Day 1 | Santa is Dead

So…we’re going to ease into “The New 12 Days of Christmas” with this declaration: Santa is dead.

Okay, glad that’s out of the way.

Of course, this is a touchy point this time of year. Actually, it came out of a discussion we had around the office recently. “How do I deal with Santa and my spirituality?”

There is an unmistakable convergence of religion this time of year. But let’s face it: there are some of us who can’t hold the Baby Jesus and Santa at the same time. This conflict of religion and secularism (or commercialism) is a very real crisis for many of us. Especially young parents. So, what do we do?”

If you don’t know an elementary school teacher, you need to find one in the next couple of weeks. Ask him or her if this tension is a real struggle for parents.

I just so happen to know an elementary school teacher really well and her latest story is a true tale from her classroom. She had one set of parents, a bit rigid in their thinking, who told their son “Billy” that “there’s no such thing as Santa.” Of course Billy, in an effort to cling to the idea of a magical man who brings presents every year, responded, “Well, “Cindy’s parents told her there is a Santa!”—to which Billy’s parents replied, “Well, Cindy’s parents are lying to her.”

It didn’t take any time for Billy to spread the news around the classroom. And just like that, Santa was dead for a classroom of former believers. A small part of the childhood seemed lost forever.

All of this came full circle for me the other day. I was watching Polar Express, not a big deal, I have kids. Now, to be fair, my kids are in college but I like that film in spite of its creepy animation. Remember in the movie how the little boy can’t hear the little bell? At the risk of overdoing the psychology of it all, this is symbolic of not being able to hear the Spirit of Christmas.

What does this mean for us? Somewhere along the way of growing up, some of us have forgotten how to play, how to have fun, believing in something magical. We’ve lost the connection with our childhood. So my question to us all this holiday seasons is, when did we lose that ability to play? To have fun?

This time of year, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Santa drops off gifts once a year and appears to only eat cookies and drink milk. That’s a temporary jolt of happiness that tends to fade as soon as all of the gifts are opened. Religion, on the other hand, can change lives and instill joy every day of the year.

The next time you hear a group of kids talking about Santa, listen to what they have to say. Take note of their excitement and their pure joy of this magical time of year. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll rekindle the fun of the season you once loved. And, most certainly, feel free to also celebrate a more meaningful reason for the season.


–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


Are you suffering from Post-Traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder?

If by clicking on the blog you immediately began to relive the negative events that occurred on Thanksgiving Day, you may be experiencing early signs of Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder.

You are experiencing completely normal and healthy post-thanksgiving responses if you meet the following criteria:

  • Exhaustion, from tirelessly hosting the event of thanksgiving
  • Excessive Napping, due to the levels of tryptophan in your turkey leftovers
  • Sadness, from your favorite thanksgiving team losing, despite the hope of the “greatest comeback season of all time” (Cowboy fans, this one is for you)
  • Anger, due to the grandma who grabbed the sold out Black Friday item out of your cart and escaped into the crowd

However, if you are experiencing the following post-thanksgiving responses, you meet criteria for Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder:

  • Repeatedly Reliving the events of Thanksgiving in your thoughts, causing great distress
  • Avoiding family members phone calls and text messages, and creating “believable” reasons why you will not be able to attend Christmas this year
  • Difficulty showing affection to others
  • Difficulty sleeping due to ruminating thoughts about Thanksgiving

Other potential reactions specifically related to the holiday may be: Shock, anger, fatigue, nervousness, fear, and guilt. Some of you may now be asking, what do I do now that I think I might have PTTD? How do I get better? If re-enacting the following video does not help, read further.

A Thanksgiving Miracle – Saturday Night Live

If Adele didn’t solve your family issues, you have Post-traumatic Thanksgiving Disorder, or PTTD, more serious than most. PTTD involves a continual recovery process which helps you learn how to cope effectively. Treatment can lead to fewer and less intense responses. Individual and family therapy may be helpful for you and your loved ones to learn healthy communication patterns and solve chronic problems. With a little help, I believe you can soon have an enjoyable holiday that you won’t want to forget or avoid.

