Therapy That Works...

Social Skills - What is Asperger’s Syndrome? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes what Asperger Syndrome is and signs you should watch out for in your child - click here.

Many people confuse Asperger’s Syndrome with Autism, but they are actually very different.

Children with Asperger’s often are socially aware, but they lack vital skills to create and sustain long-lasting relationships. These children may seem socially awkward to others, and they find relationships to be confusing and uncomfortable. Peers can seem rejecting and difficult to decipher and over time, they may stop trying to make and sustain friends.

Kids with Asperger’s show no delays in language or intellectual development but they often struggle socially. When they are approaching adolescence, the social deficits may compound and the young teenager may become acutely aware of their difficulty to think socially. Depression and anxiety can flourish in a mind that is chronically confused and frustrated by social problems that it cannot solve.

According to the psychologist, Dr. Susan Williams White, some of the most common social skills deficits in Asperger kids include the following:

  • Problems indentifying and correctly interpreting my own thoughts and feelings
  • Inability to understand the emotions, motivations, and reactions of others
  • Difficulty predicting how others will act or respond to actions
  • Failure to provide context or background for conversations and stories
  • Difficulty deciphering or completely miss nonverbal communications such as eye contact, tactile contact, and facial expressions
  • Rigidly about everyone following the rules of the situation
  • Unintentionally blunt in communications even to the point of being offensive
  • Failure to notice and process the emotions and cues of those around them

If you think that you or someone you know may have Asperger’s Syndrome, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist. They can help with social thinking and how to communicate more effectively with others.

Sources:

"Social SKills Training For Children With Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism" by Susan Williams White

The work of Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP

Growing Kids Strong – How To Create Self-Efficacy - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how to help your child develop self-efficacy for a life of success - click here.

Our children deserve a chance to become resilient and self-confident.

Dr. Albert Bandura created the concept of self-efficacy, which describes your belief in your ability to handle any situation with creativity and courage.

Stress is always worse when we feel that circumstances are beyond our control. This is especially true for our children who are often caught in circumstances beyond their control such as in their parents’ divorce or the loss of their community when their family moves to another house or city. Children become more helpless and hopeless when they do not see any way to control or influence the outcome of events.

On the flip side, children with self-efficacy are able to face a problem, envision a solution, and execute the necessary steps to fix any problem or situation. They experience less anxiety and they are able to analyze their environment and create solutions quickly and more effectively.

Dr. Bandura argues that children develop self-efficacy from four major sources:

History of Achievement:

According to Dr. Bandura, performance and accomplishments are especially effective at building self-efficacy since they are based on personal experience. Strong performance in dealing with a specific challenge builds a sense of personal achievement and confidence in their own ingenuity. Future setbacks are handled better if your child has a history of high performance.

Watch and Learn:

Children can also learn how to deal with adversity from others. Pushing through on a challenge is easier when we see other people handling a similar situation well. We generate the belief that we too can deal with the situation and overcome any adversity. Positive role modeling can be incredibly beneficial for a child’s sense of self-efficacy.

Words of Encouragement:

Telling your child that they can handle any adversity can be highly persuasive. Words can create images for children that are inspiring, soothing, and hopeful. Children who are asked to envision themselves achieving are more likely to hang in there and push through when things become difficult. Bandura is careful to note that influencing others with words is useful, but it is no substitute for the child’s personal experience.

Staying Positive:

Many of us focus on our own emotional and physical reactions to stress. If we see that we are in control of our emotions during stress, we gain confidence in ourselves. Anticipating a negative outcome will not only make us anxious, but it will undermine our sense of effectiveness. Children who refuse to dwell on negative thoughts and who choose to place their thoughts on positive, empowered outcomes are more likely to remain resourceful and effective in the future.

Source:

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety, Part 2 - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what to watch out for if you are worried that your child may have an anxiety problem - click here.

Our children experience anxiety early in their lives.

Normal events like surrendering a toy, losing a game, or saying goodbye to a beloved grandparent teach our kids to experience and resolve anxiety. Resilience and a positive attitude should equip our children to weather regular life events. However, every year childhood anxiety is becoming more widespread and more extreme. Children are becoming more fearful and more anxious at home, on the playground, and in the classroom.

Anxious emotions can become the defining influence on your child’s worldview. In some cases, anxiety can become extreme and even a debilitating problem. Anxious children begin to narrow their worlds by refusing to participate in activities like playing with friends, sleepovers, school events, and visits with their extended family. As time goes on, they become more fearful, avoidant, and justifying of their anxious worldview.

