Women…..We NEED Each Other

When I was pregnant, my life would get turned drastically “upside down”. When normally I was filled with energy, health, positive well-being and a drive for life, as soon as I conceived, it seemed, I was drastically lethargic, incapacitated by constant nausea, frequently vomited, and had a drastic decrease in my overall mental and emotional well-being. I basically lived on the couch for almost the entire nine months of pregnancy for all four of my ‘to term’ pregnancies. As a result of my suddenly uncharacteristic sedentary existence, I always put on a significant amount of weight. I am talking as much as an additional eighty-five pounds packed onto my normally short and petite body frame.

Towards the end of my fourth pregnancy, I was absolutely miserable. My ankles and feet swelled up so badly every night, they would throb painfully, and I would cry; sob actually, because I felt so miserably uncomfortable. I will never forget the day that my doorbell rang, I opened up my front door, and there stood my sweet sister-in-law, Becky, equipped with foot sauna bath and lotions. She had heard about my discomfort through our “Wilcken Women” family members and she came running. With this humble and thoughtful act of service, she had every intention of alleviating some of my current stress and discomfort, if only for an hour or two.

“I’m giving you a foot massage, ” she announced. “Every woman deserves a foot massage at this point in her pregnancy,” she claimed as she bustled past me and into my home. She then commenced setting up a place for said massage in my family room and then put her heart and soul into giving me the best foot massage I have ever had and topped it off with some much needed conversation from someone who was loving and understanding.

I have remarked many times to others that after that foot massage, I actually felt stronger and less physically and emotionally overwhelmed throughout the remaining few weeks of my pregnancy. Was the foot massage just THAT good? I admit, the massage was wonderful, but given that Becky was not a trained foot masseuse, my significant increase in emotional and physical resilience may have been the result of some additional factors.

Tend and Befriend

There have been many significant studies over the years which have resulted in the support of the ‘tend and befriend’ hypothesis. This theory claims that women can counter the ‘fight or flight’ stress/trauma response by connecting and receiving support from other women. To put it simply, women that respond to stress by seeking and accepting support and connection with one another (and if these interactions end up being comforting and safe) consistently report a significant decreases in their overall stress levels and a significant calming of their ‘fight or flight’ response.

(University Of California Los Angeles. “UCLA Researchers Identify Key Biobehavioral Pattern Used By Women To Manage Stress.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 May 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/05/000522082151.htm>.)

Trauma Healing

In my clinical practice, I specialize in the treatment of trauma and a variety of women’s issues. My colleague, Amy Fife LPC, and I also lead trauma healing support groups for women. It is almost always the case, that if my clients that are in treatment for trauma combine their individual treatment with also participating (and emotionally investing and befriending) in the women’s support group treatment option, their progress and then their ability to sustain this progress over time is exponentially more likely compared to those who do not emotionally invest in the group experience or that do not have a community of healthy support from other females.

So What Gets “In the Way”?

As part of the general assessment process in the first session of therapy, it is routine for me to ask my clients about their current community of support. It is alarming how common it is for individuals to be isolated and ‘without a supportive community’ in their adult lives. A few common dynamics that I feel are influencing this current lack of support are:

  • After high school and college, individuals do not participate in similar large community dynamics within their peer groups that naturally encourages people to meet and form friendships.
  • Neighbors and neighborhoods are not as social with each other and/or reliant on one another for support as they once were.
  • Individuals have experienced a form of trauma and deep rejection from others (family members, friends, romantic partners) which has resulted in the individual choosing to isolate vs. reaching out to others.
  • Life has become too busy and chaotic. Building friendships, intimate relationships, and strong family relationships takes a significant amount of time, consistent effort from both individuals, and a strong commitment. In our fast paced and instantly gratified society, individuals are not as equipped as they should be for building these much needed relationships.
  • Individuals are turning towards electronic devices and social media as opposed to spending needed time connecting with others, face to face, in deep and meaningful ways.

The following video by Simon Sinek explains his perspective on various reasons individuals are not building supportive, intimate relationships.

What’s The Solution?

When a client comes into therapy and is significantly lacking in community support, there are several therapeutic goals that are collaboratively put into place to improve this aspect of their life. Healthy connection with others is vital for continued progression in therapy and in daily life.

