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Category Archives: Ask A TFI Clinician

Embracing Pluralism: The Future of Relationships

Flying hearts from cupped hands of young woman, Valentine's Day, Happy Valentines day, love concept, isolated on white backgroundWith marriage rates on the decline in the U.S. and abroad, what does the future of romantic relationship look like? Rather than predicting the death of marriage, Jacob Goldsmith, PhD, at a recent TEDxRushU event, explains the rise of pluralism, the idea that there is more than one right way of doing relationships. Considering the history of relationships as well as present trends, pluralism is a way to reduce stigma and increasing personal responsibility in defining the kind of relationship that works best for each person.

Learn more by watching “Embracing Pluralism: The Future of Relationships.”

Dr. Jacob Goldsmith is a staff therapist and the associate clinical director of the Epstein Center for the Study of Psychotherapy Change at The Family Institute. He provides individual, couple, and family therapy to adults and adolescents. He has particular passion for working with young adults with a broad range of issues including transition to adulthood, identity development, sexual identity, relationships, and recovery from trauma. He also works with families with adolescent and adult children, specializing in issues of transition to college, transition to adulthood, and substance abuse. In addition, he has an interest in therapy with couples, including working with young couples to develop the foundations of a strong relationship.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.

MENTAL HEALTH MONTH: ASK A CLINICIAN

To commemorate Mental Health Month, we asked clinicians a number of questions about mental health. Today, Hannah Smith, MS, LMFT, shares her reflections on mental health and offers helpful hints for working towards good mental health.

smith_hannahHow do you define mental health?

I define mental health as psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being that impacts our way of relating to the world, ourselves, and our surroundings.

How are mental and physical health connected?

From my perspective, mental and physical health are intimately related, in that our mind and bodies do not operate independently but are consistently interacting through feedback loops to help us understand how to best respond in any given situation. We can utilize our physical bodies to create calm and healing in our internal psyche and we can intentionally care for our mental health, and, in turn, experience strengthening and change in our physical bodies.

What are some tips for good mental health?

Remember the importance of breath as a regulator of mood.

We are intimately wired for connection – make time to cultivate connection and meaningful moments with those that you care for and feel understood by. This will help us be more productive in all facets of life.

 

Hannah Smith, MS, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at The Family Institute. She has a particular passion and commitment to working with couples and addressing unresolved family of origin issues and how they impact intimate partnerships. Ms. Smith is a member of the Couples Therapy Program at The Family Institute and has training in Yoga Informed Psychotherapy.

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.

Mental Health Month: Ask a Clinician

To commemorate Mental Health Month, we asked clinicians a number of questions about mental health. Today, Sara Morrow, MSMFT, shares her reflections on mental health and offers helpful hints for working towards good mental health.

How do you define mental health?

My personal definition of mental health is the well-being of our emotional selves. Of course, this mental well-being can interact with out physical health (and vice versa!), and so it is hard to separate the two!

How are mental and physical health connected?

They are definitely linked! I work with a lot of anxiety and see this. It makes sense: if you’re always keyed up, tense, or on edge, this creates a feedback loop that the brain picks up on! This leads to a “vicious cycle” of body stress feeding into mental stress, which further exacerbates physical stress. And on and on it goes!

What are some tips for good mental health?

The “little” stuff matters: are you eating healthy, balanced meals throughout the day? Are you sleeping adequately? Exercising regularly? How much alcohol do you consume per week? Log all of these things for a week and see what the relationship is between these factors and mood.

Eraser deleting the concept Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD.As a Cognitive Behavior Therapist, you specialize in working with clients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What can you share with us about OCD?

I treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people feel shame around this disorder or think that everyone has “some” OCD to a certain extent, so why seek help? Doing a course of Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) can be very effective for OCD — and it is worth getting help for it as OCD can be very debilitating! I also encourage partners and family members to come into therapy to learn about the impact it can have on them and also how they can best handle and support their family member who is struggling with OCD. It impacts the whole system surrounding a person!

 

Sara Morrow, MSMFT, is a Clinical Program Fellow with The Family Institute in the Cognitive Behavior Therapies program. She has advanced specialized training in using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of Depressive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD).

The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.

 Ask a TFI Expert: Make summer vacation an opportunity

Summer 2015With summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today we are discussing how summer can be an opportunity for skill development and personal growth. Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, provides insights on summer school and summer jobs.

