We are proud to announce one of our therapists, Jenifer Costigan was invited as a guest speaker and appeared on the "Love, Sex, and Religion" podcast.
To listen click on the link below:
We are proud to announce one of our therapists, Jenifer Costigan was invited as a guest speaker and appeared on the "Love, Sex, and Religion" podcast.
To listen click on the link below:
With the new year merely hours away, many people are considering making healthy changes for 2016. Some choose to take up a cooking class or go skydiving, but on average most of us focus on making a health conscious effort to work out, stay away from processed foods, or quit smoking. The latter is most difficult for us to conquer since these types of behaviors have become part of our lives for too long. When attempting to make changes there are two things to consider in helping you reach your goals: establishing a support system & changing your environment.
First of all, what is a habit? It can be defined as something that we do often enough that eventually becomes automatic. We make an association between the behavior and the goal. “When I do this, I get that.” A pattern begins to emerge and in turn becomes a habit. So, we eat a bag of cheesy popcorn after a long day at work. It provides us with a sense of relief. The next time we suffer another grueling day, we are more likely to turn to that bag of gold to cheer us up. After a while, we learn that eating cheese spray popcorn makes us feel better.
Now you want to break the bad habit.
Support System - Get a buddy system set up. A research study reported that couples who supported each other and committed to making the same changes together were more successful than those who did not. Holding each other accountable can be helpful in staying on track. Also, it can be nice to know that you can relate to each other and have a good understanding of the level of difficulty you may each be experiencing. Having someone join you while working at a new behavior can also make it more fun than going at it alone. Set small, realistic goals, and celebrate as you accomplish each one. Ask your partner or find a friend who is looking to make similar changes to increase your success rate!
Change in Environment – When dealing with an old habit, chances are you are stuck in a routine or pattern. In order to tackle this problem, it may be necessary to change your surroundings. Cues exist in a pattern to elicit the old habit. These cues serve as reminders to perform the habit. You can trick and alter the cue by changing your environment. Research has demonstrated that moving to another city or going on vacation are great ways to form new habits since the same environmental cues no longer exist, so pay attention to when and how the habit occurs. For instance, if you find that you need comforting after a hard day at work, put that cheesy popcorn on the highest pantry shelf! Place more desirable products at front and center. Basically, make it easier to do the things you want to do and harder to do the things you no longer wish to continue.
Changing a bad habit into a good habit will take time and patience. Studies have shown that new habits can take anywhere from 15 to 254 days to be fully established. The key is to repeat new behaviors until they become as stable as the ones prior to them. At the same time, allow for slip ups. Habits are not easy to break and you may find yourself guilt-ridden over the cheese spray coma you are experiencing. It is okay. Give yourself a break. You will start again the next day.
Good luck! I wish you the best! And have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Can you remember the last time your partner made a positive comment about you? Or do you feel regularly criticized by your partner instead? When negative interactions outweigh the positive ones in your relationship it may be hard to even recall the positive qualities in your partner. Although there are no quick fixes to ensure you will live a fairy tale relationship with only positive interactions with your partner, there is a strategy I will discuss in this post that can lead to a happier, more stable and connected relationship.
Dr. John Gottman, researcher and clinical psychologist, has studied couples for many years to find out what makes marriages successful or end in divorce. He found that expressing fondness, encouragement, and admiration toward one another could go a long way in maintaining a strong marital relationship. This may seem obvious, but in addition he found that happy and stable couples share more positive feelings and actions than negatives ones even when facing conflict. Happy and stable couples may continue to experience some negative interactions, yet the key is in the balance. According to Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. This means that for every 1 negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be 5 positive feelings or interactions.
So if you feel that your relationship is not practicing the magic ratio, here are some things to help you start increasing positive feelings or interactions.
Show care and concern
Listen to understand
Aim for the magic ratio and watch your relationship blossom!
I’m sure you’ve all read about, or at least have heard about, the big sex scandal that is surrounding Lamar Odom. Before we begin, let’s do a little recap. Mr. Odom had a four-day stay at a legal brothel in Nevada where it was reported that he had been mixing alcohol, cocaine, and herbal Viagra pills. On the fourth day there, Mr. Odom was found unconscious in his bed. In a few of the articles I have read, the brothel owner stated that Mr. Odom had taken about 10 of the herbal Viagra pills within his four-day stay there. This trending story has inspired me to write this blog for you guys on the benefits, as well as the health concerns that come with taking any herbal Viagra supplement.
