Counseling Services

At McDowell Mountain Counseling, Grace provides a professional, confidential, comfortable and peaceful office setting. By offering a spectrum of counseling options and a high level of flexibility in the way services are delivered, Grace gives people tools that are relevant to their individual needs and tailored to optimize effectiveness. This ultimately results in achieving greater insight into presenting problems, increased interpersonal growth and successful completion of goals.

Below is a listing of the areas in which I specialize.  Please explore below to find the counseling specialties that best applies to your situation.

Individuals | Couples | Children | Adolescents & Teens | Parenting | Families

Individuals

“A Unique Person,  requires A Unique Plan”

INDIVIDUALS COUNSELING SERVICES

Anxiety Disorders

man with anxietyAnxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults or 18% of the population. Anxiety disorders can overwhelm a person’s life with feelings of fear, helplessness and hopelessness. Experiencing occasional levels of anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can even be beneficial in some situations. However, dealing with chronic anxiety can negatively impact day-to-day living and usually worsens if left unaddressed. Additionally those experiencing an anxiety disorder commonly also experience depression. Specific types of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Soicial Anxietiy Disorder, Specific Phobia, Agoraphobia, Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and related Disorders such as Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) and Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder are also closely associated with Anxiety. Fortunately, Anxiety Disorders and OCD are highly treatable. Despite this, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. This may in part due to individuals ‘normalizing’ their anxiety and/or feeling powerless to stop the anxiety despite how it interferes with life.

Body Image

plain looking woman looks at herself in mirrorA healthy body image is one important aspect to a healthy identity. Developing a healthy perception of one’s body starts in childhood should continue to be developed throughout life as a person’s body changes and grows. Influences from peers, family members, coaches, and media are integral to creating one’s body image. Additionally, personality trains such as self-criticism and perfectionism can have a strong role in body image development. Men, women, children, adolescents and teens all can experience serious struggles with self-acceptance due to a negative body image. These individuals are also at increased risk to develop eating disorders and other emotional and mental health problems. Treatment focusing on body awareness, appreciation and acceptance, along with developing a more comprehensive self-concept, can help overcome these externally based, deeper internal struggles.

Depression/Mood Disorders

man sitting aloneMajor Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder are three common types of Mood Disorders. Depression affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. Symptoms of depression include; symptoms of persistent sadness, hopelessness, guild, worthlessness, loss of interest or pleasure, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, appetite and weight changes, irritability and thoughts of death or suicide. At any point in time, 3 to 5 percent of people in the United States suffer from major depression; the lifetime risk is about 17 percent. The good news is that depression is treatable and such treatment can have a significant positive impact on one’s quality of life.

Eating Disorders

Young woman on bathroom scale worrying about her weightIf you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, you likely know the intense secrecy, insecurity, shame and pain that accompanies an eating disorder. Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses that frequently occur during teen or young adulthood, but can also develop in childhood or even later years of life. The three primary types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Eating disorders are usually treated with multi-modality therapies (CBT, Family and Group), along with nutritional counseling and medication if needed. Inpatient and/or Intensive Outpatient programs are sometimes required to help an individual overcome a chronic or severe eating disorder.

Grief/Loss Issues

girls hand against rainy windowWhether sudden or anticipated, grief associated with loss is an experience we all encounter at some point in our lives. Loss comes in many forms, such as disease, disability, death or divorce. Any type of loss can cause substantial shits in a person’s mood, thoughts and every-day living. The severity and process of healing from loss varies from person to person and across situations. In a typical grief response, people feel their deep sadness and pain ease slowly over time; it can take a few months or a few years to feel grief subside. In other cases of ‘complicated grief’ healing can take much longer. For a person experiencing severe or complicated grief, therapy is of particular benefit to help facilitate deeper understanding, meaning and healing in one’s life.

Identity/Self Esteem

Depressed Overweight WomanWhether old or young, a person’s sense of self is an integral component to his/her wellbeing. While some individuals have an inflated sense of self, frequently expecting admiration and praise, others have an insecure or weak self-view. A healthy, stable, realistic identity is a building block to a person’s happiness, independence, accomplishments and relationships with others. One’s ability to develop a strong identity, inclusive of strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to grow one’s identity throughout life is a challenging and rewarding experience.

