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Posts Tagged ‘family therapy techniques’

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

Drug Use Among Teenagers

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are alternated for brevity.

When parents are struggling with their teen using drugs or alcohol, they may choose therapy as an option. After the initial relief, however, comes the surprise at the amount of work placed squarely on their shoulders.

When a therapist specially trained to work with teens who are using initially meets with parents, he has one goal in mind: learn the family rules. This may take several sessions, but it is vital for the therapist to learn what is permitted in the home (respect, compensation for chores, doors locked/unlocked) and what is not permitted (eye-rolling, substance use, failing grades). If the therapist is confused by the rules, it is likely the teen is also.

Next the therapist will ask the parents to identify and prioritize two or three behaviors they wish to change. Of course using drugs or alcohol is the primary symptom, but typically grades, curfew, and respectful behaviors are identified as well. The list is kept short to maximize effort and success.

Finally, the therapist will need to know how the parents plan to ‘parent’ the identified behaviors (design and enforce consequences). This is important because not only must parents have a plan for the other six days their child is not in therapy, their influence must increase while the therapist’s decreases. Failure to do this could lead to the therapist becoming the ‘influential figure’ in the family (“didn’t the therapist tell you drinking was wrong?”) and this will lead to therapy becoming the consequence rather than the place for help and healing.

Leaving a session with a therapist trained to help teens who are using may leave parents confused. The hard work will pay off, though, and parents will have tools to help them help their child be successful, and drug and alcohol free.

 

Managing Anger during Infidelity Recovery: Coping with Anger and Anger Outbursts

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

When couples struggle to survive an affair, they may select treatment as a choice. Initially there is relief because they feel just like the specialist understands their heartache and can sincerely assist them. What may very well surprise them nonetheless, is the sensation that they’re moving two steps forward and one step back.

Leaving a session may make them feel as though they have the tools and are headed straight for success, only to be sidelined for days by unexpected emotional turmoil. This phenomenon has been called a roller coaster, but might be more accurately described as a dance with anger. When the partners arrive for treatment, what they might not get is that three people actually show up for the appointment. Just two wear skin, but the third is just as real and influential: anger.

Analysts are only now spotting the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, including anger, which the betrayed better half experiences following the discovery of an affair. The wrath could be displayed through anger outbursts or concealed away, but it is almost always at work impacting the direction therapy will take. Will the specialist help the partners talk about the factors that made the marriage ready for the affair, or will the focus be on the stress experienced by the deceived partner? Anger will decide.

The betraying spouse may be unable to identify her very own anger in the primary sessions as she may be working awfully tough to continue handling her wrath and not further offend the partner she betrayed. By ignoring her anger however, she is not coping with anger. In ignoring anger, she ignores the frustration, discontent, and antagonism that led to her to justifying, minimizing, and executing a successful affair. If the consultant fails to recognize her outrage in session, he may leave her in the same emotionally charged situation.

In infidelity recovery, angriness must be identified and met head on by all participators in therapy. Ignoring angriness doesn’t make it go away; it only makes it a much more powerful dance partner.

The Very Best You

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Everyone has buddies and relatives whom we love. Not only do we care deeply about them, we think a lot about what we will be able to give them. These emotions and thoughts are crucial! There’s a point, nevertheless, when giving might be negative.

The best thing you can give your loved ones is the very best you. What does that suggest? It means that you learn about yourself, how you are feeling in different situations, how your family of origin affected you for good (or not so good), how you deal with conflict, and what your wishes are. When you find out about yourself you begin to change. You can discover you are becoming as important as your mother or father. Maybe you never learned to request what you need and now you’re getting depressed due to resentment. You might even discover your intense wrath is a cover-up for your hurt. The result is that you may be good at going through the motions of giving, but the internal attitude is not so charitable because it consequently diminishes the value of your good works, thus leaving you feeling sad and alone inside. But it does not have to stay that way.

Consider Wayne* and Sandy*. Wayne and Sandy came to see me because Sandy was depressed and Wayne didn’t think he could handle it any more. As we conversed, Sandy discovered that in 27 years of marriage, she never asked for what she needed. She thought that her role as wife and mom was to only do for others!

Wayne spotted that, while he was fond of having Sandy take care of him and the children, he had become self-absorbed and disconnected from Sandy. As they gained understanding of themselves and one another, Sandy started listening to her feelings and wishes and Wayne started listening and responding. Sandy’s depression lifted and Wayne found out he was married to an interesting woman!

