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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

pregnancy-infant-loss-remembrance-day-300x218October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month and October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. On the 15th many families who are living with loss will light a candle at 7pm their time to create a “wave of light” in remembrance of their babies.

At Kobacker House at 800 McConnell Drive, Columbus Ohio 43214, they are hosting a Pregnancy and Infant Loss Art Wall exhibit. The building is open 24/7 and the art will be on the wall on the main floor, just outside of the family kitchen as you walk toward the in-patient unit. The exhibit will be up through the end of October.

They are also hosting two events later this month:

Mourning Walk in the Afternoon, Sunday, October 19, 2pm. This exercise of remembrance will be a reflective, meditative and guided walk on Peggy’s Path surrounding the Kobacker House. The approximate distance is 3/4 mile and involves some hilly paved terrain so please wear comfortable shoes.
Instructor: Sarah Phillips, LISW-S
Location: Kobacker House
Register by phone: (614) 533.6060

Healing Drumming Circle, Sunday, October 26th, 2pm. For thousands of years, drumming has been a part of almost every culture. This ancient ritual remains alive today. Studies reveal that drumming can accelerate physical and emotional healing, boost the immune system, and have a calming effect. Children are welcome. No experience required. Drums will be provided or you may bring your own.
Instructor: Sarah Phillips, LISW-S
Location: Kobacker House
Register by phone: (614) 533.6060

Kobacker House also has an ongoing monthly support group for parents who have lost a baby before, during or within the first year after birth.  The next meeting is November 7th at 7pm and there is no cost. Call for more dates and times: (614) 566-4509

Mount Carmel hosts a Pregnancy & Infant Loss Care Line hosted by chaplains who are specially trained “to provide spiritual and emotional encouragement and support to patients and their families from all faiths and cultural traditions.” The number is:  614-234-5999

They are also taking registrations for their upcoming Coping with Loss Educational Series. “A three-session forum designed for grieving parents and their families who would like to learn more about the normal grief process and how to effectively heal. The meetings include guidance and teaching from trained grief facilitators on practical ways to live with loss and find hope in life.”

To learn more or to register, call 614-234-5999 or e-mail infantloss@mchs.com.

Finally the SID Network of Ohio has a resource page for families struggling with the loss of a baby to SIDS. They have a support group but it may not be meeting again this year. To find out more, contact the Sudden Infant Death Network at 800-477-7437 or by e-mail: Leslie@SIDSOhio.org

For those of you who are grieving, you are in my thoughts. I hope you are able to reach out to find the comfort and support that you need and deserve.

 

 

Anxious Kids (and Anxious Parents)

anxious childThis Saturday I’m hosting the free talk on Kids & Anxiety. It looks like there’s going to be a full house (fortunately I have enough chairs now and we’ll just squeeze in if everyone shows). Because of the interest, I’m hoping to schedule another time to offer it early in the new year. I’m also doing out reach to professionals in other areas who are interested in sharing their wisdom with us so to keep up to date on future free events, please subscribe to my newsletter. (You can do this by scrolling down and filling out either the bright yellow box that will magically appear or by filling out the form in the black area at the bottom of the page.)

Because of the interest in the workshop and requests I’ve had from people calling my practice, I’m going to offer a group to help anxious kids in a few weeks. This is an 8-week program using research-informed practice to give kids tools that will help them understand and deal with anxiety. The workshop is called Coping Kids and you can learn more about it here.

I wanted to offer the group for several reasons:

  1. Research shows that group psychotherapy can be as effective as individual psychotherapy (and is also less expensive);
  2. It’s been my experience that many of my anxious kid clients feel isolated by their worry. Meeting other children who are learning to manage their anxiety can be a huge, huge relief;
  3. Creating community is incredibly healing; this goes for kids as well as adults;
  4. Finally, many of us learn best helping each other learn. Groups give us the chance to do that.

I do require a (free) 20-minute meeting beforehand just to make sure that the group is a good fit for that child. If it’s not, I’ll be happy to share other resources or give some direction if the parents are interested. Also I want potential members of the group to have a chance to meet me, see the space and ask questions.

I am going to keep the group small with a maximum of six kids so that everyone has the chance to participate.

Curious to learn more? Let me know.

When you have nothing to say

emforsterI remember when I was in my early 30s and seeing a therapist to process my experience with infertility. At the beginning I had so much to say that I didn’t know how I would make it between sessions. Then after (I thought) I had said it all, I would worry before appointments that she’d be disappointed because I didn’t have an idea about what we should talk about.

I used to plan our topics. All week I would store up events or musings and I’d have them neatly prepared. I would continue to do this even after I realized that during most of our appointments we’d end up talking about something completely different. She’d ask about something we discussed the session before or in our casual opening we’d end up on a subject I hadn’t even considered. But I’d wrench us back around to the topic I had planned even if it fell flat because I thought I was supposed to.

I didn’t know then that it was more than OK to just show up. I didn’t have to have a topic prepared. I didn’t have to know what we were going to talk about. I could let the conversation happen organically and trust her to help me figure out what I wanted to say.

Therapy is a lot like writing. Sometimes you come to the page with a plan and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you have it all outlined and mapped out and sometimes you’re free writing whatever comes into your head no matter how messy and disorganized and ungrammatical it might be.

You can’t have too much of one or too much of the other. Yes, you do need to have goals and you need to pay attention to your goals but you also need time when you’re sitting in the chair riffing on whatever comes up.

You and your therapist are working in collaboration. You don’t have to come up with every topic and she’s not going to always lead the way. The two of you will discover what it is you’re working on through the course of your conversations. If you do too much editing (especially if you’re not bringing things up because you are afraid she will be upset or bored) then she’ll be working with less material than she needs. If you try to plan your topics because you’re afraid that she will be annoyed if you sit there blankly saying nothing then you may lose the opportunity to see what the silence will bring to you.

