What REALLY happens in family therapy? ~Nedra Tawwab, LCSW

Want to know if family counseling is beneficial for you? 
 
Black people are starting to be more open and vocal about the benefits of the counseling process. Celebrities such as Charlamagne Tha God, Jennifer Lewis, and Keke Palmer have spoken about how their families impacted their mental health which led to them seeking counseling. Many of the issues that individuals face were observed in their family of origin. Too often, family counseling is used under duress or when an intervention is needed on a particular family member. Family counseling is not intended to be biased toward one family member over the other. It is meant to allow attendees to address issues in the family system. When one person has an issue with the family, the entire family unit is impacted. For instance, if a parent has issues taking care of the kids and leans on other family members for finial support, the other family members are now involved and therefore impacted. 
 
Who comes to Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a counseling process for two or more members in a family unit. A family is identified as a couple, siblings, mother-daughter, parents-children, etc. In many, cases families seek counseling to address communication issues, death, divorce, substance abuse or changes to the family dynamics. Family counseling is useful for families who have long-term patterns of dysfunctional such as substance abuse and sexual/physical abuse, changes in relationships structure such as divorce and those who want to learn how to be in healthy relationships with one another. 
 
What to Expect
Prior to entering counseling, families may not have the tools to sort through issues or they may not have the language to identify their needs and feelings. In a family counseling session, the therapist will establish rules and assess the expectations of the family. The biggest myth in family counseling is that  “my opinion will not be heard.” The therapist will allow everyone the opportunity to speak, will summarize relevant information and ask questions for deeper probing. Each family member is granted the opportunity to speak so that no one person is monopolizing the conversation. If one person seems to be talking more than others, the therapist will ask for others to speak and respond. The family will establish mutually agreed upon goals for counseling and identify how they’d like to function post counseling.  Therapists strive to be fair. Therefore, when working with families therapist will develop a structure to make sure the everyone is heard. 

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3 Reasons the world should NOT be your therapist!

This was originally posted during Mental Health Awareness Month as a feature on www.chaneerobinson.com.

At this point the Kanye interview has been seen and  heard around the world. As a Kanye West fan and an admirer of Charlamagne the God’s interviewing style, the anticipation was real.  After his trip to TMZ, the anticipation was pretty much dead. I was not interested in hearing anything Kanye related for a few days. I did my best to scroll past any mention of it on social media, but finally I listened to the segments of the interview with Charlamagne on The Breakfast Club podcast.  Please keep reading my friends, this is not an analysis or my “woke” thoughts on Kanye, Charla, or the interview. This is about the very first thing I heard that made me pause and give a side eye like I was sitting next to Ye.

Kanye West, a musical genius to some, confidently told  Charalamage “I use the world as my therapist, anyone I talk to is my therapist…” .  He goes on to say how he pulls people aside to talk to and to get their perspective. He also mentioned how he will keep friends and family on the phone for 45 minutes at time to “talk through things”.

There are many reasons to NOT use the world, your friends or even your mama, as your therapist.  I know many African-Americans were taught that “therapy is for white people” or we were told “you will be OK” and we even tell our kids “what goes on in this house stays in this house!” , but when there has been mental or emotional trauma there has to be healing and our friends and family cannot heal us and here’s why:

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3 Signs It’s Time To See a Therapist

The energy of the mind is the essence of life~Aristotle

     Someone asked me last night, “So how did you know you needed to go see a therapist?”  To be honest, I couldn’t tell him the exact moment I said, “Let me find a therapist”.  I remember I did have a close friend that I discussed the topic with, but I don’t know if she suggested it or I mentioned it first.  The important thing is that I knew it was time to get help…. but what was it about THAT moment?  My answer, I was tired of feeling how I had been feeling and I wanted to get back to being myself.  Despite appearing to be content with my life at the time, I wasn’t happy.  I was actually very sad, over eating, taking EVERYTHING personal, crying often, and either not sleeping  or sleeping my days away.  That is not the life I wanted for myself.

