Dr. Megan Spencer is a clinical psychologist at Dakota Family Services. She is passionate about working with individuals and their families and highly values the therapeutic relationship. Dr. Spencer enjoys helping people better understand themselves and their psychological functioning. She looks forward to working with anyone who is looking to better understand and/or improve themselves or their children and families. Her practice includes diagnostic and psychological evaluations and individual cognitive behavioral therapy.
Tim Unsinn: Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.
TU: Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Dr. Megan Spencer. Dr. Spencer is a clinical psychologist and provides diagnostic and psychological evaluations and CBT. Dr. Spencer, great to have you on Mind Your Mind. The topic is postpartum depression. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do. Why is your work important to you?
Dr. Megan Spencer: Hi, so yes, my work is very important to me for a simple reason, and that is, I love people and I love watching them understand themselves and the journey of their lives.
TU: Great answer. You always have great answers. This is too easy. All right. Postpartum depression. What is it, for those of us that may not totally understand it? And what are the symptoms?
MS: So first, postpartum depression specifically is a host of symptoms that a woman experiences either during pregnancy or following the first four weeks following delivery. And so I think it's really important to know that, statistically, about 6% of women experience a major depressive episode during pregnancy or within the first year of pregnancy. And so when we talk about symptoms of postpartum depression, they can also be very much related to a major depressive episode. So I just want to make that known so that people can think about that as a whole, too. But if we think about, specifically, postpartum depression, yes, it is that time during pregnancy or following the first four weeks of delivery. And so what some of those symptoms are going to look like or are extreme difficulty in day-to-day functioning. So the reason that I use the word extreme is because, in all reality, childbirth is still a difficult process and no matter how it's actually followed through with, it's difficult for the woman.
MS: And so what that means is you're going to have some exhaustion. You're going to have some pain, there's going to be some healing that occurs. And so, the "extreme" means that, aside from what we would typically expect, right? Some of those things, like I just mentioned, but extreme is a complete inability. The woman might feel that she just literally cannot get out of bed. She cannot make that bottle. She cannot go to that child when they are screaming or crying. She cannot groom or shower or take care of herself in the way that we would expect, you know, an individual to, even following childbirth. So that's that extreme, really out of the ordinary response. Some other symptoms are going to be insomnia. And so you would think that sleeping is going to be disrupted, but this is going to be more of a complete inability to sleep.
MS: It also could be bouts of crying where you just, all of a sudden you're crying and you have no idea. Loss of interest. So just because you have a child, doesn't mean you lose interest in the things that you love. And so this is going to be kind of a shift from that, that things that you would normally want to do or really enjoy, just aren't fun anymore and you don't want to do them. On a more severe level, this could look like, you have no desire to live, or you really are having some pretty bad thoughts about the infant or not wanting the infant to live. And those are some pretty serious thoughts, meaning something far more serious. Some other symptoms could be anxiety, guilt, fear that just does not seem to go away. It's just this reoccurring feeling that no matter what you do, you can't get rid of it. You can't make it better. Those are some symptoms of postpartum depression that would definitely require some more attention.
TU: With all those symptoms, what are some of the causes?
MS: There are some definite causes. Some pretty important ones is going to be a past history of major depressive episodes. So a woman who may have experienced depression on a clinical level, previous to pregnancy, that is going to give it just that statistically higher chance. Another one could be a significant family history of depression, or major depressive episodes, or even a history of postpartum depression that did remit. But it could also be, in terms of loss of social supports or having nobody around you that you can reach out to, to talk to, to get help from. It could be, having marriage or financial or relationship problems can increase that risk. If we think about hormones, and we think about thyroid; hormone levels tend to abruptly return to normal within 24 hours following childbirth. And so hormone imbalance can cause some symptoms that may look like depression, also thyroid. So thyroid following birth could be imbalanced, in a sense, to cause some of those symptoms that may look like depression. And so between kind of that social piece, and what's around you, and past history, and then some of those medical reasons could all be causes of why an individual may experience postpartum depression.
TU: So what do you do if you think you have postpartum depression or concerned with this?
MS: Absolutely. And so I think the first point of contact is, if you do have someone there, whether it's a partner, a spouse, a friend, or a family member, reach out to them right away. Enlist someone to help you through this process and then reach out for help. And so reach out for help means primary care, OBGYN would be a great point of contact, to talk to them about how you're feeling and then to also get those, the thyroid and hormone check to make sure that isn't the cause or isn't contributing. And if those are not the cause or contributing, and/or therapy or reaching out in terms of medication management therapy. Individual therapy; support groups is also another form of therapy. So really it's about starting the conversation and reaching out.
