CBM Blog



Wow, what a night. After long months of planning, and with few expectations, Failure:Lab Chicago was a magnificent evening.

What is it??

As we prepped, planned, and recruited people and companies to join us in hosting, participating and attending this storytelling event, there was a common question….

“Failure? I don’t get it?”

Failure:Lab is a storytelling event started by three fine gentlemen in Grand Rapids Michigan. Six storytellers tell their personal experience with failure, yet instead of telling the lesson they learned, the audience is provided time to write down the lesson they took from the story. Entertainers perform between each story to recharge the audience and prep them for the following storyteller. This format encourages connection and inspiration through real (yet subjective and personal) tales of failure. Success and failure go hand in hand, but admitting the defeat [in failure] opens the door to success.

IMG_0015 IMG_0012 IMG_0014

…and who is ChicagoCBM…? Why did CBM host it??

ChicagoCBM is a Psychotherapy private practice working with clientele from many different backgrounds, with many different goals. Most clients and potential clients (and all HUMANS really) are or have experienced failure in some aspect. Failure to lose weight…fear of failing at a new job, old job, same job…failing as a parent..failing at a sport…failing as an addict in the program…failing in a relationship…on a team…in academics…life in general…we have all shared in the experience of failing, and it has most likely changed us significantly.

Failure:Lab was our first major event – a great opportunity for us to get all different parts of our community together to witness and connect. We jumped on the opportunity to host because failure is so real to us and our clients. We loved how Failure:Lab put “it” out there, so raw and real. Success and failure are so subjective and our irrational belief system, from society, experiences, etc, has us keeping failure behind closed doors. The evening showcased failure as normal, and left it up to the audience to process the risk that has to come next.

ChicagoCBM could not have hosted Failure:Lab without the help of our many and varied sponsors, volunteers and storytellers! Thank you to everyone involved!

0 0 25 E. Washington Logo   cropped-LOGO-NOSTIGMAS-FINAL-480x1143-2 GITG_20_color lakshore_logo   wjlogo-1.png- large (gave $$1000)


Other sponsors included:


Rooted Self Expression Center


Rhine Hall provided drinks!!

Charlatan provided food!!

Finley Knight, Platform 29, Andrew Kent Wittler, and Kate Streit all performed!


What comes next??

We are all working to process the powerful impact of Failure:Lab, individually and practice-wide. ChicagoCBM has exciting things coming up – a new and bigger space to offer more healthy ways of living to our clients and our community, partnerships with organizations working to fight the “failure” of mental illness, and efforts to help make access to wellness easier. Look for updates from us on the successes and the failures of these ventures. Because if we learned anything from Failure:Lab, its that embracing the fear of failing can help us become better in whatever we choose to do.



Yoga @ ChicagoCBM

Yoga… is coming soon!

relax, refresh, rejuvenate, renew

We want to introduce you to Serena and Carly, two teachers who will be offering Mindful Flow classes this fall. We will be updating our calendar soon!

Meet Serena:

 Serena Brommel wholeheartedly believes that a consistent, passionate, aligned yoga practice has the power to transform your life. She is honored to guide you in this process of self-exploration.

Serena came to yoga after chronic pain and anxiety left her feeling helpless and frustrated. With the help of a committed practice, she developed a more loving and understanding relationship with her body and mind, ultimately allowing healing, balancing, strengthening, and opening to occur over time.

She has studied yoga and several traditions of meditation for over a thousand hours with some of the most renowned teachers throughout the world. Her teaching is primarily informed by her studies with Gary Kraftsow, Daren Friesen, and Pema Chodron, all influential leaders and practitioners in  yoga and wellness (click links to learn more!). Serena considers herself a lifelong student of yoga and continues to train extensively to keep her classes intelligent, fresh, and inspired. She is in the process of completing rigorous advanced teacher training in Viniyoga with Gary Kraftsow, eventually planning to work toward certification as a yoga therapist.

You can learn more about Serena and get in touch at

Mindful Flow Yoga offered by Serena

Yoga is an ancient system of wellness that ultimately aims to connect you with your innate capacity for wisdom, strength, clarity, and joy. In Mindful Flow, you’ll learn simple yet powerful tools for self-care and compassion. First you’ll move fluidly and consciously, uniting your breath with your movement. These physical postures will help release tension and create circulation, as you learn to love and care for your body more fully. You’ll also work with your breath as a tool for deep relaxation. Finally, guided meditation and visualization will introduce the philosophy of yoga, which helps you to take the calm and balance you’ve created during your practice off the mat and into your life. All levels welcome.