     After I finished a lengthy phone conversation with my friend, the questions stayed in my mind.  “So how did you know you needed to go see a therapist?  “When should I find a therapist?”  In the end, I gave an honest answer, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about how I could better answer the question if I were asked by someone else. After much thinking, I composed a list of my top three suggestions.  DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, a doctor, nurse, life coach (though some people may disagree)-This is just giving my opinion. 

1. After the death of a loved one

     I would encourage people who have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend or a spouse to talk to someone, about their feelings.  If the person you lost was extremely close to you, or if there are feelings of guilt or extreme sadness, I would suggest grief counseling.  Everyone deals with death in different ways, you need to make sure you are coping with it in a healthy way.  Many times we have feelings of guilt, thinking about what we could have done to prevent it, or we often think about things we wish we would’ve said or done before they left us.  Talking through those feelings with a professional can make the difference between letting their death consume you and letting their life inspire you.

2.If you are a ‘bag lady or bag man’.

     Did you have an unstable childhood? Have you had several failed relationships?  Do you have anger issues?  Do you blame your failures in life on other people?  If so you should consider seeing a therapist.  Many times the feelings from a bad situation stay with us, and we don’t realize it.  An absent parent can often lead to abandonment issues and a lack of self-love.  Staying in a bad relationship can destroy your self-worth, and make you question everyone’s intentions, preventing you from developing healthy relationships.  Many people think they are justified in feeling how they do.  They believe it is normal because they have lived through these bad situations.  At some point, we have to place those ‘bags’ on the ground and walk away.  Carrying around those constant negative feelings, leave no room for love and happiness in your life, and everyone deserves to be  happy and loved.

3.When things are changing (or you want them to)

     This statement may be too broad, but it is the best phrase, to express the point.  Change is inevitable, however it can be difficult to initiate when we want to make specific changes.  When we want to change but for whatever reason we cannot, it is important to know what is preventing you from moving forward, and a therapist can help you figure that out.  Many people want to change their job, their relationship, their lifestyle, or even their religious beliefs but find that it is difficult. Other people want to get rid of anger issues, trust issues, abandonment issues, body image issues, feelings of guilt, and feelings of insecurity.  So many people stay in their current state because they don’t know what lies on the other side of change. There is an element of fear of the unknown, that is expected. Often we settle in our unhappiness because… that’s part of life, right??  It doesn’t have to be. If you want to change, you can, but not always on your own.

 A therapist does help those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, and those who may have a mental illness but have not been diagnosed.  A therapist can help you deal with the stress of change in a healthy way.  They can help you look at life with a different perspective, but you must be open to it.  It is such a great feeling to sit and talk to a professional whose job is to just listen and help.  Success in therapy requires you be totally honest with yourself and your therapist.  This person doesn’t know your family or friends; this person does not judge you so you can speak freely.   While finding the right therapist may not be easy, once you have found him or her, you will know it.  So if you are considering getting a therapist, take the first step and look for therapist in your area, set an appointment and keep it! Don’t get discouraged if after a couple of visits the first therapist isn’t the right fit, there are plenty to choose from!  


SPEAK OUT: Passion King shares her battle with Postpartum Depression

1I choose to Speak Away the Stigma associated with postpartum depression because I don’t want another woman to have to suffer in silence. I was 27 years old when I became pregnant with my son. The news brought forth feelings of joy & guilt. My joy was due to me growing up knowing I wanted to be a mother. Still, my joy was overshadowed by the guilt of feelings that I had more to accomplish before becoming a mother. I was more concerned with the plans I made for my life than embracing the plan God was unveiling.

