Managing the Conflict & Emotions of Divorce Through Therapy


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.



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

Martin Kranitz


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

by JoAnne Pedro-Carroll

Divorce Mediation Services Now Available at FVI !

Divorce Mediation


Divorce Mediation provides dispute resolution via a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator will help the divorcing couple reach a fair and equitable settlement.

Mediation is…

  • 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.


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


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


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)
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support

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 Jenna Fash to schedule your first mediation appointment at 630.718.0717 ext. 208

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day 2016

Join us for a day of healing!


Join with a community of suicide loss survivors to find comfort and gain understanding as we share stories of healing and hope.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people who are affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities for support, information and empowerment.

This year’s program includes a screening of Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss; a new AFSP-produced Survivor Day documentary that traces the grief and healing journey that follows a suicide loss over time.  Drawing on stories and insights from long-term survivors, the file shows us that through resiliance and support we can achieve hope and understanding in our lives while celebrating the lives of those we lost.

When: Saturday November 19, 2016   11:30a-3:30p

Where: Community Career Center

1815 W. Diehl Road Suite 900 Naperville IL, 60563

Contact: Melissa at Fox Valley Insitute or 630.718.0717

Learn More and Register  HERE

Strengthen the Parent Child Connection with Attachment Based Parenting Tips

I tried to teach my child with books.

He gave me only puzzled looks.

I used clear words to discipline,

But I never seemed to win.

Despairingly, I turned aside.

“How shall I reach this child?” I cried.

Into my hand he put the key:

“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”

Author Unknown, adapted by Aletha Solter



Are you a parent looking to strengthen your relationship with your young child?  If you are not getting along well with your child, the relationship with your child has been strained or you simply wish to enhance your a good bond, attachment based parenting tips can be helpful for you.

Attachment is the bond that children develop with their primary caregivers in the first few years of life.  This will become your child’s first introduction to love, security and intimacy.  A secure bond between parent and child is critical because it will assist your child in developing a healthy sense of self and emotional regulation when under stress.  This attachment is said to heavily influence the type of attachment children will go on to have as adults; it can influence how they relate to others and how they view themselves.

Attachment parenting is an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between a parent and a child. According to Attachment Parenting International, how parents develop a secure attachment with their child lies in the parent’s ability to fulfill that child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection by providing consistent, loving, and responsive care. By demonstrating healthy and positive relationship skills, the parent provides critical emotional scaffolding for the child to learn essential self-regulatory skills.

If you have found your style to be that of attachment parenting, you will find the following tips helpful in strengthening your relationship with your child:

(1) Let your child explore- allow your child to explore the world around them.  Let them ask questions and do your best to answer them all with patience.

(2)  Allow your child to participate in decision making- ask your child what they want to wear and actually let them wear the outfit the pick.  When you respect your child’s decision he/she will feel respect in return.

(3)  Express love and emotion- daily and as much as you can! Always tell your child how you feel about them, even if you believe they have done something wrong.  When everything is left said, as opposed to unsaid, relationship bonds are enhanced as trust and intimacy are built.

(4) Play! Have fun with your child.  Play is one of the best ways to bond with your child.  This can be a time to be silly with your child but there are also teachable moments in play.

(5) Eat your meals together- this is great bonding time with your child.  Discuss your days and take time to connect.

(6)  Find a fun class or activity to participate in together- this can allow you to have fun and strengthen your relationship at the same time.  Allow your child to participate in choosing a class or outing they will enjoy.

(7) Mirror your child- this is a proven method to strengthen attachment.  Mirror your child’s body movements, facial expressions or words.  This will help your child to feel heard and validated.

(8)  A ‘day at the spa’- spend time playing dress up, painting nails and doing each other’s hair.

(9)  Read books and sing songs together, including an emphasis on games that enhance physical closeness such as Little Piggy or Thunder and Rainstorms on their back.

(10)  Tactile and sensory activities can help strengthen bonds- for example playing with rice, shaving cream or finger paint.

(11)  Provide a calm, structured and predictable environment


For more information on attachment parenting,

visit Attachment Parenting International HERE



Tips for Teen Anxiety at the Start of the School Year


During times of transition and change it is not uncommon to experience anxious feelings.  This is especially true for teens returning to school.  Anxiety about the start of the school year can begin weeks before school even starts.  Not only do teens feel the effects of anxiety but, chances are, their parents and family system will be impacted by their symptoms as well.