Separation/Divorce Adjustment

divorced coupleSeparation and Divorce are inherently stressful, emotional and conflictual experiences. If you have children, their adjustment will undoubtedly be your primary concern. However whether or not children are involved, you will most likely experience significant levels of uncertainty, confusion and feelings of being overwhelmed for which you are be unprepared. Questions, doubts, worries, changes in identity, and shifts in friendships may abound. How you encounter and adapt to these new experiences is key to your healthy adjustment post-divorce. Such issues are best addressed in an open and proactive manner rather than waiting until you feel the emotional pain is too great.

Sexuality Issues

People think about, talk about and experience sex and sexuality as a part of typical life. Yet when it comes to sexuality issues, sexual disorders and sexual difficulties in a relationship, many people overlook or ignore these experiences until they are creating great distress. Seeking treatment for sexuality issues (either individually or as a couple) can be a daunting step, but doing so can propel one’s individual and relationship satisfaction to a much higher level.

Social Difficulties

young man feeling aloneHaving strong social skills and a network of social supports is important for most adults, yet for some this remains difficult to achieve. Social problems in adulthood are often due to social anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, past traumas, poor self-esteem or a pattern of problematic social experiences. With therapy support, individuals are often able to identify the source of social problems and better address these underlying causes so that new social experiences can be formed.

Stages of Life

man alone on bench in desertStages of life are loosely defined according to age ranges that involve similar developmental and situational experiences. Each stage of life is marked with cultural, social, gender and economic influences, along with corresponding expectations and stressors. Understanding the common adjustments and considerations for a particular stage of life can help a person become better prepared and equipped to handle the inherent challenges. How a person experiences and responds to these stressors varies between individuals, but support to help in the response can be of great benefit.

Stress Management

stressed guy squeezes ballStress is a very real and normal part of life for most everyone. However, excess levels of stress or stress sustained over a long period of time can lead to significant health issues, problems in relationships, mood changes and destructive behaviors. There are a variety of positive ways address both temporary and long-term stress. Exercise, meditation, social activities, hobbies, relaxation and many other behaviors can help us recover from the stress we experience. However some stress is more acute or pervasive in nature and requires additional attention. Counseling can help a person achieve better stress management in his or her life.

Trauma/PTSD

Trauma and PTSD symptoms can develop following any traumatic event that makes one feel helpless or threatens one’s safety. PTSD affects people differently. Some people develop PTSD very soon after the traumatic event while others may not develop symptoms formonths or years (delayed onset). Some experience symptoms for several weeks or a few months (acute), while others’ symptoms last for many months or years (chronic). PTSD can affect those who experience a direct traumatic stressor as well as those who learn about or witness a severe or life threatening event that involves a close family member or associate.

Couples

“Relationships are about growth.  Growth comes from patience, understanding, and love.  But most of all growth comes from a willingness to grow.”

COUPLES COUNSELING SERVICES

Improve Your Marriage

silhouette of couple kissingHow does a couple create, maintain and grow a truly healthy relationship? Especially in the face of individual differences, life stressors and inevitable changes that occur in life over time. In counseling, couples can discover how to better support each other as individuals while having a secure couple identity together that is based on trust and commitment. They will define how they want to live in their relationship, will learn how to manage conflicts and how to better share in meaningful experiences together. Through this, couples learn how to take care of their relationships so that the connection, comfort, intimacy, sensuality and fun that they experience together does not diminish over time.