Tim Unsinn: Dr. Megan Spencer has been our guest on Mind Your Mind, talking postpartum depression. And as we wrap up another episode of Mind Your Mind, I have a final question for you, Dr. Spencer. And that is what do you do personally, to mind your mind?
MS: For me personally, it's about being outdoors and being with my husband and my child. So really it's doing whatever we can to spend time together. And now that the weather's nice getting out to our Lake and just having as much family time as we can.
TU: Thank you so much for being on Mind Your Mind. We appreciate your time and talent and insights. So thank you.
MS: Thank you.
TU: Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.
People tend to perceive risk as being inherently negative. But for teenagers, risk-taking is a healthy, normal, and important part of growing up. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn talks to Vanessa Lien, Nurse Practitioner, about creating a safe environment for your teenager to take risks—and knowing when to step in when they start taking risks that could result in serious and long-term negative consequences.;
15-25% of American students have experienced bullying. And cyberbullying is on the rise. Children who experience bullying suffer from long-lasting effects including depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, low academic achievement, and more. Children engaging in bullying behavior are impacted as well. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Dakota Family Services therapist, April Morris, LCSW, talks about the impact of bullying and what parents can do to help.;
2020 was the year for living with chaos. Everything—at home, at work, and at school—is out of sync and changing from day to day. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Dakota Family Services psychologist, Dr. Megan Spencer, shares simple tips for building routine and structure into your life. She also provides an excellent, yet simple, way to ground yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed or anxious.;
Children experience grief over many things—the loss of a loved one, moving away from their friends, the death of a pet. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Lucas Mitzel, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, talks about the stages of grief, and how to walk your child through the grieving process. He will also talk about ways to determine if your child needs to see a professional who can help them untangle the many emotions of grief.;
In today's episode of Mind Your Mind, your host Tim Unsinn talks with Christy Wilkie about suicide warning signs and things you can do to make a difference. Christy, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, wants to normalize conversations about suicide so people don't feel like they are suffering alone. She says, "There is never a reason to not ask the question, 'Hey, are you OK?' Asking the question can save a life.";
In today's episode of Mind Your Mind, your host Tim Unsinn talks with Dr. Wayne Martinsen. Dr. Martinsen, Medical Director and Psychiatrist at Dakota Family Services, defines wellness as more than just the absence of disease, but as a state of well-being. In this episode he will share current wellness research, questions to ask to determine your own well-being, and steps you can take to achieve and maintain wellness.;
When someone in our life has cancer, it's difficult to know what to say or how to help. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn talks to April Morris about how you can best support a friend or loved one who has cancer. Morris, an outpatient therapist at Dakota Family Services, shares tips for knowing what/what not to say, and actions that speak louder than words.;
Sleep is just as important for mental health as it is physical health. During sleep, our brains process our memories, emotions, and other information. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," April Morris tells us why sleep is so important for overall well-being and encourages us to prioritize sleep. April, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, provides practical tips for improving sleep hygiene so you can live your best life.;
Stress does not discriminate, and it comes in many shapes and forms. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Dr. Megan Spencer talks about ways to identify and listen to the stress in our bodies. Learn relaxation techniques for managing stress over time, self-care routines that decrease negative stress, and things you can do to bring calm into your life.;
Physical activity has a huge potential to enhance our well-being. Exercise increases our mental alertness, energy, and positive mood. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Christy Wilkie, therapist at Dakota Family Services, talks about how movement, even for five minutes, can promote changes in the brain that lead to neural growth, reduced inflammation, and feelings of calm and well-being. Listen now to learn more about how moving your body can improve your mental health.;
Diagnosing children with a mental health-related condition can be controversial. Many worry this gives children a label that is set in stone and will follow them around their entire lives. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Dr. Wayne Martinsen talks about the role of diagnosis in getting children the help they need. Martinsen encourages us to think about mental health diagnoses the same as we do any health diagnosis. If you go the doctor and they diagnose you with strep throat, that doesn’t mean you’ll have strep throat forever, or that you are a strep throat victim. It just means that you have a collection of symptoms that point to strep throat, and the doctor will use that diagnose to provide the appropriate treatment.;
