When my daughter first started Kindergarten, we waited anxiously to find out who her teacher would be. Our school kept us in anticipation as they didn’t post the classroom assignments until the night before class started. Considering a busy life and the excitement and importance of a good night of sleep, our family made the decision to just wait until the morning of school. Afterall, we love the school and went through a lot of trouble to get into it. How bad could a teacher they choose be?
Morning arrived, and like all first time Kindergarten moms, I was just as nervous as my daughter was. We looked at the classroom assignment together and saw the last name, Wassather. Ok, maybe a bit hard to pronounce, but could be shortened to Mrs. W. We walked to class expecting a loving, kind, smart, friendly and qualified Female teacher. To our surprise we were greeted at the door by a Male Teacher!
I will admit, I was shocked, Men don’t teach Kindergarten? Where was the soft cuddly female I expected? Mr. W. could see the look of dismay on my face and all I could say was, “we were expecting a female”. Mr. W. simply replied, “well I am a male”. Internally a chorus of thoughts were running through my head, my daughter will never feel comfortable. She will never trust a man. She is scared of men! This will never work!
At this point, I should call myself out, yes that is judgmental. Yes, it was sexist, and yes, it was a stereotype, but hey I grew up in a world where men didn’t teach Kindergarten! I had to really take a close look at what my own biases and judgements were. I had to remind myself that I trust this school and that they trust him. While glad that our school allows the parents to stay for a while the first day, I was skeptical but put on a strong face. This will be ok, I thought. It has to be.
And it was! My daughter had an amazing 2 years, (our school has a K/1 combo class). Our school is also a parent participation school so I got the opportunity to work with Mr. W, see him in action and to really change my biases. He was one of the most caring Kindergarten teachers I ever met. He had excellent classroom management skills, the kids learned a lot and he handled things well in each situation he was presented with. The parents and I would giggle later when we reflected that in Kindergarten Round Up, the school decided to take all of the crying children and put them in the classroom with the kindest teacher who could meet their needs and help them with the transition in a kind, consistent and firm matter.
I am grateful that I didn’t listen to my judgements and my biases and took a chance on a male Kindergarten teacher. My daughter learned so much and I would have regretted not having done so. As I think now that he was the perfect first school teacher. I had to really re-evaluate my way of thinking becoming more aware of stereotypes and sexism, and how ingrained and prevalent they are. My children are both comfortable with men now and can see them as kind, not scary.
I have been forced to look at this issue in my life once again as a Therapy Practice owner. I like to have a diverse staff, I hire from different cultural backgrounds and thought it would be great to have both male and female therapist. However, over the years I noticed that it was very difficult to fill up the schedule of my male therapist. Turns out, I am not the only one with a bias.
In my profession, female therapists outnumber male therapists. I think of the wonderful men that I’ve worked with over the years and how qualified they are but how much harder they have to work to get children and teen clients. When I worked at a school, the male counselors were treated differently than the females. Female therapist were allowed to cover the window on our door for privacy, but the men had to make sure anyone could see in at all times.
Is this sexism? Is it an unfair bias? Is it founded on reality? These are hard questions to answer. However, I can’t deny that men are the perpetrators of abuse and women the victims, the opposite is true as well. Women have been found to be perpetrators and men the victims as well. The #metoo movement has called to light some of the horrific things that have been tolerated for far too long. I support this, however I don’t want male staff to be demonized due to it.
It is an ongoing struggle for me to make sense of the existence of Sexual Assault, and balance the need for a guarantee of safety in an unsafe world. What I have learned is that I have to make every effort to judge the person on who they are, not what gender they are. Afterall it is my reputation on the line. I have worked hard over the years to make sure that I am picky when hiring and that I only allow therapist to work for me that I trust. Still I take safety precautions and work very closely with any new hire male or female, evaluating their work, asking for feedback from their clients etc.….
For a child or teen who is looking at therapy, seeing the person qualified for them is the most important thing. Research shows that goodness of fit is the most determining factor in the outcome of therapy. I hope that my staff will be looked at for their qualifications and skills and not their gender, race, sexual identity or age. All therapists have something unique to offer and giving someone a chance who might be different then you expected can be an amazing opportunity for growth.
By: Ingrid Higgins, MFT
Campbell Teen is proud to have two of the most professional, skilled and empathic male therapists on our diverse staff!
Mitchell Gale, AMFT (#115000)
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Faith Based Counseling
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Nelson Saez, ACSW (#75017)
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Safe Sex: Not Just About STDs and Pregnancy Anymore.
By: Ingrid Higgins, LMFT
Teens have been taught about safe sex practices for decades. Most teens are knowledgeable enough to know that you need to use protection to avoid an unwanted pregnancy or STD. However, in today’s day and age, that information is not enough to truly practice “safe sex”.
