Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Free CEU Training Friday, April 22nd

Join me for a Free CEU Training Friday- “How to find new Energy to help others, when you are Exhausted – Strategies for Professionals facing Dysfunctional clients and Stressful circumstances” Compassionate professions like counseling have an exceptionally high burnout rate which hampers their ability to achieve long-term career success. Is it possible for a kind-hearted person to set healthy limits with demanding people to prevent job-burnout? There are multiple hidden factors leading to counselor fatigue and professional self-care is usually never taught, rarely discussed and often not practiced. How can today’s busy therapists learn a proven process to use in protecting themselves emotionally to prolong their career while helping as many people as possible? Learning to create a daily process to recharge energy, while preventing exhaustion is essential for long-term career success in the helping fields. Few professionals have been given any training on how to increase their level of personal restoration in proportion to the clinical psychological needs they are facing. This interactive training session is designed to walk professionals through the dangers of emotional depletion from job stress and secondary trauma; while learning the stages of emotional renewal for psychological professionals. Are you equipped to recharge and renew your energy in high-stress situations? Attend this professional development session to gain new skills for long-term career success. Every participant will receive an interactive workbook with key questions, techniques and methods designed to implement emotional renewal while preventing exhaustion in caring for clients facing highly complex situations. Date: Friday, April 22, 2016, 9am – 11pm Registration and breakfast at 8am Location: 6601 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando FL 32821 Central Florida Behavioral Hospital Email Rich Rodriguez by 3/16/15 to register for this free event. Rich.Rodriguez@uhsinc.com or call 407-370-0111

Monday, April 18, 2016

Parent's Guide to Overcome Childhood Fears

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

Fear is a normal part of childhood – learning how to manage it is an important part of growing up.

Everyone feels fear. From six years old to sixty people worry and feel afraid. There are classic symptoms all children face, (listed below), which are indicators of the levels of anxiety a child may be facing. And did you know fear is such a common theme that the Bible has over 300 verses dedicated to facing fear and not staying afraid?

Emotional maturity takes place when a child learns to face their fears by managing these negative emotions through talking, praying, writing them out in words, drawings or other expressive arts. The more a child can learn to ‘replace’ their fears with facts or faith, the more confidence she will gain, and when she can learn the power of deep truth, like, Be strong and courageous. Do not fear... for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you”.(Deuteronomy 31:6)  When anxiety and fear is replaced by greater faith a child begins to grow into the confident adult they were designed to be.  

What does childhood fear look like?

Feeling afraid is a normal part of childhood, and can even be a protective emotion that can be an early alarm to warn of danger. The challenge is when a child feels anxious or nervous for no apparent reason, because those insecurities feed their fears as their confidence diminishes, leading to feeling weak and scared instead of developing greater self-confidence and emotional security. Because so many new experiences for children are tied to their school or sports performance, anxiety becomes a major roadblock for academic or social activities, and for some children will become a major roadblock in their personality development.

Is Childhood Anxiety Normal?

The short answer is yes. Researchers have found that up to 90% of children ages 2-14 feel some degree of being anxious at specific circumstances or experiences. These emotions are a normal part of their expanding world. Children who lack the ability to flow with these fears can become immobilized and unable to function or move forward. This becomes a real problem for more introverted or insecure children who remain silent when scared.  That is why tuned in parents find ways to help their children manage emotions. A simple illustration of this process can be seen in the Disney/Pixar film “Inside Out” (http://movies.disney.com/inside-out ) which demonstrates in very simple ways how a child thinks, and more importantly how to take control of negative emotions by replacing fears or sadness with greater joy.

Can my Child’s fears Affect their Health?
Absolutely; when a child is overwhelmed by negative fears and doubts it can affect them in many ways, including physical symptoms like excessive sweating, tummy aches, headaches, bladder or bowel challenges, racing heartbeat or the complete inability to fall asleep at night.  When a child learns how to flow with the normal emotions of childhood, especially new experiences, (remember how scared you were on the first day of school?) they mature and grow into the next stage of their development.  

Common Childhood Fears and Anxieties

Birth to 2 years, (Toddlers) are scared by loud noises, separation from parents, strangers, some large objects or costumed characters can also create fears at this age

3 to 6 years, (Preschoolers) are scared by fearful imaginations like monsters, ghosts, masks, shadows, the dark, sleeping alone, meeting new pets – especially large ones like dogs and extreme weather such as thunder and lightning

7 to 16 years, (School age) have increased fears across many areas like being left home alone, experiencing a parent or teachers anger, illness, shots, dentists, fear of parents divorce, spiders, snakes, bullies, peer rejection, failing at school and the more realistic fears of harm such as automobile accidents, someone in the family on drugs/alcohol, bullies and world events like terrorism.