Anxiety experienced by teens can vary from every day worries of what to wear and who their teachers will be to clinical diagnosis such as Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder or Social Phobia potentially resulting in school refusal, low self esteem or worsening of symptoms.

It is important to address school anxiety before it spirals for a teen.  It is ideal to be preventative so the anxiety does not interfere with success at school or relationships.  The result of early intervention could help your teen avoid the negative impacts of school avoidance such as missed school work, missed social opportunities or moments for praise and validation.

Effective strategies to combat anxiety will help teens learn how to manage it themselves.  Additionally, the help of a good support system (parents, teachers, counselors) can only enhance the effects of these strategies.

Remember, everyone’s plan for coping will look different and will need to be tailored to the unique needs of your teen.  In developing strategies, it is important to consider the teen’s age, gender, and personality traits.

Tips for Coping with Back to School Anxiety:

(1) Talk/Write Through Your Stress.  Teens have the ability to think and reason in abstract terms.  Therefore, they may benefit from being able to release their thoughts and feelings in the form of writing or talking. When a teen is allowed to tend to and nurture their emotions it can help combat the effects of anxiety.

(2) Predictable Routines.  Many times this can go out the window during the summer, teens tend to fall off their schedules.  It is critical to get back into a routine as soon as school starts if not before.  Most importantly, incorporating a sleep/meal schedule into your teen’s daily routine is valuable.

(3) Problem-Solve the Concerns.  Develop strategies to cope with the concerns.  It is important to acknowledge that the anxiety is real and not something that will ‘just go away or get better.’  Come up with practical ideas to deal with the problem situations if they should occur.

(4) Role Play.  Teens can ‘act out’ anxiety provoking situations with those they feel comfortable with; family, friends or a therapist for example.

(5) Focus on the Good.  What could be exciting or positive about the upcoming school year?  Often times teens will become so overwhelmed by anxiety they lose sight of what could potentially be good.  Help them discover the positives.

(6) Manage the Inner Critic.  What does your teen’s inner voice sound like?  If they are struggling with anxiety, chances are their self talk is critical, overwhelming or negative.  Help your teens speak calmer, kinder and fairer.  Healthy self talk will help to build the confidence necessary to take on new challenges at school.

(7) Build or Enhance a Support System.  Anxious teens benefit greatly from a healthy support system.  The support system itself can be defined by the teen, which gives them the power in determining who they find helpful.  A teens’s support system can consist of various people or groups.  Some examples include, a parent, friend, school counselor, therapist, family member or support group could all be important people to help teens through anxiety.  

And do not forget, reach out to our skilled therapists at FVI.  We can help!

FVI Takes Leading Role In Use Of VR In Therapy

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 5.54.59 AMNew technology is finding its way into therapy, and our clinic will be among the first in the area to use virtual reality as an option in treatment.

Watch our website in the near future for more information on how you can experience therapy augmented by virtual reality.

In the meantime enjoy this article where we were featured in the Daily Herald Business Ledger.

Click Here to View The Article

How to Deepen Your Connection with your Partner


Are you looking for ways to feel closer to your partner?  Intimacy between you and your partner is critical to keeping the bonds strong.  It is always important to determine what may be causing the disconnect between you two and try to problem-solve around that issue as well.  There are various reasons that can lead to a disconnect but many couples get ‘stuck in a rut’ and simply forget or lose sight of what makes them feel close to one another. 

Intimacy is the feeling of being close to another and a sense of belonging together.  Sustaining intimacy for a length of time requires both emotional and interpersonal awareness.  Partners need to be able to exist both separate and together as participants in their intimate relationship.

It is important to know that intimacy in your relationship will naturally go through stages.  There is no set course for these stages but it may be helpful to identify where you feel you may fall.

