A Therapist's Open Letter to Parents & Caregivers: I Believe You

Dear Parent or Caregiver, 

I see you as you sit across from me in my office. You are talking to me for the first time, for the tenth time, or maybe for the fiftieth time. I’m glad you’re here to talk. Truly, I am. 

I see you. You are a parent, a friend, a sister, a brother, a child, a boss, a partner, an employee, a co-parent, a human. The cleaner of the spilled milk (literally), the helper of the homework, the packer of the snacks. The juggler of the schedules and carpools. The overworked and in need of rest. The there all the time, the there sometimes, the there. I see you as a person who has your own story, your own history, your own needs. I see you as a parent who cares so much, even if you feel so lost, and wants what is best for your child.

I hear you. I hear you as you talk about your frustration with not knowing how to help your child, with wishing you had an answer. I hear you when you say that you are lost, confused, and maybe even annoyed. I hear you searching for an answer on how to show your teenager how much you love him, on wanting to support your little one as she struggles to stay in her seat at school. I hear you when you say want to wrap them up in your arms and protect them. I hear you when you say want to see them learn to be more independent. I hear you when you say want everything for them but also need your own alone time, too. 

I wonder. I wonder if you’re thinking I’m judging you. I’m not. Really. I’m not shocked when you say you’re at your wits end. I’m not surprised when you say you just don’t know what else to do. I wonder if you realize that when I make a suggestion, that is all I am doing. Yes, I want you to follow through. Yes, I really do think it will help. No, I don’t expect you to do every single thing I say perfectly. I wonder if you think I’m a robot, that I don’t make mistakes both inside and outside of this room. I do. Trust me, I do. I wonder if you think I believe you to be this three eyed, fire breathing, raging monster outside of my office. I don’t. Even when your child complains to me for the one hundredth time about your tyranny when you ask that dishes go in the dishwasher not the sink, I never argue, and I hear them and empathize. But, I still don’t judge. It’s just not my place. 

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How Do I Talk to My Child's Other Parent About Therapy?

You’ve noticed the signs. Your child seems different to you: more worried about things that didn’t use to bother him, more angry at times she used to be calm. Or maybe, your child has asked you directly to see a therapist. He wants someone to talk to about what’s next after graduation. She feels different than everyone else at school. You’ve searched around the internet, found some prospective therapists, and even made some calls.

Now is the time to talk to their other parent (your spouse or a co-parent) about getting them in for an appointment. You’re not sure how they will respond. They may be open and willing, or they may have questions or even concerns about the process. Either way, you know you have to have the conversation.

Try these suggestions to ease the discomfort of beginning to talk with them:

  1. Is this a good time to talk? It may seem hard to wait until there is a special time to talk. The days are busy, and sometimes you and your spouse may not get time alone until the evening. If you are co-parenting, you may never have one-on-one time unless you plan it. Either way, conversations about the wellbeing of your child are not the best to be had if attention is low or time is sparse. When you’re ready to talk with your child’s other parent about therapy for your child, make sure that there is enough time for the conversation, that it is in a space where you can share all your feelings without worries about privacy or your child overhearing. It is also important that other parent is in a place where they can actually hear what you have to share. The importance of therapy disappears on the sidelines of games, over texts at work, or while dropping the children off for the weekend. How do you know when the right time is? Rather than assume, ask the direct question. If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, ask for a specific time during the next day or week to sit down together and talk about your concerns about your child.

  2. I’ve noticed some changes with [child] including…and I’m concerned. What do you see? When you speak from a place of “I” you disarm defenses and open doors to more effective and neutral communication. Speak from your own perspective about the changes you have seen with your child. If your child has specifically asked for counseling, include their request to you in this observance, and share about the conversation if you feel comfortable. Then, allow the other parent to share their observations. Remember that the other parent may or may not see what you see, and they may not interpret the symptoms you’ve noticed the same way that you do. We interpret based on our own beliefs and experiences, so consider where your partner or co-parent may be coming from, and use empathy when listening to their opinion.

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5 Signs It’s Time to Get a Therapist for Your Child

Childhood and adolescence can be a confusing time for both children and for parents. At times, you may be staring at your child wondering: Is that really my child? Moods swing fast, behaviors quickly, and it can be hard to know what is part of growing up and what is something that needs extra attention. You want to be a supportive parent, and make sure they get the help they need, but you don’t want to overreact either. I get it, and I understand a lot of parents wonder: How do I know when it’s time to schedule my child with a therapist? If you notice one or more of these signs, it might be time to check in with a therapist.

  1. The challenge you are noting (mood, behavior, self-esteem, etc.) is affecting your child or teen in multiple places. If you are starting to notice that your young person is struggling with a specific challenge in a variety of places: school, home, work, with friends, with family, sports, extracurriculars, other social arenas, etc., you may want to consider meeting with a counselor. It is typical for young people to show a little more emotion and boundary pushing at home, or for them to struggle at school sometimes. You may even be noticing that they keep it together all day at school but struggle at home only. Sometimes challenges spill over into several different environments, and then it is definitely time to seek outside help. Even if they are only struggling in one area, but it has been an excessive time, you may still consider calling a therapist.