Meet Carly 

Carly Visk began practicing yoga in 2009 while attending graduate school in New York City and it revealed to her a place of peace and wholeness within herself, in the midst of the vibrant chaos of city life. So profound were the positive changes in her way of being, that she focused her master’s thesis on the beneficial effects of meditative states of consciousness on physical and psychological health. In 2013, Carly decided to integrate yoga more fully into her life and share it with others by becoming a yoga teacher. The transformational journey of studying and teaching yoga has allowed her to be more present than ever before, and has left her feeling alive and inspired to share these powerful tools with others to help ignite positive change in the world, starting from within each individual person.

You can learn more about Carly and her practice at

Mindful Flow Yoga offered by Carly

Carly’s teaching style is a balance between energizing flow and relaxing stretch and is influenced by years of practicing with yoga teachers from around the world, studying psychology, and experiencing life.

Each class is taught with intention and intuition, taking into account the season, time of day, and goals of each student. Students are encouraged to cultivate awareness of the body and mind while gently moving towards greater strength, flexibility, mindfulness, and overall health. Students can expect to leave class relaxed, focused, and ready to re-enter the day with renewed energy, clarity, and creativity.


We Moved!

ChicagoCBM is happy to announce our move to a bigger space to provide our clients with more resources for healing in the same building, just two floors down. We are now located in Suite 1025 @ 25 E. Washington in the loop. In our new space we have more individual offices so all eleven of our therapists can accommodate their clients schedules (and their own!).

The new space also includes a yoga studio, kitchen and community space for our community partners, NoStigmas. The plans are brewing for this space. In the near future (this fall) we will be offering yoga classes, workshops, nutrition courses, and more groups!

How to stay tuned…

To stay up to date and in the loop please check in with our social media feeds:




We are also on YELP! 

Our calendar:

and/or get in touch with us:, 312-569-0285

Chicago view from CBM HQ

Chicago view from CBM HQ

Catching up with Dustin

Dustin has recently returned from his cycling endeavors at the North Star Grand Prix, a five-day professional-level race consisting of six stages. Stage racing differs from 1-day formats due to the heavy emphasis on recovery between stages, high volume and professional-level competition. The North Star Grand Prix proved a lesson in conservative racing and a less urgent mindset for Dustin, when compared to a more typical short-circuit race. Along with a longer format of racing comes a new optimal-zone-of-arousal, a much lower one. A more relaxed mindset helped Dustin sway the scales towards less reactive and aggressive decisions that would have caused too much fatigue for a race that lasted 5 days.

  Dustin at North Star
the photo: Dustin at the start of stage 3 chatting with Carmon Small, A National champion in women’s cycling allowed to race with the men (due to the women’s race being canceled this year)

Happy LGBTQ+ Pride Month from Chicago Center for Behavioral Medicine!

written by: Cynthia Holmes

As June is national LGBTQ Pride Month, Chicago CBM would like to honor the bravery of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer folks of every shade of the rainbow for being your authentic self. We recognize that it isn’t always the easy to walk through the world when your looks can constantly out you, when people don’t understand or aren’t supportive, when you feel invisible or alone. We welcome that Pride Month can be a time to celebrate our diversity, our victories and our love!! At Chicago CBM we are happy to offer comprehensive therapeutic services to help support LGBTQ+ folks and their families, to embrace the whole person to live our best lives.


In a similar vein, we are thrilled to have our Chicago CBM therapist, Cynthia Holmes LCSW, serve as a co-chair on the planning committee for the LGBTQ Clinical Training Consortium. Please check out the next upcoming event and help spread the word:


The Chicago LGBTQ Behavioral Health Training Consortium presents

Let’s Talk About Sex:

Exploring Sex in LGBTQ Communities Through

Addiction, Compulsion and Sex Positive Lenses

Friday July 17, 2015

10:30 AM Check-In and Networking

11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Panel presentation and Q&A – Panelists TBA

1:00 PM to 2:00 PM Lunch and discussion

Two free CEUs available for Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers

At Center on Halsted

3656 N Halsted, Chicago, IL

Sponsored by

Center on Halsted, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital and Howard Brown Health Center

Space is Limited

Please RSVP by July 14, 2015

by following this link:

For questions or further info contact Ing Swenson,

Associate Director of Behavioral Health

Center on Halsted, 773.472.6469 EXT 267

The Dangers of “The Summer Body”

written by: Victoria Kessinger

At this time of year, we are being exposed to the concept of “The Summer Body”.  Whether it is a commercial advertising the latest diet trend, a fitness instructor attempting to inspire motivation, or a friend worrying about fitting into their favorite bikini, the concept is everywhere.  