The issue of consent to engage in sexual activity as a college student is a topic that is now being addressed in a different way. Society has been forced to redefine “date rape”, and there is now the category of “nonconsensual sex” which is a way to define a “rape” that was not forced because the victim was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.” (Oliver, Kelly, Americana (1553-8931), 15538931, Fall2015, Vol. 14, Issue 2).
College students are encouraged to not just get consent, but to get “Affirmative Consent”. Affirmative consent is defined as: the voluntary, mutual, and knowing decision among all parties to engage in sexual activity (Halley, 2016).
College students have to ask the questions, if you are incapacitated, can you honestly consent? Does remaining silent and not saying no mean that you are saying yes? Does shrugging your shoulders and saying “ok, I guess” mean yes? Is desire equal to consent?
Affirmative Consent is not a policy only for college Students. High school students can just as easily find themselves in a situation that could be considered “date rape” or “nonconsensual sex”. Rather then the traditional “no means no”, teens and young adults are asked to adhere to the concept that “yes means yes” instead. In order to avoid problems youth are encouraged to engage in a discussion about sexual activity, more then just a simple yes or nod of the head.
To increase awareness about this new concept, We-Consent™ has developed a set of three apps that can be used on a smart phone to protect the parties about to engage in sexual activity. We-Consent™ makes a recording of verbal affirmative consent, the What-About-No™ app provides a clear record of the answer of NO, and the Changed-Mind™ App can helps teens or young adults tell their partner “not now”, gently.
At CTFT, we believe that education is key. Parents or educators who teach teens about safe sex should be encouraged to cover the topic of affirmative consent. At CTFT we can help parents learn how to talk to teens about this difficult topic.
If your teen or young adult has been a victim of “nonconsensual sex”, there is help available. At CTFT our Therapists are trained to assess for rape and/or trauma associated with sexual assault. Our staff specializes in a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help the victims heal. Contact us today so that we may help you or your teen get on the road to recovery.
Stephanie Chase, MFT InternAuthor
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
With the buzz of graduation season already underway, families are beginning to contemplate the changes that are about to happen in their families. Much has been written about the effect this transition has on the parents and the adolescent leaving, but what do we know about the siblings who are left behind? In the months leading up to the launch, they experience the effects of the preparation consuming the lives of their parents and the college student-to-be. They may realize that the show isn’t about them, but they often wish they had more of a supporting role. They might begin to realize that their experience at home is about to change, and that their relationship with their older sibling is changing also.
Oftentimes, older siblings take on the role of a “superhero” or “go to guide” to offer insight and solutions into everyday life situations. Younger siblings typically experience a sense of loss of companionship, support, and/or activity level in the house (fewer guests, phone calls, sporting events to attend, etc.) when their older sib moves away. Changes in the family system can include a second child moving up to the position of the oldest child at home, or becoming only kid at home. With fewer children to divide the parents’ attention, the remaining ones can experience increased pressure. Perhaps their parents become more focused on their younger kids personal or academic lives, or perhaps they are struggling to cope with the changes themselves.
Symptoms that a left-behind sibling may be challenged by the transition can include: Irritability, loneliness, isolation, anger, denial, a drop in grades, avoidance of family members, and/or increased sibling rivalry.
Parents can help by reflecting on their parenting style to see if it has changed. They can evaluate if the change is in the best interest of their younger child or part of their own coping process. They can also talk openly about the changes, validate feelings, give extra space and time, and help sibs to understand the transition by having a clear plan for who will take up the responsibilities of the sib who has moved out. Parents can also encourage their college student to keep in touch with their younger siblings.
Sometimes, no matter how much parents prepare for or discuss the change, their younger children may still have a difficult time. This is a natural season to connect with a therapist and explore the transition and its effects. A therapist will help develop coping skills, increase family communication, process the loss and identify the positives in the new situation. For families, having a child leave the nest is an organic phase of life to move through. Having an understanding of what to expect and how to support the process is beneficial to all.
John Souchak, MFTI
Most of us have experienced childhood fears. Some even anxiety. Often as adults we outgrow these fears, and it can be difficult to identify what is a typical childhood fear and what is not.
For some teens, this type of fear isn’t something that you just “outgrow.” It is a constant pattern which can interfere with sleeping, eating, or hanging out with friends. Thoughts start to rise up, and with it, they become nervous or anxious. It’s like little flames that lick at their heels and won’t leave them alone. The thoughts continue, anxiety increases, and now the flames are all around them. Next the thoughts hold them mercilessly in their grip. It can feel like a monster or a dragon is ready to pounce. The dragon tells them, “if you don’t do my ritual someone will get hurt or die,” “things must be perfect, nothing can be out of order,” or “this world is unsafe, full of germs.”
The more they think these thoughts (obsessions), the worse the thoughts get. The only thing that will make those go away is to count, tap something, or wash their hands excessively. Only then do the thoughts and feelings start to fade. The dragon vanishes. They feel relief for a while, but it’s not over--the dragon isn’t gone, it was only in a cave. And when the dragon creeps out of the cave again, maybe hours later or the next day, it's even stronger, and the thoughts and feelings are even bigger. So they count, they tap, they do what they can to make the feeling go away. As the pattern is repeated over and over (compulsions), it becomes more entrenched. It feels like they must count, they must take a certain number of steps, they must wash their hands. What started small becomes a flaming terror that rises up, over and over again.
