Therapy That Works...

Growing Kids Strong - The Wrong Way To Rescue - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia describe some of the most common ways that parents try to comfort their kids and the possible long term emotional consequences - click here.

Every parent has done it. When our children experience anxiety, anger, or sadness, we swoop in to save the day and hopefully make them feel better. However, many parents use strategies that can actually increase negative feelings and set their children up for a lifetime of pessimistic thoughts, anxiety, and depression.

Here are three very common, but potentially damaging ways to rescue your child from negative feelings:

“I Think You’re The Best”

If they think they’re stupid, we say they’re smart. If they sat out the big game on the bench, we say they were the best athlete on the field. Sometimes, we lie to our kids and present them with a false reality to make them feel better in the moment. However, we aren’t fooling anyone, especially our kids. They know what we’re doing and they tend to resent it. Now they not only feel sad or angry about the situation, they’re mad at you too. We should tell our kids the truth and hopefully turn a temporary frustration into an opportunity for masterful action. If they failed the test, encourage them to study harder next time and you can work on practice problems together. It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s that they have a temporary problem with an easy solution.

“Let Me Do It For You”

We’ve all felt the urge to swoop in and help our kids work on a project, especially if they are having a difficult time. However, some parents go too far and try to make their child feel better by taking over the project entirely. The project may turn out wonderfully, but you’ve planted a dangerous belief in your child’s mind - “If I start to get frustrated or bored, give up and let someone else do it for me.” There is nothing wrong with your child experiencing negative feelings. The important thing is how they think about and recover from setbacks and frustrations. Instead of taking over the project, try to talk to your child about what they are feeling and why they feel that way. Talking to your child about how to overcome failure and bounce back from frustration is one of the best things you can ever teach them.

“Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”

One of the most important things you can teach your child is how to frame and interpret events in their life. Most parents don’t know what to say to their kids when they are upset, and they often use temporary distractions to make their child feel better in the moment. But ice cream and video games can only go so far. Parents need to get in the habit of disputing their child’s negative thoughts. They need to teach their child how to fight back against the negative thoughts that can take over their mind. A failing grade becomes “I’m just a dummy.” A failed social situation becomes “I’m a loser.” Teach your child that their problems are temporary and almost always have an easy solution.

Many children are their own worst enemy and regularly tear themselves down with negative thinking. Pessimistic children tend to give up and let life pass them by. Interventions, like these cognitive techniques, early in life can prepare your child for a life of optimism and perseverance. Success usually requires hard work and dedication, and your child will be ready to bounce back from any set back and overcome any obstacle.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - How To Use Masterful Action - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how you can use "masterful action" to help inoculate your child against depression and anxiety - click here.

Have you ever wanted to boost your child’s self-confidence?

Since unwarranted praise and rescuing can have other negative effects, many parents wonder how they can help their children feel better about themselves while also keeping them grounded in reality. Masterful action is one of the most effective ways to teach your child to believe in themselves and to be effective in any situation.

Masterful action is when your child engages with a problem and overcomes obstacles to find a solution.

Whenever they encounter adversity, they must strategize how they will solve the problem and plan the steps they will take to do it.

Here are some important points to keep in mind about Masterful Action:

Progressive Positivity:

Teaching your child to be a resilient, optimistic problem solver doesn’t just happen overnight. It builds over time and hundreds of successes and failures. Each success builds their self-confidence, their perseverance, and their spirit for adventure.

Framing The Outcome:

One of the most important parts of masterful action is how your child thinks about the success. Was it pure luck or some external force that made them succeed? Or was their success driven by their hard work, intelligence, and perseverance? Framing the outcome as a result of their own actions further bolsters their belief in their ability to improve their lives and achieve their dreams.

Resist The Urge To Rescue:

Let’s face it – your child isn’t always going to win. In fact, most children will face failure regularly and they may often experience anxiety, anger, and sadness. However, negative feelings are not always a bad thing since they can be used as motivation for hard work and practice for the next time. You shouldn’t always feel the need to “rescue” them from bad feelings. Instead, try to talk to them about what happened and help them understand how they can change the outcome next time.

