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Halloween Safety: Make this Halloween FUN

Dressing up is children's favorite gameAs Halloween quickly approaches, it is helpful to reflect on the purpose of the holiday — for children, teens and adults to have F-U-N. Halloween is filled with exciting costumes, spooky decorations, and most importantly, sugar. However, the most concerning component of Halloween for parents is often safety.


Today’s blog is from Adam Margol, PsyD, a staff therapist at The Family Institute.

As children flood the streets in search of delicious candy while sharing laughter with friends and family, it is important to remember that there are some potentially dangerous components of trick-or-treating. These possible dangers should not prevent everyone from having fun, but it is helpful if everyone in the family is informed and educated. Here are a few tips to consider when prepping for Halloween festivities:

Before your kids leave the house …

  • Ensure that their costumes are safe. Add some sort of reflective gear to their costume. Check that their vision is minimally obscured. Ensure fake weapons of any kind appear markedly inauthentic.
  • Review road safety. Do not assume cars can see you – look both ways before crossing the street. Don’t be distracted by technology when in the street. Make sure your children always walk with a trusted adult or a designated buddy. It may be helpful to carry some sort of light or flashlight to ensure that you can be seen.
  • Talk to your children about entering homes or cars of adults that they do not know. Make sure the group has some way of contacting an adult or the police if an issue were to arise.
  • Educate your children about the dangers of eating unwrapped food.
  • Set a realistic curfew and decide on check-in times throughout the evening. Establish clear parameters of how far your children can venture from home.

It IS possible to stay safe while maximizing fun during Halloween. We hope that everyone has a fun, spook-tacular time celebrating! Happy Halloween from The Family Institute!

Adam Margol, PsyD, is a Staff Therapist at The Family Institute. He has experience working with children, adolescents and young adults with emotion regulation issues, social skills deficits, school issues, behavioral issues, learning disabilities/challenges, executive functioning deficits, ADHD, depression, anxiety, aggression, and developmental disabilities.

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.

Dreadful Costumes: Manage Your Anxiety

girl zombie horror against red wallHalloween can be an exciting time of year. It is a time filled with spooky stories, costumes and haunted houses. For some, however, this time of year brings added fear, anxiety or panic, especially when choosing a Halloween costume.

Today’s blog comes to us from Kelly Dunn, MA, LPC, a Staff Therapist in The Family Institute’s Cognitive Behavior Therapies program.

Choosing a costume can be a high pressure choice whether it is for a public event like a party or for your child to wear to school. There is pressure to be original and look spooky and/or sexy while not breaking the bank. It can be marked with indecision and anxiety about how it will be perceived. Or perhaps you are crafting your own costume. This comes with its own set of worries about negative evaluation from others. If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone.

Here are three tips for managing costume anxiety.

1. Try some relaxation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy utilizes deep breathing as a simple form of relaxation that you can use anywhere. Check in with yourself and notice if your breathing tends to be shallow or rapid — that might be a cue to take a few deep breaths!

2. Consider an alternative perspective on your worries. It is impossible for your costume to be ALL things at once. Try to aim for just one — spooky or original or inexpensive. If you are making the costume, consider all the creativity, time, effort and talent that it takes compared to purchasing one at the store.

3. Observe your timeline. Are you rushing to get things done? This can add to your anxiety or worry. Are you spending too much time making a decision, shopping for costumes or crafting one considering you will likely be wearing it for just a few hours? This lengthy time investment might be too large compared to the outcome, and contributes to extra anxiety or stress. Instead, try to make a specific plan and stick to it, considering the time and materials involved.

If you think that you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, or if you would like additional information, please call The Family Institute at 847-733-4300, ext. 668, or email us at

Kelly Dunn MA, LPC is a staff therapist on the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy team at TFI. She specializes in treating depressive and anxiety disorders.

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.

Couples Therapy Is Effective — For Both Men and Women

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male_female_symbolsWe recently posted an article written by Institute Clinician Nikki Lively, MA, LCSW that asked the question “Does Couples Therapy Really Work?” Today we’re taking another look at that very question — this time with research that comes out of The Family Institute.

In a new study, researchers at The Family Institute studied the effectiveness of couple therapy, both for improving relationship adjustment (the quality of the couple’s relationship), as well as for enhancing individual functioning (the ability of each partner to manage well in daily life). The results of this study indicated that both these factors saw a positive response to couples therapy–for both genders.

Our winter edition of Institute News features an article by Lynne Knobloch-Fedders, PhD, Family Institute Director of Research and Kovler Scholar, about this very study. From her article:

Overall, men and women showed remarkable similarities in how they changed over the course of treatment. Although women began treatment reporting more relationship dysfunction than men, men and women did not differ in their changes over time in relationship or individual adjustment. This similarity suggests that couples in treatment improve in unison, with similar pathways and rates of change. 

Visit our website to read the full article and to learn more about our couples counseling services.

Important But Not Urgent: What are your priorities?

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“On the treadmill of modern parenting, we rarely stop and ask ourselves, ‘How important is this? What’s truly at stake here?'”


Today_tomorrowThis month’s Family Institute Couples Tip of the Month asks whether or not our marriages’ needs–as opposed to our children’s needs–are merely important, but not urgent. From this month’s tip:

For a great many couples with children, it isn’t the spouse who’s most valued — it’s the kids. At least within the middle and upper-middle-class, today’s couples tend to place kids at the top of the priority ladder, with the partner relationship landing in second or even third place (behind career). Many of us pay lip service to the importance of our marriage, but the great amounts of time, energy, and financial resources we devote to the youngsters betray those words.

Read the whole Tip to find out more about how to make your marriage a priority while still attending to the needs of your children.

