Therapist Blogs for May 2012
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Depression: Does it only affect adults?
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 3.2million Canadian youth between the ages of 12-19 are at the risk of d...
Executive Therapy for Ceo's, Attorneys, CPA, Doctors etc 100% CONFIDENTIAL
Executive Sober Coaching As a Business Executive, CEO, Attorney, Pilot, Business Owner, Philanthropist, or other high profil...
Plan More Than Your Wedding: Plan Your Marriage
When planning your wedding, don’t forget to plan your marriage. Pre-marital planning includes, but goes beyond, figurin...
You May Be The Victim Of Domestic Violence And Not Even Know It
Domestic Violence (Non-Physical Type) Many victims of domestic violence don't realize they are being victimized because they...
How to Help a Family Member who is Being Abused by their Partner
Protecting the Abuser "Frequent fliers" in emergency rooms often present with lacerations and bruises, attributing their inj...
We all get nervous. We all get anxious. It's part of life. In fact, it keeps us alive.
Flash back to caveman days when our ancestors were faced with life and death scenarios on a daily basis. They needed to have a heightened alarm response when something was threatening their safety. This allowed them to be hyper-alert in case a saber-toothed tiger came ambling along.
Everything you experience when you get anxious is actually years of evolution conspiring to keep you safe and sound. When we're in danger, we need to be able to react quickly. Our heart rates elevate, our breathing quickens, our blood flow changes, and digestive and sexual functioning shut down.
So what's the problem? Well, luckily, we no longer live in a world where our survival is threatened at any given moment. Unfortunately, evolution, and more specifically, our nervous systems, haven't quite gotten the message.
Our lives are filled with all sorts of stressors and hassles. Some of them are minor, but some are bigg...
I am always curious how people come to the idea that shame motivates positive change. As a culture, we seem to believe that validation, compassion and acceptance makes for lazy, out of control people, with no moral compass or willpower. Perhaps it’s our “Horatio Alger” myth, our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” notion of personal success.
We seem to believe this idea, despite tremendous evidence to the contrary. Shame does not motivate anything except fear, and not infrequently, rebellion. Shame creates the antithesis of self care or self empowerment; it creates self-loathing and self-destruction. Yet we persist.
Take the example of the “War on Obesity.” Somehow we seem to believe that what “fat” people need is a good swift kick in the pants to motivate them to drop those unwanted pounds (never mind that weight is largely genetically determined, and the longest lived people in study after study are classified as “obese&...
A while back, I jotted down some thoughts about a person I called “The Other Parent”. Since then, I’ve been collecting information and have concluded that there is a dearth of material on this subject. But I have expanded upon my initial ideas and hopefully this will lead to more research data in the future. These were my initial thoughts:
I’ve been experiencing a lot of counter-transference lately with my clients over “the other parent”; especially when the other parent is the mother. You may be wondering whom I’m referring to when I say the other parent. I’m referring to the parent who is not molesting their child in a household where a child is being molested. What about these parents anyway? Some of them really might not know, but if so, what planet are they living on? Most do know on some level but pretend not to. I’ll try not to sound too judgmental here; I’ll try and understand why this parent either has to look away a...
The Secrets Our Bodies Hold
Our bodies cry out in two ways - either through emotion or illness. When we understand our body's pain we articulate it. When we can't understand it, we are overwhelmed by emotional and/or physical sensations. And we feel powerless. While we need to understand what is happening to us, we may not always find the answers. But we can make peace with our emotions, just as we learn to make peace with other unanswerable events in our life - and in fact, with life itself.
I deal with Trauma in my work. I work extensively with adults who have been sexually, emotionally or physically abused as children. I see the effects of trauma, years, even decades, after it occurred. While just about everyone experiences traumatic events; it is not the occurrence of trauma but how an individual deals with a traumatic event(s) that determines the impact it will have on his or her life. When trauma occurs at a very early age, it is just as important, maybe even more important, how...
