Blog : family

Community Spotlight: Leelanau County Family Court

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Community Spotlight” series introduces key leaders in Grand Traverse County who work to enhance the community’s health and overall wellbeing. Whether it’s focusing on individual health or family dynamics, they are here to help!

Ryan Douglass: Court counseling

douglass-group-photo

Ryan Douglass used to envision himself as a private practice family therapist—complete with an office and a couch. Now as a substance abuse caseworker and juvenile probation officer for the Leelanau County Family Division of the Circuit Court, Douglass practices “not-your-typical” counseling for minors charged with drug/alcohol abuse, truancy, and other offenses. He says his counseling skills like understanding and empathy have been essential to interacting with youth and their families. “To build rapport, sometimes my counselor hat goes on over my probation officer hat. If a young person is having a bad day in school, I’ve taken time to talk to them,” Douglass said. “However, it’s not always easy to counsel them into changing their behavior. With the firmer hand of a probation officer, I can motivate them more.”

Diversion

Douglass’ probation work largely focuses on diversion: keeping minors from further involvement in the court. “Family Court is designed to understand that kids make mistakes,” he said. “It’s a balance between understanding that developmentally they’re at a rebellious stage, but they also need to have a level of accountability.” First-time offenders at the Leelanau Family Court are typically given an informal probation. If the child fulfills an individualized contract, the charge is dismissed.

Prevention 

In addition to diversion work, Douglass also has a hand in prevention counseling: preventing youth from ever stepping foot in to the court system. He collaborates with John Boonstra to run “G2” guys group—a voluntary, all-male, experiential education program. All year round, the group takes kayaking, biking, hiking, and fishing trips in Leelanau County. Boonstra says the outdoor activities “help provide protective factors and build up self efficacy, because the guys see they were able to accomplish a task or commit to something.”

John Boonstra: Prevention groundwork 

boonstra-photoAs Youth Services Counselor for the Probate and Family Court, Boonstra not only does diversion work like Douglass, but also organizes prevention programs for youth who are in danger of entering the court system. He is able to tailor counseling interactions to fit the youth and family’s specific risk/protective factors. “There’s something unique about each of the guys I work with,” Boonstra says. “I find those unique characteristics—what they enjoy and what’s going well.” Youth referred to Boonstra for prevention services often come from tough family situations and/or show behavioral issues, mental health problems, truancy, suspected or actual drug use. Boonstra says when working with this population of young adults, it’s critical to build a relationship while maintaining professional boundaries. “It’s very good for them to see me as an adult mentor, an even keel group leader,” he said. “I need to respond appropriately and be prepared for whatever situation comes up.”

During the school year, Boonstra and Douglass conduct regular check-ins with each youth at one of the Leelanau area schools. They also conduct home visits, family meetings, and individual truancy/substance abuse programming. Each meeting aims to prepare children for future success by promoting lifelong skills. “I like doing the ground work,” Boonstra says. “It’s rewarding to see them practice the things we’ve worked on like discipline, integrity, and making good decisions.”

Personal Growth and Freedom

No matter how long it takes a youth to develop such skills, Boonstra believes the ultimate goal is freedom from whatever physical, mental, or emotional struggles each individual began with. “I currently have a few young men who are on the path to high school graduation,” Boonstra said. “They are not engaging in the activity they were referred for—it has become secondary. We found out what helps them and move on.”

For both Boonstra and Douglass, the most rewarding part of their jobs is having a positive impact on youth and their families. “I recently ran into an old parent who I worked with six years ago,” Douglass said. “He said, ‘thank you so much for helping my son. Without you, we probably would have lost him.’”

Click here more information about the Leelanau County Family Court.

Teaching Kids about Money

Teaching Kids about Money

When I was seven, I wanted a skateboard. My parents told me they would pay half of what I could raise. I needed $25. Magically, the neighbors were going out of town for a week and needed meet to fill their bird bath daily. So after school for a week, I walked next door and put more water in the birdbath. They gave me $15.

My dad and I went to K-mart and I picked out a skateboard with neon green writing. It was $30. I was elated!

But a few days later, my new Nash skateboard lost some of its appeal. A friend said to me, “Nash is trash.” I quickly learned that brands have certain meanings and my skateboard was associated with K-mart and not skate shops.

As a parent, I see it as my responsibility to teach my daughters how to earn, save, manage money. So what works?

Teaching Kids about Money | Start Early

Before kids can understand the meaning of money, they have to be able to ascribe meaning to things that don’t inherently have meaning. This ability usually starts to emerge when a child is three and is easiest to understand when a child is four or older. Implementing star charts or some sort of token for positive behavior can help to build this skill set. For example, we have a “Daddy Doubloon” system for bedtime. If our oldest goes to sleep like she is supposed to, she earns a Daddy Doubloon. She can then spend those for things like extra books, reading time, or larger activities.

Give money a value

Parents often buy kids what they want when they want it. I often hear parents of teenagers say, “They just don’t want to go get a job.” Often those same parents are buying their kids the latest clothes, video games, or iPhone. When parents delay or say “no” to each thing their child wants, they allow their child to feel the painful reality that we have to work for what we want. When children want something and can’t have it, it spurs on a motivation to work and earn.

How to get a Middle Schooler a Job 

In middle school, encourage kids to find ways to earn money with babysitting, yard work, or creating an online Etsy store. We’ve never had a time like this, where kids can start a genuine business. The tools of the internet can help kids appropriate learn to plan, create, market, and sell a craft or product. Earn on, children will need more help, but once they get rolling they’ll just need occasional guidance. Once they earn money, you can have deeper conversations about what percent to save, give, and keep. This builds foundations for adulthood

Summer Jobs

When your son or daughter is old enough for a summer job:

  1. Start with your own network. They don’t need to have the full interview experience (but it wouldn’t hurt). The biggest goal is to get them their fist job.
  2. Set Goals: Next, set some goals together. How much do they need to save for college or a family vacation? How much should they give to people less fortunate or your church? How much can they spend?
  3. Encourage positive money habits: Lastly, encourage positive habits. Maybe match their savings up to a certain amount. Allow them to use your car more. Or have a fun dinner if they save $1,000. The more fun it is, the better.