During my pregnancy, I began to alienate myself from family and friends. I felt like they were secretly disappointed and wouldn’t understand my depression. I was irritable, cried a lot and stopped praying. I felt like I let God down and wasn’t worthy of His love since I couldn’t obey His Word. My mother was the first to notice a Screenshot_2017-04-27-15-34-22-1significant change in my behavior. I knew she was worried but I hid a lot of what I was going thru from her. She encouraged me to get out the house and enjoy my pregnancy. My son’s father had a hard time accepting my mood swings and spent a lot of time away from me. Our relationship, which I planned to last forever, became toxic. This made me feel alone and caused me to question why God was allowing me to go through this.2The birth of my son didn’t catapult things into a better direction immediately. I had to adjust to the physical changes my body went through, the freedom I gave up for my son and balancing day to day activities. I knew I needed help. A few times I worked up the courage to make appointments to see a therapist. Once I couldn’t afford the $25 copay and another time I felt like they would see me as an unfit mother. Throughout my depression, it was so important to portray being a good mom even though I didn’t always feel like one. I loved my son but felt guilty and like I wasn’t enough. I was in a dark and low point in my life. So, what changed? 3Screenshot_2017-04-27-15-36-36-1I began to get back into my routine of praying, journaling and speaking to other mothers. After speaking to so many women who were close to me I saw how common this illness is. I heard stories of so many extremities from just being sad, to being suicidal and even wanting to harm their babies.  I encourage anyone who is going through this to seek the help I was too ashamed to ask for. Your children deserve the very best version of you! 4.pngMy son is almost two years old and is the light of my life. He will be two years old in June and he is smart (he can count to ten) extremely goofy and loves Mickey Mouse. We pray together, read and do the Chuck E. Cheese dance. My experience has taught me that Gods plan is better than my own. He will always turn your pain into purpose and your test into a testimony! “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”(2 Corinthians 4:17)

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Find Passion on Intagram @ passion_queen

 

The facts about Postpartum Depression on this post are from the National Institute of Mental Health.  You can read more about the symptoms and treatment options here .

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7 Ways to Shoo the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be a depressing time for many people.  Many of us know one or more people who turn into The Grinch (or a cousin of the Grinch) during this time of the year.  The holidays for me have never been an overly joyous occasion. As a child this time of year was hoping we had a few gifts under the tree on Christmas morning so I wouldn’t have to lie when kids at school asked what I got for Christmas.  In college, this time of year was spent studying for my finals and hustling extra shifts as a waitress, so Christmas Day was my day to rest!  Since I have been working in corporate America, there are holiday parties, early days off, and a lot of holiday chatter in general.  This forces me to deal with the lack of joy I often feel around the holidays and really work at making sure I don’t get the “Holiday Blues”.

For many years I believed that this time was when families came together, enjoyed good food and each other’s company.  While I have experienced these happy times while visiting my friends’ home, I have rarely experienced this with my own family, and that lead my VERY BLASÉ feelings about the holidays.  What made my feelings worse is that I wanted to enjoy this time of year.  I wanted to be excited about spending time with people I love, giving gifts and discussing my holiday plans.  Once I let go of the holidays were “supposed” to look like, I learned to enjoy the holidays MY way.

If you are worried about having the Holiday Blues here are 7 ways to shoo away those Blues!

1.  Count Your Blessings!  This time of year it is easy to be reminded of what we do not have.  It could be the loss of a family member or the loss of a job.  It could be the lack of the ability to fulfill Christmas list or the ability to afford to go home to be with family.  Although, it is not easy, remember what you do have and think outside of the box for gift giving.  Be thankful for the loved ones that are still with you, enjoy and celebrate your time with them.   

2.  Redefine Your Holiday!  Everyone doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the same way-hell everyone doesn’t even celebrate Christmas!  You don’t have to follow the masses and put up a tree, do a bunch of shopping, travel to visit family you really don’t want to just to “celebrate the holidays”-create your own tradition.  Decide what the holidays mean to you, and DO THAT!  So what if it is different from what everyone else does, I promise you people will find your “non-traditional” holiday interesting. 