 As a psychotherapist who specializes in weight management and eating disorders, the “The Summer Body”  has also become prevalent in my work over the past month or so.  Many of my clients have expressed anxiety related to the transition into summer wardrobes, or participating in summertime activities such as swimming.  This anxiety stems from worries about how their bodies will be perceived by others.

Every time I hear or see something related to  “The Summer Body”, I cringe because I know it is contributing to the body image difficulties many people face.  After being cramped inside all winter, summer activities out in the sun are meant to induce positive feelings, joy, and social engagement. However, with the “ideal summer body” envy these activities become anxiety inducing. Clients start to compare themselves to an idea of what “fit” looks like, the thought of over- exercising and the idea of cutting portion sizes or eating all together becomes prevalent among other negative thought patterns and behaviors.

The following are the top 5 reasons why it is important to get rid of this concept once and for all.

  1. It suggests there is a body type for summer.  In fact, any body type can enjoy the season. The summer body standard is socially constructed and there is nothing intrinsically attractive about this norm.  Other societies view overweight bodies as a sign of prosperity. Our own country glamorized curvaceous women in the 1940s and 1950s.  Therefore, the slim and toned ideal body that is the current beauty standard is a trend. Understanding that this concept is a trend can allow us to recognize that our bodies are not the problem, our society may be.  This can help to take the responsibility off of YOU and free you up from feeling guilty so you can put energy into enjoying the season!

  2. It maintains the current unhealthy cultural beauty standard, i.e. the ideal body is thin. Those who meet this standard are often rewarded socially, whether they are praised, promoted, adorned, or respected.  To be overweight is considered less than ideal and overweight individuals find themselves socially sanctioned.  Perhaps they are stereotyped to be lazy, or receive fewer opportunities in occupational and social settings.  “The Summer Body” suggests that beauty is a singular vision. Lacking in uniqueness and character. The drive to meet this standard can become overwhelming as individuals try to fit a mold that is uncomfortable and unfitting to their interests, living an uncomfortable unsatisfying life. The human body is beauty. Beauty is not a size or a look, it is accomplished through feeling good and enjoying a healthy life that has no aesthetic standard.

  3. It maintains the pattern of body-shaming.  The standards for a toned/slim summer body are incredibly hard to reach, setting us up to devalue ourselves when we don’t achieve them, or to shame others when their body does not meet the current standards.  Instead of embracing our body’s unique characteristics, we work exhaustively to accomplish an impossible or highly unrealistic aesthetic while completely rejecting ourselves. By rejecting our body we lose all sense of self, including our identity.

  4. It is unhealthy for our physical health because it gets us thinking about our weight in temporary terms because we think about losing weight for the summer months.  Often times “Summer Body” weight goals are not realistic long-term weight management goals.  Therefore, people must overly restrict or over exercise in order to achieve their summer body.  These practices are not sustainable for the long run, which causes people to resume their pre-summer body habits and regain weight…perpetuating the “yo-yo” cycle.

  5. This concept keeps us focused on our physical appearance.  Instead of thinking about the memories we will make, the people we will visit over the summer or the new experiences we will have, we worry about how our bodies look . This type of thought pattern causes us to lose sight of the most important and fulfilling aspects of life.

So I suggest we recognize this summer body concept is unhealthy and choose to focus on body positive messages, and embracing the strength, capability,  and unique characteristics of our present bodies. I challenge YOU to write down 1 thing you like about your body each day for a week, to start getting in the habit of focusing on these positive body traits you now have!


And, if you struggle with negative self-image, or managing your weight in healthier ways, check out ChicagoCBM’s weight management group for help. We are starting groups in the next couple of months!

What’s going on inside? Have you tried writing?

written by: Erica Stone

Want to improve your mood, manage stress, change habits, and get healthier?  Try writing!  But not just any writing.  The internet and cellphones have us typing more than ever, but when was the last time you sat down with a notebook and a pen to write about how you were feeling?


Writing has many of the same benefits as talk therapy.  If you’ve ever been upset and sat down to write in your journal, you’ve experienced that cathartic effect to getting your feeling out of your head.  The problem or hurt may not go away, but you get a chance to explore it and think about it in your writing in a different way than just ruminating on the thoughts in your head.  This can lead to a more compassionate view of yourself or help you to think creatively about a problem.  Being able to see your feelings captured on the page can illuminate the reality of your emotions–  good, bad, and ugly– this can serve as an inspiration to move in a direction that will help you take care of yourself, heal, and live your best life.    

