more! In May, we will be launching our Blueprint Junior Varsity Program. Our Client Relations Team, Helen, Scott and Sam, are going to the first ever Blueprint Graduate Interns that will be taking on a few individual clients and groups here. These guys are not your typical interns you find straight out of class. They have been working with us and absorbing from the treatment team for a year and know all the ins and out of Blueprint. We are so excited to be able to support them and help them grow into future clinicians, while at the same time, offer support to our community at heavily discounted rates. Each of them are already fully immersed within the Blueprint Treatment Team and will be supervised by a Blueprint Varsity Clinician. For more information about this, check out the information about our Junior Varsity Intern Program here.


Now… If you’ve been following our story, you know that we built Blueprint from the ground up. We went through a 9-month closing process and finally were able to call 73 West End Blueprint’s home on April 13, 2018. We ripped the floors up ourselves (and then realized very quickly HGTV makes it look a lot easier than it is), we decorated every single detail of our space and one by one built our team. Fast forward to now, in addition to the two of us there 11 other Blueprint team members here, all reporting to us. We are outnumbered! With great people! It’s time for us to pass some torches.


Leah was the first person to join our team alongside us. It’s no secret that she is a truly gifted child therapist. Parents who work with her have actually used the word “genius”.  If you know her, you also know that she’s creative, witty, and incredibly thoughtful. Leah will now be taking on the titles of the “Little’s Clinical Advisor” and the “Blueprint Architect”. She will be overseeing the clinical services for clients 13 and below, while also focusing on building the Blueprint Team Culture and overall experience within the walls of 73 West End. We may just see a garden, a therapy escape room, and a Blueprint Alumni program soon…


Jason Marchitto

Ok, there’s one more, and this one is pretty huge. After almost 20 years of clinical experience (you’d never know it, he ages like a fine wine), 14 years of being a Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) at a local high school and three years as a part-time therapist on the Blueprint team, our very own Jason Marchitto is joining the Blueprint squad full time, and taking on the role of Blueprint’s Clinical Advisor. THIS IS A REALLY BIG DEAL. He brings with him an incredible amount of experience and will be overseeing the clinical services for clients ages 14 and up, and in addition will be taking on the clinical advancement and growth of Blueprint’s clinical services and team. This means that our clinical team and services are about to get even stronger. He also will be opening up a whole bunch of appointments.


So there ya have it. No reality show just yet, but some really cool things happening over here along with a few cool office perks for the team.


Leah Behar, LCSW; “Little’s” Clinical Advisor & Blueprint Architect

Jason Marchitto, LPC, LCADC, ACS; Blueprint Clinical Advisor

Think it’s time for us to take a vacation. Any takers to watch Toby & Charlie?


John and Michele   

Mental Health in 500 Words or Less: The Hidden Strength in Silence

Silence is often misunderstood in our world, and a force that wields much more power than what initially meets the eye.

A quick story. I’m an introvert. In a nutshell, this means that I’m the kind of person that feels energized by alone time and independence. It also means that growing up I was the quietest kid in most rooms. This led to all kinds of well-meaning suggestions from those around me — Don’t be so shy! Open up more! How come you don’t talk more?

I’ve heard them all, ad nauseam, in addition to the various meanings they might assign to the way they experience my natural temperament — that I’m disinterested, withholding, stuck in my shell… you name it.

I can understand why these assumptions formulate so automatically. We live in an extroverted world, and many times “success” and what we deem “normal” is equated with extroverted traits such as being highly sociable, outgoing, etc. Considering there are companies out there that still use personality assessments to screen for these qualities in potential employees, there are at least some real-life stakes to projecting a certain image.

The ancient psychiatrists and psychologists of yesteryear even tried to label introversion as a personality disorder at one point, despite so many mental health professionals being card-carrying introverts themselves. For people like us — our inner worlds are often more vibrant and saturated than our external reality. Naturally, this makes us predisposed more toward listening, self-reflection, analysis – ya know, typical therapist-type stuff.

Luckily, the people I mesh with most on this strange little planet are the type that tend to really dig having a friend that does not need to force-feed verbiage into every waking moment, and do not feel slighted by any perceived lack of gum flapping when our bodies happen to be within the same physical space.

At the same time, I also really enjoy talking to people and hearing about their lives, to that extent I’ve always felt this internal pull toward “improving my conversational skills” that it took me long-time to realize a lot of it wasn’t exactly helpful to me and even reinforcing some anxiety.

But now that I’m grad school to be a therapist, I find myself revisiting the nature of silence, but this time through a much different lens. Silence, in our world, isn’t looked down upon or seen as a social deficit in our chosen vocation anymore. Instead, is a highly valued skill and an important tool for facilitating self-realization and change in others. Silence provides an opportunity to reflect, to process the events of our lives, and to sit with our own discomfort and learn that we can grow stronger from the experience.

So if you’re interested — find a brief moment this week for some silence. No agenda other than just listening. Take inventory of your inner life and connect to the wisdom that tends to surface when we cease to fill too many of our moments with words.

See you on the next consult!

Notes From Clinical Rounds: On Borderline Personality Disorder, Armchair Diagnosing, & Social Media’s Mental Health Renaissance

Every Wednesday at Blueprint, we lock the doors before appointments start for the day for about an hour or so, and we all gather for clinical rounds. Basically, this is a meeting where we’re all able to discuss and get feedback on challenging scenarios we’re working through with our clients, and any trends we might be noticing in our field.