3.  Have SKYPE or FaceTime Holiday!  Being away from home can be difficult, and sometimes a phone call isn’t enough!  Thank goodness for technology!  Reach out to your family or close friends and set up a time to talk!  The beauty of using Skype or FaceTime is you can see them.  It may make you wish even more that you could be there, but you will probably end the call with a smile on your face!

4. Reach out to others.  If you don’t want to spend Christmas day alone, ask your single, childless co-workers if they have plans.  If you all don’t want to do dinner, just make plans for the movies.  It will at least get you out of the house.  If there is a small group of you all, plan a Christmas Eve happy hour, there is always a bar open, somewhere!

5.  Volunteer.  Many places will feed the homeless during the holidays, and this is a great time to volunteer.  You can also check with local children’s hospitals. Volunteer list fill up quickly around the holidays so begin your search early. By volunteering you will be out of the house, meet new people and give back to the community all at one time.  A simple Google search will give you shelter, soup kitchens, and hospitals in your area.

6. Plan a lazy day.  Yes, plan it!  To have a good lazy day one must be prepared because leaving the house will not be on the agenda!  Get any snacks and food you need, maybe hit up Rebox a day early (for those movies you never made it to the theater to see), plan your binge list from Netflix or Hulu or even grab a good book.  If you will be alone, it is the perfect opportunity turn Christmas Day into YOUR Day.  Also, you pick up some magazines and craft supplies and work on your vision board for 2017!

7. Avoid the Grinch!  Hey if you don’t like the holidays, fine.  However, when someone is constantly complaining, whether it’s about the traffic, the decorations, their lack of money to buy gifts, being single on the holidays-You do not need to be around that person because their negative energy will rub off on you!  You can’t take the chance of me catching their Holiday Blues too!

Remember you are in control of you feelings.  You are in control of your perspective.  While you may not be able to have the holidays you want,  you can’t crawl in a cave until they are over so you may as well find a way to enjoy them.  Life is too short not to enjoy your life, even if it is not perfect.


Not “Eliminate”… but “Manage”

Last week I shared my story about meeting my first therapist.  That post has become the most read post to date-THANK YOU!  Due to the response, I received via email and text, I wanted to share a blog post from mental health professionals.  I came across Dr. Amber Thornton on Instagram and I thought her blog post ‘Not “Eliminate”…but” Manage” would be a great follow-up to “Her Name was Jane”

Dr. Amber Thornton is a  licensed clinical psychologist, currently practicing in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.  Read more about Dr. Amber Thornton and her professional approach to mental health.

Not “Eliminate”…but “Manage”

Whenever I meet a new client who comes to me for mental health counseling/psychotherapy, one of the first things I say is this:

“I am not a magician, so I cannot make the difficult things in your life go away.  I cannot make your difficult emotions go away either.  But we can work together to help you manage them because they are a valuable part of life.”

Every day, both personally and professionally, I meet people who attempt to stuff and suppress their difficult emotions, with the hopes that this process will make them all go away.  Within our families, friendships, and even through the media, we are taught that we should be able to “control” our emotions.  We are also taught that if we avoid feeling our difficult emotions, that they will eventually go away.  Unfortunately, none of this is true.

Many days, I can’t help but wonder what our lives could be like if we embrace the idea that life will include both ups and downs, happiness and sadness, joy and dismay.  I truly believe that if we are able to accept our difficult emotions as being an integral part of life, then they may begin to feel and look much different.  I realize this can sound confusing or paradoxical even, but many times, the very thing we try to avoid is what we need to embrace the most.  It’s like the elephant in the room: it is big and takes up so much space while we try to ignore it, but once we acknowledge that it’s there, it’s not so big anymore.  It becomes quite manageable and we eventually learn ways to manage the discomfort.  Sometimes it may eventually fade away.  Believe it or not, our emotions operate in the very same way.

So what contributes to difficult emotion?  The list is endless, but a few of the most common contributors include:

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