What is PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

What is PTSD – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

By Gail-Elaine Tinker MS, LPC Psychotherapist

Mary (not a real person) grew up in a chaotic household fraught with violence and addiction. Despite this experience, she has grown to have a functional life; higher education, relationship, children, career, nice home, friends, and hobbies. One tragic day, Mary is involved in a multiple vehicle highway accident where there were grave injuries and fatalities. Mary survives with minor, but painful injuries. Within a month, Mary is expected to return to work and to perform her functions as partner and parent; this is what she does. Unfortunately, Mary has become withdrawn, irritable, suffers from a lack of concentration, and bouts of insomnia. Mary silently dwells on details of her accident and experiences frequent nightmares of auto accidents. Mary becomes obsessed about traffic safety issues and legislation and becomes fearful of her children’s safety in traveling. Mary has been using alternate routes to avoid the highway where her accident happened. Mary’s work performance is called into question due to her symptoms, so she visits her doctor, who prescribes sleep medication to help her with her sleeplessness. Nearly a year later, Mary is demoted after several key mistakes in her job. Mary’s marriage is in trouble due to her irritability, fears, numbness, withdrawal, and obsessive focus. Mary has been having frequent ‘girls’ night out,’ where she takes a cab home in an inebriated state. The couple attempts to attend marriage counseling to save their family. The counselor picks up on Mary’s past and recent trauma and strongly suggests that Mary receive counseling of her own to address these issues. Mary is diagnosed with PTSD.


Post-Traumatic Stress is a mental health issue following the witness or experience of a life-threatening event. Surviving a car accident, natural or man-made disaster, an auto or industrial accident, violence, or sexual assault or chronic abuse are the usual ways in which normal people are exposed to traumatic events.


While it is normal to feel on edge, have trouble sleeping, feel upset or guilty immediately after a traumatic event and in the months after. It is understandable that people would have difficulty resuming work, school, and socializing after such an experience. Most people experience a degree of fear, anxiety and life-stress following a traumatic event, but not everyone does. The point is, that if you are having trouble in daily life many months after the trauma, you may have PTSD.


Who develops PTSD involves factors which are beyond any person’s control. It is never a sign of weakness; it can happen to anyone. However, there are some circumstances which predispose individuals to a PTSD response. For example, having survived a previous trauma, a chronic, intense, long-standing trauma, becoming injured as a result of the trauma, and what happens next as a result of the traumatic event.


PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but sometimes they may not appear until months or years later. They can also come and go over a period of years. While there are common factors in which we define PTSD, each person experiences the symptoms in their own way. One way to determine PTSD is by asking how many months and how intensely does the survivor exhibit distress because of a traumatic act. Below is a list of some of the experiences which characterize PTSD. Not all of these symptoms must be experienced to meet the standard; remember each person may be entirely different.


  • Reliving the event repeatedly in a compulsive manner
  • Remembering the event in such a way that you ‘return to the situation’
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Feeling ‘hyper’ after the event and beyond
  • Avoiding people, places, and situations which trigger memories
  • Free-floating anxiety and social anxiety
  • Negative sense that the world is an unsafe place
  • Undue fear for family or friends’ safety
  • Relationship issues and fear of intimacy
  • Expressed irritability and/or anger
  • Frequently startled in daily life
  • Unhealthy behaviors or addictions
  • Urge to control everything in one’s life
  • Desire to withdraw and/or run away
  • Risky behaviors
  • Experiencing guilt, shame and/or lack of trust
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating and performing work duties
  • Symptoms of chronic pain and frequent illness
  • Becoming emotionally overwhelmed on a frequent basis
  • Triggered to re-experience life traumas before the traumatic event
  • Having symptoms which impact the survivor across all areas of life


Can anyone recover from PTSD? Yes, in some ways. Traumatic means life-altering, so your life may never be what it once was, but it can be good again. Trauma treatment can be a lengthy and exhausting process for survivor and family. Some people recover from symptoms completely, but many can only expect fewer symptoms and in a less intense manner after treatment. Trauma tends to impact all areas of the survivor’s life, so there are many areas in which to recover.


How we treat PTSD varies and is customizable to each individual. Generally, psychotherapy and medication are used in tandem to begin the healing process.

Trauma-Informed Psychotherapy, including cognitive processing helps you to understand how the trauma has changed you. A modality called Prolonged Exposure helps a person feel a sense of control after having the survivor talk about the events until the memories lack the power they once had. Returning to people, places, and situations which have been avoided due to PTSD helps a person by exposing the memories and de-sensitizing to the pain. Other methods include EMDR, a means of focusing on sound, eye or hand movement while you talk about the experience to help your brain ‘rewire’ around the memories. Hypnosis can be effective in re-teaching relaxation and promoting subconscious improvement of symptoms. Transformative therapies, such as, art, music, movement, Gestalt, and psychodrama can be effective in helping a survivor to regain health.


Medications are not a ‘silver bullet’ in PTSD treatment, however, many anti-depressants can be helpful. It is important to mention that addictive compounds and self-medicating can worsen the experience of the survivor in the long run. Many doctors will prescribe anti-anxiety medications to assist the daily suffering, which can be helpful only in the short-term.

How will Mary proceed, now that she has a PTSD diagnosis? Mary’s treatment with her trauma-informed therapist includes cognitive processing the recent and past traumatic events. Mary sees her doctor to attain an antidepressant, they make a co-joint goal to wean her from the sleeping medication as she progresses in therapy. Mary does well in therapy and feels more like her old self and enjoys more family activities. Her husband becomes better informed about how Mary expresses her PTSD. Mary’s therapist suggests a weekend retreat which involves psychodrama. Mary is awed by the power of the technique and realizes the connection between her childhood and her present fears and obsessions. Her therapy includes hypnotherapy and mindfulness training, which helps Mary to re-learn how to relax and to sleep more fitfully. Mary sees value in taking a yoga class and is delighted by the change she feels within. Mary can return to intimacy with her partner after a few sessions of marriage counseling, which improves their communication styles.


Mary knows she will be forever changed by the accident, but can experience gratitude over guilt when facing her feelings. She feels far less guilty for surviving her childhood issues and knows her own children are safe, breaking the cycle of trauma. She is sleeping well, independent of sleeping medication, needing only to use self-hypnosis for her occasional sleeplessness. Her marriage and work performance are returning to previous levels of satisfaction. Mary has a positive performance review and hopes to join an important team project at work. Because her yoga and meditation practice help her moods, she feels capable of the challenge.


Mary has become a successful trauma survivor and is enjoying the best possible outcome for her issues. The hope is that Mary will continue to progress to a point where trauma is a minor part of her story. PTSD is a serious, but treatable condition. Not everyone will have the success that Mary has, but the potential is higher if they obtain appropriate physical and psychological treatment for the way their traumatic event has impacted their lives.


Gail-Elaine Tinker MS, LPC is a licensed psychotherapist located in Bethlehem, PA who works with survivors of trauma.