Clinical rounds help us provide a better level of service to everyone who walks through our door by having our entire team provide valuable insight on BP clients, while at the same time keeping our clinical tools sharpened. Toby and Charlie additionally weigh in with paradigm-shattering psychological epiphanies about the nature of human consciousness and interconnectedness of all living entities that would make Freud and Jung weep with jealousy (unless they’re napping). It’s good times.

I must say, as a grad student who still has a both few years and few thousand hours to go before I’m a licensed therapist, this is one of my favorite parts of being at BP. The knowledge and insight that gets dropped is WILD to witness, and certainly gives my grad program a run for its money.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah – so, a few weeks back Michele mentioning something for us to be aware of, which was an influx of information about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) going around on Tik Tok that is being consumed by young people. For those not in the know, BPD is a condition oftentimes highlighted by rapid mood swings, explosive anger, an intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, and several other symptoms that can make life for those afflicted pretty tough.

While I think it’s generally a good thing that social media can be used as tool to spread awareness about different aspects of mental health and the unique challenges some of us face, there’s also some concerns that come with the territory of consuming information this way.

It’s important to know that conditions such as BPD are actually very complex and take A LOT of clinical precision to properly diagnose and fully understand. Despite the highly engaging and well-meaning nature of bite-sized social media content, we want to avoid scenarios where people are using this content to “armchair diagnose” every difficult person around them — or even themselves — unjustly.

Know that many therapists these days are more carefully considering the utility of diagnosing someone with a “disorder” unless there’s a valid reason to do so (many times there absolutely is), or even whether or not it would be beneficial to the client to disclose said diagnosis. While some people might feel a sense of relief from finally being able to put a label on everything they’ve been struggling with, other might feel devastated to learn that there’s something “wrong” with them. As therapists, one of our main goals is to help everyone who sits on our couch strengthen their identities by integrating both the positive and negative aspects of themselves, not send them off with a new identity as a broken person in to addition everything else they have been experiencing.

So how does the average non-mental health pro educate themselves about mental health via social media in a way that’s helpful while simultaneously minimizing one’s potential to any develop inaccurate perceptions or negative stereotypes? Here’s a few thoughts to start:

Make empathy the goal. Empathy is our ability to understand what someone else is feeling. Honing our sense of empathy can be a superpower that pays dividends in every area of our lives – including our relationships, friendships, careers, interactions with strangers, etc. Thus, it could be helpful to learn about various mental health conditions via social media if we go into it with the intention of strengthening our empathy muscles.

When consuming information about a mental health disorder online or via social media, it’s important to consider what may or may not have contributed to the development of that disorder, not just the behavior it causes. In many cases, trauma occurring during childhood that was out of one’s control plays a significant role in the development of many disorders, BPD included.

We can all understand that Bruce Wayne puts on a bat costume and fights vigilantes at night as a response to the trauma of witnessing his parents’ death – it makes a ton of sense. I’d probably do the same. I bet you would, too. But it’s a lot harder apply that same understanding to our daily lives, and the people we encounter and interact with.

Know “The Goldwater Rule.” In the mental health world, we have something called The Goldwater Rule. In essence, this acknowledges that it would be unfair for a professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor, etc., to comment on the mental health of someone they haven’t been able to observe in a clinical setting. You can read more about how it came to be here.

While the rule itself was made specifically in reference to political figures as observed through the lens of the media, we live in a day and age where anyone using social media may want to take this rule into consideration, simply for common courtesy of those around us. Remember that armchair diagnoses are just that — how someone presents and interacts in daily life or certain social settings might be completely different than what’s happening inside their head.

Therapy, and the confidentiality it provides, allows people the space to open up about their internal process and things they otherwise couldn’t, which allows an experienced, properly trained clinician to determine what’s going on and assign a diagnosis if necessary.

 Balance Your Understanding. I get it. It can be fascinating to go down a Tik Tok or YouTube rabbit hole watching video after video about what illness infamous criminals or whatever politician you don’t like has, but make sure this isn’t the only component of educating yourself – i.e. don’t learn about mental illness without also learning about mental health.

For every way we speculate what might be “wrong” with someone, equally consider something that’s positive about them – even that person that really pissed you off the other day. Reframe that difficult interaction as an opportunity to practice assertiveness or strengthen your personal boundaries. I know this stuff is hard. But it’s totally doable.

Finally, read some articles or watch some videos about Dialectical Behavior Therapy. While DBT was specifically developed with treating BPD in mind, the principles of DBT can help just about anyone improve their life whether you meet the diagnostic criteria for BPD or not. DBT focuses on cultivating our capacity for mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation and more. I have yet to meet the person who couldn’t benefit from having these tools ready to go as daily life throws its challenges our way. Another great resource I recently finished is the book “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me,” which offers a lot of real-life case studies and a 360-degree glimpse of what living with BPD is actually like.

At the end of the day, there’s no need to necessarily stop consuming information about disorders such as BPD on social media – there really is a lot to be learned and it can be a great introductory experience to expanding your knowledge of mental health. It’s simply important to do so from a place of sparking your curiosity while simultaneously resisting the tendency to allow any negative assumptions or stereotypes about BPD or any other condition to develop.