May 2022

Pandemic Parenting: Do you have Parental Burnout?; Strategies to help with Parental Burnout; 13 million pounds of discarded soap.

In SAVVY, an online survey of 1,285 working parents was conducted between January 2021 and April 2021. Earlier in May, the researchers from Ohio State University published their report, Pandemic Parenting: Examining the Epidemic of Working Parental Burnout and Strategies to Help.

In SKILLS, after describing what Parental Burnout is, the report went on to provide some strategies to help parents deal with burnout. So whether you are a parent yourself, or helping parents cope, the report has strategies for you.

In SOUL, In 2008, Shawn Seipler was staying at a hotel in Minneapolis and wondered what happens to all the unused hotel room soap? This got me thinking about what would be the ‘wasted hotel soap’ of the healthcare industry? What better systems could we build that could save as many lives as 13 million pounds of discarded soap?


In the USA, Mother’s Day was on May 8 and Father’s Day will be June 19 (Fun Fact: In Australia, Father’s Day is the first Sunday in September. Mother’s Day is the same as the USA). While we are all sick of the COVID pandemic, a report published by researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) earlier this month caught my eye in the context of Mother’s and Father’s Days.

The report is based on an online survey of 1,285 working parents that was conducted between January 2021 and April 2021. It is titled: Pandemic Parenting: Examining the Epidemic of Working Parental Burnout and Strategies to Help

Here are the SAVVY tips arising from that OSU report. All the content is from the report where you can see more detail. I have just reworked the information into Tips and Topics format.

Tip 1

Sixty-six percent of parents reported being burnt-out.

Parenting stress is normal and expected. However, when chronic stress and exhaustion occur that overwhelm a parent’s ability to cope and function, it is called parental burnout:

  • A “non-clinical term that means they are so exhausted by the pressure of caring for their children, they feel they have nothing left to give.”
  • “For two years, working parents in America have been running on fumes, hammered by the stress of remote schooling, day care closures, economic instability and social isolation.”
  • It results from a mismatch between perceived stressors and available resources leaving parents feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, as well as often detached from their children.

One parent: “I am expected to be a superhuman that can be a full-time employee, parent, elementary school teacher, pre-school teacher, cook, cleaner, playmate and emotional support system. But I can’t do it any longer.”

Tip 2

Factors that contributed to higher levels of burnout included: Being female and being parents who were very worried about their children’s mental health versus parents who were less worried.

All factors that were strongly associated with parental burnout:

  • Being female
  • The number of children living in the home
  • Anxiety in the parent
  • Having child(ren) with the diagnosis of either Anxiety or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Parental concern that their child(ren) may have an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

Tip 3

Parental burnout is strongly associated with depression, anxiety and increased alcohol consumption in the parent.

Besides being strongly associated with depression, anxiety and increased alcohol consumption, Burnout is also associated with dramatic increases in the likelihood that parents may:

  • Insult
  • Criticize
  • Scream at
  • Curse at
  • Physically harm their children (i.e. spanking).

Tip 4

Working parental burnout is associated with parents’ reports of their children’s internalizing, externalizing, and attention behaviors.

Parents’ reports of their children’s internalizing, externalizing, and attention behaviors:

Examples of internalizing behaviors are:

  • feels sad or unhappy
  • is down on themselves
  • worries a lot

Examples of externalizing behaviors include:

  • fights with other children
  • does not listen to rules
  • teases others

Examples of attention behaviors include:

  • inability to sit still
  • has trouble concentrating
  • is easily distracted


After describing what Parental Burnout is, the report went on to provide some strategies to help parents deal with burnout.

Tip 1 

Find a balance that decreases personal stressors and increases the access to and use of available resources.

Stress and burnout looks different for everyone:

  • Perhaps you have children in half-day preschool who are home in the afternoons while you work, or
  • You’re shuttling older kids to multiple after-school activities
  • Perhaps you stay up after your children go to sleep to do work for your job as you watch laundry pile up on the floor.

Stopping to catch, check and change the negative automatic thoughts that often happen with parental burnout can result in feeling emotionally better and can open the door to strategies and solutions that work for you and your family.

Work on burnout by decreasing personal stressors and increasing the access to and use of available resources.

Decrease personal stressors:

  • Make it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night
  • Have children help with chores
  • Decrease number of after-school activities

Increase and tap resources by leveraging the ‘village’ around you:

  • Flex work hours or ask a family member for help with childcare
  • Engage in free corporate wellness programs
  • Find people to carpool with for after school activities

Tip 2

Other evidence-based strategies that can help you every day.

Here are five other evidence-based strategies:

1. Take good self-care (it is not selfish!):

  • Even a five-to-ten-minute recovery break a couple of times a day to enhance your well-being or engage in something that brings you joy does wonders (e.g., drink a warm beverage slowly; do a five-minute meditation; get some physical activity, such as dancing to your favorite music or walking up and down the stairs).

