Our country, and the world, has been racked with pain over the last week and a half as we’ve heard about the horrible mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nearly 60 people had their lives taken that night and hundreds more suffered gunshot wounds and other injuries requiring hospitalization. Stories of heroism, as well as tragedy have been shared, and for days the event has been at the forefront of the media’s attention. Repeated video exposure of the gunfire and people running in fear for their lives has made us vicariously experience the horror and brought the impact of the shooting in our own homes and workplaces. The effects of the shooting, as a result, go much farther than just those present that evening who lived through it.
For this reason, it is fitting for us to write about what we can do in response to this event to protect ourselves from its negative effects. Having lived through such an event myself, as a father of one of the victims of such a shooting, I am aware of the trauma brought on by such events. As a mental health professional, I can offer some advice to help you cope with this news, as well as provide practical help for those who experienced it first or second hand.
Suggestions for Those Affected Second Hand
First of all, we can all benefit by protecting ourselves from over-exposure to the messages and images that maintain the presence of this tragedy in our lives. We can do this, by turning off our televisions and radios when coverage of the shooting is part of the broadcast. The risk to our well-being from seeing and hearing the story over and over again far outweighs the benefit of keeping up with the latest in the death toll and details about the shooter. The repeating of the story and thinking of what happened on an hourly or even daily basis can exaggerate our sense that the world is a dangerous place. This has the potential to increase our anxiety, distrust, anger, and depression.
Instead, focus on what is going on in your own life and in your own community, giving thanks for what is good and pleasant in your life, and by working on improving those things in your personal life that are meaningful to you. For most of us, the world is a much more beautiful and harmonious place than the news media communicates. We are not criticizing the news media; we are merely saying that their job is not to give us the complete picture that we actually need to live by. It is up to us to put the news in perspective.
Suggestions for Those Affected First Hand
For those who know people whose lives were directly affected by the shooting and want to know how to help and support them, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind and to do:
Grief is a normal reaction to losses of many kinds. It is not a flaw or weakness. Grieving people are not broken (though their hearts may feel that way). Thus, grieving people do not need to be fixed; they need to be listened to with respect, kindness, and empathy.
Each loss is unique. Comparing what you have been through with what they are feeling is like comparing apples with motorcycles. Similarly, being told by someone “I know how you feel” shuts down conversation and does nothing to help the person you want to help. It can lead that person to feel more isolated and discourages them from telling their story.
Many grieving people want to tell their story. They just haven’t found the person who will show an interest and have the ability to listen (without analyzing, giving advice, or comparing losses). If someone you care about does not want to talk, that is also okay. Just let them know you care and will be there when they need you. Then be sure to be there when they reach out.
Avoid clichés. Time worn and inaccurate statements like “Just keep busy,” “You never get over the loss of a child,” and “It just takes time” may lead to putting off getting support when they really need the help and encouragement to heal.
Finally, be encouraged it is possible for people to recover from events such as the shooting in Las Vegas, to experience growth in their lives, a deepening of relationships, and a greater appreciation for the daily blessings of life. It is our hope at Fox Valley Institute that you will experience these things in your life, and feel confident in knowing you can always call on us.
When you are literally pulling your hair out, finding yourself constantly and compulsively checking if your front door is locked, or perseverating endlessly on an experience, it may be time to explore if OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) is at the root of these behaviors.
Definition of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:
The International OCD Foundation defines Obsessive-Compulsive as a mental disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts.
Characteristics/Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:
• Repeated unwanted ideas, thoughts, or imagery
• Fear of contamination
• Aggressive impulses
• Persistent sexual thoughts
• Thoughts that you might be harmed or cause someone else harm
• Religious and moral fears
• Extreme need for symmetry or exactness
While testing isn’t always necessary, a clinical psychologist may conduct psychological testing to determine the impact the OCD symptoms are having on the individual’s ability to function. A comprehensive psychological assessment provides feedback on the strengths and limitations of the individual. Psychological testing can help lead to a diagnosis and addressing the underlying factors of a problem. Following testing, accurately tailored treatments and interventions can be recommended.