In all seriousness, I do believe that the holiday season often stirs up and bring to light the difficulties in our family relationships. There are ways to improve those relationships, and we can help in the process of change. But Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a serious condition that some people live with, which can lead to difficulties in relationships. Many survivors of a traumatic event do not develop PTSD, which is extremely hopeful.

However, you or your loved ones should seek licensed professional to help determine whether or not PTSD is a helpful and accurate diagnosis. For more information on how to clinically diagnose and/or treat PTSD contact us today!

– Austin Parsons



Who do I ask for help?

One time I ordered a gold Casio calculator wristwatch on eBay. I know, I know — I have incredible taste and a penchant for fine timepieces.

Unfortunately, the item arrived broken, as the wristband’s clasp was bent a wrong direction. This type of occasion usually makes me very grumpy — although I love e-commerce, I absolutely loathe returns.

Fortunately, a new client entered treatment that same week: a young man who suffered from a severe methamphetamine use disorder.

Now some folks are afraid of meth users. To me, they’re God’s gift to, well, broken gold Casio calculator wristwatches.

The following day, using three paperclips and the same number of minutes, my client corrected the clasp issue. He smiled big and handed me the item. (In no time, I was completing intricate calculations while dazzling my peers.)

About three weeks later, that same client was struggling, coming to grips with his recent life — one filled with binges, theft, heartbreak, and self-destruction. He wasn’t self-pitying; he was exploring reality with honesty and sincerity for the first time in a long time.

In one session he looked up from tears and said, “For several months now, no one has trusted me with anything. People hide stuff when I come over. They have every right not to trust me,” and then he paused.

“I want to thank you for letting me fix your watch.”

I didn’t know how to respond, mainly because I had no idea my repair request impacted this fellow in such a way.

In life, sometimes it’s hard to tell who to turn to. We wonder if that guy will be able to help, or if that friend will really listen. We question if she really cares or if he’s going to give us honest feedback.

In my experience with asking for help, the worst thing I do is deny someone an opportunity to assist or downplay if that request will have any benefit.

My encouragement is to give that person a try — for we don’t know how much he/she needs that chance.

by Jack Britton


Why don’t we ask for what we need?

When a pair of pants didn’t fit the way the rest of that company’s pairs fit, I recalled a recent interview in which the CEO said he personally checks his email.

And so I looked up his company’s email address format and sent him a note: “I live 300 miles from the nearest J. Crew, and I need the right pants — will you please assist me?”

Company head Mickey Drexler responded in 30 minutes, and I had the right pants within 30 hours.

Why don’t we ask for what we need?

To simplify that answer, a note on tribes: a group of us was taught never to ask; another sector of us is scared to ask; and a third pack might be both.

In my experience, the never-askers have a different but very useful skill: to seek. And that skill helps one assert: by reframing assertiveness as a variant of self-sufficiency (I’m doing the asking, not you), I accomplish something while fulfilling my needs.  I thereby challenge what I’ve been taught, and usually I feel better about the result.

The fearful bunch has a different, equally beneficial skill as well: often they know the right tone, cadence, and wording they would use if they were to ask for their needs.  Those elements also help us assert our needs as tone, cadence, and wording suggest that we are strategic, compassionate, and courageous.

So how do we challenge our tendency to say nothing?


The other day two men from the gas company stopped by my house — one appeared to be teaching the other. I stepped outside, made small talk, and ultimately requested the supervisor’s card.  Why?  I had been having difficulties with the gas company, and so an ally would be helpful at some point.  A cheerful fellow, he was more than happy to provide his card.

Sure enough, when a gas matter arose weeks later, I called on Joe to help me out.  (I also emailed the chief operations officer, but that’s another story.)  Asserting for his card paid off: Joe fixed the situation that the call center struggled to schedule.