2. Be kind to yourself:

  • Don’t set expectations too high.
  • Don’t overcommit or feel guilty for saying “no” to something.
  • Forgive yourself; everyone has strengths and opportunities for improvement.

3. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling:

  • Stay connected to family and friends.

4. Build your mental resiliency and coping skills. This can include:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Developing cognitive-behavioral skills
  • Practicing gratitude and self-affirmations and deep abdominal breathing.

5. Ask for help:

  • If your level of burnout, anxiety and/or depressive symptoms are interfering with your ability to function or concentrate, talk to your primary care provider or seek out mental health help.
  • It is a strength to recognize when we need help, not a weakness!


In 2008, Shawn Seipler was staying at a hotel in Minneapolis and wondered about a question I have also pondered: what happens to all the unused hotel room soap? So he called the front desk and found out that they throw the soap away and it all goes to a landfill.

Learning that millions of bars of perfectly salvageable soap were going to waste, Shawn laid out a bunch of stats and came to a realization:

  • Hotels were wasting millions of bars of soap.
  • At the time, about 9,000 children under the age of 5 were dying from hygiene-related illnesses every day globally.
  • Studies showed that regular hand-washing could cut those deaths in half.

“Seipler launched Clean the World and set out on a mission of getting those millions of bars of wasted soap to children in need.”

Since 2009, the company has:

  • Collected 13 million pounds of discarded soap from hotels.
  • Distributed 68 million bars of reprocessed soap to 127 countries.
  • Diverted 23 million pounds of plastic and soap waste from landfills.

You can read all about Shawn’s ingenuity and journey in The surprising afterlife of used hotel soap in The Hustle.

All this got me thinking about what would be the ‘wasted hotel soap’ of the healthcare industry? Would it be:

  • All those barely used hand gloves that the phlebotomist, lab or dental assistants throw away?
  • All those clients on the waiting list for a residential treatment bed whose need for ‘treatment on demand’ we throw away because of a fixed 30 day program model?
  • All those clients we discharge for having a flare-up of their addiction who need a chance to learn from their mistakes instead of throwing away their fragile hope that change is possible?

Out of the resources we waste or misuse in healthcare, what better systems could we build that could save as many lives as 13 million pounds of discarded soap?

April 2022

My three career bridge-building targets; Where to start in helping people change; 50 years for Elon Musk and me.

Welcome to the start of my 20th year of writing Tips and Topics. The first edition was published April 2003.

In SAVVY, this edition of Tips & Topics begins the 20th year of publication. I look back at what I’ve written before in three areas of bridge-building: Addiction as an illness – the general public and health care in general; Addiction and mental health – Co-Occurring Disorders; Justice and Treatment teams.

In SKILLS, it requires skillful bridge-building to attract people into lasting, accountable change, and cross the bridge from expecting compliance to treatment to collaborating in person-centered care planning: Start with what the person is at Action for, not what you are at Action for; Hold the participant accountable to their goal and track their engagement, good faith effort and outcomes.

In SOUL, this year is 50 years since I graduated from medical school and started my career. See my ASAM Educator of the Year award photo and video bio. Elon Musk is 50 years old. I’ve had a good career, but find out what drives Elon and what someone who was one year old when I started my career has achieved.

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March 2022

What to report to Probation and CPS; Dilemmas about drug testing; Client-centered doesn’t mean client anarchy; Win, lose and win

In SAVVY, SKILLS and STUMP THE SHRINK, treatment providers can be confused about their role when clients are referred by Probation, Child Protective Services and other mandating agencies. Focus on improved function and skills, not compliance with assignments and phases in a pre-determined program. How to be “client-centered”.

In SOUL, increasingly I make no distinction between ‘wins’ and ‘losses’. A ‘win’ is an opportunity to discern what works and what doesn’t; and a ‘loss’ is an opportunity to discern what works and doesn’t.

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February 2022

What I didn’t know about growing up Black in America; I thought I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, but….; the 3 year anniversary of losing my wife.

In SAVVY, I learnt a lot from three African American young people. I was aware of some of their experiences but others were totally new to me. Rethinking the terms “microaggressions” and “cultural competence”.

In SKILLS, being person-centered and focused on the individual in their social context addresses siloed initiatives and projects. I thought I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps. But a look at my generational history exposed the myth of meritocracy.

In SOUL, it is three years since the sudden loss of my wife. Current thoughts on my process in Work, Love and Play.

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January 2022

Could you learn something from Buddha? Check out some of his quotes and how to apply them; Using joy to focus on where to put my energy.

In SAVVY and SKILLS, Suzan Dalia shares Quotes by Buddha that will change the way you think….if you apply them. She suggests some ways to apply them.

