Dr. Deborah Budding, Ph.D. is a neuropsychologist who shares how she helps patients cope with ADHD, OCD, mood and anxiety disorders.

Dr. Deborah Budding is a board certified neuropsychologist who works with children, adolescents, and adults in the Los Angeles area. She has a background in literature and magazine publishing prior to earning her Ph.D. in psychology. She is co-author of “Subcortical Structures and Cognition: Implications for Neuropsychological Assessment,” which was published in 2008, as well as peer-reviewed articles related to subcortical contributions to cognitive and emotional function, including a Consensus paper on cerebellar contributions to both movement and cognition published in 2013. She has strong interests in neuroscience, art, and video games, not necessarily in that order. Dr. Budding is a supervising faculty member at Harbor-UCLA’s neuropsychology training program and is increasingly involved in research involving transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). She has particular interest in the cerebellum’s contributions to non-motor function, in brain-behavior relationships in neurodevelopmental disorders, and in finding ways to amplify the voices of women and people of color in science education.

Lidia Zylowska, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author and Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. She shares how she teaches mindfulness when treating adult ADHD.

Lidia Zylowska, M.D. is a UCLA-trained psychiatrist, Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine, and an author of an award-winning book The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD:  An 8-Step Program for Strengthening Attention, Managing Emotions, and Achieving Your Goals.

Dr. Zylowska’s professional background includes broad clinical experience in adult psychiatry as well as academic and writing activities.  Dr. Zylowska is internationally recognized as an expert in adult ADHD and mindfulness-based therapies.  She is a co-founding member of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center where she pioneered the application of mindfulness in ADHD and developed the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD program.   Following her research work, Dr. Zylowska divides her time between clinical care, writing and consulting.

The Dr. Denise Philosophy

I encourage my patients to be the best version of themselves and ask them, “What would your best life look like?” Then, together we create a tailored plan that supports their wellness. This may include what brings them the most joy in their lives and makes them feel passionate such as yoga, walking, skiing, creative writing, etc…


I believe in prescribing the least amount of medication as possible and always start assessing from a holistic perspective where I treat the person as an individual.


I strongly believe that you are not your symptoms. I don’t want people to feel stigmatized. One of the hardest things for me is that people feel bad when they walk in my door. I am committed to changing that mindset.

I want people to embrace their mental health in a positive way.


I do validate the “illness” part of suffering yet I explain to my patients that our thoughts and word choice are an essential part of the “fast track to wellness”. I use language that is appropriate for each age group. I embrace Western medicine coupled with all paths to wellness. I value the viewpoint of my patients.


You have to know that your doctor is well trained, compassionate, and empathic. How do you figure this out? You get to spend time with them. You listen carefully to not only the facts they educate you with but how they deliver the information.


Here are some questions that you can ask yourself when choosing the right Doctor for you:

Do you feel like they want you to be well?

Are they treating you like a person and not like you are a “walking target symptom”?

Do they make eye contact when they are talking to you?

Do they listen to your viewpoint?


I encourage my patients to understand that the key to moving from crisis to thriving is the belief in your ability to get well. My patients end up thriving and turning their lives around in profound ways by this unique approach. I teach my golden rule which is be loving, be kind, be respectful to yourself and others. As we do this in our lives we foster peace to our families, communities and the world.





1) Be the best version of yourself.

2) No matter what diagnosis you have, you are not flawed.

3) You are not your symptoms.

4) There is no shame in seeing a psychiatrist.

5) What does it look like for you to thrive? Not just exist.

6) Focus on the end point of thriving.

7) Be loving and be kind.

8) Call upon your best work and your highest self.

9) Embrace your mental health.


Don’t forget that your strengths can be your weaknesses. Empower yourself and set an intention everyday to thrive in your life. Find a way. You can do it.


Dr. Denise

It Starts with Love and Ends with Love

What an honor to interview fashion designer, YouTuber, makeup lover and reality TV personality Matt Sarafa this week. Matt describes his love of fashion that was sparked at age 7 watching Project Runway. During the interview he reports his “guilty pleasure” being reality television. Guess what? His passion for fashion and the path he paved for himself landed him on the Lifetime reality show Project Runway Junior! He described making friends with the other contestants that share his love for fashion as a gift that he will cherish lifelong. It gets even more exciting for Matt… Kelly Osborne rocked his ‘Hot Mess’ jacket on Instagram and again on a Cosmopolitan video during this exciting launch of his fashion career. His ‘Hot Mess’ clothing line will be out end of summer/early autumn 2016 just as he starts as a freshman at UCLA!


“Once I discovered fashion I became less anxious. I have always been an anxious person,” Matt described during his interview. He reports his anxiety vanishing once he was aligned with his pursuit of a career in fashion coupled with coming out as a gay male to his family. He reports spending many years,”caring about what other people thought of me.” “It really does not matter what other people think of you. It really does not matter,” Matt stated with conviction.