Infertility

sad woman sitting alone in a empty roomYou are ready for the next big life step-having a child or welcoming another child into your family. Yet, for many couples the desire for a child is met with the disappointment of infertility or pregnancy complications. This reality can be life-changing and overwhelming for many women and men. Depression, anxiety, anger, and identity struggles are typical responses to discovering and dealing with infertility. The impact of this grief, along with associated emotional and physical strain, can cause further pain and isolation in your marriage. Many people also experience difficulties socializing, particularly with friends who have children, thereby cutting off usual emotional supports. Seeking counseling for you as an individual and as a couple to address the impact of infertility can be a vital source of support. Infertility counseling can help you evaluate your plan for the next steps in your marriage and make collaborative decisions regarding parenthood.

Infidelity/Affair

Young couple quarrels in bedroom. Depressed man sitting on the edge of the bed. Focus on manInfidelity in a marriage or committed relationship brings immense pain and instability to both people. For some an affair will cause the relationship to end. Other couples find they are able to emerge from an affair with greater strength and understanding, choosing to recommit to their relationship. No matter which path is ultimately chosen, seeking counseling after an affair (or even at the recognition of an affair threat) is critical. Understanding how and why a person was unfaithful is only the first step. Healing from the trauma, rebuilding trust and finding out if two people can recommit to each other in a meaningful and even healthier way takes considerable time and effort from both people involved.

Premarital Counseling

mountain sunriseThe statistic for divorce is well-known, 50% for first marriages, higher for those married more than once. But a less know statistic is that couples who participate in premarital counseling or education report higher levels of marital satisfaction and have a 30% decline in the likelihood of divorce over five years. Despite this, some hold a view that counseling is for relationships with ‘problems’ and that going to counseling is unnecessary unless such problems arise. But what if couples proactively made discussing, understanding, problem-solving and planning part of establishing their marriage, rather than waiting until their marriage was in trouble? Learning effective conflict resolution and addressing resentments and fears about the relationship before you marry can help establish healthy patterns for the future. Having open explorations in areas of intimacy, finances, career, children, religion, household duties, in-laws, social life and family involvement is a great way to give your marriage a strong foundation from the start.

Children

“Don’t worry if your children seem to shun your information and questions; they are listening to what you say more than they like to admit.”

CHILDREN COUNSELING SERVICES

ADHD

asbstract image of fall leavesDeciding if a child has ADHD is a several-step process. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems can have similar symptoms. Severity of symptoms, age of onset and symptoms occurring in more than one setting are additional key components to accurate diagnosis. Children may experience symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity. In addition to medication treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and developing better strategies to help with focus, follow-through and self-regulation can be of great support to children who have ADHD.

Anxiety Disorders

sad young girlAnxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Additionally children who experience an anxiety disorder are more likely to also experience depression. Specific types of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Soicial Anxietiy Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobia, Agoraphobia, Selective Mutism, Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and related Disorders such as Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) and Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder are also closely associated with Anxiety. Fortunately, Anxiety Disorders and OCD are highly treatable. Yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Unlike adults, children with Anxiety Disorders or OCD may be aware that their fears are excessive and think that being anxious is simply a part of who they are. That is why early diagnosis and treatment can be so significant to a child’s development.

Behavioral/Conduct

child pouting family in backgroundSometimes is hard to know if your child’s outbursts and emotions are within a normal range or indicative of a bigger problem. This is particularly true because what constitutes healthy emotional expression can vary greatly between children of the same age and even more between children of different age groups. Yet, children who experience behavioral and emotional difficulties (in spite of parental support) to the point of recurring physical violence, frequent emotional distress, withdrawing, threatening self-harm or having significant social or learning problems should be evaluated by a professional. Doing so can help a parent better understand if a more serious issue exists and if so, how to best help your child. Through both individual and family counseling your child can learn tools for emotional and behavioral self-regulation skills and you as a parent can learn how to best support this process.

Body Image

mirror with I am ugly written on it.A healthy body image is one important aspect to a healthy identity. Developing a healthy perception of one’s body starts in childhood should continue to be developed throughout life as a person’s body changes and grows. Influences from peers, family members, coaches, and media are integral to creating one’s body image. Additionally, personality trains such as self-criticism and perfectionism can have a strong role in body image development. Men, women, children, adolescents and teens all can experience serious struggles with self-acceptance due to a negative body image. These individuals are also at increased risk to develop eating disorders and other emotional and mental health problems. Treatment focusing on body awareness, appreciation and acceptance, along with developing a more comprehensive self-concept, can help overcome these externally based, deeper internal struggles.

