Teens and Depression

While children develop self-esteem through mastery. Teens develop independence through testing limits and exploring their sense of identity. Often, teens experience depression and anxiety at this developmental stage, it is common with this age group!  Therapy can help your child feel less alone while navigating this typical emotional journey.  Using traditional talk therapy in addition to art and play therapy encourages your teen to access their feelings in the way they feel most comfortable. Ultimately, working with a therapist can provide a teen with a safe space to explore the big changes happening in their world.

Summer can be a particularly difficult time for teens experiencing depression—the lack of structure and focus of a school schedule and peers can often create a sense of disconnection in their lives.  If you notice your teen sleeping to excess, withdrawing socially, and exhibiting signs of hopelessness, therapy can help. With both individual counseling and/or a Teen Coping Skills group, we can find help your teen find their way back from whatever darkness they are facing.

In the wake of Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why, (a popular teen-aged revenge suicide series) mental health professionals and parents alike have recognized the need to speak frankly with teens about suicide and ways to get help with depression. Living with a depressed teenager is difficult; nothing is scarier than wondering where your once-joyful child has gone. Not knowing how to help your child through their darkness can feel overwhelming. We encourage you to reach out; we will be here on the other end to help both you and your teen.

 

 

- Erin McMenamin

 

 

Honoring The Process

Sometimes clients act surprised when I disclose that I struggle with life too. I’m not sure why they are surprised, but knowledge cannot insulate you from real life. We never want a client to think that we (collectively) as therapists have it all figured out, trust me- we don’t. We do spend lots of time feeling, verbalizing and practicing emotions, but that does not protect us from the harsh brokenness of reality. Life has a way of happening anyway.

I want to share with you that all of us (Bonnie, Ruthie, Erin, and I- Lisa) are really feeling broken this week. As a group we are in grief, confusion, and mourning. We very suddenly lost our therapist teammate Mary Ellen Peterson last week. She experienced a catastrophic stroke last Saturday night, and passed away, surrounded by her family, about 4 days later.

MaryEllen.jpg

Mary Ellen was a fierce woman. I have often said that I want to be her when I grow up, and I still do! She was a wise, balanced, hilarious, caring, warm, selfless, and fearless woman. Mary Ellen had been a therapist for almost 40 years. Forty years of hearing the stories and helping in the lives of so many people. She wasn’t jaded, or cynical, even after walking alongside probably thousands of hurting people. Her compassion was unrelenting in spite of the depth and marathon of honest humanity that she lived in daily. I saw her live out her care and respect for others, literally, until the day she died. 

Mary Ellen’s professional experience always reminded and advised us as fellow therapists to “respect the process.” Clinically, the process refers to the natural progression of a human experience.  Most often you can’t force change in the process, but you can work to influence it.  Life is a process too, and it always concludes with death. That is a harsh concept for most of us living people. Death is a reality for all; your entire life process will conclude with death too. If I could have asked Mary Ellen to help us through this, she would encourage us towards acceptance of her own process coupled with joy for the life she had lived.

We will choose joy for her, but we will still mourn for the loss we all feel. We will faithfully walk this road despite our grief. Mary Ellen was loved by many people and she is gone much too soon. We will miss her wise but spunky self. We will miss her head-to-toe coordinated outfits, we will miss her warm spirit and acceptance of all people.  We will honor her and her life’s work by continuing in our own work, having been influenced by her.

And in living our own authentic lives we have to stick together during these painful days. As a group we will cry and laugh together if we need it. We will try to do self care (read: chocolate and naps and laughing for me), and we will honor her life process. We won’t turn away from the pain, we will bear it as part of our own process, blessedly intertwined with hers.

Play Therapy

People often ask me, "What does play therapy mean?"
"Do you play with my child to get them to talk?"   or   "How does play become therapy?"

Traditional talk therapy can feel daunting to children. In order for a healing and recovery process to occur, a child must feel safe and comfortable in the counseling session. They also need to have the freedom to access the world and their experiences in a way that feels safe and natural to them - this is why children play. 

Play is the natural language of children.  Through play, a child can explore, learn, and master elements of their world. Children typically do not possess the cognitive or verbal skills to adequately express challenging emotions and experiences through words. Parents and counselors desire for children to learn new skills, overcome problem behaviors, or process painful events in therapy. In order for therapy to be beneficial to the child, the therapist must be able to interact with the child in a way that best suits the child's needs. What better way to do that than in the way that the child is most developmentally wired for  -- their play.

In play therapy, the play allows for children to express themselves freely in the language they understand. It can look like art, drama, games, or imaginative play.  Through playing children make sense of their world. Their experiences, relationships, and traumas become less overwhelming as the child controls them in the safe world of their play.  As the child plays, they can safely master tasks and emotions that are otherwise overwhelming to them.  