Most children experience anxiety like a slowly building wave that crashes down and then resolves quickly. Specific fears of things like storms, animals, and strangers may come and go with age, but a child’s confidence and resilience should increase as the years go by. By the time they enter school, children should be able to soothe themselves independently, govern their behavior responsibly, and listen attentively to their teachers without any feelings of anxiety.

Anxious children do everything they can to avoid activities or situations that make them anxious.

If you are worried that your child may have an anxiety issue, here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Intense fears about the safety of parents and siblings
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Regular complaints of physical aches and pains
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Intense fears about a specific object or situation
  • Performance fears about recess or in the classroom
  • Refusal to participate in activities with peers
  • Constant worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts of potentially harmful situations
  • Inability to be comforted or calmed by others

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 25, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the epidemic of childhood anxiety and how it could compromise your child's future - click here.

Why do kids feel so much more anxious today than they did in previous generations?

Psychologists are now seeing record numbers of children who are overly worried, panicked, and compromised by anxiety. In fact, clinical depression now strikes our children a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Childhood should be a time of enchantment, exploration, and play! Our kids should have no fear and endlessly dream of the better tomorrows that they will soon experience. So, why are we seeing record rates of childhood anxiety and depression?

Contagious Negativity:

We live in a culture that focuses on the negative. We see this trend in many areas like the pessimism in the nightly news or the angry bully on the playground. All of us, young and old, absorb the thinking style and emotions of the people around us. Pessimistic news travels quickly and if children are inundated with negativity, their explanatory view will increasingly skew to the anxious.

Learning To Fail:

We shower our children with recognition and praise when they do well. That’s the easy part, and it’s the fun part for us. Many parents forget the enormous value found in teaching children how to handle and overcome failure. Rebounding after setbacks, resolving disappointments, and moving past frustrations effectively allows us to regain a sense of control, self-efficacy, and purpose. Kids who can rebound psychologically are much less anxious since they keep their expectations realistic and believe in their ability to solve the problem.

Outcomes Cannot Be Controlled:

Winning is not something that can be controlled. In fact, effort does not always guarantee the outcome we had hoped for. It is important that children learn the complex relationship between effort and outcome. Learning that their hard work and good intentions are more important than any outcome is vital for managing anxiety.

Sins of the Parents:

If a child is reared in an anxious household, their view of the world can become increasingly pessimistic and dark. They often emulate their parent’s explanatory style and view of the world. Their parents teach them to think in an anxious manner and how to always be waiting for the next problem. Constant vigilance can create more anxiety, and a negative cycle can be set up in the child’s mind. Childhood is the time when we learn to control our anxiety. If their parents aren’t fully in control of their own thoughts and emotions, it will be difficult for the child to learn and develop their own emotional regulation skills.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Social Skills - Three Types of Social Deficits - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain the three types of social deficits in children and how they can affect your child at school - click here.

One of the most important skills for your child to learn is how to relate effectively to others.

Success at school, with friends, with boyfriends and girlfriends, and even in their future jobs will rely heavily on their ability to accurately read and interpret social cues. When a child misinterprets someone else’s behavior, they can’t respond appropriately and they’ll have difficulty decoding social situations. When they reach high school, social interactions will only get more intense and complex, and your child may fall behind their peers.

Many kids with social skills issues know that they struggle with peers and maintaining friendships, and these challenges early in life can have a profound impact on how they feel about themselves. We live in a world made up of relationships and the ability to communicate effectively with others is an essential life skill.

Social skills challenges are usually different for each child. The work of Dr. Frank Gresham describes three distinct types of social deficits:

Skills Acquisition Deficits:

Children lack the specific steps and strategies for successful social interactions, and they often don’t know what they need to change.

Performance Deficits:

Children know how to interact successfully with friends and peers, but they fail to use the skills at appropriate times or they may be too anxious to seize social opportunities.

Fluency Deficits:

Children understand the strategies and timing of social interactions, but their application of skills in social situations is awkward or inappropriate.

Growing Kids Strong - Introducing Self-Efficacy - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the concept of Self-Efficacy and why it's important for your child's future success - click here.

We all hope that our children will have a safe and happy childhood.

As parents, many of us spend much our lives and most of our resources trying to make sure our children’s lives are as easy as possible. We want them to have the advantages in life that may have eluded us. However, we know that our children will inevitably encounter adversities in life. It’s important to find those key skills that will equip your child to handle anything they encounter. You want your child to view challenges as surmountable and survivable rather than as a defining negative event.

One of those key skills is a concept called self-efficacy, a term created in the 1970’s by Albert Bandura.