Depression/Mood Disorders

girl stares out rainy windowAll children experience changes in their moods, as well as times of feeling very sad and emotional. However, for some children the ‘downs’ are not a part of normal developmental changes or experiences. Children who have ADHD, Anxiety and ODD as well as children who have learning disorders are at greater risk for Depression. Children who have a family history of mood disorders and/or have experienced serious chronic stress or trauma are also more likely to suffer from mood disorders themselves. Children who are depressed are more likely to complain of aches and pains rather than say they are depressed and they may seem more irritable or angry than they seem sad. Depression affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. The good new s is that Depression is treatable and such treatment can have a very positive impact on all parts of child’s life.

Grief/Loss Issues

Sad child cryingWhether sudden or anticipated, grief associated with loss is an experience we all encounter at some point in our lives. Experiencing loss as a child is especially painful and confusing. Helping a child understand what he/she is feeling about a loss for him/herself or a loved one must be specific to the child’s emotional and cognitive level. Losses associated with death, divorce, disability or disease are particularly complicated when they occur in childhood. But appropriate support in an on-going and timely manner will lead to a much healthier grieving process and recovery for that child.

Identity/Self Esteem

who am I written on blackboard Whether old or young, a person’s sense of self is an integral component to his/her well-being. While some individuals have an inflated sense of self, frequently expecting admiration and praise, others have an insecure or weak self-view. A healthy, stable, realistic identity is a building block to a person’s happiness, independence, accomplishments and relationships with others. One’s ability to develop a strong identity, inclusive of strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to grow one’s identity throughout life is a challenging and rewarding experience.

School/Education Issues

child depressed at schoolWe all know that the expectations and potential stressors for our children at school are immense, and many of these are not exclusively learning or academic in nature. A child’s success at school and his/her ability to learn is greatly influenced by other variables such as perceived pressures, social struggles, past experiences, comparison to peers, relationships with teachers, and a host of potential issues such as mood, anxiety, emotions, attention and physical health. Understanding a child’s complete academic experience and addressing gaps in his/her educational needs can result in a more satisfying school experience overall.

Separation/Divorce Adjustment

daughter and arguing parentsDivorce inherently means a massive change in the life of a child, no matter what the age. Understanding that one’s parents have lost love for each other, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create new challenges and emotional stressors for a child. Experiencing increased anxiety, anger and behavioral/emotional regression is a normal response for these children. Parents can help their child’s adjustment process by observing the three R's that will restore a child's trust - Routines, Rituals, and Reassurance. Additionally, children who are able process their experiences in counseling and better understand rather than deny their emotions, will benefit in both their short-term and long-term adjustment.

Social Difficulties

A very sad boy lay on the ground seam to be bullying in school playground.Childhood is a critical time for social exploration and growth. Relationships with others teach children about their world and help them develop healthy emotional expression, empathy, trust, compassion and a stronger sense of one’s self. Children who have not developed strong social skills early in life are at greater risk of continued difficulties throughout their childhood and into adolescence, including behavioral difficulties, school problems and poor self-esteem. Children with social difficulties often have coexisting conditions such as ADHD, Developmental Disorders, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, insecure family relationships, trauma and learning disabilities. Because of this, it is critically important to not only support children understanding their social world, but also to address the underlying contributing factors through the treatment process.

Stages of Life

A teenage girl is leaning her hands on the wall. She is looking at the camera over shoulders.Stages of life are loosely defined according to age ranges that involve similar developmental and situational experiences. Because childhood in itself is marked by very significant developmental changes, adapting to the complexities of life stages can be of great struggle for children. For this reason having support during shifts of childhood can be of great benefit to children who encounter high stress or are experiencing different rates of maturing in different developmental areas.

