Categories
Adolescence Bullying Communication Mental Health Parenting School Social Anxiety Stress

Time to Stop the Bullies

this is my own version of what bullying looks like

It hurts to be bullied. It hurts the spirit and the body, the confidence and self-worth. No one should have to live in that kind of fear or circumstance. So what are we going to do about it?

With the advent of the internet, bullying’s primary setting isn’t merely in schools and playgrounds anymore: it also thrives in the technological halls of the cyber world. It’s pervasive. There are two types of bullies:  popular, well-connected with social power, overly concerned about maintaining that popularity, and liking to be in charge. The second type tends to be the kid who is more isolated from their peers, easily pressured, has low self-esteem, is less involved in school and doesn’t easily identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Those at risk of being bullied are kids who are perceived as separate or different from the norms or social mores of our culture. They are often seen as weak, they tend to be anxious or depressed, they are less popular, and are often viewed as annoying or provocative. As a result, these kids are more susceptible to falling prey to bullying behaviors, behaviors which aren’t always as black and white as we once thought. Here are some examples:

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting/kicking/ pinching
  • Spitting
  • Pushing/Tripping
  • Intentionally breaking someone’s things;
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures.

Verbal bullying:

  • Name calling: weirdo, freak, fag, idiot, ad infinitum.
  • Teasing
  • Threats to cause harm

Social bullying:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose;
  • Telling others not to be friends with someone;
  • Rumor spreading;
  • Public humiliation.

Cyber bullying:

  • Mean text messages or emails;
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social media sites;
  • Fake profiles on sites like Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos

Keep in mind, the most reported bullying happens on school grounds: in the hallways and on recess yards. It also occurs travelling to and from school. But nothing is really sacred. Cyber bullying is growing like wildfire as kids become increasingly savvy with technology.

It’s common for kids who are being bullied not to tell anyone because they may be afraid of the vengeful repercussions from the bullies themselves. Bullying is, in its very nature, a power structure built on dominance and fear-driven control. When someone is being terrorized by fearful tactics, it takes an incredible amount of courage to seek help. In the mind of the bullied, it’s a risk they are not always willing to take, so instead, the fear gets internalized, making its appearance in various ways:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged possessions;
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches, feeling sick or faked illnesses;
  • Changes in eating habits: some may skip meals, some may binge. Some kids might come home hungry because their lunch was bullied away from them;
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia or nightmares;
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school at all;
  • Loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors: self-harming, running away, isolating, suicidal ideation.

Despite the fact that many schools have implemented anti-bullying policies, the administration doesn’t always carry them out in the most effective ways. I’ve experienced a principal in my son’s school who typically punishes the victim along with the bully, creating situation of victim-blaming, which encourages the bully and fundamentally creates shame in the bullied. In this particular case, a child ended up reverting inward and internalizing the fear, ultimately trying to handle it on his own. As a result, the persistent concern about being called a snitch or weak drove this child’s efforts toward self-directed management of the situation. Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for the bully, and in many ways, this maintains the bully’s position of control. Not surprisingly, the bullying hasn’t stopped.

As parents, we need to find safe, productive ways to stop bullying behaviors. We can:

  • Work with the teacher to help raise awareness in the classroom. There are activities geared toward educating  kids
  • Make regular appearances at the school. Sometimes, the mere presence of a parent can stop bullying in its tracks.
  • Get up to speed on those social networking sites and explore safer ways to navigate technology
  • Find ways to present a unified front against bullying.
  • Establish an anti-bullying task force or committee. There’s power in numbers.
  • Help establish an environment of tolerance, acceptance of others, and respect.

This is also a great opportunity to take your kids to see Bully or go see it yourself if you can. It’s a limited engagement, but one you don’t want to miss. Time to take charge and stop bullying in its tracks.

