Dr. Dawn Levitan (Photo provided)

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake cognitive behavioral therapist wants people to know that help with positive changes is in the cards.

Dr. Dawn Levitan, a licensed clinical professional counselor at Mathers Clinic, has created Life Coaching Cards Toolkits to offer a self-help option to people dealing with issues such as depression and mood disorders; anxiety, fears and phobias; eating disorders; and grief.

Other toolkits cover goal-setting and achievement, writing affirmations, journaling, life lessons and happiness. There’s even a toolkit to assist professionals with patients in hospital or outpatient settings.

“I wanted to make a self-help tool that anybody can use, like individuals, patients,” Levitan said. “They are good for inpatient hospitals, outpatient programs, just self-help – someone who just wants to work through their grief or work on their eating disorder or depression or anxiety privately.”

Each of the 10 toolkits consists of between 30 and 40 laminated 4-by-6 notecards held together by a ring clasp.

“Each title is what I think is the best of cognitive behavioral therapy and basic life coaching principles,” she said.

Levitan, who lives in Prairie Grove and grew up in Crystal Lake, brings 20 years of experience to the project, having earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and psychology from Barat College in Lake Forest, her master’s degree in bio-psychology from the University of Chicago, and her doctorate of education in educational psychology, special education and counseling from Northern Illinois University.

“At Barat College, I started out in psychology, but as I was doing my undergrad there, I realized that you can’t understand psychology unless you understand chemistry and how the brain works,” she said.

Her approach to helping patients is to figure out what is holding them back and then move them forward, she said.

“My approach has always been to get to the bottom line first and if there’s stuff to clean up, clean it up and move forward,” Levitan said. “So I like to take people forward, not backward.”

The Life Coaching Cards Toolkits were born out of that philosophy.

Although the cards are based on inspirational cards one often finds to encourage growth, Levitan’s toolkits offer something more.

On the front of each card there’s always a quote. On the back there is space to write, and each kit comes with an erasable pencil, making the notecards interactive.

“They can always erase them and next time they can just start over,” Levitan said. “So you can use them and reuse them and reuse them.”

In the toolkit “Unwind Your Mind and Anxiety,” users are walked through the feelings associated with anxiety as well as the physical symptoms. They then are asked to list their own symptoms and people or situations that they associate with them.

Other cards in the pack offer suggestions for avoiding anxiety and cues for managing panic attacks.

“What’s cool about it and what my patients love about it is that they’re reusable and pretty indestructible,” Levitan said.

The packs also are more portable than standard workbooks.

“In the self-help literature, there’s tons of great workbooks, and they’re really good,” Levitan said. “But people don’t like, I find, to go anywhere with ‘The Anxiety Workbook’ or ‘I Have an Eating Disorder Workbook.’”

Levitan uses the card packs with her own patients.

“We’ll use them in here sometimes if they need more direction, or they’ll take them home and work on them, then come back and talk about whatever they worked on,” she said.

The toolkits also are being used by a hospital system on the East Coast, Levitan said, as well as in a hospital in Chicago.

“The clinicians love them because they keep the patients focused, they are an interactive tool, and they get to take them home,” she said.

Rhonda Fried, a psychiatric advanced practice nurse at Mathers Clinic, has found the toolkit “Orderly Eating” to be particularly helpful for the patients who are going to have gastric bypass surgery or who have recently completed it.

“For pre-gastric bypass, they have to show that they can control their appetite and lose weight before they’ll do the surgery on them,” Fried said.

The toolkits can help patients learn to control their eating so that they have a better chance of being successful.

“And then post-gastric bypass, they still have to change their habits,” Fried said. “At the very beginning, when they first come out of surgery, they can’t really eat, so it’s very easy for them, and they lose a ton of weight. Then they get them to a plateau again.

“And that’s where they have to start really working on their actual eating habits.”

Fried said the toolkits have been even more important for those dealing with anxiety disorders.

“They need something that they can take with them,” she said. “We can calm them down in our office, but they need something that’s with them to help them work on those new skills on an ongoing basis.”

Levitan’s toolkits also are available as an app for iPads. With the app, which is available on iTunes, all 10 toolkits are grouped.

“When we submitted it, it went as a clump together, which turns out OK because in counseling and coaching, I go through all these topics in some order anyway,” Levitan said. “This is like getting a counselor in an iPad.”

In the future, Levitan plans to develop more topics in the toolkit format.

“I have another couple of new topics that I’m working on, one that is bullying, which is really good because there is so much of that … happening with kids and adults.”

In the next few months, she will be focusing on marketing and sales for the toolkits, which she says are like nothing else on the market.

“This is a brand-new self-help tool that is different from workbooks because they get you down to the bottom line quickly, and they move you forward,” Levitan said.

Where to get them

The Life Coaching Cards Toolkits are available online at Amazon.com or at www.lifescopescoaching.com. They cost $39.95 each, except where noted.

Available toolkits:

• Unwind Your Mind – Depression

• Unwind Your Mind – Anxiety

• Orderly Eating

* Grief Coaching

• Goal Coaching

• Affirmation Coaching

• Journaling Coaching

• Happiness Coaching

• Life Lessons Coaching

• Thera-Coaching ($49.95)

The toolkits are available as a group for iPads on iTunes for $2.99. Look for it under the Lifestyle, Health and Wellness category.

More information about the Life Coaching Cards Toolkits also is available at Dr. Dawn Levitan’s website, www.lifescopescoaching.com.

By JOAN OLIVER editorial@shawmedia.com