Stress Management

sad little girl over green backgroundStress is a very real and normal part of life for most everyone. However, excess levels of stress or stress sustained over a long period of time can lead to significant health issues, problems in relationships, mood changes and destructive behaviors. There are a variety of positive ways address both temporary and long-term stress. Exercise, meditation, social activities, hobbies, relaxation and many other behaviors can help us recover from the stress we experience. However some stress is more acute or pervasive in nature and requires additional attention. Counseling can help a person achieve better stress management in his or her life.

Trauma/PTSD

Trauma and PTSD symptoms can develop following any traumatic event that makes one feel helpless or threatens one’s safety. PTSD affects people differently. Some people develop PTSD very soon after the traumatic event while others may not develop symptoms formonths or years (delayed onset). Some experience symptoms for several weeks or a few months (acute), while others’ symptoms last for many months or years (chronic). PTSD can affect those who experience a direct traumatic stressor as well as those who learn about or witness a severe or life threatening event that involves a close family member or associate.

Adolescents & Teens

“One of the most prominent challenges parents face involves helping our teens take flight into young adulthood.”

ADOLESCENT & TEENS COUNSELING SERVICES

ADHD

asbstract image of fall leavesThere is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems such as depression, anxiety and learning disabilities can have symptoms similar to those of ADHD. Additionally adolescents, teens and even adults who have gone through life undiagnosed may minimize the severity or impact of their symptoms, perceiving as ‘normal’ or ‘just how it has always been’ for them. This is particularly true for inattentive types of ADHD. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, adolescents and teens who do suffer from ADHD can experience a marked improvement in school performance and relationships with others. In addition to medication treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and developing better strategies to help with focus, follow-through and self-regulation can be of great support to those who have ADHD.

Anxiety Disorders

agos abril carla cris jo pia  (4)Anxiety disorders affect one in eight people people who are under 18 yrs of age. Research shows that untreated youth with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. Additionally those who experience an anxiety disorder are more likely to also experience depression. Specific types of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Soicial Anxietiy Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobia, Agoraphobia, Selective Mutism, Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders and related Disorders such as Trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) and Excoriation (skin-picking) disorder are also closely associated with Anxiety. Fortunately, Anxiety Disorders and OCD are highly treatable. Despite this, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Unlike adults, children with Anxiety Disorders or OCD may not be aware that their fears are excessive and think that being anxious is simply a part of who they are. That is why early diagnosis and treatment can be so significant to a teen’s overcoming perceived limits to what he/she can do and can have a great impact on positive development of his/her identity.

Behavioral/Conduct

mother scolds her daughter for bad behavior,Sometimes is hard to know if your child’s emotional outbursts are within a normal range or indicative of a bigger problem. This is particularly true for adolescents and teens, who are experiencing a stage of development marked by turbulent emotions, hormonal changes, stress, individuation from parents and large variances in emotional and physical maturity. However for some, the emotional rollercoaster they experience may result in behavioral problems of greater concern. If your teen is experiencing frequent emotional distress resulting in physical violence, verbally lashing-out, withdrawing, threatening self-harm or having significant social or learning problems he/she should be evaluated by a professional. Doing so can help yourself and your teen determine if more support is warranted. Through individual and/or family counseling your teen can learn tools for emotional and behavioral self-regulation skills and you as a parent can learn how to best support him/her in this process.

Body Image

girl writes fat on mirrorA healthy body image is one important aspect to a healthy identity. Developing a healthy perception of one’s body starts in childhood should continue to be developed throughout life as a person’s body changes and grows. Influences from peers, family members, coaches, and media are integral to creating one’s body image. Additionally, personality trains such as self-criticism and perfectionism can have a strong role in body image development. Men, women, children, adolescents and teens all can experience serious struggles with self-acceptance due to a negative body image. These individuals are also at increased risk to develop eating disorders and other emotional and mental health problems. Treatment focusing on body awareness, appreciation and acceptance, along with developing a more comprehensive self-concept, can help overcome these externally based, deeper internal struggles.

