Family Therapy

It’s Storytime!

One of my favorite pastimes is reading.  When I was a young girl, I would check out the maximum allowed books at a time and then return for more before the given due date.  Then as a new mom, I discovered my passion for reading to my kids.  This type of reading is very different from reading alone.  It’s more interactive and can be very entertaining.  I found that reading was a great way to connect and bond with my children, and at the same time, it provided my girls with the foundation for learning and building creativity.

There are many benefits to reading, for both kids and adults.  Reading can help us overcome stress, protect us from memory decline, increase empathy, and improve comprehension and language skills. Some studies have shown that keeping our minds active by engaging in a stimulating activity, such as reading, can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, it’s important to instill a love for reading at an early age so that we can reap the benefits for years to come.   And it’s fun!     

Here are some tips to make reading enjoyable for you and your kids.

  • Start reading to your kids at an early age.  Young children won’t have a long attention span, but short picture books will suffice.  As they get older, reading time can increase.    

  • Provide a positive home reading environment.  Express a good attitude towards reading.  Let them know how much you find it to be rewarding.  Expand their horizon and vocabulary by supplying your child with various types of books.        

  • Make it a routine.  Bedtime is a favorite!  It’s a great way to decompress after a long day and spend quality time together.  These are memories you and your child will treasure for a lifetime.  

  • Be curious.  Get kids thinking by asking what they suppose will happen in the next page or two.  Will the mouse get the cookie?  What do you think he’ll want next?  The more interested you seem, the more intrigued they become.

  • Use funny voices.  Use a variety of voices for different characters.  I personally loved Charlie and Lola by English writer, Lauren Child, since it gave me a chance to perfect my British accent!  And in a kid’s voice at that!  

  • Point and sound out words.  Recent research shows preference for sounding out words like C-A-T, rather than memorizing the whole word.  Pointing helps children learn the process of reading from left to right and top to bottom.  Reading aloud and pointing is a great tool in guiding kids to make the connection between letters, words, and meaning.

As the weather cools, snuggle up and read a good book with your kids.  Or if you feel the need to get out and interact with others, story time at a local bookstore is a great way to meet other parents and children of similar age. Kids grow up way too fast, and they’ll be reading on their own before you know it.  So take the opportunity while you can!  You’re building memories with your kids and making a difference in their overall well-being and health.         


Coping Skills With Our 5 Senses

Coping Skills are those strategies that we use to deal and process life stressors, conflict and emotions. Coping skills can range from positive and healthy to negative and unhealthy, all depending on how they are used. Do your current coping skills help you overcome and manage stress and emotional turmoil? Or do they hide issues and emotions that are usually not worked through? Using healthy coping strategies on a regular basis will help provide balance in your overall mental health and provide support when life gets harder. If you already use coping skills on a regular basis, congratulations, keep adding and refreshing more skills to your coping spectrum!

Being in the mental health profession, I have been able to observe coping skills that have been effective for many of my clients. Provided below are some of these coping skills that I have either utilized myself or seen to be helpful for others. Read the ideas below and explore what unique combination of coping skills could help you today!
• Chew a piece of ice or eat some ice cream or drink cold water
• Breathe! Take 5 deep breaths: think about releasing tension and negative thoughts each time you exhale.
• Move Around: stretch, take a walk, exercise
• Take a shower, feel the warmth and imagine your anxiety washing away
• Hug a friend or a family member

• Watch your favorite movie or comedy show
• Allow yourself to daydream for 10 minutes
• Look at pretty things: flowers, art, or study the sky
• Paint, draw or doodle
• Look through old pictures
• Peel an orange or lemon and notice the smell of the oils
• Place a fragrance that is pleasant for you on your wrist: lavender, peppermint of favorite perfume
• Do some baking-enjoy the mixture of aromas and soothing movements of mixing ingredients
• Make herbal tea and focus on the smell while you enjoy your drink
• Listen to music that helps soothe you
• Read a quote or favorite scripture out loud
• Sing
• Pause and listen to 3 sounds you hear around you (Ie..rain drops, wind, laughter)
• Have a conversation with someone who listens and you can trust
• Name 5 positive things in your life
• Write yourself an “I love you because…” letter
• Make a to-do list: focus on top 3 to decrease feeling overwhelmed

Surviving the Damages from an Affair

What exactly is an affair?  Many people have different definitions for this word.  Some people believe an affair is having a sexual relationship with someone outside of the relationship, others believe becoming emotionally attached to someone else is considered having an affair, while some believe the act of watching pornography could be considered an affair.  This is why it is so important to communicate individual expectations with your partner in where healthy boundaries and limits can be established in order to protect your relationship.  