We talked about the importance of self -love and being your own best friend.

Matt was grateful to have such loving friends and family during his coming out process. “I wish I would have done it sooner. I have 100’s of teens reaching out to me on social media about their fears about coming out as gay, bisexual, or transgender.” His advice on coming out, “Do it when you are ready.” Matt discussed the strong influence of social media with his generation. His tips are: be kind, be authentic and be positive with this powerful medium.


Matt and I discussed his strong desire to continue to be a role model and to be of service, “I am addicted to giving back.” His mother was a social worker at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles before Matt was born and a yearly Sarafa family tradition is to adopt a family in need at the hospital during the holidays. Matt is setting the intention to carry the spirit of service throughout his life and has set hopes with the success of his fashion career that he can give to charities that support HIV research and to charities that raise awareness and support the LGBT community.


Professionally as a psychiatrist and personally as a trusted friend, I have had the privilege of being a listening ear when people are experiencing fear or anxiety about self-expression of sexuality or gender identity. While I was in residency at Emory University I was fortunate to be asked by my gay colleagues to be a co-therapist of a gay and lesbian group in which young adults were at different phases of self acceptance with their sexuality and their coming out process. I felt honored to have been chosen to have this experience and as a doctor I found it invaluable for my work as a mental health professional.


“Love is love,” was the biggest take home point I learned.


As a child psychiatrist I have had teens struggle with their sexual and gender identity and parents who feared for their children if it was true that they were gay. One Mom in my practice was labeled by her son as the “trophy Mom” as she had handled her son’s coming out process with flying colors. He did not know that she had sought out therapy with me and attended an LGBT parent group before he had formally told her. Being open, loving and accepting is crucial for the best support of yourself and your loved one.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful throughout the years:

-Do not force or rush your (or your loved one’s) self discovery of sexual preference or gender identity. It is a very personal process.

-Confiding in a trusted friend, or loved one is invaluable.

-Seek out therapy as you feel necessary as there are many feelings to sort out; having a neutral party can be extremely helpful.

-Remember there are LGBT support groups for teens, adults and parents to call upon in your community.

-Be patient with loved ones that have different beliefs about sexuality and gender preference. You cannot control their initial reactions whether they respond in a positive, neutral or negative way.

-Self love and being “your own best friend” is an essential ingredient for mental health and wellbeing.


Thank you Matt Sarafa for sharing your wisdom and your thrive story this week on my podcast. To listen: (Matt Sarafa Podcast on the Dr. Denise Show).

Dr. Denise

Pediatric Addiction

Are you ready for the latest on pediatric addiction? I was fortunate to attend the American Physician Institute 6th Annual MasterPsych conference in Laguna, California. I was struck by the passion, enthusiasm and compelling data presented at a lecture on Substance Use Disorders in Children and Adolescents by Dr. Ximena Sanchez-Sampler, a Harvard addiction psychiatrist. She shared with us that someone she loved experienced a fatality that was substance use related. The room was silent, you could sense the compassion we all felt for her. With strong conviction she reminded us that, “Adolescents are not little Adults!” All adolescents, regardless of demographic, racial or ethnic factors, are at risk for substance use and associated problems.


Dr. Sanchez-Sampler discussed that until recently, brain development was thought to be complete by age 10. “Through brain imaging technology (fMRI) we have learned that maturation process of the human brain is not complete until age 24 or 25.”


Why is this important?


Adolescence is a time of critical brain development, especially in the parts of the brain needed for complex tasks, organization, planning and judgment.


Remember a teen brain and an adult brain respond differently to a few drinks. “Dr. McDermott, I am less shy and I am more fun when I have a few drinks at a kick-back.” Teens let loose, are socially disinhibited and this makes the experience rewarding enough to repeat. Adults usually just get tired and fall asleep!


Did you know that 47% of children who have their first drink before age 13 are at risk of an alcohol disorder in contrast to 9% who have their first drink after 21? (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160:739-746)


Did you know that 17% of children who first use marijuana before age 13 are at risk of a marijuana disorder in contrast to 4% who have their first use after 21?(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (2010))


Fact: Addiction is a pediatric disease. Early intervention, education and prevention are essential to change the statistics above.


Can research-based programs prevent drug addiction in youth? Yes! To access the data and the recommendations go to drugabuse.gov and type in NIDA’s Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research Based Guide for Parents, Educators and Community Leaders.


I find that kids do better when a discussion about substance use comes up organically. The headlines, sitcoms, movies, and advertisements give all of us plenty of opportunity to offer teaching points. It is always better to ask open-ended questions such as “What do you think about that?” Quality time with your child or teen leads to open communication. It is important to spend time doing fun activities with each other which will foster respectful relationships with one another.