Use of Metaphor In Psychotherapy: Does it Help or Hurt?

Use of Metaphor In Psychotherapy: does it help or hurt?

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., LPC

Licensed Psychotherapist

When a client describes to me that her anxiety feels ‘like a lion is sitting on her chest’ or that his ‘depression feels like he is trapped in a very dark pit,’ it is understood that these are metaphors for emotions which are difficult to quantify. They are not literally trapped in a dark pit, it is more about feeling heavy and hopeless.  This is because often there are physical manifestations of emotional issues; such as the chest heaviness or the emptiness within.


Therapists sometimes employ metaphors to explain the sensation of the emotions felt or goals in improving behaviors. For example, if a client says that she feels like ‘her spouse is like a steamroller to her emotions in the relationship,’ I might ask in which areas does she feel ‘squashed.’ If a client explains that due to severe anxiety, he feels ‘as if the words are stuck in his throat,’ we might work with the idea of how he might ‘unclog’ his throat and give ‘voice’ to his anxiety. If a client says she feels ‘ignored and abused by her co-workers,’ and it is ‘like being shunned;’ then we find out exactly how limiting in communication is and deal with her feelings of being ignored and excluded in her work environment.


The ‘is like a…’ phrase denotes the metaphor; ‘the diamonds shone around her throat, like stars in the heavens.’ No one thinks the actual celestial stars are on her neck, we understand that the necklace is very brilliant and glistening against her skin. Metaphors are very useful in therapy, as they convey feelings deeper than the said words. An astute therapist often repeats such metaphors to check their emotional accuracy. Does the panic feel like a rabbit, a lion, or an elephant on your chest, stomach, back or throat? Many times, metaphors and analogies are discovered when clients do journaling or writing exercises.


It is not wrong to describe a person whom you distrust as, he’s ‘like a snake in the grass.’ Together, the therapist and client can explore what makes this person seem hidden, slithery, or uncatchable. This can be the therapeutic “Ah-Ha” moment to understanding the root issue. A therapist might ask, “do you know of any others who remind of you of a snake?” Client: “No, but I used to refer to my dad as a weasel.” Therapist: “OK, good. In your mind, how do snakes and weasels differ?” The “ah-ha” moment of realization is that the reason why this person bugs you; it is due to experiencing­­ your unreliable father. With this knowledge, the client can be more prepared to deal with the reframed information to the ­­­betterment of her life.


Sometimes laymen have no idea what metaphors mean. For instance, you can argue with your children that they are behaving ‘like bulls in a china shop,’ yet no matter how accurately described their rowdiness and lack of care, some children or adults struggle with these concepts. If your metaphor is met with a puzzled look, be prepared to be literal in explaining that you fear they make break something. ‘Bull in china shop’ may not only describe the chaos, but also conveys your flustered bewilderment with the excess energy. The person who doesn’t understand wonders if by calling them a bull, do you think they are fat or stubborn?


Finding precise words for feelings can be a difficult chore. However, mastery of feeling words and concepts always improves your communication abilities. If I tell you, I feel ‘as high as a kite’ or ‘fit as a fiddle,’ do you know that I am happy and healthy? Would it be better if I simply state, ‘I feel happy and healthy’? More than likely, distilling your abstract feelings into a succinct feeling word improves understanding in your listener. If you feel ’mighty pissed off,’ wouldn’t it be better to say, ‘very angry’?


Language matters. This brings up the more common use of curse words in our vernacular language. I have clients who punctuate nearly every word with the f*bomb. It isn’t used for emphasis, as in, ‘I feel f*ing pissed when she says that!’ However, “when she says that, you have no idea how annoyed I feel” leaves one with a more accurate understanding and there is no f*bomb to distract. No one literally means ‘using the toilet’ when they say “shit,” right? “When mom saw it, she shit her pants,” did mom soil herself or was she surprised?


Speech matters, especially in the description of intense feelings. If you want to make yourself well understood, take the time to understand and describe your feelings. If you tell me, “I feel very anxious,’ rather than, “I am as jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs;’ the first might be accurate and the metaphor might strike the listener as a humorous, vivid picture of your anxiety. I would ask you if you felt this anxiety in your body or in your head/emotions? There is no right answer, simply how YOU feel is important. But if you convey to me, “shaky, unsettled, room-spinning, and fear,” I’ll ask if that is anxiety or another feeling.


Humor, cursing for emphasis, and the use of metaphors and analogies have their place in communicative language as well as psychotherapy. It is well documented that we use different languages of English at home, at work, at school, with the police, at the doctor’s, and in psychotherapy. Should you tell your doctor that you feel “like you are wearing f*ing concrete boots on your feet,” there will be a question in her mind as to if you feel tired, depressed, or are experience an actual weight in your legs and feet. The f*bomb will be a distraction, not an emphasis term such as ‘very heavy.’ I leave it to you to elect the way you want to describe your experience.

Gail-Elaine Tinker MS, LPC is a Licensed Psychotherapist in private practice in Bethlehem, PA. She works with those enduring chronic pain, life transitions, addictions, trauma, and grief, as many of these issues intertwine. She also does Reiki and Hypnosis to the betterment of her clients. She has been accepted as a provider for many mental health plans. Should you desire an appointment, you may call directly at 610-216-4319 between 9am and 6pm EST. You may leave a confidential VM.

Why Would I Use Hypnosis?

Why Would I Use Hypnosis?

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., CH, LPC


Hypnosis is a therapeutic technique used by hypnotherapists who use relaxation and attention focusing exercises to give positive suggestions to the subconscious mind. Ethical professionals will use the client’s own words amid other scripted materials. Once controversial, it is a respected practice in Psychology, due to the powerful outcomes involving clients with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, insomnia, phobias, and those wishing to change troublesome behaviors like smoking, picking, and weight gain.


Many have seen hypnosis portrayed on TV or movies and have formed an opinion that it is a dangerous practice. Some have witnessed ‘stage hypnosis,’ where a skilled professional uses hypnosis for edu-tainment. The truth is that hypnosis is used more frequently for positive outcomes, like dispelling claustrophobia or helping with IBS. Hypnosis can help clients manage a chronic health condition by giving the client a positive sense of control, often reducing symptoms.


Can hypnosis be used for nefarious purposes? Maybe, although the correct answer is that while under hypnosis, you are fully aware and will not do anything against your values. That being said, I would never allow a non-professional to hypnotize me, so I urge care in selecting a qualified, ethical practitioner. This does not include street performers, fortune tellers, or salespeople. I know trained doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage and reiki practitioners who utilize hypnosis as well as psychotherapists, with the patient’s permission, to relax or address pain issues.


