Mental Strength Training with Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW

Life can throw a lot of hardships in our paths, which it seems only the mentally strong can withstand... Following tragic losses in her life, Amy Morin LCSW wrote a list to remind herself how to keep going. Shared on, the list went viral, then flooded Forbes. Like a beacon in the night, Amy's worldwide best-selling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, gives us all simple lessons in resiliency in a world where adversity can leave us feeling isolated..

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Amy’s life was going along pretty well.  But, when she was 22, her mother died suddenly of a brain aneurism.  Her mother  was only in her early 50’s.  Most people aren’t ready to lost their parents even if they pass away much older, but no one expects their parents to die that young. That’s just not supposed to happen! Amy was healing from that though.  She was young in her career as a clinical social worker, was married and starting her life with her husband.  But then, on the 3rd anniversary of her mother's death, her 26 year old husband died of a heart attack.  What?!? As Amy put the pieces of her life together.  She found a way to honor her young husband’s memory.  Every year on his birthday, she would get together with his family and  participate in life-affirming experiences.  Sometimes they  were adventurous trips, other times, they were more subdued, but they always made it fun and didn’t wallow in his loss.  They found a way to see through the pain of the loss to celebrate life: his and theirs.

Then, a few years later, Amy found love again and got remarried.  She and her new husband were enjoying the early days of this marriage and looking forward to their life together.  But then, tragedy struck yet again.  This time, her new father-in-law was diagnosed with untreatable cancer. She was then faced with the anticipation of the loss of someone else she was close to – as well as the anticipation of having to help her new husband cope with the loss of his parent.  The pain she, of course, knew all too well.  This is when Amy decided she was really going to have to pull from all the mental strength she could find.

Amy initially wrote the original list of “13 Things…” for herself.  She speaks of doing it as a reminder to herself of how to successfully cope.  She was working as a therapist and was good at helping others find their mental strength, but she discovered that focusing on what to do worked for a while, but she found “not so healthy” habits creeping in to sabotage her. The list helped her understand that she would/could survive these losses. Then, she realized others might benefit from the list and this is when the list took on a life of its’ own.  She posted the article on (you can read it here ).  The list went viral within a few hours.  The traffic generated from the article shut the page down!   It was then re-posted on several other sites, including where it set a record at over 10 million views!  To this day, it is still one of their most viral posts.

It was after all this web attention, that Amy was approached by Harper Collins publishing house and asked to turn the list into a book.  So, that’s exactly what she did.  The book went on to become a bestseller.  I think many people related to her story of strength and perseverance and found her advice practical and actionable.

Here is the list of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”

  1. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves,
  2. They don’t give away their power,
  3. They don’t shy away from change,
  4. They don’t waste energy on things they can't control,
  5. They don’t worry about pleasing everyone,
  6. They don’t fear taking calculated risks,
  7. They don’t dwell on the past,
  8. They don’t make the same mistakes over and over,
  9. They don’t resent other people’s success,
  10. They don’t give up after the first failure,
  11. They don’t fear time alone,
  12. They don’t feel the world owes them anything,  and
  13. They don’t expect immediate results.

Amy talks of our mental capabilities as a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened.  I also subscribe to this thinking.  One of my favorite things to work on with my clients is helping them build their mental strengths, or resiliency traits.  We are all born with part of our personality predetermined by our genetics.  How the other part of our personality developed is thought to be determined by how we are nurtured.  As we are growing up, we receive certain messages about how we should or shouldn’t deal with stress, upset, disappointment, as well as love, happiness and all the rest of our emotions.  Those messages are internalized and stored as fact, even if they are not in our best interest.  For instance, I learned as a child that when I am stressed out I should eat to make myself feel better, which led to a struggle with weight as an adult due to my engagement int his self-soothing behavior.  I've had to learn to fight against what fact that although not true, nor in my best interest.

Amy Morin’s “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” takes a refreshing spin on how to overcome struggle and, in her case, multiple losses.  Amy’s list resonates with many of us I believe because collectively we have been focusing on what “to do” or what we “should do”.  When we don’t “do” what we are “supposed to do to be healthy”, we end up feeling like a failure. However, Amy’s list focuses on “what not to do”.  Such a different way of thinking! I say this because when we  twist up, say, #11. “They don’t fear time alone” into the “You should do this” type of list, it becomes “They are comfortable being alone”.  Somehow not fearing something feels much different than “you should be comfortable” with something.   That way of thinking can set many people up for failure.   I believe if we re-wrote the list  from the “what to do” perspective, it would start to sound like “Mentally strong people just do more then you when you are tired of trying”.  Not very empowering.

Strengthening those emotional muscles to help you become stranger and more resilient takes active work.  I’ll leave you with this.   The work can be tough, but if your perspective is accepting and forgiving of yourself, reminding yourself of what not to do can feel achievable.