  • Infatuation– the “I just met the love of my life” stage.  Infatuation will ebb and flow during this stage but you may find that you just cannot get enough of each other.
  • Landing– the “oh no, who did I marry?” stage.  Landing is when infatuation lifts and clarity of every day living comes in.  Landing can feel turbulent and at times glide smoothly but, at the end of the day, you come home to one another.
  • Burying– the “did I even see you yesterday, I don’t remember?” stage.  Burying is when the business of life takes over; kids, laundry, jobs, endless to do lists, home care, etc.  Burying is good in that you are reminded your relationship is real but you will need to take some time to try to unbury and let intimacy resurface.
  • Resurfacing– the “wow I forgot how much I love you! “ stage- in this stage your relationship can get a ‘jolt’ or ‘reality check’ that brings it back to life and makes it a priority again.  Resurfacing allows you to resolve to one another to build closeness again.
  • Love- the “I love you more then I every thought I could” stage- it is in this stage partners typically realize ‘how good they have it’ and ride the wave of love together.

Making a relationship work means just that, doing the ongoing work your relationship will demand. 

The following are some tips to enhance closeness between you and your partner:

  1. Set goals together– no matter what the goal, working together as a team can strengthen love and closeness.
  2. Put the stuff away– technology, toys, television, etc.  take some time to just be with one another instead of always having a third ‘person’ hanging out with you and your partner.  This would give you both the opportunity to look at one another while having a discussion, what a great way to strength connection by looking into your partner’s eyes.
  3. Create a new tradition or rehab the old one- is there something that both always loved doing together that you can start back up again? Or perhaps a new tradition you can create together?
  4. Be spiritual together– praying or meditating together is an excellent way to build closeness.
  5. Check in with each other every day– make this a party of your daily schedule.
  6. Have a bed time routine you can stick to– this is especially helpful with children.  Once you put the kids to bed set a routine that works for you both where you can build closeness.
  7. Have a date night– just you two giving focused attention to one another can be a great way to feel close and have fun!
  8. Look for the best– do not speak bad about your partner; find a way to focus on their strengths rather then their weakness.

And do not forget, you can go to therapy together!  Do not hesitate to utilize the resource of having an objective person helping you both learn to communicate better, sort through the cause to the disconnect and determine how to build closeness again.

Meet Our Psychiatrists!

Dr. Sarah R Florence, MD
Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist

Dr. Sarah R Florence

Dr. Florence was born and raised in Chicago on the north side of the city. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Classics at Washington University in St. Louis before attending medical school at Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, IL. She completed her adult psychiatry residency training at Rush University Medical Center. From there, she went on to do a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where she served as chief fellow. Dr. Florence is board certified in both Adult Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Florence’s child and adolescent training has given her a thorough understanding of how specific developmental issues might affect a particular child’s mental health and treatment needs. Dr. Florence has experience treating a wide variety of conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, ADHD, other behavior disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. She has a specialty interest area in eating disorders and has worked in various intensive care settings for eating disorders patients at Insight Behavioral Health Center in Chicago.


Dr. Florence can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717

Psychiatry Services Now Available at FVI!


Girl relaxing in a wheat-field.

Fox Valley Institute is very excited to offer an innovative new service for all of our psychiatry appointments.

Telepsychiatry provides easy access in a timely manner with licensed child and adult psychiatrists. This eliminates long wait times and helps patients receive the care they need when they need it.

This is a transformative time for the useful application of technology with therapy. The use of video technology is the way psychiatrists are now conducting sessions in order to promptly and efficiently meet the needs of patients.

The video appointment is conducted over a large format TV/computer monitor on a secure, HIPPA compliant network. Patients tell us it feels like everyone is in the same room with life size viewing.

Telepsychiatry benefits:

  • Easy access to licensed child and adult psychiatrists
  • Much shorter wait time
  • Accessibility – psychiatric appointments onsite at Fox Valley Institute in a comfortable and warm setting
  • Excellent coordination of care between therapist and psychiatrist
  • HSA and FSA eligible. Please verify insurance.

Referrals are welcome. Our doctors specialize in adult and child/adolescent psychiatric care.

Fox Valley Institute’s Telepsychiatry service is available for appointments now. Please call 630-718-0717 ext. 214 or email


What does a Psychiatrist do Anyway?

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that focuses on the symptoms, diagnoses, treatment and prevention of emotional, psychological and behavior disorders.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor/physician (M.D.) who specializes in one’s psychological health, including substance use and disorders. Psychiatrists are trained in the medical, psychological, and social components of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders.  They utilize a broad range of treatment modalities, including diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, psychotherapy, and helping individuals and their families cope with challenges, stress and crises.