Receiving hypnosis is a highly relaxing experience, as one often sits in a reclining chair, possibly with a blanket, and follows suggestions for relaxation by often imagining a delightful place where time is slow and all things positive can happen. The hypnotherapist provides suggestions to visit the beach, mountains, jungle, in a hot-air balloon, or wherever relaxation on vacation frequently occurs. Once relaxed, often to the point of ‘awake sleeping,’ suggestions can be made. You can focus on the positive image via constructive imagery in the scripts. You ‘awake’ feeling relaxed and refreshed.


Have you ever fallen asleep in your chair while watching TV? You are enjoying a program, when your eyes slowly close and your breathing softens. The entire body relaxes supported by your comfy chair. You may hear the TV as you rest and sometimes if you fall asleep, you have dreams corresponding to the TV program playing. This is what hypnosis feels like. Do you awake ‘influenced’ by the show? No, you return to yourself. Perhaps of something in the show were a positive idea, corresponding to your desires, you might feel better in control to address that issue.


Using the client’s own words is a powerful script for hypnosis, as the client recognizes repeated thoughts which are positive. This would resemble, “I, client, will do a special thing daily, and I feel wonderful in doing it.” This is nothing other than what the client wants, so when suggested to the subconscious, can be powerfully effective.


Self-Hypnosis is a wonderful companion to professional hypnosis. If you will take some deep breaths, read aloud a few calming statements, and re-state your specific desire, before closing your eyes for the night, it will reinforce the professional process. This can also be done during meditation time and as a relaxer during the workday. The act of reinforcing positive goals will make the professional sessions more effective.


Clients with issues like anxiety and insomnia can utilize YouTube and purchased CD/DVD offerings of self-hypnosis to further the relaxation and sleep process. They often commence with relaxing music, calming phrases, and beautiful vistas which can improve relaxation, should you choose to allow it. Remember, you have free will during hypnosis and if you are unable to relax into the exercises, they will not likely be effective.


So, if you have the need or desire to make changes in your life or simply gain a positive attitude, find a local Hypnotherapist. Remember to first ask questions about their ethics and intentions. Bring a specific desire to your first session, “I wish to do ______.” because using your therapy time to discover your wants and needs will take time away from hypnosis. Trained professionals can help you with this powerful and recognized technique in addition to talk-therapy and other helpful modalities. No need to fear hypnosis, when you can embrace it as a support to your life.

Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. CH, LPC is a licensed psychotherapist who uses hypnosis with clients who request it. Many clients have successfully relieved many difficult symptoms and issues by the methods described. To contact her directly, call 610-216-4319, or send a message via ge@tinkerpsychotherapy.com.

Treatment of Anxiety and Depression:A Self-Empowering Process

Treatment of Anxiety and Depression:A Self-Empowering Process


As with any presented issue, Tinker Psychotherapy Services – Gail-Elaine Tinker MS, LPC, provides treatment with a custom approach and emphasis on self-empowerment. The idea is to help the individual and family to manage and reduce the depressive symptoms and the anxiety which often occurs simultaneously. The notion of becoming personally empowered is an idea which should be employed more often.

This creates a ‘chicken and egg’ process to discover ‘which came first,’ and to determine and properly address the precise issue and symptoms. This does not mean blaming another for your discomfort. Sometimes the diagnosis is difficult to determine, even for your doctor or counselor, but the process of motivating an individual toward taking his or her symptoms in hand works for both diagnoses. No one can ‘do this for you,’ it is necessary to make some life changes to eliminate Anxiety and Depression. Many people enjoy the activities of reclaim the joy of life and finding true relaxation.

 Let’s discuss the methods that Tinker Psychotherapy Services would utilize in the treatment of Depression and Anxiety. Firstly, CBT or Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is useful in teaching a person to replace negative and unproductive thought patterns with more helpful, realistic thought, this approach to one’s Self-Talk is very effective for Depression and Anxiety. So, the notion of, “I am a loser because I lost my girlfriend due to my depression,” can be substituted with, “I feel sad about my girlfriend’s break up, but my depression is a serious issue in my life. If she couldn’t cope with my symptoms, perhaps it is for the best.” Such problem-solving therapies can help a person feel more in control, an important aspect of feeling well.

For many people, Medication, prescribed by a Family Doctor or Psychiatrist, can assist the wellness process. This is a very personal issue and educating yourself about it is a relevant activity. Medication such as an SSRI and/or anti-anxiety medications can play a role in preserving life function. I liken it to having fallen down a deep hole and medication can be a ladder helping someone to climb out. Therapy helps the person to realize and manage faulty behaviors to ‘avoid another fall into the deep hole.’ Not everyone can or desires to use medication, so other techniques are employed to help a person ‘build their own ladder’ to feel better and avoid returning to a difficult space. On another note, some medications taken for medical issues can cause, facilitate, and add to Depression and Anxiety. Noting patterns of change can aid you in discussing these symptoms with your doctor.

Mindfulness techniques are the best in helping all those with Depression and Anxiety to manage their pain. Relaxation, meditation, and breathing exercises can be immediately helpful. Other alternative methods include professional massage, acupuncture, reiki, EFT-tapping methods, tai chi, and hypnosis because they can assist people in finding true relaxation, so that the ability to return to that space is possible. A therapist can teach you these various techniques or a coach, class, or activity group can support your desire to be well again.

Having your family and friends support can be very helpful to recovery. This means educating your support system of people to understand, cope with disruptive symptoms, and support your wellness process. Learning that wellness takes more time than anyone would like, is a critical part of educating folks. There are support groups for mental illness and corresponding family groups to aid in the serious process of ultimate wellness.

Exercise and Diet are other issues to be addressed. ‘You are what you eat’ may sound like a cliché, but appropriate diet and even dietary supplements can aid in wellness. Anxiety and Depression can exacerbate poor eating habits, as one lacks the energy to prepare proper meals or even inhibits shopping for healthy food.

Moderate exercise is another aid, as it supports the body in natural wellness, possible problem weight loss, and better sleep. Few can do this well on an immediate basis, but therapeutic motivation, determination, and practice are helpful mindsets. This is where gyms, clubs, classes, or groups can be of enormous help.

Development of new activities which distract from your condition can be vital to ultimate wellness. Returning or rediscovering hobbies and activities are not only fine coping tools, but are also the life-skills of wellness. For example, walking, knitting, sewing, writing, woodworking, automobile care, doing mind puzzles, board games and mindfulness approaches can be helpful distractions to troublesome Anxiety and Depression symptoms.

Engaging in psychotherapy with a qualified counselor can be a valuable step in recovering from Depression and Anxiety. Therapists have the experience and understanding needed to coach you through the empowerment process. Selecting an appropriate therapist while you are in the thick of Anxiety and Depression symptoms can be overwhelming. There are many websites, such a psychologytoday.com, which give therapist profiles. Be mindful to select a therapist with the outlook to serve you best.

Depression and Anxiety often go hand-in-hand, but the suffering from these two difficult conditions need not be long. The effort to believe that you deserve treatment and relief may seem challenging at first, but accepting your issue and seeking treatment is the ultimate gift you can give to yourself and your family.