Another Tip: Substance Abuse often travels with undiagnosed mental health issues.


Ready for a thrive story? I am! John’s (pseudonym) first use of marijuana at age 12 was followed by abuse of multiple substances. He was caught dealing drugs, expelled, and sent away to residential treatment. Today he is re-enrolled in school, is at home with his parents and is being treated for his Generalized Anxiety disorder, ADHD, and his Substance Dependence. I find that keeping it real and direct with the teens in my practice is appreciated. Recently, I pointed out to him how happy I was that he was alive. He looked at me stunned when I said this and then smiled and said: “I could have been dead at least 30 times!” We discussed in therapy how his “savvy skills” and need for what I call “healthy adrenaline rushes” need to be put to good use. He is going to ask his Dad if he can take a real estate class this summer while still in high school as he has an entrepreneur itch that he wants to satisfy. He started seeing me while he was in acute crisis and now he is heading towards his “thrive zone.”


In summary:

Adolescent brains are not the same as Adult brains.

Addiction is a pediatric disease.

Substance Abuse often travels with undiagnosed mental health issues.


Your child can thrive if they know the facts about addiction and have early intervention with any other behavioral issues.


Dr. Denise


Childhood/Adolescent Depression

Can a child or teen suffer from depression? Yes. A thorough clinical assessment needs to happen and every environmental, physical and emotional dimension needs to be taken into account. Kids can experience “feeling sad” or “irritable” for many reasons: for being bullied, for dealing with parents getting a divorce, for moving to a new home, for not being able to do their homework. The list goes on. If your child is having marked changes in mood I recommend a visit to the pediatrician to make sure there are not medical contributing factors (thyroid disorder, metabolic problems). The pediatrician is a great starting point to help guide you to the next step.


As a society we need to hold our mental health and wellness in the highest regard. It is essential in assessing a change in your child’s mood, irritability or sadness level to include a highly trained professional that has assessed childhood depression and knows how to address safety issues including suicidal thoughts and self harm. My professional opinion is that a child psychiatrist is the best choice to make this assessment. You would be surprised to know how often kids present with suicide or cutting behavior and I was the first one they shared this with. One complicating factor in providing adequate mental health services is that there is a shortage of child psychiatrists to provide the care that is needed. The solution is prevention, education and early screening as well as psychiatrists having collaborative relationships with pediatricians, psychologists, educators, other professionals and parents. This is a societal issue not just a medical issue. We need to build the infrastructure to support our children in a unified way.


The data shows that depression affects ~5% of all adolescents.


In clinical practice when assessing a child or teen for depression or any other presenting behavior a Child Psychiatrist follows the practice parameters of AACAP. A clinical interview with the child and the parents separately is standard of care. A review of report cards, standardized testing, behavioral rating scales, and gathering any other relevant information is part of the assessment. If a diagnosis is made then treatment is determined after weighing in on all of the factors for your child.


I believe that it is essential for psychoeducation to weigh in all the factors of treatment. Cognitive behavior therapy is an absolute part of the treatment of childhood depression whether medication is indicated or not. Coping strategies, family, and school environment are essential for the best long-term outcome. I am happy to say that I have many “thrive stories” of young adults that I see ~three times a year now that had appropriate treatment for depression as teens. They are attending top colleges, having children, and getting promotions at work.


Dr. Denise

Compassion In Action Coupled with Wellbeing

Last November I attended an event entitled Compassion In Action that Dr. Sonnee Weedn  organized with guest Humanitarian Buddhist Monk Lama Tenzin Choegyal. Words cannot express how peaceful and inspiring the morning retreat was in which he blessed our work and inspired all of us. Lama Tenzin Choegyal shared his spiritual path and adventure that started in 2000 when he traveled with his two brothers through the Upper Dolpo region of the Himalayan border between Nepal, India and Tibet. During his journey he rescued abandoned and neglected children and founded an orphanage called the Children’s Education Development (CED) Society (http://www.cedhouse.org).  At the present time there are over twenty children that are being educated and many are attending college.  You can watch Walk the Waking Journey, an 80-minute documentary that is a four part series on YouTube that describes Lama Tenzin Choegyal’s journey with the children of the CED house.  The children are being educated, loved, and are being raised to go back to their villages and/or be of service to the community at large.

The seed of attending this retreat was planted last July when I attended His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday party. I brought my husband one day and my sister and dear friends the next day.

Nobel Peace winners had all of us shouting “I have the power” as a reminder that we ALL can contribute with acts of love and compassion towards one another. 