Let’s pause to acknowledge some challenges often associated with assertiveness: There is, of course, a fine line between assertiveness and a demonstration of entitlement, just as there is a line between assertiveness and aggressiveness.  These lines ought to be explored with some guidance from therapists and trusted friends.  And they are topics for another blog.

In the meantime, if you’ve recognized that you are in need of assertiveness practice, start simply.  Remember: seemingly insignificant circumstances can be the best opportunities to try asserting, and it’ll pay off.

That great sweater? The website says it’s sold out, but it’s not.

Just ask Mickey.

– by Jack Britton


Kevin Gilliland: An offer for Ben Carson

I want to make a deal with Dr. Ben Carson, the current GOP presidential frontrunner. I’ll not practice neurosurgery if he won’t speak again about addiction and recovery. Please.

Recently, Dr. Carson told a Sunday morning news show host:

“[U]sually, addictions occur in people who are vulnerable, who are lacking something in their lives. And so we have to really start asking ourselves, what have we taken out of our lives in America? What are some of those values and principles that allowed us to ascend the ladder of success so rapidly to the very pinnacle of the world and the highest pinnacle anyone else had ever reached?

“And why are we in the process of throwing away all of our values and principles for the sake of political correctness?”

Huh? So, the problem of drug abuse and addiction is caused by a lack of “values and principles” and can be traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness.”



Honestly, I’m not really sure what point Ben Carson is trying to make. His logic begs these follow-up questions, “How does he view patients who struggle with obesity? With hypertension related to diet, exercise and stress? With adult-onset diabetes? With politicians who lie and cheat on their spouse?”

He must think his answer about drug abuse and addiction explains all that ails America. Actually, it explains nothing when it comes to addiction.

I’m not singling out Dr. Carson for his politics. I am singling him out for his lack of reasoning and factual knowledge when it comes to addiction.

A number of people, including physicians, unfortunately, still often consider psychiatric illnesses and mental health struggles a moral issue or a “weakness” rather than a biological, social, or neurochemical issue that affect us in ways that other illnesses affect us.

Unfortunately, Dr. Carson’s all too common view interferes with individuals seeking and receiving treatment – treatment that is truly changing lives.

What we know about addictions is that they often take over the lives of good people with good marriages and good jobs, and people who live in wonderful communities.

Why is it that one brother develops an addiction and the other doesn’t?

Why is the reward experience from alcohol so completely all-consuming for some individuals that they cannot imagine life without alcohol, but not for others?

We do know this: when you ask alcohol or drugs to do something for you, it’s a path that can lead to destruction.

If you use alcohol (or another drug of choice) to help you relax after a long day with the kids or at the office; if you use alcohol or drugs because you want to be less nervous at a business meeting; if you use to forget about the troubles in your marriage by overindulging, you are asking for trouble.

And, if you really like the way it makes you feel, the rush of the pleasure, and you indulge frequently and in large amounts, you could end up on a long, difficult road.

Every day, it seems we are learning something new about the complexities of addiction.

Lest, anyone think differently, remind them of H.L. Mencken’s truism: “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Oh, and as a values and morals guy myself — and I hope it’s politically correct for me to say so — I promise not to perform neurosurgery. I’ll stick with addiction treatment and recovery.

-Kevin Gilliland, PsyD


Music expresses what words cannot

“Music when healthy, is the teacher of perfect order, and when depraved, the teacher of perfect disorder.” – John Ruskin

Not everyone can speak the language of music, but we can all understand it. It has a way of evoking emotion and become the expression of feelings for which we do not have words. Music is around us so frequently that we are often unaware of it. It is playing in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at work, and even in the elevator. We find music everywhere because it is so effective at influencing our mood.

Pay attention next time you are in a grocery store. Chances are you will hear soft and slow music playing in the background. Soft and slow music tends to put a person at ease. It slows our breathing and heart rate as well as our physical movement. Slower physical movement through the store often means more products in your cart.