There are numerous pills out there that are labeled as male sexual enhancement pills, all which are not FDA approved. The main reason why the FDA does not approve these is because they contain an ingredient, which is not listed on the package, called sildenafil, or more commonly known as Viagra. Sildenafil is never listed on the packages because one has to have a prescription from a doctor in order to obtain Viagra; whereas anyone can simply buy an herbal Viagra pill from a gas station or their nearest sex shop.
Lets start with the good news, the advantages to taking an over the counter Viagra. Due to the main ingredient being sildenafil, it will work just like Viagra does. These pills will help increase blood flow to the penis, resulting in a stronger, firmer erection. These pills will also increase the girth size of the penis, again, because the blood vessels running along the shaft are dilating, allowing more blood to flow through. These pills are also known to help increase a man’s stamina; therefore he will be able to last longer than he normally does. Also, after the man ejaculates, these pills will help him regain another erection in less time than it usually takes.
Now on to the bad news…these pills do come with some health and safety concerns. All of these pills are vasodilators, meaning they help the blood vessels expand, which in turn lowers a man’s blood pressure. Most of these pills come with a warning on the back stating that the user should talk to their doctor about taking the pill prior to using them; especially men who are already dealing with high blood pressure, have heart problems, and/or have diabetes. Mixing any other medication, especially pertaining to these health concerns, can be very dangerous, if not fatal. Most of the pill packages even advise not to take more than one pill within a 72hour period—which Mr. Odom exceeded.
All in all, I hope the Lamar Odom scandal didn’t scare anyone away from trying any of the over the counter herbal Viagra pills. I do, however, hope that it has shed some light onto the risks and consequences that can result from not paying attention to the warning labels and not talking to your doctor first. These pills can, after all, help boost a man’s confidence and liven up your sex life!
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
• 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
For many survivors, the discussion of past child sexual abuse (CSA) is a difficult one to have. More often than not, these group of people wait at least five years before disclosing their traumatic story to another soul. And, even though the abuse occurred when the victim was a child or an adolescent, the majority do not disclose until they reach their adult years. A great part of the victim’s life has changed, and sadly enough, their struggle is one that they endure in a covert and yet, emotionally tumultuous manner.
Family dynamics plays a big part in deciding whether or not to reveal their abuse. Too often, sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a family member or close family friend. This complicates matters for the CSA victim. The young individual is greatly betrayed and can lose trust in adults. Consequently, trust and intimacy are two valuable components that are necessary to achieve a healthy relationship. Interpersonal relationships become compromised. Women of CSA are more likely to be re-victimized in their adult relationships.
As the individual attempts to continue on in their day-to-day life, it becomes a struggle to juggle their secret and maintain a life that appears “normal.” CSA victims can be affected in many ways. Some suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Other symptoms include hypervigilance, irritability, sleep disorders, low self-esteem, panic attacks, promiscuity, and more. There are many challenges the victim will face. But even more daunting, is the idea that they feel alone and misunderstood.
After years of secrecy, it can seem difficult to come out and speak about the past abuse. Seeking professional help is recommended. Working with a therapist, the CSA survivor can make decisions on how, when, or if he or she will disclose to family or friends. The adult survivor can begin to explore and examine the results of CSA in the safe and confidential environment of counseling. Together, a plan can be made to help ease the process of disclosure and discover healthy ways to cope with negative thoughts and emotions. No longer does the survivor have to walk alone.
“Hummingbird shows us how to re-visit the past for the purpose of releasing it instead of being caught in a permanently backward flight pattern. It also helps us to see that if we step aside we may see our life differently. Hummingbird teaches us to transcend time, to recognize that what has happened in the past and what might happen in the future is not nearly as important as what we are experiencing now. It teaches us to hover in the moment, to appreciate its sweetness.”
– Constance Barrett Sohodski
Hall, M., & Hall, J. (2011). The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse: Counseling implications. Retrieved from http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/vistas11/Article_19.pdf
University of Montreal. (2010, January 22). Disclosing sexual abuse is critical. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 7, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100119121422.htm
Youth Villages. (2012, April 13). In child sexual abuse, strangers aren't the greatest danger, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120413100854.htm
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 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201005/is-there-marital-life-after-affair
Heitler, Susan. (2011, Nov 1). Recovery from an affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201111/recovery-affair
McCarthy, Barry W. (2012, Jan 2). Sexual recovery from an extramarital affair. [Web log post] Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/whats-your-sexual-style/201201/sexual-recovery-extramarital-affair
“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.
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
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.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION
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.
THE SCHOOL WORK
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!