Additional assessment factors to consider:
Since there can be a genetic component, a family mental health history should be gathered along with identifying what medications have and have not been useful to treat the family members’ OCD. Further exploring the family stressors that may exacerbate the OCD symptoms can be very beneficial.
A medical health history should be conducted for someone with OCD, especially in children and adolescents. Something that is quite different from Pediatric OCD is the appearance of Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders (PANDAS/PANS) in this situation, OCD symptoms often emerge as a result of an infection, such as strep. Rather than developing gradually, this relatively rare sub-type of OCD manifests as a sudden appearance of OCD symptoms in children following an infection.
FVI DIGEST: OCD CASE STUDY
Dana is a 10 year old, white, 4th grade female. She lives at home with her mother, father, twin brothers, age 5, and her 12 year old sister. She noted experiencing a lot of unwanted ideation about symmetry and germs. She also has rigid nighttime rituals that are time consuming and impact her family. She’s a good student, who’s highly motivated, but her worries about germs have contributed to her not wanting to attend school. She attempts to minimize the anxiety about germs by washing her hands after she touches what she believes to be a contaminated object. She will wash her hands up to four times repeatedly which has led to red chapped skin. At school reading and writing have become time intensive because the OCD is demanding she balance her gaze by looking at one side of a book, and then the other for equal time. She gets mentally distracted by adding up the number of letters in words and reorganizing the words based on an even/odd pattern. Teachers describe her as having attention deficit. During her bedtime routine, she includes many rigid rituals like having to say good night in both a certain way and number of times, applying lotion in a particular fashion that includes pumping the lotion bottle two times, and organizing the blankets in a certain manner. She refuses to go to sleep if her parents are not home, thus her parents miss out on social events. Prior to her parents having an explanation of OCD for Dana’s behaviors, her parents viewed her behavior as defiant and disrespectful. OCD sends out a loud message for symmetry, so if her parents kiss her on one side of her face they need to balance it with a kiss on the other side of her face. If a person touches one of Dana’s arms, Dana will then need to touch the other arm in the same place. Dana has also experienced physical complications like teeth grinding at night, stomach pain, constipation, headaches, and irritated skin.
Dana has learned to view her OCD as a brain hiccup and to not feel guilt for her quirky behaviors. She named her OCD, “stupid thoughts” and she began to boss these “stupid thoughts” back, telling the thoughts she won’t respond to them or allow them to control her behavior. Dana learned diffusion techniques to externalize thoughts and to see the thoughts come and go, like leaves on a stream, allowing her a visual image to encourage flexibility and acceptance. Another technique that assisted Dana was learning to be “in the moment” and use her senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight to let go of being the “thinking self” and learn to be the “observing self”. Virtual Reality Therapy was beneficial in assisting with Exposure and Response Prevention. Dana visualizes someone touching something that to her was “contaminated” and then the person would proceed to go to lunch without washing their hands. To help her stay calm through the visualization exercise, Dana was taught deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Dana was then able to utilize these calming strategies in her day to day activities. Eventually, she was able to practice Exposure and Response Prevention on her own. She is now able to touch a “contaminated” surface and not have to run immediately to the sink to wash her hands. Ultimately, Dana was able to go to school and not feel she had to respond to her obsessive thinking. Since her parents were seeing improvements in Dana they trusted she can regulate some of the distressful thoughts, which allowed Dana’s parents to feel more comfortable having date nights and trusting things would be ok.
Treatment for OCD:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the treatment modality which is the form of treatment recommended by National Institute of Mental Health, Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School. CBT involves techniques related to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP) and Cognitive Therapy. When you recognize that your behaviors may be becoming problematic and disruptive, a critical first step is reaching out to a qualified therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They are here to help you. Break the stigma surrounding mental health by becoming more cognizant of these conditions. Once awareness exists, you can help yourself or support others in seeking out services.
