A New Start. A New Journey. A New You. How the right therapy, and the right therapist can help get you there by David Nutter, MA, LAMFT

New starts in life often happen when people decide to engage therapy. Whenever I meet new clients as individuals, couples, or even families, I ask them what their goals are in therapy. For some, they have not been asked about what they need, want, or even prefer in their lives for a long time. For others, it often feels that they have never been heard at all, let alone asked. What happens when you go to therapy? What type of model and style of therapy will the person you see provide? What is their level of formal training, how well attuned are they to meet your needs and do they rely on any other resources other than their self-perceived competency? Understanding how much someone knows about your particular issue(s) is a critical step in selecting the type of therapist and style of therapy you will engage.

For example, as I write this article I am thinking of the many different styles of therapy available. I can immediately think of 11 different styles: structural family therapy, strategic therapy, the Milan systemic approach, the Mental Research Institute (MRI) approach, Satir’s communication approach, symbolic-experiential family therapy, intergenerational family therapy, collaborative therapy, narrative therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and solution-focused therapy. That’s a lot of different styles of therapy, all with empirical research associated with their model and experts in each field.

Added to this list of styles of therapy are the therapists themselves. Who are you going to see and what you are likely to experience is largely dependent on the type of education they have and the experience they have with others. There is a vast difference in the education requirements to become a life coach, mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist (MFT). There are differences in approaches and emphasis, even within the same style/model of therapy. You and the particular issues you bring to therapy may be weighing on you. The therapist fortunate enough to have you as a client should work as hard on your issues as you do.

There are resources such as books, workbooks, films, music and other sources that might resonate with you that are not particularly useful or preferred by others. You have decided to make a new start and that new start needs the support of the developing relationship of trust you are building with your therapist of choice. That relationship is essential for discussing what you want to achieve and the ways you plan to address the changes or goals you want for yourself and your relationships. Your new journey starts with a decision about what you want to experience in the future. Often this gets accomplished by a review of the past and current life experiences you have survived or thrived from. The therapist caring deeply about your experiences and your strengths will celebrate what you have achieved and where you are going. Aspects that you bring to the therapy effort are elements of the way you might describe yourself—the many facets of who you are. When people describe their experiences in therapy, I hope they include feeling heard, challenged, respected, validated, encouraged and celebrated. Their experience should feel welcomed like a friend, with a serious focus in a nurturing manner. Sometimes people cry, reflect and reconsider critical directions or attitudes they have adopted. Sometimes they laugh and release tension in a light-hearted way. New beginnings are often encouraged by a therapist going the extra mile along side of you, so you can keep going more miles, confidently forward. Welcome to your new start.

 

About the Author:

David Nutter is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at the St. George Center For Couples & Families. His career experience includes military service, management and executive positions and international business consulting. He received his undergraduate degree from BYU and his Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University, a COAMFTE approved program. David was inducted into two honor societies for academic and clinical excellence and is enrolled in NCU’s PhD/ MFT program. During his Master’s program he was mentored by Steve Allred, with a broad range of client ages and issues. He served as the SGPD Chaplain (board certified) to reduce the impact to personnel and citizens from significant trauma experiences. He is adjunct faculty at DSU. He has lived in every U.S. time zone and abroad, and appreciates diversity. David is married to his “girlfriend” Diane. Together, they call their 7 children, their spouses/partners and 5 grandchildren their immediate family.

Big (old) news from the NPO – way to go!

May 6, 2015
By Dan Deuel, Executive Committee Member, National Parents Organization of Utah

In March, National Parents Organization of Utah, successfully spearheaded passage of the state’s first shared parenting legislation! HB35 wasn’t the only success NPO Utah had, but it was the most significant. Headed by Dave Daniels and Janet Robins, NPO Utah is on a roll!