For more information and for resources, check out:

Stopbullying.gov

SoulShoppe

Challenge Day

Categories
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Recovery Therapy

Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders

Trichotillomania (TTM) is a type of body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) specifically characterized by impulsive pulling out of one’s hair from the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, or elsewhere on the body. According to the DSM-IV of the American Psychiatric Association, TTM must meet the following five criteria:

  1. Repetitive pulling of one’s own hair that results in noticeable hair loss.
  2. A feeling of tension prior to pulling or when trying to resist the behavior.
  3. Pleasure, gratification, or relief while engaging in the behavior.
  4. The behavior is not accounted for by another medical (or dermatological) or psychiatric problem (such as schizophrenia).
  5. Hair pulling leads to significant distress or impairment in one or more areas of the person’s life (social, occupational, or work).

Though this criteria is useful, there is some debate within the clinical and scientific communities about whether or not all five of these criteria are present in every case. Since there are many who suffer from debilitating hair pulling behaviors but don’t meet all of these criteria, efficient and effective treatment is still paramount to one’s health and well-being.

Signs and symptoms of Trichotillomania often include:

  • Repeatedly pulling your hair out, typically from your scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes, but it can be from other body areas as well;
  • A strong urge to pull hair, followed by feelings of relief after the hair is pulled;
  • Patchy bald areas on the scalp or other areas of your body;
  • Sparse or missing eyelashes or eyebrows;
  • Chewing or eating pulled-out hair;
  • Playing with pulled-out hair;
  • Rubbing pulled-out hair across your lips or face.

Onychophagia (nail-biting) and Dermatillomania (skin-picking) are other BFRBs but are characterized by compulsive skin picking and nail biting. Nail-biting is the most common of “nervous habit.” I’m not talking about the occasional cuticle or hangnail, or the occasional blemish that someone may pick or squeeze. Instead, someone who suffers from onychophagia picks or bites their nails or skin until they bleed, finding themselves using Band-Aids like accessories. As those suffering from TTM will wear hats to cover bald spots and the like, nail-biters will keep their hands in their pockets, sit on them, wear gloves or those Band-Aids I mentioned. Those who excessively pick at the skin on their faces will try to cover up with makeup or when things get really bad, go so far as to stay inside and isolate. I mention these two together, because they often make intermittent appearances in the same individual.

Nail-biting (onychophagia) facts include:

  • Common in individuals of all ages.
  • Up to 33% of children ages 7-10 bite their nails.
  • Nail-biting can be triggered by stress, boredom, or nervousness.
  • About half of all children between the ages of 10 and 18 bite their nails at one time or another. Nail-biting occurs most often during puberty.
  • Some young adults, ages 18 to 22 years, bite their nails.
  • Only a small number of other adults bite their nails. Most people stop biting their nails on their own by age 30.
  • Boys bite their nails more often than girls after age 10

Chronic skin picking (dermatillomania)is characterized by:

  • Inability to resist urges to pick at real or perceived blemishes in one’s skin
  • For some, mounting tension before one picks
  • For some, gratification and relaxation while picking
  • Noticeable sores or scarring on the skin
  • Increased distress and/or interference with daily life

BFRBs have been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They can sometimes be linked to a sign of emotional or psychological disorders. They are all compulsive disorders, but their manifestations have varying presentations: For some, the picking or pulling will occur during sedentary activities like watching TV, reading, driving or being a passenger in a car, talking on the phone, sitting in class, or sitting at a computer or a desk. At times, there might be focused intent which drives the behavior–for example, planning on picking or pulling at an area as soon as one arrives home. At other times, it’s happens without conscious awareness, and the individual only realizes they’ve picked or pulled when they see the resulting pile of hair, open scabs or bleeding fingers.

This can feel overwhelming, but there is help. For starters, you have to say something to someone and let them know you’re suffering.  Your doctor and/or therapist will then work with you and help you redirect the negative behaviors and create new, innocuous behaviors.

The following therapeutic modalities are typically used to treat BFRB:

(Sometimes, elements from some or all of the aforementioned modalities are used to meet the BFRB client’s needs.):

Alternative therapies are also used, but are not as researched or predictable in terms of their success.