For additional tips and to sign up for our Tip of the Month email, visit our tips webpage.

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling for families, couples and individuals. Find out more about our services on our website.

To get support at The Family Institute, visit our Find-A-Therapist page.

TFI’s Epstein Center Goes to Denmark

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In June of this year, Family Institute president William Pinsof, PhD, ABPP, and  Jacob Goldsmith, PhD, staff therapist at the Institute and assistant clinical director for the Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation Center for Psychotherapy Change, traveled to Denmark to participate in a conference. We caught up with Dr. Goldsmith and asked him to tell TFI Talks about his experiences.



Dr. Goldsmith

TFI TALKS: Tell us a little about the conference itself and what you and Dr. Pinsof presented.

JG: I recently attended the Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR) Conference in Copenhagen. SPR is a great organization with a focus on all sorts of psychotherapy research, and presenting there allows us to reach a diverse audience of psychotherapy researchers. When SPR meets in Europe it is well attended by academics and clinicians who might not otherwise make it to the conference. As a result, it is an opportunity for us to present to a new and wider audience.

Our panel presentation included brief talks by William Pinsof, myself, and Terje Tilden, our colleague from Modum Bad hospital in Norway. We each addressed different aspects of research using The STIC. I focused on my recent findings about the client-therapist relationship, or psychotherapy alliance. I am conducting ongoing analyses to explore what happens when client-therapist relationships have sudden problems. In this presentation I discussed the relative prevalence with which such problems occur in individual, couple, and family therapy.

TFI TALKS: How do you think the Epstein Center and the STIC are generally received in the field at large?

JG: On the whole, I find that our work is very well received by the field at large. After our presentation we received several inquiries about using The STIC either for research or within a clinic. I think many clinicians and researchers ‘get’ the idea of the STIC at a basic level right away. But what’s really fun is watching people realize just how powerful the STIC can be as a clinical tool. By the end of the presentation people tend to come up and talk about how The STIC could impact their own work.

TFI TALKS: What impact do you think these sorts of presentations have on the STIC and the Institute at large?

JG: First, these presentations raise the profile of the STIC. A broad research audience gets to hear about what we are doing, and The STIC becomes a bigger part of the ongoing discussion about how to improve psychotherapy. Perhaps even more importantly, we often make connections with researchers and students who wish to use The STIC – our goal, of course, is to parlay these initial meetings into partnerships, to continue the validation and dissemination of The STIC, and to cement its use worldwide.

By raising our research profile, and garnering attention for the STIC, our hope is to raise the profile of The Family Institute as a whole. Our talks are well attended, and many people get to hear about the work that we are doing, as researchers and clinicians. I believe this exposure will increase the likelihood that when therapists around the world think about referring a client in Chicago, they will think about The Family Institute.

Why Family Therapy?

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Clinical Science Insight BannerFamily therapy is one of the most common forms of mental health treatment. However, there are still some mystery surrounding this type of therapy—what it entails, how it impacts individuals and families, and whether or not it’s effective.

Today, we’ll rely on Clinical Science Insights from two expert Family Institute clinicians, Anthony Chambers, PhD, ABPP and Jay Lebow, LMFT, ABPP, to demystify family therapy.

  1. Families Matter: There is no finding as well-replicated in psychological research as the importance of the family on the lives of individuals with in the family. Simply put, individuals influence families, and vice versa.
  2. Families Provide Context: When families function well, family relationships can be immensely satisfying. However, when families do not function well, family relationships can be distressingly painful. A central tenant of family therapy is the notion that an individual’s problems occur within the broader context of the family—the family systems perspective.
  3. Family Therapy Doesn’t Always Mean Treating Everyone at the Same Time: While the family is the primary focus of treatment during family therapy, therapists may conduct individual sessions with adolescents, sessions with parents alone, or even sessions with concerned others such as peers, school personnel or the police.
  4. Family Therapy Is Effective: More than 40 years of research on the efficacy of family therapy supports this conclusion. There is evidence for the effectiveness of family therapy for specific problems such as adolescent drug use, schizophrenia and anorexia nervosa.
  5. The Right Family Therapist Makes All the Difference: Balancing the needs of multiple family members while working in the interest of the family as a whole can be quite challenging. Make sure your therapist has specific training in family therapy, and remember that your therapist must not just be competent—he or she must be comfortable for you to work with.

Family therapy is based on the idea that people’s psychological problems and issues cannot be understood or treated in isolation from their families. The right family therapist can help families make the changes they need to heal and thrive.


To make an appointment with a Family Institute family therapist at our downtown Chicago, Northbrook, Evanston or LaGrange Park locations, visit our Find-A-Clinician website.

Click here to read Dr. Chambers’ full Clinical Science Insight white paper, “Demystifying Family Therapy.”

Click here to read Dr. LeBow’s full Clinical Science Insight white paper, “What does research have to say about families and psychotherapy?”

To learn more about our Clinical Science Insights, visit our webpage.

May Is Mental Health Month!

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At The Family Institute, we are passionate about mental health. We counsel individuals, heal couples and help build stronger family bonds through our clinical service, education and research programs.

This May, join us as we commemorate Mental Health Month on our social networks and here at TFI Talks.

Here’s some of what you can look forward to this month:

  • We’ll feature insights from our expert clinicians about what mental health means to them, the major myths surrounding issues of mental health and illness, and how we can all work to help destigmatize those issues.
  • We’ll also highlight some different types of therapy, including couples counseling, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as some of the specialized therapy programs we offer at The Family Institute, like our Anxiety and Panic Treatment Program.
  • We’ll explore ways we can all mind our own health—both physically and mentally—to live healthier lives and build stronger family bonds.
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