"So, I bring them every week so that you can play together? How does that help?"
The question above is one of my favorite questions that I routinely get from parents. As someone that utilizes play therapy techniques I can understand why it might be difficult to understand. The truth is that play therapy can be very helpful for many children, and even adults. There are many reasons why play therapy works, but I've compiled my top three.
1. Play is a child's universal language.
Play therapy is to children what talk therapy is to adults. Many times children don't have the complex language skills to verbalize what occurred and how they are feeling about it. They might become frustrated when trying to explain something and feeling misunderstood. Play therapy allows a child to play out various occurrences as well as identify their emotional responses to them. They can communicate this all through play.
2. Practice makes perfect.
The old adage that practice makes perfect is no different in the play therapy room. Play therapy can be a great opportunity to teach social skills and behavioral skills and then try them out in session. The child feels safe in their space with their therapist and can practice these skills, knowing that there are no consequences for making mistakes. Essentially, the child can practice, practice, practice, until they feel like they've mastered a skill and are ready to move on.
3. It makes people feel good.
Have you ever tried to make an angry face and blow a bubble? It's a very difficult thing to do. Just the act of play alone can brighten ones mood. It can serve as a release from current stressors, or a way to distract and redirect negative feelings. Play itself can release serotonin in the brain, which causes a positive, calming effect.
No matter whet verbal language you speak, you can use play to express yourself. This natural language of children is one that can have many therapeutic benefits.
A study by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2014 found that 15.7 million adults in the U.S., between the age of 18 and above, experienced at least one depressive episode in the last one year. It has also been determined that people in certain professionals have a higher risk of suffering from depression. For example, lawyers and doctors have a high potential for experiencing depression. Despite the glaring facts on depression, a few people know much about its nature and impact.
Depression is Different For Different People
There is no one size fits all sign of depression. However, depression is easy to recognize when it is characterized by sadness. Some of the other signs and symptoms of depression include:
Depression is Different From An Episode of Sadness
Sadness is one facet of depression but it does not necessarily define depression. You may be sad but not depressed. Sadness is a reaction to hard times in life and is likely to pass with time. On the other hand, depression interferes with normal functioning and daily life. It causes pain for you and the ones you care about. It is a real illness that is often referred to as clinical depression or depressive disorder. You cannot simply get over depression; most of the people suffering from this condition require treatment.
Depression Could Be Genetic
New studies have revealed that depression may be genetic. According to a new study, certain regions in the human DNA are associated with the disorder. Scientists discovered that there are around 15 genes in the human chemical makeup that are involved with depression. These same genes are linked to the development of neurons, the chemical messengers in the brain.
Diet Contributes To Depression
Whatever you consume can either boost or dampen your mood. Studies have found that foods containing vitamin B12, omega 3 fatty acids, and tryptophan amino acids change the fats in your brain membrane and promote the production of brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. On the other hand, processed foods and refined sugars increase blood glucose levels and aggravate depression.
Regular Exercise Can Alleviate Depressive Feelings
Exercise is one measure you can take to avoid depressive feelings. Exercise boosts endorphins, serotonin, and other brain chemicals. Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells the same way anti-depressants do.
Depression Affects Women More Than It Affects Men
Studies show that women have a high likelihood of suffering from depression than men. The reason for this can be partly attributed to a woman's hormones. Women are likely to experience depression when they are pregnant or after a pregnancy because of hormonal changes. Another difference is that women are more likely to reveal their condition while men will go through self-denial and feelings of shame before taking their condition seriously. There is also the factor that women tend to outlive men and; therefore, encounter loneliness and other difficult times in life when compared to men.
Depression Does Not Have To Be Triggered By Anything
While a difficult period or a discouraging or heart breaking episode may trigger depression, sometimes there is no explanation for depression. Since it is an illness, depression can pounce on you at any time. If you suddenly lose interest in things you normally enjoy, lose your appetite, or start gaining weight, these may be signs that your depression is caused by some biological process. In such cases, it would be advisable to consult a doctor.
Depression May Be Normal For Some People
While some people may experience temporary episodes of depression, others have depressive personalities that are constant throughout their lives. The best way to deal with such a condition would be acceptance and adaptation. Many people are able to survive with these depressive personalities. In fact, successful depressives have been observed to be sensitive, empathetic, and deep thinkers.
There Are Different Types of Depression
Depression can take on many forms. Some people may experience mild depression which is usually common after some life-changing event. Post partum depression affects new mothers whereas psychotic depression affects people who are suffering from psychosis. Persistent depressive disorder lasts for at least 2 years whereas seasonal affective disorder develops during specific seasons.
