Child & Adolescent Mental Health

Emotional Attachment: 5 Unhealthy Relational Patterns


What were your thoughts when you read this article title? You might believe that attachment has nothing to do with mental health but it most certainly does. In fact, some people believe that topics about attachment only have something to do with newborn babies or toddlers. But the reality is that attachment is a natural phenomenon that occurs in every human relationship and begins during the first few years of life. Some people believe that attachment begins as early as in the womb between baby and mother. Our early life relationships often set the stage for how we will function within future relationships and will affect the boundaries we employ in each relationship. Research has suggested that healthy boundaries often include the ability to attach and detach when appropriate, foresee relational dangers, and employ appropriate boundaries. Unhealthy (or poor) attachment includes the inability to be independent when necessary, high levels of fear and anxiety when separated from a relationship, and very poor boundaries. This article will discuss how poor attachment correlates to unhealthy relationships in the long-run. This article will also highlight 5 unhealthy boundaries, often found in individuals with personality disorders or trauma histories, that we all should be aware of.

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Self-Care & Life

7 Ways to Avoid Re-Traumatizing A Trauma Victim


Trauma is a complex phenomenon. Many of us have probably experienced an event that we struggle to not only forget, but emotionally cope with. If I were to ask you if you have ever experienced a traumatic event what would you say? Was it severe, moderate, or mild? Was it long-term or short-term? Were you able to easily get over it? Whatever the case may be, a traumatic experience must be an event that we find difficult to cope with overtime. Sadly, many people who tend to lack knowledge about trauma fail to recognize that anything a trauma victim comes in contact with can re-traumatize them. For example, I previously had a client who witnessed his mother slit her throat and commit suicide. Prior to this suicide, the mother had been playing hiding-go-seek outside with all 4 of her children. This child struggled with understanding why his mother would walk away during hiding-go-seek and kill herself. Now, at the age 10, he watches movies with his father that often include crime scenes, murder, and suicide which tends to trigger memories of his mother's suicide. He is unable to sleep at night, relax, or put the past behind him. Yet, his father is unaware of the reality that he  is possibly re-traumatizing his own son with these movies. This article will discuss 7 things we, who are close to trauma victims, should be mindful not to do. I will also give suggestions on what we should do instead.
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Child & Adolescent Mental Health

Your First Therapy Session: 9 Important Questions To Ask

Photo Credit: "Unsplash"

A first therapy session can be very intimidating for both therapist and client. But first sessions seem to be more  intimidating to clients because they are unfamiliar with the process, do not know what to expect, aren't sure if they will like the therapist or office, are anxious about the conversation, and are sometimes fearful of the therapist "psychoanalyzing" them.  That first therapy session could also be the very...
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Advocacy

11 Bad Habits Some Therapists Believe Are Acceptable in Therapy


Did you or someone you know have a good or bad experience in therapy? As much as I love my field and working with families, I have to admit that there are often few good therapists who wholeheartedly engage in therapy with clients. There are really good therapists, mediocre therapists, and some really bad therapists in this world. It takes time to find the right therapist. Many people would agree that most therapists fill voids that most of us have such as a void of a parental relationship, sibling relationship, grandparent, or good friend. For most of my child and adolescent clients, I often end up fitting into the role of mother, aunt, or mentor. For many of you, a therapist may fill similar voids or other voids such as loneliness, grief, low self-esteem, or self-identity. But sadly, for some clients, there are therapists who also seem to play the role of jail warden (being very strict and unreasonable), police officer (often pointing out negative behaviors in an authoritarian and intimidating fashion), or Judge (leading counseling sessions in a confrontational manner). Therapists like this often lack etiquette, professionalism, appropriate boundaries, and even compassion. This article will discuss and review some of the things that some therapists think are appropriate to say (or think about) clients.
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Advocacy