Support groups can provide a wonderful place for fellowship and to create positive social reinforcements.

Keep in mind, What works for one person may not work for another. The key will be in finding the treatments that do work and committing to them. Nothing is impossible, but everything takes effort. Feeling better is worth your treatment endeavors.

 

For more info, check out:

https://www.trich.org/

Mayo Clinic

https://www.trich.org/dnld/ExpertGuidelines_000.pdf

Categories
Anniversary Blogs Recovery Service Therapy Treatment

Garth LeMaster, MA, LMFT – Outpatient Therapist

Garth Lemaster is precisely the type of person you want around in a crisis: he’s level-headed, straightforward, respectful, and honest. He shows up when he says he will and he always gives his heart and soul to his work. Garth is one of those therapists the kids seek out for their check-ins, and as a result, he spends the majority of his time at Visions session. It’s also not unusual to see Garth helping out with the day-to-day operations of Outpatient and the Day School, which shows how much of a team player he really is. Since 2007, Garth has been a wonderful source of goodwill for all of us at Visions; we are lucky to have him as part of our treatment team. I really can’t say enough kind things about Garth and neither could the staff:

“Garth is an amazing person!  His patient and calm demeanor is unparalleled.  It takes a lot to rattle Garth’s nerves…on occasion I try simply for entertainment (I know, it’s terrible) but I end up giving in before he does.  This way about him is reflected in his approach with the kids he works with as well.  His ability to listen is one among many and I’ve witnessed the lives that he has touched as a result.  Garth is one of those people who “so rocks” and has no idea!” —  Love Always, Natalie (IOP Staff Member and huge fan of Garth!)

“Garth is the quiet warrior of our team.  Families always know that Garth will be there with kind words, thoughtful insight and strength.  He meets his clients where they are, and he helps them find their inner strength in therapy.  We respect Garth and I, over the years, have found myself in Garth’s office when overwhelmed or in need of advice, always getting what I need as a co worker. Parents tell us that Garth is solely responsible for the change in both their lives and the lives of their teens. He would likely scoff at this and respond back that the family did the work, but Garth truly led the way.  Patrick says it best when he says that Garth is a ‘therapy ninja’!!  Thank you, Garth, for being an anchor at our outpatient location.” — Amanda Shumow

“If I had to pick someone from work to team up with on Survivor, I would pick Garth. The thing I love about Garth is his quality of character. He has an integrity that can be counted on. I’ve had the privilege to really watch him blossom as a therapist over the last 5 years, and I really appreciate the work that he does. He genuinely cares about the families and kids he works with. He is respectful and I greatly enjoy our occasional  political détente in the mornings—and while we don’t always agree, I love that he always listens and genuinely has care and concern for people.” — Joseph Rogers

“Garth is quiet strength for the kids.  Now, to get him to paint with us…!  –  Susan O’ Conner who’s best known as “The Art Lady.”

And without further adieu, let’s hear Garth’s answers to some of our curious questions:

1.  If you had wings where would you go?

The Hotel Caruso in Italy.

2.  Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?

IN N OUT: Double-double combo, hold the “animal,” I’m just a regular guy. 

3.  Last movie you watched in the theater?

The Gray.

4.  Favorite song to play on your guitar?

“Over the Hills and Far Away.”

5.  Have you watched any episodes of The Real Housewives on Bravo?

I’m proud to say no.

6.  What was your High School Mascot?

A wildcat.

7.  What is the best present you ever received?

Tivo.

8.  Soup or Salad?

Salad.

9.  Best word to describe your personality?

Mellow.

10.  Why do you choose to work for Visions?

I like helping kids, but I do so at Visions because the team is so good. It’s a really good place to work.