If an affair within the relationship does occur, it can be very detrimental to the relationship, as well as to the non-offending partner.  However, just because damage has been done, does not mean it cannot be repaired!  It won’t happen overnight, but with the guidance and support of a skilled professional, it can be done.

You may be asking yourself, “How?”  A licensed therapist will be able to help the couple identify the underlying contributions to the affair.  The shared responsibility of these contributions may not be equal; however, addressing each partner’s role in the relationship could provide clues on issues that weakened the relationship prior to the affair.  This can help the couple prevent these circumstances in the future.  A therapist will also help the couple with improving their communication patterns.  They will learn how to “communicate more sensitively, how to listen with more respect, how to talk about sensitive issues without anger or criticism, and how to offer more positivity…” (Heitler, 2011).  The most difficult aspects of surviving the affair are forgiveness and trust.  Be prepared for the long haul while repairing these pieces.  It can, however, be done while working with a therapist through the anger, pain, and fears. 

Once the communication gate is open and flowing, and the partners have repaired trust, it may be time to explore restoring the couple’s intimacy.  In the beginning, sexual intimacy may be compared to the intimacy that occurred during the affair.  The therapist can help the couple come back together in order to achieve more enjoyable and pleasurable intimacy that may have been missing or lacking previously.  

With all of this being said, in order for the couple to survive this rainstorm, both partners have to be willing to repair the damages together.  This can all be done with the support and help from a professional therapist.  Some couples even report developing an even stronger and more intimate relationship after surviving the affair!


Bloom, Charlie & Bloom, Linda. (2010, May 10). Is there (marital) life after an affair? [Web log post] Retrieved from

Heitler, Susan. (2011, Nov 1). Recovery from an affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from

McCarthy, Barry W. (2012, Jan 2). Sexual recovery from an extramarital affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from

From Sibling Rivalry to Sibling Revelry: It CAN Happen!

“Mom!  Jimmy hit me!”  

“Well what were you doing to him?”  

“Nothing!  He started it!”

Do you find this being typical dialogue in your home?  At some point in parenting, if you have more than one child, sibling rivalry will rear its ugly head.  We can’t escape it entirely, but there are ways to lessen this problematic situation.  

Let’s begin by defining it.  According to Merriam-Webster, it is a “competition between siblings especially for the attention, affection, and approval of their parents.”  Oh man!  That sure does put parents in an awkward position.  

Who argues?

Although all kids have a tendency to argue, the closer-in-age and same-gender children tend to have more drama than any other set of siblings.  Being similar puts kids at a higher advantage for promoting competition.  The closeness in age can put pressure on the younger one to keep up with the older one, and if they are of the same gender, both kids can find themselves competing for the attention of a specific parent.  

Normal or Not?

You often hear parents explain, “Oh, they fight like any other normal set of siblings.”  But what is normal?  Compare one person’s perspective to the next and it may be completely different.  A better way to examine it might be to consider how often sibling rivalry occurs in the home and how intensely it is experienced.  How does their rivalry affect the family dynamics and each member individually?  

In 2012, a research study indicated that conflictual sibling rivalry is closely related to negative behaviors such as aggression and anti-social tendencies (including substance use), whereas healthy sibling relationships are linked to positive interactions with friends and intimate partners, a greater ability to adjust to academic pressures, and improved prosperity and mental health. In a separate study (2013), sibling aggression is closely linked to the decline of positive mental health.  Additionally, whether aggression comes from a sibling or a peer, the effects on well-being are the same.   

On a positive note, recent research shows that parents can also benefit from practicing conflict resolution with the kids in the home.  During the study, as parents taught and guided their children to communicate positively with siblings, mom and dad were able to borrow the same tactics.  Parents became better at managing their own emotions, therefore improving their overall mental health.  

So what can you do?