Gail-Elaine Tinker, MS, LPC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Bethlehem, PA. She uses conventional therapeutic methods in concert with mindfulness and hypnotherapy to treat a variety of condition, including Anxiety and Depression. Many insurance providers are accepted and you can use a Credit Card for payment, if needed. For contact, you may call 610-216-4319 to interview her and set up an appointment.

Narcissist’s Point of View

Narcissists: How Do They Experience Life?

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., CH, NCC, LPC

I am a psychotherapist and client may come to me claiming their partner is a malignant narcissist. I do not take the claim at face value. I need examples of past and present behavior to support this diagnosis and help the troubled party to regain their sense of self. I may need to hear of behaviors on the part of the client, showing that they have been emotionally abused. Narcissists may expect blending to the point of codependency, whether at home or at work. The fact is that rarely does a narcissist come willingly to therapy; they might to try to save a marriage, their job, or to correct a social mistake, such a DUI or domestic violence. It is the partner, employee, or child of the narcissist who seek support in therapy and with empathy, wants to understand the narcissist’s motivations and behaviors.

Of course, everyone is different, but many people who might be considered narcissists try to have the empathy needed to ‘look normal.’ In a sense of good intentions, they look to the behavior of their family, coworkers, and neighbors to know what to do, as they feel clueless or overwhelmed on having an appropriate reaction. This fits in well with the narcissist’s needs to ‘look good’ in front of an audience. For example, looking at a narcissist’s response to having a baby; it will be about his achievements in having, providing for, and maintaining the ‘perfect’ family. The idea of supporting the pregnant woman through the pregnancy might seem redundant to him. Only if someone comments about assisting her with swollen feet or chores, might the narcissist react positively.

The exaggerated self-importance, even superiority, of the narcissist is a difficult concept to grasp. The fact that they aggrandize their achievements and abilities would seem contradictory to low self-esteem. Their fantasies about their success, beauty, or accomplishments might be obsessive and very needed to complete the narcissist’s inner world. The narcissist is invested in creating the image of a perfect world and receives admiration, even envy, from those outside. Very few are worthy to be ‘inside,’ hence the near isolation they maintain. A narcissist may be the member of a religion, very devout in manner and behavior. They chair committees and take on lay positions of respect. They may be far more solicitous to fellow members than they are to their own partners, coworkers, or ‘average’ people.

The narcissist may seem shocking in their expectations advantage and entitlements. They are grandiose and believe they are exempt from the rules of society. This is how addiction, reckless behavior, and crime can be committed by the narcissist with no fear of consequences. For example, if receiving a traffic ticket, they go to court to fight it, furious that their reputation is tarnished in any way. Paying the fine is an outrageous injustice. The guilt in their behavior is beside the point and they dislike being reminded of it.

Some narcissists take advantage of others in their quest for perfection. Their difficulty in recognizing the needs of others. Even if benevolent, they need to be recognized for their charitable outlook and actions. This may seem very arrogant and discriminatory. For example, if on a team in work, they might easily take credit for the team effort, in a bold attempt to look good and raise higher in position and esteem.

These are the actions of an insecure person, desperate for approval, or more likely desperate to never suffer disapproval. They are the epitome of having a fragile ego; they do not take constructive criticism well. When challenged, a narcissist takes prisoners and tortures for revenge. Divorcing a narcissist is a minefield of such outrages to be fought to the death, not mediated. This approach hurt many children in selfish, alienating terms. A narcissist might fight bitterly for the custody of a pet they really are not inclined towards.

The damage to the partner of a narcissist is in the failure of a life perceived in unity. The partner asks if it was all a ruse. They wonder how they missed the signs while dating or interviewing for the job. Narcissism may develop in the time-span of the relationship. The narcissist seems very sincere in enjoying a relationship; the trips, the bonding events, and family milestones. However, this is why narcissists rarely partner or builds familiarity at home or at work with another narcissist. They need an opposite to ‘balance’ their relationship, but they then abuse and manipulate their partner.

The ‘opposite’ partner is usually naïve, generous with love, nurturing, and supportive beyond the bounds of loyalty. The narcissist enjoys the benefits of such a person, but ultimately sees them as inferior and needing of degradation to ‘improve’ aspects of their partner’s behavior or personality. The narcissist expects a dependence of the partner upon them, the beauty, brains, and soul of the relationship. The partner loses self-esteem, independence, and may become deeply depressed.

Partners try to understand ‘what went wrong.’ It is healthy to try to understand how a narcissist thinks to make sense of values they create in order to shore up their fragile egos. The partner, most often, needs to rebuild their own self-esteem, much to the dismay of the narcissist. Understanding what they are thinking can assist in the process or help a partner to identify the characteristic, for their own welfare.

Often the partner seeks the professional help of a psychotherapist or clergy in order to construct healthier boundaries. Not every therapist or psychologist understands narcissism to approach the behaviors. Attempts at ‘marriage counseling’ with a narcissist can end in ‘tug of war’ contests and groups might end up feeding the narcissist’s grandiosity. I suggest that the partner attend individual therapy, on their own, before attempting other counseling formats. Interview the therapist for an understanding and experience with narcissists.


Gail-Elaine Tinker is a licensed professional counselor in private practice located in Bethlehem, PA. She specializes in trauma, grief, health issue, and repair from narcissism. You may contact Gail-Elaine directly at 610-216-4319 or at gailelainetinker@yahoo.com. She cooperates with many insurance providers and also works with cash.

Anxiety: 11 coping methods to managing your anxiety symptoms


Anxiety: 11 coping methods to managing your anxiety symptoms

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., LPC  Psychotherapist

Do you or someone you love to suffer regularly from anxiety? Do you feel helpless when trying to manage your symptoms or when encouraging your loved one to cope properly?

Anxiety is defined as an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, increased pulse rate, shallow breathing, and sometimes stomach upset), by having doubt concerning the reality of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. There is generalized anxiety of a chronic nature and there are sometimes attacks of extreme panic; both are due to clinical anxiety.

Everyone experiences anxiety occasionally – like test anxiety, the ‘butterflies’ of having to give a presentation at work, or when telling someone bad news. If you are experiencing the sensations of anxiety more than several times per day for more than several weeks; it is time to have yourself checked out.

First visit your regular doctor (PCP) and have the basic physical exam. Sometimes a flare up of a medical condition can cause anxiety. Some doctors offer medication to help with the uncomfortable symptoms; this medication must be taken exactly as instructed. It is only a brief stopgap to finding what triggers anxiety and how to eliminate this… with a helping professional.

Next stop is a qualified mental health provider to have your anxiety scaled and modulated. You will need to tell the therapist about your anxiety, when and where it occurs, and what you are doing to cope. Think about your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10.

So, what does one do when anxiety is a regular, episodic, or chronic nature? How does one cope enough to do the tasks of the day? How do you cope in-between therapy appointments?