It’s all preparation

Our jobs are to enjoy our kids and prepare them for adulthood. When we start early, encourage early jobs, and help with getting summer jobs, it teaches them about what life will be like after high school. This early lessons of feeling the pain of not having money, will help them to grow into productive adults.

Traverse City counselor Joe headshotJoe Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, business consultant, and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. As Traverse City’s premier counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling helps kids, families, and couples to identify age-appropriate goals, plan for success, and thrive. Reach them at 231-714-0282 ext. 0.

Teen Addictions: From Warning Signs to Treatment

Teen Addictions: From Warning Signs to Treatment

 

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Sam came into my office with fear in his eyes. His father had called me and stated he needed to find some help for his boy – all had not been right for a while. Sam was a freshman in college and had been doing outstanding in his studies. During the Christmas break, Sam had gone to a party and though he has smoked pot occasionally, he was about to experience drugs in a whole new light.

The mixture was LSD and Ecstasy – candy flipping. Being inexperienced with the drugs, he took five times the normal dosage and three months later, he was still dealing with side effects.

After the pleasurable effects of candy flipping, Sam dealt with unwanted after-effects, which typically occur two to three days after the drug use and are known as blues or suicide Tuesday:

  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Craving for the drug

But what made it even worse for Sam was not just the normal side effects but he had incurred possible brain damage with side effects still affecting him months afterwards: difficulty sleeping, erratic behavior, temper issues, balance and difficulty with light tracing.

Sam had to drop out of the following term and was struggling with holding a job and at times, dealing with simple reality. What began as an experimental night out with friends became a struggle to understand for the family: Would this be his new reality for the rest of his life?

Teen Dilemma

  • In 1998, nearly 10 percent of adolescents (age 12 to 17) reported using an illicit drug at least once during the past month. About one in 12 youth (8.3 percent) in this age group are current (past month) users of marijuana, the most frequently used illicit drug, and 19.1 percent are current users of alcohol.
  • More than half (55 percent) of our nation’s 12th graders have tried an illicit drug and more than one-quarter (29 percent) have tried a drug other than marijuana, such as cocaine, inhalants and heroin.
  • Youth age 16 to 17 have the second highest rate (16.4 percent) of current illicit drug use in the country. The highest rate (19.9 percent) is found among young people age 18 to 20.
  • It’s estimated that 400,000 adolescents are in need of substance abuse treatment
  • Reports from eighth graders first use of substances by the fourth grade: alcohol 6.8%, cigarettes 7.3%, inhalants 3.6%, and marijuana 1.1%
  •  Although consumption of alcoholic beverages is illegal for people under 21 years of age, 10.4 million current drinkers are age 12 to 20. Of this group, nearly half (5.1 million) engage in binge drinking, including 2.3 million who would also be classified as heavy drinkers.

Being Attentive

People who interact with adolescents in the home or community need to be alert to changes in an adolescent’s behavior and appearance that may signal substance abuse.

By recognizing the potential warning signs and symptoms of substance use, you may be able to get help for a teenager in need of treatment. The following behavior changes, when extreme or lasting for more than a few days, may indicate alcohol-related or drug-related problems and the need for further screening by a professional.

Sudden changes in personality without another known cause:

  • Loss of interest in once favorite hobbies, sports, or other activities
  • Sudden decline in performance or attendance at school or work
  • Changes in friends and reluctance to talk about new friends
  • Deterioration of personal grooming habits
  • Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness
  • Sudden aggressive behavior, irritability, nervousness, or giddiness
  • Increased secretiveness, heightened sensitivity to inquiry

Consequences

Adolescents face unique risks associated with substance abuse. The use of substances may compromise an adolescent’s mental and emotional development by interfering with how young people approach and experience interactions. In addition, adolescents are at serious risk for a number of direct and indirect consequences, including the following:

  • Delinquent Behavior—Adolescents who use marijuana weekly are six times more likely than non-users to report they run away from home, five times more likely to say they steal from places other than home and four times more likely to report they physically attack people.
  •  School-Related Problems—Adolescent substance abuse is associated with declining grades, absenteeism from school and dropping out of school. Cognitive and behavioral problems experienced by teens abusing substances may interfere with their academic performance.
  • Traffic Accidents—Nearly half (45 percent) of all deaths from traffic accidents are related to the consumption of alcohol and an estimated 18 percent of drivers age 16 to 20 (or 2.5 million adolescents) drive under the influence of alcohol.
  • Risky Sexual Practices—Adolescents who use drugs and alcohol are more likely than non-using teens to have sex, initiate sex at a younger age and have multiple sex partners, placing them at greater risk for unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Juvenile Crime—Adolescents age 12 to 16 who have ever used marijuana are more likely at some point to have sold marijuana (24 percent vs. less than one percent), carried a handgun (21 percent vs. seven percent) or been in a gang (14 percent vs. two percent) than youth who have never used marijuana.
  • Developmental Problems—Substance abuse can compromise an adolescent’s psychological and social development in areas such as the formation of a strong self-identity, emotional and intellectual growth, establishment of a career and the development of rewarding personal relationships.
  • Physical and Mental Consequences—Smoking marijuana can have negative effects on the user’s mind and body. It can impair short-term memory and comprehension, alter one’s sense of time and reduce the ability to perform tasks that require concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Evidence also suggests that the long-term effects of using marijuana may include increased risk of lung cancer and other chronic lung disorders, head and neck cancer, sterility in men and infertility in women.
  • Future Use Disorders—The earlier the age at which a person first drinks alcohol, the more likely that person is to develop an alcohol use disorder. A person who starts drinking alcohol at age 13 is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in his or her life than someone who starts drinking at age 20.