Avoid comparisons and labels.  Comparing one child to the next only promotes competition. Instead, acknowledge their own interests and express your support for their individuality.  Oftentimes, children are given labels in the family such as “the smart one” or “the artsy one.”  It may seem harmless, but placing labels can actually restrict the child from attempting something they find to be challenging.  

Don’t get caught in the middle.  Don’t act as a judge or try to determine who is right and who is wrong.  This only creates more conflict and hostility between siblings.  First, allow siblings to resolve their own arguments, although if you see the argument escalating or getting out of hand, then it is time to step in.  Never allow kids to become physically abusive with one another.  Nonetheless, use this opportunity to guide them to making good decisions about communication.  Listen to what they are trying to say to each other and steer clear from making criticisms.  Many times, kids have difficulty expressing themselves which only frustrates them even more.  You might try something like, “It sounds like what your brother is trying to say is…” or “What do you hear your sister say?” Ask each child to clarify if the message is coming across inaccurately.        

Spend “quality” time with each child.  Spend time with each child and as a family.  This does not mean you have to spend a lot of money or a great deal of time.  Life can get pretty busy but a 10 minute “quality” conversation can go a long way with kids.  Put the phone away and make sure your child gets your full attention.  Ask questions and show interest.  The more your kid feels connected to you, the less they feel the need to act out or compete with their sibling.  

Aside from taking certain steps to minimize sibling rivalry, it’s necessary to understand the longstanding emotional and mental effects that can occur if ignored.  Although sibling rivalry might be all too common in our society, it does not excuse us from being proactive.  As parents we want to see our children thrive and grow, and part of becoming that healthy individual means learning to resolve conflict with others.  The early relationship building experiences a child receives can leave a lasting impact on their mental health for years to come, but also your own!  



Feinberg, M.E., Solmeyer, A.R., Hostetler, M.L., Sakuma, K., Jones, D., & McHale, S.M. (2012). Siblings are special: Initial test of a new approach for preventing youth behavior problems. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(2), 166-173.  doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.10.004

Ravindran, N., Engle, J.M., McElwain, N.L., & Kramer, L. Fostering parents’ emotion regulation through a sibling-focused experimental intervention. (2015). Journal of Family Psychology, 29(3), 458-468.  doi: 10.1037/fam0000084

Tucker, C.J., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2013). Association of sibling aggression with child and adolescent mental health. Pediatrics, 132(1), 79-84. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3801

Where Did The Summer Go?

Guess what time is quickly approaching…yep! Back to School!!!  

My daughters are beginning new schools this year.  One begins high school while the other starts middle school.  However, I worry more about my 11 year old since the changes from elementary to middle school can be more pronounced.  All of a sudden, kids now have to manage their own schedules, decide where to sit for lunch, and designate their own study time all while trying to make new friends, navigating through an unfamiliar, larger school, and taking on an increased workload.

So here are some areas to consider in easing your child’s anticipation for the new school year experience.  While these are mainly geared toward middle schoolers, they can easily be applied to any student.  


Oftentimes, it’s the straightforward information that can be most helpful.  Planning ahead of time can cut back on frustration and anxiety on the part of both parent and child.  

Consider attending an orientation.  Before school begins, get a copy of your child’s class schedule and explore the school layout so your child can become familiar with the new setting.  Walk your kid to each class and locate the closest restrooms.  Kids can be given as little as 4 minutes between classes.

Buy a lock and practice the new combination.  There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to unlock a locker when you are crunched for time and you have to remember how to get to your next class.  Have him or her practice the lock and memorize the combination.

Make copies of pertinent information.  Kids have to juggle a ton of information in that first week.  Make sure to supply your child with two copies of their class schedule in case they lose one.  Also, make sure they have the necessary information regarding bus and lunch schedules.      


With each new stage in a kid’s school career, there is the expectation that class work becomes more difficult.  Of course, there is nothing we can do as parents to unload them of this burden, but there are things we can do to help them increase their efficiency and productivity.  

Practice time management & organization skills.  Buy your child a planner and/or calendar.  Assist him or her in scheduling due dates for projects and homework.  Purchase post-it notes, index cards, and highlighters for organizing and building study skills.  