(Sitting in silence with a person who is wholly tuned in to you can be very powerful. Try it sometime.)

Therapy is collaborative creation and growth. Trust the process and give yourself permission to allow the session to unfold however it will.

When clients and therapists don’t connect

Another therapist commented on this post about finding a new therapist and I thought it’d be great to bring it over to a new post and continue the discussion. Anna said:

I agree that being a good fit is important. I try my best to be a good therapist and I believe I am open to clients sharing anything with me. I believe in creating a non-judgmental environment. I even like when clients say they are mad at me or didn’t like something I said. It tells me we have that open relationship to talk about those things and sometimes those discussions lead to a greater understand of the situation. Yet, I sometimes get clients who don’t seem to connect with me, or maybe I don’t connect with them. These are the clients who don’t stay long. I’d love any suggestions on how to improve this (if it can be improved). I wonder if sometimes you just have to find the right therapist for you. I have an example without giving any specifics, I had a client recently who called asking for help with a certain issue. Whenever I brought the issue up, the client deflected. I tried working on other issues because I didn’t want to push too hard but the client kept going to “safe” topics. Needless to say, the client quit coming. Do you have any suggestions for this situation? Does it mean it isn’t a good fit or the client isn’t ready? Any suggestions are welcome.

smallcouch-insideI don’t think that any therapist can be the right counselor for every client because we are all so very, very different. I think sometimes a client who doesn’t get very far from us may not be ready to go far but also I think sometimes they just aren’t going to be able to do that work with us.

As to whether it’s because we’re not a good fit or because the client isn’t ready, sometimes I don’t think we’ll get to know. Sometimes it might be a little bit of both.

And that makes me think about counselor ego (not that Anna brought this up but it made me think about it).

Being a therapist is weird because we don’t really get any feedback. I mean, we do, we get feedback from our clients but given the nature of counselor/client relationships, we can’t really go with that. Sometimes a client will say, “I love working with you!” and it’s because we’re not being confrontational enough (like Anna says, sometimes our clients need to be mad at us and maybe NOT love working with us, at least not right in that moment). And we get to be witness to client success but any therapist worth her salt knows that client success belongs to the client.

Besides we can’t get our egos all wrapped up in any definition of success like a marriage saved or a job promotion secured or a child who learns how to behave because that’s a very limited view of success. Sometimes success looks like understanding a marriage is over or quitting a job or realizing that “good” behavior in one child doesn’t look like “good” behavior in another.

But back to the bad fit — this is one of those go with your gut things. If you feel like it’s time to push a client, then push. If you feel she isn’t ready, don’t push. I also think that in these cases where we’re not sure that we should seek out peer support. I don’t think any counselor — no matter how experienced — ought to be working in isolation. That means finding peers whose skills and knowledge overlap in some ways (so they can help give you perspective on kids if you work with kids) and don’t overlap in other ways (so they can help broaden your ability to work with all kinds of people).

If connection is an ongoing problem, if a counselor is feeling like her connection rate is down, then I’d say it might be time to look into some counseling ourselves. When we’re depleted or overwhelmed or preoccupied with other things, sometimes this can come through in our ability to be present with our clients. We might need help focusing on some self care or getting the attention we need (because to give loving attention we need to be getting loving attention).

If you are the client who isn’t connecting, I’d bring it up to the therapist if you feel comfortable or if you think the relationship is worth salvaging. Remember, it’s your relationship with your counselor that is the best predictor of your success in therapy so if you’re not feeling it, talk to her or go elsewhere. Just don’t give up on counseling because there are a zillion and one counselors out there, which means there is definitely the right one for you.

 

Needing context

kids-insideThere’s a lot I don’t know and knowing what I don’t know is a big piece of being a good counselor. One of the most important things I do know is that I can’t make sense of anything without context.

Because I work with kids and parents, people sometimes assume I must have hard and fast rules about what makes for good parenting but hard and fast rules only work on paper. In real life, we make decisions in the context of our histories and our current experiences. We are making big, well thought out decisions and we are making quick, on-the-fly decisions. Those decisions never happen in a vacuum so when people say, “Is this a problem? Is that a problem?” I have to say, “I don’t know. Tell me more.”

Before I meet with a child for the first time, I meet with her parents. We talk about what’s going on and we talk about what the parents have tried already. We talk about what works and what doesn’t work. Parents are sometimes apologetic or defensive when they share one parenting choice or another because parents (unfortunately) are used to being judged. But I don’t judge parents. My job is to understand them and understand their goals and to understand their children so that I can help them live out those goals and to support their children.

Let’s take spanking for a very heated, very emotional example. I know great parents who spank and I know terrible parents who don’t. I can’t really tell anything about a parent or about their child or about their struggle when I hear, “I spank my kids.” It’s just a single choice in a sea of choices so when I hear a parent say, “I spank my kids” I want to know more about that. Why? Is it a knee-jerk reaction? A considered decision? Under what circumstances? What is the child’s reaction? What is the parent’s reaction?

This is how I approach all of those hot button issues: co-sleeping or crying it out, homeschooling or not, time outs or non-coercive parenting. I want to know what these decisions mean in the context of that family. How did those decisions happen? How do those decisions support or undermine the family’s goals? Do the parents feel their choices are working for their children? For themselves? Is it time to consider new options?

When I make recommendations, I make them in front of a background of what the research says, what I know from personal experience and from talking to lots (and lots) of families and — most importantly — I do with respect for the child and family in front of me. I may push parents to reconsider some of their previous choices but I will do it with respect for the values that drive those choices.

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