Choosing a therapist for our kids could feel as daunting as any other unknown journey we experience as parents. We know that the ‘right fit’ is so important, yet how do we get started?
What’s important to know, ask, and notice?
I put this list together after working with dozens of parents on this very journey and guiding them into the unknown with a few ideas.
1 – Ask around (school, friends, neighbors, family). While anyone they suggest could a) not be in your insurance plan or b) not necessarily a great fit, it could be a place to start.
2 – If using insurance, get the list of covered providers from your insurance’s behavioral/mental health plan. With this list, split in ½ with someone (friend/spouse) and share the task of calling.
Questions to ask upon calling:
– Are you taking new clients?
– Do you see/specialize in pediatrics (you could specify your child’s age ‘teen’ or ‘toddler’ to really narrow this down)
– If they claim that they see ‘any’ or ‘many’ ages, ask what percentage of their clients are kids (your kid’s age!). – If there is something specific with your child (social anxiety, depression, LGBTQ+, bullying, substance use etc) then ask if they have a focus on kids with these issues. – Many therapists also have background working in the medical setting so if medical illness is an issue impacting your child, do reference this so the potential therapist knows.
– Ask about an option to ‘meet and greet’ where they may offer a 20 min visit to assess for a good match between your child and the therapist, or even a brief 10 minute complimentary phone call
– Ask about their structure; do they meet with the kids alone only, bring in parents at some point, offer feedback in between sessions? What can you expect from working with them?
3 – pay attention to your gut instincts, they matter! This is the person you will be employing, working with, to help you help your child. It is important that you feel comfortable about this choice.
Remember this ~ the therapist is the expert in their field yet you are the expert on your child. Trust your instincts in forming a connection with a potential therapist. You will be working together in some capacity with, on behalf of your child.
4 – If the office is difficult to reach or they do not respond in a timely manner or if they respond with what feels like dismissive statements or otherwise you sense they are not interested in helping – this matters!
– The treatment modality (cognitive behavioral therapy etc) may be less important than finding a great fit between the therapist and your child
– Gender/culture may play a role for your child (you could ask if they have a preference). Involve them and do not assume.
– Just because a friend knows/recommends someone does not mean that person is the ‘right’ choice for you and your family.
Enjoy the journey, you are an active participant in this with your child ~
As we find ourselves hopefully nearing the end of what many would call one of the most trying times in our modern era, I reflect on what this past year has shown us. We have seen many changes both good and bad, with some uniting, while others divide. One of the largest changes I have seen, not specific to the past year, is the ever increasing divide between “Men” and “Great Men”.
David Popenoe (2017) in his Book entitled Families Without Fathers, states:
“The disintegration of the child-centered, two parent family—especially in the inner cities, where as many as two in three children are growing up without their fathers—and the weakening commitment of fathers to their children that more and more follows divorce, are central causes of many of our worst individual and social problems. Juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and child poverty can be directly traced to fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s lives”.
As a therapist; as a Husband; as a Man, it saddens me to hear about stories of spouses and children that have spent years with unmet emotional needs, entire marriages of patriarchal suppression, and women who become extremely depressed at the thought of having to spend another 20 years in a loveless, vacant marriage.
To begin I wish to dispel some myths that are commonly believed:
Men are tough, and strong
Strength comes in many forms and toughness is not always physical.
Men are not suppose to cry
Men have emotions, as all humans do, and it is important to honor them.
Crying means you are weak
Crying is part of being human and, in fact, takes more strength to show vulnerability
Men are not natural care givers.
Many men are naturally caring and enjoy being around their children
Men are the bread winners and provide for the family.
Men share in the responsibility of the home. Financially is one area of responsibility.
“ I make the Money, I make the rules”.
WRONG… Financially providing is not a blanket statement of power and control.
The “Patriarch” is in charge of the family
WRONG… The decisions of the home should be equally agreed upon and everyone should have a voice about the future of the family. A partnership is equal.
Men are to be respected.
Respect is earned, not just given. Be the kind of man that is respectable by your actions and the way you treat others.
All men disappoint, it’s just a matter of when.
How a man treats his partner, and his family, is a direct reflection of who he is. Humans make mistakes, however this should be the exception to the rule not the expectation.