James Pennebaker, a social psychologist of the University of Texas-Austin studies the therapeutic effects of writing and found that people who wrote for just 20 minutes about distressing events not only felt better emotionally, but demonstrated decreased physiological markers of stress including heart rate and blood pressure.

Interested?  Want to try a little therapeutic writing?

  • Freewrite for 20 minutes. Try writing about a stressful event from the past to help understand what happened and how you feel about it.  Write about your day to day, this can be an excellent way to practice mindfulness by recording the little things like the way the light sparkled in the tree outside your window, as well as the big stuff.

  • Keep a gratitude list. Feed the positive in your life by taking an inventory of the things that make your life wonderful and uniquely yours.  Start with one thing and really dig deep into why you’re grateful for it.

  • Write a letter to yourself.  Write a letter to yourself to give yourself the motivation, pep talk, congratulations, or forgiveness only you know how to give.  Say it your way.  Write it from yourself as a ten-year-old or a 100-year-old version of yourself and you’ll be surprised with the advice you might give yourself.  Really send it to yourself– treat yourself to the gift of getting a real letter in the mail!

  • Write a letter to someone else.  There are so many times when we can’t say the things we want to other people or aren’t ready to yet.  Write a letter telling them how you truly feel and let all the anger, hurt, love, etc. ring out.  This may not be a letter you want to send, but it will feel incredibly therapeutic to write.

images If you are interested in working with me for writing therapy or participating in a therapeutic writing group starting in July, please contact me through our website! (contact us or call!)



Drum roll please….


CHICAGO, IL – ChicagoCBM will be hosting Failure:Lab, an international movement showcasing personal  stories of failure, on August 18. This one-of-a-kind format features a diverse blend of storytelling, music, theatre and audience interaction.

Failure:Lab’s special ingredient is the focus on failure and the often harsh consequences that follow. There are no lessons or recycled mantras about overcoming adversity. Rather, these speakers bluntly present their darkest hours with confidence, and the introspection is left up to the audience. Through vulnerability and honesty, Failure:Lab works to remove the stigma of failure and move towards community and conversation. 

“Don’t let the name fool you. While the stories may be about failure, the event is really about courage, determination and the strength to get back up,” said Failure:Lab cofounder Jordan O’Neil.

The following storytellers will share at Failure:Lab Chicago:

  • Kirk Kicklighter, Storyteller
  • Brad Buxton, Health Care Consultant
  • Akela Stanfield, Author, Poet
  • Jim Bodman, CEO Vienna Beef
  • Katie Bauer, Writer, Mother, Communication Specialist

Failure:Lab’s success hinges on audience engagement, which takes place during and after the event through social media and organic conversations within the audience. There will be breaks for entertainment with performances by Finley Knight, Platform 29, Drew Wittler, and stand up comedian, Katie Streit. Audience members will have time to reflect and share their thoughts with others in the audience and via Twitter with the hashtag #FailureLabChiCBM. 

“It’s counterintuitive, countercultural, and incredibly cathartic. You will fail, the real question is how will you respond?” Jonathan Williams, cofounder.

Failure:Lab will take place at 6:30 p.m. August 18th at the new Plumbers Hall, 1400 W. Washington St. Tickets cost $35* per person and will be available online

* part of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to NoStigmas and Girls in the Game

Why I no longer train with a TV

written by: Dustin Morici

For a long time I had my winter training set up with a television right in front of me. Along with the program I had turned on, the angle of the screen allowed me to see my reflection in it. I did not realize it at the time but this was an important feature of the set up. I would often drift away from the program and gaze at the reflection, how did my form look? Fast forward a few seasons later and my set up had changed, just slightly. But enough to crate a profound difference. The angle of my screen no longer reflected my image back to me.

  dustin biking

This particular season I had found myself lacking focus during my training sets. I often found myself captivated by the television screen in front of me. My ability to hit my workout goals diminished greatly. No longer hitting my numbers began a host of negative appraisals. “Had I lost the fire for cycling? Did I no longer have the motivation to put in proper training?”

I then made the simplest change to my routine: I took my training set up from the TV room and placed myself in front of a mirror. Weeks later, the results were still profound. I have found myself training better, focusing easier, and feeling more energized.

Why? What are some possible psychological principals at work here?

