Change Continued

Change Continued . . .

In the article, Relapse on the Road to Recovery:  Learning the Lessons of Failure on the Way to Successful Behavior Change, DiClemente & Crisafulli  deconstruct factors that contributed to a relapse during recovery.  They believe clients and mental health programs could benefit from lessons from other industries’ knowledge of “failure”.  DiClemente and Crisafulli cite the work of Matthew Syed, the author of Dealing with Failure:  Black Box Thinking.


For example, the book Black Box Thinking, by Matthew Syed, discusses how the airline industry understands failure.  Planes are equipped with two black boxes: a data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.  If a flight has a problem they use the information from the boxes to reconstruct what happened.  They examine the individuals’ behavior, interactions, communication and technical data.  They also reenact events to see what happened and what went wrong.  They then suggest solutions so changes can improve operational functioning.  Many experts believe this “autopsy” or analysis helps make airplanes the safest mode of transportation.  DiClemente and Crisafulli believe this process could be applied to better help addicts struggling with relapse.

When a client relapses, some appropriate questions are:

  • What was the context of the relapse?
  • What social factors played into the relapse?
  • Is there any appropriate data that would be helpful to know surrounding the relapse.
  • What happened before, during and after the relapse.
  • They believe this type of examination could really help people better understand what went wrong and what changes can be made to help maintain sobriety in the future.

Syed suggests that everyone makes mistakes.  The main difference between getting stuck in failure or having success is how we respond to our mistakes.  He says, “It is about being able to see failure in a clear-eyed, non-judgmental manner.  It is using failure as a learning opportunity.”  He also thinks that using “blame” is counter productive.  It is more helpful to have a growth mindset when learning from failure or relapse.

For more information, please see the DiClemente & Crisafulli article and Syed book.











Recently a client asked me, what was the most important factor to help them realize behavior change?  My response was persistence and direction.  In the 2022 article, Relapse on the Road to Recovery:  Learning the Lessons of Failure on the Way to Successful Behavior Change, DiClemente and Crisafulli, discuss the process of change.

They describe the Transtheoretical Model of Internal Behavior Change (TTM) developed by Prochaska et al in 1992.  This model describes a change process consisting of 5 stages.  Each stage includes a specific state of mind and tasks that need to be completed.  These stages are as follows:

  1. Precontemplation – generating interest and concern about the need to change
  2. Contemplation – making a decision and overcoming ambivalence
  3. Preparation – planning for and committing to making a change
  4. Action – initiating the change and making the plan work
  5. Maintenance – maintaining the change over time until it becomes a habit or part of our behavior.

The change process is not easy.  Most people have difficulty changing addictive behavior and “relapse” or return to old behavior will often occur.  Prochaska (1992) says change is not a linear process.  Most people recycle through the stages.  For example, you may revert to old behavior and find yourself in the contemplation stage, basically feeling ambivalent about making a change.  Or after having a slip, you find yourself in the preparation stage planning ways to do thing differently in the future.

Since most of us struggle with behavior change, it’s also worth considering things that will help us be successful.  Attitude is very important in the change process.  People who are willing to continue on, even though they have ups and downs seem to be better able to change in the long run.  Learning from failure is another important feature of change.  People who are able to examine “what went wrong” so that they can make adjustments seem to stay with the process and eventually succeed.  Not getting caught up in stigma and shame when having set backs is also helpful.  But remember, persistence is king.

If you would like more information about the change process, please see the DiClemente and Crisafulli article.


Sustained Growth


Climb Wyoming received a federal grant several years ago to expand from one service site to six, the non profit organization kicked into high gear. Suddenly, there was a huge opportunity to serve vastly more single mothers, helping them climb out of poverty and into higher-paying jobs. Executive Director Ray Fleming Dinneen and her small staff got right to it – with gusto.

The rapid expansion was exciting and demanding, but it left little time to focus on other elements critical to sustaining the growth over time, such as leadership structure and department integration.

“It’s not as if we were having trouble as a team, as much as just really wanting to improve our skills.” said Dinneen, who founded the nonprofit in 1986. “We had just been so focused on getting services out to the women, especially during our expansion years, that we were out of balance as a leadership team.”

To help achieve that balance, they turned to Steven Chen, whose background in psychology, organizational leadership and group facilitation was the ideal combination for Climb Wyoming, which sought to retain its values while maturing as a business.