Here are some of the areas and ways to improve options for community support:

  • Reconnect consistently with healthy friends, neighbors, and family in face to face situations.
  • Get involved in organizations of interest that will provide a community of peers which will increase opportunities to build healthy connections with others (church organizations, local school programs, non-profit organizations, athletic groups and activities, etc.
  • Get specific therapy treatment that addresses problematic past relationship experiences (trauma therapy, attachment therapy, EMDR therapy, etc.).
  • Join a community or therapy support group.
  • Limit time on electronic devices and social media.


Fast forward twelve years later after my amazing foot massage from Becky. Now my two youngest sisters are both near the end of their fourth pregnancies. We were all gathered as a family for the celebration of a significant achievement by one of our nieces. Guess what Becky spent her time doing during that family gathering? Yep, massaging my two sweet sisters’ swollen legs and feet. I could not help but take pictures documenting the sweet moments of this humble act of service that my sister-in-law gave to my two sisters. I also found myself reminiscing to the time when I was the recipient of Becky’s ‘tending and befriending’ towards me all those years ago.

Women can understand each other’s needs in such deep and meaningful ways. Women have such capacity for empathy and love. When this is reciprocated within a relationship, the consistent ‘befriending’ can be one of the greatest sources of strength a woman could need and want in a friendship. I am so grateful for the community of supportive women that I have chosen to surround myself with throughout my life’s journey. There were times in my life when I isolated myself from such support and it was at these points in my life that I noticeably struggled the most with my overall mental and emotional well-being. May we all intentionally build our community of supportive people in our lives and then intentionally turn towards this support consistently in times of our struggles and need.

“…in a healthy relationship, both people can be strong.”
― Kim Walker-Smith, Brave Surrender: Let God’s Love Rewrite Your Story

Deception Vs. Truth

Okay, I admit it, I LOVE powdered bavarian cream donuts from Dunkin Donuts. I have loved them for as long as I can remember. Money was scarce in my home growing up and treats and ‘extras’ were few and far between. So, when a box of Dunkin Donuts was present in our home, it was a BIG deal. At one such momentous occasion, each of us kids were given our ration of one donut each and the remaining donuts were placed high up on top of the refrigerator with strict instructions from my parents that none of us were to touch the coveted donuts OR ELSE!

Aside from the other left over donuts, I knew there was another powdered bavarian cream donut left up in that box and I was convinced it had my name written all over it. Well….I couldn’t take the temptation. My six year old self climbed up onto the kitchen counter, easily slipped that beautiful box of donuts off of the fridge and I SHOVED another whole bavarian cream powdered donut into my face. After the heavenly taste, the enjoyment, and the utter bliss of that stolen donut had quickly faded, I carefully slipped the box back up into its proper place, hopped off of the counter, and scurried off with a satisfied conviction that I had ‘gotten away’ with something amazing.

About thirty minutes later, I came back into the family room where both my mom and my dad were sitting. My dad took one look at me and said, “Tiffany, did you get into the donuts?” My six year old mind was racing….why was he asking me that? My heart dropped to my feet, I definitely was going to get into trouble. Sneaking food in our home was unacceptable and I knew it. In that moment, I made a significant decision: I will lie to escape this discomfort and shame. I quickly answered my dad, “No, I didn’t get into the donuts Dad.” My mom then came over to me and with a very serious look on her face repeated the same question, “Tiffany, did you get into the donuts?” What WAS this? Why were they asking me this? I thought I had completely covered my tracks. Had they interrogated my other siblings? It was too late to go back now. I forged ahead with the lie, “No Mom, I didn’t get into the donuts.”

My face was burning, my heart was pounding, and I didn’t even notice that during my exchange with my mom and my inner emotional break down, my dad had left the room and had returned with something in his hands. Dad approached me again and raised the object he had been carrying and held it up in front of my face.

It was a mirror.

Reflected back to me in that mirror was my own terrified, six year old face………covered in white powdered sugar. I believe there was even some powdered sugar in my hair. My dad repeated the question one more time, “Tiff, did you get into the donuts?” I looked up into my dad’s eyes, knowing I had been caught in my deceit and I did the only thing I could do…..I burst into tears, “Yes, Dad, ” I said nodding my head, “I got into the donuts”.

