Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Posts tagged ‘counseling’

Taking Back Control of My Life

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in six months? How is that possible? This is a prime example of how life gets away from us. I have been focused on attending to the crises that present themselves, “putting out fires” as they say, and I’ve put the other stuff on the back burner until I have time. Well we can see how that worked out. Six months went by! I have always known this. You have to be proactive. You have to make time for the things that matter. But it sure is easy to get wrapped up with things and way off track.10313784_726687540767928_6619839759579931771_n

There is a nice trend this New Year that instead of setting resolutions that they worry will fail, people are choosing theme words that represent an attitude or a commitment for the year. One of my friends has chosen Organization as her word, and will use it to keep her life that has started to feel chaotic more in order. Another friend chose Nurture and plans to nurture her body and her family and her job. There are so many ways to apply these words. They become a Mantra that you can whisper to yourself every single day as opportunities present themselves for self-care.

The word I have chosen is Schedule. I am taking charge of my daily and weekly life. I am planning exercise and recreation, as well as chores and bill paying and even blogging! I’m not a control freak about time, that actually might be the problem. I tend to wing it. I can be very productive that way and do well at multi-tasking. But the old way tends to only focus on what the world is demanding from me rather than what I CHOOSE to see as important. So this year I am even scheduling time to schedule time. I will be realistic and build flexibility into the schedule, but being proactive will help me make sure my own priorities are attended to and not left to sit and then six months goes by.

Will you choose a word this year? If so, be sure to make it positive rather than punishing. Have it be applicable to many situations and be kind to yourself. This life changing stuff is a big deal. (Here is a link to my friend Margo’s blog about this One Word Resolution making. No Resolutions or Goals)10628115_726130297490319_2284401736206326049_n

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Google Yourself and Google Your Kid

You might be surprised what you discover.

I told a teenager the other day that if I owned a restaurant and he applied for a job, I would google him to see what kind of person he is. He kind of blew me off until I suggested I google him right then. His eyes got huge. So of course I googled him, in front of him. His name came up with a Twitter account, a Facebook account. When I saw his screen name on Twitter I googled that and found him on Instagram. His privacy settings were ok for Facebook, I couldn’t see his posts (he was relieved) but when I showed him what pictures were not hidden by his privacy settings he was surprised and a little embarrassed because his profile picture was a colorful unicorn. His Twitter and Instagram were not private because he wanted lots of followers. I was able to read his posts and they were full of bad words and sexual innuendo. He wasn’t breaking any laws, but I let him know that if I was a potential employer I would not hire him. During the whole conversation he was squirming in his seat, humiliated and said he was going home to change everything. The next day I googled him again and he had done so. Message received.

The reason I did this was to show him that in today’s society employers, scholarship judges, college admission staff and potential relationship interests do their homework. In our state we have a website where you can put in someone’s name and see all of the legal proceedings against them, for free, not on a background site you pay for. Any smart dating person looks here too.  

I had this discussion with a female client of mine and her internet behavior was pristine. I gave her kudos for doing a good job with her privacy settings. I also pointed out that in one picture I could see, she was wearing her cheerleading outfit with the name of her school on the shirt. So even though she didn’t post her name or age or location, a potential creeper could figure it out from just one picture. This is something she had not considered.

Do you know what your internet presence looks like? How about your child’s? It is typical for a kid to do things on impulse and not think about the long term consequences. It is our job to teach them, to show them. To kids today the internet is comfortable and common and they aren’t afraid of it like we were when we first started putting parental controls on every computer we had years ago. Now that is much more difficult to do and our kids think there is no need for it.

Take some time to Google Yourself and Google Your Kid to see what’s out there, and have a conversation about being more aware and more safe. And take that unicorn off your profile picture kid! (Just kidding.)

Relationships Need Tending

With many people posting about #NationalBestFriendDay, I started reflecting on what makes for a lasting friendship and I keep coming back to EFFORT. Relationships take work. They do not nurture themselves. Just as a plant will blossom if you tend to it, so will a relationship. And if you neglect it, it will die. 