Self-efficacy describes your child’s ability to see themselves as capable of organizing, planning, and executing the necessary steps to succeed in any situation. They will feel empowered and confident in their ability to creatively solve problems. They don’t need any external help – they have the internal resources to generate solutions. When children look to external factors either for help or to blame for their helplessness, they can fall into scattered thinking and indecisiveness. This kind of thinking can knock even the most promising life off track. The best part of self-efficacy is that all of the courage, self-reliance, stamina, self-assuredness, and tenacity will continue to flow from their basic belief in their own self-efficacy.

As a result, unpredictable situations will not frighten your child and new environmental challenges no longer cause anxiety. Instead, novelty is often greeted with enthusiasm and new, unknown opportunities are met with resolve and singular focus. They stand tall since they are convinced that they have the resources to handle any challenge.

Sources:

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Depression - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 11, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia describe childhood depression and how it can affect your child's future success - click here.

Childhood depression can be an overwhelming concern for parents and educators who witness young children retreating into depressive, anxious behaviors.

Often our children are stuck in full clinical depression before we really understand what is happening. Even though we may have experienced depression ourselves or had a friend or family member that was depressed, it is painful and confusing to see our child developing a full scale mood disorder. Unfortunately, children cannot always articulate their thoughts and feelings. They are unable to tell us why they are so sad. It’s important that you educate yourself on the signs of childhood depression to prevent it from damaging your child’s life.

There are several reasons why childhood depression needs to be taken so seriously:

Life-Long Beliefs:

In childhood, most of us are learning how to interpret our environment and to be as accurate as possible. During this critical point in life, kids are creating belief systems and coping skills based on what they are experiencing in the moment. If life is regularly tumultuous, if there is severe anxiety due to trauma or loss, or if there is an underlying endogenous depression that goes unaddressed, the child may not accurately develop the explanatory view. Such inaccurate beliefs can last a lifetime and cause tremendous heartache.

Misinterpreted Behaviors:

With an underlying endogenous depression, a young child can be overwhelmed with their crushing negative beliefs. Many adults who developed depression as kids report that the world turned dark and gray at an early age. Parents can misinterpret such suffering as normal shyness or withdrawal. Depression robs a child of the chance to develop better coping skills and to face developmental challenges.

Social and Academic Withdrawal:

Children with depression often feel tired and depleted, and they are reluctant to engage with their peers socially. School avoidance is another common problem for kids with depression. If your brain is sad, it is difficult to focus and deal with all of the social and academic pressures of the classroom.

Permanent Labels:

Kids are already quick to label their peers, and depressed children tend to act grumpy and avoidant. Unfortunately, labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies as the child struggles with depression and how they feel about themselves. The negative labels become a familiar identity and children are prone to increasingly shut out their peers in an effort to avoid further criticism.

Now if you are concerned about a child, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Feeling persistently sad
  • Talking about suicide or being better off dead
  • Rapid mood swings such as becoming irritable all of a sudden
  • Showing a marked deterioration in academics or home life
  • Attempting to avoid school by making up illnesses or visiting the school nurse too regularly
  • Stopping previously fun activities or no longer seeing friends
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Childhood and adolescent depression are very serious. If you are worried about you or someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

The National Alliance on Mental Illness website (www.nami.org)

How Gearing Up Treats Eating Disorders - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how Gearing Up treats eating disorders and some of the most effective therapies for eating disorders - click here.

Eating disorders affect millions of people every year and despite valiant efforts, many patients remain mired in unhealthy eating habits. At Gearing Up, we are committed to coaching our patients to maximum success.

We believe in evidence based treatments and utilize well executed approaches to eating disorders including:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

This approach focuses on the relationship between core beliefs and thoughts, and negative emotions and behavior. By evaluating and challenging negative thinking, we can achieve an improved accuracy that leads to healthier eating and more effective living. CBT helps people with eating disorders to correct larger misperceptions about their body and their unhealthy lifestyle.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy:

This approach emphasizes skills building in the face of strong, negative emotions. Managing strong emotions often requires a set of skills to distract, sooth, and tolerate emotional distress. Developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, DBT teaches clients that dysfunctional behaviors must be replaced by more effective skills. Since many eating disorders thrive with impulsivity and distressed minds, DBT can be a critical intervention to stop unhealthy eating cycles.

Maudsley Based Family Treatment:

This treatment approach recognizes the parents’ central role in guiding and leading their child back to health and is one of the most effective therapies for eating disorders. In addition to intensive individual therapy, we work closely with parents in family therapy and in nutritional counseling to plan and support their child’s recovery. Hopefully, interventions throughout the home and family will create an atmosphere for recovery and healing.

Psychological Testing:

We often utilize personality testing to evaluate psychological resources at a deeper level including cognitive style, emotional and informational processing approaches, affective features, self-control and willpower, the ability to tolerate stress, tendencies toward impulsivity, and self-sabotaging behaviors. Testing gives us a kind of psychological x-ray so we can pinpoint the issues that we need to address and direct treatment effectively.