Throughout history, there are many examples of leaders. Some of the leaders we know accomplished great feats, victories, and accolades. Along with this, history also tells us what kind of leaders they were. History records two types of leaders that we tend to remember. Some of the leaders chose to lead by fear, respect, and control. While others lead with love, compassion, and integrity.
In an effort to help this generation be better than the one before, I offer a way to help Men become better. Perhaps you have someone in your life that you want to encourage, perhaps you are a Man wanting to be better. Below are steps you can follow to help the “Men” become Great Men”.
1. Learn to Connect Emotionally.
Emotions are a natural part of life, and being able to be vulnerable and intimate is not a weakness. Learning to connect emotionally will help to increase the relationships in your life, build deeper emotional bonds and bring more happiness into your life and the life of others.
2. Be a Man Worth Respecting
Being the financial provider of a family is one area of stability and support. Aside from financially, there are emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and sexually. Learn to provide support and care in ALL areas, not just the one. “Great Men” show love, compassion and invite respect by the way they treat others and their family. Your family should know the best of you, not the worst. Being the “Patriarch” is not permission to be a dictator. Being a (priesthood holder) in no way gives permission that you are more than or better than your spouse. Admit when you are wrong and be willing to grow and be better.
3. Learn to Listen
Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. Not every problem has to be fixed, nor is it your responsibility to fix it. Learn to see the needs to those in your life. Learn how to see the needs of your wife, comfort your child who had a bad day at school.
4. Choose to be Part of Life
Being present in the lives of your family is a choice. Choose to pay attention to subtle clues, hints, and gestures from your wife and children about what they need and how to provide that. Listen to their stories, validate their emotions, and encourage their growth and self-esteem. Always being at work, or on the phone, out with “a buddy” causes you to miss the joy that comes from small moments of life that make it worthwhile.
5. Choose to be MORE
It has sadly become common for men to let their wives down, and not be present. Putting your family first and your wife first is a choice. Choose to be more than what you know. It is easy to play the role, use excuses of “ that just how men are” and feed in to the idea of being a disappointment. Be the husband who helps around the house, who helps the kids get ready. Break the myths and stereotypes of what a man is and how he is to act.
6. Know the Hierarchy
The Hierarchy speaks to knowing the order of respect given to the women in your life. If you follow the order, you will never go wrong.
I firmly believe that if the “ Men” of the world decided to be “ Great Men” the world would be a much better place. While there is room for much growth and improvement, it is also important to acknowledge that there are “Great Men” in the world. There is much truth to the phrase “ You will find what you are looking for in this world”. While there is a lot of need for change, it is equally important to recognize those that are working to be better, those in the world that emulate all the things above and that there are good people in this world.
Popenoe, D. (2009). Families without Fathers: Fatherhood, Marriage and Children in American Society (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203792292
I have recently had many conversations with individuals who have experienced change in their life that resulted in change to the roles they were used to playing. Perhaps all the children have moved out of the house and the role of parent has shifted. Perhaps job loss or school closure have led to new roles of income provider, or school teacher.
As we find ourselves going through life, we play many roles and wear many hats between personal, family, social, and professional lives, we use these areas of our lives to define who we are, what we like, and how we evaluate our self worth. While roles we play can offer a sense of security, and direction, they are often misunderstood as who we are and what makes us unique.
It is important to distinguish that the roles we play DO NOT make us who we are. We are separate beings outside of these roles. The role of Mother or Father are often ones that tend to consume our identity and while we may take great pride in honoring that role, it is important to note that we have needs and wants outside of these roles. When we let the roles we play become our identity, we lose the internal means of guiding our lives.
Using the example of a solar system; The Sun is the center of our solar system and the planets rotate around with the Sun and the gravitational pull as the guide for how the whole system functions. If we were to pluck the Sun out of the center of the system, the whole system would fall apart and cease to exist. When we use the roles we play such as (mother, father, our occupation, or other) we are making that the center of our system. However, what happens when that role changes, or goes away? Everything we have used to define ourselves no longer functions and we find our system fallen apart. Emotionally and mentally this feels as though our entire world has changed, and it feels that way because of how much power we gave to that role to define us.
Rather, if we understand that we are separate from the roles we play, then we create a system that supports change, and makes it easier to go through hard things or rather big changes in our lives with more acceptance, patience, and hope for the future. Rather than using roles for the center of our identity, we use values and core beliefs that create a foundation in every other area of our lives that can never crumble nor become life shattering.