8 Symptoms That May Require A Mental Health Evaluation


Last week I wrote about 8 Symptoms that should not always be labeled a mental illness. Life is life. We are all going to experience the worst of it and the best of it. We should not be so quick to label ourselves "disordered" until we evaluate every aspect of what could be happening to us. Clinicians and mental health professionals should also be careful not to quickly pathologize every client that comes through their doors. But sadly, there are way too many people in the world, including some mental health professionals, who either downplay or exaggerate mental health symptoms. There is often no in-between. Although we all would like to maintain the idea that most people are mentally healthy and well adjusted, we cannot ignore the fact that there are millions of people (children, adolescents, adults) who are struggling with mental health symptoms every single day of their lives. They are struggling with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms that seem to make their future grim. This article will discuss symptoms that should never be ignored or downplayed and possibly be evaluated by a mental health professional.
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Communication

Should Clients Be Touched? Some Say No: 6 Important Truths

I'm a firm believer in the power of love and compassion to open doors, change minds, and renew hearts. I have always worked with clients who have severe trauma histories, have been abused or neglected, and suffer from severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder with psychotic features and psychosis. The population of client's I see are children and adolescents including families. This population often starves for love and compassion from almost anyone they come across in daily life. Why? Because society, including the field of psychotherapy, help perpetuate the idea that love and compassion are only for those people we know on a personal level and should be reserved for special moments. For example, we don't have to worry that our love and compassion toward uncle Mit will ever come back to bite us in a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment. But with a client who, tends to be very emotionally needy, this reality is often on the mind of most therapists. It is important to emphasize that not all clients should be touched and not all therapists should become vulnerable with their clients. But it is also true that not all therapists should become cold, stoic "healers" for fear of lawsuits. This article will examine this very controversial problem still holding many therapists captive today.

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Adult Mental Health

Identifying People In Need: Can You Spot Mental Distress?

I was having a conversation with a close friend the other day and she said something that really resonated with me. She said:
"some people just don't look like they need help. It's sad because many of these same people do."
She is right! Many things prevent society from recognizing emotional and mental health needs such as personality, tone of voice, career choice, prestige, income, lifestyle, culture, ethnicity, age, gender, etc. For example, would you think a businessman in a powerful corporation could be suffering from delusions? Would you think a beautiful teen girl is being sexually abused? Would you think the sweet elderly woman next door believes you can read her thoughts? For many people, accepting the reality that those who appear "together" may not be so together after all is difficult. It's almost as if thinking this way goes against the grains of our social rules and optimistic outlook on life. We approach the world with "tented glasses" and we design what we want the world to be. Unfortunately, we fail to make room for reality. As a result, we neglect to take time out of our busy lives to reach out to others in need (i.e., those who look needy and those who don't). It's essential that we become sensitive to the potential need(s) that require mental health intervention, support, and care.

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General

Does Dissociative Identity Disorder Truly Exist?

Last week we explored dissociative identity disorder - DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) and some of the challenges with studying it, teaching about it, diagnosing it, believing it exists, and even treating it. It's a complex phenomenon and many mental health professionals struggle with when to actually give this diagnosis to someone and how to treat it in therapy and with medication. Despite the fact that between
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Child & Adolescent Mental Health

4 Truths About Children Showing Signs of “Multiple Personality Disorder”


At what age did you (or someone you know) have an imaginary friend as a child? Were you able to "see" this imaginary friend and hear his or her voice? At what age did this imaginary world begin and end? For many adults, a child's imaginary friends and world are the epitome of a great early childhood experience. It's a normalized part of childhood development. In fact, it's a normal part of development throughout the lifespan. Most parents become greatly concerned if their child doesn't have a fantasy world at some point during the early years. Even more, many of us adults enjoy the fantasy world of Walt Disney World and Disney Land fictional characters. Some of us would spend our entire paycheck just to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse! But we know that these fictional characters are just that, they're fictional. For children who are showing signs and symptoms of something more severe such as a psychotic disorder, the fantasy world is not a fantasy, but a very real part of their lives. This article will explore and discuss dissociative symptoms and psychotic symptoms that could eventually become "multiple personality disorder" (or as it is referred to today Dissociative Identity Disorder - DID). In the questions and answers section, I would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not you believe the disorder of multiple personality disorder or DID actually exists. It continues to be very controversial.

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