Chen had the perfect tool for the job in his consultant’s toolkit: the Highlands Ability Battery. The program evaluates individuals and teams exclusively on abilities, not interests or skills or career development, and strives to ensure that staff members are in the right place, using their natural abilities and not stressing or over working.

Chen had been performing these abilities assessments with staff members at the various sites for a year and a half when Dinneen approached him to work with Climb’s six-member home office leadership team. The team was composed of Dinneen and those in charge of Climb Wyoming’s communications, accounting, development, operations and programs.

“Sometimes, you know, the team’s operating but it’s not quite working and you don’t know why. Steven really helped us look at why this was happening.”

The leadership team, which had been individually assessed in advance, met together with Chen for a day-long workshop to explore how the team could be more effective. What resulted from the workshop, Dinneen said, was an “amazing” restructuring of job descriptions. Tasks and responsibilities shifted among the existing team, allowing the organization to move forward into its strategic vision.

Dinneen also noted, “It helped me understand who I need to hire because I have certain strengths, and I need to make sure that my weaknesses are filled by strong individuals.”

She said Chen’s facilitation skills, expertise and organizational experience helped energize the Climb leadership team. “It’s helped us look toward the future and move to the next level in our growth,” Dinneen said. “It makes it really exciting. It’s like we’ve grown up.”




The New York Times article, “In a Battle of Bigs, Kansas’ David McCormack Delivers”, describes this year’s NCAA final men’s basketball game between Kansas and North Carolina.  During the game, we saw an excellent example of momentum in action.  Both teams were ahead for basically the same amount of time.   Both teams had the challenge of keeping momentum going in order to win the game.

Momentum is described as the amount of motion occurring in something that is moving, or the force that drives something forward to keep it moving.  A car moving down a hill is one example of momentum.

Another example of something that can create momentum is encouragement from family or a coach, which can help keep driving you forward and encourage you to continue toward success.  During the first half of the game, North Carolina was ahead. Kansas was behind.  When Kansas entered the locker room at halftime, David McCormack smiled at his teammates.  The teammates thought, we have a 16-point deficit, title on the line, why are you smiling?  Another player, Christian Braun commented : “I was like, why are you smiling, dude? We’re down 16.” McCormack was telling me, “keep your head up, keep going, we’ll be all right. I was like, man, I Don’t know if I’ve ever been here before. Down 16 in a national championship game. I’ve definitely never been there.”

But McCormack backed up his confidence, hitting the two biggest baskets of the game for Kansas and helping them overcome a 16-point first-half deficit to beat North Carolina 72-69 for the national title.  The 16-point deficit was the largest ever overcome to win a championship.

Just like in the game, we experience momentum in our lives.  When things are going well emotionally, socially, financially, and physically and we generally have positive momentum.  It’s easier to make good choices and just keep moving along.

However, when things aren’t going well, that is when it is very difficult to dig in and just keep going. It’s during these times instead of being frustrated or wondering why life isn’t going our way we need to be patient, persevere and keep moving forward on a positive path.  It is this commitment that provides the force that can help us obtain and maintain positive momentum.

Sarah’s Testimonial

  Sarah’s Testimonial

“In 2020, I experienced a very difficult time.  I started drinking alcohol to cope with things, drinking to have fun, and drinking because I was sad.  I reached a point where I needed an outside perspective to help me learn and grow.  I had some obstacles that stopped me from getting enough money together, but I started weighing out the pros and cons of getting help and working with Dr. Chen.  I loved the flexibility he offered where I could have in person, digital, or phone appointments.  I travelled frequently and this flexibility offered me the opportunity to access help when I wasn’t able to go to his office.  I never missed one session during the time I worked with Dr. Chen.  This flexibility was a big factor and I feel it was worth the money.  I would highly recommend that you think about what you are worth.  I believe you can always make more money, but you only have one life.
Working with Dr. Chen was the best growing experience I have ever had.
It made me accountable to me.
 I am forever grateful to Dr. Steven Chen.”
*Note – Names or details may have been changed in this testimonial to protect the privacy of the individual.

Overcome Self-Doubt

What is “Self-Doubt” and how you can overcome it?

Self-doubt is the belief that you are:

a. not as good as you want to be,

b. you are not able to do something as well as you would like to or

c. other people will criticize you if or when you fail.