Manage these fears with Replacement Routines

Birth to Toddlers need security and predictability. Have routines, rituals and similar patterns like bedtime, meals or story time or singing the same lullabies to create a predictable environment. Limiting the number of people who are in very close contact can help avoid a child being over stimulated.

Preschoolers need guidance on controlling their expanding imagination to know there are more than just monsters in the dark. They can learn to use their wonderful imagination to think of what isn’t in the dark, or what isn’t at the bottom of the lake. It’s just as easy to think ahead together about what is good, pure and right as it is things which are negative or hostile. Here is where parental example can shine in modeling and teaching self-control.

School age children are faced with incredible pressures from grades, to peers, to parents to rejection, to body-image to their parent’s marriages to loss of a home in foreclosure to theft or crime or school shooters. It can be an overwhelming time, so it is especially important to manage growing fear with growing faith and positive coping skills. Children in this group may benefit with professional counseling if anxiety symptoms become unmanageable.

Managing Fear with Maturity and Faith

At any age you can help a child understand the source of their fears, and when possible to use the phrase, “If you can talk through it you can get through it” so they can let their parents know what is going on inside. Here are some other techniques to guide your child out of fear by managing feelings with facts so they can grow past their fear with greater faith.

A simple way for younger children is to have them draw two pictures. One of them in the fearful situation, then to replace that fear in a second drawing showing them in a picture overcoming their fear. Some children respond better through writing, so helping them craft journals, prayer lists or even a happiness list of where they replace their fearful thoughts with happy and peaceful ones. Simple steps can take emotions bottled up inside in a new direction, which helps the child feel stronger and the parent feel more connected  to their son or daughter.

Sharing stories of how you managed childhood fears are a good conversation starter, but it’s just to create a connection that you are human too. The goal is for the child to express what’s inside and to know her parents understand how she feels. Keep it short and ask the question, “what else” to allow her to express as many negative emotions as possible so they don’t stay inside where they can hurt her.

Telling a child they have nothing to fear doesn’t actually make their fears go away – it makes things worse s0 learn to validate his emotions as ‘normal’ to help him move through the anxiety since all other kids his age are facing some of the same fears, (remember oral reports in English class – terrifying!)

Be creative with stories, films, songs, books or even stories of how your parents or grandparents faced major fears. Courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s feeling the fear and moving forward. A girl who knows how strong her grandmother was in similar circumstances will find greater strength for a lifetime when she knows that strength runs in her family tree.

Drawing, prayer, music, scriptures, expressive arts, sports, youth group, even role playing with stuffed animals can help a child move past their fears. Try it all with a single goal in mind – how can I help my son or daughter get stronger?

Some fears may always be present, like public speaking, so focus on the things your child can control like her emotions. Learning to replace fear with facts, (Wikipedia says that millions of other people are just as scared as I was when facing the same situation), or replacing fear with greater faith like this promise from Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Mastering the journey from childlike fear to adult like faith is what we would want for our children at any stage of life. Learning how to manage fear is the path to a life of confidence and calm. It’s a good path, but uphill all the way so let me challenge you to get started.  

About the Author – Dwight Bain is an author, counselor and certified life coach who helps people manage major change. Follow his daily posts for wisdom on Twitter or Instagram @DwightBain or www.Facebook.com/DwightBain www.LinkedIn.com/DwightBainwww.YouTube.com/DwightBain or at his blog, accessible through www.LifeworksGroup.org

Before Marrying Again...Ask These Questions

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

The first marriage ended in divorce. The second one is going to be different. But how can a person be sure that they are not making another mistake of a different caliber?
This is a checklist that I use with clients during premarital counseling. It has been developed over the last 15 years spent counseling thousands of couples prior to marriage.
Ask clients to look through the following checklist and check all that apply.