Welcome back to school! Whether you are looking forward to it or anticipating it with trepidation, there is a high level of excitement. A new school year brings opportunities and challenges in balancing transition issues, academic pursuits, college life, home, and family. At this point in the year, you probably have a fair amount of adrenaline (and maybe caffeine) powering you through the day.
As I send my clients off to college each fall, I emphasize one point above all else: Watch out for the October Slide! Towards the end of September, the excitement draws to an end and reality sets in. The tests are more difficult, conflicts may be arising with roommates, and the colder darker days of winter are fast approaching. The steady diet of fast food, late nights, and lack of techniques to manage your stress may make the pressures you’re feeling seem overwhelming. These factors often result in an increase in depression and anxiety. Your impulse may be to curl up in bed and binge on pizza and Netflix while waiting for the semester to end. The October Slide can be prevented with your actions in September. I’m challenging you to be proactive.
Are you up for it? Take care of your health by following the simple acronym – MEDSS and my other recommendations below.
M – Take MEDICATION as prescribed
E – EXERCISE
D – Follow a healthy DIET
S – Get sufficient SLEEP
S – Nourish your SOUL, be it in finding solace in your faith, nature, art, yoga or any activity that helps you to feel more relaxed and grounded
Develop a routine that keeps you healthy and organized. Write down your goals, and then use a planner to map out your week. Schedule your study time, work outs, and meals in advance. This planning time may seem taxing; I assure you it’s a great habit to form. It will help you to feel more focused and ultimately better.
Establish your support network. Check in with your family, friends, therapist, and mentors, even when things are going well. If you find yourself feeling more stressed or down than usual, make an appointment with your therapist. If you do not have one, seek one out before the symptoms become overwhelming. The important thing is to stay connected. If you’re struggling to make friends, find a club, activity, volunteer position, or job that will provide you the opportunity to contribute and surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.
Have fun in moderation. For some people, it can be tempting to say yes to every party, tailgate, or social gathering. Overdoing these things will wreak havoc on your health, leaving you drained, more prone to getting sick, and feeling anxious and depressed. Know your limits and give your body break. These breaks should also include making time for yourself away from technology: your phone, social media, and video games. Recognize your own personal need for time to yourself in an open space – allow yourself that break.
Your actions right now determine how the stressors impact you as you face and conquer the challenges a new school year brings. Believe in yourself and acknowledge that others care about you and are there to help if you need it.
Parents, here are three simple things you can do to help your student right now:
Check in with your student about their emotional wellbeing and the stressors they are facing.
Offer support in helping your student establish healthy and productive routines.
Assist in connecting your student with professional support if that will be beneficial.
Therapists at Fox Valley Institute are offering Telehealth services to their current clients, who are away at school in the state of Illinois. You will need to verify with your insurance provider that video conference (Telehealth) services are covered. Let us know if we can be of support in any way.
At times it may seem necessary to put off doing things we categorize as unpleasant, difficult, painful, time consuming, or relatively unimportant. In many situations “holding off” on an activity can prove to be more beneficial than problematic. We may consciously decide to delay the execution of a task when we know more time will be available. In this type of circumstance, putting a responsibility “on hold” will yield better results.
Procrastination, on the other hand is consistently delaying responsibilities that should be completed. This is an automatic behavior that can govern how one lives, works, and interacts with people. While procrastination is often joked about, it is no laughing matter. Many have suffered unpleasant consequences in their relationships, school, and work. Often times, people find themselves overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed, and anxious if they are unsuccessful in changing their procrastination tendencies. People also may begin buying into labels that they are “lazy” and “unmotivated” which further encourages procrastination in other area of their lives.
There is hope for overcoming this daunting habit! Here are some deeper insights into the behavior of procrastination.
• Procrastination is rewarding. Unpleasant feelings associated with a task diminish if the task is avoided, bringing a rewarding sense of relief. Later, one may rush to complete their avoided task at the last minute and face criticism from others about their choice to avoid the task. These are negative consequences associated with putting a task off. We experience these negative consequences separately from the initial choice of delaying something. Since we tend to experience the immediacy of the reward from putting off that task as separate from the consequence, it is the reward that builds the habit.