ADHD is diagnosed and treated at a much higher rate than in the past, especially in the United States. Why? In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist/Medical Director at Dakota Family Services, explains how the changing world has made it harder for people with shorter attention spans to be successful. In the past, if school was hard for you, you could get a job, work your way up, and live a middle-class lifestyle. Not so in today’s world. Learn more about this fascinating take on ADHD.;
In today's episode of Mind Your Mind, your host Tim Unsinn talks with Christy Wilkie about the Feelings Wheel*. Christy, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, says humans experience 34,000 different feelings! She demonstrates how to use the Feelings Wheel to help you identify your emotions so you can control the behaviors associated with them. *Adapted by classtools.net from the Emotional Wheel. The Emotional Wheel was developed by American psychologist, Dr. Robert Plutchik.;
In today's episode of "Mind Your Mind," Vanessa Lien, Nurse Practitioner, talks about the many changes occurring in the teen brain. The teenage brain is highly susceptible to stress, but it is also very resilient. Learn coping strategies you can teach your teen to protect their brains and help them cope with stress and emotional struggles.;
Going back to school after summer vacation can be a stressful time for both kids and parents. The transition from the unstructured summer to a more regimented routine can lead to stress and anxiety. Worries about fitting in, bullying, homework, getting to school on time, and dealing with peer pressure are all additional stressors that may weigh on children when it's time to go back to school. In this episode of “Mind Your Mind,” Tim Unsinn speaks with Therapist Falan Johnson. Falan helps us understand why back to school anxiety is common, provides strategies for managing the added stress, and shares resources parents can use to prepare their children for the new school year.;
The grief of losing a friend or loved one to suicide is complicated and can be especially difficult. In addition to the grief, sadness, and loneliness of any loss, people might experience guilt, confusion, rejection, anger, and shame. The stigma of suicide complicates it even more, often preventing survivors talking about their loss or getting the help they need. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Tim Unsinn visits with Dakota Family Services' therapist, Christy Wilkie. Christy helps listeners understand the complicated nature of suicide grief and how to move through it with compassion and self-acceptance.;
You will be shocked at the seemingly safe places predators can connect with your children online. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Lucas Mitzel, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, talks about the things you need to know to keep your children safe. Learn the many websites and platforms used to target children, how to monitor their internet usage, and how to talk to your children about the dangers.;
Did you know that in addition to calming and focusing our minds, meditation can improve our physical health? In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn visits with Dr. Wayne Martinsen, Psychiatrist, Dakota Family Services, about the surprising health benefits of meditation. A regular meditation practice can increase longevity, reduce the risk of dementia, reduce inflammation, and play a significant role in the treatment of high blood pressure and immune disorders. Learn about the many forms of meditation and how you can start your own meditation practice today.;
Anxiety and depression are invisible illnesses—meaning they don't have outward symptoms visible to others. Because they are invisible, they are often hard for people to explain. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Host Tim Unsinn visits with April Morris, LCSW, Therapist, Dakota Family Services. April references the spoon theory of chronic illness created by Christine Miserandino, an award-winning writer, blogger, speaker, and lupus patient advocate. Listen now to learn more about spoons as a metaphor for energy and how you can use them to understand and explain anxiety and depression.;
While we hear a lot about autism in the news, many of us still have misconceptions about its causes and symptoms. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, therapist Falan Johnson dispels some of these misconceptions and explains the three levels of autism. Johnson then focuses on the least understood level—high functioning autism. Learn how to identify symptoms of high functioning autism in your child, the importance of early intervention, and ways you can support them.;
In this episode of Mind Your Mind, therapist April Morris talks about boundaries. April will define boundaries, explain their importance, and help you set boundaries that match your values and strengthen your relationships. Learn how healthy boundaries can improve your mental and physical health, and how you can say “no” respectfully.;
Going through infertility tests and treatments can be an extremely difficult and lonely time for couples. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Lucas Mitzel talks about his own experience. He also shares tips for couples struggling with infertility, and for friends and family members who want to be supportive but don’t know what to say or do.;
In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn talks to Therapist Falan Johnson about panic attacks. What do they feel like? What causes them? How can you prevent or manage them? Listen now to learn more and discover techniques that might work for you or your loved one.;
Are you concerned about your child's mental health but aren't sure what to do? Join Host Tim Unsinn and his guest, Therapist Jesse Lamm, as they discuss ways you can support your child through a difficult time.;
Are the stresses of college (constant worry, fitting in, lack of sleep, etc.) affecting your ability to function? Join Host Tim Unsinn and his guest, April Morris, LCSW, as they discuss ways to manage or eliminate the stressors that are impacting your well-being.;
