Therapy That Works...

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

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy - How Parents Can Help Their Emotionally Volatile Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help parents understand and work with their emotionally volatile children - click here.

Like the waves of a turbulent ocean, the world of negative emotions seems to ebb and flow with a disturbing lack of predictability. One day you can easily manage your emotions, but the next day everything seems to get to you. You find the insult in every comment from friends and family, and you just cannot seem to calm down.

Dr. Marsha Linehan recognized that biological vulnerabilities to high intensity emotions could create a difficult parental relationship early in life.

Well-intentioned parents do their best to match the intense communications of their children, but they often fall short with a child who lives with more intense emotions. Parental initiatives in discipline, organization, and performance that may have worked effortlessly with their other children fall flat with this child. Instead, this child may stubbornly resist change and compliance, further frustrating the parent.

In worst cases, the cycle between the frustrated parents and the emotional child can become highly toxic.

The child is unable to perform optimally at school and in extracurricular activities due to their intense emotions. Confused parents misinterpret this behavior as disobedience, apathy, manipulation, and defiance. The child is labeled as difficult and exhausting because the parent doesn’t know what to do!

These parents need to understand their child’s emotional states and use skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT) to help their children calm down, focus, and perform. They’ll be able to structure and properly work with their child so that they are successful at home and at school. Once they know how to communicate effectively with their child, the parent-child relationship will flourish.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating with their child, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Marsha Linehan

"Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide" by Kelly Koerner

Dialectical Behavior Therapy - Three Vulnerabilities That Can Lead To Overreactive Emotions - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe three emotional vulnerabilities in children discovered by Dr. Marsha Linehan that can lead to emotional regulation issues later in life - click here .

Dr. Marsha Linehan, the inventor of Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT, began her career studying suicidal patients who struggled with borderline personality disorders. She argued that many people who develop borderline disorders are born with an underlying biological vulnerability.

According to Linehan, there are three biologically based characteristics that create this vulnerability, often early in life.

Drop of a Hat

Those of us who are prone to intense emotions react quickly to environmental triggers. We have a lower threshold for reaction and we tend to react to things that might not trigger others.

Sudden Eruptions

We express what we are feeling intensely and often very rapidly. We go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. When we constantly use our negative emotions, we often shut down our analytical thinking and react before we think.

Slow Cool Down

Once we are upset, we have trouble calming down and returning to normal. We stay upset longer and with more intensity than we should.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Marsha Linehan

"Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide" by Kelly Koerner

Weight Loss - How You Can Help Your Child Lose Weight - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how parents can help their children lose weight and live healthy - click here.

With child obesity rates climbing every year, many parents worry about their child being left behind.

They may sign them up for sport teams, summer camps, and even weight loss programs, but many teens and kids still struggle with their weight.

So, why do our children find it so difficult to manage their weight?

Images of Perfection

Previous generations of boys and girls have struggled with body image, but these issues are at an all time high. Our children are inundated with images of physical perfection especially with our celebrity culture. The demand for perfect bodies has grown worse over the past two decades leading to weight concerns in boys and girls as young as six years old. But channeling energy into appearance and away from normal developmental tasks can disrupt, if not completely sabotage, a child’s self esteem and ability to tolerate stress.

Helicopter Parents

The current generation of well-meaning parents are micro-managing their children's emotional and physical development. Being "ordinary" or just “okay” has lost its allure for too many of today's parents who insist on cushioning their children from the blows of reality. Frustration, rejection, and even failure may even be harder on the parents than it is on the kids. Parents project their own anxiety onto kids who need to deal with the consequences and solve problems on their own. Over protective parents can actually make children more anxious and likely to gain weight, and weight gain can be an unintentional consequence.

Sins of the Parents

Many mothers and fathers struggle with their own weight issues every single day. Children and teens often learn eating habits from home, and they may inherit their own weight issues from mom and dad.

Surging Hormones & Anxiety

Rates of teen anxiety and depression are at an all time high, so eating issues flourish when puberty hits and mood disorders descend. Many teens develop eating issues as a response to their depressed mood and anxious mind.

Parents, here’s what you can do to help your child:

Change Starts At Home

Since many kids learn eating habits at home, long-term change usually begins at the dinner table. Parents are especially influential on their children’s eating habits, so be mindful of what eating behaviors you are modeling. What you say and how you handle yourself emotionally and with food will set the standard for your child.