If you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or unsure of how to guide your future, it may be due to overlapping roles and unclear values. Despite your current situation everyone can learn to better balance their lives, the roles they play, and bring more happiness into your life.
In sexual relationships, we can often get stuck in performance mode where we are focused on how our body looks, if we’re moving the right ways, or making the right sounds. This external focus puts us in a spectator role where we are observers rather than participants. To shift the balance back toward sex as a pleasurable experience, try the following exercise from Dr. Holly Richmond:
1. Ask your partner to share one way they know they perform (put on a performance) sexually, then share one way you perform sexually. 2. Agree to mutually initiate an act of sexual performance for one minute- play it up, exaggerate sounds positions and moves. 3. Laugh. That should have been fun and playful. 4. Embrace and take three deep breaths. 5. Ask your partner to share one way they experience pleasure sexually, then share one way you experience pleasure sexually. 6. Agree to mutually initiate an act of sexual pleasure for one minute. 7. Embrace and take three deep breaths.
If you find yourself having performance based thoughts, no need to feel guilty or mentally beat yourself up. Acknowledge that sometimes we get distracted, and practice returning your attention to the sensations in your body. If you aren’t experiencing pleasant sensations in your body during sex, can you become your own sexual advocate? Can you share with your partner what feels good to you and ask for more of that?
If you find yourself getting stuck in performance mode and need help getting un-stuck, schedule a session with Alice today. 801-944-4555.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy helps children and adults of all ages. Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of challenges:
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Depression and bipolar disorders
Grief and loss
PTSD and other trauma and stress-related issues
Substance abuse and addiction
Violence and abuse
How is EMDR therapy different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue or completing homework between sessions. EMDR therapy, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process.
EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
How does EMDR therapy affect the brain?
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.
Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
Do my kids know I love them? Should I tell my children everyday that I love them? Is it enough to give them hugs and kisses or should I be doing more to show my love? What else can I do to connect emotionally to my kids? These are just some of the numerous questions I get asked by parents. If you’ve asked these questions, or ones along the same lines, you are not alone! While there are many parenting books, there is not one way to parent a child. Children are unique, and therefore, need to be parented in different ways. What works for you may not work for your sister or your neighbor.
That being said, there is one thing that all children need: love. A healthy attachment to parents, and an underlying feeling that they are loved and supported, are fabulous stepping stones for a successful future. Many parents question how to adequately show love for their children in such a busy and screen filled world. The best way to show love for your children is to find out how they feel loved.
Gary Chapman is the author of the book “The Five Love Languages.” This book is about the love languages that couples feel and how to use those to connect in your relationship. His book “5 Love Languages of Children” is a fantastic tool for any parent who is wondering how to effectively show love to their child. It talks about ways to identify your child’s love language, how to then show it, and discipline through that love language. There is power in realizing the specific way that your child needs to feel love. If you don’t know what category they fall into simply ask them! Opening up that line of communication can be a great way to get to know your child.
Another great book about identifying and talking about emotions is John Gottman’s book “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.” In this book parents are coached through different ways to talk to their child about emotion and then how to regulate said emotion. It is a fantastic read for any parent who wants to know more about emotion and how to teach their child about that.
Many times an inability to talk about emotion stems from the way you were taught to talk about and process emotions growing up. We know from years of research that creating a loving relationship at home is one of the best indicators of future success. If you are struggling with identifying your own emotion, and unpacking that is difficult, coaching your child through difficult emotions may be too hard. Therapy is always a great place to learn tools that will emotionally strengthen you, and will allow you to then strengthen your relationships with your children and spouse.
Now get out there! Tell your kids you love them. Give them a hug. Make their bed for them. Buy them a candy bar. Go for a walk with them. Find the specific way they feel loved and show it to them in that specific way. It will be a great exercise for both of you.
When I ask my clients if they have experienced trauma, often the answer is, “no.” Many individuals think of trauma within the lens of “Big T” traumas, or specific traumatic events. Some examples are those who have been exposed to war, terrorism, catastrophic events, and physical or sexual abuse. While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most painful experiences an individual can experience during life. However, a person does not need to have experienced a specific event to experience the negative impact of trauma in their life.