It doesn't always happen. But it happens to a large enough degree that it can be referred to as commonplace. A number of studies indicate that between 30 - 70% of young abusers (physical or sexual) have been sexually abused themselves (Bentovim and Williams 1998). Statistics on adult abusers who were sexually abused as children are lower - approximately 10 - 22%. However, I suspect that a much larger percentage of adults who have been sexually abused as children have developed coping and/or relational styles that are abusive - if not to others, then certainly to themselves. It doesn't sound shocking to say that someone who was abused as a child may become self destructive as an adult. But how far off is that from abusing others? The point here is that children who were abused are taught to abuse as a way of communicating and connecting. And many times their primary role models, their parents or other family members, are the ones who taught them this.
Why would anyone repeat behavior th...
"Therapists who work with adults abused as children have one overriding goal, that is to repair the client's self-image. Once the client's self image is repaired, he or she is on the road to full recovery."
Eliana Gil - Treatment of Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse
If you think it happened, it probably did.
Many times clients are ambivalent about the therapeutic process. Why treat abuse? It’s so painful; I just have to block better. If you could block it better you wouldn’t be here in the first place. The primary reason to treat your abuse is because in addition to limiting and impairing your own life, if you don't deal with your abuse, you may very well repeat it with your own or other children.
At the same time that we begin to treat the trauma we need to help clients understand what happened to them psychologically when they were abused.
Their boundaries were violated.
Their sense of control in the world was undermined
It was confirmed to them that they were pow...
Let’s begin by talking about Domestic Abuse in general - how it is regarded and dealt with in our culture. As a psych intern I was taught that we must report Child Abuse, Elder Abuse, a credible threat by one individual to physically harm another or a credible threat by an individual to physically harm him or herself. So we do protect children, elders and people who are about to be harmed. However, unless a child was present during the time it was occurring, we are not allowed to report domestic abuse – only the parties involved can do that. What that means for me as a clinician is that I can defend an adult individual who is (possibly) about to be physically harmed, but I cannot defend an adult individual who actually was physically harmed. The logic here is that the individual should be able to stand up for him or herself. But a lot of the times that is simply not the case; and the reason it is not the case is that the individual may fear retribution, may be attempting to...
Children Abusing Other Children
Even though there can be life long debilitating psychological effects, sibling abuse may be the most ignored - if not accepted - form of domestic (i.e. sexual, physical, emotional) abuse. Why is this kind of abuse ignored or minimized? There is a lot that is swept under the rug in the guise of “sibling rivalry”. And American law does not consider this a prosecutable offense unless a child is turned in by their parent(s). In other words, parents would have to be willing to file an assault charge against their own child. So parents keep this type of abuse within the family. And a lot of the time, they even blame the victim.
First some statistics: In an article entitled “A Major Threat to Children’s’ Mental Health”, Hart & Brassard reported that “There is evidence that brother-sister sexual relationships may be five times as common as father-daughter incest”.
Finklehor and Baron, who are prominent resea...
I hurt therefore I am.
How can I hurt myself? Let me count the ways. But first let me distinguish between hurting myself and abusing myself. Hurting myself - self-harm is a term commonly used for physically abusing oneself by cutting, self inflicting blows, pulling out hair (Trichotillomania) skin or nails, starving or food misuse, extreme piercing, or purposely burning ones’ self. Abusing myself - self-abuse covers the entire spectrum of self-destructive behavior, which includes emotional and psychological abuse and unconsciously or indirectly exposing oneself to physical harm via reckless or dangerous behavior. Addiction is viewed as a symptom rather than a cause of self-abuse, but many addictions (i.e. any kind of substance abuse, unsafe sex and even gambling) can become a reckless behavior that leads to physical harm.
When people act in ways that seem abusive to themselves, we shame them. We disparage them as weak, selfish, suicidal. Sometimes we even ostracize them. Thus w...
An examination of both the victim and the perpetrator:
Child sexual abuse is as much about power and domination as it is about compulsion. The object – female, male or both – is a reflection of erotic imagery and fantasy. But the action encapsulates repressed rage that treats the sexual act as a weapon against the victim. This is true of the incestuous relationship as well; although it is more likely here that the victim is the unintentional consequence, not the target, of these repressed forces.
As with subjects I have previously written about - men abusing girls, women abusing boys, women abusing girls, older children abusing younger children and now with men abusing boys, we see that the psychological underpinnings are very similar. In fact, the sex of the offender and the sex of the victim is always a secondary consideration to the physical and psychological impact of the misuse of power by a trusted authority figure on a much younger person. That said, there are diff...
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