The Take Away
Depression is a clinical condition that many tend to take lightly. This illness does not discriminate on whether you are a child or adult, and affects people differently. There are many forms of depression with varying signs and symptoms. If you suspect that you or a loved one is depressed, you need to consult a physician before the condition gets worse.
Parenting can be exhausting, especially with a child that has difficulty remaining focused. Reminding them of tasks over and over again like tidy up their room, finish their homework, follow instructions, go to bed on time. Once they’re finally asleep, you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.
Kids that have issues with attention regulation (whether they have been diagnosed with AD/HD or not) definitely require different parenting approaches where the key is in patience and plenty of support.
The main challenges for these kiddos are typically in decision-making, planning and organizing. They often have difficulty controlling their impulses, completing activities, and following through.
Stay positive. Be calm. Appreciate your child. Here are some tips that may help.
1)Set the Rules and Expectations
Every child needs structure. Kids with attention deficit issues especially need a routine to follow and predictive patterns. Help your child understand the expectations by setting a precise time and place for all the activities in your home. Set the limits and explain the consequences. Establish and sustain at-home-structure, to help your child understand what to expect, as well as what they are expected to do. Whenever possible, use positive reinforcement.
2)Encourage Physical Activity and Enough Sleep
You child needs to burn their energy and it’s your job to come up with constructive and healthy activities that will help your little superhero get that energy out. One of the major benefits of physical activity for children with attention deficits is in concentration improvement. In sports they practice focusing their attention on specific skills or movements. Of course, there is also the added benefit of them burning that energy and coming home ready to nap.
Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Let your child feel free and connected to nature. You’ll find spending an afternoon in the park or on the beach beneficial for yourself as well.
3)Help Your Child Improve Social Skills
A Peer group plays an extremely important role in your child’s life. Kids with attention deficits may have some difficulties in interacting socially with others. Encourage your child to make friends and teach them how to interact with others. Help them learn social rules and skills and understand non-verbal communication signs.
4)Take Care of Yourself and Stay Positive
Don’t lose yourself. Make room in your daily life for meeting with friends, sports, meditation or any other activity that helps you feel relaxed and happy. Get enough sleep, eat well and stay positive. You have to have a full cup to pour from in order to share with your child.
This is our final article in the Positive Parenting series. Interested in seeing other parenting topics? Email us and let us know what you're looking for. Info@GreaterHoustonCounselingServices.com.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017 and had devastating effects on all of Southeast Texas. Many homes went without power and water for days, or were washed away altogether. Devastations such as these are hard to deal with as an adult, but how do you help your child that has been affected by
Trauma responses in children look different than adults. They are often confused with other symptoms such as sadness and anxiety, but may be in fact related to the trauma. It gets even more complicated in that some children don't talk about their traumatic experiences at all; however, this doesn't mean they are not thinking about them. Some children will show them through their play and interactions with others.
Be watchful and listen to what they are saying as well as what they are not.
Some taumas are inevitable. Death and natural disasters are examples of some traumas that we cannot
shield our children from. So how do we help them cope? Some children may have lost all of their clothes
and toys, or maybe their schools were flooded and they cannot return. Using child friendly language to
explain to them these events and life changes can be helpful in their coping. Draw pictures with them of
the events so that they can express it without having to use words they may not understand.
Although it may be a hard time to do so, try to have some fun! Fun can be a distractor for parents as well
as children. Give them the opportunity to forget the devastation they are in, even if only for a few hours.
Try taking them to a park, for a walk through nature, or to visit a friend or relative that they enjoy seeing.
Believe it or not, your children want you to have rules. They are seeking out consistency and routine. This
is especially important if their routines have been disrupted for some time. Routines also can come in the
form of places. If the places that they used to go, such as school or church, are no longer available talk
with them about it. Discuss new places that they will go and provide consistency in going there. If you
feel like your child is having difficulty coping with Harvey take them to see a professional counselor or
play therapist that can further assist you and them.
Parent coaching is one of the services we are proud to offer at GHCS! In light of that, we will be posting a 3 part series on Positive Parenting. Check out Part 1 on how to raise and encourage a highly sensitive child.
It was my friend's son’s birthday party. He was turning three. The lights were turned off and his Mom proudly walked into the room with his amazing birthday cake. Everybody was singing, the candles were lit, but…the birthday boy was missing! We found him hiding in his room, in tears, covering his ears, too ashamed of all the attention on him.
How many times have you seen your child getting upset or sad very easily? Or getting extremely shy after you arrive to a birthday party? Does your child spend most of the day at the daycare crying? Or get overexcited over a new toy? All of the abovementioned she has experienced with her son.