• When someone occasionally puts off doing something, they weigh the pros and cons of doing so, and are cognizant of the justification of their choice. In contrast, when someone procrastinates, it tends to be done habitually. Many times procrastinating is used to avoid feelings associated with the task. Procrastination is automatic, like a habit, it is done without conscious reflection.
• Procrastination comes in many forms, a simple behavior with complex and diverse triggers.
A.) Criticism or Perfectionism- The fear one may face of being criticized by others if they don’t do something perfectly.
B.) Overwhelmed – The task is perceived as overwhelming, often because it’s unfamiliar.
C.) Fear or Pain – The task involves some form or fear of pain, perhaps physical, emotional, or psychological that the individual would rather not face.
D.) Resentment- When asked to do something, the individual may feel they can’t control the situation, for example putting off filing taxes. The act of putting the item off is how one exerts control.
Do you want to break this habit? Here are some questions and suggestions that may help.
What are the feelings I have associated with the task? Keeping a procrastination log can be an effective tool that can help you be aware of the start of the procrastination cycle. Write down the feelings related to tasks that you have a tendency to avoid.
What is the immediate pay off for procrastinating? Record in the journal your initial feelings. Did doing something else make you feel more empowered or less anxious?
What did I do in place of the unpleasant task? This activity is often a reward in and of itself.
What are the long-term consequences of putting a task off? Log the after-effects of avoiding a responsibility. This helps to better tie the negative consequences to the habit.
With many habits that you seek to change, having someone to support you in this endeavor can be incredibly beneficial. This person may be a friend, family member, co-worker, significant other, therapist or life coach. This individual should provide support without labeling or criticizing you as you work through understanding and changing your habits. Having an individual to help you through can speed the process along and helps you build back your self-esteem and confidence.
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” The Earl of Chesterfield December 26, 1749
Almost everyone has been afflicted by procrastination at one time or another – that nagging menace that compels us to put things off for another day, another time. For some people this is a persistent problem, and for others it appears in only some areas of their lives. The result, though, is the same for everyone – increased anxiety, wasted time, poor performance, missed opportunities, guilt, excusing ourselves, and avoiding people who depend on us. There are better ways of dealing with the demands of our everyday lives. Procrastination is not a trivial problem – it causes suffering for many people.
Who is likely to procrastinate? There is no research evidence that gender and intelligence have anything to do with a tendency to procrastinate. Age may have something to do with it. One research study finds that procrastination peaks in the middle to late twenties, decreases for the next forty years, and then increases again in the sixties. Other research finds that people who feel overwhelmed and cannot readily calm down tend to put things off.
(Naperville, IL – August 1, 2017) Loaves and Fishes Community Services 2017 welcomes Dr. Laura Bokar, CEO of Fox Valley Institute for Growth and Wellness to serve her first term on the Board of Directors.
Dr. Laura Bokar is pleased to bring to Loaves and Fishes Community Services her passion, energy and commitment to helping people grow in their lives and relationships. She will offer her guidance to assist Loaves and Fishes Community Services in their mission to end hunger and empower the lives of those in need in our community. Together the Board will effectively evaluate the achievability of these objectives as well as market the organization.
“Life is Difficult” reads the opening line of Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. As a marriage and family therapist, I wholeheartedly agree. In regards to relationships, I would add the phrases: messy and complicated. Yet a healthy relationship is worth enduring struggles and working through the complications.
Many experiences in our lives make us feel happy and sad. Our relationships have the ability to allow us to enjoy happiness and find fulfillment. With marriages being the most important relationship in our lives, we need to know more about how to design the relationships we desire and not solely rely on what we learned from our parents.