Learn The Facts

Most kids and teens don’t truly understand nutrition and positive eating habits. Make sure that they have all the information and understand the connection between what they eat and how it affects their bodies and their lives. Teach your child or teen what is good to eat and how to stay away from foods that will pack on the weight.

Focus On the Goal

Encourage positive attitudes toward your child's new self-image. Do not shame or embarrass them, but try to focus on the new body you can build together. Keep the focus on the goal of a healthy weight instead of their current situation.

Mind-Food-Body Link

For many kids, food is an escape from anxiety and stress. They can temporarily distract themselves from their problems with a sugary snack or calorie-laden drink. Try to coach your child about how to deal with negative emotions by talking them out instead of distracting with food. Remind them that setbacks are temporary and that they can cope with whatever they are facing. Emotionally resilient people don’t use food as a way to calm down or distract themselves.

Eating issues can lead to very serious eating disorders.

If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Martin Seligman

"Generation Me" by Jean Twenge

“The Beck Diet Solution” by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

Childhood Depression - How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Your Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help your child or teen defeat depression - click here.

One of the saddest facts of modern psychology is the soaring rates of childhood depression and anxiety.

Between 1987 and 1997, the number of kids and teens on mood altering drugs tripled. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for our young people from ages 15 to 24. Most parents couldn’t image that their child’s sadness could ultimately become something that threatens their lives.

The good news is that clinical depression and anxiety are highly treatable in children.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for children is designed to equip them with the tools to help them change their inaccurate, negative thinking and redefine their worldview. Whether negative thinking is from tough times at school or at home or maybe even caused by genetics, cognitive therapy can help them convert negative feelings into realistic, accurate, and optimistic thoughts.

According to the founder of Cognitive therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck, how your child thinks during times of adversity and sadness can determine whether or not they will have a depressive outlook for the rest of their life. Children often take the most catastrophic view of things where problems are permanent, pervasive, and entirely their fault. They often conclude that there is nothing they could do to improve things. Psychologists call this type of hopeless, defeated thinking “learned helplessness.” Learned helplessness becomes a defining philosophy and these children stop trying to change their lives. They give up and give in to negative thinking.

Cognitive therapists help your child see events more accurately and effectively.

They teach kids that adversity is usually short-term and solvable. Many children learn that they can change the outcome of events and setbacks are not always their fault. They learn how to overcome obstacles that seem unfair, unpredictable, and unavoidable.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for children has some of the highest success rates in the industry, and CBT can help inoculate your child against future depression and anxiety.

Since 84% of depressed kids also experience depression as an adult, learning these skills early in life will equip them with the tools for a highly successful and happy future.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

"Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition" by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Childhood Depression - 5 Ways Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Your Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing list five ways that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help your child fight off depression for the rest of their life - click here.

If you are considering working with a cognitive therapist, here are a few ways that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help your child:

Identifying My Feelings

Like many adults, children can overreact, misinterpret events, and lapse into a cycle of negative thinking that can compromise their success. Our therapists begin by helping your child learn how to identify feelings and to differentiate between similar feelings. For example, frustration is not anger and disappointment is not guilt.

Feeling Intensity Scale

Once your child is capable of differentiating between different types of feelings, we teach them how to rate the intensity of their feelings. We teach them how to understand their feelings and to make sure the intensity matches the situation.

Accurate Thoughts Not Guaranteed

As your child learns about their feelings, they will begin to understand that their negative thoughts are not facts. Feelings are theories about how to react to an event. We teach them how to systematically examine their negative thoughts and feelings to make sure that they are accurate and appropriate. They no longer assume that their pessimistic feelings are correct, and we teach them how to push past automatic negative thoughts calmly and positively.

Back In Control

When your child learns that negative feelings may not be accurate, they begin to have more control over their thoughts and actions. Automatic negative thoughts may still pop up from time to time, but they now they have the tools to dispute their negative thoughts and make sure they are accurately experiencing events in their life.