Treatment

Treating adolescents for substance abuse requires special consideration of the adolescent’s individual experience and how it affects the nature and severity of his or her alcohol or drug use. Understanding the adolescent’s situation will help explain why alcohol or drugs are used and how they became an integral part of his or her identity. Factors that need to be considered when tailoring treatment for adolescents include the following:

  • Developmental Stages—Treatment for adolescents must address their unique developmental needs, which vary with the age of the client. Developmental features of younger adolescents are different from those of older adolescents. For example, older adolescents are more capable of abstract thinking and are more likely to openly rebel than younger adolescents.
  • Ethnicity and Culture—Norms, values and health beliefs differ across cultures and can affect substance abuse treatment. For example, some cultural groups may consider treatment invasive; others may wish to involve the extended family. Treatment services need to be culturally competent and use the preferred language of adolescent clients and their families.
  • Gender and Sexual Orientation—Factors that influence adolescent substance abuse and involvement in treatment differ by gender. For example, whereas adolescent girls more often have internalizing co-existing disorders such as depression, boys are more likely to have externalizing disorders such as conduct disorders. Effective treatment for gay, bisexual and transgendered youth includes helping them to acknowledge and accept their sexual identity.
  • Co-existing Mental Disorders—Adolescents with substance abuse disorders are more likely than their abstinent peers to have co-existing mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and depression. In these teens, substance abuse may disguise, exacerbate or be used to “self-medicate” psychiatric symptoms. Without tailored treatment, co-existing mental disorders could interfere with the adolescent’s ability and motivation to participate in addiction treatment and could increase the potential for relapse.
  • Family Factors— An adolescent’s family has a potential role both in the origin of his or her substance abuse problem and as an agent of change in the adolescent’s environment. Treatment should take into account family factors that increase risk for substance abuse problems in youth, such as any history of parental or sibling substance abuse problems or addiction; domestic violence; physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, and neglect. Whenever possible, parents should be involved in all phases of their adolescent’s treatment.

Parental Influence

Alcoholism and other drug addiction tend to run in families. Children of addicted parents are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are other children:

  • Family interaction is defined by substance abuse or addiction in a family.
  • Families affected by alcoholism report higher levels of conflict than do families with no alcoholism.
  • *A relationship between parental addiction and child abuse has been documented in a large proportion of child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Children of addicted parents have a high rate of behavior problems.
  • Children of addicted parents experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health and welfare costs than do children from non-addicted families.

Encouragement

Adolescents who are in treatment or recovery need all the support they can get from their families and communities. Consider taking one or more of the following actions to support youth undergoing treatment for and recovery from substance abuse. Encourage schools to offer student assistance programs, counseling on substance abus, and confidential referral to treatment and recovery resources in the community.

  • Encourage purchasers of health insurance to obtain comprehensive coverage for substance abuse and mental health services.
  • Encourage treatment centers, schools, and community-based youth organizations to conduct support groups for children of parents who are addicted to alcohol and drugs.
  • Encourage adolescents who have recovered successfully from addictive disorders to participate in community events that target their peers.
  • Because alcohol and drug use among youth often occurs in groups, be aware that encouraging one young person to seek help may lead others in his or her social group to seek treatment.
  • Encourage environmental changes in your community that promote recovery such as reducing the number of billboards advertising alcoholic beverages and holding alcohol-free recreational events.
  • Encourage the participation of family members in all aspects of the treatment and recovery process for adolescents and foster the availability of family-centered support groups and other services that address the needs of the entire family.
  • Be a positive role model for young people in treatment and recovery by not engaging in any illegal or unhealthy substance use.
  • Get involved in organizations that to support substance abuse treatment and recovery programs for adolescents.
  • Stay informed about available local resources for treatment and recovery and use this knowledge to help others.

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience
What Happens in Rehab and Recovery

What Happens in Rehab and Recovery

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town.” Anne Lamott.

In the modern recovery world “rehab” can mean many things. To treat addictions a person can choose long-term (usually 90 days) and shorter-term (30 days to 2 weeks) in-house programs. Each type of program has its own specific strengths and weaknesses.

Inpatient Rehab

The benefit of an inpatient program is that an individual is isolated away from their substance of choice and is thus given an opportunity to begin to think clearly. Isolation away from behavioral triggers allows them to focus solely on their recovery without distractions from the outside world.

Over time, family members and close friends may be invited to participate in visiting days or family therapy sessions. This helps to build the support system that is so crucial to those in recovery once they leave the rehab facility.

Outpatient Rehab

In outpatient, the individual has freedom of movement and is able to handle day-to-day activities of life outside of a facility. Depending on possible involvement of court system, there could be required drug testing in place.

An outpatient program gives an individual the opportunity to gather facts and converse with fellow members of the group to learn coping skills to avoid the decisions of the past. Outpatient care is best for those with short-lived dependence and is not recommended for those with serious or long-term addictions or those with dual diagnosis conditions.

What Happens in Rehab

Once an individual passes through the initial detox from drugs or alcohol, they will move on to the rehabilitation portion of the recovery process. The rehab portion of recovery is where the patients get to evaluate the underlying reasons behind their addictions, addressing those issues so they can effectively move on with their lives without going back to drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behavior.

In individual behavioral therapy, the patient will identify when they began using the substance and why they started abusing it. The patient will receive strategies on how they can direct their time to focus on getting involved in new hobbies or interests. Time management skills will allow them to better use their time so they have less opportunity to think about relapse.

Patients learn to identify triggers, and how to deal with these triggering situations when they come up. If patients have a plan for various tempting situations, they are more likely to put their plan into action and avoid relapse. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy also addresses thoughts that patients have in relation to substance abuse, or life in general. It helps to reform their thinking patterns and make behavioral changes toward a healthy, sober life.

The addiction rehabilitation process usually includes group therapy. These group sessions allow the recovering addict to interact with others who are in the same situation. It is often helpful for recovering addicts to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Likewise, it can be beneficial for addicts to share their own stories of addiction and recovery, as others find solace in them. This sense of community support is integral to the recovery process.

Most addiction rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy as part of their program. Addiction is far-reaching, affecting many more people than just the individual with the addiction. Family members are often those who are most deeply affected by their loved one’s addiction, and they are an important component of the recovery process for that person.

Initially, patients may be restricted from contacting loved ones, but later in the recovery process, family members are often welcomed to participate in family therapy sessions. During these sessions, family members can discuss pain caused by their loved one’s addiction and their desire to see that person live a healthy life. Family therapy can help to resolve issues so the family can serve as a pillar of support once their loved one leaves the rehabilitation facility.