Teachable Moments:

You should try to teach your children how to think about and experience failure. Instead of them “just being stupid,” they may just not have studied very much for the test and they can improve their grade with a little extra hard work. If they regularly dread gym class or recess, they can always become stronger and faster through practice and discipline.

Create Opportunities:

One of the best things you can do for your child is create opportunities for masterful action. Solve math problems together, hold batting practice every weekend, or even play a video game together. Not only will you spend more time with your wonderful child, but you’ll also be teaching them valuable skills to overcome obstacles and to believe in themselves.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - Are We In The Middle Of A Childhood Depression Epidemic? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, August 02, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss some of the statistics of childhood depression and why the problem is getting worse with each generation - click here.

One out of every four children will experience severe anxiety before they graduate high school.

One out of every ten teenagers will experience an episode of major depression by the time they go to college.

In addition, about half of teens diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and the average age of onset for an anxiety disorder is now six years old. However even with all of these terrifying statistics, only eighteen percent of anxious or depressed teens ever see a professional psychotherapist.

Psychologists and government officials have been warning for years that childhood depression and anxiety are reaching epidemic levels, and the numbers are not encouraging. However, very few parents are seeking out professional treatment for their children.

Here are some important points to keep in mind about child and adolescent depression:

Lifetime Effects:

Depression can be a lifelong struggle. Severe depression reoccurs in about half of those who have had it once in their lifetime. Once your child experiences a depressive episode, they will battle more frequent and severe depression for the rest of their life.

Rise In Suicide:

In 2012, American teenagers were polled on mental health issues. Sixteen percent of teens reported seriously considering suicide, thirteen percent created a plan to commit suicide, and eight percent had attempted suicide and failed. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, and it is responsible for thousand of deaths every year.

Generational Snowball:

Researchers have been interviewing previous generations for years to investigate their rates of depression throughout their lives. They asked if they had ever experienced at least two weeks of depression or anxiety symptoms during their lifetime. For those who were born before World War I, only one percent experienced an episode of depression. For those who were born in the mid 1920’s and faced the Great Depression and World War II early in their lives, only four percent ever experienced an episode of depression. For those who were born in the 1950’s and grew up in the political and social turmoil of the 1960’s, seven percent had experienced depression by the time they were 30. Currently, ten percent of children and adolescents experience a major depression before they graduate high school. The rates of depression are growing with each generation, and our young children are experiencing more depression than ever.

Childhood rates of clinical depression and anxiety have grown exponentially over the past century and can have devastating lifelong effects. If you are worried about a child or teen you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (www.CDC.gov)

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH.NIH.gov)

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA.org)

Resilience - The Three C's of Psychological Resilience - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 28, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the three C's of psychological resilience - click here.

Why do some people sail through adversity while other people fall apart at the drop of a hat?

Why do some of us remain happy despite repeated setbacks and losses? Several decades ago, psychologists began to research these questions hoping to not only define the personality characteristics behind psychological resilience but to teach others how to easily weather the ups and downs of life.

Their research concluded that psychological resilience could be summarized in three central attitudes, or “the three C’s”:

Commitment:

We establish our belief in ourselves and in our purpose by remaining steadfastly committed to a cause, to a philosophy, or to a larger identity. Working for a greater purpose in our lives, whether it’s rocking your baby to sleep or working on the cure for cancer, can create a sense of stability and purpose that helps in healing anxiety.

Control:

Anxious people try to control everything and everyone in their lives. If they cannot control you, they may try to dump you instead. Resilient people are assertive but leave room for you to be your own person. They focus on what they can control and disregard what they cannot change. They don’t sweat the small stuff, and they stay anchored in the moment and less reactive to life’s frustrations.

Challenge:

Resilient people view change as an opportunity instead of a burden. While change can leave a lot of uncertainty and room for anxiety, they look for ways to turn it to their advantage. They choose to engage life with joy and creativity. In the end, this belief system fortifies their hope and optimism that the best is yet to come.

Sources:

"Resilience at Work: How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws at You" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D.

"The Hardy Executive: Health Under Stress" by Salvatore Maddi, Ph.D. and Suzanne Kobasa, Ph.D.

