Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Calm Baby, Confident Baby

by Jessica Fox, LCPC

I had a plan for my daughter before she was even a twinkle in my eye.  Not the kind of plan that many parents have for their children, like to be a doctor, a lawyer, or the first female President of the United States of America!  No, my plan was to raise the least anxious child I could possibly imagine.  I wanted her to have confidence instilled in her at an early age.    A plan that maybe only a psychotherapist would set out as the number one goal, but a plan nonetheless.  
I believe that confidence, especially the kind of confidence used to tackle challenges, is a primary ingredient for coping with anxiety.  As a psychotherapist with a younger clientele, I see anxiety manifest itself in young children and through adolescence.  Young children usually exhibit anxiety in psychosomatic forms, like a bad stomachache or by developing a "nervous habit."  Adolescents are better equipped to express their anxiety verbally, but can experience it at a high volume and intensity.  

In order to carry out my plan for my baby, I needed to take the skills I teach my clients into consideration and think about how to apply that in an age-appropriate manner to my infant (now a toddler).  I can happily say that I have a confident, adventurous and calm toddler.  

How much of that I can contribute to genetics, I am not sure.  However, a person's environment is what can bring out natural attributes, so it is imperative that we consider nurture in this equation.  Here is a list of things to consider when trying to raise a confident person with low anxiety starting from birth:  

1. Model the ability to cope with frustration.  

2. Use "emotion" language starting from day one. 

3. Consider a strong attachment with your newborn but allow him/her to sleep in his/her own space 

4. Provide a safe environment for your child to explore without sacrificing your own sanity! 

5. Encourage your baby to do things on her own during play without interfering the moment it gets tough for them. Let your baby "sit through" her own frustration; this is a critical opportunity to develop future coping skills. Alternatively, help only to the point where she can then take over.

For example, my daughter used to get so frustrated when she couldn't put a puzzle piece in correctly and would end up clenching her fists and yelling.  I simply said in as calm a voice as I could muster, "I can see you are frustrated, it's ok, try again.  Or, we can try another time." It didn't take long for her to pull herself together and try again.   

6.  Show your baby/toddler that you have faith in them.  If you do things for your child that they can developmentally capable of themselves, then you are hindering natural development. So, even if your child spills milk on the floor, allow her to attempt to hold a cup without your help.  A little spilled milk never hurt anybody. Really. 

7.  Be careful what you say.  I often hear older generations in my family say things to my daughter like, "You are GOING to break your neck!" if they see me allow her to climb on something that they view as dangerous.  Of course I am right there to spot her and monitor her safety.  I would say something a little less definitive, like "Be careful, watch your step."  Telling a child something so definitive can be dangerous, because as kids, they think we know EVERYTHING, so talking in extremes can cause a child unnecessary anxiety.   

8.  After the newborn phase is over, teach your child to cope with stressors in various healthy ways, like singing, stretching, reading or hugging.  Try to avoid doing whatever will make them happy in the moment like putting on the TV or giving them a cookie to stop crying.   

9. If you have anxiety yourself, consider talking to a therapist to find out ways to reduce it for your and your family's sake.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Become a Real Zombie!
 The Krokodil (aka, “The Walking Dead”) Epidemic

Kelly LaPorte, NCC, LPC, CADC

In the United States alone, drug use and its availability are expanding drastically.  There are the classics—heroin, cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and everything in between that individuals use to achieve their certain level of “high.”  The categories of drugs range from depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, inhalants and finally, cannabis; the types of drugs included in those categories include drugs that are swallowed, injected, snorted and smoked, but the outcomes can be (and often are) deadly.  

How far will society go to achieve a high? A new drug on the market that is currently making waves in the media is called Krokodil (Russian for “Crocodile”), also known as Desomorphine, and its effects are terrifying. The Huffington Post classified Krokodil as “The most horrible drug in the world.”  The new drug has made its way to Illinois and originates from Russia. The drug is made up of codeine tablets as well as other harmful materials such as lighter fluid, gasoline and paint thinner.

After the drug is injected, it creates a scaly appearance on the skin and eventually eats away at flesh exposing bones and muscle. Several cases have ended up in local hospitals in Joliet and Lockport, IL in which patients initially thought they were injecting heroin, only to find out after using the drug for almost a year that it was Krokodil. The life expectancy of an individual who is addicted to Krocodil is only two years, and when not fatal, can cause dangerous infections that can lead to amputations.

Currently in the U.S., several deaths have been reported due to the effects of this drug, according to multiple news sources including CNN and DailyMail. In comparison, there are about 30,000 deaths yearly in Russia. After three cases were reported in the Chicagoland area this month, time will only tell how bad this epidemic will become not only in our local communities, but the country as a whole.  It is a strong reminder of how strong addictions can be, and how we need to unite to educate our communities on the horrendous effects of the drugs that rob so many of their lives.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reinventing Myself at 51

Reinventing Myself At 51!

by Katie Petersen, LCSW

So here I am sitting alone in my office with my graying, blind dog.  We are recent empty nesters.  Our kids just left for college.  

