Archive for December, 2010

New Year’s Eve has always been a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and to resolve to follow through on those changes. Every year clients of mine tell me their lofty plans for New Year’s resolutions – find a boyfriend, lose weight, get healthy, quit smoking- and inevitably, like most people weeks later when I ask about the progress of their resolutions, they confess that they have abandoned their goals. Striving for positive change is important; by following some basic steps, you can improve your chances to achieve your goals.

Set reasonable expectations. Too often we set the bar too high. If you set unrealistic goals you will be doomed from the start. You will find yourself discouraged, lacking motivation and eventually facing failure. Be reasonable with your expectations of yourself- instead of a goal to lose fifty pounds, try to lose 10 and then reassess from there. If you believe your goal is attainable, then you will be driven to meet it.

Don’t be overly ambitious. It is hard enough to focus on making one positive change at a time, yet many people overload themselves with several resolutions. Trying to quit smoking, to better manage your finances and to start exercising regularly is a lot of responsibility to take on all at once. Tackling goals one by one will be far less overwhelming and will improve your chances of success. Remember, January isn’t the only time of year we can resolve to improve our lives; once you meet your goal, then plan to tackle another.

Determine an action plan and the steps you will take to meet your goal. If your goal is to be healthier, define the steps you will take to get there- eat 4 fruits and vegetables a day, get at least 8 hours sleep, schedule a physical, etc. Make sure these steps are reasonable for you, as discussed above, and don’t make your action plan more than you can handle. A resolution without a plan of action is merely wishful thinking.

Develop a support system. If you are committed to making change, share your plan with your family and friends. They can help push you and encourage you along the way. Some goals may be too big to face alone, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Consider seeking out a support group in the area or online if you need it. Talking to people who are struggling with the same changes as you can help you move forward and meet your goal; it helps to know you are not alone.

Reward yourself. Recognize the positive changes you’ve made and reward yourself along the way. Take pride in your accomplishments and share your progress with others. Once you pass certain milestones, plan a treat for yourself, for example- once you hit your weight lose goal treat yourself to a night out. By setting rewards for yourself you have something to look forward to in addition to the self satisfaction you will feel.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Be flexible and don’t lose sight of your goals. If you fall off track, don’t wait until next year to try again. Evaluate your progress and think about where you failed and adjust your goal and action plan to something that is more attainable.

We could all benefit from some changes in our lives, so take advantage of the tradition of New Year’s resolutions to look back on the past year and evaluate something about yourself to improve upon in the year ahead.

Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D

Director and Founder

Ashburn Psychological Services

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Published in the Ashburn Patch, December 23, 2010

By: Taghrid Barron

How to Beat the Holiday Blues

If you’re suffering from depression, grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with a recent divorce, the holidays can be anything but happy. People struggling with a loss are especially vulnerable to feelings of depression during the holidays, according to Dr. Michael Oberschneider, director of Ashburn Psychological Services and a clinical psychologist.

“These are the people that I worry about the most,” Oberschneider said. “They are most vulnerable around the holidays because of the nature of their situation … they want to reflect and remember. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but when you experience a loss, nostalgia can quickly become melancholia and take you to a very, sad place.”

Here are some of Dr. Oberschneider’s tips on how to cope, if you’re grieving a loss of some sort during the holidays:

  • Accept where you are in the grieving process
  • Don’t drink alcohol–it’s a depressant
  • Don’t spend a lot of time alone. Spend time with loved ones or friends. If you know you’re going to be off of work for a week, keep busy. Plan a trip to the store or a museum and have your social calendar filled with activities
  • Shift your mindset by volunteering to help someone else. “Get out of your own mindset or funk by volunteering. Caring for or giving to others is very rewarding and increases the likelihood of feeling good about yourself and feeling appreciated,” Oberschneider said.

There’s no shame in getting some extra support from a counselor if you need it, Oberschneider said. People have a lot of misconceptions about getting therapy. It isn’t just for people with mental health problems, and it doesn’t have to take years, he said. You can go to a therapist for four or five sessions to help you process your feelings and get some closure or get a little extra support during a particularly difficult time, he said.

“The majority of people that go to a counselor aren’t mentally ill,” he said. “They are fully or partially functional. There’s just some aspect of their life that hasn’t worked out well.”

If you develop these classic symptoms of depression, definitely seek help.

  • Sleeping too much
  • Lack of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Feeling most comfortable when you are dwelling on feelings of pain or a problem
  • Not sleeping well
  • Feeling restless or anxious
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not able to manage your time well
  • If friends and family notice a shift in your personality
  • If you can’t manage your behavior or thoughts

Here’s to a happy and mentally healthy holiday!

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Published in the Ashburn Patch, December 22, 2010

By: Taghrid Barron

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Professional Advice on How to Cope with Stress During the Holidays

Organizing the office holiday party, going to four stores to track down the last item on your son’s list to Santa, trying to figure out how you can afford to get your kids the latest $300 gadget, baking several dozen cookies for your daughter’s school, and sending out 50 holiday cards in your spare time. Sound stressful?

Well, that’s what a lot of us have to cope with this time of year, and it can leave you feeling far from jolly. According to a 2006 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 61% of respondents said they felt stress during the holidays.

Dr. Michael Oberschneider, director of Ashburn Psychological Services and a clinical psychologist said people have a difficult time during the holidays for several reasons. Conflicts between work and family responsibilities; financial stress; disruptions in eating, sleeping and exercise routines; and increased use of alcohol, all contribute to negative feelings.

“If you don’t take good care of yourself, all these factors play out as to how well someone gets through the holidays,” Dr. Oberschneider said.

So how can you put the joy back into your holidays? Here are some of Dr. Oberschneider’s tips:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Continue to eat healthy and exercise.
  • Be realistic. Take on only what you can manage. Learn to say “No.” Tackle one activity after work, instead of several.
  • Minimize your financial stress by discussing your budget with your kids. Together, decide whether you will buy one expensive present or several smaller gifts.
  • At the first sign of stress, identify what’s making you anxious and come up with a game plan on how to confront it. Don’t let it build and become overwhelming.
  • Give to yourself. “Do something that puts you in a mindset that fosters calm,” Dr. Oberschneider said. Take a hot bath, drink a cup of hot tea, go out for a walk, listen to some music or leave the office on time.

Even kids, especially children with special needs, can feel anxious during the holidays. Children are twice as likely to suffer from stress during the holidays, probably because their parents are more stressed, Dr. Oberschneider explained. If you have a child with autism, ADD or other special needs, the holidays can be particularly difficult because these children need a lot of structure.

Here’s how to help kids, especially those with special needs, manage their anxiety when routines are disrupted during the holidays:

  • Be prepared. Have a schedule of activities and general expectations. Let the kids know what they are expected to do and how they are expected to behave.
  • Structure the day as much as possible. Continue normal routines and let them know what special activities are planned for the day.
  • Balance fun/playtime with downtime.
  • Model good behavior. Manage your stress calmly and model responsible and respectful problemsolving.
  • Model self care. Let your kids see you eating well, sleeping well and exercising.

Here’s hoping your holiday is a stress-free and joyful one!

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We are pleased to announce that Dr. Joseph Novello has been selected by his peers to be included in the the Best Doctors in America 2011 and 2012 database. The Best Doctors in America database is a valued resource that contains the names and professional profiles of a select group of the best doctors in the United States. An exhaustive peer-review survey by thousands of doctors determines the physicians included in the database. Only those who earn the consensus support of their peers are included. Doctors cannot buy listings. For this reason, inclusion in the Best Doctors in America database is a remarkable honor.

Dr. Novello is accepting new patients at Ashburn Psychological Services, and his biography is posted below for your review. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Novello, please contact our office manager, Rita Meredith, at (703) 723-2999.



Dr. Novello practices adult and child/adolescent psychiatry and is also a qualified expert in forensic psychiatry and has participated in a wide range of civil and criminal cases. Dr. Novello also practices and is a leading expert in the field of hypnosis. He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan and his B.A. from University of Notre Dame. He has served as the director of child and adolescent services at The Psychiatric Institute of Washington and was founder of the Gateway, a residential treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse.

Dr. Novello has authored two textbooks on psychiatry and has contributed several scientific papers to the medical literature. In addition, he has written three popular books for parents. His featured column, “You and Your Child”, appeared each week in Woman’s World magazine for many years. Dr. Novello’s most recent book, The Myth of More, is about finding happiness in life by overcoming character flaws called “lifetraps” and discovering spiritual values.

