Negative Thoughts Lead to Negative Performance

Negative thoughts can zap your performance. We have all experienced negative self-talk about our abilities, self-worth, future success, etc. This negative self-talk almost uniformly has a negative effect on performance. When we are engaged in goal focused activities we need adequate levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in order to reach our goals or desired outcomes. When we are in a positive space and feeling confident, we have a higher likelihood that our brains will have adequate levels of dopamine present. When we are in a negative space and not feeling confident, we tend to have less of this very important chemical present. For adults with ADHD this phenomenon can be even worse. The reason it can be so much worse, is that people with ADHD already have a diminished amount of dopamine, so any reduction makes things far worse.

So how to do we create the patterns of thinking that lead to optimal performance?

The first step is to increase awareness. Awareness is absolutely critical to creating any change in thinking. We often take our thoughts as they come, never naming them or trying to change them. When we are not fully aware of our thoughts and feelings, we are prone to fall victim to unchecked negative thinking.

The next step is to start replacing negative thoughts with more adaptive an positive thoughts. For example, “I’m going to fail.” could be replaced with “I’m going to succeed.” or “I’m prepared and will do my best.” This obviously takes practice and for the best results it helps to work with a therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The changes that result from CBT can be profound and last a lifetime. This is especially true for adults with ADHD as they tend to have a long list of negative experiences that drive an ocean of negative thoughts. In the video series Learn to Thrive with Adult ADHD, there is an entire module on CBT that has been shown to be very effective for all people wanting to change their thoughts, not just those with adult ADHD.

This has been very rudimentary overview of how thoughts can help or hurt your performance. If you want to understand things more, I recommend contacting a trained therapist  in CBT. I utilize CBT methods with both my ADHD clients and those who just want to find optimal mental performance. After all, the Silicon Valley is performance pressure cooker, so any mental techniques to gain an edge are important.

3 Easy Steps to Declutter Your Life

Clutter tends to plague people in ways they are not even aware of. If you are interested in 3 easy steps to declutter your life then please read on. If you are under the belief that clutter is your friend, then definitely READ ON!

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign? -Albert Einstein

Many creative types, adults with ADHD, and eccentrics alike, tend to take pride in having a cluttered, messy, or a seemingly disorganized space. Unfortunately, the science behind clutter shows that it actually hinders the ability to focus and process information due to competing stimulus in the visual field.  This means that the 3 foot high pile of art books, science articles, bills, and magazine clippings strewn about, are actually dragging you down. In fairness, I am an artist, a writer, therapist, and researcher who dabbles in clutter. However, by following these three steps I have been able to slay the clutter dragon and increase performance.

1. Give it a home and expect it to live there. When we make a clear effort to assign a place for things to be kept we are more likely to keep them their when not in use. This step is also the back bone of the next 2 steps. This will also help adults with ADHD avoid heated arguments with family and roommates.

2. Don’t shove! If you are opening your desk drawer to put your notebook away and find that it doesn’t fit easily and with mindful placement, then pause and decide what can be thrown away, donated, or recycled to make room. Do it right then. Use this acronym to help you do it then and there: Only Handle It Once (O.H.I.O.)

3. Put one thing away a day. Although your Type-A parter may nearly have a coronary thinking about “chipping away” at things, or having to look at your piles for one more minute, it will help. One of the reasons that things don’t ever get put away and contribute to the massive piles on your desk, is that the act of cleaning up or putting things away seems daunting. Well, make it small and before you know it, you will be free of clutter.

Unleash your true mental performance by breaking the chains of clutter for good.

Done is better than perfect! -Phil Boissiere, MFT


5 Steps to Manage Your Diet

Tired of being a slave to your cravings? Tired of using food to manage your stress? Want to tune up your physique and mental health? Follow these 5 steps to manage your diet (with your MDs permission of course):

1. Understand your brain: The best way to understand why your brain is pushes you to eat things you want to is to look at at adults with ADHD. People with ADHD have an underproduction of dopamine in their brains, making it hard to control impulses. Food, especially carbohydrates, provide a rush of dopamine making binging immediately gratifying. You may not have ADHD, but when you are stressed, tired, or down,  your brain is craving dopamine and a slough of other neurotransmitters.

2. Don’t skip meals: It’s simple, if food provides a release of dopamine, skipping meals will certainly create a deficiency and subsequent craving.

3. Eat multiple small meals: Eating small meals every 3 hours helps regulate blood sugar, neurotransmitters, and stimulates the metabolism.

4. Exercise: Exercise increases the baseline level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. If your baseline production of dopamine is higher, you are less likely to crave the rush of dopamine following a plate of carbs. This is especially important for adults with ADHD.

5. Stay motivated: Staying motivated is a bit more complex. There are many variables that go into the reasons why we start and maintain changes to our diet. For some it is cosmetic, for some it is mental, for some it is physical, whatever the reason, the motivation lies in our thoughts and feelings. By becoming aware of our thoughts and their relation to our feelings, we can ultimately change our behaviors. This is the basis of the powerful therapeutic approach Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Sometimes our thoughts don’t serve us well and prevent us from making the changes in our lives we want.