NPO Utah wants to thank Representative V. Lowry Snow for sponsoring HB35 and working so closely with NPO to help ensure its passage. He is an excellent legislator who practiced family law and saw up close many of the challenges parents and their children face when custody is considered. He understands these issues very well, and we appreciate his hard work on the bill. NPO also wants to acknowledge the Utah State Bar’s Family Law section that endorsed HB35.

Under current Utah law, a noncustodial parent is entitled to a minimum schedule of every other weekend (Friday evening to Sunday evening) and one week night per week for three hours. Additionally, noncustodial parents are entitled to one-half of the annual holidays and four weeks during the summer.

This schedule, often referred to as the “standard minimum,” when originally enacted, was intended to be the minimum a noncustodial parent and his/her children should spend together. All too often, however, litigants, attorneys, and judges forgot that this is intended to be the minimum, and instead consider it the maximum time arrangement.

This of course is bad for children as well as their noncustodial parents.

HB35, which takes effect on May 19, creates an optional schedule with a more equitable, shared parenting arrangement. It changes the weekly parent-time night to an overnighter, instead of merely a few hours after school, and also extends weekend time from returning the children Sunday night to returning them Monday morning. This arrangement can be especially beneficial in higher-conflict divorces, since pick-ups and drop-offs can be made at school or daycare, reducing the number of interactions between quarreling parents.

The new option provides an increased parent-time schedule from 80 overnights per year to 145. That’s about 40% of parenting time being awarded to the noncustodial parent. Noncustodial parents must first meet some fairly narrowly-defined criteria in order to qualify for the optional schedule, such as: 1) demonstrate that he or she has been actively involved in the child’s life, 2) communicate effectively regarding the child, and 3) any other factors the court considers relevant.

Utah NPO executive committeeman and legislative affairs expert Dan Deuel, who has six years of experience working on various pieces of legislation, including pro-family legislation, urged the 107-member legislature to pass this family-friendly bill. It ultimately passed both houses of the legislature with only one dissenting vote, and was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert on March 20, 2015.

NPO of Utah members Amanda Davis, Janet Robins, Michelle Troche, and others joined Deuel on Utah’s Capitol Hill in strong support of this timely piece of legislation. NPO of Utah also orchestrated a campaign of members statewide, urging them to contact their lawmakers in support of HB35.

While this bill is by no means perfect, it is a step in the right direction. NPO of Utah intends to work on refining the statute in future years to further improve Utah’s child custody law.

Well done Dan and all at NPO Utah!

 

Originally posted on: https://nationalparentsorganization.org/blog/22326-national-parents-organization-of-utah-passes-shared-parenting-legislation

Michelle Jones – National Parents Organization Executive Committee member

This is a presentation that Michelle did for the NPO: 

April 10, 2014
By Michelle Jones, LCSW, Member, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Utah

View Michelle’s complete presentation given at a Utah Membership meeting: Parental Alienation: Understanding It — Strategies to Fight It.

We have wasted years caught in a distraction of controversy about whether or not parental alienation is a syndrome, or whether it exists at all. It is interesting how although there is a large body of research validating its existence, along with thousands of adults who attest to having suffered through it as children, and other parents who are currently traumatized, watching helplessly as their relationships with their children are being destroyed, there is still resistance and ignorance about what parental alienation really is and what to do about it.  What is parental alienation? It is a pathological family interaction pattern which unjustifiably requires children to align with one parent against a formerly loved parent, putting the children in a destructive loyalty bind. It is usually within the context of a high conflict divorce that parental alienation occurs. It is a horrific form of child abuse.

Because it is anti-instinctual to hate and reject a parent, the child must develop an elaborate delusional system consisting of spurious, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations to justify the hatred and rejection. Eventually, the child comes to believe all the absurdity. The double-bind situation of being unable to have, love, and to be loved by both parents can lead to psychosis. Remaining with hatred and anger is not healthy under any circumstances, let alone for a parent.