Choosing a Drug Treatment Program

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several things to consider when choosing a drug treatment program. These include:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution to treatment.
  • Different treatments work for different people.
  • Patients must commit enough time to treatment in order to effectively overcome their addictions.
  • Everyone should have easy access to treatment when they need it.
  • Addiction affects the way the brain works.
  • Effective treatment should address all areas of the addict’s life, not just the abuse or addiction.
  • Medicinal treatment is often necessary and should be used in conjunction with therapy.
  • Treatment plans should continually be tailored to meet the individual’s needs and circumstances.
  • Mental disorders are often linked to drug addiction and should be addressed in treatment.

A setting that provides recovery in a holistic manner and provides services that treat the underlying reasoning behind the need to escape or numb is critical to helping those we serve to find long-term recovery.

The best services include the following components:

  • Individual and Family Therapy
  • Dependence Education
  • Self-Realization
  • Individual Treatment Plan Creation

The service must be helpful in creating long- and short-term goals in the recovery process:

  • Establishing an individual relapse prevention plan
  • Daily reflections and meditations
  • Learning how to encourage longer-term dependent free living
  • Creation of a spiritual-based premise of a higher power

To meet the goals prescribed above a service covers areas such as:

  • Past and current medical history
  • Employment and educational background
  • Basic needs being met currently
  • Substance abuse history
  • Legal issues (current and past)
  • Family/social genogram of dependent history
  • Psychiatric diagnoses (current and past)
  • Personal insights and supports each client has

What Exactly is “Recovery”?

After a patient has completed a rehabilitation program, they are not finished with recovery. In fact, recovery is a process that an addict must work at for the rest of their life.

Sometimes, the path to lifelong recovery will be easy. Other times, it will be difficult for individuals to withstand the temptation to relapse. Like anything in life, it’s a journey that may feature varying terrain, so constant support is essential.

Prior to leaving an addiction treatment program, a patient will meet with counselors to discuss a plan for aftercare. Many addiction rehab facilities offer follow-up programs to assist the patient as they return to normal life.

These may include weekend stays back at the rehab center when the individual feels a touch-up stay is needed. Or a patient may live in a sober living facility for a while with other recovering addicts before returning home. This offers a supportive transitional time for recovering addicts before being thrown back into “normal” life.

Many patients maintain regular therapy sessions post-rehab, and some submit to scheduled drug testing as a way to keep them accountable to their sobriety. Group therapy is a method for building a support system in your local area. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are well-known 12-step groups that many recovering addicts attend on a very regular basis. Both AA and NA have meetings all across the country at easily accessible times.

There are various offsprings of the AA model for a wide range of other addictions, such as Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Emotions Anonymous (EA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). There are also subsets of NA for specific drugs, like Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA). Some addicts find the type of support they can get in very specific 12-step groups is more beneficial, whereas other addicts gain the help they need from more general groups.

In the end the most important aspect of any rehab and recovery is that it is not just the mind thinking about recovery but also the heart. One must be willing to sacrifice immediate gratification with at times a long arduous plan that leads to fulfillment in never-ending recovery process.

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

The Family’s Role in Addiction and Recovery

The Family’s Role in Addiction and Recovery

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another, without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stephanie Brown, in her book The Alcoholic Family in Recovery, discusses four distinct stages that the alcoholic and the family surrounding him or her must go through to achieve recovery:

The 1st stage is the Drinking Stage and is highlighted by the family denying that any family member has a drinking problem, while at the same time giving reasons to anyone who will listen why the drinker has the right to drink.

The 2nd stage is labeled Transition, and the focus is the beginning of abstinence for the drinker. This is a time for the family of the alcoholic to finally come to the realization that the alcoholic cannot control his/her drinking and the co-alcoholic cannot control the drinker. (A co-alcoholic is defined as the person(s) who enables an alcoholic by assuming responsibilities on the alcoholic’s behalf, minimizing or denying the problem drinking, or making amends for the alcoholic’s behavior [Drugs.com, accessed 4/28/2015].)

The 3rd stage, called Early Recovery, is when this couple works on individual healing, versus the healing of the whole of the family unit.

The 4th stage is Ongoing Recovery, where “individual recoveries are solid and attention can be turned back to the couple and family” (Brown, 1999, p114).

 Stage 1: The Drinking Stage

Therapists working with the family in the drinking stage must focus not only on the drinking behavior of the alcoholic, but also the distorted belief system of the rest of the family that emotionally and physically supports the drinking. The family must quit denial and support of the drinking, and begin to find avenues to reach out for help.

For the therapist dealing with a drinker in the drinking stage, the imperative is for the drinker to begin abstinence. Attempts are made to help the drinker gain insight into why life has become for so many in the family unit unstable. However, in the final analysis, it is up to the drinker to begin the process of recovery. The therapist helps to break down the walls of defiance in the drinker’s belief system that they are in total control.

Stephanie Brown describes the insanity of the drinking stage in being like a dance: “The drinker leads and the co-alcoholic follows in a way that keeps them dancing. The leader may stumble, drift away, step all over the follower, or even break up the dance by changing partners. The co-alcoholic’s only response is to try and keep the dance going” (Brown, 1999, p 171).

The therapist must encourage the family to help the alcoholic end the dance by realizing they cannot control and enable the drinking and that only when they reach out for help outside the family system may they be led into the stage of transition.

Stage 2: Transition Stage

The transition stage is a complex ebb and flow during which the alcoholic works through no longer drinking, and the family struggles with the transition of living through the end of the drinking to the beginning of abstinence.

The environment within the family at the end of drinking is made up three distinct variables:

  • Increasingly out-of-control environment
  • Tightening defenses to prevent or forestall systems collapse
  • A last ditch attempt to maintain denial and all core beliefs

The therapist has a multitude of functions in the beginning stage of transition. The therapist must help guide the alcoholic to realize the loss of self-control with their drinking and, with this understanding, help the alcoholic realize that they must reach out to outside help (ie, AA) to have any realistic chance to stay sober.

In the meantime, the therapist has to help the family—who has been dealing with supporting the drinker’s world that is now beginning to crack and crumble—realize their need for help (ie, Al-Anon) in handling how the denial, core beliefs, and out of control behavior made them, as much as the alcoholic, a prisoner of the drinking.

The therapist is a guide to help find sobriety, and a place to go for information when life is a bundle of confusion. “Are you going to meetings?” “How are you feeling?” “Take it one day at a time, first things first, and set priorities” are statements repeated by the therapist until the client can recite them for themselves.