Stress, Your Brain, and Exercise

At the center of the crossroads of stress, your brain, and exercise, lies something very important. What is it? What could it be? In a word, CHOICE. Why choice you ask? Well, every choice we make causes stress. What do I eat for dinner? What business school do I go to? How many ice cubes in my water? Yes, all choices cause stress. Stress is our response to demands and changes and it is inevitable. However, there is also an important choice we make around how we manage or fight stress. Choosing to use exercise to combat stress vs using food or alcohol, may be the difference between living a long life and living a short one. The actual decision to exercise or not can be VERY stressful for many people. The reason it is so stressful, is that people are choosing between a perceived short-cut that they know is bad for them (food, booze, etc.) and the longer road which they know is good for them (exercise). Exercise is natures way of putting our mind and body into repair mode. We need to enter into this repair mode often. Why? Because, stress happens often. It happens daily to varying degrees. Exercise too can vary from day to day, but should never be passed up for drink or a snack. When we are stressed our bodies are flooded with destructive hormones that break down our bodies over time. When we exercise, we not only rid the body of these hormones, we also turn on other processes that rebuild us at a cellular level.

Additionally, the effect of exercise lasts. Think about it, people often go back for a second cookie or second cocktail. You rarely, if ever, see someone going back for a second run or second trip to the gym. This isn’t a coincidence. Exercise puts us on a path of resiliency that builds us up. Short-cuts like food and substances, only mask issue and in fact layer on new stressors to the body.

Don’t put yourself in this anxious trap of decisions. Develop a plan that works for you to get regular exercise and thrive in the face of stress, don’t sink into the cookie isle or the corner store. If you are feeling stuck around developing a plan, try reaching out to a friend or a family member for support. It’s a lot easier to exercise with others than alone. Find the support you need to change your relationship to stress and exercise for better.

3 Reasons Exercise Helps Treat Anxiety

Anxiety by itself is not a disorder, but too much anxiety often is. Here are 3 reasons exercise helps treat anxiety:

1. Exercise boosts anxiety fighting neurotransmitters. Exercise naturally raises levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. This boost happens immediately and lasts over time, making exercise the natural “anti-anxiety prescription.” Additionally, exercise increases GABA which calms the brain making it easier to take advantage of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other thought changing techniques.

2. Exercise reduces anxiety based tension in the muscles. When we are stressed or anxious our muscles react by holding tension. Exercise reduces that tension in the same way that the popular drug class beta-blockers do.

3. Exercise treats anxiety by breaking the chains or fear. When people are anxious, they typically get stuck in a loop of worry, fear, and apprehension that breeds more and more anxiety. By breaking this cycle with exercise, the brain is freed up to learn new thought patterns that can be strengthened with practices like CBT.

Exercise does not need to be overly strenuous or complex to have these powerful benefits in treating anxiety. Put on  your sneakers, go for a walk, and break the cycle of anxiety.

Psychotherapy, Coaching, and the Silicon Valley

The second tech boom is in full swing in the Silicon Valley. The seeming limitless opportunity for professionals and executives in the Bay Area is leading people to explore all options available to increase their performance and personal growth. Many people turn to coaching, business coaching, or executive coaching with positive results. Unfortunately, many people are missing the tremendous importance of addressing the cognitive factors (thoughts) that can be best addressed with a psychotherapist or psychologist. I’m not saying that all mental health professionals are equipped to work with professional and career issues. What I am saying is that it can be done and I have had great success working with professionals.

Quite often people from executives to support staff find themselves feeling miserable about their work environment or the career choices they have made. The majority of times these feelings can be greatly shifted via Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and therapeutic coaching.

For example, many people find themselves stuck in a position they are not happy with and cannot muster the strength to find a new job due to negative thoughts, “No one will hire me.” or “There are no good jobs out there.” Additionally, many will be in a working environment that they dread, because of a co-worker or boss.

The effect that both of these situations has is poor career advancement and lack of personal growth. Now, we can’t change the angry boss or bizarre co-worker, but we can change the way these people affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Also, thoughts and feelings can be the very factors keeping someone stuck in a job they hate.

I am a business professional and accomplished psychotherapist who specializes in working with business professionals and executives in the Silicon Valley in a very matter of fact and goal oriented way. I believe therapy can and should be an empowering process that moves people forward to reach their full potential.


Chicago Presentations June 2013

I will be doing two presentations this June in Chicago, please see the information below. Hope to see you there!

Phil Boissiere, MFT will be presenting at both The Family Institute at Northwestern University and the American Family Therapy Academy-Annual Conference on June 7th in downtown Chicago.