She and I began to talk and she started to wonder if her son's reactions have been exaggerated. She found herself asking “Is my child highly sensitive?” Extremely sensitive children easily become overexcited, super angry or extremely sad. Unfortunately, in our culture this trait is often misunderstood and seen as a weakness rather than a gift.
Raising a highly sensitive child can be very challenging. Trust me, been there, done that.
In order for our children to develop into healthy, well-adjusted and confident adults, they need to be raised with love, appreciation and understanding. Otherwise, as grownups they may be prone to anxiety, depression or experience other mental health issues.
Here are a few things you can do to positively parent your highly sensitive child and encourage your little one to thrive.
1. Accept Your Child
The most important part of positive parenting is that you accept your child’s hypersensitivity as a wonderful trait. It is no disorder or illness. These children are gifted with the ability to experience the world deeper and more intensively than others. Don’t try to modify your child’s temperament or request them to adjust to society’s demands. Highlight your child’s strengths instead and show them how to manage their emotions in socially appropriate fashion.
2. Emphasize Your Child Strengths
Think of your child’s sensitivity as of a special gift. These children usually show high empathy for other people, the astonishing wisdom, great intuition and creativity. They have a profundity and understanding for things greater than their peers. Encouraged and raised with the patience, these children will most likely develop into creative, intuitive and confident individuals.
3. Teach your Child to Verbalize Emotions and Handle Unpleasant Situations
Teach your child to verbalize their feelings and use proper strategies to handle unpleasant situations. Show your child how to recognize and deal with unpleasant feelings in socially appropriate ways. Encourage their self-esteem in order to deal with uncomfortable situations constructively and in assertive manner.
4. Establish Boundaries
Rules will upset your super sensitive child, but they still need rules in order to develop into responsible and confident adults. Set the limits, but be flexible. Praise your child’s achievements and use constructive criticism. Encourage and appreciate every effort your child makes. Always explain the reasons of your decisions and be a positive role model to your child.
5. Use Distraction
When your child becomes overwhelmed, try to distract them. Use redirection in younger kids to switch their attention or suggest a fun activity for your older one to participate. Do things together and make sure your child feels loved and accepted.
Children with the high sensitivity trait have enormous potential to develop into healthy, creative and wise adults. They just need a positive parenting approach with loads of encouragement and endless love to flourish to their full potential.
One of the biggest barriers to finding help is recognizing it is needed. Many people fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns, but if you can move past that (congratulations) other barriers may still exist; issues with trust/confidentiality, insurance/affordability, thinking that your problems are not serious enough to need help, or the stigmas and embarrassment of having sought professional help. Any of these sounds familiar?
Another big barrier is something few consider, how do you bring up the topic of mental health with others, either for yourself or for someone else? Some may struggle with the idea of turning to their spouse or parent and saying “I think I have depression and would like to seek professional help”. Practice saying it, keep it simple to start with, and remember this is to help yourself or another and that is okay.
You now may be wondering, well how do I find said professional? If you know someone who has experience in this area you can ask them or you can conduct an Internet search. You now have hundreds of results, how do you simplify? Decide what's important to you; location (how close to you), specialty (Play Therapy for children, etc.), insurance coverage, and affordability. You can start narrowing down your search with any one of these and others. You may be going on a good vibe from the counselor’s description and that's okay too.
As a last note, don't wait to contact someone. Once you've picked a few prospects contact them as soon as you can. Waiting allows doubt and nerves to interfere with your resolve. We are here to help, give us the opportunity to do so in a judgment-free atmosphere and you will be surprised how incredible the healing process can be. You deserve it.
Monica Alexander is a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern (LPC-Intern) under the supervision of Christina Runnels, MA, LPC-S, LCDC. Monica enjoys working with individuals and families to take that difficult first step in the healing process.
In an age of anti-depressant, SSRIs, anxiety medications, and mood stabilizers we are constantly looking for a pill to fix us. 1 in 5 Americans take a psychiatric medication. Also, nearly twice as many women as men report taking psychiatric medications. Many people experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues seek out the help of their primary care doctor or a psychiatrist to prescribe them a medication. Sometimes it can be helpful, and other times it might not be the cure all you were hoping for. What happens when medication isn't helping? What happens when you've tried all the different pills in the category and are still experiencing symptoms?
From the medicine cabinet to the therapy couch, folks come seeking out the assistance of talk therapy to help in conjunction with their medication. My favorite cocktail is what your psychiatrist has prescribed you along with a weekly dose of therapy. Many people have the misconception that you cannot have therapy and medication. If you are needing medication then usually this combination can actually be more helpful to alleviating symptoms. It's important to learn coping techniques to manage the difficult symptoms that may or may not be masked by the medication.