“The process of using a child to serve the emotional needs of the alienating parent and doing that parent’s appalling bidding is abuse in itself.  It is also a reversal of a healthy family hierarchy. The child is continually operating under a cloud of anxiety because the fear of a slip of the tongue and or a slip of behavior will reveal the child’s true loving feelings for and longing for the alienated parent.  This will inevitably lead to horrific consequences from the alienating parent.   The child suffers from depression because having a parent severed from her/his life is a loss…a loss of the most severe kind.” (Joan Kelly, PhD)

So, if the information and research is available to the public and professionals, why doesn’t the system, meaning the legal, therapeutic, and child protection agencies take a more proactive role and implement strategies and interventions that put a stop to such destructive behavior, especially when it is damaging our children?

We can learn a lot about human nature by studying our own history in respect to the resistance to new ideas and implementing change. This is illustrated in the history of surgery. Surgery today is considered a lifesaving procedure, but in the 1800’s the death rate from surgery was 50%. In those days this fact was accepted as just the way things went.   Joseph Lister, then a prominent surgeon, was disturbed by the death toll and became intrigued by the research of Louis Pasteur. Up until that time germ theory was not known, and Pasteur showed in his research that faulty fermentation of wine was caused by outside germs entering the wine. This was a bold new idea met with a lot of resistance.  In those days they believed that infections were caused by bad air or that they just happened spontaneously. In those days surgeons took no responsibility for causing infections because they felt they had no part in it.

Due to lack of understanding of how disease was spread,  the surgeons of the 1800’s did not  wash their hands between patients, and even took pride in wearing the same dirty lab coats they wore while operating on previous patients.  The coats were splattered with blood and pus, a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria. These filthy lab coats were worn as a badge of honor and prestige in the medical community, boasting of their accomplishments and experience. It is horrifying to imagine knowing what we know now.

In discovering Pasteur’s research, Lister applied it and developed a sterile technique that was highly successful in reducing infection. He had unheard of success in lowering the rate of infection and saving the lives of hundreds of patients. You would think that his excellent results and breakthroughs would be eagerly accepted. On the contrary, it was met with high resistance, taking another 10 years to adopt his techniques.

In the 1980’s there was another scientist/researcher, Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist at Columbia University, who through much observation and study described a disturbing, pathological phenomenon which he defined as Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS.  He stated that PAS is “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.  Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.  It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent (1998).”

Much like Lister, when parental alienation was defined by Richard Gardner, there was great resistance to it, although he, again like Lister, was not the first to notice this pathological family dynamic.  In the 1950’s, the child psychiatrists who later founded the various schools of family therapy, initially identified a cross-generational coalition between a parent and a child to the deprecation of the other parent and which was observed occurring when their hospitalized patients were visiting with their families.  Murray Bowen labeled this the pathological triangle.

Empirical evidence for parental alienation has been further supported in a 12-year study of 700 families, published by the American Bar Association section of Florida Family Law. The study concluded that, “in divorce situations, parental alienation, the programming of a child against the other parent, occurs regularly, 60 percent of the time, and sporadically another 20 percent of the time.” (Clawar & Rivlin, 1991, pp. 174-180)

We are long overdue to put aside the disputes of whether germs or parental alienation exist and start implementing the interventions and strategies needed to stop this insidious child abuse.  National Parents Organization seeks to end parental alienation by making shared parenting and gender equality the norm in family law in every state.

 

Originally published at: https://nationalparentsorganization.org/component/content/article/16-latest-news/21661-parental-alienation-understanding-it-strategies-to-fight-it

AB-PA Certified Professionals – Dr. Craig Childress

AB-PA Certified Professionals

We are going to establish a standard of practice in the assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

We are then going to move toward professional expertise.  Mental health professionals who know what they’re doing – within standard and established constructs and principles.

Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.

It begins with assessment.

Attachment-related pathology is always created by pathogenic parenting.  A child’s rejection of a parent (attachment-related pathology) is either being caused by the pathogenic parenting of the targeted-rejected parent (through hostile-aggressive child abuse), or it is being caused by the pathogenic parenting of the allied and supposedly “favored” parent (through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other spouse-and-parent).