Categories
Adolescence Bullying Self-Care Sexuality

Starry-Eyed and Lovelorn in Adolescence

Remember when you were a teenager, falling in an out of love faster than your jeans could stay in style? Remember how devastating the subsequent heartbreak was when your current flight of fancy moved on? The drama and excitement of it all is exacerbated by adolescence. I can distinctly remember the all-or-nothing perspective I had when it came to love or what I thought was love as a teen. At times, it can be overwhelming and because there is sometimes a vacancy where parental trust should be, it can also be lonely.  Growing up is tough, and matters of the heart lend an element of pain to the already awkward, bungling nature of adolescence. And no, this isn’t a bash on being a teen. I was one once, and I will always remember the sense of untenable angst and confusion.

The truth is, relationships happen. All the time. They are an inevitable part of life unless you are a hermit, in which case, you may have some other issues to tend to. So, how do navigate that stormy sea? Let’s see:

  • Be yourself.  You are good enough just as you are. When we try to act like something or someone we’re not, we create expectations that may eventually lead to letdown. Ouch.
  • Mutual respect. You deserve to be being loved and respected for who you really are and not who someone wants you to be. Respect also means your partner will respect your boundaries without pushing you to accommodate their wants and needs.
  • Trust. It’s one of the most important ingredients in creating and maintaining relationships.  Are you overly jealous? Is your partner? Without trust, relationships tend to stand on rocky ground—this is true for friendships and romances.
  • Develop skillful communication: Ideally, you are in a relationship with someone who honors you and your feelings. If something is bothering you, talk about it. We hear this too often: “men and women speak different languages.” While this may be true at times, instead of shutting down, we can learn to ask for clarification when we don’t understand what’s being said.
  • Retain your autonomy. Sure, it can be fun to do absolutely everything with someone…for a while, but in doing so, have you made your boyfriend or girlfriend your “everything”?  Make time for those that were in your life before this relationship, and more than anything, make room for yourself. You should never have to give up things you like, or the friends you keep because your partner isn’t into them.

With the starry-eyed disposition of many adolescent relationships, it’s safe to say that many move with the tides, but sometimes things do go awry, presenting difficult challenges. Domestic violence can easily seep into teen relationships. The warning signs that this might be happening include:

  • Verbal abuse, including insults, unkind language, degradation.
  • Physical abuse, including slapping, shoving, of forcing sexual activity.
  • Control of who you spend time with and what activities you do: in other words, attempting to isolate you.

If you recognize any of these behaviors or recognize a friend or loved one who may be experiencing anything like this, get help. You deserve to be happy, not abused.

And remember: “Be who you are and say what you mean. Because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Seuss

Categories
Adolescence Anniversary Blogs Recovery

John Lieberman: Director of Operations

From the beginning, John Lieberman has been an integral part of the fabric that makes up Visions. In 2002, he came to us as a consultant, recruiting, doing outreach, and helping develop the initial building blocks which make Visions what it is now. After two years, John came on full-time and he’s never left. It’s hard to describe exactly what John does, because in truth, he does so much–if you were to ask him, he would divert you elsewhere!  The fact is, he is the first supportive face a desperate parent sees when they reach out for help. John is the initial guiding light that allows a scared, hopeless family to walk through one of the hardest periods in their lives: deciding to send their child to treatment and everything that entails. John does this with respect, compassion, and kindness; he is the one that makes sure the hand of Visions is always there for families, regardless of what stage of treatment they’re in.

But, the staff’s accolades really say it all:

Joseph Rogers, our Educational Director at our Outpatient Day School said, “John is a consistent person I turn to whenever someone comes to me with a family member or friend in crises.  I can always count on his ability to calmly help me find a solid resource when people need it most.  I feel John would be the kind of person I would most want with me when absolutely everything fell apart.

Christina Howard, our Director of Business Development had this to say: “Three words that best describe John Lieberman: Loyal, Dedicated and Passionate.  John’s drive to provide exemplary care for each and every family at Visions continually pushes the growth and depth of our clinical services.  His love for socks also make him extremely fashionable.”