Reach out to those you care about. Call each other, text a cute emoji for no reason. If they pop into your mind, tell them so.

Make time to be together. Don’t wait until you have time because you know that’ll never happen. You have to make time. 

Make your people a priority. Remember that old saying that no one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.” Don’t put something you dislike ahead of something you love. That produces regret. 

No one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.”

Go the extra mile. Don’t hesitate to inconvenience yourself occasionally to help someone. It’s difficult for them to ask you for help and it means so much to know someone cares. And you’ll benefit from knowing you helped.

Don’t isolate. Don’t pout. And don’t stand around waiting for an invitation. If you want to hang out or talk, just ask. Reciprocate. Don’t wait for them to do the work. You can plan and invite too. I promise, they too are lonely sometimes and will be glad you called. 

If you each decide you want the relationship to last, it can. But you have to tend to it. It’s totally worth it.

Dedicated to my people. 😜 You know who you are. 

Is Your 12-Year-Old Texting Naked Pictures?

At a recent assembly of 5th grade students (age 11) I asked how many of them have devices like phones, tablets or iPods that they can put apps on. ¾ of the students raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them talk to other people through those apps. Half raised their hands. In a room of 250 11-year-olds, 125 of them talk to other people online. Does this surprise you? Here’s another fact… did you know that the average age-range of youth who send inappropriate content over the internet (“sexting”) is 10-15, with the most common age being 12! Let me say that again another way. The most common age of student sending sexual content over text, video or wifi app is 12.Cell Phones Schools

These teens and preteens communicate with their friends about everyday stuff. But sometimes that branches out into flirty or attraction conversations. Social media is so commonly used by this generation that they do not think about the infinite extent of their reach. They send a picture to a friend, that person may send it to five others and eventually it goes to hundreds of strangers. The internet also creates an opportunity for youth to “meet” people all over the world. And especially for a kid who feels disconnected or hurt by their local peers, talking to strangers around the world is tempting, easy, and gives an artificial sense of anonymity and safety. But they are often unaware of what they could actually get in trouble for. Here are some obvious and not so obvious things kids under 18 can get in big trouble for in many states.

  • Sending a picture or video of themselves naked, partially naked, or in suggestive poses.
  • Receiving a picture or video from someone else even if they didn’t ask for it.
  • Asking someone for a sexual picture, even if the person doesn’t send one.
  • Having a sexual conversation via message or text, even without video or pictures
  • Spreading rumors about someone else’s sexual behavior via message or text
  • Sending or receiving a sexually explicit picture or video of someone else

This is not an exhaustive list but my point is that while many students might think they are flirting, or joking, or that they have deleted videos or messages, this information is stored and recorded and often sent on when they don’t even realize it.

What kind of trouble could they get in? Well, in many cases, when a person under 18 takes a picture of their own naked body, it can be considered production of child pornography. If they text or message or email or video or find some other way to send that inappropriate picture to someone else, that can be considered distribution of child pornography. If a student has a sexual picture on his phone or computer or device but it is of someone he doesn’t know, the student can get in trouble for possessing pornography.  If a student is contacted by an adult and engages in conversation and exchanges sexual content, the adult will get in trouble, but the student might too.kid-arrested

Many of these are considered felony charges, often at the federal level. Students can go to jail or be placed on probation. Some will be required to register with a sex offender list.  In addition, even if the indiscretions are not picked up by law enforcement agencies but are addressed in the school system, students can lose their scholarships and be banned from playing school sports because of character guidelines. It has also become common practice for employers and colleges to research a potential candidate’s online presence and not offer them acceptance if they have a questionable history.