Now think of the last time you were at a football game. Even if you are not a fan of the game, you can’t help but feel the energy in the air. The marching band plays loud and upbeat music to unite and energize the crowd to enthusiastically support their team.

When we have the opportunity to listen to music of our own choice, we often choose music to match our mood. Whether or not we aware of it, we are attempting to regulate our emotions by choosing music that helps us express what we are feeling. If you are heading out with your friends on a Friday night, you are going to play music that gets everyone excited. If you just finished a hard day at work where your boss reprimanded you, you will likely choose music with an aggressive or sad tone to it.

Regardless of what mood you are in, the music you choose can have a dramatic effect on your mental health. Recent studies have used MRI technology to see the brain’s unconscious emotion regulation processes and record neural activity as the participant listened to various kinds of music (see link below for specific study results). If music can have that kind of effect on our brains, it is very powerful indeed. As Bono famously said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

How will you let it change you?


Fitness: A Journey

During my time in recovery and working at i360, I’ve come to realize the importance of giving attention to the  different facets of health. One area of my life that anyone could see was deficient was my physical health. My potential seemed poor at best after several fractures in my back at the age of eighteen and my prior lack of physical activity. Yet here I was with a newfound interest and motivation to experience new things in life. So I set out on a course to explore the world of fitness.

After a few years of being the lone wolf at a local corporate gym, trying my best to emulate what other people were doing around me, I started to really enjoy myself. Exercise offered me a mental oasis. It was a time for me to just “do” and not “think.” It was an opportunity for me to continue to push myself and grow in a new and exciting way. Yes, I was sore; and yes, doing the same old thing gets boring after a while. But I was sleeping better than I had in years. I was gaining confidence both inside and outside of the gym. And most of all I felt good! I know it sounds backwards, but experiencing these brief periods of discomfort, which most people refer to as “workouts,” seemed to give me a little more joy in my life; and then life took a turn as it often does.

One September night after leaving work, the front wheel of my motorcycle got wedged in a trolley track while I was traveling 30 miles an hour and I went face first over the handlebars, effectively totaling my bike and leaving me with injuries which would keep me from returning to weightlifting for well over a year. I truly believe that these types of events hold such purpose in our lives. My “therapy” had been taken from me, and yet again I learned to live without something that I loved, and found joy in other places in my life. This was, as painful as it may have been, a Godsend.

As I regained mobility and enough strength to return to my hobby of picking up heavy things, I met a guy named Kevin. Now this was no normal introduction as I walked up to my bearded, tattooed, across-the-street neighbor while he was throwing around large cement stones, and running down his driveway with what looked like a thousand pounds on his back. Needless to say I was intrigued… Kevin and I became fast friends and he shared his passion for the sport of Strongman with me, offering me instruction, a training program and free use of his equipment, day or night. After training for the last 10 months, I recently took second place in North Texas Strongest Man, and I plan on continuing to train and compete in the years to come as I have much to learn about the sport and myself.

I know that this will likely never become more than a hobby for me. When I look at this sport, it would be easy for me to get discouraged by comparing myself to the many out there who are bigger, stronger, or faster than I. But then that’s not what this is all about. For me, competing Strongman is about pushing myself to new limits. It is a tangible way for me to enjoy making progress and sharing my passion for fitness and fun with others around me. It is a place to enjoy community. It has taught me discipline, and respect. And it has given me the opportunity to dream… More than all of that is has taught me that with hard work one can do what they never thought possible. This is hope. And this hard work can be applied to my marriage, my recovery, my work, my friendships, my spiritual life; the list goes on.

I want to challenge all of you to get out there and try something new. Get out of your comfort zone and enjoy some being active in a new way. Do it alone or do it with someone you care about. You just might find open a new and exciting chapter in your life that you never would have imagined.

– David Mullins, Life Development


How play can change your life!

“The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.” – Stuart Brown, M.D.