When we set about designing a beautiful home with our spouses, we discuss all the details. These details include the size, paint colors, floors, ceilings, rooms, stairs, entry ways, as well as windows, lighting, curtains, door knobs, hooks, furniture, and landscaping. We share with our partner, our desires, likes, and dislikes. We discuss each room, and the exact way we want it to look. We spend hours each day over the course of months creating our dream home. I mention this example, because I find that couples spend more time designing their homes, careers, and debating on the model of their cars than they do investing time into designing the marriages they desire.
There is a belief that a good marriage will fall into place “naturally”. Now if we believed that the homes we are designing would be created “naturally,” I don’t think many people would be pleased with the outcome. Guess what? Not many couples are happy when they think about the outcome of where their marriages are going. That is a good thing. When they take the time to recognize the marriage is not heading in the direction they’d like, they can decide to change it. When one decides it is time to make a change – that is the first step!
There is a plan one can follow when they decide they want to redesign their marriage. The next step is to make certain we are first taking care of ourselves. Yes, it may sound strange that we need to focus on ourselves first to improve our marriage, however it is true. To have an extraordinary and healthy marriage, it needs to start with two extraordinary and healthy individuals.
To start, one needs to assess five areas of their lives; health and fitness, emotional intelligence, intellectual growth, character, and spiritual development. In the assessment, one needs to honestly review each area and determine if changes need to be made. The main question should be – How do I want to be different in each area in order to be the person I know I can be. When we are feeling healthy, emotionally intelligent, learning new things, strong in our character, and feeling spiritually fit, we are in a better place and capable of being a better spouse.
After one has designed a plan for themselves, then the design for the marriage can occur. This would be the time to come together and decide what you want your marriage to look like in all areas. How do you want to grow as a couple? What are the things you want? What experiences do you want to share together? What type of environment do you strive to create? What is the vision of your marriage – romantically, intelligently, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Start investing the time and energy designing the extraordinary relationship you know you want.
This may be the first time many start to think about designing their marriage. Yet, if we think about it, it does make sense. Initiate a conversation with your spouse about the desires you have for your marriage. It would be important to make this into a regular conversation each week and to create a Marriage Design Book. Add, change, and create more to your book each week. It keeps it fresh, alive, and in the forefront of your mind. By doing this, you will make your marriage YOUR design. Take the time to create the marriage you desire or life will do it for you!
Joe is dedicated to helping people find relief from the pain and tumult resulting from traumatic losses, and to helping couples develop mature and loving relationships that can withstand the test of time and life’s ups and downs. Over the past seven years, he has been bringing his clinical training and life experience to bear in helping people restore faith and hope in a better tomorrow through personal and relational healing and change.
“I believe in meeting people where they are, accepting them and giving them a place to be heard, understood, and respected. I am not out to fix people; I am about helping them heal and grow.”
Joe is passionate about helping people process the grief stemming from the loss of a loved one, broken relationships, moves, job losses and transitions, as well as losses common to life transitions such as leaving home and the effects of aging. He also believes that a healthy marital/couple relationship is fundamental to the health of children and families. He is therefore committed to helping couples strengthen their relationships, helping individuals and couples with everything from pre-marital counseling to dealing with the trauma of infidelity. His strengths are empathy, humor and compassion.
Joe is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a graduate of Northern Illinois University where he received his master’s degree in Applied Family and Child Studies with a specialization in marriage & family therapy. He is Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, with nearly eight years experience helping people in group and individual settings recover from losses of many kinds. He has received formal training in Gottman Couples Therapy (level 1), Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples, and Collaborative Couples Therapy. He has also undergone training as a Disaster Case Manager with Catholic Charities.
He is also author of the book Cartwheels in the Rain: Finding Faith in the Wake of the Unthinkable, and has other book projects (on worry and on relationships) and articles in the works. He has appeared as a guest on Windy City Live (talking about the power of forgiveness), was featured on Dateline NBC (episode entitled Columbine: The Road Home), and has been a guest on over a dozen Christian talk radio programs. He is also a past president for a corporate-sponsored Toastmaster’s International club.