It is imperative that parents be aware of what their child’s online behavior is. Know what apps are out there and who your child is talking to. Here is a (short) list of common apps that people use to share this kind of information:

  • Kik
  • Omegle
  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Grinder
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Texting
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Twitter

These applications are not evil in nature. Plenty of people use them appropriately every day, myself included. They just need to be used with discretion. Please share the above information with your child and discuss the risks involved. If they want to talk to strangers online, find out why and discuss ways to stay safe. Most importantly students should be made aware of the potential consequences of online behavior they may assume is no big deal because “everyone is doing it.” Remember, this is not just high school students.

The most common age of kids sending naked and sexual content is 12. Twelve. Sixth Grade.

Blah, just Blah.

The tree is down, the decorations put away. Nostalgic music is gone for another season. Stresses and conflicts we had late last Fall got put on hold, shoved under the rug so we could get through family holiday events without tension, but now those holidays are over. In their place are the added pounds, the holiday credit card bills, and the pressure to set a personal goal we probably won’t keep. Welcome to January.

This can be a dangerous time for mental health. People set deadlines (just gotta get through the holidays) and feel pressure to make big changes at the first of the year. Three big things I see in January in counseling are divorces filed, alcohol relapses because the vacation time at work started over, and the winter blues. I also hear about financial overwhelm from the bills, dread over not knowing what a new year will bring, fatigue and feeling unmotivated.

I don’t bring up these things to be a downer, but to point out that if you feel these things you are not alone. And you don’t have to face it alone. Help is available through counseling or support groups, work EAP (employee assistance), church groups, financial counseling, and even online support. There are books on these subjects and 24 hour hotlines around. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out. If you have a friend or family member who struggles with mental health issues, please reach out to them. This is not something you have to face alone, and it is not something that will last forever.

Blah, just Blah.

The tree is down, the decorations put away. Nostalgic music is gone for another season. Stresses and conflicts we had late last Fall got put on hold, shoved under the rug so we could get through family holiday events without tension, but now those holidays are over. In their place are the added pounds, the holiday credit card bills, and the pressure to set a personal goal we probably won’t keep. Welcome to January.

This can be a dangerous time for mental health. People set deadlines (just gotta get through the holidays) and feel pressure to make big changes at the first of the year. Three big things I see in January in counseling are divorces filed, alcohol relapses because the vacation time at work started over, and the winter blues. I also hear about financial overwhelm from the bills, dread over not knowing what a new year will bring, fatigue and feeling unmotivated.

I don’t bring up these things to be a downer, but to point out that if you feel these things you are not alone. And you don’t have to face it alone. Help is available through counseling or support groups, work EAP (employee assistance), church groups, financial counseling, and even online support. There are books on these subjects and 24 hour hotlines around. If you feel overwhelmed, please reach out. If you have a friend or family member who struggles with mental health issues, please reach out to them. This is not something you have to face alone, and it is not something that will last forever.

New Year New Ideas

This is my first blog entry, not just of 2012 but ever! Have you ever had ideas floating around in your head and you just kept waiting to have the time to get them down on paper? Yeah that never seems to happen does it? Well this is the year I try to organize the therapy buzz churning around in my head and share it with others.
Every day I sit with great people and do my best to help them help themselves. Sometimes people ask me why or how I do it, isn’t it depressing? But it really isn’t. Counseling others allows me to offer resources and then watch as someone utilizes those resources and grows stronger and healthier. People thank me for my help but I always say with sincerity…you did all the work, I was just your cheerleader.
There are many people who feel alone in this world. As if they are the only one suffering with a particular problem. So often I wish I could facilitate people with similar concerns to meet up so they could say, hey you feel that way too? Because there are similar heartaches we all deal with, I find myself repeating many therapy suggestions that have seemed to work. THIS is the buzz in my head.
My intent with this blog is to organize the most common therapy advice ideas I say everyday and share them. It can be like going to therapy, without going to therapy. Kind of like, therapy in a nutshell.
I hope what I offer is useful to you. I appreciate you reading and I hope you feel free to share these ideas with others. Maybe we will all be healthier in the process.
Amie

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