Set realistic academic goals.  Let them know that you are proud of their efforts more so than the grade.  Reward them accordingly.  I am not a big believer in paying for grades but instead rewarding kids through appreciation and acknowledgment.  Kids are quite capable of doing well in school.  It’s the times they struggle that we need to pay attention to how we respond.  Ask yourself:  Was the grade acceptable for the type of work that was performed?  Are my academic expectations for my child reasonable?  And, how can I teach or guide my child to make improvements?   

Keep an open dialogue with your kid’s teachers.  Communication between parent and teacher is essential in helping your child through challenging times.  A teacher can keep you tuned in to what goes on in school before something becomes a situation.  

Encourage socializing.  While it’s not a great idea to talk in class, it is wise to exchange email addresses or phone numbers with another student in each class.  There will be times when your kid will miss class and having a fellow student who can communicate class assignments can help your kid from falling behind.


First day of school can be intimidating for kids especially when they are the new kid.  This is a great time to talk with them about their expectations and discuss past experiences.  When anxiety becomes prominent in a child’s mind, he or she may forget their own successes from previous school years.

Encourage extracurricular activities.  Making new friends can be a daunting task but getting your child involved in sports or an afterschool organization can ease their woes of being an outsider.  Just make sure it’s an activity your child enjoys.  

Plan weekend hangouts.   If your kid is at a new school, chances are, they miss a friend from their previous school.  Allow your child to reconnect with old friends over the weekend.  Also, show support for new, budding relationships by inviting new friends over after school or on the weekends.      

Consider emotional growth.  Keep in mind that with all the new changes taking place, your kid is dealing with one that needs to be taken into account.  Puberty!  Yes this is a fun one!  Even the sweetest of kids can turn into scary little creatures.  Be sympathetic and understanding.  Sometimes they just need to feel supported and accepted.    

I hope these tips help you in the new school year!  Remember you are their #1 teacher.  YOU have the ability to influence your kid’s new school year experience.  Good luck and have a great year!

Sex Therapy FAQs

Typically, when people ask me what I do I tell them that I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Associate and that I am working towards specializing in Sex Therapy.  Once that cat gets out of the bag, in come the questions!  I have found that there are a lot of misunderstandings as to what it really means to be a sex therapist and what exactly happens during a session focused on sex therapy.   So, I have compiled a list of the most common questions that people tend to ask.  

Q: “Does a sex therapist have sex with their clients?”                                                       A: NO!!! Definitely not!  Sex therapy is just like any other type of psychotherapy; all you do is talk. 

Q: “Does the couple have sex with each other in front of the sex therapist?”                     A:  Again, NO!!! There is no touching of any kind, nor are any sexual acts played out. However, the therapist may encourage the couple to go home and try an exercise that was discussed during the session, if they are comfortable with it.

Q: “Do you have to be in a relationship to go to sex therapy?”                                         A: Not at all!  Although sex therapists typically see couples, there are times when an individual is dealing with sexual problems of their own.  

Q: “What type of issues does a sex therapist help with?”                                                 A: Sex therapists generally help discover different emotional issues that are creating sexual problems between the couple. Sex therapists also help people who are dealing with issues such as: lack of desire, difficulty achieving orgasm, difficulty getting and/or maintaining an erection, premature ejaculation, pain during penetrative sex, unwanted fetishes, and sexual addiction.  

Q: “Does a sex therapist ever get embarrassed or uncomfortable during session?”             A: Due to the sex therapist’s extensive knowledge in the field, nothing you say will embarrass the therapist, nor should it embarrass you!  Just like any other therapist, your issues will be treated with compassion and understanding.  (And don’t worry, your sex therapist has probably already heard of anything and everything there is to do with sex at least once!)

Q: “Is my relationship ruined if my partner and I have to go see a sex therapist?”             A: Absolutely not!!! Even though most people tend to wait too long to seek professional help, seeing a sex therapist, by no means, implies that there is no hope for your relationship. In reality, coming to therapy shows a lot of strength in the relationship; it shows that your relationship is something worth fighting for.  Seeking help from a sex therapist can allow your sex life to flourish and liven up like you’ve never seen it before (and who doesn’t want that!).

I hope this entry has helped broaden your view on what sex therapy really is and I hope it has helped fight any stigma that may be keeping you, and your partner, from getting the help you really need and deserve from a sex therapist!