The strength of your negative belief is influenced by your experience(s) of failure, hearing someone (parent, religious leader, etc.) criticize you

or someone you know or experiencing some other negative situation.  The frequency and intensity of the negative experiences impact the strength of your self-doubt.  In general, the more frequently and the stronger the intensity, the stronger your self-doubt.

In the article, How to Overcome Self-doubt – 8 Ways Highly Successful People Overcome Self-Doubt, Bruna Martinuzzi writes, successful people don’t let self-doubt keep them from achieving what they want to accomplish.  She lists 8 ways to constructively cope with self-doubt.  Here are 4 of her ideas.

  1.  Avoid Making Excuses – Martinuzzi indicates that self-doubt often makes us rationalize a situation to fit our emotional picture.  We may be afraid to fail, look bad, or take on more than we think we can handle.  We make excuses for why an opportunity isn’t a good fit.  She says that excuses are mental barriers we build that hold us back.
  2. Beware of Your Close Circle – There is a saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  There is no scientific study to support this notion; however, there might be some truth to this statement.  We know through brain plasticity research that experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain.  Neural connections reportedly change even after a 20 minute conversation.  Martinuzzi asks the questions – Who do you spend the most time with?  What effect do they have on you?  When you spend time with them, do you walk away feeling better about yourself or worse?
  3. Raise Your Self-Awareness – Self-awareness is one of the most powerful tools in your personal arsenal.  Make use of it by understanding the root causes of your self-doubt.  What situations trigger self-doubt?  If it is lack of skill, then get some training or coaching.
  4. Practice Self-Compassion – It is often easy to have compassion for others, but difficult not to have self-criticism for ourselves.  Self-compassion is being kind to oneself.  Martinuzzi says studies find a strong correlations between self-compassion and positive mental health.  Dr. Kristen Neff from the University of Texas, Austin campus talks about the following process, notice your own suffering (caused by self-judgment); don’t be cold hearted or mean toward yourself, remember that we are all imperfect.

To read the other 4 ways to overcome self-doubt, please visit How to Overcome Self-doubt – 8 Ways Highly Successful People Overcome Self-Doubt.


Three Best Rated

3 Best Psychologists in Salt Lake City, UT

The experts at Three Best Rated recently recognized Steven J. Chen, Ph.D. as one of the top 3 Psychologists in Salt Lake City, Utah. They report that all of the psychologists they review actually face a rigorous 50-Point Inspection, which includes customer reviews, history, complaints, ratings, satisfaction, trust, cost and general excellence. Three Best Rated believes that the public deserves to be treated by the best providers.

Three Best Rated says –

Here’s The Deal:
Dr. Steven J. Chen is one of the best and leading psychologists in the region of Salt Lake City, UT. He graduated from the Brigham Young University with honors. Dr. Steven J. Chen provides a comfortable, caring environment where the patients can feel at ease. Dr. Steven makes every effort to be understanding, open-minded & non-judgmental, which is highly preferred by the patients. He works with the patients to identify the source of their challenges & create a plan to work through it. He has professional memberships in the National Alliance for Mental Illness, American Psychological Association and Utah Psychological Association.

Couples Counseling, Marriage Counseling, Anxiety Therapy, Depression, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Career Counseling, Stress Management, Pain Disorder, Social Phobia, Bipolar Disorder, Anger Management, Primary Insomnia, Panic Attacks, Specific Phobias & Seasonal Affective Disorder

Thank you to – Three Best Rated -for recognizing me as one of the best rated psychologists in Salt Lake, Utah!


three best rated


Building Happiness In Relationships

Building Happiness In Relationships


In the article, Love the One You’re With – December 2021 issue of Psychology Today, Art Markman, Ph.D., considers the idea of building happiness in relationships.  Dr. Markman writes that humans are a special species that generally like being around each other compared to being alone.  He poses the question, “does spending time with family, friends, or partners, make us happier than spending time with non family?”  He indicates that the answer depends on how we define happiness.  He discusses a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In the study, the participants charted their daily activities like commuting, childcare, and socializing.  Participants also reported who they were with (children, their partner, other family members, friends or coworkers) and their mood during the activity.  Finally, they rated their overall emotional state and sense of life satisfaction.

The study found the following:

* When doing a “fun” activity, participants rated their happiness was higher with friends, followed by partners, then children.

* Participants tend to engage in more enjoyable activities like “socializing” or “watching television” with friends.

* Participants engage more frequently in daily tasks like: “cleaning” or “care-taking” with partners and their children.

* When compared “head to head” participants were just as happy spending time with partners or children as with friends.

*  Overall happiness and life satisfaction increased when spending time with a partner.

Pleasant activities tend to bring us joy, regardless of whom we are with, it may be that deliberately engaging in more enjoyable activities with our partner could increase a person’s “in the moment” happiness.  It also appears that couples who spend time engaged in chores and less fun activities will result in more fulfillment and a sense of purpose.

It appears that people in relationships can benefit from engaging in both fun and investment (daily task) activities.  Both types of activities can help build happiness in relationships.


Gratitude Habit

Gratitude Habit






In the book, Learning to Dance in the Rain, the Power of Gratitude, Mac Anderson and BJ Gallagher discuss ways to develop the gratitude habit.  They believe that if you do something for 21 days, then it will become a habit.  They think that you can set a goal to bring more gratitude into your life.  They provide a list of suggestions on how to develop the skill of gratitude.

Before you go to bed at night, write down three things you are grateful for.  Don’t write down obvious things like home, friends, pets, and family.  Look deep for subtle things that you may take for granted.

On your way to work or school, notice three to five things that you are grateful for along the way.  For example, being grateful to have transportation, good roads, competent drivers, nice community to live in, et cetera.

While you are at work notice a few things about your job, boss, coworkers, or company that you appreciate.

While you are running errands or doing chores, see if you can find gratitude for things while in the process.

When you are doing things you don’t enjoy, see if you can find something to be grateful for.

These don’t have to be big things, they can be little things.  The more you train your mind to look for positive things, rather than negative things, the more gratitude you will experience throughout the day.

Dr. Christiane Northrup a women’s health and wellness expert says, “Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”

Do these habit forming exercises for 21 days and see if they make a difference in your daily life.  Over time, you will have the opportunity to integrate the gratitude habit into your every day life.


Coping With Holiday Depression


In the PsychCentral article, 9 Tips to Cope With Holiday Depression, Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, writes that the holidays can create sadness and depression for many people.  She believes that during this time, people can have many expectations about being happy and generous.  People end up making assumptions about what they are suppose to think and feels.  When thoughts and feelings don’t live up to expectations or assumptions, this can leave people feeling depressed.

She says there are a host of things that add to stress and negative emotions during the holidays.  For example:

  1.  When people worry about finances or don’t have enough money to purchase presents then this can lead to sadness.  These feelings are made worse during times of economic downturn.  Lancer indicates that when you can’t afford to celebrate it can feel devastating.
  2. The stress of shopping, planning get togethers, and cooking can be overwhelming.  Especially when you already feel overworked.
  3. Loneliness is another issue.  Lancer indicates that approximately 43 percent of Americans are single and 27 percent of Americans live alone.  When others are with their families, it can be painful for those who are alone.  Seventeen percent of singles are over 65 when health issues make enjoying yourself difficult.
  4. Missing a deceased love one can be especially painful during the holidays.
  5. Some people struggle with estrangement issues.  When you are not speaking to a relative or don’t get along with family, this can bring of sadness and frustration.
  6. If you are newly divorced, the holidays can bring up reminders of happier times and accentuate your grief.
  7. If you are the adult child of divorce, your stress may increase due to having to visit two sets of parents.
  8. Trying too hard to please family members can also lead to depression.  Trying to decide what to get, whom to see, and what to do, can leave you feeling guilty and like you are not doing enough.
  9. May people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months, due to the gloomy weather and decreased sunlight.

In order to combat these challenges, Lancer suggests making plans in advance on how the holiday will be spent (where to go and what to do).  She indicates that uncertainty can add enormous stress.  Plan ahead by talking to family members about not being able to afford gifts or shop early to avoid doing things at the last minute.  Make time to rest and attend to self-care.  Take time to grieve if necessary.  Lancer says that it is good to socialize and not isolate.  She thinks it is important to do something nice for yourself as part of self-care.

Knowing the symptoms of depression can also be helpful.  Some of the signs are sadness, guilt, irritability, crying, loss of interest, worthlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, isolating, changes in sleep, weight, or appetite.  If symptoms persist, it is important to seek professional help.