As the family begins to move from drinking to abstinence and to the later half of the transition stage, Brown describes four focal points the family must be aware of:

  • To focus intensely on staying dry
  • To stabilize the out-of-control environment
  • To allow the family support system to collapse and remain collapsed
  • To focus on the individual within the family

The therapist, after seeing that the family is stable enough and has lifeboats in place (AA & Al-Anon), can begin to investigate underlying feelings that may be triggers or causes of past and current drinking relapses. The therapist must also be attentive to how children in the family are being cared for and if they are handling the changes to the family structure.

Forward movement is the key and the best way to help clients reach for and know when is the right time for the family to move to the next stage: Early Recovery. In reality, this may take years based to severity of the past drinking.

Stage 3: Early Recovery

The main difference between the transition stage and the early recovery stage is a general lessening of the physical cravings and psychological impulses for alcohol. The therapist must always look for potential relapse signs, but this factor lessens as time moves forward.

An item the therapist must address in the early recovery stage is continual support within the alcoholic’s family to stay focused on their own recovery. By this stage co-alcoholics, if they are not getting support of their own, may become weary of the lack of attention from the alcoholic who is busy trying to gain support (AA) to stay sober. The co-alcoholic may have been the controller of the drinker and now has to live with decisions of the family being completed by committee. It is imperative that the therapist is able to construct support for both the alcoholic and the co-alcoholic; each has issues that must be addressed so that recovery can continue.

As recovery moves forward, hidden and latent issues that fostered drinking or was created by the trauma of the drinking environment may need individual attention. Not only does the therapist become the guide for the family, but also the provider of information in this stage.

The therapist must:

  • Continue to teach abstinent behaviors and thinking;
  • Keep families in close contact with 12-step programs and help them work on the steps;
  • Keep focus on individual recovery, seeking outside supports for the family;
  • Maintain attention for the children in the recovering family; and
  • Keep a continual eye on potential issues, such as the onset of depression, emotional problems, sleep problems, fear, and/or helplessness.

Stage 4: Ongoing Recovery

This final stage is relatively stable in comparison to the earlier three stages. This is because recovery is now solid, and attention can be turned back to the couple and the family.

The family focus lies in the area of staying on task (sobriety) and committed to recovery, and building up the structure of the family after it had been torn down in the earlier stages. The family had reached for outside help (AA, Al-Non, therapy) and now, after finding themselves and actually liking what they see in the mirror, it is time to do the following:

  • Heal the emotional separation issues
  • Look in-depth at what damage had been done to the family due to drinking
  • Study the underlying causes of the drinking behavior

The ongoing recovery stage is a time for the creation of healthy relational dependence within the family and the understanding that recovery is a process, not an outcome (Brown, 1999).

The therapist’s main functions in this stage are:

  • Make sure family is continuing abstinent behavior
  • Expand the family’s alcoholic and co-alcoholic identities
  • Ensure that everyone maintains programs of recovery (work the 12-steps and internalize 12-step principles)
  • Focus on the couple and family issues
  • Explore spirituality issues and past childhood and adult traumas

 Final Thoughts

As I constructed this article, I was struck in many ways how involved and complex the role of the therapists is during an alcohol recovery process. It is more than being a listening ear in the background; it is a juggling act of many aspects of recovery.

The therapist is one step ahead of the family—guiding the family and the drinker to realize the importance of changing behavior; all the while wondering if what they are trying to accomplish will actually work.

The family and the drinker must come to a point in their lives that only when heartfelt change is ingrained will real change occur in the family. In truth, the magic of recovery is with the drinker and the family, not the therapist.

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Nine ways to get better sleep

Nine ways to get better sleep

9 ways to get better sleep

Sleep is when our brains organize what has happened. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. People/kids in school need 8-10 hours to appropriately categorize what they have learned.

Less sleep = More anxiety/depression/academic failure

Don’t have a TV in your bedroom, it stimulates your brain to think it is morning and makes your brain want to be awake in bed

Turn off screens 30 minutes before bed, it’s like looking at the sun and wondering why you are awake

Keep a notepad next to your bed to write down ideas/to-do list, it frees up your brain

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day

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Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s New Book

Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

From Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier:

Control vs. Voice

So how do we use this new information about guiding our kids to help them change their behavior? Ultimately, you have no control over your child. They make decisions every day. They are their own persons.

Webster’s defines “control” as: “To exercise restraining or directing influence over. To have power over. Reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>”

The part of this definition that I like is the “directing influence over”. I would argue that this comes less from control and more from having a voice in your child’s life.

One of Webster’s definitions of “voice” is, “wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed.” So to have a “voice” in your child’s life is for your wishes, choices, and opinions to somehow take root in them.

Think about who has a voice in your life. Who can say to you, “Here is my opinion” and you consider it?

Is it your mom?

Dad?

Best friend?

Wife or husband or significant other?

How did they gain that voice in your life? Did they do something? Did they act a certain way? Is it because you have seen how they live their life and you respect that? Do you aspire to be like them or certain parts of them? What is it that allows them to have that voice, not control, in your life?

I believe that it is trust. They somehow built trust in you. Building a voice comes from trust. For kids, that trust comes from three specific things. To build trust as parents we must demonstrate:

  1. Consistency and love
  2. Set an example
  3. Spur something in our children that brings life

Consistency and Love

In future chapters I will discuss more in-depth what this looks like and ways that you can increase consistency and demonstrate your love. One definition of “consistency” is “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole.”

To be a consistent parent, you have to have harmony in what you do. What does this mean? It means that it is better to say nothing at all, rather than a false promise. By false promise I mean not following through on things you say. If you give a warning to a child regarding their behavior, then follow through.

When you start thinking this way, two things will happen inside of you. First, you will slow down the frequency of threats that you make because you know that you need to follow through. Also, you will evaluate the intensity of threats.

One thing about threats: they don’t work.

 

Threats don’t work

Why don’t threats work? Think about it this way. Your boss keeps coming in your office for two weeks reminding you of a date that a report is due. She says, “If it’s not on my desk on November 12th, then I’m writing you up.” November 12 comes and goes, you had some crazy things happen in your family and you just couldn’t get it done.

