Change Is It Possible

Bullying has become an epidemic. It is seen in both children and adults alike. People have begun to use bullying as a way to make themselves feel better about whatever inadequacies they may have. I guess one could argue that it has always been used for this purpose, it is just more noticeable because of the internet and social media. Adults seem to be bullying more than the children, especially celebrities who should be seen as role models. It is very difficult to try and get a child to understand the consequences of bullying when that is all that they see.

Children have always had a certain level of teasing a cruelty, but once again access to computers make matters much worse. 20 years ago a child could be teased on the playground and that was that. They could escape to their home life. With the use us social media though, there is no escape. The ridicule is everywhere and can reach the entire world in a matter of seconds. The epidemic has become so bad that it has formed a new epidemic of suicide. All children are not able to cope with the mass humiliation that social media can bring. It is important that parents understand that depression and suicide are very real and that children can suffer from them just like adults. We cannot write of bullying as a childhood learning experience. I participate in a youth group at my church. In this group there is a young girl who is maturing faster than the other girls. As a result, the other girls, who are clearly jealous, tease here about her figure and call her ‘fast’. They have no proof other than the fact that she has matured faster than them and that the boys are noticing her more. I pulled the young lady to the side to try and talk to her to get a feel of how she was feeling. Her response was’ I’ll be okay I was told to toughen up and that is what I will do”. This broke my heart. Though it is important to have a thick skin this was definitely not what an adult should have told a child. What if she was not able to ‘Toughen up’ and the bullying led to something worse.

It is imperative that we come together in the fight against bullying because if we don’t our children will continue to be lost.

Teenage Heartbreak

Teenage Heartbreak

Take a stroll down memory lane and think back to your first love — Remember all the warm feelings and excitement surrounding this new person in your life. Then after several months, several years, or even several weeks you two break-up and sudden doom has surrounded your heart.

As an adult, it is easy for us to disregard teen love or even forget our first love/heartbreak experience. We may deem the teenage love as puppy love, infatuation, and lust.  And it may very well be these things. However, it is well known that teenage heartbreak is a significant precipitator to suicidal thoughts. It is important to not ignore or belittle the disappointment our teens may be experiencing.  For this time in their life, these feelings are very real and intense.  So although wisdom and experience has afforded us the knowledge that the heart is resilient, will heal and there is “plenty of fish in the sea”, teens do not have this foreknowledge.  It may be condescending to a teen to say, “cheer up!” or “it’s not that bad!”  Acknowledge their pain and sadness. If appropriate, share your story about your first love and heartbreak and how you battled the feelings of sadness.  Don’t use this break-up as an opportunity to rag on their ex and declare you never liked them anyway. Be a good listener.  Encourage them to spend time with friends and family. If the heartbreak persists or increases, seek professional help!


Sad, Maybe Mad, But not Bad!

Depression is often confused with being only sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, tearfulness, and emptiness. However, with children and teens depression has many faces. Children and adolescents who cause problems at home or school are often defiant to the rules, argumentative with parents and teachers, hostile towards siblings and peers, skipping classes, running away from home, engaging in risky behavior, and making poor decisions. As adults we tend to concentrate on fixing the “bad” behavior and end up making many negative statements and judgments, and giving ultimatums. But if we take the time to listen, often times we will find that there may be simply anger and sadness underneath all the “bad” behavior. We need to resist the urge to lecture or criticize. It’s easy to tell them to just stop it, but when we do they feel like we just don’t get it, and then we discredit ourselves. Depression can be very dangerous if untreated. So if you see these warning signs, now you can focus on taking positive steps to help them. Contact us so we can help you help them.

Does Music Increase Substance Use?

Music = sustance abuse

I work at a facility that encourages our clients to listen to music as a coping skill.  We even have a group called Music Therapy where they listen to songs that inspire them to journal.  However, is the music that my clients listen to productive or detrimental to their well-being?