_____ 1.   Are there frequent arguments over nothing with little resolution?
_____ 2.  Do you or your partner use biting sarcasm to confront issues?
_____ 3.  Are you staying in the relationship out of fear or worry?
_____ 4.  Do you have few areas of common interest?
_____ 5.  Are you or is your partner overly dependent on parents or children?
_____ 6.  Are there any signs of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, mental, spiritual, or financial abuse both present and in the past?
_____ 7.  Do you avoid discussing sensitive topics or are you afraid of their reaction?
_____ 8. Does your partner frequently complain about unreal aches and pains?
_____ 9.  Does your partner make excuses for not finding a job or keeping a job?
_____ 10.                      Does your partner frequently change jobs or have they been fired more than once?
_____ 11.                       Are you or your partner participating in any addiction such as alcoholism, drug use, gambling, work, or pornography?
_____ 12.                      Are there uncontrollable outbursts of anger?
_____ 13.                      Is your partner inflexible and unwilling to see things from another perspective?
_____ 14.                      Does your partner avoid contact with others and prefer to be alone?
_____ 15.                       Is your partner afraid to be alone and constantly seeks out approval from others?
_____ 16.                      Have there ever been incidents of cruelty to animals or people?
_____ 17.                       Do you find yourself always doing what your partner wants to do?
_____ 18.                      Does your partner have extreme irrational fears, inappropriate reactions, odd beliefs, or bizarre behavior?
_____ 19.                      Does your partner constantly crave attention from others?
_____ 20.                     Does your partner know more details about your life while you know very little about theirs?
_____ 21.                      Does your partner lack healthy long-term relationships with friends or family?
_____ 22.                     Is your partner overly jealous, questioning you all the time about your whereabouts?
_____ 23.                     Is your partner overly critical and demanding that you adjust to their expectations?
_____ 24.                     Are you and your partner dishonest about your sexual past?
_____ 25.                      Do you have an uneasy feeling about the relationship?
_____ 26.                     Does your partner have a criminal record or show signs of criminal behavior?
_____ 27.                      Does your partner hear voices or see people that aren’t there?
_____ 28.                     Is your partner overly suspicious about mundane things?
_____ 29.                     Are there two contrasting sides to your partner like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
_____ 30.                     Does your partner obsess about a topic and wear you down until they get their way?
_____ 31.                      Is your partner a habitual liar, deceitful, or do they skirt around the truth?
_____ 32.                     Does your partner blame you or others for mistakes, misfortunes, or missed opportunities?
_____ 33.                     Does your partner refuse to accept responsibility for mistakes and displays inappropriate remorse?
_____ 34.                     Is there a disregard for your safety or minimizing of your concerns?
_____ 35.                      Does your partner overstep your or other’s boundaries?
_____ 36.                     Are your parents, children or friends strongly against the relationship?
_____ 37.                      Do you have a feeling of settling?
_____ 38.                     Does your partner lack the ability to be intimate (not the sexual act)?
_____ 39.                     Is there a lack of care, genuine concern, and empathy?
_____ 40.                     Does your partner threaten to harm themselves or others if they don’t get what they want?
_____ 41.                      Do you feel manipulated by your partner?
_____ 42.                     Is there a callousness, coldness, or distance that is unexplained by your partner?
_____ 43.                     Has your partner refused to heal from past traumatic incidents?
_____ 44.                     Is your partner unaware of how their behavior and actions impact others?
_____ 45.                      Are there regular discussions of separating when things don’t go your partner’s way?
_____ 46.                     Do you feel like you are walking on eggshells around them never knowing what will happen next?
_____ 47.                      Does your partner have inappropriate emotional reactions on a regular basis?
_____ 48.                     Does your partner have poor impulse control?
_____ 49.                     Does your partner exploit others to get what they want?
_____ 50.                     Do you constantly wonder what your partner is thinking or doing?

Answering yes to a few of these questions does not mean a couple is doomed. Rather it signifies a need to better evaluate the situation and seek counsel outside the relationship.  Some of these issues can be resolved quickly so that the foundation of the marriage is stronger than ever. 

However, if clients answered yes to numbers 3, 6, 11, 16, 24, 26, 27, 34, 40, or 49 please seek professional help immediately as these issues are more long term in nature. Marriage will not fix the problem it will only make it worse.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

What To Do with Past Promiscuity?