Chris and Amanda Shumow placed their trust in John ten years ago. Their gratitude is endless: “What can I say about a man who has literally saved thousands of lives.  John has been an amazing partner, example of recovery and most of all one of our best friends.  John’s dedication is unparalleled.  Day or night, he is available to the staff and families at Visions.  He cares about each and every person that touches his life and tries to get them the help they need with us or somewhere else.  With over 20 years in the business of mental health and substance abuse, John has the experience and knowledge to make a difference.  To ask John about his job, he would say that he does community outreach, marketing, intake, crisis management, human resources, is a group home administrator….and may even plunge the toilet when necessary ;).  John sets the example of what it means to be humble and gracious no matter what he takes on.  Visions would not have the reputation it has without John Lieberman.

Hear what John had to say when we threw some wacky questions his way!

1.  If Chewbacca from Star Wars was your Best Friend where would you meet him for     lunch this weekend?

I would meet Chewbacca at Animal restaurant.

2.  Cats or Dogs?

Dogs

3.  “Early Bird Gets the Worm” or “Slow and Steady Wins the Race”?

The slow ones get eaten first.

4.  If you won the Miss America pageant what would you wish for?

World peace.

5.  What was the last song you were listening to?

Mumford and Sons “Little Lion Man”

6.  How do you like your steak?

Rare

7. Favorite memory with your granddaughter?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Coffee or Tea?

COFFEE

9. What was your best Halloween costume?

Dressed up like a pimp with the Shumows

10. What does Visions mean to you?

Visions is what dreams are made of! Almost from the day I got sober I wanted to be able to give back the love, fun and acceptance that was shown to me. The treatment center I went through made me feel safe. Visions is a safe place for families and their kids.

Categories
Body Image Eating Disorders Mental Health Recovery

Recovery: Living With ED

Being in recovery from an eating disorder isn’t a finite thing. There are days when the disordered thoughts may come rushing in, triggered by outside sources . There may be times where our body dysmorphia gets the upper hand and we can’t discern reality from our own delusion.  There also may be times when we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who’s at the tipping point of their own eating disorder. Typically, these types of circumstances are not emotionally safe, but in many ways,  they provide opportunities to engage in the practice of self-care: Ask for help, and whenever possible, walk away.

Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are tricky: the risk of sliding is always there, because, well, we HAVE to eat. Our bodies require the fuel, the love, and the dedicated care that feeding ourselves provides. But even in recovery with days, months, or even years of abstinence, there may be some rough days where we may get off track. The trick there is, do you have enough tools in your recovery tool box to ask for help and stop ED in its tracks?

Recovery from an eating disorder or disordered eating is a process. It’s an exercise in letting go of control and learning to trust those in your circle of support instead of the distorted voices of irrationality.  You may find that the practice of self-care will be the pièce de résistance in your recovery. Eventually, we discover that we are eating because we are being kind to ourselves. We are eating because we deserve to be healthy. When we feed ourselves,  we are taking care of this incredible body that we get to hang out in.

Here are some ways to practice healthy self care (adapted from this list from NEDA):

  • Remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. There is not “right” way to look.
  • Celebrate all of the amazing things your body can do, like: breathe, run, jump, laugh, dream!
  • Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself that are NOT related to the way you look or how much you weigh.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. .
  • Use positive affirmations when the negative internal tapes start playing. You can even place post-its with positive affirmations on them in strategic places: like on your mirrors!
  • Wear clothes that are comfortable. In other words, work with your body, not against it.
  • Take care of yourself: get a manicure, go on a hike, take a bubble bath, read a good book.
  • Schedule some “do nothing” time so you can recharge.
  • Be mindful of your media intake and the messages you receive. Pay attention to messages that make you feel bad about yourself. Say something and maybe you can effect some change!
  • Be of service. Helping others gets us out of ourselves and into service. This is another way to make some positive changes.

As we continue down this path of recovery, our care for ourselves will allow us to care for those around us. We are so much more than our outsides.

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Resources:

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

National Association for Males with Eating Disorders

International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals

Eating Disorders Coalition

Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Resource Center

Voice in Recovery