Depression/Mood Disorders

Sad teenager girl sitting by brick wallMajor Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Persistent Depressive Disorder are three common types of Mood Disorders. An estimated 10.7 percent of US teens youth ages 12-17 have had at least one Major Depressive Episode in the last year. This is very different from a teen experiencing changes in hormones or having a few bad days because of stress, school, friends or sleep problems. Depression affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. Depression includes symptoms of persistent sadness, hopelessness, guild, worthlessness, loss of interest or pleasure, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, appetite and weight changes, irritability and thought s of death or suicide. The good new s is that Depression is treatable and such treatment can have a very positive impact on all parts of a teen’s life.

Eating Disorders

young depressed girl with eating disorderIf you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, you likely know the intense secrecy, insecurity, shame and pain that accompanies an eating disorder. Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses that frequently occur during teen or young adulthood, but can also develop in childhood or even later years of life. The three primary types of eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Eating disorders are usually treated with multi-modality therapies (CBT, Family and Group), along with nutritional counseling and medication if needed. Inpatient and/or Intensive Outpatient programs are sometimes required to help an individual overcome a chronic or severe eating disorder.

Grief/Loss Issues

girls hand against rainy windowWhether sudden or anticipated, grief associated with loss is an experience we all encounter at some point in our lives. Yet, experiencing loss as a teen has unique developmental factors. Amidst the already turbulent time of self-discovery, search for autonomy and navigating social obstacles, loss can overwhelm and impede a teenager’s emotional development. Whether this loss comes from death, divorce of parents, disability or disease, teens will benefit from age-appropriate support to help them understand and integrate their emotions, thoughts and experiences in the healthiest way possible.

Identity/Self Esteem

girl is not included in groupWhether old or young, a person’s sense of self is an integral component to his/her well-being. While some individuals have an inflated sense of self, frequently expecting admiration and praise, others have an insecure or weak self-view. A healthy, stable, realistic identity is a building block to a person’s happiness, independence, accomplishments and relationships with others. One’s ability to develop a strong identity, inclusive of strengths and weaknesses, and the ability to grow one’s identity throughout life is a challenging and rewarding experience.

School/Education Issues

depressed teenExpectations and potential stressors for our children reach record high levels as they enter high school, but in fact have already begun a rapid increase during middle and junior-high school. Many of these school struggles are not exclusively learning or academic in nature. Other variables such as academic performance pressures, standardized and college entrance exams, social struggles, past school experiences, comparison to peers, relationships with teachers, and a host of potential mental/physical issues such as mood, anxiety, emotions, attention, fatigue and physical health all effect how a teen learns at school. Helping your child understand his/her complete academic experience and addressing gaps in his/her comprehensive educational needs can result in a more satisfying educational journey throughout high school and beyond.

Separation/Divorce Adjustment

teen boy's parents argueSeparation and Divorce are inherently stressful, emotional and conflictual experiences for all those involved. Adolescents and teens who parents are separating or divorcing encounter this significant change in their family unit during a time when they are experiencing their own adjustment and identity obstacles. Because the adolescent is at a more detached and even rebellious stage with parents, divorce can intensify their relational struggles with a parent. Adolescents more than younger children tend to pull away and may feel betrayed by the broken parental commitment to family and may become angrier and less communicative. For the adolescent who is more concerned with friends, divorce tends to energize more independence from family. It is for these reasons that counseling during separation/divorce is truly important for most teens, even those who claim they are ‘fine’ and don’t need any help dealing with their parents’ separation.

Sexuality Issues

teen couple holding handsWhat is more associated with adolescent and teen development than sexuality? And for parents this means concerns about your child’s safety, maturity, and emotional and physical wellbeing in the process of his/her sexual development. Simultaneously, teens are experiencing greater autonomy, differentiation from parents and connection to their peers. So parents are left imparting information and hoping that what they share is resonating with their teen child. Even teens to ‘talk about everything’ with their parents usually limit what they share about sexual interest, questions and experiences. For this reason having a safe and confidential place to openly discuss sexuality can be of immense value to a teen.