I cleaned up some of their clutter. The only messes around here are from either my husband or myself.  Mostly myself.  I keep looking at their pictures.  We have so many memories in this house.  We brought them here from the hospital when they were days old. We went through the typical sleepless nights, diapers, teething, parent teacher conferences, fighting, holidays, tears, report cards, lots of laughing, anguish, braces, millions of bobbie pins, boyfriends, dances, more fighting, and more sleepless nights! I don’t worry about what time they will come home anymore because they don’t!   Somehow I just don’t worry the same way.  

I know my husband and I usually did the absolute best we could possibly have done as parents.  They know how to stay out of trouble by now.  They have become two people whom I would be friends with even if I was not their mother.  I have been so fortunate to have witnessed the birth and emergence of our beautiful young women!! They are gone for now.  

I know they will come back, but this empty nester stuff is an adjustment!  Yes, you have heard a million times how fast it all goes, but it’s really, really true. I wish I could go back to 25 year old Katie and give her a hug and tell her it will all be fine!! If I think back twenty five years and how that time went as quickly as a few heartbeats, how fast will the next twenty five go?   

This is why I am reinventing myself.  I want my kids to be proud of me, and I want my husband and I to continue to have cool stuff to talk about when we get home from work.  I want to discover new ways to enable myself, my family and my clients to be holistically vibrant. I want the next stage of life to reflect more growth and experience from learning new things every day.  I want to keep moving and be nimble enough to keep up with what happens next.  I want to continue my work as a clinical social worker and Yoga teacher as long as I am able, but I am not in charge of whether I get to experience many more years, or not.  

The only thing I am sure of is this present moment.  The reinvented Katie will try to remember that she always has choices of how she wants to feel.  She will try to remember that she can learn from every situation, good or bad.  She will try to remember that each moment is perfect, even if it is a horrible experience.  I am so grateful for the time I had with my family and as a school social worker, because it helped me be who I am today.  

If I am lucky enough to be alive and have the wherewithal when I am 75, I hope I can look back and write about this time of life being filled with the privilege of serving others to feel the best they can.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

What is the DSM and Who Cares Anyway?

By Dyanne C. Bresler, RN, LCPC

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).  It contains descriptions of the diagnoses that may be given for “mental illness”.  The system of insurance reimbursement in our country requires that a diagnosis be submitted in order for payment to be made.  No diagnosis, no payment.

Periodically, committees formed by the APA come up with new diagnoses and they are added to the book in a new edition.  Some diagnoses become unpopular and are removed from later editions.  An example is the removal of a diagnosis for people who are attracted to members of their own sex.  It used to be a disease, and now it isn’t. 

You may have read about the newest edition of the DSM.  There’s been a great hue and cry all over the world about the added diagnoses, most of which now justify the writing of prescriptions for treatment of such things as grief so that patients can be stoned in addition to suffering from the loss of a loved one.

The American Psychiatric Association supports the medical model, which posits that “mental illness” is caused by messed-up neurotransmitters in the brain.  Medical model proponents believe that these messed-up neurotransmitters must be treated with drugs.  This is why one of every four Americans now is diagnosable with a “mental illness”, including over three million children whose exhuberance has  demonstrated to physicians all over the country that they need to sit still and be quiet with the aid of stimulant medication from the same category of drugs as cocaine. 

That no laboratory test, no blood test, no spinal fluid test, no scan of any kind has ever proved a patient has a “mental illness” has not stopped the APA from coming up with lots of new diagnoses.  There has never been any proof of just how many of any neurotransmitters our brain is supposed to have, but still, the APA has insisted that there is a shortage or an overage of them that must be medicated. 

You should consider having some grave concerns about the DSM medicalization of normal problems. The morphing of sadness/anxiety due to death, divorce, job loss, financial ruin, relationship problems or any of the other things that cause misery into a “disease” that requires drug administration is not much more than greed and very effective marketing by pharmaceutical companies.   You will not hear physicians citing the research that proves counseling is more effective than medication for mild to moderate depression.  You will not hear them remind you that exercise, sleep hygiene, good diet and good work have no side effects.

The long-term effects of psychiatric medications are grim, under-reported, cumulative and can be life threatening.  That’s why you should care about the DSM.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spanking is the Devil. Or maybe not.

Someone needs to tell the spanking abolitionists to take a course in research design. A new study by one of the chief abolitionists purports to show irrefutable evidence that spanking causes future aggression in children. The study utilized a clever design, which was meant to distinguish those children who were already aggressive and then got spanked from those children who weren't aggressive UNTIL being spanked. It was a nice try...for a high school research project.

But asserting that spanking causes aggression is like saying
that eating causes cancer.

Researchers like this who study spanking continue to make a
fundamental error: neglecting to separate the confounding variables. That is,
the phenomena that go along with spanking are the more likely causes of
aggression that they found. When researchers ignore these variables, it
invalidates their research. They continue to infer a causal relationship
between spanking and aggression, when in fact they have not demonstrated a
causal connection at all.