This is what I mean by becoming the very best you. Start today: invest in yourself, learn to love yourself, and begin making the changes you need so you can love yourself more. When you learn to love yourself more and love yourself first, everything falls into place. So the gift you can give is the gift of loving yourself. Everybody will be happy with that as a gift!

 

* Wayne and Sandy are pseudonyms and represent a host of couples who have received solutions in their marriage for matters surrounding this kind of issue.

Sue Watkins is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Sue can be found at www.SueWatkins.net.

 

“Just a stage?” Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children, and Defiant Disorder Treatment

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

As every parent knows, kids love to use the word “no.”  It gives them a sense of power and it allows them to perceive they have some control over their endlessly rule laden lives.  While unpleasant, this is a normal part of child maturation and testing boundaries, and it is a normal part of parenthood to continue to be the boundary enforcer. But what happens when a child surpasses normal non-compliance efforts, and their unruliness becomes so severe and so consistent that the parent is unable to regain authoritative control? It may be the child’s behavior is a diagnosable condition.

So how do you know when those refusals to comply have become more than just a little stage?  There is a little known but increasingly diagnosed disorder called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  If your child is exhibiting the signs below it may be a signal that something more serious is going on and it’s time to contact a mental health professional about a possible ODD diagnosis.

The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in childeren is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that is “deliberate, spiteful, and argumentative.”  This is not the preschooler who tells mom “no” to bath time or the school age kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.  This is a child or teen who, over a six month period or longer, repeatedly refuses to follow rules, argues with adults, and is easily angered.

The result is often serious disruptions at school or other social settings. ODD is usually recognized by about age 8 and can be diagnosed by early adolescence.  If not addressed, symptoms may become more confrontational and more persistent as the child enters middle school and high school. Treatments include impulse control therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, and behavioral therapies.

So the next time your child exercises his “no” muscle, have no fear.  It is a normal part of growth and helps him mature, develop decision making skills, and become independent.  If, however, your child’s “no” has become constant, results in discipline problems at school, or appears overly intentional or directed at adults, check with your school or community counselor for a referral.  There are defiant disorder treatment options, and licensed family and parenting counselors will be able to help.

Finding the Right Therapist for Your Family

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Joanne finally picked up the home phone, realizing this was the most difficult call she had ever made. She was about to ask for help in the one area of her life that she’d thought she had held together: her family.

At the last appointment, Jake’s psychiatrist mentioned marriage and family therapy programs but she had felt too angry (or was it embarrassed?) to call for further information. After all, this was Jake’s problem, wasn’t it? How could therapy for the whole family do any good when Jake was the one causing arguments, getting in trouble at school, and sneaking out at night doing who knows what with who knows whom?  Family therapy techniques sounded so… intrusive. The therapist would probably pick apart her parenting and tell her she had done everything wrong.

So why was she finally changing her mind? Strangely enough it was because of Jake’s little sister Jenny. Yesterday afternoon, Jenny had asked, “Why are you and daddy so mad at Jake all the time?” In that moment, Joanne realized Jenny had not been immune to the turmoil surrounding their efforts to help Jake. Somehow she knew that her family could not get better if they stuck to the problem-focused idea that their only hope rested in “fixing” one person. Whether she liked it or not, this was a family problem.

Family therapy is a core mental health profession. It is brief, solution-focused, and it focuses on specific, attainable, therapeutic goals. Joanne’s decision to seek help for her family was very serious and choosing the right family therapist was important. She started with her insurance company and researched possible providers who could help. After consulting with a trusted family physician, she made the appointment.

When you decide to seek help for your family it is important to familiarize yourself with the different mental health professions. Remember, it’s okay to keep looking if your family is not making progress. Choose the professional and the family therapy center you feel the best fit so that you can receive the right help.

The “Normal Family” – What Makes a Strong Family

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

As a counselor for over 15 years, I often hear the need for a normal family. Normal is defined as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. The thought of a conforming teenager may appear humorous, yet the need for stability and normalcy is not. With such clients, I assess their perception of a normal family. Answers vary, but I find that strong and productive families share similar characteristics including the enforcement of rules, clear communication, and acceptance of change.

Vigorous yet happy and strong families have rules that are specific, respected by all members, and consistently enforced. Rules in the home help family members develop clear expectations, support a stable environment, and decrease the frequency of control and power struggles. What makes a strong family is when family members know where authority lies and respect the opinions of all members while also acknowledging the opportunity to negotiate and discuss any problems or family issues.