  2. Your child excessively worries. Does your child frequently ask you about what is going to happen? Do you notice them stressing about the future, the safety of themselves or others, social situations or maybe a specific fear? Anxiety can ripple out and affect people in crippling ways. If left untreated, it can become more detrimental overtime. It is important for your young person to learn what triggers their anxiety and to be taught skills to understand and cope with their feelings. An appointment with a therapist will also allow you time to learn more about anxiety and how to support your child on their journey to address their worries. 

  3. Your hear your child say things like “I’m worthless,” “No one likes me,” “I don’t matter.”

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5 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love This Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, we are often inundated with messaging about showing love to others. While showing love to the special people in your life (family, friend or significant other) is important, what about showing love to yourself? Sometimes, we may think that showing yourself love or putting yourself number one is selfish, but if you don’t take care of yourself, how will you take care of others? If you don’t love yourself first, who will? 

Try one of these five ways to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day (or any day, really): 

  1. Treat Yourself: There are so many ways to treat yourself, so we suggest that you pick one and go for it. No time on actual Valentine’s Day? Commit to treating yourself this weekend. Some ideas: a long bath (with a bath bomb or some essential oils); a massage; a face mask; read a book; indulge in a chocolate or coffee you don’t usually allow yourself to get; spend time with an old friend; spend time with no one; go to bed early; stay up late; your choice!

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Driving Lessons: Change Your Perception of Other Drivers on the Road

It is likely that driving is the most dangerous thing you do each day. Even when we’ve reached a point of comfort and boredom with driving, after we’ve acquired some not so safe habits of driving there remains within us a system that stays on high alert. This constant state of underlying vigilance leads us to having higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. As we drive, little by little, with each time we have to unexpectedly brake or swerve our amygdala is recognizing danger and threat. We should be thankful to have such functions working within us. It is the part of the brain that is on the lookout, protecting us. It is, however, this constant “looking out” that colors our perception of the road, and our perceptions of other drivers.

As a driving instructor I’m am frequently hearing about how terrible all the other drivers on the road are. If this were actually true, there would be far more traffic incidents than already occur. But, with that being said, most of us do have room for improvement (myself included).

There are two things we can understand about our amygdala and it’s function that might help how we perceive other drivers on the road.

Think back to the last time you were on the road. It will probably be easier to recall the person who cut you off without using a turn signal rather than the hundreds who followed the rules of the road. The same brain function that protects us by constantly looking for problems and threats causes us to focus on the more dangerous driving.

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Set an Intention (Not a Resolution) for 2019

The New Year - the time to reflect on the previous 365 days and start to think about the next - is coming. I am on a list-serve for people who are looking for sources to write articles for them, and I have seen so many requests for ‘attainable goals’ and ‘resolutions people should actually set’ for next year. I have a different idea: set an intention not a goal or resolution. 

So, why trade the check boxes for something more abstract? I’ll tell you why. Where your mind goes, your actions will follow. What is the quote - you become what you think about all day long - right? So, if you wake up and you set an intention for your day, that thought is cemented in your mind. With that thought in mind, you may catch yourself acting in line with your intention during the day. You may also catch yourself acting in ways that do not align with your intention, too, but my guess is that you may have not noticed those actions had you not set your intention, and now that you notice them, you can choose what to do about them. Make sense? 

What is an intention? An intention is a guiding principle, something that we have purposefully chosen to try to incorporate into our lives. In my mind, an intention is set to grow something (often within ourselves) rather than obtain something (like a slimmer body or a fancy new car). Our intention drives where our will goes, and where our will goes, so does our action. More simply: our intention is the purpose behind our action. 

Why set an intention rather than a goal or resolution? If you read this last paragraph and your eyebrows raised and you thought about just hitting the back button right now, look, I get it. When I first started hearing people talk about intentions and desires and manifesting, I was ready to quietly back towards the door, too. I was all about checking things off of my list. If I could set a goal, I could accomplish it by paritalizing and knocking off those to-dos one by one. I either succeeded or I failed. It was black and white. An intention isn’t like that. An intention isn’t so cut and dry, and it is isn’t so tangible. That is a little weird and scary when you’re not used to it, so stay with me here. 

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Why I Stopped Giving Assists in Yoga, Even Though I Love Them The Most

My love language is touch. It is how I express caring and how I most readily feel loved.  When practicing yoga in a class, being assisted is always one of my favorite parts. For most of the 6 years that I have been teaching, I’ve assumed that everyone wanted to be assisted, never asking preference at the beginning of classes. The honest reason, despite The Four Agreements teaching us to not make assumptions, is because I had just never given it any thought. Now with that being said, I do know that many of my students have expressed appreciation for assists and adjustments that I have given them, but still to generalize is an assumption. As of about a month ago, I decided to stop assisting in my classes, for a variety of reasons.