One of the common questions I'm asked is "how do I find a good psychiatrist?" Many therapists can help you with a referral to a psychiatrist that can prescribe you a medication if you need it. If you do choose that route, you don't have to navigate the prescription drug maze alone.
My fuzzy blue slippers slid across the commercial grade tile. It was Day 4 of our stay in the hospital. I was on the way to brush my teeth and wash my face in the women's restroom because I learned that housekeeping came around 8 am and the sinks were still fairly clean around that time. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, brushed my hair back up into my pony tail, and wished for a change of clothes. My purple maternity shirt (now loose fitting) and gray yoga pants had seen better days. I was on my second day of wearing them and I truly didn't bring anymore clothes. Silly me. I hadn't planned on being at the hospital more than 3 days. I hadn't planned on staying in the NICU with my son. I hadn't planned on sleeping on a cot with a hospital blanket for a week while my son fought to maintain his blood sugar levels, but who does? So eventually things got better and we left the NICU. After a week we all got to leave together and that was all that I could ask for, right? I am happy to say now that my son is healthy and there were no long-term effect from his early blood sugar battles. I have since changed my clothes and honestly, I threw that purple shirt and gray pants in the trash. But what do I do with the memories? This is when I realized first hand what birth trauma really is.
Another 9% of new Mother's will go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from this trauma.
Birth trauma effects many women every year in the United States. Another 9% of new Mother's will go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from this trauma. Birth trauma doesn't mean that you have to have experienced a loss of a life or other catastrophic event. It can be whatever you make it. Meaning, trauma is determined by the person that experiences it. No one has the right to say that your trauma is more traumatic than theirs. Each person experiences it in their own way.
We can't keep traumatic things from happening surrounding our pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences, but having the right to make your own choices, feeling empowered, and receiving support are all tools to help combat birth trauma. Sharing your story and being an inspiration for others can also help heal your own birth trauma.
Christina Runnels, MA, LPCS, LCDC is a mental health therapist that enjoys working with expecting and postpartum Mom's. As a mother and a mental health perspective she offers a supportive perspective through the difficult times in motherhood.
This is dedicated to all of the Mom's! Sometimes motherhood can a very hard thing. Okay, parenting in general can be hard, but at times Mom's feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. You are taking care of little ones, working in and possibly out of the home, and trying to hold it all together. Not only do these times make me think about how awesome multitaskers Mom's can be, but it also reminds me how important it is to take time for you.
Self-care is a skill that doesn't come naturally for everyone. It's important to implement a self-care regimen that can be incorporated into your daily existence, is easy enough to do on a rough day, and overall makes you feel good. It may require you to be a little creative, but exercising your self-care muscle is the first step in creating a self-care regimen. Need help with coming up with self-care techniques that work for you? Check out our Fun Self-Care Ideas!
Now that you've got your self-care creative juices flowing, take some time to think about how you might implement your regimen. Who will help you stay on track? A support network is key to a good self-care plan. Join our FREE Facebook group for Mom's that support each other!
Now take a moment to relax! A good self-care plan won't happen over night, but you're on track.
Like any other field, buzz words come and go through the world of psychotherapy and psychology. One word that has been trending lately is "attachment". And not just attachment, but "reactive attachment". Like the announcement of the ADHD era, parents and caregivers may be concerned and wondering what reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is and how it can effect them or their child.
RAD refers to individuals that have aversions to touch and physical affection, control issues, anger problems, difficulty showing genuine care and affection, and failure to show guilt or remorse. Specifically in children, detached or unresponsive behavior is common. Children and toddlers are less likely to reach to be picked up, reject efforts to be calmed or soothed, and attempt to avoid eye contact.
There are two types of RAD: inhibited and disinhibited. Inhibited type refers more to individuals that experience detached or unresponsive symptoms, while disinhibited individuals typically have difficulty selecting the appropriate people or caregivers to attach to.
Now I know what it is, but what can I do about it?
There are many ways to assist adults and children with working through RAD in order to have more healthy and fulfilling relationships. For children, unconditional love is key in helping them learn to reattach in a healthy way. Setting positive limits and boundaries, maintaining predictable schedules and routines, and talking and playing with them regularly also can be helpful. For adults, changing faulty thinking patterns that have led to disengaging from others can be helpful. Working on gaining a positive sense of self acceptance may help as well. Professional help is available for children and adults that are working through RAD.
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