By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC

Sometimes folks come to me and we are working on something and inevitably their past comes up. It could be about some kind of mistreatment or abuse or of some dysfunction in their past environment. And there is of course the “stuff” inside us that relates to our experience of our parents and family. And pretty often we end up landing on a person’s young adult life choices, including sexual promiscuousness. Most feel a sense of shame and guilt about those choices and don’t want to talk about it. So, I thought maybe it would help if I were to write about it and provide some insight into how to approach these past issues.
I was reading recently about the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament of the Bible. There is a section in which he observes a potter working on making a pot. He forms a pot, but it collapses due to some weakness in the structure. But instead of the potter throwing it away and starting with new clay, he picks up the pieces and mashes them together and begins anew. God then explains to him that this is what he wants to do with his chosen people, Israel. I believe it is a fitting illustration and application for this issue of past sexual misdeeds and how God can and wants to restore us too. Let me start with four of the most common approaches to dealing with past promiscuity and then I’ll offer four healthier ways to deal with it.

1.     Burying It
Some folks deal with their past sexual behaviors and the guilt connected with them by putting the past behind them. This means that they chose to push aside their feelings and angst about it, and decide that if they forget about it and leave it in the past that it will not bother them in the present. This is an unwise and unproductive approach. We cannot learn and grow from a past that we won’t acknowledge. We cannot heal from something we will not grieve. And we cannot be remade if we will not own our brokenness.
2.   Shaming It
On the other hand, some folks get caught in the pit of self pity, never allowing themselves to move from their past sins. They have taken their mistakes and poor choices and concluded that these have defined their identity. Maybe they felt dirty or used? And maybe no one ever told them that our choices are a result of who we are at that time, but they don’t determine who we ultimately are or who we will be?
3.   Embracing It
Unfortunately, there are some who end up getting sucked into the sexual trap. They may discover that they can use sex to manipulate others and feel powerful or gain prestige or financial gain. Some find that indulging in promiscuous sex feeds something in their damaged ego or in a confused way makes them feel desirable. For others, they take the shame they feel and combat it by joining with it. They decide that if being “dirty” is who they are (in their mind), then they will be the best they can be at it. 
4.   Rationalize It
Our culture and media these days strongly support this approach. Here the plan is to eradicate the feelings of guilt and shame by redefining morality. We (and the culture) say that promiscuous sex is not sinful or unhealthy, but just the opposite. It is wise and healthy and normal and fun. It is the best way to find a partner, and the best way to satisfy yourself, and on and on. This approach is really not much different than the burying it approach from number one, except for the concept of safety in numbers. Maybe if everyone tries to believe it together it will become true. Good luck with that!
Now how about some ways to grow, heal, and truly be free from your past?
1.     Objectivity
Somewhere between burying it and shaming it lies the healthy approach. We need to stop pretending that our past is irrelevant, or doesn’t affect us. We carry around the past inside us, and often it just won’t stay in the past. On the other hand, the past does not control us or define us. The healthy perspective is in the middle, that is, acknowledging the reality of poor choices and the negative results of those without giving them more power or importance than they actually have in our lives.
2.   Feel It and Grieve It
Looking at it will bring the pain to the surface. Don’t run from that. Let it come. See how your choices have hurt yourself and others. See your foolishness, your neediness, your selfishness. There is much to gain from looking in the mirror – objectively. This is not about self pity or beating up on yourself. There may also be plenty to look at in terms of how you were taken advantage of, manipulated or fooled. The point is to permit yourself to feel all your feelings, without judging yourself for having them. Then grieving can happen. Not processing our pain keeps it around, and we stay stuck in it (even if we aren’t aware of it). Allowing it to come to the surface and then to feel it and process it – means we can then move through it and let go of it.
3.   Understand it
Either within the grieving process or sometime afterwards, we then need to make sense of it. This can be tough work. It is another level of looking at ourselves. This level involves the question of how did I come to make these choices? How was I influenced or conditioned to pursue fulfillment or relationship in this way? What does sex mean to me? Was there a pattern to the type of person I gravitated to, or the type of situation or experience? What did that mean to me? And how can I seek to meet that needs or those needs in healthier ways and have healthier relationships?
4.   Be renewed
Finally, we can move on. And moving on means that we have grieved and we have grown. We have integrated our past and our poor choices and wounds into our psyches, and we are more of a whole person. We can now live differently, making healthier choices. We likely now understand ourselves better and that helps us to have a clearer sense of who we are and what we want and what direction to go in life.
To really go through this process isn’t simple or easy. And sometimes it may be best to go through this journey with a counselor. But I think you can see that it holds the promise of renewal and deeper satisfaction in life.

For more articles visit my blog at www.counselingmatters.org
Come visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/counselingmatters

Matt Sandford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has been counseling for 8 years. Previously he worked in student ministry for 14 years, including two years in China. He has been married for 21 years and he and his wife are raising twins.