OCD - Living With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what it's like living with OCD and some signs that you may have OCD - click here.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD affects about 2 percent of the American population every single day.

Sufferers are flooded with intrusive, recurrent thoughts that appear spontaneously and are highly upsetting or disturbing. Obsessions are usually paired with a compulsion or required behavior that soothes their anxious mind.

So, what is it like to live with OCD?

Camouflage of Normal:

Many OCD rituals are subtle and can often be hidden from others. Other people often see them as somewhat normal or a part of the person’s need to be perfect. However, compulsions cross the line when they become repetitive and are used intentionally to soothe anxiety. For instance, washing your hands before and after a meal may be normal, but an OCD sufferer may wash their hands 10 times in a row because they didn’t properly check one of the locks on the front door.

Acting For Relief:

Most of us complete tasks to accomplish a goal. We wash the dishes every night so we have clean dishes for tomorrow, and we make sure that the oven is turned off to avoid any nasty surprises while we are sleeping. OCD sufferers don’t necessarily engage in behaviors to accomplish something. They are often acting to relieve their anxiety or fear of what will happen next. These fears are often unrelated to the task or they are an extreme case of what might happen. For instance, they may say a particular prayer every time they turn off a lamp so that the devil doesn’t appear in the dark room.

Higher Burdens:

As obsessions and compulsions become more entrenched over time, they become harsher and more demanding masters. They may have to engage in compulsions more regularly or increase the scale of their compulsive acts to meet the new requirements for relief. For instance, they may have once calmed themselves by slowly counting to ten, but now they must count to 187 before they feel relief.

Reinforcing Cycle:

Many OCD sufferers have more than one type of obsessive thought or compulsive behavior. They may have to wash their hands five times in a row to avoid a terminal illness, but they also have to recite a poem every two hours to make sure a meteor doesn’t fall on their mother’s house. As they add more and more tasks to soothe their troubled minds, they are often physically exhausted and more vulnerable to new anxious thoughts. The cycle starts over again once those anxious thoughts create new obsessions and new compulsions to relieve the anxiety.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies:

At some point in the OCD cycle, they may begin to believe that their compulsive behaviors really do work. They believe that their actions are the only thing standing between them and disaster. Since they become far too agitated and anxious if they are denied the ability to perform their compulsive behaviors, they never find out what would happen if they didn’t follow through on their compulsions. As long as they keep up with their tasks, they can be sure that everything and everyone will be OK. Why should they tempt fate by not completing one of their tasks?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have OCD, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

SOURCES:

"Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" by Christine Purdon, Ph.D. and David Clark, Ph.D.

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn, 2012

CBT - What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 24, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is and why it is one of the most effective types of psychotherapy - click here.

Our emotions can be overwhelming.

Everything’s fine one moment, and the next you can be flooded with a tempest of swirling thoughts and smothering feelings. Most people in a psychologist’s office come to their first appointment tortured by emotions and thoughts that seem to be taking over their lives. Their emotions define their daily activities and they can’t seem to regain control. They regularly experience thoughts that seem catastrophic and discouraging. They don’t understand how to fix the problem of chronically feeling anxious and depressed, and they often resort to self-sabotaging coping skills like oversleeping, overeating, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, or altogether hiding from the world. Life is narrowed, pacified, and safe, but nothing is ever solved.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the psychological treatment model that has the highest success rate of all psychotherapies according to research.

This approach presents a totally different method of dealing with troublesome emotions than most of us use. Rather than allowing feelings to direct our lives and steal our happiness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT recognizes the close relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Here are a few ways this therapeutic approach works:

Correcting Inaccurate Thoughts:

Actions and feelings begin with your thoughts, and if those thoughts are based on inaccurate beliefs, they can lead you into a dark place. Negative personal schemas, or sets of beliefs, can seem accurate when they occur. But like light refracted through a dirty, inaccurate lens, they are often slanted toward the negative and are completely misleading. Through CBT, we can clean the lens and make your thoughts more optimistic, effective, and accurate.

Taming Your Emotions:

Again, thoughts lead to feelings and your feelings determine your behaviors. When your negative, inaccurate thoughts are in the driver’s seat, you are bound to end up off course. Your emotions are treated like facts and are often used to determine what to do next. They are not questioned and they are not denied. We endow them with credibility that is undeserved. Psychologists call this Emotional Reasoning. CBT works to reestablish the critical relationship between thoughts, facts, and emotions in decision making to help you make the best choice in the future.

Dodging Thinking Traps:

Many people do not realize that their thoughts distinctly trend toward the negative. Many of us make unfair comparisons of ourselves to others or we overgeneralize a challenge as defining our past, present, and future. CBT teaches you some of the most common types of thinking traps, and it helps you develop a new way of thinking about and overcoming adversity.

Fighting Back:

One of the main strategies of CBT is disputing your negative thoughts and correcting your thinking if it gets off course. CBT teaches you how to make your mind work for you instead of against you. By arguing against inaccurate thoughts and emotions, you will find your mind to be clearer, calmer, and more optimistic.

Anxiety - Common Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the most common symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorders and how you can tell if you have it - click here.

Three percent of Americans have a condition called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or “G.A.D.”.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by a wide and pervasive state of anxiety that anything and everything will go wrong. Sufferers regularly feel extreme amounts of anxiety and worry, and they are often hit with mental and physical symptoms every single day. Instead of being worried about a specific situation or issue, like social anxiety or specific phobias, they worry about everything and everyone in their lives. Many people with Generalized Anxiety try to normalize their thoughts by saying that they are just “worriers” or “planners,” but the truth is that they are using worry in an attempt to calm themselves down.

Here are some important points about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Mind-Body Connection:

Generalized Anxiety usually comes with a collection of physical symptoms in addition to the mental health issues. Sufferers usually experience restlessness, irritability, muscular tension or cramping, overwhelming fatigue, and insomnia.

Slow Build:

Generalized Anxiety does not happen overnight. It builds slowly over the years and seizes control of your mind usually in your late twenties or early thirties. In fact, most cases begin in early childhood and some studies have found that sufferers wait an average of 25 years before seeking professional help.

Necessary Certainty:

One of the underlying beliefs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is that uncertainty only leads to negative outcomes. They feel that if they are not constantly worrying, they are irresponsible and they are probably sabotaging themselves. One of the red flags for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is when someone is constantly planning their future. They cannot tolerate any uncertainty, so they have to plan every detail of their lives.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a very serious condition. If you think someone you know may have G.A.D., please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

“Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders” by Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn

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

Mindfulness - Mindfulness For Grief and Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 14, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how mindfulness techniques can help you through the grief process and one of the easiest and most effective mindfulness skills - click here.

Few other life transitions are as impactful as the death of a trusted family member or cherished friend.

Even if we intellectually understand that their loss is approaching and even immediate, there is no amount of rehearsal that will ever fully prepare us for the final goodbye. The long nights ahead of us without our loved one can break even the sturdiest of hearts.

Many people turn to therapy after they have lost someone.

They are often extremely capable in most other areas of their life, but grief is the one problem that requires an entirely new set of solutions. They cannot escape the loss nor can they pretend that it never happened. They have to learn new skills to manage their grief and continue to live their own lives.

The traumatic effects of grief can be effectively managed with mindfulness and meditation techniques.

Research from Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn reveals that mindfulness training and meditation can alter the physical structures of the brain. With regular mindfulness meditation, we can retrain our brain and learn to calm our emotions in just a few moments while still remaining present in what is happening around us. When we regain control, we can experience loss as painful and deeply sad but not as an overwhelming event. We are able to focus on our problems as temporary, solvable issues, not as impossible puzzles.

One of the easiest and best practices for mindfulness is intentional or focused breathing.

It is an incredibly effective strategy for handling the effects of overwhelming anxiety. Deep breaths slow down our thoughts and our bodies, and we can begin to focus only on the present. As you focus on this moment and calm down about the future, you can regain control and choose how you want to react.

