Latest Self & Professional Development Posts

Nick Cave & “One More Time With Feeling”

Saw the moving film last nite. What an elegy, what an Artist. From earliest punk Birthday Party thru Bad Seeds…. At core the number one influence on my music… He writes songs, as he puts it, w/ “anxiety, despair, anguish”… lush beauty, frenzy, elegiac feeling, true artistry. This film is a beautiful, creative take on how to transform trauma and grief… even with everything unanswered that entails.

Nick Cave Faces Tragedy In Illuminating, Intimate ‘One More Time With Feeling’ – Venice Film Festival Review


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Invited to write feature essay on Creativity, Artists & Mental Health


Ian Thomas, Compensation, 2013 Slab-built, molded earthenware, slip, electric fired, paint, image transfer, charcoal, 18” x 8” x 8” thread, glue 96” x 84” x 48


Mid-Winter, I was commissioned to write the Feature Catalog Essay for The Society for Contemporary Crafts‘ upcoming exhibition,“Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art.”

This will be a unique exhibition offering powerful artistic responses on the role creativity plays in self-expression and mental health, as well as looking at the links between artistic tendencies, attempts to live creatively, and mental dis-ease. 

Looking forward to reflecting and writing on this in the upcoming months….

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Two pieces on Dysfunctional Families and the work of Dr. Charles Whitfield

“Helpful, good books have been written over the last few decades about dysfunctional families and the wounding that is often carried from childhood into adulthood. Many have incorporated the belief that children in such families adopt particular roles which help them to manage and ease the pain.

Dysfunctional families are affected by mental illness, trauma from tragedy, or simply by being headed by individuals with very poor parenting skills. There is no pretty way around that statement and plenty of authors have courageously and professionally touched the subject, as a simple Internet or library search will show….”


View this article where it was originally published on PsychCentral

Lisa A. Miles c 2013



“Charles L. Whitfield’s 1987 book Healing the Child Within is aimed at adult children of dysfunctional families. The ideas he presented synced up with the 12-step recovery movements for families afflicted by alcohol and addiction (Al-Anon, Nar-Anon). It made perfect sense that the pain of those with alcoholic parents was similar to that of individuals in families whose parents were dysfunctional even if not abusing substances….”


View this article where it was originally published on PsychCentral


Lisa A. Miles c 2013

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Teaching Mental Health in Junior High

View this article where it was originally published on PsychCentral


“Some children might start identifying what they are going through at home with an ill parent; others could begin to formulate an entirely new way of being when it comes to the stress and tension they’ll meet with throughout life. Many lives could be potentially changed if young people from junior high on began to learn signs and symptoms….”


Lisa A. Miles c 2013

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Presence: Striving to Find Authentic Sense of Self

Lisa A. Miles  c 2013   ~posted for the first time fully in Dec 2014 on~
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Jan Vojta stained glass

Artists being able to collaborate with psychologists makes for a unique experience. I had the pleasure of coordinating such in 2001, for a performance piece entitled Presence. Inspired by self-development work of the previous decade, it was a melding of interest, studies, written reflections and art.

Authentic sense of self, or presence, has been a point of fascination, centered on the thought that we must strive to find who we most truly are and move toward a life that speaks to that.

Inherent in engaging around sense of self is the need to incorporate multifaceted elements that define us.
This involves embracing all our drives and interests, but also identifying personal assets and liabilities. By attending to what informs and motivates our lives, we can cultivate inner assets, manage our inward liabilities and potentially transform challenges.

Glass is a perfect metaphor for the self; it was incorporated in a big way in Presence, based on a poem/reflection * about the tumultuous but rewarding process that is self-reflection:

Where emotions wrestle and wreak havoc on calm composure,
To surface and recede in a troubling yet contenting tide
We are all fragments
Shades of our soul like shards of glass
that cut, yet reflect best, our presence.

Both stained glass and blown glass art were represented on stage and projected screen. As well, a custom-made, heavy glass “mask” played a pivotal role in the artists’ interpretation of stages involved in moving from denial to full, healthy expression of self:

Negative Energy
Constructive Energy

The Jungian psychologists involved were taken with this work that emulated finding authentic sense of self, and offered key insights throughout the creative processing. Their wise reflections helped to guide the lone movement artist, three glass artists and my own composing of original music and artistic direction for the piece. Beautifully, even Jung’s ties to alchemy were pointed out by one of the psychologists, further informing the unique artistic/ psychological blend.

Afterward, artists and psychologists mixed on stage to host a panel discussion of this creative call to awaken to individual strength and weakness, essentially, to one’s presence in life.

Some audience members were later moved to write comments, such as this one by Lian Laishley:

“The value of ‘Presence’ to the general public [is] in helping them gain a better understanding of what makes a person healthy in body, mind, spirit and emotion… It articulates the struggles that are involved as one goes from despair to healing, and epitomizes the collaborative spirit that leads to open communication and evocative dialogue.”

More such collaborations between the arts, humanities, and psychology communities could inspire further healing.


Visuals, music & more information on Presence found here.

Glass art courtesy Jan Vojta


“Contemplation,” L. Miles from the anthology Unsilenced: The Spirit of Women (Commune-A-Key, Salt Lake), 1997. [↩]

Two Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I’m presenting for the 3rd time in 9 years at NAMI-PA’s statewide conference, Harrisburg, October 25-26.  

Title of presentation:  “Family Members as Treatment Team Coordinators.”  

Why is it that families are so kept out of the loop when it comes to the health of a loved one?  Caring, informed and involved family members must be the Treatment Team Coordinators for loved ones with mental illness and substance abuse!  More details TBA.