Now a days, when I turn on the radio to whatever station (pop, rap, country, you name it) within my 40 minute drive to work, I hear at least ONE song referring to substance use.  The latest (and most horrific in my opinion) song that I’ve heard is “Coco” by O.T. Genasis.  At first I thought the singer was saying “I’m in love with the Po-po”, which made no sense to me at all.  I truly did not understand what this singer was saying really until the song reached the refrain.  Here is the refrain:

Bakin’ soda, I got bakin’ soda

Bakin’ soda, I got bakin’ soda

Whip it through the glass (bleep)

I’m blowin’ money fast (bleep)

I censored the refrain for professional reasons, but listening to the refrain disturbed me.  He’s not in love with the police…. he’s in love with cocaine.  How does a client like mine, who may be recovering from an addiction, benefit from this song?  NADA!  If anything, I see this song may encourage relapse.

This is not the first and most likely will not be the last controversial song on the radio.  Back in April of last year, Tove Lo produced a song “Habits (Stay High)”.  That song stayed in the Top 100 US Singles for 32 weeks!  What did this song speak of?  Of course using marijuana and promoted promiscuity to numb feelings.  Yes our life experiences can be painful.  Yes we can turn to drugs or alcohol to bandage the hurt.  But, do we truly want the radio to promote this lifestyle?

I think back to when I was a teenager trying to discover my identity and ways to keep my sanity with crazy hormones.  Of course, there were songs related to my teenage years referring to drugs, like “Because I Got High” by Afroman.  But, I never paid attention to song lyrics, just the melody.  So what’s the difference between the 2000’s and now?  The lyrics are becoming more explicit, straight-forward and peer pressuring than ever.  Some of them have a catchy melody, but if you truly listen to the lyrics are you enjoying the message?

As a non-parent, I’m concerned for those that do have future generations growing up listening to these lyrics.  I challenge you to ask your children or teenagers what they perceive from these lyrics.  Their answer might worry some of you.  Take action and talk to your children or teenagers about the music they are listening to.  Keeping open communication with your children will promote a bond of trust.  With trust, your children may be less susceptible to substance use.  Let’s return our society back to healing.

When Facing Boiling Water

When Facing Boiling Water

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire.

Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup.

Turning to her, he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?” “Potatoes, eggs and coffee,” she hastily replied.

“Look closer”, he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft.

He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

“Father, what does this mean?” she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity-the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.

“Which one are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Moral: In life, things happen around us, things happen to us, but the only thing that truly matters is how you choose to react to it and what you make out of it. Life is all about leaning, adopting and converting all the struggles that we experience into something positive.

Teenage Self-Injury

Problems of teenagers


As a counselor for adolescents and their families I’ve come across a rise in teenage self-injury.  To improve my knowledge of this wave of teenage self-injury I’ve read many books and articles on self-injury to help me as a counselor and help my clients reduce the self injury behaviors.  Here is an article that I’ve run across many time by the New York Times, its very informative and helpful to counselors and parents of children and teens who self-injure.

“I feel relieved and less anxious after I cut. The emotional pain slowly slips away into the physical pain.”

“It’s a way to have control over my body because I can’t control anything else in my life.”

“It expresses emotional pain or feelings that I’m unable to put into words.”

“I usually feel like I have a black hole in the pit of my stomach. At least if I feel pain it’s better than nothing.”

These are some of the reasons young people have given for why they deliberately and repeatedly injure their own bodies, a disturbing and hard-to-treat phenomenon that experts say is increasing among adolescents, college students and young adults.

Experts urge parents, teachers, friends and doctors to be more alert to signs of this behavior and not accept without question often spurious explanations for injuries, like “I cut myself on the countertop,” “I fell down the stairs” or “My cat scratched me.”

The sooner the behavior is detected and treated, the experts maintain, the more quickly it is likely to end without leaving lasting physical scars.

There are no exact numbers for this largely hidden problem, but anonymous surveys among college students suggest that 17 percent of them have self-injured, and experts estimate that self-injury is practiced by 15 percent of the general adolescent population.

Experts say self-injury is often an emotional response, not a suicidal one, though suicide among self-injurers is a concern.