Play is an integral part of every child’s development. Through trial and error, imagination, and creativity, play provides a safe process for children to learn about themselves, how the world works, and how to engage in relationships. They test limits and begin to understand how to set and respect boundaries, and learn how to work through conflict. They experience failure at reaching an objective and begin to grasp the life lessons of determination, endurance, and resilience. Something changes, however, as we grow up. Many of us think to ourselves, “I’m an adult—adults don’t play.” “Fun, who has time for fun… I’ve got work, the kids, and I need a couple of hours to zone out in front of the TV before I go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow.” I’m guilty of that last one.

Recently, I read the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D., and it has inspired me to re-prioritize play and fun as a value that I seek to pursue on a daily basis. In the book, Dr. Brown makes the case that even though there is a purposelessness to play on the surface, there are serious benefits for children and adults. On the National Institute for Play’s website it states that play has profound benefits for all stages of life: “play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” Through activities like sports, creative writing, painting, traveling, board games, and movies we can in turn impact other areas of our lives like work, relationships, and physical, mental and spiritual health.

At i360, we hold a value for play. We are intentional to play together as a staff, always looking for creative activities to do together to develop the team’s bond. We’ve been indoor skydiving, played trampoline dodge ball, and even ridden a donkey… don’t ask, you had to be there.

As part of our holistic approach with clients, we also want to help clients discover play again. For someone struggling with anxiety, depression or addiction, therapy can be a helpful tool to gain insight, self-awareness, and healthy coping skills. We provide individual, couples, family, and group therapy. However, we also realize that therapy is limited. As a co-worker once told me, “knowledge or insight is great, but if you don’t make actual changes in your life to meet your stated goals, then what’s the point?” In addition to the traditional therapies, we also offer a service called Life Development. Through Life Development, we walk with clients outside the office and in their everyday environment to help them translate their insights into behavior change. One benefit of this program is to practice the value of learning how to enjoy life again through meaningful relationship and healthy activity.

In his book, Dr. Brown describes the following 8 different play personalities. He states that typically each of us connects with a mix of a few of these and sometimes it depends on the environment or situation. Take a look below. Which types do you identify for yourself?

    • The Joker – You enjoy making people laugh, crack practical jokes, and engage in nonsense.
    • The Kinesthete – You are happy when engaged in physical activity, but not for competitive purposes. You feel alive pushing yourself to physical limits.
    • The Explorer – You love exploring the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual world through traveling, researching, listening to music or meeting new people.
    • The Competitor – You enjoy games with rules and play to win. You strive to be the top dog.
    • The Director – You live to plan, organize, and execute scenes or events.
    • The Collector – You desire to have the best of particular objects or experiences.
    • The Artist / Creator – You find joy in making unique things or experiences.
    • The Storyteller – You use your imagination through acting, dance, music, or teaching to tell a story.


Now that you’ve identified with one or more, take a moment to reminisce on that time of your life when that part of yourself thrived. How was that time? What activities did you enjoy? What was your mood like? How were your relationships? Finally, how can you incorporate these activities back into your life on a consistent basis? I encourage you to take play seriously, and learn how to have fun again. It just may change your life.

If you’d like to learn more about play and its benefits, check out the following resources:

Written By: Mitchell Isle, MA, LPC, CSAT – Clinical Coordinator and Therapist


Inside Out: One of the keys to lasting change

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
– Francis of Assisi

It’s one of those unique qualities of being human — regardless of what it looks like to the outside world — the majority of people have a deeply rooted desire to improve, to get better at something, to transform an area of their lives. Whether that’s related to work, relationships,or our health — some things we need to stop doing and some things we want to start doing. Change is one of the key ingredients that allow us to grow and mature.

It’s only taken me about 20 years to get that idea settled into my life. It’s rather embarrassing to say what I originally thought about change when I started working with people. I actually thought that if someone took the time out of their schedule and paid me to talk about things that are very difficult in their lives,then they must be ready to change. I began to realize over time that it actually told me very little about their desire to change, their motivation to change, or even their belief about the possibility of change.