  1. Question your thinking; when you feel anxious, stop and ask yourself if your concerns are valid. For instance, if you worry that when your child goes out to play, he’ll be hurt… how real is this fear? If you are anxious over future events, remind yourself that you can handle them when ‘the future’ becomes ‘the present.’ Worry in the present is wasted energy.
  2. Give reassurances; if you are anxious, be sure to tell yourself “it will be OK” and “this is only temporary.”

Sometimes it is OK to remind yourself that the physical symptoms of anxiety are your mind/body ‘playing tricks’ on you… as the body is ramping up into fight/fight for a minor reason.

  1. Accept the anxiety; if you deny that the anxiety is real, this is YOU playing tricks on your own body! Admit, “I feel anxious right now’ and try to use some coping tools to stay balanced.


Coping with the symptoms: symptoms are distressing, difficult and uncomfortable. It is often difficult to get a hold of oneself during such discomfort and near panic. But you CAN control them, to an extent, utilizing these mind/body techniques.


  1. Distraction: this helps you to focus less on the object of your anxiety and the uncomfortable physical symptoms. Look out a window, turn on the TV or music, grab a magazine or book, play the guitar, play a video game, grab a deck of cards for solitaire, chop vegetables, walk around, make light chit-chat with a friend, rock in a rocking chair, drum on a table… there are many ways to distract.
  2. Self-soothing: is like distraction but more personal. When you find a distraction, which helps make it your own. Perhaps you feel anxious, even at a specific time, and practicing your instrument, prayer/meditation, walking, coloring in a coloring book, or chopping vegetables can help you calm down. Those are self-soothing activities which you can do regularly. No professional required.
  3. Deep breathing: we all tend to breath shallowly from the top of our lungs. A deep breath comes from the bottom of your lungs and expands your stomach area. Place your hand there to feel it expanding and releasing. Doing these breaths, about 3 times, with some self-soothing can really help anxiety by reducing the adrenaline which comes from fight/flight sequence. You can also add a splash of cool water to face, inside wrists, and a cool towel on the back of your neck.
  4. Visualization: is the technique of imagining yourself in your favorite place for a few minutes. Sort of daydream yourself at the beach, in the mountains, flying with the birds, or resting in a hammock by a pond. See yourself successful, calm and confident in your life. This can be used with full-on mediation techniques of lowering heart pace and expanding breathing.
  5. Tapping: there is a technique you could research called EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, and there are YouTube videos on how to do it. I will mention the most important place on your chest, in-between your breasts, is a tender spot. You may gently tap or rub this spots for a kind of instant release of calm-down chemicals into your bloodstream.
  6. Positive self-talk: is the action of when you are speaking to yourself inside your head or muttering, to be nice to yourself. This means no name calling, trying to be as verbally supportive with yourself, as you would be in encouraging your child or best friend.
  7. Communicate with supports: refers to talking things out with a trusted friend, clergy, or your therapist about anxiety episodes. Perhaps an objective ear can help to sort-out the causes for anxiety and eliminate them. Keep anxiety a secret can prolong your suffering.
  8. Lastly, NO SELF HARM: there are some who would do harmful or addictive activities to quell the symptoms of anxiety. It may seem like magic when taking a drink, drug, or eating fattening food removes your anxiety. That is called self-medicating and it can lead to addiction. If you become addicted to a substance, you’ll have more than anxiety to deal with when it comes to dealing with the life destruction which addiction brings. Nip it now. Ditto to cutting, picking, hair pulling, and self-injury. Even using prescribed anti-anxiety medication too often can be a serious problem in getting well. These 7 healthy coping techniques work!

Anxiety is the most common self-diagnosed complaint. There is often an anxiety/depression cycle that many people experience. This does not mean you are bipolar, but perhaps a medication should be considered. Ask your physician if she can help or if you need to see a psychiatrist.

Helping someone with Anxiety: requires a great deal of patience. Sometimes anxiety can be debilitating. Reminding the sufferer of the techniques and offering to DO them too, can be very helpful. Look at your own patterns of anxiety to see if you can reduce anxiety in your life, as an example and to make a more harmonious situation.

Sometimes anxiety develops over time and connects to the distant past. Were there conditions as a child or young adult where you felt especially helpless? So, when you encounter stress in the present, it is amplified by the distress from the past. Therapy can heal these past hurts to free you to be calm in your current situation, if you are presently safe in life.

Psychotherapy, Hypnosis, Medical Massage, Acupuncture, Narrative, Art & Music Therapy, Reiki, Yoga, Dance, caring for an Animal, and spending time in Nature are all means to attend to your issues of anxiety. They teach you techniques and allow you to feel yourself in complete relaxation – so you can return there. You do not have to accept chronic anxiety as your fate. You rewrite your pain by doing healthy things and observing your stress.


Gail-Elaine Tinker is a licensed Psychotherapist in private practice in Bethlehem, PA. She specialized in chronic pain, trauma, anxiety, and grief issues. Her work is informed by mind/body practices and utilizing Hypnotherapy and Reiki with her clients. The goal is empowerment. She can be reached at 610-216-4319 or at www.tinkerpsychotherapy.com

All About Boundaries

All About Boundaries

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, MS, LPC

What are boundaries? A boundary is a limit or line; think property boundaries, they let people know which is theirs and which is the neighbor’s. Boundaries are an imaginary line in your emotions which separate your body, your money, behaviors, also, and most importantly, your feelings. Your boundaries are the way you interact with people. They define your relationships and they define you.

Life without boundaries is replete with unnecessary drama and conflict. If you know someone who is an ultimate people-pleaser; you know they can be draining of your energy, as their lives swirl with confusing chaos. Perhaps you are the people-pleaser who ‘helps’ too much. People with poor boundaries mean well and have no idea that their attempts to be nice in the world are backfiring. Sometimes, a lack of boundaries between to people form a co-dependent relationship; that is, people who come to depend on the chaos of one another’s lives. Lack of boundaries affects men and women, but women tend to take longer to relearn boundaries. Women are socialized as caretakers, so lack of boundaries seem ‘natural.’

Life with strong boundaries is sane, logical, and realistic. People with boundaries can delineate between their own feelings and needs regarding other’s feelings and needs. Folks with healthy boundaries are able to talk and listen in all social relationships. Having boundaries does not make someone a bad person. Actually, if everyone had boundaries, we’d be happier because we’d be taking care of ourselves. One can still be in love, work on teams, be in families, date, and have friendships with boundaries.

How do you know if you have poor boundaries? Here are some ideas for you to consider, which would show poor boundaries. Inappropriate social behavior is often a cue to determining poor boundaries.

