Each week one of our clinical staff writes a short article (we call them "briefs") for this website, which will appear in rotation with other insights at the bottom of most pages. Below is a list of topics addressed in staff briefs. Click on a group to see a list of briefs; click on any title to see a PDF of the brief.
Counselors are infamous for encouraging people to not let themselves be defined by their disabilities or limitations. Indeed, society has come a long way in altering our perception and definition of disabilities. Often the focus has been on not labeling people.
Yet in my work with children with learning disabilities such as ADHD and Dyslexia, I have found that what damages the children most is not the label, but the ways in which adults around them lower their expectations of what the child is capable of. Rather than seeing the massive potential inherent in the child, the adults in their lives begin to see the limitation as the central defining quality of who that child is and how they must be raised.
One of my favorite moments as a therapist is when I get to point out to a child (and a parent) what a remarkable masterpiece they are, and likewise, to show them the insignificance of the disability to their ultimate God designed identity.
Adam Wilson, MA, LPC
Often parents wonder if their children's challenging behavior is something they can't change or they won't change. It is an important question since it helps us to know if they is a behavioral issue where the child is making poor choices or if they are dealing with a medical/mental health issue which is out of their control.
It can be helpful to think about the mental health history of the child's family. Is there a history of ADHD, mood disorders like depression or bipolar, anxiety, etc? When did the challenging behavior begin? Is there a pattern to the behavior or triggers which seem to make things worse? Sometimes it takes a professional to help determine possible causes of a child's behavior. However, it is always helpful to talk with those who are actively co-parenting with you. Taking about some of these simple questions may help you to step back and see the child's behaviors, and what they are communicating to you, from a new perspective.
Amy Craig, MA, LPC
We’ve probably all seen those messages from our electronic devices that tell us our specific device has failed to connect. What if a failure to connect becomes a reality in our lives?
I have recently been surprised by the number of teens, tweens, and young adults I’ve come into contact with who, after being asked if they’ve spent any time with their friends and family, have responded with some form of no, we talk via text, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. The conversation quickly turns to how many of their “friends” on social media have liked or commented on the latest picture they’ve posted.
When texting and social media begins to take the place of in-person connection, a false sense of connectivity forms. Texting and social media have many advantages, however they can’t be the main source, nor can they take the place of connecting with one another.
Today, I encourage you to have some real-life face time with someone you know.
Shawna Koller, MA
Sometimes it’s not the argument, the offense or the personality difference that ruins a relationship. Those problems deserve attention, but something deeper may be causing them. It’s the way partners see each other.
We construct mental pictures of our partners from collections of experiences we’ve had with them. Those collections can grow so large we believe we know all about our partner; we’ve heard, seen, done it all. We close our minds to new insights, new possibilities. That can kill a relationship, because:
You could be with a toxic person who will never change. But before you conclude that, consider the possibility that your partner …
When you were falling in love, you marveled at the unfolding mystery who was your loved one. If you can open your mind again to that mystery, you may rekindle the joy of exploring the person who won your heart.
Jim Lewis, MDiv, MA, LPC
For change to happen it requires action and this begins with a single first step. Usually this first step moves us away from what is comfortable and known and this is experienced as scary or threatening.
Sometimes when we take that first step and experience the feeling of discomfort that results it often sends us running back to where we came from, however unhealthy and destructive it is, at least its known to us.
However, having the courage to walk into the unknown and allowing ourselves to experience the discomfort is a way that we move from where we are to where we want to be.
Charity Barone, M.A.,LPC
Do you ever feel like a failure? Many of our clients do. What is your theology of failure? The Bible is truth, plus it reveals often spectacular failures from cover to cover, so there must be some great Biblical teachings on the concept of “failure!” In a word study, you will find references to God’s love never failing, but that is it!
Failures in the Bible aren’t; in God’s plan He uses them for good if we let Him. Peter’s denial of Him 3 times may on one level look like a failure, yet Jesus predicted it, prayed for Peter ahead of time, and told him what to do when he recovered from it (Luke 22:31-32). He not only recovered, but also led the apostles and wrote one of the great evangelistic verses in the Bible (1 Peter 3:15). God knows we are broken, but as the Redeemer, we cannot be failures!
Doug Feil, MS, LPC
“Stop and smell the roses!” is more than just a song or a nice idea. Breathing, specifically slow, deep, abdominal breathing, gives more benefits to our body, mind, and spirit than one may realize. But isn’t your breathing slow and deep enough already? Try this short test from Dr. Denise F. Beckfield in her book, “Master Your Panic and Take Back Your Life!”:
1. Sit or stand by a timepiece (clock, watch, phone) and breathe the way you usually breathe. 2. Count the number of breaths you take in sixty seconds. Don’t try to adjust your breathing. 3. How many breaths did you take? If it was more than twelve or thirteen breaths, you are probably breathing too quickly and shallowly for excellent health.
However, even if your breaths were below twelve, you could also benefit substantially from learning to do slow, deep, abdominal breathing. Dr. Beckfield’s chapter on both how and why to learn this skill is one of the best descriptions that I’ve found. Give it a try! Practice it regularly, and your health will thank you.
Jennifer E. Pollock, LCSW
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
In my role as a counselor I am often asked to provide guidance when it comes to step-parenting, this is a guiding principal for me. To courageously listen long, long past what is comfortable until you can see into the heart of a child, until you can see not only their laughter, but are still enough to see their sadness, their hopes, their doubts about the world they live in.
Until you have fallen in love, essentially with the child, you cannot successfully direct, discipline or guide without the umbrella of the biological parent’s authority. Not because of ineptitude or incompetence, but simply because the best parenting is born out of falling in love. The long dreamy looking and watching and knowing that biological children know from their infancy cannot be replaced by a step-parent. But courageous listening, self-sacrificing until the falling in love comes will never fail to bring healthy, happy, mostly willingly, attached children to the step-parent willing to labor for it, not unlike their biological predecessors labored for theirs. Step- parents, be courageous and listen!
Jodi Top, LCSW
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