I’ve learned a few things about the process of change from therapy and research, and I’ll share some of them in the blogs to come. But first, we need to be more honest with ourselves. We need to start the process of change with where we “are”, not where we think we “should” be.

Take, for instance, New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people think they need to get healthy in the New Year, probably because of the excessive eating and lack of exercise during the holidays, so every health club in the month of January is packed to the brim. But most of the newcomers at the gym don’t really want to change; they just feel bad about the choices made over the past couple of weeks. Rather than over-committing, it would be better if they would start walking or jogging a couple of times a week.

Second, there is a difference between compliance and change. Usually, compliance is somebody trying to change us. I often say “I’m not sure where in the city my wife is right now, but if she’s talking to a friend about something that she thinks I need to change, I can feel that conversation 20 miles away and I’ll start my resistance.” People hate being forced to change, and compliance is just a strategy to get them to quit talking to me about what they think I should do. But if I’m actually open to change, if I’m the one doing the work, then I just might end up starting a change process that lasts. Compliance and change are two very different things. For lasting change, at some point, there has to be something that happens internally as well as externally.

Even though we are well versed on the subject, it’s still both fascinating and mysterious to not only observe the process in others, but to experience it first hand. If you’re willing to risk, then you will never be, as Teddy Roosevelt once said “A cold and timid soul that knows neither victory nor defeat. ”


Working From the Inside Out: A Key to Unlocking Lasting Change

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

It’s one of those unique qualities of being human — even if it doesn’t always look like this to others: The majority of us have a deeply-rooted desire to improve, to get better at something, to transform an area of our lives. Whether it’s related to work, relationships or our health, there’s almost invariably some things we need to stop doing and some things we want to start doing. Change is one of the key ingredients that allows us to grow and mature.

It’s only taken me about 20 years to get that idea settled into my life. I’m embarrassed to admit what I originally thought about change when I first started working with people as a therapist: I actually thought that if someone took the time out of their schedule and paid me to talk about the difficult things in their lives, that meant they were ready to change. I began to realize over time that seeing a therapist (meaning me) actually told me very little about their desire to change, their motivation to change or even their belief about the possibility of change.

I’ve learned a few things about the process of change from therapy and research (I’ll share more about that in the blogs to come). But the first thing that needs to happen if we want to change, in big ways or small, is that we need to be more honest with ourselves. We have to start the process of change with where we are, not where we think we should be. Take, for instance, New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people think they need to get healthy at the start of a new year, in part because of the excessive eating and lack of exercise during the holidays. So every January, every health club is packed. But most of those newcomers at the gym don’t really want to change; they just feel bad about the choices they made over the previous couple of weeks (or even the previous months or year). Rather than over-committing to work out, say, five times a week for an hour at a time, it would be better if they started walking or jogging for a short time once a week.


Compliance vs. Change

It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between compliance and change. Usually, compliance is somebody trying to change us. I often joke, “I’m not sure where in the city my wife is right now, but if she’s talking to a friend about something that she thinks I need to change, I can feel that conversation 20 miles away and I’ll start my resistance.”

People hate being forced to change, and compliance — giving in, agreeing to do what’s asked of us — is simply a strategy we’ve all used to get someone to quit talking to us about what they think we should do. But the truth is, if I’m open to change and if I’m the one doing the work, then I just might end up starting a change process that lasts. So compliance and change are two very different things. While compliance usually originates from someone else or something else, change, on the other hand, must become personal to us if it is grow. Put another way, for lasting change to happen, at some point there has to be something that happens internally, not just externally.

Even though therapists and researchers are well-versed on the subject how change happens, it’s still both fascinating and mysterious to not only observe the process in others, but to experience it first-hand. If you’re willing to risk changing yourself from the inside out then you will never be, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “a cold and timid soul that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

–Written by Kevin Gilliland, PsyD for the website. For more from their expert bloggers, please follow this link.