In SOUL, anything or anyone who doesn’t bring joy to your life; and doesn’t think you are a joy in their life, doesn’t deserve your time or energy.

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December 2021

“Rat Park” and Vietnam – research focuses on the role of environment in addiction; Assess people’s social environment; Educator of the Year Award

In SAVVY, two research studies from the 1970s remind us of the role of the environment in the development and continuation of addiction. Access Michael Pollan’s episode on Science Friday to hear about three plant-based compounds from the three major categories of psychoactive drugs– uppers, downers, and what he thinks of as outers.

In SKILLS, do you focus on your clients’ families, their social communities, their sources of human contact and support? Assessing their social environment is as important as their mental and physical health assessment.

In SOUL, David Mee-Lee, MD, DFASAM, Named ASAM’s Educator of the Year. What that means and how it feels.

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November 2021

30th Anniversary of The ASAM Criteria – A Report Card; Two videos I want you to see

Welcome to the November edition of Tips and Topics and a Happy Thanksgiving to all in the USA.

In SAVVY and SKILLS, I take a look at thirty years since the publication of the first edition of The ASAM Criteria. Here is my report card on how the addiction treatment field has implemented the true spirit and content of the Criteria.

In SOUL, I share two videos I saw this month and found so touching. I hope you can find 8 minutes to view them too, especially at this time of Thanksgiving.

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October 2021

It’s not what you do that counts, but who you are; Self care, Personal Mission and Servant Leadership; Sunset of my career.

In SAVVY, my ‘first draft’ on meeting the challenge to write about the mix of spirit and psychology in a book – to articulate the spiritual context that gives structure to the core tools I have trained on full time for 25 years. It can be summarized by a phrase: “It’s not what you do that counts, but who you are.”  

In SKILLS, tips on ‘how to get there from here’ if you are committed to self care, clarity on your personal mission and are ready to be a servant leader.

In SOUL, trying to balance what I do in the sunset of my career to meet the goals of my personal life direction and my professional mission.

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September 2021

National Recovery Month 2021; Understanding Recovery and Recovery Capital; What to say to someone who doesn’t want AA; Katie’s story

In SAVVY, I explore what we mean by Recovery and Recovery Capital.  It isn’t all about abstinence and mental health stability, but rather whole person and whole systems perspectives.

In SKILLS, I focus on how to assess Recovery Capital and also how to approach a person who doesn’t want to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and prefers an alternative support group.

In SOUL, Katie, a person in long-term recovery, shares her recovery story.

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August 2021

Five key principles in helping people change; Skills to implement those principles; Vaccine hesitancy and using the five principles of the Better Arguments Project

In SAVVY and SKILLS, I share the wisdom of Marvin Goldfried, Ph.D. who presented in one paper five key principles on how people change. He wrote about the common principles of change that he distilled from hundreds of schools of thought and approaches to change. For each principle, I offer a few SKILLS to help implement it.

In SOUL, I don’t plan on talking with my daughter and her family about their vaccine hesitancy.  I respect their right to make their own choices.  But in case the topic of vaccines arises, I want to be grounded and centered to know what to say and do. So I used the five principles of the Better Arguments Project to help guide me.

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July 2021

Hard questions in the interface between Treatment and Justice Teams; Scripts on what to say to participants; What’s your Olympic Game?

In SAVVY, I preview a couple of hard questions that New Hampshire Chief Justice Tina Nadeau and I will discuss in the final General Session of RISE21, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals annual conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.   

In SKILLS, to help convert a clinical principle or policy and procedure into actual words to say to a client, I give some “scripts” of what to say to orient participants in Drug Court; and what to say about positive drug screens.

In SOUL, I have two connections to the Olympic Games and get into the spirit of the Games with my lifelong friends inventing new Olympic games.

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June 2021

Father’s Day, Lessons from 40 years of parenting – a grandfather’s perspective; RULER; Out of the mouths of babes.

In SAVVY, to help children, students and even adults “name their emotions to tame their emotions”, Marc Brackett coined RULER to develop critical and inter-related emotional skills.  Honor your feelings, desires and hopes for your child, but help them learn how to express feelings and needs in a way that fits their temperament and personality, not yours. But there is relief in understanding “good enough parenting”.

In SKILLS, I apply RULER to help parents have a discussion with their children about their feelings, needs and values especially in the context of the family’s values. In the immediacy of the situation, there isn’t time to have a feelings, needs and values discussion.  But in a quiet moment, parents can help their children “become the best them, not the best you.”

In SOUL, “out of the mouth of babes” is when a child says something that surprises you because it seems very wise. My 6 year old granddaughter had one of those moments of wisdom and pointed out that love for each other and arguing are not mutually exclusive.

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