Then in January she does the same thing for the report due January 29th. Again you miss the mark and it comes and goes, yet no write up. Imagine this happened over 18 years in the company. Sometimes she does write you up sometimes she doesn’t.

Now imagine a different scenario. At a staff meeting she announces that reports need to be timely. To try and help the staff keep it in their mind, if the November 12th report is in on time you will get an overnight at the hotel of your choice and if not, then you will be written up.

No more reminders.

Then she does what she says.

Often parents believe that they have a voice in their child’s life and that is enough, but really a voice is earned through consistency. Your action of giving positive or negative consequences will speak more than anything you could say ahead of time or threaten.

Even when threats do seem to work, it is usually not based on building a long-term voice in your child’s life.

The second part of this is building love. I trust that you love your child deeply; otherwise you would not be reading this book. So it is not how to build your love for your child that is the issue, it is how do children receive love?
Consistency in parenting helps kids feel safe. If you are about to manage a child in a grocery store and help her choose good choices there, then you can definitely take on any monster, bad dream, bully, and tornado. Kids fear all sorts of things.

A psychologist named Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs”. His belief was that if basic needs are not met is it is harder or impossible to work toward higher needs. Thus, if safety needs of security aren’t met, it is harder to build feelings of love and belonging.

I had a client recently who had her apartment broken into. She was staying up all night because she was scared someone would break in, then she was sleeping during the day, but her classes were slipping. Her feelings of lack of safety made it harder for her to do more complex thinking like that which is required in school.

The same is true for kids, as they see that you can handle a variety of situations, they will trust that you can protect them…

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is also the author of the books Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier
and Practice of the Practice | A Start-up Guide to Launching a Counseling Private Practice

Parenting Soup

Parenting Soup

Being a good parent is like making soup. For those of you who have never made soup, except out of a can I’m sorry. You are truly missing out.

When making a good soup you can of course follow a recipe. But, some of the greatest surprises are when you create a soup from what you have and then it is amazing. As you sip that steamy amazing broth and dip bread to absorb the flavor, you understand that you may never taste this exact soup again. You savor it. When it is gone, you attempt to replicate it, but only if you are lucky will you create the exact same flavor again.

When I make soup, I look in the fridge and review what we have and need to get rid of. If we’re lacking, I move toward the freezer. I may start with sautéing meat or onions, then I’ll add additional vegetables to create a depth of flavor. I may add some flour to the oil or butter to make a roux.

When I was volunteering in New Orleans at a shelter for people in the final stages of AIDS, I asked a number of the nurses, “Can I have your gumbo recipe?” They almost always replied, “Son, you just use whatcha got in da fridge, or you use Zataran’s.”

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A rap is worth a thousand words

A rap is worth a thousand words


Parents rap about maintaining their household by videosonlytube

I just saw this video. I don’t have much insight regarding counseling or therapeutic issues to write about. More that I just love how this couple seems to work together. It is so easy to get caught up in life’s tasks, but when a couple fires on all cylinders it feels so good to watch and for the couple it is great.

John Gottman, a marriage researcher talks about a couple’s tendency to begin to live parallel lives. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he talks about how over time, a couple can drift away from one another. Their parallel lives become more like roommates, than as partners.

Dr. Gottman discusses how couples need to have a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative. I would take that a step further. Couples also need to focus on daily interactions that cause strife and grow their cognizance of how their mood and personality can change the tone of the environment.

Further, marriage research discusses how a couple needs to look at their issues and see if the are resolvable or if they are positions that the person is entrenched. If it is not an issue that can be resolved, such as religion or sometimes politics, a couple can agree to disagree or figure out a way to call a “time out.” When couples begin this process, they can find less stress that effects their daily life.

So maybe I had a comment or two, but the video is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

 

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He is learning techniques to help his clients and his own marriage. Also, he likes funny rap videos like this one.

Traverse City counseling counselor therapist family

 

 

 

The Teen Brain

The Teen Brain

“All teenagers are risk-takers, moody, and get embarrassed by their parents.”

“They are angry and hate adults.”

“They only listen to their friends.”

Are these statements really true?

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore discusses why teenagers seem more impulsive and less self-aware than grown-ups. She compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to adults. Often typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the expanding development of the brain. Within the context of my counseling practice, parents often view their children through an adult lens.

As I watched this video at my Traverse City office, I liked the idea of synapse pruning. This is where the adolescent brain is working to fine tune brain tissue that is important and that which is not needed. Functional MRIs help to discover aspects that are more or less important and to view what assists teenagers through this process.

Further, the limbic system is more sensitive to the emotional rewards and feelings of risky behavior. It is heightened during adolescence so that risky behavior feels more exciting and fulfilling. However, the pre-frontal cortex  is the section that stops risky behavior and helps to connect behavior and consequences. That section is not as developed. So there is a deeper sense of excitement without the stop-gap measures.

 



So what can parents do to help their teenagers?

  • Understand the teenage brain and learn more to develop a working knowledge of what natural barriers they may experience.
  • Realize that frustrating behavior is often part of teens learning how to appropriately be independent.
  • Environment can play a substantial role in which synapse connect. Work to create an environment that helps your teen to have a realistic understanding of the world.
  • Don’t fear giving positive and negative consequences. Seek to have them relate to the inappropriate behavior. You don’t need to assist in funding behavior that you do not agree with, but do it with love and understanding.
  • Work to allow family discussion so that your teen feels heard.
  • Get counseling or therapy as a family if you feel that you have hit a roadblock.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is the owner and a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He does therapy with families, teens, and couples to grow through all of the phases of life. He is interested in the neuro-development of people over a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Counseling Traverse City therapist

The Cancer Effect

The Cancer Effect

cancer counseling thyroid

In July I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Fairly soon I will be having a bunch of additional tests and have a treatment plan. I will soon have my thyroid removed, have a scar on my neck, and be on medicine for the rest of my life. I feel too young for all of this.

On Sunday I was swinging at the beach with my daughter and wife. My wife was pushing my daughter and the sun was bouncing off both of their faces. It was better than any photo. I couldn’t stop thinking about how the two of them deserve to have a husband/dad around. How life in the simplicity is wonderful.

