Caregivers

How to Promote Your Child’s Good Mental Health

Everyone knows the importance of good mental health, but how do you help your children achieve it? Here are some points to consider.

1. Give your child unconditional love.

Every child deserves and needs unconditional love from his or her parents and other family members. Love, security and acceptance form the bedrock for a child’s good mental health. Make sure your child knows that your love doesn’t depend on them getting good grades...
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Anxiety and Panic

Spirituality vs. Mental Disorders: God Doesn’t Hate Medication

I grew up in a family that had high expectations of me, and I have personally struggled with anxiety. For several years, I thought that my anxiety was a normal part of life. I didn’t realize that I should not have been having full-blown anxiety at the age of nine, but I was.

My family didn’t believe in mental illnesses, besides those that were obvious to the untrained eye. We did, however, attend a church regularly. I was highly interested in Christianity and studied it on my own. I was able to combat the unnatural anxiety through my relationship with God, and was able to overcome the anxiety throughout middle and high school. College, however, was different.
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Brain and Behavior

Mom Knows Best: Overcoming Life’s Hardships

Life bruises. For others, it cripples. And, for a select few, it empowers.

As we marvel at others’ resilience during uncommon adversity, what lessons are applicable to our lives?

On a gloomy October day, the doctor’s diagnosis numbed us. “Pancreatic cancer,” he spat out. My aunt and I recoiled. The word -- cancer -- buzzed in our ears. Shoulders slumping, our mist-filled eyes met. We were dazed; cancer happens to others. Not our familial matriarch.
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Caregivers

Overcoming Adoption Fear and Doubt

The main reasons for adoption are pretty clear to me now that we’ve adopted a baby. A man and a woman get to be parents. A child without parents receives parents. The birth mother knows that her child will be well cared for. To me, it’s clearly a win/win/win situation.

But some people just plain don’t want to adopt. These are some of the issues people voice:

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Caregivers

The Psychological Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

I recently viewed the 2013 comedy, "A.C.O.D," starring Adam Scott, Clark Duke, Richard Jenkins, and Catherine O’Hara. "A.C.O.D" showcases a serious storyline in a comedic light, while addressing the psychological impact divorce can have on adult children. While I can’t speak to such an experience firsthand, I was intrigued by the subject matter. Even though they’re no longer kids, adult children may still carry the weight of divorce and unresolved childhood issues on their shoulders.

Maybe such effects manifest in their romantic relationships. They may be wary of long-term commitment. Maybe they encounter heightened stress when they’re sifting through their parents’ leftover anger and resentment, still feeling as if they have to choose sides.

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Brain and Behavior

The Healing Power of Hugs

One day several years ago, I spontaneously hugged a patient of mine, Gretchen. It was during a moment in which her despair and distress were so intense that it seemed cruel on a human level not to reach out my arms to her, in the event that she might derive some relief or comfort from an embrace. She hugged me for dear life.

Months later, Gretchen reported to me that the hug had changed her. “The motherly embrace you gave me that day,” she said, “lifted the depression I have had all my life.”

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Caregivers

Separate and Unequal

You have just fallen off your bike. You hit a rock and were thrown over the handlebars onto your back. Ouch.

What do you do now? You go to the doctor. X-rays are taken. Nothing is broken. You get some medicine, you go home.

The next day at work, you are having some trouble with the pain. Your peers ask what’s wrong. You reply that you fell off your bike. They say that's too bad; hope you feel better. Move on. They don’t think too much of it.

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Bullying

Kill Them with Kindness

“Matt, you are too sensitive,” a family member said.

I chafed at the label. Sensitivity, within my immediate family, is disparaged as a sign of weakness. Stoicism, with the occasional angry outburst, reigns. Feelings? According to my family, Oprah and I should schedule couch time to discuss them.

In my world, feelings predominate. My mood and emotion vacillate based on a heart-warming compliment or stinging rebuke. When feeling well, I exude confidence and joy. When feeling down, I ruminate and question. Feelings -- and a willingness to experience raw, unfiltered emotion -- define me.
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Anger

How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Us

The statistics are alarming. From 2009 to 2014, the number of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 hospitalized for intentionally cutting or poisoning themselves has more than doubled. This isn't the first time I'm reading about this. But it's certainly time to talk about it.

In my work with inherited family trauma, when I see a child who injures herself, I've learned to probe into the family history. The self-injurer could well be reliving aspects of a trauma she inherited from her parents or grandparents, though this is not always the case. Self-injurious behaviors can arise for other reasons as well.

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Caregivers

Showing Up

“Show up.” We have all heard that term before. What does it mean to “show up”? There are several answers to this question.

When you buy a ticket to a cultural or sporting event, have an educational or career deadline or presentation, medical appointment or procedure, you know the date and time that you must be there. If you are late, arrive on the wrong date or location, or miss it altogether, the experience of the event has passed and is impossible to recreate. There typically is a negative consequence and a lesson learned.

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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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Anger

The Reason Children Misbehave

You and I are adults; we talk like adults, use deductive reasoning, think about consequences for our actions, and make informed decisions based on facts (most of the time). Adults aren't always wonderfully smart, though. We can, and often do, fall prey to the “little adult syndrome” when dealing with children, especially when they’re misbehaving.

Working with children day in and day out provides me a fantastic perspective and a look into who they really are. Sometimes they’re wonderful angels sent from heaven to remind us of the beauty in life. Sometimes they’re tiny emotional vampires just waiting for us to look away so they can pounce on our weak point. Most of the time they're somewhere in between.

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