Social Difficulties

bullyingAdolescents and teen years are largely defined by social experiences. As a teenager grasps for more independence and gains greater self-awareness he/she also is trying fit into to his/her social world. Many teens begin to spend more time with friends than they do with family members and it is within these peer groups that they practice relationship skills. In these peer groups teens frequently encounter challenges for which they are not adequately equipped and feelings of inadequacy arise. Youth who are dissatisfied with their social relationships report greater dissatisfaction with school and a more insecure self-concept. There are many factors that can coexist and contribute to social problems, including ADHD, learning disabilities, mood disorders, anxiety, insecure family relationships, trauma and self-esteem. Because of this, addressing social needs through counseling includes comprehensive assessment of a teen’s experience and needs.

Stages of Life

teen boy on stairs depressedStages of life are loosely defined according to age ranges that involve similar developmental and situational experiences. Each stage of life is marked with cultural, social, gender and economic influences, along with corresponding expectations and stressors. How a person experiences and responds to these stressors varies between individuals, but for teens this if often a time of exceptional self-doubt and insecurity thereby causing the teen to even greater turbulence during this stage of his/her life. That is why support to help in this understanding and responding can be of tremendous benefit.

Stress Management

Closeup stressed man holds head with handsStress is a very real and normal part of life for most everyone. However, excess levels of stress or stress sustained over a long period of time can lead to significant health issues, problems in relationships, mood changes and destructive behaviors. There are a variety of positive ways address both temporary and long-term stress. Exercise, meditation, social activities, hobbies, relaxation and many other behaviors can help us recover from the stress we experience. However some stress is more acute or pervasive in nature and requires additional attention. Counseling can help a person achieve better stress management in his or her life.

Trauma/PTSD

stressed teenTrauma and PTSD symptoms can develop following any traumatic event that makes one feel helpless or threatens one’s safety. PTSD affects people differently. Some people develop PTSD very soon after the traumatic event while others may not develop symptoms formonths or years (delayed onset). Some experience symptoms for several weeks or a few months (acute), while others’ symptoms last for many months or years (chronic). PTSD can affect those who experience a direct traumatic stressor as well as those who learn about or witness a severe or life threatening event that involves a close family member or associate.

Parenting

“If you think that your kids are the only challenge of parenting, don’t forget about the job, the house, the groceries, the pets, the relatives, the friends, the bills, ….and the kids.  Challenging – and manageable.”

PARENTING CHALLENGES

Adjustment to Parenting

distressed parentsAs soon to be parents, most of us knew there would be an initial adjustment period of fatigue, physical healing, less structured routine, little personal-time and reduced sex. But many parents are unprepared for the significant and chronic demands that occur in their relationship as a result of becoming parents. Even more unexpected for some, is the discord and distancing they experience after the birth of their second or third child, when the established equilibrium in their family is further disrupted. Not surprisingly, approximately 70% of new parents report experiencing conflict, disappointment and hurt feelings with each other. While many parents will eventually work through the new parenting demands and develop a viable division of labor and parenting roles, their relationship may continue to suffer from negative feelings and distancing. Proactively preparing yourselves for the relationship adjustment to parenthood is a gift you will give yourself, your relationship and your child.

Balancing Work and Family

family photo on work deskWhen the family grows in size, when the careers get bigger and more demanding of our time and when it becomes apparent that a hurried, pressured existence is now the norm, it’s time to reevaluate, re-balance and re-connect. Instead of doing this, many of us continue on in a mode of ‘survival’. Rather than finding a healthy plan and response to the ever-increasing demands of life, we simply resign ourselves to taking it all on and ignoring the strain being created in our relationships and for our children. But is this really a type of living we should accept? I propose it is not and taking an active, on-going approach to finding balance, choosing balance and living in balance is much more gratifying.