So often in my life, I have thought about my next steps and how to improve, evaluate, and enhance my life. I strategize  and am goal-oriented. I often have a view that if there are improvements to be made, that life will be better when those improvements occur. Maybe it has been in regards to improving the furniture in my house or renovating a room.

When that is done, then I will be happier.

When I start seeing more clients in my private practice, then I will be happier.

When my websites are running more, then I will be happier.

My formula has been that as progress occurs, happiness will develop too. In many ways this is true and reiterated in our lives. When we complete college, we usually get a better job and have more economic freedom. We can choose our career direction more accurately and potentially develop careers that are fulfilling. When I fight with my wife and we work it out, we usually fight less. Fixing often does lead to more happiness.

However, holding out for that happiness or believing that future me will be happier because of those things is a farce. That belief, that is perpetuated by media, friends, and our own internal voices is a falsity. If we are not seeking balance and emotional wellness now, we will not have an easier time tomorrow, next week, or next year. Instead, it will be harder because we then have more time living in the less fulfilled world we have created.

I have been given a gift through telling people about my cancer. When I tell someone those words for the first time, they will hug me, cry, give me encouraging words, tell me that they are praying for me, or sending me positive vibes.

Really they are saying, “Joe, you matter to me. The world would not be the same without you.”

In doing this, I am on the receiving end of experiencing something magnificent, knowing that I matter to people.

How often do we tell people that they matter? It can be a “Wellness Discipline” to build our own health. When we notice that others matter and that they are important to us, it builds that relationship, while also creating a thankful heart. The more that we experiences a feeling of thankfulness in the now, the harder it is for the other mindset to push its way in. We can’t have those mutually exclusive feelings of “I am so thankful for what I have right now” and “I will be thankful and happy when X happens.”

So today, may you grow in your thankfulness and tell people that they matter to you and that the world would be different without them. Tell them and tell yourself that life right now is good and wonderful and full of moments of simplicity with the sun bouncing off people’s faces swinging on the beach.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is trying his darndest to approach thyroid cancer with an attitude of thankfulness, even though he feels like it really sucks.

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

Mental Wellness: More than beauty rest

sleep counseling Traverse City counselor family

Originally appeared in the Record Eagle, April 21, 2012 available at:

http://record-eagle.com/bodysoul/x1350020161/Mental-Wellness-More-than-beauty-rest/print

My grandma had a sleep mask. You know the kind that blocks out light? Hers was pink. I always thought it looked stupid. Then my wife gave me one last December, except mine is brown and black. When I got it, I thought, “Am I ever going to use this except on an airplane?”

Every morning when the light smacks me in the face at five something, I now put it on and have a glorious last hour of sleep. I love it.

We all know how important sleep is for kids. If they don’t get their naps they are cranky and everyone in earshot knows. We underestimate the importance of solid sleep for adults. Here are some things you should know:

Sleep is tied to mental wellness

Did you know that poor quality sleep is tied to anxiety, depression, attention, mood swings, panic attacks and self esteem? If you are fighting with your kids, spouse, or friends, feeling frustrated, or just anxious, maybe it isn’t medications that you need. Maybe you need more sleep.

Sleep is tied to memory

During the day our brains store most information in a short-term part of our brain. At night, the brain sorts through what is important and what is not. Everything from the color of your boss’s shirt to that marketing report gets sorted to keep or delete. If not given enough time to sort, the brain hits the delete button. Things you understood yesterday will be harder to recall.

Sleep can improve with a few simple changes

Going to bed and waking up at similar times can improve your body’s ability to get deeper and better quality sleep. As well, increasing exercise, time outside, and eating more fruits and vegetables will help. Eliminating caffeine in the evening and drinking more water can help unclog the sleep center of your brain.

Sometimes we make our lives more complicated than they need to be. What if all you need is a little more sleep? It could be the key to improving the relationships in your life, even if all it takes is a pink sleep mask.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, distant couples “¦ and just about everyone else. Check out his “Happiness Resources” at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/happiness/.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo used with Creative Commons license, care of blue.sky

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

counseling traverse city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a week ago, my wife was changing my daughter’s diaper. She was parked outside a pharmacy in Traverse City and she was changing the diaper on the front seat of our car. I wasn’t there.

Some teens pulled up and were seated with their windows down. They started making comments about “the crying baby” and “shut that baby up.” Of course, the audacity of the teens caught my wife off guard and in the moment she didn’t think of what to say or do, she just wanted to leave.

The recent viral video about a bus monitor being bullied has touched a nerve. In the video, a bus monitor is called a litany of names and she ends up crying. The video is just plain terrible.

People are asking:

What has happened to our society?

How are kids this terrible?

Where is the respect?

What is going on?

In some ways, kids are just as cruel as in past generations; however, they have more tools for learning and spreading this cruelty. The point for me is not how we got here, but how do we get out?

When I work with families in counseling, at my Traverse City practice, we discuss a number of factors. Here are a few steps that can help with this discussion.

Schools have been limited

In past generations, teachers and principals spanked, paddled, and hit kids. It is essential to strong learning and emotional development for kids to feel safe. Those days are done and I am not advocating for them to return. However, due to the culture of lawsuits and continued restraints on teachers to give detentions, in-school suspensions, and other negative consequences, it has created an environment where youth will dictate their own culture.

Parents are less involved

As parents evaluate their interactions and involvements in their kid’s lives, they need to continue to seek consistency and a culture of both positive and negative consequences. Our society continues to function based on us all seeking that most of our actions have clear consequences. As parents build this social skill in kids, they will collectively gain traction.

Society as a parent

Even though we are more connected, most cultural tools have been de-centralized. As a result, specific parenting and expectations have become less clear. As  a result, we don’t want to “step on toes”. Often people don’t speak up when their “gut” is telling them to speak up.

The answers to these behaviors are not clear cut like many talking heads are saying, but, as we evaluate empowering schools, parents, and individuals, we may see bullying decrease.

 

private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He has worked with bullied, at-risk, angry, and hurt kids since 1998. He also loves sailing.

15 things I learned while in the hospital

 

Psychologist Traverse City Family

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t told everyone, but I have told a lot of people, my daughter was recently in the hospital for a week. It was something fairly severe and we’re now in recovery mode. Here are some things that I wrote down the night that her surgery was over and things were stable. Maybe you will resonate with these things, maybe you don’t think your reaction would be the same. Either way, I hope it inspires you to build deeper relationships, appreciate family more, or reach out to those in your life that are hurting.