A semi-structured six-session treatment-focused assessment protocol can identify the source of pathogenic parenting creating the attachment-related pathology.

The Assessment of Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce

AB-PA Certification

There are four mental health professionals that I know of who are qualified to conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment related pathology surrounding divorce.  Each of these mental health professionals has trained with me personally, and each has direct access to me for consultation as needed.  These four mental health professionals are Certified in AB-PA, including administration and documentation of the six-session treatment-focused assessment protocol.

We are establishing a ground foundation of professional knowledge in the standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology required for professional competence, and ultimately for professional expertise.

The Attachment System
Family Systems Therapy
Personality Disorder Pathology
Complex Trauma

Does a mental health professional need to be “certified” to conduct a treatment-focused assessment protocol?  No.  Absolutely not.  All mental health professionals should be conducting a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce right now.  It’s all standard and established professional psychology.

Can they?  I have no idea. I am appalled by the degree of professional ignorance and incompetence that’s out there.

I do know this.  There are four mental health professionals who can.  They are the certified mental health professionals I worked with across three days of seminars in November.  There are four mental health professionals who absolutely know how to conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.

They have the knowledge, and they have my ear if they want consultation on a particularly troubling case.  What’s more they have each other.  They don’t realize this yet, but as things develop I’m planning to encourage a network of inter-professional consultation across AB-PA Certified mental health professionals; to use each other as resources of professional consultation.

What the Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck model of AB-PA provides is a shared common knowledge and language of professional psychology – cross-generational coalitions, emotional cutoffs, personality pathology, splitting, attachment trauma – all understood even before the consultation begins.  The constructs of established professional psychology (Bowlby, Bowen, Beck, Minuchin, Millon) can unravel the diagnostic complexities and treatment issues.

There are four mental health professionals who are certified in AB-PA, who understand the pathology, who know what to do, and who are part of a growing network of professional collaboration.

They are not advocates or friends on Facebook; they don’t offer “advice” on what parents should do.  They work with clients.  They bring solution to family pathology for their clients.  They are a verified source of high-level professional knowledge regarding attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce for families and the Courts.  These four mental health professionals are:

Jayna Haney, MS, LPC Intern:  Houston, Texas.
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Ms. Haney is in a leadership role in bringing professional knowledge and expertise to the solution for “parental alienation.” She has studied with Karen Woodall in Great Britain as well as becoming Advanced Certified in AB-PA with me in November.  Of additional note, Jayna is also trained in EMDR treatment for trauma and brings this additional trauma expertise to her work with the complex trauma of “parental alienation.”  Jayna Haney has my full support, and she has my ear.

Jayna Haney: jayna@thebridgeacross.com

Michelle Jones, LCSW: Provo, Utah.
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Michelle Jones, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker who works with Concordia Families agency in Provo, Utah.  Ms. Jones brings her AB-PA Advanced Certification into a professional clinic already experienced with the family pathology of “parental alienation” and court-involved families.  Michelle Jones and the therapeutic team at Concordia Families has my full support, and they have my ear.

Michelle Jones: mjones@concordiafamilies.com
Concordia Families Website

Nadine Colgan, MS, NCC, LPCMH: Kennett Square, PA
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Ms. Colgan brings a wealth of experience to her work.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Relations, she is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor, she is a National Board Certified Counselor and a Certified Mediator.  Ms. Colgan has extensive experience working with high-conflict divorce and is a strong resource in the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore area.

Nadine Colgan: nadinecr1@nadinecolgan.com
Nadine Colgan Website

Larken J. Sutherland MS, LPC: Corpus Christi, Texas

Larken Sutherland is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Parenting Coordinator/Facilitator in private practice in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Ms. Sutherland is experienced in working with high conflict families and she is Certified in AB-PA, she is a strong resource for families in the Corpus Christi area.  Ms. Sutherland has my full support, and she has my ear.