Coordinated Care:

To effectively address an eating disorder, we coordinate with other professionals including a nutritionist and a physician to round out our understanding of diet, nutrition, and physical health. With every professional coordinating treatment, we have the best chance at effectively treating the eating disorder.

Sources:

The New Maudsley Approach (http://thenewmaudsleyapproach.co.uk/Home_Page.php)

The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

The work of Dr. Marsha Linehan

Eating Disorders: Not Otherwise Specified - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 04, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the "Not Otherwise Specified" diagnosis for eating disorders and what they mean - click here.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are the best-known eating disorders and among the most lethal. However, Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified is also a dangerous, persistent eating disorder that can disrupt an otherwise successful life.

This eating disorder diagnosis is reserved for those patients who do not meet all the criteria of the previously mentioned eating disorders. For example, a patient may severely restrict her diet but not to the point where she experiences an absence of menstruation.

According to some experts, approximately 70% of eating disorders fall under the “Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis.

The presence of this type of eating disorder suggests several important points:

Progressive & Evolving:

Eating disorders are dynamic illnesses and do not always follow one, strict course of development. For example, a young girl may begin her eating disorder by restricting food and then move on to bulimia in which she regularly binges and then purges. The “Eating Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified” diagnosis indicates that the eating disorder is responsive to the environment and to the developmental and life changes that often come during adolescence and early adulthood.

Fluid Symptoms:

This type of eating disorder also demonstrates how difficult it is to classify this illness within one static category. The fundamental problem in eating disorders is the effective management of the self, both emotionally and cognitively. While the symptoms may vary, the basic problem often remains the same.

Processing Issues:

Since eating disorders can be such stubborn mental health issues, psychologists and neuroscientists are beginning to explore the neurological aspects of eating disorders. For instance, people with eating disorders tend to have difficulty with more abstract thinking and executive functioning – they tend to notice the details and miss the greater picture. At other times, they may be show a lack of cognitive flexibility which means that they struggle to be less rigid and adaptable in handling food and how they feel about themselves.

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

http://thenewmaudsleyapproach.co.uk/Home_Page.php

The work of Dr. John Lock

The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)

Eating Disorders: Binge Eating - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 01, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Binge Eating is, what it looks like, and signs of when it's time to get help - click here.

Eating disorders are serious emotional and behavioral mental health conditions that disrupt the individual’s ability to handle food appropriately.

Food becomes an “emotional thermostat” and is used by the individual to control emotions and to lower stress. Routine eating disorder habits include food restriction, excessive consumption of food, purging of food usually by laxatives or vomiting, and compulsive overeating in a short amount of time.

The most common of all eating disorders, binge eating disorder can be a chronic and painful problem.

It affects women more than men and it can last hidden for years by a veil of shame, secrecy, and stress. Since this eating disorder does not involve purging behaviors or excessive exercise, the people suffering with the disorder present with either average weight or are overweight. As with other eating disorders, binge eating involves a central focus on food and the power of food to modulate stress and adversity.

Binge eating disordered patients tend to have higher levels of depression.

In one study, researchers found that these patients had about twice the risk of depression over their lifetime. In addition, these patients struggle with feelings of inadequacy interpersonally, often due to the distress about their body and their disordered eating. Many sufferers reported the disorder affecting their work and impairing their regular activities. It is difficult to be your best when healthy eating is a challenge.

Rapid Consumption:

Frequently, rituals of food consumption are built into daily schedules. The food is most often purchased, either through an impulsive or scheduled visit to the store or fast food outlet and is consumed rapidly in a short amount of time. Rapidity of consumption is usually one of the main clues to this disorder.

Emotional Seesaw:

Following the binge, the individual often experiences an uptick in mood. The food is calming and soothing in the short run. There are usually momentary feelings of control or satisfaction. However, they are soon followed by feelings of shame, self loathing, and depression as they begin to deal with the realities of overeating. Clothes don’t fit, bodies are bloated, energy is sluggish, and any possible weight goals are compromised or eliminated.

Here are some other signs to watch out for:

  • Excessive eating when they don’t feel hungry
  • Eating until there is discomfort
  • Eating rituals that emphasize isolation, secrecy, and control
  • Anger and resentment if any eating ritual is interrupted
  • Depression, negative mood, and feelings of being out of control following the binge cycle
  • Ineffective dieting caused by the caloric overload of binging

Eating disorders are very serious conditions, and they can even be lethal. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Binge Eating and Bulimia" by Debra L. Safer, Christy F. Telch, and Eunice Y. Chen

The National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov)


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive