Therapy That Works...

Grumpy Husband Syndrome - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on KTXD 47 discussing the new trend of "Grumpy Husband Syndrome" - click here.

Parenting - Is Spanking or Yelling A Better Way To Discipline Your Kids? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing which discipline method is better - spanking or yelling? click here.

Violence - The Effects of Violent Movies on Children and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the effects of movie violence on children and teens and how parents can limit violent movies and maintain their relationship with their child - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior. Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are wondering how to gauge which movies their kids should be watching or if their kids should be seeing violence at all!

State of Development

Be aware that adolescent brains, when compared to adult brains, are especially vulnerable to what they see, hear, and experience. They are still building their beliefs about the world, about other people, and about themselves. Always remember that your teenager’s brain will continue to unfold and develop until their mid-twenties.

External Influences

Neuroscientists warn us that by the time the brain reaches adolescence, brain development is heavily governed by external influences. What the adolescent brain sees, it encodes and internalizes. As parents, you want their movies to include appropriate themes and stories of empowerment, virtuous beliefs, courage & persistence, and age appropriate romances.

So, how can you keep your relationship with your child intact while also keeping your child away from violent movies?

Risk Factors

Violence from children and teens is often correlated with predictors including neglect or abuse at home, bullying at school, and serious mental illness. However, showing your child a violent movie does not mean that they will automatically become violent. There are hundreds of factors that keep children from turning to violence including a loving and supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and mental health counseling. Make sure that your child has all of the facts and fully understands the responsibilities and consequences of violence and gun use.

Just Say No

While it is always difficult to tell a child that they cannot see a movie that all their peers are seeing, you will thank yourself in the long run for holding the line if you believe that the movie has too much violence. “No” is a complete sentence and telling your child “no” is not an invitation for negotiation. Children and teens need compassionate, thoughtfully explained limits from their parents who are emotionally responsible. The best thing you can do is to draw those boundaries long before the trip to the movie theater, and make sure your child knows that violent movies will be fewer and far between.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians

"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch

Marriage and Divorce - Dr. John Gottman's Four Horsemen for Marriage - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the four horsemen for marriage from marriage expert Dr. John Gottman's research - click here.

There are always signs when a marriage is headed to divorce.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the world’s leading marriage experts, has identified four negative communication habits that usually mean the end is near. His decades of marital research and therapy have found that although defeating the four horsemen won’t entirely solve your marital problems, they are a big step towards repairing your marriage and living happily ever after.

1.) Criticism

The first horseman is Criticism. Criticism is not only expressing your unhappiness about a situation but using it to emotionally assault your partner. A temporary frustration becomes a lifelong character flaw; a minor miscommunication becomes an intentional attack. Instead of using neutral language and focusing on what needs to be done, comments focus on how one partner is at fault and use negative language to describe what is wrong with them.

2.) Contempt

The second horseman is Contempt. As you probably suspect, contempt uses heavy doses of sarcasm, name-calling, and character assassination. You may hear phrases such as “Can’t you do anything right?” or “Do you have some kind of mental problem?” Contempt frames every event as either a failure or par for the course – there are no true victories and the other partner can never win. It fundamentally changes the playing field of the marriage since it elevates one partner over the other instead of keeping you and your partner allied and equal in the marriage.

3.) Defensiveness

The third horseman is Defensiveness. Defensiveness is usually a response to the last two horsemen, criticism and contempt, and often is a last ditch effort to end the verbal attacks. Dr. Gottman finds that defensiveness can include righteous indignation, launching counterattacks, whining, or acting like an innocent victim. However, research has found that defensiveness doesn’t necessarily end the conflict and it can even escalate the tension.

4.) Stonewalling

This often leads to the fourth and final horseman, Stonewalling. Most couples think that stonewalling is caused by indifference or anger, but it is often cause by overwhelming emotions. When one partner is flooded with emotions and cannot process everything they are feeling, they short circuit and often stop actively listening and participating. They become completely blank in an effort to calm down and regain control. The other partner can only see the lack of responsiveness and they often give up hope about resolving the situation.

Dr. Gottman’s four horsemen are very serious marital issues. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from these signs of marital conflict, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

"What Makes Love Last?" by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

Violence - Your Children and Violence In The Movies - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the recently published report from The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians about children and teens being influenced by violence in movies - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior.

Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are asking what effect can this movie violence have on their child?

Here are a few important points to keep in mind:

Weapons Effect

We do know that just seeing a weapon can increase levels of aggression and forceful behavior in certain people—what psychologists call the “weapon effect.” Studies clearly show that violence in movies can increase aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior.

Learning By Example

Watching an entire movie in which glamorous people you identify with or admire use guns may do several things: 1.) increase your comfort level with guns and gun violence, 2.) desensitize you to violent actions and gun violence, and 3.) decrease empathy and understanding for the victims of gun violence. Therefore as parents, it is advisable to limit your child’s exposure to gun violence in the movies.

Who To Watch

However, this finding does not mean that your child is going to automatically become violent if they are exposed to violence in the movies. There are hundreds of mitigating factors that would prevent them from becoming violent including a supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and the absence of significant mental health issues. The real vulnerability to violent imagery lies with children who are from neglectful or abusive families, who are bullied and marginalized at school, and who lack substantial psychological coping skills to deal with rejection and failure. These children often feel lost and the images of gun violence restore a sense of empowerment and control that is missing in their lives. These “at risk” kids are the ones we need to worry about.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians

The Allure of Bad Boys - By Chris Gearing

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe why bad boys are so tempting and how to know if you're bad boy has a heart of gold - click here.

It’s a question as old as time. Why are bad boys so irresistible?

This kind of situation can be a parent’s worst nightmare – even if they don’t own a motorcycle. So, why are bad boys so attractive?

Viewed from afar, these guys can seem very attractive. They are often glamorous, soulful, artistic, romantic, and they ooze self-confidence. He’s spontaneous, lives for today, and is full of adventure. Unfortunately, most bad boys see you or your child as the next target. They are often hoping to use you today and be gone tomorrow.

But it’s not all bad. There are some good men in bad boy packages. Think of Johnny Cash, Brad Pitt, Jay-Z, or David Beckham. They were wild when they were younger, but they became dedicated husbands and fathers down the road.

Here are some signs that you may have landed a keeper in a leather jacket:

Live By A Code:

If your bad boy is controlling or regularly cheats, he’s a poor bet for a sudden reform. However, if he is conscientious, values family and other people around him, and genuinely cherishes you or your child, you might give him some time. He may just be growing up.

Longer To Mature:

Recent research found that the male brain doesn’t fully mature until men are forty-three years old. That’s eleven years more than their female counterparts! Again, try to cut him some slack. See if he is willing to meet you in the middle and act like an adult.

Watch For Warnings:

Always be aware of the warning signs that it may be time to leave. Men who use intimidation or violence to get what they want usually end up turning on you at some point. When they start trying to frame the world as “us against them,” that’s a red flag that they may want you to be dependent on them. Also, don’t let them radically change your life. If it’s meant to be, they love you for who you are today and they don’t need you to change.

Source:

"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch

The Importance of Parents In "Man of Steel" - By Chris Gearing

Monday, June 17, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss why Superman's parents were so important in "Man of Steel" and why parents are important for all of us - click here.

Our parents are central to how we think, feel, and act as a child and what kind of person we become as adults.

In the new summer blockbuster “Man of Steel,” Superman’s two sets of parents take center stage. His parents on Krypton give him a sense of protecting those around him, fighting for good, and believing in ideas that are bigger than one man. His parents on Earth teach him right from wrong, how fear can make good men do bad things, and what it means to be human. Both sets of parents have a strong influence on Superman and the choices he makes in the events of “Man of Steel.”

Parents teach us the way of the world and can make the difference between a life of struggle and hardship or a life of success and happiness. Research has revealed how different types of parents affect their children and their development. Here are some of the more common types of parents and their potential impact on their children:

Super-Achieving Parents:

This style of parenting emphasizes appearance and achievement. Kids grow up knowing that they must look good, perform well, and win. Money, position, and power are all heavily emphasized. These parents imbue their kids with a strong work ethic, ambition, and the children often make excellent entrepreneurs and leaders. The down side is that kids often feel disconnected and misunderstood by a parent who wants them to “run with the bulls,” at the expense of the finer points of relating and living. These kids have difficulty establishing separate identities from their overbearing parents and often prefer to live a life that values the welfare of others.

Time-Bomb Parents:

This style is based on fear, intimidation, and emotional instability. Without hesitation, the parent will lash out toward others and these outbursts are terrifying for kids of all ages. Threats of neglect, abandonment, and emotional and physical violence are common. Keeping the peace and managing the parent is all that matters to the child, and these kids often develop into masterfully perceptive people since they had to manage their parent so carefully. These children are hypersensitive to the emotions and needs of others, and they have to develop their own ability to protect their interests with others who try to take advantage of them.

Passive Parents:

This kind of parent showed love through their actions, not through relating or through verbal statements. They were stable, consistent, hard working, calm, and emotionally reserved. This parent would never engage in unkind behavior, and they often surrender their power to the other parent and become a peripheral member of the family. Emotional distance is the hallmark of this type of parent. Children of this type of parent doubt their ability to communicate emotionally and to have deep relationships. Like their parent, they understand the importance of commitment and hard work, and they are generally stable, temperate, and reliable. However, learning to understand and manage their emotions can be a lifelong challenge.

Absent Parents:

The absent parent is "missing in action" and has abdicated their role and interest in their children. Parental rejection is horrific for the child’s sense of worth. These kids often harbor life long pain and resentment. Even when a marriage ends in divorce, a child wants their parent to fight for them. If they walk away without a fight - no matter what the rationalization may be - the child is deeply impacted. The upside is that these kids learn the value of loyalty, support, and commitment to others and can become extremely committed to social welfare and justice. Careful to not create dissension, they may be overly accommodating with others in negotiations and in their personal relationships. Slow to trust, they often develop very intense, lifelong relationships with a small, elite inner circle. Some of our greatest presidents and world leaders have experienced this kind of parent and have transformed adversity into a triumphant life of contribution.

Compassionate-Mentor Parents:

Think Jonathan Kent or Jor-El in “Man of Steel” and you have a pretty good idea of the gifts of the compassionate-mentor parent. Although this is the mom or dad we all want to have, few of us are ever gifted with this kind of parent. This kind of parent is astute in reading others, committed to values greater than themselves, and they hold themselves and their children to ethical, loving standards. They spend time with their children, nurture them with attention and understanding, and they are, above all else, emotionally connected. They empower their children to pursue their dreams, triumph over setbacks, and to envision their success. Children feel safe, understood, and adored. These children are fully capable of healthy, balanced, and compassionate lives and often engage in a life of contribution to society. They are excellent partners and parents since they learned from a young age to value themselves, to handle their emotions responsibly, and to engage in life fully.

Many parents are a blend of these different typologies, and they often evolve from one parenting style to another as they grow and mature over the life cycle. Hopefully, we can all embrace the best parts of our parents and prepare our own children for their own happy and successful lives.

Source:

“The Father Factor: How Your Father's Legacy Impacts Your Career” by Stephan B. Poulter

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

Anxiety - What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what Generalized Anxiety Disorder looks like and what you can do to help - click here.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects over 6 million Americans every day.

They live with constant worry, unending concerns, and ongoing apprehension about the future. To escape their crushing anxiety, they withdraw from other people and avoid the things that make them anxious.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or G.A.D., grows over time and is built on every negative experience in a person’s life. Since it often begins in childhood, most sufferers wait 25 years before reaching out for professional help.

Here are a few important points about Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Paired Disorders:

Ninety percent (90%) of G.A.D. sufferers have some kind of co-existing mental health disorder. Around 42% of people suffering with G.A.D. also have issues with depression, and one disorder usually is more prominent than the other.

Double Trouble:

Women tend to develop generalized anxiety at twice the rates of men. The rates of depression and anxiety double for girls around puberty, so their anxious thinking habits are more likely to take root in their teens and grow over time.

Suspicious Minds:

One of the principle features of generalized anxiety disorder is the tendency to worry and ruminate. Worry is a prominent characteristic of G.A.D. and occurs in 40 to 60% of cases. The worry creates a vicious cycle - we worry to soothe our own anxiety, which only makes the fear grow. If your mind is tied up with worrying all the time, you have little energy to rest, learn, or implement more effective ways of coping.

Intolerable Uncertainty:

Anxious minds cannot tolerate uncertainty or ambiguity. They have difficulty with leaving loose ends or having a lack of closure. They lack confidence in their ability to handle adversity or the unexpected, so they worry constantly to prepare for anything.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be a very serious condition. If you are worried that someone you know may be living with an anxiety disorder, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Robert Leahy, Stephen J.F. Holland and Lata McGinn, Guilford Press, 2012.

Wittchen, H. U., Zhao, S., Kessler, R. C., and Eaton, W.W. 1994, DSM III-R Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey, Archieves of General Psychiatiry, 51/(5), 355-364

Rubio, G. and Lopez-Ibor, J.J. 2007, Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A 40 year follow up study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinaviaca, 115 (5), 372-379

Blazer, D., George, L., and Winfield, I. 1991, Epidemiologic data and planning mental health services: A tale of two surveys. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 26, 21-27.

Breslau, N and Davis, G.C., 1985, DSM-III generalized anxiety disorder: An empirical investiagation of more stringent criteria. Psychiatry Research, 15, 231-238.

Kessler, R.C., Walters, E.E. and Witchen, H.U. 2004, Epidemiology. In R.G. Heimberg, C.L. Turk, and D.S. Mennin (Eds) Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Advances in research and practice (pp29 to 50). New York: Guildord Press.

Butler, G, Fennerll, M., Robson, P and Gelder, M. 1991, Comparison of behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy in the treatment of generalized anxity disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59, 167-175.

Rapee, R.M. 1991, Psychological Factors involved in generalized anxiety. In R.M. Rapee and D. H. Barlow (Eds.) Chronic Anxiety: Generalized Anxiety disorder and mixed anxiety depression (pp. 76-94). New York: Guilford Press.

Intolerance of Uncertainty and Problem Orientation n Worry, Michael Dugas, Mark Freeston, Robert Ladouceur, Cognitive Threrapy and Research, Vol 21, no 6, 1997, pgs. 593-606


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