Additional Certification

Three others also received Certification in AB-PA, one is a legal professional, and two are parent-advocates.

JulieAnne Leonard
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

JulieAnne Leonard is an attorney who is completing her psychology degree in developmental psychology.  Of note is that developmental psychology is a particularly useful domain of knowledge for understanding the influence of parenting on child development.  Ms. Leonard has an extensive background serving as a Guardian ad Litem with high-conflict families.  Through her legal background as an attorney, her extensive experience as a GAL, and her AB-PA Certification, Ms. Leonard represents an exceptionally strong resource for the Court in assisting the Court to identify “parental alienation” pathology and in coordinating effective treatment services for the family.

Peter Knudsen
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Peter Knudsen is a parent-advocate located in the Netherlands.  He is active in bringing the knowledge and protocols of AB-PA to the European mental health system and family courts.  Peter and I are currently collaborating on several avenues for expanding AB-PA into the European mental health and family law systems.  Peter has my full support and he has my ear.

Bryan Hale
Advanced Certified in AB-PA

Bryan Hale is a theology student and parent-advocate completing his degree in theology with the goal of becoming an ordained minister.  I suspect the universe has designs for the life of Mr. Hale.  He brings a unique array of talents to the solution, including a strong background in business and in creating organization support structures for projects and endeavors.  Bryan Hale has my full support, and he has my ear.

Professional Expertise

Jayna Haney
Michelle Jones (Concordia)
Nadine Colgan
Larken Sutherland

I know that these four mental health professionals can conduct a treatment-focused assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce.  These four mental health professionals are a verified resource for knowledge and professional skill sets for families, family law attorneys, and the Court.

As an attorney and Guardian ad Litem, JulieAnne Leonard also represents a strong resource for the Court in helping the Court to identify “parental alienation” and in coordinating the treatment.

Peter Knudsen, Bryan Hale, and I will be working behind the scenes on creating the support structures for change across the entire mental health and family court systems, for all children, everywhere.

As importantly… they are the core for a network of consultation support for each other, each bringing a different facet of knowledge, yet all with a common foundation of knowledge.

Change is Coming

This is not about me.  This is about you.  You are the change.  I am merely a catalyst.  I am simply the clarion call returning professional psychology to the ground foundations of professional psychology; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Millon, Bowen.  You are the agents of change.

We are establishing a ground foundation of knowledge and standards of practice for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.  From this foundation, we then build professional expertise.

The ground foundation is not me.  It’s Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck and the established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

This is about you and your children.  This is about solving the family pathology of “parental alienation” for all children everywhere.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

 

Originally posted by Dr Childress at: https://drcraigchildressblog.com/2018/02/04/ab-pa-certified-professionals/

How do I Get My Husband to Come to Counseling?

Counseling, if done right, is husband friendly! Find the right therapist and you’ll understand. The problem is that many husbands worry that the therapist is going to take their wife’s side and gang up on him, or that therapy will be uncomfortable. While the latter may be true, the former isn’t. A good therapist doesn’t take sides or act as a referee. I have had many couples want to hash out an argument in front of me in counseling so that I can tell them who is right. I stop them, and explain that even if one of them ended up right, that they would be so wrong in their rightness – their marriage would suffer because they insisted on being right instead of compassionate and forgiving. A good therapist, rather, is able to foster healthy interactions between spouses so that they both feel safe and are able to be vulnerable and genuine with each other. When husbands understand that what they feel and think is important, then they are more willing to make this uncomfortable leap with their spouse. Women are more likely than men to initiate therapy, but without buy-in from the man, it is difficult to be successful in therapy. My suggestion to women who want to initiate counseling, but have a reluctant spouse is to recognize that this is scary for your spouse. They may feel as if they will be attacked, or worse yet, that they will lose you. Help them understand that your desire for counseling is because you love him and because you want this to work – but aren’t sure how to make fix it. Ask him to give therapy at least 3 sessions – after that, if he still feels reluctant there might be another counselor or approach that you could try. Most men feel better about therapy after at least 3 sessions if you have the right therapist for you.