Cues effect performance

While training in front of a television I immediately noticed that it was much easier to train hard while watching chase scenes, while energizing music played, and when the pace of the movie was generally high. The opposite was also true. Slowly unfolding plots, relaxing music, and tense drawn out interactions brought my legs to a near stand still. My body and mind were drawing cues from the movie, not the slip of paper containing my planed interval training.

Successful athletes associate with the task at hand

With a television removed form the equation I was forced to confront myself. I was no longer training myself to ignore my body. Contrary to popular belief performance psychology is not about “blocking out the pain”, It is about attending to the task in the most effective way possible. Playing a movie in my head might bring me far away from the burning of fatigue in my legs, it would also have the effect of slowing my pace. Preforming successfully requires mental resources, resources better off NOT tied up discovering the killer of a murder mystery.


Studies routinely find that high preforming athletes focus on the task at hand. By eliminating distractions I allowed myself to become more in-tune to subtleties of breath, smoothness of movement, efficient cadence, and the relaxation of non-engaged muscles. My mind had plenty of information to chew on—no television required—I just needed to turn off the television to hear, see, and feel it.



How to Soothe Yourself in Times of Distress

written by: Caitlin Liddle


What does Self Soothing Mean?

As human beings, we can all become overwhelmed or distressed by things happening in our environment. A breakup, losing your job, grieving a loved one are examples of things that can bring up a lot of emotional pain. When things like this happen, we can feel overwhelmed by our emotions, and not feel like we know how to cope or function. We may turn to destructive ways of coping, like drinking, drugs, restricting our food, isolating ourselves.

Self soothing is about learning to manage and cope with our emotions using our senses in a way that’s sustainable for our health and wellbeing, that will not cause us bigger problems down the road. Self soothing using our senses is not only useful during major life upheavals, but can also be helpful with day to day stressors: maybe you just had a bad day at work, or an argument with your partner. Below are suggestions for ways to soothe yourself using your senses that you may want to try. I suggest you make your own lists of things you already know work to help soothe you as well, breaking it down by sight, smell, sound, touch and taste, to use as a resource for a time when you’re feeling unable to cope or calm yourself.

Self Soothing Using Your Senses:

Sight: Go to a park and look at flowering trees, buy a boquet of flowers for your home, look at images of loved ones, paint your nails a color you like, pay attention to architecture while you take a walk, softly light a room with candles or dim lamps, go into a clothing store that has beautiful designs, go to an art museum.

Smell: What smells feel soothing to you? Some scents that often elicit calm are lavender, mint, citrus, cinnamon, baked goods, nature smells. You can soothe yourself with these scents by using a perfume, lighting scented candles, smell flowers, bake cookies.

Sound: Listen to soothing music ( ie. Enya, Norah Jones), notice nature sounds (waves, trees rustling, rain). Play an instrument or listen to someone else playing one.

Touch: Take a hot bath. Hug someone in your life. Pet an animal or touch a soft blanket. Put on your coziest pajamas. Get a massage. Use a heating pad. Put on lotion. Wrap yourself in a blanket.

Taste: Make a favorite childhood meal. Drink something soothing, like hot tea or hot chocolate. Allow yourself to have a dessert. Try a new type of food. Suck on a mint.


Barriers to Self Soothing:

Not feeling like you deserve to take care of yourself or it feels indulgent: The idea of “deserving” can really get in the way of taking care of ourselves. One way to think about soothing is imagining how you might comfort a child. Does the child “deserve” to be rocked to sleep? To be sung to? To bathe? Lets just throw “deserving” out with the bath water and meet our own needs, regardless of how “good” or “productive” we were that day.

Believing others should soothe you: Sometimes we can think, “Well, he made me made, so he has to fix it.” The truth is, we’re the ones responsible for making sure we feel ok, and, in holding on to anger or frustration waiting for someone else to read our mind, we are only hurting ourselves.

Believing you don’t have time to soothe yourself: We might think, it would be so nice to take a bath or get a massage, but I’m just too busy! The good news is, even busy people can take time to self soothe. Lots of strategies for self soothing are not very time consuming, such as eating a comforting meal (you need to eat anyway), lighting a scented candle or drinking hot herbal tea, or wearing comfortable pajamas or other clothing.

Self soothing is a trial and error process. When we don’t get it right it just means we have more things to try. By recognizing our barriers and our personal senses we can get closer to techniques that work for us individually. What could you try today or this week?

If you liked this post read more from Caitlin and check out her profile.

Caitlin on Mindfulness

More on Self Care