The Canadian Mental Health Association describes it this way: “Usually they are not trying to end all feeling; they are trying to feel better. They feel pain on the outside, not the inside.”

Janis Whitlock, a psychologist who has interviewed about 40 people with histories of self-injury and is participating in an eight-college study of it, says the Internet is spreading the word about self-injury, prompting many to try it who might not otherwise have known about it.

“There is a rising trend for teens to discuss cutting on the Internet and form cutting clubs at school,” the Canadian association has stated.

Celebrities, too, have contributed to its higher profile. Among those who have confessed to being self-injurers are the late Princess Diana,Johnny DeppAngelina Jolie, Nicole Richie, Richie Edwards, Courtney Love and the lead singer on the Garbage band album “Bleed Like Me.”

Common self-injuries include carving or cutting the skin, scratching, burning, ripping or pulling skin or hair, pinching, biting, swallowing sublethal doses of toxic substances, head banging, needle sticking and breaking bones. The usual targets are the arms, legs and torso, areas within easy reach and easily hidden by clothing.

Self-injury can become addictive. Experts theorize that it may be reinforced by the release in the brain of opioidlike endorphins that result in a natural high and emotional relief.

Dr. Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults, said in an interview that self-injury mainly seemed to function to “self-regulate feelings and help people cope with overwhelming negative emotions they have no other way to dispel.”

Self-injury makes some people feel part of a group. Teenagers who self-injure often report that there is no adult they could talk to who accepts them for who they are.

“A 13-year-old can go on the Internet and instantly find community and get hitched to this behavior,” Dr. Whitlock said. “When they don’t want to self-injure anymore, it means they have to leave a community.”

Self-injury can be manipulative, an effort to make others care or feel guilty or to drive them away. More often, though, it is secretive. Self-injurers may try to hide wounds under long pants and long sleeves even in hot weather, and may avoid activities like swimming.

Who Is Vulnerable?

Self-injury often starts in the emotional turmoil of the preteen and early teenage years and may persist well into adulthood.

Although female self-injurers are more likely to be seen by a professional, in-depth studies indicate that the behavior is practiced equally by young men and women. No racial or socioeconomic group has been found to be more vulnerable, although self-injury is slightly less common among Asians and Asian-Americans, Dr. Whitlock said.

Interviews with self-injurers have found background factors that may prompt and perpetuate the behavior. A history of childhood sexual, and especially emotional, abuse has been reported by half or more of self-injurers. Some seek relief from the resulting emotional pain. Others self-inflict pain to punish themselves for what they perceive as their role in inviting the abuse.

Low self-esteem is common among self-injurers. Childhood neglect, social isolation and unstable living conditions have also been cited as risk factors. In about 25 percent of self-injurers, there is a history ofeating disorders, as well as an overlap with risky drinking and unsafe sex.

The families of self-injurers commonly suppress unpleasant emotions. Children grow up not knowing how to express and deal with anger and sadness, instead turning emotional pain on themselves. Depression, for example, is often described as anger turned inward.

Although 60 percent of self-injurers have never had suicidal thoughts, self-injury can be a harbinger of suicidal behavior. It can also accidentally result in suicide.

“Those who self-injure should be evaluated for suicidal potential,” Dr. Whitlock said. There is some evidence that self-injury is more common among those with family histories of suicide. And some self-injurers suffer from chronic yet treatable emotional problems like depression,anxietypost-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Self-injury can be set off by certain events like being rejected by someone important, feeling wronged or being blamed for something over which the person had no control.


Although there are no specific medications to treat self-injury, drugs that treat underlying emotional problems like depression and anxiety can help. Most effective in general is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called dialectical behavior therapy. People learn skills that help them better tolerate stress, regulate their emotions and improve their relationships.

The therapy also helps them see themselves not as victims, but as powerful agents, Dr. Whitlock said.

In addition, self-injurers can learn more wholesome ways to relieve stress like practicing meditation or yoga, engaging in vigorousphysical activity or reaching out to a friend.

Some self-injurers have noted that they can sometimes avoid the behavior, Dr. Whitlock said, simply by doing something else for several minutes when the urge arises.