As a therapist who works with children, I am committed to building a healing relationship based on the child's comfort and strengths.  If this means painting, playing, and getting messy in order to help the child grow -- then I sit on the floor covered in paint with them. It is in these moments when a child is fully accepted as who they are that they heal and grow. 

Imagine being fully accepted while talking in the language you understand best- that's always my vision for successful play therapy. 

-Ruthie Weiglein

Center of Effort

Before I became a Psychologist, I had the same summer job every summer for 6 years. I was a sailing instructor. It was a really great job; I spent every day out in small sailboats teaching people how to harness the wind. Every day was different and there were long, hot windless days where you floated around, praying for even a small puff of wind and days when the wind made you feel like you might get blown across the ocean. It was always an adventure, because you never knew what you might encounter. Despite the variety of conditions on the water, the challenge was that you had only a few tools to be able to get where you wanted or needed to go. You had your boat, your sails, your hands, and your brain.  As I reflect on this great experience of my past, it is clear to me that learning to sail a boat is a lot like therapy.

I won’t bore you with sailing physics, but there is one notable principle that I want to tell you about. It’s called the Center of Effort. This is the idea that there is a specific place on the sails in which the wind interacts with the boat/sails and the result is that the boat moves forward. Here is a (complicated) diagram: 

 

This concept is also abbreviated by this symbol:

Center of Effort2.jpg

 

This concept is a great metaphor for therapy because successful therapy is about moving forward by putting effort into the right places. No effort results in zero movement, too much effort in the wrong places will leave you feeling out of control. The point of therapy is to use the tools you have, in the conditions you’re working with, to progress forward in a meaningful way. Therapy never solves your problems, it just assists you to navigate challenges with the outcome of moving forward. Once you start moving forward you can more clearly see the path ahead and face the challenges that life will inevitably bring. 

-Dr. Mazzio

What is good therapy?

What is Good Therapy?

Part One of Two

Therapy can seem mysterious or unknown, because the real work happens behind a closed door. By nature, people don’t tend to talk about therapy and there is no public observation by which you can see what you are signing up for before you “buy it.” The good news is that even though there are lots of different types of therapy/therapists that a person can receive services from, there are a few factors that can help you recognize quality services. Here are a few things to look out for so you know you are getting both good and effective therapy:

1. A comfortable relationship that includes trusting your therapist

Comfort with your therapist means that you feel like they “get” you. This is the part that feels like friendship (even though you are not friends outside of the therapy room). What kind of person are you most comfortable with? Are they warm? sarcastic? emotional? a problem solver? Maybe you know you prefer a more directive style or, on the contrary, a gentle style when you are exploring and evaluating an area of your life that needs growth. Does the therapist match your energy level and does he or she engage in what feels like good conversation with you, or do you feel like you carry the conversation all the way through? You should feel like you can be really, painfully, honest about your struggles and inner thoughts. The more open and honest you are, the better progress you can make. This means talking about stuff that sometimes isn’t typically discussed in life outside of a therapy room. That level of honesty is normal (and effective!) in therapy and we therapists actually encourage you to leave your filter off with us. Plus, we promise not to judge you, no matter how weird you think something sounds.

2. Session frequency that allows for momentum

This can mean something different for different people. In our practice we see many people on a weekly basis for a time and then appointments become more spread out so you practice your new skills and tools between sessions. Generally, when someone is not in a crisis and have found their new “groove”, its normal to transition to seeing your therapist every other week, or even on a monthly basis until you mutually decide that you have met your goals. It may sound strange, but we love working ourselves out of our job with you because that means you achieved your goals. Watching people make gains and be successful is the best part of our job!

3. Goal focused treatment

This is an area that we are passionate about at Watermark. In the clinical world we refer to the goals as a treatment plan. A treatment plan is a document that outlines what you are working on with your therapist. It is written by your therapist (ideally as a collaboration with you) early on in your treatment. A treatment plan is a list of identified areas of growth that serves as your “map” for the therapy process.  It is a concrete starting point. An example of a treatment plan goal is: “Person X will learn new coping strategies for responding to feelings of anxiety” or “Person X will be gain insight into past failed relationships to assist them in their new relationship.”  You get the idea… they are statements about what you are working to change. If you are wondering what you are doing in therapy, ask to see your treatment plan.

I love to ask people in a first session the following question: “Imagine that we are in the future and you are finished with therapy, what are some of the areas in your life that may have changed? The answer to this is where you should be spending your time during therapy. If you feel stuck in therapy, ask about your treatment plan. If you don’t have a treatment plan, ask to create one with your or do therapy with a therapist who utilizes this structure. It’s a best practice and it is important.

 

 

 

Watermark has a blog!

Welcome to our blog! We will be posting monthly writings by our clinicians on topics that we hope you find both interesting and helpful. One part of your therapeutic success is you having access to information that is helpful. This blog is one of the ways that we are able to communicate information to you that we hope will be both relevant and encouraging. In our practice, we are committed to you having a positive and successful experience with us.