Firstly, bad social boundaries, for instance, telling ‘everyone’ you meet about your issues. You assume that everyone is like you, and doesn’t mind hearing intimate and inappropriate details in a casual acquaintance setting. Sharing intimate details of your life is best saved for long-term relationships, over time, and at appropriate settings. People who ‘overshare’ on Facebook, in public, in casual ‘nodding’ friendships are those with poor boundaries. Is everything about you? Are your problems and concerns so urgent that you aren’t considering others? Does the conversation always return to your chaotic life? Does the more you vent the more hopeless things feel?

Chronically rescuing others is a sign of poor boundaries. Some people get a ‘high’ by helping other people and it never occurs that people might be better left to their own decisions. If you are tired from giving too much to those around you, with a lack of respect, look at your boundaries. Think about becoming clear on your own preferences and not assuming others can intuit your needs. Life without boundaries can be ‘draining,’ so regain your power and emotional energy by learning boundaries.

Are you an inappropriate toucher? Are you confused about considering others in their privacy? Some people who claim to be ‘touchers,’ hugging strangers and patting people uninvited; they often have poor boundaries. People are not to touch others in public without invitation, unless it is a cordial handshake.

Do you fall in love easily? Love at first sight or like romantic films is a rare phenomenon. Do you just say, ‘why not’ and fall in love and go to bed with a stranger hoping for long lasting infatuation? Real love takes time. Love is not an excitement to fill a hole in your life; it takes time to develop bonds of trust and intimacy. It takes appropriate dating to get to know someone enough to have sex. Also, people who use sex, intimacy, and affection as a weapon are usually suffering poor boundaries.

Do you suffer from over-responsibility and guilt? Are you always second-best by taking the overtime and balancing the fate of the company on your shoulders; this is poor boundaries. When we feel over-responsible for people around us, it can be one of the most tiring aspects of life. A martyr usually has poor boundaries and is screaming for recognition that will not come.

Do you occasionally find that your life is fantasy-like? People without firm boundaries often inadvertently create a complicated, chaotic existence which they sincerely believe is essential. Often in therapy when the person ‘let’s go,’ she finds that the conditions she needed to respond to, tend to evaporate. Do you use substances to self-medicate from the pain, confusion, and chaos of a life without boundaries? Substance abuse and trauma can contribute to poor boundary setting.

Can you relate to the above? How can you improve your boundaries in all your relationships? Boundaries are actions which are learned. Sometimes families have poor boundaries, expecting members to care for one another in ways that are unhealthy and defining it ‘love.’ Mostly people believe they are doing the right thing in ‘rescuing’ everyone around them.

It is important to say that many adults have experienced an episode of being without boundaries or being with someone who had poor boundaries. Sometimes it is easier to identify the episode or era of your life with 20/20 hindsight. This does not mean you are doomed to repeat the episode, you learn from it by practicing good boundaries.

When someone has healthy boundaries, they have a high level of self-respect and they place value on self-awareness. They enter all relationships with positive boundaries, which allow understanding and bonds of trust to grow. Gaining these boundaries means letting go of some old beliefs and practices. A qualified therapist can be extremely helpful in joining you in the examination of your life for weak boundaries, and then, giving you techniques to increase your ability to operate with better boundaries.

Learning to tune into yourself is the practice of self-awareness. Knowing what you want or do not want in any situation comes from within you. Naming what you want is the key. I remember a scene in the film Runaway Bride when the bride was asked to how she liked her eggs. With each boyfriend, she changed her egg preference to his eggs. Maybe she rationalized it as ‘easier.’ But it was a symptom of how she misunderstood intimacy, and therefore, ran away from her many weddings. She could be helped just as you can: what do YOU want and how do you want it? This will change as circumstances evolve in your new life with boundaries. Sometimes it is simply ‘giving yourself permission’ to be self-aware and then state your needs which is the hardest thing. It can feel disloyal, unnatural, and cause problems short-term when you begin to exercise healthy boundaries.

During this process, support and self-care are essential. For many people, a therapist or clergy member supply the safe support as you jump from boundary-less and codependent, to a new phase of self-awareness, being able to state your desires, and accomplish boundaries. During this time, learning self-care will give you strength to keep one doing the difficult tasks. What is self-care?  It is a positive, re-charging activity: meditation, hiking, manicures, yoga, massage, bubble-baths, and so on are examples. These activities may seem self-indulgent at first, after all your life is so chaotic, how can you make time for yourself? That is the point; making time for yourself reduces the chaos and helps you tune-in.

Many people can learn to create healthy boundaries on their own. Sometimes the support of a friend, clergy, or support group can help in this challenging process. It is not a weakness to employ a therapist to help you through this life-changing episode. Therapists are like coaches in sports; they can help you keep an eye on the ball while running. Life is challenging enough for everyone with good boundaries; but without them, life is a quagmire swamp of chaos and confusion. Decide on which kind of life you would like to live. Then start with tuning-in to self-awareness, your ‘gut’ can be the best friend you have needed to improve things. Best of luck.


Gail-Elaine Tinker, MS, LPC is a licensed counselor in the Lehigh Valley, PA. She does individual and group counseling around boundary setting and renewing one’s life with boundaries. You may contact her 9-5 est at 610-216-4319 or write email in ge@tinkerpsychotherapy.com. Gail-Elaine takes many insurances and cash or credit cards for payment.


Anxiety Treated With Hypnosis and Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy and Hypnosis for Anxiety

by Gail-Elaine Tinker M.S, CH, NCC, LPC Psychotherapist

Anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, accompanied by nervous behavior, such as pacing back and forth, nail biting, or hyper-focusing and/or avoiding the issue which causes distress. Anxiety is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue, problems in concentration, somatic (body) complaints, and rumination (playing thoughts over and over = worry). Anxiety can be appropriate, such as before bad news, an exam, or making a speech; but when anxiety is experienced regularly there could develop a disorder which needs help from a doctor or psychotherapist. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is the emotional response to a real or perceived threat; anxiety is more the expectation of future threat.

Regularly experienced anxiety can be very harmful for mind and body. Mental damage happens when the source of anxiety is not removed, then the propensity for more anxiety grows, creating an emotional cycle of anxiety. Should such a state continue, the mind will perceive more and more issues to create anxiety. Physically, anxiety invokes the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, meaning the body itself perceives reason to create energy for the sufferer to run or fight their way through anxiety. Rarely does such worry call for the hormones which the body delivers to save an anxious person from dire danger. This hormonal response is why sufferers often have a kind of ‘nervous energy.’ The body is trying to defend against a problematic worry, with all the internal forces reserved for life-saving threats. It is harmful to have prolonged fight or fight mechanisms of the body engaged frequently, as science is discovering the harm it does in diseases and inflammatory conditions.