Blended Family

Family Playing Board Game At HomeCreating a cohesive family unit is challenging enough, even without the additional variables of stepchildren, squabbling step-siblings, co-parenting communication, your spouse’s ex, extended family members and the immersion of all parties into a foreign (and sometimes resisted) situation. Approaching your new marriage like you would a first marriage is impossible. Expecting your stepchild to accept your parenting role as your biological child would is futile. Yet, the relational bonds and positive familial experience that can be built within a blended family unit is also wonderful. By working hard to build relationships in a step family, everyone can learn a great deal about trust, respect, love and acceptance in the process.

Co-Parenting

sad little girl, parents holding her handsMany times, separation and divorce are overshadowed by years of pain, anger, frustration and lack of healthy communication in the parental relationship.  Each spouse may feel let down and blame the other. Yes, amidst this reality, parents are now faced with the task of emerging from the divorce as collaborative co-parents who operate with the child’s best interest at the forefront. While appropriate in theory and expectation, it is often a daunting task to accomplish without substantial support and guidance. But, if not undertaken, the division in the co-parenting often falls on the shoulders of the child causing more emotional stress to an already burdened child.

Parenting Tools

depressed comforted by parentWhile there are a host of wonderful parenting books and websites for every parenting topic (see Suggested Readings and Resources), many parents find that implementing the tools they read about for their specific situation is a harder challenge. Other parents become dismayed by the volumes of opinions, the inapplicability to their child or the lack of results when they attempt parenting changes. For these reasons and more, it can be of great support for parents to receive direct assessment, strategies, tools, implementation techniques and review of results for their family through parent counseling. Such counseling is rooted in empirical research and clinical practice, while tailored to the unique attributes and complexities of the parents, the parenting relationship and the child.

Families

“Don’t worry if your child seems to shun your information and questions; they are listening to what you say more than they like to admit.”

FAMILY COUNSELING SERVICES

Blended Family Relationships

blended family plays with laptopCreating a cohesive family unit is challenging enough, even without the additional variables of stepchildren, squabbling step-siblings, co-parenting communication, your spouse’s ex, extended family members and the immersion of all parties into a foreign (and sometimes resisted) situation. New roles, new parents, new siblings, new homes and new rules all contribute to blended families being rife with relationship conflicts, fears, disappointments and frustrations. Yet, with awareness, openness, patience and consistent family work, the relational bonds and positive familial experience within a blended family unit can be immense. Blended families who participate in family counseling can learn how to better build their relationships and, in the process, learn a great deal about trust, respect, love and acceptance.

Extended Family and In-Law Relationships

extended family picnicIf you have difficulties with your in-laws in your marriage, your relationship is quite normal. But many couples have problems related to in-laws or extended family that reach a more significant threshold. These struggles are usually associated with unhealthy boundaries, past hurts and lack of agreed expectations between spouses. Couples don’t always know how to communicate and maintain the agreements they reach to their other family members. It is important to do so in a way that is both supportive of the marriage and inclusive of the in-laws. Seeking couple and/or family counseling to help in such situations can be a great avenue for crating harmonious relationships between you and your extended family.

Parent - Child Relationships

Family on picnic near the lakeHaving fractures in the relationship between a child and parent causes far reaching pain for both. Whether you are the parent or child, you may have concluded by now that the relationship is irreconcilable. Or possibly you have decided that it’s best to accept the relationship in its current state rather than continuing fruitless efforts to elicit change. In reality, if both parties are desirous of having an improved relationship, healing and connection are quite possible. This is true for both minor children and adult children who are in brief or long-standing relational struggles. Starting family counseling now can give you more time experiencing a better relationship between you and your loved one.

Sibling Relationships

Girl and Boy stand togetherOur sibling relationships grow as a part of us, intertwined into the fibers of our being. They outlast our parent relationships. They are with us before our spouses. And they can challenge, define and enrich us in countless ways. Parents play a pivotal role in the trajectory of sibling relationships, but so do the siblings themselves. Learning how to parent your children as the individuals they are, while in close relation to one another, is a monumental achievement for parents. Knowing when and how to intervene to address conflict while also promoting positive relationship responsibility will set the stage for their lifelong relationship. Siblings who learn and grow through the challenges of birth order, individual differences and conflicts gain strength in themselves and their treasured sibling connection.