 

Originally published on www.tristonmorgan.com

 

The Secret of Pornography

Secrets fuel addiction. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, addictions, such as pornography addictions, are a shame-based experience. This means that when someone uses pornography they feel as if they are a bad person, rather than feeling that they are a good person despite making a mistake. When someone feels shame, they often compartmentalize what they have done – they hid it and separate it from who they think they really are, or, think that that mistake totally defines who they really are.

This is where secrets come into play. Over time, a man (or woman – I’ve worked with both in therapy for pornography issues) who has been using pornography and feeling shame because of it will gather many secrets. He won’t want to tell anyone what he is doing, or won’t want to tell them all that he is doing. He might only present the best parts of himself or just tell enough about his mistakes to others to appease them or to feel like he is being open. But, in fact, he is keeping secrets. These secrets start to bury him and make him feel more shame. They take an effort to maintain and keep hidden. They cause him stress and to feel disconnected from others. All of these things can lead to more addictive acting out.

Being transparent is key. This, in part, is why in the 12-step model of recovery (for alcohol, sexual addiction or substance addiction) addicts are asked to write a fearless moral inventory and to share it. Being open with others can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Many would say, “It’s in the past – let it stay there” or, “I don’t want to hurt her, so I’m not going to tell her about it”. These mindsets only make things worse for someone using pornography and their spouse/family. Telling others and being transparent is on the path towards recovery.

Pornography counseling offers a venue to be transparent and honest with yourself and with your loved ones. A good therapist will help you through this process in a way that might be painful, but certainly not shameful.

Originally published on www.tristonmorgan.com

 

Coming Out – Part 2 Parental Self-Care

When he told me he only had crushes on boys and thats why he never dated, I started crying. 

My son told me not to tell his father that he really feels like a girl. Did I let him play with girls too much? 

I asked my daughter why her best friend identifies as lesbian, and she told me she thinks she may be one too. Im sure she is not. 

When teens come out, the world shifts. Some parents respond with denial, wanting to diminish the news. Others feel anger and want to find out who is responsible. Some parents feel sadness, anticipating a loss of shared values, a loss of future. Denial, anger and sadness are all important aspects of grief processing, and for many parents, responding to a child’s coming out is a grief experience. 

Most children talk with their parents only after years of trying to figure out what is really happening inside, and when they finally tell parents, those years are condensed into a moment that – to a parent – may feel like a dropped bomb. 

After listening to hundreds of stories of parents responding to their children’s expressions of attraction and identity, I’ve seen how important it is for parents to take care of their own emotional health afterward.*  

Here are some valuable principles to keep in mind: 

  1. Take a break to figure yourself out. Denial, anger, and grief are expected. However, if your child feels overwhelmed by your denial, anger and grief, then healthy connecting may be more difficult. Many children “take on” their parents’ reactions and become more isolated. You may want to find another place and time to express and explore your genuine reactions. One mother told her child she loved him and needed some time to figure out her own feelings, and then she spent the afternoon at her sister’s home. Another father immediately called a counselor, reassuring his son that the counseling was intended to help the father provide healthy support for his son.  
  2. Remind yourself, “This is not a crisis.” One mother described feeling completely numb. Because Christmas was only a few days away, she felt both the pressure of the family’s expectation and the heaviness of the news. She found that repeating aloud the words, “This is not a crisis” reminded her that their family would still survive despite the new information.  
  3. It’s normal to feel more upset, even though your child may seem happier. While children often feel relief after sharing feelings with parents, your feelings may begin to resemble a roller-coaster. It may seem unfair that your child has just given you the burden to carry. Breathe through these feelings and recognize that this is normal.  
  4. Find safe people to share what you are feeling. Your child may insist that you tell no one. And although it’s important to honor your child’s sense of privacy, it’s OK to let your child know that you need to talk with someone. Perhaps you and your child can agree on a trusted family member, friend, or counselor.  
  5. Limit your contact with others who are uninformed. Sometimes well-meaning friends and family have advice that is not helpful, or that undermines your confidence in yourself and your child. It’s OK to limit your contact with these people for a period of time. Plan what you will say. “We are working hard to support each other right now and I need to focus on that,” may be helpful to repeat. 