Give your child a break

While kids need their own break from the obligations of the school year, summertime responsibilities are often inevitable. While kids do need structure to their days, and often have homework to complete over the summer, it’s important to not overdo it or be too rigid.

Instead, the summer vacation responsibilities like work and school provide parents with the opportunity to teach time management and organizations skills to their kids. It’s important to have a balance of work and play time.

Know your child’s needs

For some, summer school is a time to catch up for the next level, while others require instruction to maintain academic skills. Many students may have assignments that are due in September. When it comes to your child’s academic responsibilities, it’s important to determine his/her unique situation and needs.

When it comes to summer jobs, your child may need advice. The search for and maintenance of a summer job gives children the opportunity to develop their resume and interviewing skills. It also teaches them responsibility. However, don’t assume that your child knows the correct protocol for summer jobs — they may need guidance in determining when to follow up after an interview, what to wear on their first day or how to request a day off.

 

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

 

Ask a TFI Expert: Talking summer camp with Hollie Sobel, PhD

Ask a TFI Expert: Talking summer camp with Hollie Sobel, PhD

With summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, discusses summer camp and ways to keep the stress and anxiety to a minimum.

There’s something for everyone

Today you can find a camp for just about anything.

If your child is interested in activities such as video games, camps with a gaming focus can be a way to work on social skills while partaking in a personal interest. Adolescents can attend specialty camps in areas of interest (e.g., computers) that can help them gain skills for a future career.

For children who struggle with mental health issues, there are camps geared toward specific issues such as Autism or ADHD. These unique camps give kids the opportunity to socialize and have fun while working on and through some of their issues. Since all the campers have similar struggles, it can help the children to feel like they fit in.

Sports camps (e.g, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer) can help children to use their energy in productive ways. They can also learn teamwork and good sportsmanship.

There are plenty of different ways to work a summer camp into your child’s schedule. Try to find a camp that aligns with his/her interests and help create opportunities for growth and development.

Overnight camp

Overnight camp provides kids with new and exciting opportunities but can lead to a lot of anxiety. As the date to leave for camp approaches, parents may notice their child’s anxiety increases — the closer they get, the less they want to actually go.

Help ease the transition by reaching out to camp staff ahead of time, and work with them to get all of the necessary details in place, and ease some of your kids’ anxiety and stress. Many camps and camp counselors have experience working with parents and families during the weeks leading up to overnight camp.

Keep tabs on the anxiety.

It’s normal to feel some anxiety surrounding summer camp, as it involves meeting new people and going to new places. Some kids, however, will need more help with their anxiety than others.

Anxiety warning sign to watch for:

  • Difficulty separating from parents under typical circumstances
  • Clingy behaviors
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Somatic complaints (stomachaches, headaches)
  • Irritability
  • Statements refusing to attend the camp

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Ask a TFI Expert: Hollie Sobel on kids and summer vacation

School's Out for Summer - Tablet ComputerWith summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, provides a few insights on making summer vacation less stressful and more productive.

Keep your child social

During the summer, children do not have the school setting to keep them social, and lose access to their social contact. Without this contact, children with social anxiety or poorly developed social skills can experience feelings of isolation during the summer.

For the socially active child, time off of school can lead to stress if he or she does not attend every possible social activity. This child may fear that he or she will lose their social status if they are not present at an event. This anxiety is present even their text messages (FOMO = fear of missing out).

Balance is the key, and parents have the opportunity to instill time management lessons.

Let your child have a break

Time off from school during the summer gives children the opportunity to take a break from the stresses related to the demands of school.

While children need structure to their days, and often have homework to complete over the summer, it’s important not to overdo it or be too rigid. Instead, summer vacation is a great time to teach time management and organizational skills to children. It’s important to have a balance of work and play time.

Plan ahead

Consider the following tips when planning for your child’s summer vacation:

Balance Structure and Freedom. Maintain a bedtime/curfew and a wake-time but don’t be too rigid. Studies show that keeping your bed and waking times within one to two hours of your daily routine during breaks shouldn’t interfere with your regular schedule.

Plan Ahead. Parents’ schedules are important, and often not as flexible. Remember to plan playdates ahead of time, work with other parents and/or family members to plan outings, and coordinate vacation time with spouses or other caretakers. Planning ahead can make the summer run more smoothly and reduce stress.

Recognize Teachable Moments. Take the time off as an opportunity to teach your kids time management, organizational and independence skills. For example, create stations where children can draw for a portion of their time, play with blocks for another portion, and so on, teaching them to move from one activity to another without requiring continuous monitoring by a parent.