As you can guess, this story has been told and retold many times throughout the years. My family laughs about it and they tease me in good fun regarding my audacious dishonesty in that moment. However, my parents taught me a lesson that day that my six year old self has never forgotten. They taught me about the path of dishonesty vs. the path of telling the truth. We talked about how Deceit had lied to ME and made me believe that it was easier to lie instead of being accountable for eating the extra donut. I learned that no matter how well I felt that I had covered my tracks, deciet ALWAYS leaves behind some “powdered sugar”.

When I was fairly new in my clinical practice, I had an experience with a particular client that made me very aware of the importance of recognizing all forms of deception and how they impact our lives individually and relationally.

This client was male and had betrayed his spouse sexually through an extramarital affair. Following his admittance of the affair to his wife, this client then put his complete focus and devotion into doing what he could to repair his marital relationship. I vividly recall a statement this client made to me that struck me and remained with me through the years. He said, “Tiffany, I had no idea to what level I had entrenched myself in deciet. I had no idea that almost every behavior I enlisted when I interacted with and communicated with my wife was interlaced with some form of underlying deciet. Lies became a way of life for me.”

It is true that every individual is guilty of deception in one form or another at varying degrees. The important thing is that individuals come to understand the various ways deciet can creep into our lives. Individuals must “root out” Deceit’s presence and replace it with a more reliable and sustainable companion…..TRUTH. As I have progressed in my professional experience, and my clinical focus has transitioned into more specializing in treating betrayal trauma (specifically with females), it astounds me every day how prevalent deceit is in regards to the behaviors of distressed individuals and within struggling relationships. YET, few recognize Deciet’s cunning and significant presence in their lives. It is also a sad reality that few understand all the various ways of being decietful. They fail to recognize that ALL forms of deception negatively impact mental and emotional well being and the probability of healthy relationships.

The following is a list of some of the ways that people lie and decieve others:

Jordan Peterson (Canadian Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, a Clinical Psychologist, and World Renowned Author) has much to say on the topic of deciet and truth. In fact, in two of his best selling books, “12 Rules for Life” and “Beyond Order” he devotes an entire chapter in each book to these specific topics. Here are some of my favorite “highlights” from Peterson’s insights on these concepts:

1) “Lies make you WEAK…….and you can FEEL it.”

Watch the following video clip where Peterson reiterrates this point.

2)“Taking the easy way out or telling the truth, those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.”


The following is an excerpt from Jordan Peterson’s book, “Beyond Order; RuleX” (p.272 ).

“You cannot maintain trust in yourself if you lie. You cannot maintain trust in yourself, likewise, if you act in a manner that would require a lie if it was discovered. Similarly, you cannot maintain trust in your partner if he or she lies, or betrays you in action or in silence. So, the vow that makes a marriage capable of preserving its romantic component is first and foremost the decision not to lie to your partner.

There will come a time in your life when you have done something you should not have done or failed to do something that you should have done. You may need advice. You may need support. You may need exactly what your partner could provide, if only you dared to allow them to help. And at some time they are going to find themselves in exactly the same position. Life is too difficult to negotiate alone. If you tell your partner the truth, and you strive to act so that you can tell the truth about how you act, then you have someone to rely on when the seas become high and your ship threatens to founder. This can literally be a matter of life or death. In a relationship where romance remains intact, TRUTH MUST BE KING.”

Depression and Anxiety

I do various mental health presentations throughout my personal community in various settings (schools, business/professional groups, youth groups, church groups, women’s groups, etc.). One of the most requested topics that I speak on is the topic of ‘depression and anxiety’. One of the ways I like to open up this particular presentation is by asking the question:

“How many of you have heard that depression and anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain?”

It is interesting, that without fail, almost every hand in the group is always confidently raised. I then ask the follow up question that is visibly confusing and even upsetting to the group:

“How would you feel to learn that this concept is only an unproven theory?”

I start these presentations in this way to emphasize the importance of individuals researching and finding substantial and accurate information regarding the mental/emotional struggles they are having. I also significantly stress that if individuals are suffering from depression and anxiety, it is important to have an open mind in regards to what treatment options are out there that actually have the LIKELIHOOD of benefiting their personal journeys towards healing and recovery. Unfortunately, the incorrect narratives regarding what causes depression and anxiety is driving many to take medications that may not be the most helpful and effective treatment for them.

