”Having an anxiety disorder is like being stuck in that moment when you realize you’ve leaned too far back in your chair, but have not yet fallen.” Teenage Student Many teens suffer from anxiety, in fact, there are some studies that suggest 8% of teenagers currently have an anxiety disorder and 32% will develop one. Only 1 in 3 will get treatment. In my practice, I see severe anxiety leading to school avoidance or even refusal. Even if attendance is consistent, learning can be negatively affected by the physiological changes during feelings of stress. The brain becomes flooded with hormones that virtually shut off the ability to think. Imagine trying to do a math problem as you perch on the edge of your first bungee jumping platform. It just isn’t physically possible. Learning differences often come along for the anxiety ride. 38% of middle school and high school aged kids with ADHD have an anxiety disorder. An already challenged learner now needs to overcome the increased academic demands as he or she progresses through the school years. But even kids without a learning difference may feel anxiety in school. In my practice I notice that anxiety of any sort can often lead to an outward or inward behavior that often leads to social exclusion or rejection, creating more dysfunction. The examples I see are oppositional behaviors at home or school, substance abuse, self-harm, social isolation, inability to complete school work, fighting with parents, overuse of technology, even physical or verbal abuse. So what is stress? It can be defined as perceived demands that exceed one’s perceived ability to meet them. This is often the result of confusing “needs” vs. “wants.” You can recall this from the “I love Lucy” when Lucy tries to sort chocolates on a fast-moving conveyor belt. Or, in our teens, perhaps the “I need to go to Yale” vs. “I want to go to Yale.” One scenario may create a perceived demand over ability and the other may create motivation. According to the American Psychological Association, the number one stressor for teenagers is doing well in school. Other factors are getting into a good college, their appearance and family conflict. Anxiety is when stress gets to be too much. Most of us have adapted to anxiety; we know that anxiety helps keep us safe, is a response to real danger and prevents us from repeating mistakes. In a disordered anxious state, the person feels functional impairment, like a “false alarm”, that leads to unnecessary avoidance. The measure of anxiety is the intensity of the avoidant behavior. Thus, an important part of my practice with teens is to recognize the avoidance as the treatment trigger. Incredibly, avoidance feels really good right away! It is immediately self-reinforcing. We often say avoidance and fear are good teammates. As parents, we try to help, but oo often anxiety’s coercive behavior cycle takes over. Child experiences anxiety, acts out --- Parent is an expert soother -- Child feels better, suffering is [...]
In the last couple of weeks, we have had devastating natural and man-made disasters. Our anxiety is up and our feelings are deep. This is a similar kind of feeling parents have when their children become out-of-sync. Whether due to depression, self-harm, distorted eating, substance abuse or their own anxiety, our children need to learn emotional regulation - often by needing a residential therapeutic setting. Mindfulness plays a part in this healing. Here is your Minute Mindfulness - give it a try. Ground Yourself: :: Feel your feet on the ground (uncrossing your legs and do this), imagine tree roots growing from your feet and gripping deeper and deeper into the earth ? :: Discover the sights in your field of vision. No need to even turn your head, purposefully use all angles of your eyeballs to notice for instance, colors, shapes ? :: Hear the sounds all around you, close your eyes and allow the sounds to show up in your ears (don’t strain to hear, it’s about the sounds showing up for you) ? :: Then, try to find a smell, could be that you have a stash of essential oils or scented lotion or fry some chopped onion in butter. Breathe in the fragrance.??