Clear communication is another contributor to strong families. Members take responsibility for their statements and respectfully communicate with others. Even though expressing thoughts and feelings involves facing certain risks – one may encounter opposition, disagreement, and hurt – these expressions are validated and welcomed in healthy families.

A third characteristic of strong families is the realization and understanding of change. Although it is human nature to resist change, strong families have a tendency to accept change and members understand the ever-present concept of change. These families have a clear understanding of developmental stages and are thus able to successfully assimilate and accommodate when change is necessary. Family members understand life stages and accept each member’s individual growth.

In conclusion, while no perfect recipe produces perfect families, a “normal family” is achieved when these important ingredients are considered and implemented. Incorporating the above characteristics is a great way to start strengthening your family relationships.

 

Tia Parsley, MEd, LPC, LCDC has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management. Lear more about TIa Parsley the these websites: www.achievebalance.org and www.tiaparsley.com.


Blended Family Counseling: Using the Developmental Model for Addressing Blended Family Issues

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In order to assist blended families, counselors can use the Developmental Model by Patricia Papernow (1993) as a means to understand the specific issues that a blended family encounters. This model allows for movement back and forth through the stages of blended family counseling, since crises may precipitate movement to the earlier stages.

Papernow’s (1993) model for addressing blended family issues consists of three main stages, with substages existing within each of the major stages. The first is the Early Stage, with Fantasy, Immersion, and Awareness as the substages of this level. The second is the Middle Stage with Mobilization and Action as the substages. The third stage is called the Later Stage with Contact and Resolution as the substages.

The pace of families moving through these stages depends upon the support for the family. Faster families can move through the model in four years, but this would be the minority of families. The average blended family will take seven years to move through the stages, and they usually spend two to three years in the earlier stages. For slower families, they may spend up to four years in the earlier stages, and it may take them up to 12 years to complete the cycle. Without blended family counseling, some families may stay stuck in the earlier stages, and this can end in divorce.

The model examines the losses that all members encounter in the Early Stages and the wishes (especially of children) to return to their prior family structure. The biological relationships are stronger at this point, and stepparents are considered as outsiders. During Mobilization, all parts of the family system begin to find their voice. This leads to Action when the family decides to form a step family structure. In the final stages, the members of the blended family form meaningful relationships with one another.

Counselors can access this model to plot where the blended family may be stuck, where the loss issues are, and also what needs to happen to help this blended family function as a system.

Resource

Papernow, P. (1993). Becoming a stepfamily: Patterns of development in remarried families. Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press.

Family Traditions and Rituals

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

            When providing family therapy services, it is important to understand how a family system functions. An important assessment of this is the presence or absence of rituals. Rituals in families have many purposes. They can tell us how people relate to one another, what rituals are used to help the family heal, how people identify themselves and accept change, what families believe and how families celebrate.

            It is also important to understand the parts of a ritual. People can use symbols that are meaningful to them, and with these symbols, there is a symbolic action to carry out the ritual. A symbol can have structured parts and/or open parts. Rituals can be carried out in a special time and/or a special place.

            There are also types of rituals such as those we do on a daily basis. These rituals can be simple and spontaneous or very intentional and unique. There are lots of possibilities to change these kinds of rituals. Some examples of daily rituals include saying grace at dinner or where people sit at the dinner table. Another example of a daily ritual is how people say goodbye to each other or how they greet each other. A third example is what happens during bedtime with children.

            The second type of ritual is family traditions. These are the family days that are written on calendars. Others outside of the family may not recognize the time and space of these family traditions, and the people within the family usually go to work or school on these days. Families can have flexibility with these family traditions. Examples of these rituals include birthdays and anniversaries. It is important to ask people if there are cakes, special dinners or parties with people outside the immediate family.

            The third category is family holiday celebrations which can be complicated, because the media and culture and dictate how people “should” celebrate. There is often much pressure on families during these rituals. These are the rituals that are already stamped on a calendar such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.

            The last category of rituals is the life-cycle rituals. These are the rituals that help people pass through life. They help to mark the beginning and ending of relationships. Examples of these are births, deaths and funerals, and weddings.

            Counselors and therapists of family therapy services help families whose rituals are minimized, interrupted or unflexible. Therefore, the best family therapy techniques will consider what the family’s ideal rituals and traditions may be, and how the members can be returned to celebrate them once again.

Dr. Judy DeTrude is licensed in Texas as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is an Authorized Supervisor for each of the licenses.

Resource

            Black, Evan Imber and Roberts, Janine (1998). Rituals for our times: Healing and changing our lives and relationships. Jason Aronson, Inc.

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