Dr. Novello has received numerous awards, including election to the American College of Psychiatrists and Fellowship in the American Psychiatric Association. He has also received a Best Doctors in America Award and the Medallion of the US Surgeon General. Georgetown University, where he is a member of the clinical faculty, has honored him with its Vicennial Award.

Dr. Novello has been a consultant to the National Naval Medical Center and the Inter-American Development Bank and has served as health issues advisor to US Senator John Warner of Virginia.

Dr. Novello is well-known to the general public through his media activities. In Washington, he has hosted his own daily radio call-in program on WMAL and his regular feature “The Family Doctor” has appeared on WJLA-TV News. Dr. Novello has also been active in the media on the national level. His syndicated radio program Healthtime has been heard daily in over 300 cities and he has often appeared on network and cable TV news programs and talk shows as well as programs such as Nightline, Good Morning America and The Today Show. Dr. Novello is the only psychiatrist in all of Loudoun County to be awarded the esteemed Washingtonian Magazine “Top Doctor” nomination for his work with children and adults.

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Published in:  Loudoun Times-Mirror on November 23, 2010

By: Mr. Matt Vecchio


Dr. Michael Oberschneider described his first appearance on national television as bittersweet. While his trip to New York City and appearance on “Good Morning America” was an unexpected and exciting experience, the subject matter was not.

Oberschneider, founder and director of Ashburn Psychological Services, appeared on the popular show Nov. 6 with Loudoun resident Walter Perkins, the father of 16-year-old Hunter Perkins, who took his life after expulsion from the Groton School in Massachusetts for bullying.

ABC caught wind of the story, and wanted the father, specifically, to come tell his story,” said Oberschneider, who appeared on the show as a mental health expert.

During the segment, Oberschneider discussed bullying from a counterintuitive position, stating that schools need to better understand the needs of both the bully and the bullied.

There is a tremendous difference between a bad prank, harassment and a hate crime, and not all offenses or offenders should be dealt with in the same manner,” Oberschneider said.

A rising concern
“We are entering a period as a society where we view manageable but complicated situations as unmanageable ones,” Oberschneider said. For example, he said he is concerned about the rising rate in teen suicides.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people age 15 to 24. Additionally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14.

The current ‘zero tolerance’ position and approach to bullying adopted by our school systems is an incomplete one,” Oberschneider told the Times-Mirror. “Educational institutions need to better understand the complete dynamics of bullying, which would include identifying bullies and instituting interventions sooner.”

Oberschneider’s argument is that schools focus too much on the “back end” of the problem―how to punish the bully after the bullying happens. He says that style of thinking needs to change, and administration needs to focuses more on the “front end” – prior to when bullying actually occurs. This involves identifying conflict sooner and an obligation to address the problems when they surface.

Sensitivity training, cognitive-behavior therapy and improved communication between involved school personnel and parents is essential for change,” Oberschneider said. “Currently, everybody involved suffers from bullying.”

Good Morning, Loudoun
“I received several phone calls after the show,” Oberschneider said. “Both parents of children who are bullies and parents of those who are bullied. These parents that felt some kind of support from the show certainly validated that it was a good idea.”

From a local perspective, Oberschneider reiterated that LCPS would benefit by adopting a better approach to implementing programs that identify bullying much earlier.

“I hope Superintendent Ed Hatrick watches the [Good Morning America segment] and gets an idea of all the tragedies and problems involving bullying in the school system,” he said.

Oberschneider, who has been practicing in Loudoun for six years, has had his own bullying experiences to help understand the thought process of today’s youth.

I remember as a freshman in high school I was bullied,” he said. “I was harassed, humiliated, pushed around and teased, but nothing was done. I didn’t do anything because I didn’t feel I could go to the administration and talk about it.”

Oberschneider said that bullied kids usually don’t speak up for themselves.

“School administrators can’t wait around for bullied individuals to come forward.”

Oberschneider also said that not all bullying is necessarily bad. He claims that being the butt of a prank or getting roughed up a bit can actually help a child emotionally.

It can be a real growth lesson – help develop a thicker skin,” he said. “My bullying experience didn’t make me weaker, it made me stronger.”
But there are always two sides to the coin.

Even when mild bullying occurs, the school system needs to be aware of it,” Oberschneider said. “Teachers and a school psychologist should be available to both the bully and the bullied. But let the students be involved in the resolution – it’s preparation for real life.”

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