“Our fate is shaped from within ourselves outward, never from without inward.” (Jacques Lusseyran) Last week I was called by a couple single mothers who needed my consulting - right then. Neither had the funds to pay my fees. They both came from nonprofits for whom I do work. I was unusually busy last week. Lots of travel. Other clients to which I had to attend. But, for me, my practice is my internal voice calling. I cannot turn my back on a cry for help. I am an independent therapeutic consultant. I run my own business. Creating boundaries and sticking to business practices is very important for one who wants to have positive cash flow - and frankly, who doesn’t? It is even harder when your clients are likely to have incredible personal challenges that warrant an investment of your time and research - sooner rather than later. Still, my intellectual property is worth the cost of my fees and I know I bring incredible value to my clients. You pay accountants, lawyers, doctors and even your hairdresser for knowing their profession. Therapeutic educational consultants invest in traveling to programs, ongoing education and research and cultivating industry relationships to provide our best advice and strategy. But last week, I worked for free. Totally for free. I feel that part of what makes us human is the ability and need to connect with others. When we stray from this natural inclination because it doesn’t match our business model, I wonder how good that business feels? I have been reading The Anatomy of Peace published by The Arbinger Institute. (ISBN 978-1-62656-431-2) One of the themes is that we forget to see one another as a person, but rather an obstacle to something we want. You are driving down the road and someone in front of you slows down or wants to turn creating a delay in your travel. It is easy to create an image of an “object” that is getting in our way, rather than remember that there is a human driving the car with needs and wants just as valid as our own. When there is chaos in our families, it is often because we become focussed on our own needs and stop thinking of our loved ones as their own persons - like, if I honor my promise to cut the grass, I will be late for tennis. I blame you because I promised you I would do it and now I see you as the reason I might be late. Then I get mad and protest. Then you see me as irresponsible perhaps objectified as immature. The cycle continues. We become our behaviors, we are what we are doing, not who we are. It is our feelings and thoughts create behaviors. This is what everyone else observes. Behaviors. “Generally speaking, we respond to other’s way of being toward us rather than to their behavior. ....... our children respond more to how we’re regarding them than they [...]
What is a therapeutic educational consultant? I never knew you existed! This is what I often hear from my parents and families. I also hear this from local therapists, school counselors and substance abuse specialists. Does the following sound familiar? “I am out of ideas and running out of patience. I don’t know what to do.” “I don’t know who can help me or my family.” “My other kids are suffering, my marriage is suffering and I am suffering. “ “This has been going on for too long.” Teenagers are naturally going through stages of independent growth and exploration. But, what about the ones who start making poor peer choices, using substances that interfere with school or relationships or even create dangerous situations or legal trouble? What do we do to help teenagers who find their only relationships on a computer? How do we help a teenager who feels so depressed they discuss suicide or self-harm? Today’s teens feel acute anxiety. Do you know a young person suffering from anorexia, school refusal or the inability to leave the house? Today’s teens feel acute anxiety which can stifle what might otherwise be a brilliant young life. The first step is almost always individual outpatient counseling. Family system’s therapy can also be successful and there are certainly local short-term rehabilitation and substance abuse programs. However, by the time a family faces an acute situation like my examples above, it is doubtful a local home-based program will solve the emotional and behavioral crisis. That is where I come in. A therapeutic educational consultant is a specialist in outplacement programs for residential care and treatment. My focus in on kids 12-22. It is my job to know therapeutic programs, schools, wilderness and other types all over the country and the world which have specific methods and milieu for the presentation of the student and the family. After careful evaluation of the student including review of previous care, academics, neuropsychological or educational evaluations, I can help hit the reset button and unwind the tangled and disoriented family dynamic. There are basically three types of outplacement: wilderness (outdoor behavioral health), acute adolescent psychiatric facilities, and therapeutic/residential treatment centers/schools. Substance abuse has overlap with all of these with their own subset of programs. Those over 18 have their own special treatment options as well. There is no one course of treatment, no formula and no recipe. One size does NOT fit all. I spend about 12 weeks a year visiting each program, learning about the therapeutic modalities, the academic program, the living situation, the nutrition, the physical education and recreation. By doing such, I have first-hand knowledge of what the program offers and how it will benefit each young person as an individual. Working with me is a partnership – I bring my expertise and you bring your family and loved one. I know how scary and tough it can be for a parent to “send their kid away.” Trust me. I am one of you and [...]