I have recently had the opportunity of reading the book, “Lost Connections; Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression–And the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari. This book is an excellent resource for those that struggle with depression and anxiety and are seeking effective treatments for their personal struggle. Hari also discusses his own experience with taking SSRI medications for over thirty years and why he was driven to research and find out the truth about these medications and their effectiveness with treating these specific mental health issues.

In his book, Hari chronicles the fascinating research journey of Irving Kirsch (one of the leading research experts in the field of science in the 1990s) regarding the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. In regards to that theory and based off of the work and research of Kirsch, Hari states:

“After twenty years researching this at the highest level, Irving has come to believe that the notion depression is caused by a chemical imbalance is just “an accident of history,” produced by scientists initially misreading what they were seeing, and then drug companies selling that misperception to the world to cash in. And so, Irving says, the primary explanation for depression offered in our culture starts to fall apart. The idea you feel terrible because of a “chemical imbalance” was built on a series of mistakes and errors. It has come as close to being proved wrong, he told me, as you ever get in science. It’s lying broken on the floor, like a neurochemical Humpty Dumpty with a very sad smile”.

Hari, Johann. “Lost Connections” (2018). ‘Imbalance’ pages 29-30.


As a mental health professional, I have witnessed the debilitatiing effects of depression and anxiety in the lives of my clients, my family members, and my friends whom I care deeply for. These struggles are real. Their effects are real. Their symptoms are real. So, if depression and anxiety are not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, what is the cause? That answer is going to be VERY unique and individual to each person and their circumstances. This is where an individual could highly benefit from seeking individual counseling from a mental health professional that specializes in treating depression, anxiety, and trauma.

Although this is not ‘all inclusive’, Hari put together a list of nine main contributers of those individuals who struggle with depression and anxiety. The more of these items a person can identify with, the more likely they are to struggle with depression and anxiety. This list can serve as a tool for individuals to start formulating into their own words the parts and pieces of their current lives and their pasts that are in need of processing and healing. As my colleague Amy Fife LPC and I often say to our clients, “If you can name it, you can tame it.” Making these needed connections on this list can help guide the therapy process and get individuals the unique treatment they are in need of.

List comprised from Johann Hari’s work and published in his book “Lost Connections”.

EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS: (Reconnection Is The Real Anti-Depressant)

“We are the loneliest society in human history.” – Johann Hari

Watch the following Ted Talk by Johann Hari regarding the effectiveness of “Reconnection” as the solution to the underlying problem of depression and anxiety. Hari coins the phrase: “Reconnection, a different kind of anti-depressant”.

The following bullet points are particular areas where Hari’s research has shown that ‘Reconnection” can help individuals in regards to a significant and effective decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms.

  • Areas of Focused Reconnection:
    • Reconnect to Meaningful Work
    • Reconnect to Nature
    • Reconnect to Joy and Overcoming the Self (any Addictions)
    • Reconnect to Acknowledging and Overcoming Childhood Trauma
    • Reconnect to a Mindset of Hope for the Future
    • Reconnect to Others

“We are hard wired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” – Brene` Brown

In my practice, I specialize in treating women’s issues and trauma. I have seen clients have great success in regards to individual treatment but when my clients combine their individual treatment with participation in one of our female support groups, their recovery is noticeably deeper combined with a substantial increase in sustainability. We believe that is due to the increased connection the women feel to one another within their group experience. Connection is the key to healing so many of the heartaches we as humans experience during our lives here on earth. Connection often does not take the hardship away, but it makes it tolerable and can even help make our difficult experiences opportunities for our personal growth and progression vs. our mental and emotional “undoing”.

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick”.

Value of Reading

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss

I grew up in a large family with very dire economic dynamics. Without going into unneccessary detail, there were zero funds for entertainment as every meager dollar was hoarded for food expenses and utilities (food was still scarce and utilities were often paid late and definitely not paid ‘in full’). To my mother’s credit, she became as resourceful as she possibly could in the summer time, when the Arizona weather was sweltering, and attitudes and moods were extremely restless. Once a week, my mother would take all eight kids (which would eventually become all of her eleven kids) to the library once a week to pick out each child’s own book selection. It was through this weekly outing that my love for reading was sparked and my world that once seemed small, limiting, and overwhelmingly claustrophobic, became enlightening and full of possibilities. In the words of famous American Behavior psychologist, B.F. Skinner, “We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” I will forever be indebted to my Mother for instilling this pricessless gift to me in my life.