 

And finally, when you ask “Why me?” try switching to the question, “Why not me?” and see what strengths you find in yourself. Chances are you are being called to a deeper way of loving your child and yourself. 

SIDEBAR MATERIAL — Find a Parent Support Group in Utah County 

Find a parent support group. Meeting with other parents in similar situations has been a positive emotional turning point for many. Here are a few in Utah Valley: 

  1. PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meets weekly at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in downtown Provo (provopflag@gmail.com) 
  2. Encircle Parents’ Meeting (Third Sunday of each month at Encircle in Provo) https://encircletogether.org/supportgroups 
  3. Northstar Parents’ Meeting (Quarterly meeting at a parent’s home in Lehi) 

https://www.lds.org/blog/navigating-family-differences-with-love-and-trust?lang=eng  

Next time:  Coming Out Part 3 – What do we do now? 

 

Utah Valley Health and Wellness magazine September/October 2017

Check out articles on health and wellness from our therapists!

 

A Healthy Dose of Back-to-School Anxiety by Brent Black, LMFTA, MS

?????????????????What is a Healthy Dose of Back-to-School Anxiety?  As a family therapist, I often meet with parents who want to know if their child has anxiety and my quick response is “I hope so!” Today the mere mention of the word anxiety tends to induce stomach knots, racing hearts, and cold sweats. However, a proper dosage of anxiety is a key component for healthy and successful children. On the other hand, excessive anxiety and the absence of anxiety are debilitating. Since the launching of school can also launch levels of anxiety for many students, here are a few points for parents to consider as they look forward to a successful year.

MP900405644Too Much?
The better question about anxiety is “does my child have excessive anxiety?” All healthy individuals experience at least some anxiety, but excessive levels of anxiety can lead to harmful behaviors. In order to diagnose an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder they must meet certain criteria which include excessive anxiety or worry more days than not for at least 6 months, difficulty controlling the worry, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or muscle tension. These symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, educational or other significant areas of functioning. So, a helpful question in determining excessive anxiety is — “has my child been significantly impaired for an extended amount of time in important areas of their life because of the anxiety that they feel?”

The beginning of the school year is a fitting time for parents to consider the possibility that their actions might be creating additional anxiety. One parental trend that often leads children to experience greater anxiety is an excessive family emphasis on achievement. Children who feel like they have to achieve in order to win the approval and respect of their parents are often filled with anxiety. Their motivation for achieving becomes less about personal growth and more about fear of letting parents down.

Kids on School BusNot Enough?
The opposite of anxiety is apathy or carelessness. Children who are apathetic give off a vibe of indifference, laziness, boredom, and unconcern. Faces are unflinching and tones are flat. The default response for many questions is simply “I don’t know.” There is not an official term of diagnosis to describe these characters but they are easily identifiable.

One parental trend that could lead a child toward apathy is a parent who is inconsistent, indifferent, and un-opinionated about their child’s success. I see exceptions to this trend, but I am often unsurprised by a child’s apathy after meeting both parents and understanding that a child is simply following the example of at least one of the parents. In these cases the apple really doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

Achieving the Right Amount of Anxiety
???????????????????????A great question from parents is ‘how do I help my children have the proper amount of anxiety?’ One of the best ways of helping kids reduce to a healthy level of anxiety is by maintaining high expectations while also assuring children both verbally and non-verbally that parental love is not dependent on child outcomes. In other words, parents need to convey that regardless of achievement level their children will always be genuinely loved.
One of the main ways that parents can increase the anxiety level of their apathetic children is to get actively involved. Parents who sincerely check-in and follow-up with their children are likely to see the kind of anxiety that will help motivate their children to succeed.