1. Our network of friends and family is much larger in size and heart than I ever knew possible.
2. I can handle much more than I ever thought possible.
3. I can be annoyed with someone and have a deep appreciation for them at the same time.
4. I need to appreciate every single day that there is not a health crisis in my family.
5. I don’t need to work harder so I can have more time with my daughter, I just need to make the time.
6. My wife is much stronger than I imagined.
7. My daughter is much stronger than I ever thought a kid could be.
8. I can still trust God even when I am angry, hate, or don’t understand Him and His decisions about healing.
9. Overall, people want to do good.
10. Humankind knows a lot more about the human body than I ever imagined.
11. I really love family and friends.
12. Food heals where words can’t.
13. Sitting with someone means a lot.
14. Facebook is a great tool in a family crisis.
15. Even though I hate McDonald’s, I love the Ronald McDonald House.

I’m not sure what you will glean from this, but I hope it serves you wherever you are at.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

 

Mental Wellness: Build time to slow down

traverse city counseling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published at http://record-eagle.com/features/x239062040/Mental-Wellness-Build-time-to-slow-down by Joseph R. Sanok

I can’t slow down. I need this article more than anyone. I have a baby, house, job, private practice ” the list goes on and on. I bet your list is similar. There is always a reason why I can’t slow down.

I went to the U.P. this past weekend. I sat and drank coffee, looked out at the morning water, and read a magazine. Why is it that when we get away from town, we let ourselves relax? These are three things that are starting to work for me (I’m not there yet).

Put it in the schedule

Did you know that 15 minutes is 1 percent of your day? I think we actually have time to relax for 15 minutes, we just don’t make the time. If something is written down, we’re more likely to follow through. Plan to relax.

Get out

When we are in our homes, we see the laundry, cleaning and opportunities to not relax. Planning time out of our house clears our mind and gives us permission to forget about the struggles for a space of time. Get away from your house.

Drag it out

When I do errands, I fight for the closest parking spot, hurry in, hurry out and run back home. There have been times when we have gone to the farmers market and parked a few blocks away. We strolled, looked at the river, and we didn’t hurry home. Drag out the time that you are out and about.

But why should we slow down? Shouldn’t we be more efficient and productive? Yes, this is true. There are times during the week that productivity and efficiency are of value. Yet, if we make it a lifestyle, we increase our stress, which can lead to a lower quality of sleep, which increases anxiety and depression, while lowering our quality of life.

When you step back, why are you in such a hurry and what is it doing to you? Try it for a day and see if makes you feel better.

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Friends and Crisis: Dos and Don’ts

You never really appreciate a life of normality until crisis hits. Our family has been through a number of things lately: a death, a major medical issue, and close friends having their own crisis. It is amazing how it seems that high profile events bring out people’s true social skills.

I learned through experience what not to say when someone is in crisis. It was several years ago. I heard that a friend of mine’s parents had got divorced. I was close to my friend, but not to his parents. During a large festival in our town, I ran into the mom and said, “I’m so sorry to hear about you and _______.” It seemed to be the right thing to say. She broke down crying in the middle of the festival.

I felt terrible, I didn’t know how to leave, and I regretted saying anything. After that I was fairly gun-shy. When I heard that people had a miscarriage, death, or sickness, I didn’t know what to say. So I just watched from a distance. Now that I am going through my own experiences, I feel that I have an understanding of what has worked and not worked for me.

Food

Do

Make or bring food. It allows the family to focus on one another, rather than shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

Try and make something they can freeze or bring it frozen. If others are bringing food they can pull it out when the time works for them.

If you can, use things you don’t need back like Tupperware, something disposable, or a pan you don’t care about. Tell them, “Don’t worry about getting the pan back to me.”

Don’t

Don’t expect to hang out with the family long.

Don’t just show up, call and ask if there is a convenient time.

Talking

Do

Empathize with the family. Our friends that have said, “That must be hell” “I can’t imagine going through that” and “When will the universe stop shi**ing on the Sanok’s?” have been some of the most helpful comments. It makes us feel less crazy, like our feelings are normal.

Let the family or person do the talking. Saying, “If you don’t feel like talking about it, that’s ok, but how are you doing?” This is helpful because it is nice to be given permission to blow someone off and stay quiet, yet invited to talk.

Don’t

Don’t offer suggestions unless you are asked. If people are dealing with medical issues, they probably are consulting with the doctors. If they are going through a death, their closest friends will probably know what/when to suggest therapy. In general, suggestions make people feel like you want to solve their problems and make them move through their grief, rather than be with them.

Expectations

Do

Expect that your relationship will be different for a while. They may see you more or less. They may want to sit at home and drink beer. Who knows how they will react? They may not want to talk. Realize that people handle crisis very differently and the way they react can differ too. The best thing for you to do is to carry the relationship for the both of you during this time.

Don’t

Don’t get offended when they focus on something other than your relationship. If you do get offended, don’t show it. Months later if it is still bothering you, you can talk with that person. People don’t need to think about the dynamics of your relationship as well as their crisis.

Don’t worry about spending too much or too little time with them. Ask them if it would be helpful to come over. Most people will tell you what works if you ask in a direct way.

Don’t say, “Call us if you need anything.” Say something more specific like, “Would it be helpful if we had you over for dinner? We’d love to have you, but you can totally say ‘no’.” Sometimes what people need is awkward to ask for like a gas card. Rather than ask, “What do you need?” say something like, “Here’s a gas card/meal/hug if it would help.” By giving the person an out and being specific, it helps to give them the power and control, when life seems out of control.

Depending on which side of the crisis you are (going through it or supporting through it) everyone should realize that you are lucky to have one another. As someone going through life issues, I am so thankful for people saying and doing something, even if they fumble through it. Despite the missteps some have taken, we have realized that it is all done out of love and care for us, which is absolutely wonderful to have in our life.

I would much rather have someone awkwardly try and console me, than to remain quiet out of fear…and then go through a crisis alone. Even if you don’t do all the “dos” or you accidentally do some of the “don’ts” it is ok. Just do your best.

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.