Some parents who spank do so with rage, in an out of control
manner. They physically dominate the child with a hostility that communicates
loathing, not love. These parents often use no other discipline tool but
spanking. Their model is “spank all the time for anything, anywhere, and to
whatever degree I feel like it.” These parents also tend to exhibit aggression
toward spouses, pets, and other adults. This model of aggression is indeed likely
to teach the child to be aggressive. To the parents in this group, I say: knock
it off. Stop abusing your child and get some help.

On the other hand, plenty of parents spank without any of
the negative side effects. They remain in control, communicate the express
purpose of the punishment, and utilize other means of discipline when
appropriate. They are not indiscriminate and keep the physicality or violence
of spanking to a minimum. It is neither brutal nor injurious. Children spanked
in this manner do not feel abused because they are not being abused. They are
being loved. This kind of parenting and spanking is perfectly appropriate,
healthy, and largely effective. To the parents in this group, I say: keep doing
what you’re doing and ignore the bad science.

Any research that does not distinguish these two
fundamentally different patterns is either willfully deceptive or ignorant;
either way, it should be ignored. Unfortunately, I have not seen any spanking
research that makes the crucial distinction.

Try again, spanking abolitionists. Next time, try good
science, not junk science.

Monday, December 5, 2011


GUEST BLOGGER: Dyanne C. Bresler, LCPC, RN

It’s that time of the year.

Starting with Labor Day, holidays tumble round us, closer always than our busy schedules allow us to think they are. We’re all still surprised to see Christmas promoted at the same time that we’re barely thinking of retrieving scarves, gloves, boots and hats from their summertime repository. You know, the closet, way in the back.

Among the moments of joyful anticipation, there may be bittersweet longing. Depression or anxiety may cause you to grit your teeth to face the holidays with little more than grim resolve. Holidays are unlikely to measure up to the media images of friends and family gathered around a Martha Stewart-decorated table.
For many, these are tough times. Our nation is troubled. Many are struggling financially.

Youth may be worried by an uncertain future. Relationships may be disrupted
by illness, death, or financial or emotional insecurity, and it is no
secret that the holidays can serve as a magnifying glass, making
pre-existing problems seem even bigger.

But you are not helpless in the face of the forced gayety in which you find yourself. Here are some tips:

First, take heart. You can safely remind yourself that this, too, will pass. But it isn’t time that is healing; it is what you do with it. So, take charge.

Write down some things that you can do for yourself that feel good, and do some or all of those things.

Get yourself out of your self-imposed exile and go somewhere, visit someone.

Give of yourself. There will be enough left, I promise.

Make a spectacular dinner and invite someone about whom you care. You can let it be tuna casserole. It doesn’t matter.

Make an appointment to grieve mightily if you need to. That’s right, give yourself permission to feel what you feel and do it with all your might. Your ability to feel is one of God’s gifts to us and is, after all, what makes you human. Honor your grief by spending some time with it, privately and for a limited amount of time. Then, leave it. You can return to it another time if you need to.

Make your own golden moments by seeking out connection with those you love.

Share your feelings with someone whom you trust.

Take charge of sifting through long-standing traditions. Keep those that you want to maintain and start a new one. Get creative. Have fun with it.

Go to a place of worship. Allow yourself to feel peace. Peace.

Think about what gifts are supposed to represent. Give one. Give many.

Let your gifts be about something far more meaningful than any money you may spend.

Don’t compare yourself and your own situation with what you perceive others may have. Don’t believe the magazines or the everyone-loves-everyone-all-the-time stories on TV.

Spend some time with children.

Get enough sleep. Eat. Drink plenty of water.

Go for a walk at night when it’s snowing. Bundle up.

Make a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Savor the anticipation of
of attaining them.

Find a way to help someone who needs something you can provide.


Let the message to people you love be that they matter. The message to you from your loving Self is that you matter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New Weekly Allowance

By Jessica Fox, LCPC

I love this article Modern Allowance Tribune Story on giving your kids an allowance. One of my clients referenced this article in a session so I decided to check it out, and boy was I glad I did. It’s not a mind-blowing, completely unique concept or anything., but rather, a sort of “duh” moment; why didn’t we think of this before?

I am no economic expert by any means. I am not well versed in the stock market and could probably only last 10 minutes in a conversation about the government’s plan to stimulate the economy. I’m a therapist, I could talk about anxiety and depression for hours…..However, as a therapist that works with parents, I found this article incredibly useful. It connects the concepts of finance with social responsibility. Two ideas that unfortunately have been strangers for some time now.

The article discusses a few different ways to distribute allowance to children. Many families are now adopting a plan that imitates the 401k system where they match what their children save. Other families are trying to teach kids about social responsibility, pushing them to place one third of their allowance into an envelope for charity. It is so important that we model and educate children about being giving. Many researchers have described today’s youth as “entitled.” I hear it all of the time in my practice, parents complaining that their children just seem ungrateful and entitled. It’s not all their faults. We need to do a better job at making charity a part of our lives and sharing this knowledge with our kids. Make it an expectation. You will teach your children two essential lessons about budgeting and valuing every dollar and the responsibility we all have to help those less fortunate.