Although anxiety is often viewed in a negative light, a healthy dosage of anxiety helps children to be successful. Of concern are children who are experiencing excessive anxiety or no anxiety at all. Great parents are those who feel appropriate anxiety about helping their children to be balanced in their anxiety.

brentAbout the Author: Brent is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. During his Master’s Degree at Brigham Young University he worked at Wasatch Mental Health where he gained experience in working with families who have children that struggled with depression, anxiety, autism, trauma, or addictions. Learn more about Brent at st.georgefamilies.com.

Gratitude: More Powerful than Stress by Dr. Lee Johnson

balanceMany of us are overly stressed. We strive to balance our demands at home, work, and other community obligations. With these competing demands it is easy to understand why people don’t want to add anything else to our busy life. However, there is one emotion that has the power to put stress in its place—gratitude.
Stress is a chronic problem and wastes our energy and can actually have a negative impact on our health and our personal relationships (Childre & Martin, 1999). Researchers have discovered that our heart is much more than a pump. Our heart is part of our nervous system and even has it own brain. Additionally, researchers originally thought that our brain controlled our heart but we now know that our heart can influence and even override signals from our brain while regulating our body (Childre & Martin, 1999). In sending signals to our brain and to aid in body regulation our heart produces neurotransmitters and hormones. One of these is hormones is atrial natriuretic factor (ATF) or the “balance hormone”. This hormone regulates many of our bodily functions, blood pressure, and electrolyte balance (Childre & Martin, 1999). Gratitude is one of the keys to having our systems balanced to facilitate being calm and relaxed.
debtGetting away from some of the negative thoughts and feelings in our head such as frustration, anger and stress and focusing on our hearts with positive feelings of affection, appreciation, love, compassion and gratitude keep or heartbeat consistent and coherent and allow us to perform at our best (Childre & Martin, 1999). When I am overly stressed or negative, I have found that gratitude or appreciation is one of the easier positive emotions on which to focus to reduce the stress. An example from my life will illustrate how this works.
Lone Tree in SnowOne night it snowed a lot. I was scheduled to go for an 8 mile run the next morning. I grew up with cold winters and spent many childhood winters playing in the snow and as a teenager many weekends skiing. However, since moving to the south I have come to appreciate the warm winter weather and the luxury of year around training outside. I looked out the window and the negativity started; I hate being cold, I don’t need this workout, I can’t run that far, etc. With encouragement from my wife I got dressed and headed out. I discovered early on that I was correct—it was cold outside and I hated it, my legs felt like cement and I had strong doubts about completing the workout, and I thought I should just stop and go home. As I rounded a corner the wind started to blow snow from the trees into the sunlight. It was absolutely beautiful. My focus shifted from negativity and doubt to appreciation for the scenery, my ability to run, and being grateful to be outside. My ability to perform dramatically improved. My legs lightened up, I did not notice the cold and had a great run. What made the difference? I shifted to positive emotions (different from just positive thoughts) and the subsequent physiological heartbeat changes that accompany those feelings. I have used this moment as a guide and I have had similar experiences when work, family, or other obligations have stressed me.

 

So what is the key to applying this information to reducing stress? Shift your focus to the positive emotion of appreciation or gratitude. It may be helpful to focus on the scenery, the enjoyment you get out of your family, or think of someone you love and appreciate. This is more involved than making a list of things you are grateful for, it is focusing on theses things until you feel the appreciation or gratitude. It is important to practice these skills at various times during the day. Build them into your day and make them a part of your routine. While these skills take practice the return on the little investment of time will be worth the rewards.

Reference: Childre, D. & Martin, H. (1999). The heartmath solution. San Francisco: Harper.

 

 

LeeAbout the Author: Dr. Lee Johnson is a faculty member in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Brigham Young University. He is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, AAMFT approved supervisor, and a USAT Certified Triathlon Coach.