13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Amy Morin's website

5 Powerful Exercises to Increase your Mental Strength Amy Morin

7 Ways Mentally Strong People Handle Stress More Effectively Amy Morin
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Watching out for our Vets : The Eastern Foundry Incubator

Andrew Chang

There are many organizations coming up with new approaches to treating PTSD as we speak.  For this episode, I had the opportunity to interview Andrew Chang, one of 4 managing partners of the Eastern Foundry, a veteran-owned technology and innovation incubator. In their own words:  “Eastern Foundry is a first-of-its-kind marketplace where technologists, government contractors and agencies convene to exchange information and opportunities, find teaming partners and conduct business.”

If you start to follow along with the podcast, you may start to guess that I have very strong feelings about our country being ill-prepared for treating the emotional stress and post trauma emotional upheaval many of our troops face through the duties of their service. I think military PTSD will be the mental health field’s biggest problem for the next 20 years or longer. I know I am not the only one that feels this way.

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The Foundry Cup Competition

Providing all of the resources of a modern technology incubator, Eastern Foundry offers physical workspace, services, trainings and information that are tailored to help large and small businesses achieve government contracting success”. I interviewed Andrew to introduce you to the Foundry Cup competition. This competition is designed to identify solutions to serve our veteran communities. The current competition is their inaugural event, setting off what is going to be a bi-annual forum for not only competition, but also for collaboration among innovators in their fields. The current competition brought together 14 innovation teams to pitch their solutions for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The teams present their ideas and technology to a panel of judges much like in the widely- watched Shark Tank television show.

This initial competition was geared towards innovations in PTSD, but each competition will have it’s own theme. I interviewed Andrew about a week before the winner was announced. I could tell how excited he and his team were at the turnout of innovations and that they were going to get to foster at least one of these new technologies to give them a more solid starting ground. The participants were selected prior to the actual 3- day competition. The participants ranged from a team developing smart phone technology helping veterans bypass the VA waiting lists to access clinicians remotely, to a company who focuses on social media postings for detection of PTSD, to previous Coaching Through Chaos Podcast Guest, the Virtual Reality Medical Center and their work helping treat combat trauma with virtual reality technology.

The winners were selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Likelihood that the idea will yield positive outcomes,
  2. How innovative the idea is,
  3. State of development (e.g. is it at the idea, prototype/pilot, roll-out, or expansion phase),
  4. Opportunities for collaboration during the program,
  5. Ability to travel to offices in Crystal City, Virginia to attend workshops and events.

On June 20th the winner and runners’ up were announced.

And the winner is…

Qntfy win first Foundry CupThe D.C.-based startup Qntfy was awarded the first place cash prize of $10,000.
They utilize social media data to detect PTSD,  The developers were driven to help immediate friends and family suffering from PTSD. The Qntfy team have created an algorithm that analyzes individuals’ social media posting frequency and content to look for indicators of their mental health statuses – data that can help clinicians prioritize care. In addition to the cash prize, Qntfy will also receive office space to develop their tech and utilize the resources of the Eastern Foundry, exposure to possibly funding avenues, education and training. You can find out more about Qntfy here.

The runner-up was San Antonia-based mobile IT company, Sound-Off. They received $5,000 as their prize. Sound-Off enables veterans to connect with and receive anonymous ongoing care from volunteer counselors and veterans, all from the touch of their smart phones.

The “People’s Choice” winner was Arlington-based military lifestyle application, Sandboxx, which enables military service members and veterans to connect with family members, friends and military units as well as send snail mail through the app’s Mailboxx feature.

I had the opportunity to correspond with Glen Coppersmith, Ph.D.  He is the founder and CEO of Qntfy (pronounced “quantify”), a small company working to scale clinical impact and empower mental health professionals via technology.  For the Foundry Cup, Glen and his team detailed some of their work that provides quantifiable, or measurable, information about mental health from data not traditionally examined by the medical domain – things like social media, movement and workout data. Their algorithms, based on peer-reviewed research, can extract thousands of bits of information, which on their own each weakly correlated with mental health. However, he points out that when taken together, like a braided rope, these weak signals provide a strong picture of a person’s mental health. This data can help clinicians prioritize care.  They are going to be able to provide such rich data points for clinicians in order to better attend to their clients' needs.  Great Innovation Qntfy!

The prize from the Foundry Cup was $10,000, but Glen said the biggest benefit came from coming together with other incredible, diverse, and passionate teams similarly motivated to make a dent in the treatment of PTSD. The Eastern Foundry also is providing them with free office-space, next to some of their fellow Foundry Cup Finalists. Glen feels the importance of this collaboration forum can't be overstated.  He said the "Eastern Foundry has effectively brought together some people that otherwise wouldn’t have met, and provided material support towards ongoing collaboration, in an area in which they all want to see progress made".

How to Get Involved in the Foundry Cup Competition

If you are interested in participating in the next Foundry Cup Competition, please check out their website They will be announcing the next competition very soon, you’ll want to check it out right away to get the details and deadlines. If you go for it- -Good Luck!

Some information on Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

(These statistics are taken from several websites – all are featured in the resource section of this article).