I’m honored to have been invited by Ann Dugan (Founder & Asst. Dean, Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Katz Graduate School of Business, Univ. of PGH) to be a featured Speaker/Program Leader in their prestigious 2014 Member Educational Series.

August 19, 2014, 8 – 10:30 a.m.  

My presentation will center around Emotional Intelligence & Cross-Disciplinary, Creative Applications in Business Coaching.

More details TBA

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Mental Health in the Form of a Home


Lisa A. Miles c 2013
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There was an interesting headline recently in the New York Times asking, “Can a House Confer Bliss?”

Despite its locale in the Real Estate section, I figured this article just had to delve into a wellness topic that was close to my own heart — finding serenity in a home.

The subhead, “Homeownership gets a knock from some experts in well-being,” though, made me sigh. Other people out there must get it, I had originally thought. Apparently not.

As the 20-year owner of an old house on a hill overlooking cityscape and rolling river valley, I have long known that a home can be a real harbor for the soul.
Was I just lucky, or crazy, or for some reason especially acclimated to this sensation that I love my house and even the ground it sits on? (Probably a little of all.) I do believe, though, that if it was a fairly good enough choice in the first place, where we put down roots can really become us.

I needed only scan the article a bit to see dismaying anecdotes, such as people unhappy with having to maintain a house rather than just clean an apartment. Many disliked the steep initial costs associated with (some) real estate purchases.

Readership was centered on New Yorkers, who ironically plunk down their earnings monthly on rents equivalent to full house down payments in other parts of the country. This article took the angle that a house, nevertheless, is just a big thing, and some people like experiences better than things. I am one of them. (My husband, on the other hand, likes things, and fills some rooms of our home accordingly.)

A house is much more than a thing. I will always steer people toward finding a place to truly call one’s own.

Nothing makes more sense financially. Equity aside, a house can confer bliss.

It is where loved friends and family are perhaps invited in for joyful parties; it is that place of peace, mainly, which recharges our batteries and can provide contentment and good feeling to rival that of therapy or marriage or job success. Well-matched, or at least adjusted to fit the style of personalities living in it, a house is a place of retreat from the outer world. (Who doesn’t occasionally need that?)

Finding or “making” one’s home is a gratification not unlike finding a career. It shelters and nourishes, and is an extension of the self. Indeed, where we plant ourselves should be a balm in our life.

The rooms of our old place provide me comfort and happiness, quite simply. Outside, sitting on a patch of the sloped ground, my eye adjusts to points far past while under a canopy of trees, and stillness fills me. It is literally my one favorite place in all of the world, this backyard. It is our own.

There I find the drug of satisfaction and peace, amid a life that has known a little frenzy.


Image:  Chip & Jesse (Vojta)

This piece was originally published on PsychCentral

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Ancestral Fragments


Lisa A. Miles  c 2013
All Rights Reserved


Ever wonder, as I, how folks who believe in reincarnation reconcile the individuality of every person, the uniqueness of the spirit?

I have nothing against folks who believe.  Really.  But I just never could quite feel that within one’s person there might be spirits of a distinctly different one.

Now, I am sure I got that a little wrong, my understanding and defining of actual reincarnation.  But no matter, as I’ll never quite be able to believe that I was once of another time and place completely unrelated to my own genetic material!

But when it comes to that genetic material, its a different story for me.  You see, I have always been deeply intrigued by ancestry.  (Probably like a lot of folks, especially when you see the online biz of it.)  I’ve wanted to learn more of the lives of age-old relatives, and then admire (or admonish) the stories that preceded my ending up being here.

At the same time–and this is going to be really hard to explain–I felt from a very young age something very powerful which has stayed with me.  Standing in my front yard as a little girl, I came upon an unusual sensation (not mere idea) that somehow each of us has a unique spark.  It seemed related to my ponderings of the physical universe in the starry night sky, but which I “saw” in front of my eyes in daytime that day.  I am told this is akin to a “waking dream,” whatever that is.  (Probably unlike the 3-yr-old child experiences of a lot of folks.)  Though at a loss for how to express it, I saw that day, or I should say felt and sensed, at that young moment of my life, what seemed very sacred.  That we each have some purpose, or at least some very individual “stuff” that no one else has.  (more…)


Going After Goals Yet Letting Go of Outcomes




A recent article of Christine Lattimer of the UK inspired me to think on Goals/ Outcomes further–

Good advice in article, esp. ‘Going After a Goal’ but being able to “Let Go of the Outcome” at same time~ How true in business, career and interpersonally!  (This adage should be in all such, as well as mental health and employee EAP program, “manuals”…and indeed is found in some).

This is an important truth in life, especially when disappointments of any kind get us down.  We must aim high but  prepare ourselves mentally to feel satisfied when high outcomes are not in the cards for us.  Similarly, we must define success as personal and professional accomplishment regardless of whether great money, “following”/fame, and traditional definitions of “success” in personal and relationship happiness occurs.  

Define what you aim for.  Define success for yourself.   Though making great money (or at least a decent living) is always desirable,  more gratifying for sure is to do good work, to make a difference, to contribute, to create.  

Ask yourself–What have you actually done?  

What would you like to do?  Get to it.  Then the outcomes might even surprise you.

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Zen & Martial Arts Life-Lessons on the Path Around Anger


Psych Central


Awareness of when anger and conflict are imminent, and then using best practices to completely deflect or even transform it is one of many core truths in Zen and martial arts.

See this article where it was originally published on PsychCentral



Lisa A. Miles c 2013

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