The Student Becomes The Master

We continue to help your child practice and perfect their cognitive skills so that they become automatic and effortless. By honing his cognitive skills, a child can begin to build the essential coping skills that lead to resilient living. Once they have mastered these skills, your child will be able to control their thoughts and actions, improve their behavior, and step into a whole new world of happiness and possibilities.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

"Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition" by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn

Dialectical Behavior Therapy - Who Needs DBT Treatment? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe which types of clients benefit most from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT) and how it helps calm down intense emotions - click here.

For most of us, our emotions are manageable and easy to navigate. They express the highs and lows of life and color our everyday experiences. However, for many people, emotions surge and swell without notice. Happiness can burn into anger and hope can wither into depression in the blink of an eye.

The surges of negative feelings that become intense outbursts are deeply confusing, not only to the person experiencing them but to everyone around them. Their friends, family, and coworkers tell them to pull themselves together with phrases like “get a grip ,” “be less sensitive,” and “you are such a drama queen.” However, they cannot hope to stop what they cannot control. Other people often think they are undisciplined, immature, or deeply flawed in a fundamental way.

They often give up hope and believe that their lives will never improve.

As a psychologist, I have worked with many clients who have struggled everyday to control how they felt and reacted to situations. By the time they finally sought out treatment, they were often thoroughly frustrated, helpless, and hopeless. They felt like they would never learn how to control their emotions like everyone else. Many of them had developed self-destructive habits to soothe, mask, or escape their underlying emotional discomfort and pain. They would sometimes lash out at others, avoid proper nutrition, regularly self-mutilate, escape into alcoholism, or develop other addictions when their emotions became too difficult to handle.

They were desperate for any kind of escape, no matter the cost.

Many years ago, Dr. Marsha Linehan developed a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, to help resolves intense emotions and regain control of life. Dr. Linehan was frustrated with therapies she thought fell short of helping her clients reign in emotional intensity in the moment. She wanted a therapy regimen that could teach clients coping skills so they could handle situations on their own in between sessions. She wanted her clients to be able to regain control of the car when they began to spin out of reality.

DBT is extremely effective with clients who are struggling with emotions that are too intense, too frequent, and too overwhelming.

If someone you know is experiencing extremely intense emotions or outbursts, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Source:

"Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide" by Kelly Koerner

Weight Loss - Why Don't Fad Diets Work? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe why fad diets may work for the short term, but your psychology could sabotage your long term weight loss goals - click here.

Every year, millions of Americans embrace new, trendy diets to lose weight. Whether it’s South Beach, Paleo, or Atkins, there always seems to be a new diet plan that will help you lose weight with little to no effort or exercise! Even with all of these so-called “miracle diets,” one out of every three American adults is obese.

So, why do we keep falling for the fad diet run-around?

Trying To Compete

Many men and women are influenced not only by the images in the movies and on TV, but also their peers. Rates of plastic surgery and liposuction are growing every year, and many people can’t keep up. Pressure from friends or colleagues can reach a boiling point, and many adults feel like they need to lose a lot of weight very quickly. They often turn to fad or extreme diets to drop the weight.

Short Terms Vs. Long Term

Many people find fad and extreme diets alluring. Either no effort is required or you just have to suffer for a short time to be beautiful! They can tough it out for that kind of reward, right? But many people don’t realize the kinds of serious side effects extreme diets can have on the body, and how on-again-off-again fad diets can actually lead to weight gain!

Why don’t fad diets work well?

Quick Loss, Quick Gain

Many fad or extreme diets may actually work for the short term, but what most people fail to realize is that once they are off the diet – they usually regain the weight with a vengeance. A starving body will soak up and hold onto any calories it receives in the future, and it usually holds on much tighter to the new weight.

Chemical Manipulation

Many diets manipulate your body’s hormonal or chemical balances to achieve quick, superficial results. However, shifting your body’s hormone and chemical balance can have long term health effects and you should talk to your doctor about the health risks.

Lifestyle Change

Without a change of lifestyle and a fundamental change in your attitude towards food, any diet will only work while you are strictly following its rules. The only way to truly lose weight is to adopt a completely different, healthy lifestyle that balances food, exercise, and plenty of rest.

Source:

The work of Dr Martin Seligman

"Generation Me" by Jean Twenge

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov)

“The Beck Diet Solution” by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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

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

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

“I Think You’re The Best”

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

“Let Me Do It For You”

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

“Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”

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

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

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman


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