In the treatment of anxiety, we must address the situational, emotional, and physical causes of prolonged anxiety states. First, we must determine if anxiety is not a symptom of a physical disorder, as many medications or health issues can result in anxiety. [Many doctors prescribe anxiety medications without getting to the cause of the issue or without mentioning the addictive qualities of the medication the client is using.] Next, we determine of the situation can be improved. For example, imagine ‘test anxiety’ to be the reason to seek help; in therapy, we’d examine the root causes and determine if there are solutions in study and in educational accommodations. Next, we would examine social health and the ability to relax. Does the test taker know how to use breathing and other mindfulness techniques to quell anxiety? Does the test taker inadvertently do other activities which increase anxiety? Mindfulness can be taught via holistic psychotherapy (and by yoga) to help the anxious person to abort the fight or flight going on in the body. Recognition of the processes and gaining tools for intervention go a long way in interrupting the body feelings of anxiety. But when there has been a long history of anxiety, hypnosis can be utilized to correct the ‘catch 22’ feelings in long term anxiety.

Hypnosis is not at all like what is often depicted on TV or films; hypnosis is merely deep relaxation. One does not lose control during hypnotherapy. One relaxes during a guided relaxation exercise and then during the deep relaxation, they are responsive to suggestion or direction. Many of my clients feel like they are so relaxed they fall asleep, they even snore… but others stay relaxed and ‘listen’ to all that I say during hypnosis. Either way, it works, because when one is in the foggy zone like the one before sleep or waking, it is like hypnosis. Have you ever fallen asleep with the TV on and subsequently dreamed the dialog of the program you were watching? That is the kind of relaxation and suggestion we are discussing regarding hypnosis. You need to want to change; hypnosis can’t make you do things you do not want to do. For the hypnotherapist, hypnosis is the time to suggest affirmations and goals which the client has asked for. This process is excellent for anxiety conditions, as the client self-directs the wellness and can reinforce it at home with self-hypnosis. This is how hypnosis can be very effect of halting anxiety issues.

I am a licensed psychotherapist, so I use education, therapy, and hypnosis effectively for clients who experiences anxiety, phobias, insomnia, and as well as unhelpful behaviors due to anxiety. If you would like to see if your anxiety can be remedied via therapy and hypnosis, you can find a qualified therapist in your area via Psychologytoday.com and the National Guild of Hypnotists offers a list of certified members. I can be found at tinkerpsychotherapy.com, if you are able to come to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. My business number is 610-216-4319.

The Role of Hypnosis in Psychotherapy Practice


The Promise of Hypnosis as a Tool in Holistic Psychotherapy

By Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., Licensed Psychotherapist and Certified Hypnotherapist

For most Psychotherapists who use hypnosis and Hypnotherapists, the very first task is telling patients what hypnosis is and what it is not. There are many myths to dispel. On TV and film, hypnosis is portrayed as a Machiavellian feat, with abilities to make people do unbelievable things while in a ‘trance’ that they might never do in life. Then there are stage hypnotists who entertain by inviting people on stage where they end up ‘clucking like a chicken.’ Perspective clients fear an enormous loss of control, implantation of foreign ideas, and giving away important secrets.

So, in spite of this damaged reputation, clinicians need to explain the growing body of scientific research which support hypnosis as a beneficial tool in treating a wide range of painful and bothersome conditions that some people are resistant to other means of treatment. Hypnosis shows great promise in the treatment of chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and many phobias, and it is being studied in the role of many habit reductions. While Hypnosis is not a psychological treatment itself, it is an invaluable tool. It does not interfere with medication or other therapeutic models. This means that hypnosis can be critical in the treatment of debilitating diagnoses with or without medication and other therapeutic interventions.

How does Hypnosis help in such serious Psychological conditions? Hypnosis can create a highly relaxed state of inner concentration and focused attention for recipients, and can be tailored to different treatment methods. Many who practice CBT or DBT can use Hypnosis to forward the process. It is very important to empower each recipient by teaching self-hypnosis for home follow-up to reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, or alleviate some symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Hypnosis has been used for centuries for pain control, including during the Civil War, before effective anesthesia was developed, Army surgeons hypnotized injured soldiers before amputations. In the APA Journal Article, January 2011, Vol 42, No. 1, Hypnosis Today, Brendan L. Smith discusses recent studies on the effectiveness of Hypnosis to reduce pain. He cites extensive research on Hypnosis as a pre-surgical pain reduction program that not only reduced distress, pain, nausea, fatigue, and discomfort, but also saved calculable time, money, and medication per patient; which is highly impressive. This same article cites another research study combining CBT cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis to reduce fatigue for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, a very arduous process. Yet another study mentions benefits of hypnosis for burn victims undergoing painful wound debridement who received reduced pain needs due to hypnosis.

Hypnosis’ downside is its entertainment reputation and its decade in history when false memories where inadvertently implanted by improperly trained practitioners. So not many therapists use hypnosis for memory retrieval, and certainly these memories are not admissible in a court of law. Also not everyone responds to a hypnosis treatment equally, and yet the effectiveness of the treatment may still be measured. When combined with other therapeutic interventions, the effectiveness increases, even if the client denies ‘hypnosis.’ Many receiving therapeutic hypnosis describe it as “extreme relaxation” which they can carry home with them in terms of self-hypnosis. It isn’t a cure but a ‘baby step’ for many with deep-seated anxiety, insomnia, and pain syndromes. Follow-through is important, because the relaxation helps for a while, but a ‘real solution’ should be prepared to enact positive change.

Very few Clinical Psychology programs teach hypnosis. The prevalence of ‘weekend’ hypnosis courses make it difficult to ascertain who has had more extensive training and who has just ‘read a book.’ Look for certification by a national association, a professional demeanor, business card, and website; this tell you that they are a true professional. It is OK to ask for ‘references,’ names and numbers of people to vouch for the practitioner’s abilities. In turn, you are expected to pay the person and do the necessary work to get well and strong. Hypnotherapy is an excellent tool in Psychotherapy. I hope it works for you.

imageGail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., RM, CH, NCC, LPC is a licensed Psychotherapist and certified Hypnotherapist in Private Practice in Lehigh Valley, PA.  She does Life Coaching, Advocacy, Public Speaking, and Writing. Tinker Psychotherapy Services is a general practice but has specialties in Trauma, Grief, Addiction, Women in Transition, and Chronic Pain. She uses Hypnosis, Reiki, Art Therapy, Mindfulness, Groups and Talk Therapy to help people reach their goals. If you would like to meet with Gail-Elaine email ge@tinkerpsychotherapy.com.

Coping with the Death of a Pet

TearYour Pet’s Death is a Significant Loss

Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. Psychotherapist

Many people feel an intense bond with their animal companions in life, so encountering their departure from our lives can be as traumatic as losing a family member. For many people a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Pets are beloved members of the family and, when they die, they feel a significant loss. While some people may not understand the depth of feeling you had for your pet, one should never feel guilty or ashamed about grieving for an animal friend.

Grieving for people, animals and things, is a personal and highly individual experience. Some people find grief comes in stages. Others experience grief coming in waves, like series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief. If any of this process becomes too burdensome for you to carry on your activities of daily life, you should seek out the support of a counselor or clergy.