Sometimes, an accumulation of distressing life events and beliefs in the form of “little t” traumas can produce a similar negative response in individuals. Some “little t” traumas can include interpersonal conflict, financial difficulties, abandonment or enmeshment, attachment wounds, breakups, moves, etc., resulting in pervasive negative beliefs about oneself or the world around them. The accumulation of these events is important to consider in their impact. Many individuals come to therapy due to this accumulation of “little t” traumas, often noting difficulty pinpointing what is distressing in particular, yet noting a feeling of powerlessness or unhappiness in life.
Whether you have experienced “Big T” or “little t” trauma there is hope in many treatment options. One modality that is helpful with both “Big T” and “little t” trauma is EMDR therapy. Sometimes, clients are unfamiliar with this modality. This short video gives a brief intro to EMDR, and how this treatment can help neutralize the distressing events, while helping the client connect to a more positive belief about themselves.
I’ve been talking with a lot of clients about narratives lately – the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. Narratives are powerful and shape the way we view ourselves and the world around us. If you grew up in an environment that didn’t talk about sex, or spoke of it in negative or fear-based terms, that creates a powerful narrative. Just a few of the examples I’ve come across:
Sex is bad, I’m having sexual thoughts/feelings, so I’m bad.
Sex is embarrassing.
Only “those kind of people” are interested in sex.
I want/think about sex too much.
I want/think about sex too little.
I don’t have to right kind of body to be sexual.
Sex is too embarrassing to talk about with my partner.
Many of these narratives are powerful enough on their own, but they often get attached to painful emotions which heightens the power they have over us. If you are struggling with an unhelpful narrative surrounding sex, give yourself a break. You aren’t broken. You’re doing the best you can with the narratives you’ve been given. The good news is that we can change our narratives around sex – much like forging a new path through a forest – we can create narratives that lead to increased peace and pleasure. Some examples:
Sex is good, and pleasurable and multipurpose. My sexual thoughts and feelings are natural and I can choose to engage with those thoughts and feelings in ways that are right for me.
Sex feels embarrassing sometimes, because it’s not something I have practiced talking/thinking about yet. The more I talk about it with myself/my partner, the easier it will get.
Sex is a normal human experience.
However much I think about or want sex is the right amount for me. Everyone has a different erotic template, and that’s okay.
All bodies deserve pleasure in life, there is no such thing as a “right kind of body”. My body is good, and I appreciate it for its real ness.
My partner can’t read my mind, so if I tell them what I enjoy sexually, we will both have a more satisfying experience.
Most of us have inherited unhelpful sexual narratives, this doesn’t mean we have to hold onto them throughout our lives. If you are feeling stuck in your sexual narratives, and need help overcoming them, call 801-944-4555 to schedule a session with Alice.
Few phrases will cause such an immediate, intense, almost visceral reaction from me as, “You’re so strong!” It’s a phrase that I have heard countless times over the last few years. On the surface, it sounds like a compliment that I possess the ability to hold and manage more than you would expect, and I work to receive this message as the one the sender is trying to convey. What it feels like the person is saying is that they are unable to deal with my sadness, grief, frustration, anger, or whatever emotion, and they need me to be strong because the emotions make them uncomfortable. I’m left feeling alone and dismissed.
In the early days of grief, the feelings of being overwhelmed with the “business” of death can feel paralyzing. Often, there are seemingly endless tasks that need to be completed within a very short amount of time. Sadly, most of these tasks require the next of kin, so that leaves the people that are in the midst of intense shock, grief, disbelief, anger, frustration, or whatever mishmash of emotions to navigate yet another emotional load; it can feel like too much.
The feeling of being alone is scary. Navigating really strong emotions without support and guidance is treacherous, we might make decisions or take actions that are counter to our actual needs because of the disorientation that strong emotions can evoke. So what can we do, as the person in the midst of a seemingly never ending emotional storm and as the person watching someone we care about struggle to fight the onslaught of emotional waves? Be there, be present, and be willing to listen. You can’t take away their pain for them, you can be that safe place where they don’t have to pretend to be “ok” or “fine”.
Providing people with the chance to not be strong, to be authentic and genuine with the feelings they are experiencing, no matter what those may be, can be just the thing that we all need to do truly develop that strength. If you are struggling finding that internal strength to deal with loss or grief, or just need that safe place to discover your strength consider reaching out to a therapist. You are strong! We can help you think it, feel it, and believe it!