The desire to make an impact on a more global level was in my mind and I felt as though I would be traveling to India at some point soon – it was a deep inner knowing.  When I met Lama Tenzin Choegyal and Dr. Sonnee Weedn in November of 2015 there was an unspoken shared alliance of being of service for OUR children.  Dr. Weedn and I exchanged emails about her work as a transformational psychologist throughout the year and ways we could collaborate.  I have humbly accepted her invitation to travel as her guest to Dharmsala, India to attend the 4th International Conference of Men-Tsee-Khang (Tibetan Medical Society) this October in which the topic will be:  “Causes, Conditions and Remedies of Depression.” Dr. Weedn was invited to speak again by invitation from His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama and Men-Tsee-Khang.   It is a great honor to have interviewed Dr. Weedn on my podcast this week in which we discussed many interesting topics with great emphasis on integrative wellness strategies.

Dr. Weedn discussed her presentation “8 Ways of Wellbeing” which is a compilation of the research Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D. at U.C. Irvine that she presented at the 3rd International Conference of Men-Tsee-Khang (Tibetan Medical Society) in 2015.

Here are the 8 essential ingredients to good mental health or TLCs (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes):

  1. Exercise – “Move it or lose it.”
  2. Relationships- “Friends can be good medicine.”
  3. Relaxation- “Examples are meditation and practicing mindfulness.”
  4. Time in Nature- ”Just twenty minutes of fresh air can be therapeutic.”
  5. Giving Back- “Acts of altruism.”
  6. Nutrition- “Honoring your body with healthy food choices.”
  7. Spiritual Practice- “Finding a community that emphasizes the practice of compassion and forgiveness.”
  8. Recreation- “It is important to play!”

To hear a more in depth evidence based research about the TLCs above, you can listen to my interview with Dr. Weedn here: https://www.drdenisemd.com/2016/07/dr-sonnee-weedn-ph-d-csat/

For more information on Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D and his body of work check out: http://www.integralhealthresources.com/integral-health-2/therapeutic-lifestyle-changes/.

As a society we are living at a time when we are conditioned to getting “answers in real time” and with our advanced technology “instant gratification” is OUR new norm.  Many people can benefit from modern day medicine when it is of absolute necessity, yet too often the “quick fix” of a pill is desired and lifestyle habits are ignored. Medicine has its place yet a “pill is not a skill.” Dr. Weedn and I discussed the evidence based wellness strategies above and we both agreed that prevention strategies and maintenance habits are key for mental health and overall wellbeing.

I would love to see the key ingredients of Dr. Walsh’s Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes be implemented globally and introduced to elementary school aged children and perhaps be called “Therapeutic Lifestyle Behaviors.” In the Manhattan Beach elementary school system here in Southern California the children are benefiting from Goldie Hawn’s MindUp program, a research base program with 15 lessons based in neuroscience ( http://thehawnfoundation.org/mindup/). Students learn to self-regulate their behavior and mindfully engage in focused concentration required for academic success with an emphasis on kindness and compassion as well.

Can you imagine a comprehensive global integrative wellness program that would be part of our school systems that covers the material from the MindUP program coupled with the 8 Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes? If we introduce these lifestyle habits to our children at a young age we can focus on prevention and wellbeing and set them up for a lifetime of thriving and resiliency.

Dr. Weedn and I covered many more topics on the podcast this week including her neurocoaching practice, her integration of her spiritual knowledge and her heartfelt work as the author of  “Many Blessings A Tapestry of Accomplished African American Women”  (http://www.manyblessingsbook.com)! She described this book as her greatest accomplishment.

I would like to express my gratitude for Dr. Weedn’s acts of compassion,, wisdom and significant contributions to wellbeing.

Dr. Denise


Dr. Sonnee Weedn, Ph.D., CSAT is a clinical and forensic psychologist and author who shares how she helps individuals, couples and families find the deeper meaning of the soul in relation to mental health and how to lead healthier emotional lives.

Dr. Sonnee Weedn is a clinical and forensic psychologist practicing in Marin County since 1980, and most recently dividing her time between Marin County and her hometown of Newport Beach, CA. She treats individuals, couples and families with a wide variety of presenting concerns, including anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, and other issues.  She is certified by the American Psychological Association to treat alcoholism and other chemical dependencies. She is an excellent resource for families seeking inpatient treatment and other options for a loved one, and she consults to a number of treatment organizations in the area of continuing education for professionals.

She is the author of the award winning book, Many Blessings: A Tapestry of Accomplished African American Women, and authored chapters on Diagnosis and Group Therapy for the recently released and award winning book, Making Advances: A Comprehensive Guide for Treating Female Sex and Love Addicts.

She has twice been invited as a presenter by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to The Tibetan Medical Society (Men-Tsee-Khang) in Dharmsala, India to speak about mental health issues from a Western perspective.

Dr. Weedn has partnered with a consortium of professional colleagues to write crew selection criteria and monitoring and maintenance of behavioral health methodology for the astronauts going to Mars in 2030.