1 in 5 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with ptsd.
It is estimated that 30% of Vietnam vets have PTSD (all these years later, this is considered “chronic” in nature.
More than 40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans responding to a recent survey said they did not seek mental health care because of a perceived negative impact on their careers. (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Member Survey 2012).
Health Care for Veterans with PTSD costs s 3.5 times more than for one without ptsd. (( - 22 service members per day are committing suicide.
In the general population, it is estimated that 7 or 8 people out of 100 develop ptsd at some point in their life. In contrast, when looking at our current troops serving in Operation enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqui Freedom, it is estimated that they will develop PTSD at a rate of 11-20 out of 100.
For troops suffering from combat trauma, 2 out of 3 of their marriages are failing. That’s over 200,000 military divorces.
1/3 of our nation’s homeless are veterans. This needs to change! We have a responsibility to them! They served for us and we, as a nation, need to be prepared to help them.

Where Does This Leave Us?

In a country with 21.8 million veterans and 1.3 million active service members we need to understand how they are doing and what they are exposed to.  We also need to be mindful of how the anxiety from the anticipation of what they could be exposed to impacts them. I am hoping through continuing to expose the need for services in this arena and highlighting concerning facts about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, we can get others to take notice and do something to help get our mental health professionals up to speed on, or involved in innovation and research in the arena of treatment modalities for this terrible epidemic that has been plaguing our nation’s veterans for decades. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing the work I do and will continue to highlight resources in this area of need.


Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not meant to be, nor does it constitute mental health advice. If you are experiencing symptoms or situations contained in this article, please seek out a consult from a licensed mental health provider in your community who specializes in treating Post traumatic Stress Disorder.

Read the companion article  'Watching out for our Vets' at the

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I Need you to Complete Me – Codependency Decoded

Darlene Lancer, JD MFT

Dr. Colleen Mullen speaks with Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, author of Codependency for Dummies. The topic is codependency: what it is and what it is NOT; the difference between normal and codependent behaviors and what a person can do to help themselves.

Do you know someone who has

  • a need to be perfect,
  • low self-esteem,
  • poor boundaries with others,
  • a need to control their environment, and
  • chronic dissatisfaction in relationships ?

If those descriptions ring a bell, you probably know someone who may be considered 'codependent'.

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If you’re into self-help at all, you probably have heard the term codependency- it’s often talked about it in terms of one having a codependent personality.  I want to be clear that codependency is NOT a diagnosable condition, although it is talked about in those terms. You may also have been familiar with it, but have been unsure of a clear definition of it. That’s because there is not 1 universal definition of it. There is however, consensus that it is a cluster of behaviors in relationships which can be somewhat easily identified and very often problematic.

The history of the term dates back to the 1940s and early 1950s. Primarily it was identified in studying the behavior of an alcoholic within the context of their family experience. The behaviors identified as codependent appeared to be a pattern in these families. The use of the term seemed to explode though a few decades later. In the 1980s with the advent of a focus of family system dynamics, several books came out designed to help people break those dysfunctional behavior patterns. The most famous book that still is referenced today on the subject is Melody Beattie's "Codependent No More". During that time, everyone started studying the families of alcoholics and saw these behaviors but as the clusters of behaviors became more recognizable, so did the fact that so many other people exhibited the same behavior patters who did not come from alcoholic families. The term is now popularly used to generally describe a cluster of behaviors in relationships.

Read the codependent article 'I need you to complete me'  at the

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The One who won’t Go Away – Antidote for a Stalker

Det. Mike Proctor (ret)

Dr. Colleen Mullen speaks with retired Detective Mike Proctor, author of ‘Antidote for a Stalker‘.
In this fascinating interview, you will find out about the mindset of stalkers and how to protect yourself from them. You will also hear about the evolution of the anti-stalking laws in the United States and the protection they now afford all of us. The Law is there to protect you, and Mike Proctor’s book will show you how to deal with a stalker.

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"Stalking is a growing concern throughout the world, not just in North America. More and more countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan are experiencing an upsurge of stalking throughout their communities. College campuses have become a breeding ground for the stalker. Workplace violence oftentimes revolves around a stalking scenario that has either evolved within the confines of the workplace, or enters into the workplace from a stalking that was initiated away from that workplace.Awareness, stricter laws, and a more focused multi-disciplinary law enforcement approach are the keys to defeating this dangerous problem. "

Read the companion article  'The One who won't Go Away' at the

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Hazelden Betty Ford Center

Dr. Harry Haroutunian

In this podcast, Dr.Mullen speaks with Dr.Harry Haroutunian, the Physician Director of The Betty Ford Center. They discuss some of the many services available to assist addicts in their process of recovery.  The Betty Ford Center recently merged with the Hazelden Foundation and together they provide a wealth of  services and programs to people suffering from addiction and their families.  The article details the Children's Program and the Clinical Diagnostic Evaluation Program.  Dr. Mullen reviews statistics on drug and alcohol use from SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)  and NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Addiction). 

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Machine Transcript & Video:YouTube

If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, resources are available. Help can be found online, in support groups, help lines or by reaching out to addiction treatment providers in your community. A short list of resources completes the article, to provide information and link to services.


Please contact if you need help figuring out how to connect to resources in your community.

Read the companion article 'Addiction - the Universal Terrorist' at the

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