Joe works with individuals (12 years and older), couples, and families, and also helps people with:
HOW A THERAPIST CAN HELP MANAGE CONFLICT AND EMOTIONS DURING A DIVORCE – ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE CHILDREN INVOLVED
By: Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS & Cheryl Frommelt, LCPC, LMFT
Sometimes, marriages do not succeed. The end of a marriage can be a relief to some people, but it can also be an extremely stressful event. Even the partner who chooses to leave may experience a wide range of emotions and intense feelings that may be painful or difficult, such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, and anxiety. If children are involved, the stress level within a divorcing family is likely to be even higher.
Children will directly benefit from the divorce therapy their parents receive. Parents may often be consumed with their own feelings during a divorce, they might overlook the emotional state of their children, who may be confused by the divorce or feel guilt, loss, pain, or abandonment. Children may not be sure which parent they should “choose,” or be loyal to, and they might also worry that they are the cause of the divorce. When parents are in high conflict with each other, a child may feel even more fearful, and a child who often hears his or her parents argue about custody arrangements might feel as if he or she is unwanted by either parent, or as if he or she is to blame for the separation.
Although not the intention of most parents, putting children in the middle of conflict is particularly harmful. Examples of this are: asking children to carry messages between parents, grilling children about the other parent’s activities, telling children the other parent does not love them, and putting the other parent down in front of the children. Poorly managed conflict between parents increases children’s risk of behavior problems, depression, substance abuse and dependence, poor social skills, and poor academic performance.
Parents want the best for their children. Yet, high conflict can overshadow this desire and pull parents’ energy away from promoting their children’s best interests. Fortunately, there are approaches by which divorce professionals can help parents reduce conflict. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce, parenting/ co-parent counseling, and relationship counseling.
ROLE OF A THERAPIST
When a people separate or divorce but continue to struggle with communication and making decisions with one another, a clinical therapist who has experience working with families can help improve communication skills, design strategies for preventing and reducing conflict, bring understanding about the grief/loss process of ending the relationship and guide them through the journey of building a new life.
Divorce therapy is a type of therapy which allows couples to better achieve the dissolution of the marriage in a healthy, constructive fashion. An experienced therapist can act as a sort of mediator and set guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can also help address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations, and parenting responsibilities.
Getting Apart Together: The Couple’s Guide to a Fair Divorce Or Separation
Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way
by M. Gary Neuman, Patricia Romanowski, Sandra Blakeslee, Judith S. Wallerstein
Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce
Divorce Mediation provides dispute resolution via a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator will help the divorcing couple reach a fair and equitable settlement.
Client-driven, not court-driven and will allow both you and your spouse to make your own decisions on what is best for you and your future.
An amicable negotiation process in which spouses are assisted in their communication styles to reach a resolution.
A non-adversarial approach to reach financial and custody decisions. Easing the emotional distress frequently associated with divorce.
Cost effective; the total cost of mediation is significantly less than the cost of litigation with attorneys.
Private and confidential; your personal details are kept private and confidential, not made public in court.
Time effective; how long the process will take is completely controlled by you.
Fair and equitable because the terms are determined and reached by you and your spouse.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR MEDIATOR
A mediator is a neutral professional who will help you and your spouse conduct and negotiate your disputes to resolution in a fair and unbiased manner.
Your Mediator will:
Listen to the wants, needs, and goals of both spouses.
Not give advice
Assist spouses, together in formulating ideas that can lead to long-standing agreements
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION?
Candidates are considered good fits for divorce mediation when both spouses are:
Willing to actively participate in mediation
Willing to attend mediation voluntarily
Capable of making their own decisions
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE PROCESS
Divorce Mediation will allow you and your spouse to reach a resolution on the points required by the court to obtain a divorce. These points include, but are not limited to:
Custody and Parenting Time
Equitable Distribution of Property (Assets & Liabilities)
You can also expect:
Weekly, hourly sessions with your mediator.
A Memorandum of Understanding will be drafted at the end of your process which is required of you to bring to court to obtain a divorce.
Please contact Client Care to schedule your first mediation appointment at 630.718.0717 ext. 214