Balance Family and Friends. Encourage less social children to reach out to peers and get out of the house. Look for activities that might suit them, or help them send texts or call friends to initiate plans. For overly social children, try to ease the anxiety that can come with trying to fill every moment with a social activity by encouraging moderation and balance.

Develop Traditions and Rituals. Having traditions and rituals help build family cohesion. Research shows that high levels of family cohesion and support are related to good coping skills.

Most importantly, use the summer to build meaningful, memorable moments with your kids.

 

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Substance Abuse: Symptoms & Prevention

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Shattered brown beer bottle: alcoholism conceptWe go to the doctor when we have severe pains, fevers or other physical symptoms. We take vitamins, have routine checkups, exercise and adapt our diets to prevent physical illnesses. As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness Month at The Family Institute, we’re talking to our expert clinicians about the connections between physical and mental health, as well as what can be done to prevent more serious mental illnesses.

Today’s insights on substance abuse come from Amy Drucker, MSMFT, LMFT, an associate marriage and family therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

 


 

Using substances to numb or dull our emotional experience (because guess what, they have that ability to change our physical experiences, and as we’ve discussed physical and mental/emotional health experiences go hand in hand) is not only common, it is arguably an unaddressed epidemic. Substances work very well to numb out the discomfort and unpleasant emotions we may be experiencing. People will turn to substances because they struggle to tolerate the emotional distress they may be feeling. Perhaps at first it was just a mood they were looking to temper, and did so with substances; but quickly, because substances “work well” in altering our experiences and tempering those unpleasant feelings, it can become a state of being that they are looking to temper and they turn to substances.

Substances have a direct effect on our nervous system, digestive system, adrenal system, you name it, the substance affects it! Substances used consistently can permanently alter our physical baseline functioning. Needless to say, substance abuse is an issue that deserves attention.

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse or overuse that should or could be indicators one should seek some type of mental health treatment are as follows:

  • Feeling the “need” to have the substance
  • The substance is the ONLY thing, or one of the only things, that makes you feel better
  • Using the substance more frequently
  • Using the substance earlier in the day
  • If the substance is there, you are unable to say no to it
  • Experiencing negative consequences from using the substance (physically feeling ill, financial losses, interpersonally relationships start receiving less attention, legal ramifications, lower moods–for example–alcohol is a depressant, long term use and one is apt to feel depressed)
  • The substance becomes more important than other realms of your life (work, relationships, health)
  • If you try to conceal the quantity or frequency of your consumption/use of the substance
  • If you start noticing physical side effects from over use of the substance
  • If NOT using the substance leads you to have physical side effects

 

There is an overwhelming stigma around addiction. If you think that you have a problem with substance abuse, there is no shame is reaching out for help. The shame develops when one does nothing to help themselves, and they begin to believe they deserve a life of addiction. Many people think that addiction is a choice, defined by a lack of will-power; it is my belief that addiction is far more complex than that and substances have a multifaceted impact on humans beings and at a certain point, the power to choose (if that power was ever there in the first place, many argue it is not) to use the substance or not no longer exists. Addiction and alcoholism is intensely isolating, and leaves people feeling helpless and hopeless. When one can recognize their use and/or abuse and be proactive about addressing it, there is hope and a possibility for a different life.

 

Substances offer temporary relief from whatever is contributing to a person’s unease and emotional distress. As the relief is temporary, the need to use more or use more frequently will undoubtedly become part of the vicious cycle. What one would benefit from doing is to seek more permanent and long term solutions for their emotional/mental health and stability. Some ides of more long-term solution behaviors are:

  • Seeking counseling for learning how to understand and tolerate our emotions more readily (thus the need for the substance to temper distressing emotions diminishes)
  • Seeking the support of loved ones and friends (social support is a huge buffer between individuals and substance abuse)
  • Engaging in activities that boost physical (and simultaneously emotional and mental) health
  • Getting involved in things/hobbies that interest you (a new project at work, an art class, a sports league)

 

For those who may know their substance abuse has gotten to a point where they need specific and intensive substance abuse help, there are outpatient treatment services, inpatient treatment services, detoxes (if one’s use has become so prevalent they need to be medically monitored as they get the substances out of their system), and spiritual programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, SMART recovery, and others.

 

The Family Institute at Northwestern University offers affordable counseling for couples, individuals and families at our four Chicagoland locations. Please visit our website to learn more about what we do.

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