While this can be scary or depressing, teens don’t have to suffer. Through a therapeutic practice known as ERP (exposure response prevention), they can loosen the grip of the dragon. Step by step teens learn to expose themselves to the things that make them anxious and delay the compulsion. After working this way, the symptoms will reduce. Gradually, they learn to face the dragon. This doesn’t mean that the dragon vanishes forever, or they don’t have thoughts and feelings that are big and sometimes scary. Every time they are successful in delaying the compulsion it starves the dragon who eventually becomes smaller and smaller. The need to feed the dragon will pass, and they can become become the Dragon Master.
Symptoms and Rituals of OCD
Here are some common symptoms for teens struggling with OCD:
1/31/2015 0 Comments
I have a friend. Her name is Worry. Her job is to protect me. When I have something important to do, she will push me to do it. She will make sure I do a great job. If I need to study, then she will make sure I do. If I need to practice before a game, she will make me. She ensures that I am kind to friends and respectful to authority figures.
However, sometimes she gets scared. She thinks others will hurt me. She wants to protect me. In order to keep me safe she must get really big, bigger even than me. She tells me all of the bad things about people so that I won’t try to be too close to them. Sometimes, if that doesn’t work, if I can still see the good in people, then she will start to attack me. She will tell me all of the bad things about myself. She will convince me that others do not like me. She is not mean; she is my friend. She does not want me to get hurt. She will do anything to protect me.
When she gets like this, she is no longer my friend, Worry; she is now a monster named Anxiety. I should make her go away, but if I let her go, I might get hurt. I might not do well in school. She might be right; people can hurt me. So I let her live here in my room. She wears me down slowly. She has the power to hurt my body. She can give me headaches, neck aches, jaw aches, backaches and stomachaches. She can make sure I will never get rid of Worry, she will tie Worry to my back, but can do it in super sneaky ways so that I do not know Worry is there and think I am sick. My doctors, however, assure me this is the work of Anxiety.
I learn how to recognize that that Anxiety and Worry do not define me. My friends don't define who I am. I am my own person and don't have to listen to Worry or Anxiety if I choose not to. I can stand up for myself. I can calm the Anxiety monster by practicing mindfulness. I can help my body heal from her effects by eating healthy foods and exercising. I can talk to others about what she says and learn that it is not true. I can replace her negative words with positive thoughts about myself.
One of my best tools is not to fight Anxiety. Instead I invite her in. I listen to her. I feel her. Then she is happy. She wants to know that I have heard what she had to say, and then she will calm down and I will too. I assure her that I am okay and getting lots of help from my parents, my friends, my school, my church and my therapist. I have tools that help me to tame her. She is still there but she no longer hurts me. I know how to control her.
A Demon Named PTSD
By Ingrid Higgins, MFT
I have a demon; her name is PTSD.
She is very strong and has the power to make me remember
all of the things people have done to hurt me in the past.
PTSD can create, in an instant, the same feelings of those past hurts
and the same physical sensations.
When she comes, it is very hard to be close to others.
PTSD reminds me of how bad people have been in the past
and why I should not trust anyone.
She keeps me safe, so that no one can hurt me again.
Symptoms of PTSD in adolescents may include:
PTSD can go unrecognized in adolescents because of the belief that it is caused by a huge traumatic event such as fighting in a war, or being in a tornado, or being held at gunpoint. In adolescents, the traumatic event might not be as easy to recognize. Bullying that might not seem that bad to others often traumatizes adolescents. Undisclosed abuse can also lead to PTSD.
Treatment options are available. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is very effective with children, teens and adults. Research has proved its efficacy. As a certified EMDR therapist, I have seen the results in my practice and believe that doing this work in adolescence can prevent suffering later in life. There is a cure for PTSD. The first step is to ask for help.
If you or someone you know is suffering, please reach out to me at (408) 579 - 9806 or through the contact form on this site
I’m excited to share some news with you about a local blog series I am participating in called “31 Days To A Better Life With Your Teen.”
On October 1, Los Gatos Teen Therapy will kick off a special month-long blog series for parents of teens in which 31 teen and family experts will come together to discuss behavior management and boundary setting, identifying and treating eating disorders, depression and self-harm, recognizing and addressing drug use, monitoring and preventing cyberbullying, improving family wellness and engagement, and many more topics. I was asked to contribute a guest article titled Is Your Teen Depressed? .
If you are interested in reading the articles, I invite you to sign up for the blog series at losgatosteentherapy.com/blog.html to receive the valuable tips and strategies directly to your inbox. You’ll also have an opportunity to share your stories and opinions by commenting on the articles and engaging with other readers.
Feel free to share news of this blog series with your friends and colleagues!