Are you struggling to get enough sleep each night? Maybe you have difficulty falling and staying asleep. You can't get comfortable. You feel anxious and your brain just won't shut off. According to the Sleep Foundation, over one-third of adults in the U.S. sleep for less than seven hours a night. Join Host Tim Unsinn and his guest, April Morris, LCSW, in this episode of "Mind Your Mind," as they discuss how insomnia can affect many other areas of your life, as well as practical tips to improve your sleep hygiene.;
It's not unusual for children to have temper tantrums or for adolescents to be angry. But when they become out of proportion to the situation in intensity and duration, your child might be suffering from a mood disorder. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Host Tim Unsinn visits with Dr. Megan Spencer, a psychologist at Dakota Family Services. Listen now to learn how to distinguish between normal mood changes and mood disorders, and some steps you can take to help your child.;
Resilience is not a personality trait or characteristic. Resilience isn't ignoring or emotional numbing or pretending that a problem doesn't exist. And being resilient doesn’t mean we won’t face adversity. Rather, resilience is our ability to bounce back from adversity. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, Dr. Megan Spencer, psychologist at Dakota Family Services, shares ten ways to build resilience so you are ready when adversity strikes.;
You can probably think of a dozen things that make you feel sad. Sadness is a normal human emotion that helps us process the events in our lives. But what is "normal" sadness? When does sadness move from "normal" to something you may need help processing? In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Falan Johnson, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, will answer these questions and more. Learn the importance of allowing yourself to feel sad so you can move past it, and, when it might be time to seek professional help.;
In today's world, we are constantly bombarded by messages about who we should be, how we should look, what we should do or wear, and more. With the increased accessibility and prevalence of social media, kids and adolescents are hearing and seeing these messages at younger and younger ages. How do we help ourselves and our teens combat these messages and find our true selves? In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Therapist Jenika Rufer helps us wade through the unimportant things to find what we truly value so we can become our best selves.;
Unsure of whether your therapy is working for you? In this episode of “Mind Your Mind,” our host Tim Unsinn talks with Dakota Family Services therapist Lucas Mitzel about how to make your therapy sessions more productive. Making progress in therapy can often come down to simply having an open mind and a plan for discussion. Although each session can evoke a wide range of emotions, you should always leave feeling that some sort of movement has happened.;
In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and Dakota Family Services therapist Christy Wilkie talk about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and its effectiveness in battling unhelpful thoughts and beliefs. Utilizing cognitive restructuring, CBT helps change inaccurate and damaging self-perceptions and perceptions of others, leading to healthier day-to-day thought patterns. Christy also touches on multiple CBT exercises to try at home, as well as some of her own tactics for promoting helpful thoughts.;
Are your worries and fears about the future getting in the way of daily life? If so, you may be one of the many people who suffer from anxiety. In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, Christy Wilkie and Lucas Mitzel talk about the many types of anxiety and what they can look like in both children and adults. They also touch on ways to combat anxiety attacks, including using grounding techniques, mindfulness, muscle relaxation, and more.;
In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and psychiatrist Dr. Wayne Martinson discuss autism and signs of it in children, touching on the different levels of the autism spectrum and where people fall. Learn about how autism often affects children's social skills, communication, and behavior, as well as its connections to other disorders and how to handle it.;
Many people find themselves dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety in their daily lives. However, there are plenty of simple strategies to help regulate these emotions. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn talks with therapist Sandy Richter about various coping exercises to help you regulate and calm yourself, including breathing and movement exercises for both children and adults.;
Medication can affect people in many different ways. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and psychiatric nurse practitioner Amanda Daggett talk about genetic testing and its use in discerning how different individuals might react to various medications. Tim and Amanda also touch on some of the facts and myths surrounding genetic testing, including what testing can and can’t indicate and where the science is currently at.;
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems people face. However, there are many ways to manage and understand it. On this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and therapist Lucas Mitzel discuss what causes anxiety and how it can affect people’s day-to-day lives, as well as the difference between anxiety and fear and how to combat chronic anxiety with grounding techniques.;
In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, Psychologist Megan Spencer and Psychiatrist Wayne Martinsen discuss how loneliness and social isolation are increasing in our country, as well as what that means for individuals’ health in the long term. They also give advice on how to get yourself or your loved ones more connected with others, including how to connect both in-person and online.;