Presently, in almost every corner in my home that I frequent, you can find a stack of books similar to the one pictured below:

As a clinical therapist, I have found that my clients that come in for therapy treatment that are willing to read and dive into various books applicable to the issues they are facing, in conjunction with therapy interventions, do better overall in their individual therapy progress and their ability to maintain their progress long term. Also, I have seen that there is a distinct difference in the effectiveness of my colleages who are continually reading vs. my colleagues that force themselves to only complete the 30 continuing education credit hours that are required of therapists for continued licensure over the course of two years.

A close colleague and I have run therapy support groups for women over the course of the last four years. We have seen the women who participated learn and grow in immense ways with the support of peers and individuals as well as the therapists guidance and mentoring. However, two years ago, my colleague and I decided to add a BOOK CLUB section to our original group routine and curriculum. During this segment of group time, each group member is encouraged to share an ‘insight’ or thought from an excerpt of the assigned chapter for the week. My colleague and I were astounded at how the addition of the BOOK CLUB portion to the group increased the overall investment and understanding of each participant in regards to their personal trauma recovery journey and their understanding of introduced concepts as a whole.

In the video below, I love how Jordan Peterson describes how the importance of reading and education translates into attaining your overall potential. Although he is addressing a collegiate audience, I feel that his passionate plea is applicable to all beings and translates across all life situations and populations.

“Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement.”

– Ben Carson

Taking The First Step

March 13th, 2021

Universal Studios in California…..have you been there? Well, my eight year old son challenged me to climb all the flights of stairs with him up to the top of the next level of the theme park instead of riding the beautiful and seductive escalators to the top. To those of you who have been to this theme park, you know that there’s a whole heck of a lot of stairs to the next level. I remember thinking to myself of how many flights of stairs that would actually be and my legs and heart started wavering just at the thought. I remember wanting to immediately respond to my son by saying, “Oh bud, that’s a cute idea, but I will have to give you a “hard pass” on that little adventure.” However, instead of responding immediately, I thought, “Well, maybe I will just do one of the flights of stairs and then call it good and my motherly duties will be fulfilled. To my suprise, that flight of stairs went by easily! I was more powerful and stronger than I thought! So then, I took the next flight of stairs with even more confidence and gusto then before……and the next flight and then the next…….and then, we were at the top. I couldn’t believe it when I turned around and looked back at how far of a climb we had accomplished together and the view of accomplishment that really was.

I feel like this analogy can be utilized to describe how often clients can feel at the beginning of their own therapy process. Sometimes, when a couple, family, or an individual first starts therapy, they are looking at all the “flights of stairs” (or ALL of the issues) they are wanting to address and conquer with this professionally guided process.
However, what I wish as the therapist is for my clients to have the courage to just take that first step in their therapy process and just see where things go from there. Oftentimes, they start climbing their own personal steps in leaps and bounds and we are all amazed at their personal progress and accomplishments. At the termination of treatment, it is a professional privilege to “look back” with my clients at their own magnificent view of how far they have actually come during their own personal journey of healing.
If you are personally ready to take this ‘first step’ on your own therapeutic journey, please do not hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with us today. Our therapists at Insight Relationship Institute are anxious and excited to participate in this journey with you. Sometimes, that first step is just picking up the phone and making that initial call. 480-535-0009


March 17, 2021

In our book club portion in our phase 2 “She Recovers” group experience, we are reading the book “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene’ Brown.   In our last group session, the topic of perfectionism and people pleasing came up and how destructive those behaviors and mindsets can be in so many facets of our lives.  During the group discussion, the point was made that no one is void or exempt of criticism, no matter how hard an individual tries to live in a way that will somehow ‘spare’ them from it.  I ran across this quote a couple of days after our discussion that I felt validated and supported this prior discussion point even more effectively and deeply.

“There is only one way to avoid criticism; do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

– Aristotle

To live to our greatest potential, it is important for individuals to get to a place personally where they can surrender the tendency of ‘pleasing others at all costs’ to instead embracing behaviors that will inevitably lead to the healthiest and most effective choices for their own personal health and well being.  This is a difficult and unique journey for each individual as each fights their own battles in their own arenas of life.  

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

(To schedule an appointment or to find out more about our groups please call 480-535-0009).