Sources:

“Mindfulness For Beginners: Reclaiming The Present Moment – and Your Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Full Catastrophe Living: Using The Wisdom of Your Body and Mind To Face Stress, Pain, and Illness” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Suicide - Is This Generation More Depressed or More Aware of Suicide? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, June 07, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing examine why the rate of teen suicide is continuing to climb even though we know more about teen suicide than ever - click here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

Psychologists know more about suicide than ever, but the rate of teen suicide has climbed steadily over the generations and is now the third leading causing of death for Americans from 15 to 24 years of age. So, why does the rate of teen suicide continue to grow even though Americans are taking more action than ever to stop suicides?

Epidemic Depression:

Part of the answer is that teen depression and anxiety are reaching epidemic levels. Research has found that teen depression has increased tenfold over the last century and it strikes a full decade earlier than it did fifty years ago. That means that this generation is ten times more likely to reach clinical levels of depression, and they will likely become depressed when they are still children. In addition once depression and anxiety have set up shop in your child’s mind, they are more likely to return in the future. Severe depression reoccurs about 50% of the time.

Swept Under The Rug:

Even though suicide attempts indicate very serious mental health issues, very few suicidal teens actually receive professional treatment. According to research, 60-80% of American teens who attempt suicide do not seek out professional treatment until after the second suicide attempt. Their friends and family downplay the suicide attempt and try to make it a temporary anomaly. Hopefully, they don’t wait until it’s too late.

Deadly Differences:

Eighty-four percent of completed suicides, or attempts that end in death, are committed by boys. Girls are much more likely to attempt suicide, but boys tend to use much more violent and lethal means in their attempts. They may use a gun, intentionally wreck their car, or even jump off of buildings. Girls tend to use much less violent methods such as poison or overdosing.

If you are worried about your teen, here are some suicide warning signs to watch out for:

  • Stressful life event or loss like a relationship breakup
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of peers or acquaintances
  • Increased withdrawal from others
  • Increased rate of angry outbursts
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Low appetite
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • History of previous suicide attempts

Clinical depression and suicide are very serious issues. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by By Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov

Suicide - The Rising Rate of Teen Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the rising rate of teen suicides, why American teens need more help than ever, and some of the warning signs of teen suicide - click here.

According to the CDC, one in five US teenagers considers suicide every year.

The American Psychological Association reports that teen suicide is the third leading cause of death for people who are 15 to 24 years old. So why would a teenager with every thing to look forward to in life choose a permanent solution such as suicide?

Most teen suicides begin with a perfect storm of upsetting events, like getting dumped by a significant other or losing a family member, that leads to overwhelming depression. If they lose hope and think that their life will never change for the better, they may begin to think about committing suicide. At a basic level, these adolescents lack the necessary coping skills to think accurately about temporary setbacks and how to overcome adversity.

There are several factors that can lead to teen suicide:

No Hope For The Future:

Suicide becomes an option for a young person when all hope is lost. In fact, hopelessness is the best predictor for a suicide attempt. Hopelessness is the most common emotion in those who attempt to end their lives.

Escaping Unsolvable Problems:

The motivations for either attempting or completing suicide are complex. In most cases, they are trying to escape depression and loss, debilitating anxiety, or a situation they regard as being unsolvable such as being bullied or abused. The older the child is, the greater the likelihood that their suicide is connected to interpersonal conflicts.

Hidden Mental Illness:

Mental illness, such as clinical depression or general anxiety disorder, is the top risk factor in suicide and accounts for 90% of all suicides. Clinical depression is the most common disorder linked to suicide. Children and adolescents are particularly skilled at hiding their mental health challenges since they do not know how to fully describe their thoughts and feelings. Since they are confused about what is going on inside of their minds, they don’t know when they need to ask for professional help.

Masking Their Pain:

Adolescents will not always articulate their pain because they often don’t understand the serious nature of their feelings. In fact, they may even present a happy façade. Psychologists describe this condition as a “smiling depressive” since they are hiding their clinically depressed thoughts behind a mask.

A lack of emotional coping skills combined with overwhelming situational stress can drive children and teens toward suicide. If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"Learned Optimism" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

"Unraveling the Mystery of Suicide" by Tori DeAngelis, American Psychological Association

"Suicide Among Pre-Adolescents" by Michael Price, American Psychological Association

"Teen Suicide is Preventable" published by the American Psychological Association

American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org

National Institute of Mental Health, nimh.nih.gov


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