The Family Insitute at Northwestern University June 7th at 4pm:

Group therapy is one of the most valuable and effective treatment modalities for youth. Often agencies and programs will utilize either mental health graduate trainees or registered interns to provide these groups. The upside to this practice is cost savings for the agency and the benefit of collecting hours and gaining experience for the clinician. Unfortunately, most new clinicians and students have had little or no training in working with youth populations in a group setting. Further compounding this issue is that fact that groups are often comprised of youth with behavioral issues or other difficult psychopathology, which can make management of the group very intimidating and difficult. 

In this training Phil Boissiere, MFT uses his experience running groups with youth to teach new clinicians how to operate successful groups and build the needed confidence to be a successful group facilitator. Come ready to gain skills, ask questions, and participate in experiential learning.

Attendees of this training you will learn why it is important to do group therapy with youth, understand how to manage your own expectations around groups, capitalize on your strengths, and hold the frame of the group.  In the training we will also discuss who should be in the group, what type of group to have, what activities to have during the group, a basic structure, how to manage behavior in the group, and how to address barriers of working with difficult youth in groups.

American Family Therapy Academy-Annual Conference June 7th at 12:15pm:

Phil Boissiere, MFT will discuss what family therapists need to know in order to work with families during the elementary school years to aid in the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse during adolescence. His early intervention approach will help clinicians understand why the lure of drugs are so strong, how to understand the risk factors of children and families in their practice, and gain a reality based proactive model of prevention. He will also be discussing how cultural factors and social inequities increase the risk in many populations. His model of prevention has gained international attention and has been well received by many audiences.

For more information on either of these presentations, please contact Phil Boissiere, MFT directly here.

Tips for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are often made with the best intentions, but with little to no attention to the factors that will lead to the greatest success (i.e. change a behavior, start going to therapy, be more healthy, etc.). In fact, the statistics about people actually keeping their resolutions are not very good. However, there is hope! By following a few techniques you can greatly increase the success of your New Year’s resolutions.

Be Realistic: Setting a goal that is too massive will surely fail. For example, many people set New Year’s resolutions that they are going to change their career, or “become healthy”, or stop fighting with their partner for family. The problem with creating resolutions in this way is that they can feel overwhelming. What does it mean to “become healthy”? A full over haul of your lifestyle is tough. Start with something more manageable, “I am going to walk more, make more of an effort to stay connected with people I care about, and explore finding a healthy outlet for stress.”

Set Objectives: Be very clear about how you will measure your progress, while allowing for some wiggle room. Remember, you are a human, not a robot. Decide what a reasonable amount of success towards your New Year’s resolution is. Then write down the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. An important rule of thumb: if you break down a project or resolution into steps and still have trouble getting started, then the first step is still too big.

Use Positive Visualization: People often tend to think of the dread of starting a project or goal, “I hate the gym.” or “I’ll never be more organized, my place is a mess!” Instead of being confronted with these negative thoughts, think about the how you will feel and how your life will be different if you meet your goal, “If I make it to the gym today I will sleep better, feel better, and get out of the house.”

Don’t Let Setbacks Stop You: There are always going to be hiccups and hassles that can impede your progress from day to day. It is totally normal for this to happen. However, when it does, get out a piece of paper and write down one small thing you can do to get started again working towards your New Year’s Resolution. The old adage of “The hardest part is getting started.” can be very true. Get started and don’t give up when you miss a step towards your goal.

I often get many calls from people this time of year wanting to start therapy or find ways to be more successful in their career or personal life.  I work with all of my client’s to identify manageable goals, capitalize on their strengths and make the most of their life and relationships, through the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Psychology, and other goal oriented techniques.

I welcome your calls and emails and hope to help you reach your full potential in 2013.


Phil Boissiere, MFT provides goal oriented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in San Francisco and Menlo Park.

Positive Psychology for Success

All to often people shy away from seeking therapy due to misconceptions about what therapy is. This is in large part due to psychodynamic (Freudian etc.) approaches that do a fair amount of “digging” around in peoples childhood experiences. Unfortunately, this leads to people not receiving the support they need, which in turn increases or leads to dysfunction and dissatisfaction with life. Fortunately, modern approaches to psychotherapy and counseling, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, focus on helping people reach their goals and capitalize on their strengths.

In recent years the field of Positive Psychology has come to fruition and has been shown to have a profound effect on furthering an individuals occupational, social, academic, creative, and intellectual goals. Positive psychology is a rich empirical basis for health, work, quality of life, and leadership coaching. 

So, what is Positive Psychology exactly? Very simply put, it is the exploration of processes and circumstances that lead to optimal performance, life satisfaction, and health.

Unlike psychological theories from the past, which tend to focus on “what is wrong”, Positive Psychology focuses on human strengths and healthy positive experiences to improve the lives of people.

I utilize the principals and applications of Positive Psychology to help business professionals, artists, authors, and tech leaders advance their careers, personal growth, and success. I have had great success combining Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Positive Psychology with coaching in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and the greater Silicon Valley. A common statement from my clients is “I didn’t know therapy could be this way!” or “This is so empowering.”