Does it seem like your child is “stuck” in therapy, or engaging in dangerous behaviors like self-harm and suicidality? In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, Psychologist Hannah Baczynski and therapist April Morris discuss Dialectical Behavior Therapy and its effectiveness in treating patients who have found traditional therapy unsuccessful. Learn about the 4 core skills of DBT and what makes DBT unique from other forms of therapeutic treatment.;
When our children are struggling with their mental health, it can be hard knowing how to help them. However, in addition to therapy, medication can be a viable and effective option for improving your child’s mental health. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, our host Tim Unsinn talks with psychiatric mental health nurse Amanda Daggett about how to know if your child needs medication, what the process is for a prescription, and how to tell if their medication is right for them.;
Did you know that depression occurs in about 15% of children? In this episode of Mind Your Mind, our host Tim Unsinn talks with Psychiatrist Dr. Wayne Martinsen about depression in kids and adolescents, including signs of depression to look out for and how to know when to reach out to a care provider. They also touch on how to know whether your child’s sadness is caused by depression or other external factors and what you can do to try and prevent depression in your child.;
It can be difficult knowing how to recognize and treat depression in children and adolescents. In this special community chat episode of Mind Your Mind, Psychologist Megan Spencer and Therapist April Morris discuss signs of depression to look out for, including both behavioral and physical signs that your child may be depressed. They also touch on the influence of environment, physical illnesses or diagnoses, and genetics on children’s mental health.;
Humans are hardwired for social connection, but it can be difficult knowing where to fit in as unique individuals. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and therapist Christy Wilkie talk about the importance of using your strengths, interests, and relationships to figure out where you belong. They also touch on signs that you might not be staying true to yourself, as well as how to handle feelings of being left out.;
While often perceived as only relating to those who’ve experienced warfare, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can affect anyone. In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, Psychologist Dr. Hannah Baczynski and therapist Lucas Mitzel explain what trauma is, how it affects each person differently, and when to seek treatment for trauma-related symptoms. They also discuss different treatment options for PTSD, touching on the pros and cons of each.;
Though autism is one of the most commonly discussed mental health diagnoses in the community, it is often one of the most misunderstood. In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, therapists Lucas Mitzel and Falan Johnson discuss what autism is, how it appears in children and adolescents, and how it may look different between individuals. They also touch on how autism can show up differently in boys than in girls and offer intervention tips for parents and caregivers.;
Autism is sometimes perceived as a disorder that only affects children and adolescents, but it is actually a lifelong diagnosis. In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, psychologists Dr. Hannah Baczynski and Dr. Megan Spencer explore the symptoms and nuances of autism in adults, touching on the history of autism spectrum disorder, the research surrounding it, how autism commonly presents in adults, and more.;
Though spirituality is often associated with religion, it can mean much more than simply attending religious services or praying. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn and psychiatrist Dr. Wayne Martinsen define spirituality and discuss its relevance in daily life, touching on ways people experience, express, and cultivate spirituality. They also talk about the link between spirituality, religion and meaning in life.;
Setting goals is easy. Working towards them is hard. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn talks with Dakota Family Services therapist Christy Wilkie about how to set healthy, realistic goals, as well as the importance of managing your expectations and staying persistent. Whether you’re starting an exercise routine, writing a book, trying a new diet, or building your career, keep these tips in mind when setting your next big goal.;
Fear is powerful. It can cause us to avoid problems, people, and even opportunities in our life. But it can also be overcome. In this episode of Mind Your Mind, host Tim Unsinn speaks with Falan Johnson, a therapist at Dakota Family Services, about the function of fear and how to face it. Learn where fear comes from, how to identify it, and how to calm down and build confidence when you’re feeling afraid.;
In this episode of Mind Your Mind, our host Tim Unsinn talks with Dakota Family Services therapist Jessie Mertz about the “3 R’s”—Regulate, Relate, and Reason. They discuss what each term means, how they build upon each other, and how this approach can help you calm others who are experiencing distress.;
Feeling like you’ve got the winter blues? If you’re noticing symptoms of depression with the change of seasons, it may be a sign that you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. In this special Community Chat episode of Mind Your Mind, therapists Christy Wilkie and Lucas Mitzel discuss the common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, how it can affect other mental health disorders, and some useful tips, tricks, and resources for managing symptoms of SAD.;