Some folks do not value the lives of animals and tend to mock those who grieve their deaths. There are those in this culture who are uncomfortable with love and grief emotions. I would simply advise not to allow anyone to tell you how to feel. Allow your natural feelings without embarrassment or judgment. If your own friends, family members, therapist, or clergy do not support you in the grief of pet loss, find someone who does. I would suggest outreach with others who have lost pets via online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and pet loss support groups, humane society groups. If anyone feels ‘stuck’ in their grief for the death of their beloved pet, a compassionate counselor would not consider therapy to be ‘silly;’ so go ahead and make the appointment. Sometimes things like this kind of grief trigger things from the past and they feel very large internally. Should you feel like you are in danger, you can call 911 or your local crisis counseling hotline and someone will talk to you about the overwhelming feelings of grief, depression, hopelessness, and impulse to do harm.


General Tips for those who are grieving a pet

  • Understanding the process by which your pet died can help ease your mind. If this means discussing the disease, accident, or euthanasia, the fancy name for humane and merciful death, your veterinary doctor or assistant should be willing to give you the information you need to ease your worries.
  • There are many sensations within acute grief that are completely normal. The most distressing are hallucination-type experiences that leave an impression that you are hearing familiar sounds of your pet walking or calling. Some people even think that they see their pet out of the corner of their eye, especially after just waking up. Countless folk hear the tinkle of their pet’s tags, etc. after they are gone. The key to coping with this phenomenon is not labeling yourself “crazy” and keeping busy with meaningful activity. If it becomes overwhelming contact a mental health provider experienced with grief issues.
  • Rituals can help healing. A funeral or memorial can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
  • Create a legacy. Donating to charity, planting a shrub, or flowerbed in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion. Keeping a memento of your pet such as a framed photograph is highly appropriate, if it comforts you.
  • Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Take extra care in your driving. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
  • If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help to elevate your outlook too.


Tips for Seniors to cope with pet loss:

As we age, we experience an increasing number of major life changes, including the loss of beloved friends, family members, and pets. The death of a pet can hit retired seniors even harder than younger adults who may be able to draw on the comfort of a close family, or distract themselves with the routine of work. For older adults who live alone, the pet was probably your sole companion, and taking care of the animal provided you with a sense of purpose.

  • Try to Find New Meaning In Life. Caring for a pet previously occupied your time and boosted your morale and optimism. Try to fill that time by volunteering, picking up a neglected hobby, taking a class, helping friends care for their pets, or even by getting another pet when the time feels right. (The humane society is over-run with senior-age-pets who need loving homes, and you may be the perfect person.)
  • Stay connected with friends. Pets, dogs especially, can help seniors meet new people or regularly connect with friends and neighbors while out on a walk or in the dog park, for example. Having lost your pet, it’s important that you don’t now spend days alone. Getting out, regular face-to-face contact can help you ward off depression and stay positive.
  •  Boost Your Activity Levels with Exercise. Pets help many older adults stay active and playful, which can boost your immune system and increase your energy. It’s important to keep up your activity levels after the loss of your pet. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program and then find an activity that you enjoy.


Helping a Child to cope with pet loss

The loss of a pet may be your child’s first experience of death and a parent’s first opportunity to teach about coping with the grief which inevitably accompanies the joy of loving another living creature. Many kids love their pets very deeply and some may not even remember a time in their life when the pet wasn’t around. A child may feel angry and blame themselves—or you—for the pet’s death. A child may feel scared that other people or animals they love may also leave them. How a parent handles the grieving process can determine whether the experience has a positive or negative effect on your child’s personal development.


Tips for a helping a child cope with the loss of a pet:

  • Keep the above general Tips in mind and be willing to TALK with children
  • Let your child see you express your own grief at the loss of the pet. If you don’t experience the same sense of loss as your child, respect their grief and let them express their feelings openly, without making them feel ashamed or guilty. Children should feel proud that they have so much compassion and care deeply about their animal companions.
  • Reassure your child that they weren’t responsible for the pet’s death. The death of a pet can raise a lot of questions and fears in a child. You may need to reassure your child that you, their parents, are not also likely to die. It’s important to talk about all their feelings and concerns.
  • Be careful with ‘euphemisms’ for death around children. Don’t say we put Sparky ‘to sleep’ or ‘took him to the farm’ when you actually mean death …say ‘death’ and explain it in age appropriate terms. Do you want the child to be afraid to go to sleep or to visit Sparky at the farm? No. Death is a reality we must face, better not to complicate it with sleep and farms.
  • Involve your child in the dying process. If you’ve chosen euthanasia for your pet, be honest with your child. Explain why the choice is necessary and give the child chance to spend some special time with the pet and say goodbye in his or her own way. Vets are trained to assist. Counselors at school can also assist.
  • If possible, give the child an opportunity to create a memento of the pet. This could be a special photograph, collar, tag, toy, or a plaster cast of the animal’s paw print, for example.
  • Allow the child to be involved in any memorial service, if they desire. Holding a funeral or creating a memorial for the pet can help your child express their feelings openly and help process the loss. Ritual is important. Drawing pictures, making scrapbooks are great projects!
  • Do not rush out to get the child a “replacement pet” before they have had chance to grieve the loss they feel. Your child may feel disloyal, or you could send the message that the grief and sadness felt when something dies can simply be overcome by adopting a replacement.
  • Read aloud age appropriate stories about animals and loss. The classics: Bambi, Old Yeller, The Yearling, Charlotte’s Web as well as books listed on amazon.com for grief may be of comfort.

Coping with the death of a beloved pet can sometimes be the template for how we cope with the deaths of the people we will need to face in our lives. Coming to terms with this grief will help us learn to cope with future grief and help us to be resilient and well-rounded individuals. It is yet another life-giving gift we gain from having animals grace us with their love and companionship.

Resource ASPCA WEBSITE– http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-loss/


  • imageGail-Elaine Tinker, M.S., RM, CH, NCC, LPC has a General Practice of Psychotherapy in Lehigh Valley, PA. She specializes in Trauma, Grief, Addiction, and Chronic pain/illness issues. She uses Reiki in her practice as well as Hypnotherapy and Transformative Art. Gail-Elaine offers individual, internet, small group, workshop, and advocacy. If you care to avail yourself of the offer of one free email question and reply with me of a non-emergency nature, please email through my website. For anything else, you may call 610-216-4319 or tinkerpsychotherapy.com.
  • Copyright © 2012-2016 – Gail-Elaine Tinker


  • Tinker Psychotherapy Services and Gail-Elaine Tinker, M.S. does not discriminate against anyone because of age, sex, marital/family status, race, color, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, place of residence, veteran status, physical disability, health status, sexual orientation, or criminal record unrelated to present dangerousness. This is a personal, ethical commitment, as well as required by federal law. I will always take steps to advance and support the values of equal opportunity, human dignity, and racial/ethnic/cultural diversity. If you believe you have been discriminated against, please bring this matter to my attention immediately.