Most basically, when I learned about The 5 Love Languages, it deepened my realization of how we can all be a little different from one another. Some people just don’t like to be touched. Also, although I believe I am tuned in enough to another person so as to not cause pain or injury, I know that there are many instructors who are not and I also know that I could be completely wrong about the assessment I just made of myself, and would not want to cause pain to others.

On a deeper level, the rise of the #metoo movement brought a deeper awareness of this issue of trauma. According to NSVRC one in six men and one and three women have or will have experienced so form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Although many students have expressed gratitude for assists, some are just kind. By being kind, they may have not mentioned if I had somehow triggered an old trauma, and just kept that part to themselves. It is even possible that I have had students stop coming to my class or worse stop practicing yoga altogether for that reason.

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Is There Specific Training My Dog Needs to Become a Therapy Dog?

Short Answer: No.

Long, ethical and less likely to get you in long-term trouble answer: Yes.

You might be surprised to learn, there is no regulating body for therapy dogs. Same with service dogs. No one controls the training they "must" go through to be working dogs in the helping field. There are many websites out there claiming to register your dog and give it special identification. These websites are charging people to give them certificates and patches that are essentially useless outside of show. Yes, maybe you like the vest (I just ordered Franklin one from Chewy) but there is no requirement to register your dog or put your dog through a specific training.

(Side note: The ADA does not require service dogs to be registered. Actually, mandatory registration of a service animal (as a service animal) is not legal under the ADA, and the ADA states clearly on their website that a service animal does not need any professional training (it still has to be trained to do one task that is not a typical dog task that assists with a diagnosed disability), nor does it need any sort of identification like cards, vests, or special leashes. If you have a service animal, it is illegal for someone to question you more than asking if “the dog is a service animal required because of a disability” and “what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.” That's it. Now, let me remind you that it is extremely unethical (and maybe even illegal) to misrepresent yourself as disabled just to bring a dog into a public place.)

But this article is about therapy dogs, so I will try to stay focused for the rest of the time!

The American Kennel Club is a highly regarded all breed dog registry but not a governing body over dog training. Interestingly enough (I'm distracted again), there is no governing body over yoga instructors either but the Yoga Alliance has taken steps to increase the credibility of yoga instructor training, just as the AKC has taken steps to increase the training of therapy dogs. And this is important! Training a dog is no easy task! It takes consistency, commitment, time and money. If every therapist out there just took their pet to work and called it a therapy animal, there would likely be a lot negative interactions between "therapy animals" and clients.

For my training with Franklin, after extensive research I chose to go by AKC standards. For the purpose of this article, the training needed I speak of will be based on their standards.

The American Kennel Club has a Therapy Dog Program which they write they created to “recognize” therapy dogs and the work that they are doing as volunteers. Interesting, right? Recognizing not regulating. Anyway, to qualify you have to meet three qualifications: be certified/registered by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization, be registered with the AKC, and perform the number of visits for the title you are applying for (we’ll get to that).

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Courtney Hart
My YTT Story - BJ

There were two very different reasons that led me to yoga teacher training. The first was in my eyes, a selfish one. Knowing myself, I figured yoga might just be a phase in my life. I thought if I became a teacher, yoga would always be a part of my life. The second reason I became a yoga teacher was to give the gift of yoga to others. Through my yoga journey, I had already grown in many countless ways, and I wanted to share that with others. I also thought that I might finally convince some of my friends to try yoga only by being the teacher (most of my friends have yet to take my class).  

Taking the leap to sign up for a teacher training was not a choice made without fear, but that’s what it was, a leap. Motivating me was a quote that I saw daily on my cousin’s refrigerator when I lived with him for a couple years. The magnet read: “leap and the net will appear.” This quote had a real impact on my courage in situations such as this, so I lept. 

The start of my first teacher training weekend, I was filled with butterflies and doubt. I thought to myself: “Where did I get the audacity to think that I could be a yoga teacher?”,  “How could I ever be as good as so and so?”,  “Who am I kidding?” By the end of the first weekend of training, however, I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. My practice deepened more than I could have imagined, but I still couldn’t actually imagine myself as a yoga teacher. 

I was quiet and even meek at times. Although I would sometimes project an air of confidence, I was anything but that. I felt full of doubt, and although that doubt did not disappear in the first weekend, I surrendered to the process and allowed changes to come up for me. If I had stopped after weekend one, I would still be grateful for the lessons learned and the bonds made, but I kept going back each weekend. I have been teaching for six years now. 

Although much of the details of my teacher training are a blur, thinking back on my experience, I recognize teacher training as the single most pivotal point in my life. 

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