Many seek psychiatric help for a variety of reasons. The issue could be sudden, such as a panic attack, anxiety, recent trauma, a particular fear, or loss. Others may seek help for more long-term concerns, such as depression, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, bi-poplar, grief or mood disorders.

It is important for a psychiatrist to take a holistic approach. This approach includes talking about nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, support systems, and different stressors of life. The information provided helps the psychiatrist make an informed assessment and a proper evaluation.

Our psychiatrists demonstrate humility when speaking with individuals in their care, which creates collaboration and a healthy partnership.  This will produce success in the individual’s emotional, psychological and behavioral well-being.

Our psychiatrists will really listen to the individual(s) in their care, convey authentic concern, and be respectful.  Fox Valley Institute’s focus is to help individuals address their challenges, grow and live to their fullest potential.

How to Prepare for an Appointment with the Psychiatrist

  • Call or email our office for an appointment.
  • Make a list of all the medications you are currently taking – name and dosage amount; as well as any other medications you have tried in the past.
  • Make a list of the symptoms you are experiencing and when they first started.
  • Note your sleep and eating patterns.
  • Bring any family medical and mental history.
  • Write down any questions you would like to ask the doctor.
  • Most importantly – be honest with the psychiatrist. They can only work with the information you provide them.


The Art of Mindfulness

“Why do you do the dishes?”  This question was once proposed at a conference.  Common answers included, to get them clean, because I have to, or because they are dirty.  Again the question was asked, “Why do you do the dishes?”  The same answers were yelled out and this merry go round was repeated multiple times until the question was turned on the presenter, “Why do you do the dishes?”  To which he answered, “to do the dishes.”


Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment all while acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgment.

The art of being in the present moment or, as the presenter suggested, doing the dishes simply to do the dishes, takes practice.

Mindfulness is paying attention to yourself on purpose.  Mindfulness is not being vaguely aware of yourself.  A practical example of purposeful awareness is mindful eating.  Often times when you are eating you may also be thinking of many other things, holding a conversation with another person or even watching television.  Mindful eating would include purposefully immersing yourself in the food you are eating, taking note in it’s texture, taste and shape.  Allowing yourself to pay attention to your bites, taste the food as you eat, and allowing your stomach to feel the sense of fullness from the food.

Mindfulness is being in the present moment.  Mindfulness is not past or future thinking.  You can allow yourself to acknowledge that this type of thinking is attempting to seep into present thinking but ultimately the goal is to keep thought focused in the present tense.  The direction towards the present allows you to anchor yourself and achieve a sense of feeling grounded.

Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of the self.  Mindfulness is not a reactive state.  This means accepting what ever thought or feeling arises for you in the present moment.  In this process you allow yourself to mindfully observe what arises, allow it to pass through and eventually disappear.  This means whether a good or bad thought, good or bad feeling or good or bad experience arises, you allow it to happen and do not criticize or judge it away.

Mindfulness is intended to help you achieve ‘equanimity.’  Meaning, stillness and balance of the mind.  Cognitively you can be aware that experiences are pleasant or unpleasant; however, at an emotional level, you do not react.

Why Mindfulness?

Studies have shown that mindfulness can provide physical, mental, psychological and social benefits.  Mindfulness can:

(1) Increase positive emotion, decrease negative emotion and therefore reduce stress.

(2) Boost your immune system

(3) Enhance relationships, allowing partners to feel listened to, cared for and accepted.

(4) Improve focus and attention skills.

(5)  Increase overall sense of happiness and well-being

(6)  Assist in relaxation and decrease anxious symptoms

(7)  Assist in achieving emotional regulation and distress tolerance

How to Cultivate Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, highlights the key components to cultivating mindfulness:

(1) Pay close attention to your breathing, particularly in intense emotional moments.

(2)  Truly notice what you are sensing at any given moment- the sight, sound, touch, taste and hearing of the present moment.

(3)  Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting, they do not define you.

(4)  Build awareness of your body’s physical sensations.

(5)  Develop Mindful Triggers.  These are cues that can remind you to break out of the monotony of the every day and allow yourself to be mindful.  Examples can include post-it note reminders to “relax” or even object you can associate with the meaning of mindfulness.


For beginners, the technique of body scanning is suggested.  This includes focused attention along your body, from the toes to the top of your head, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever you sense in these body parts, without controlling or changing those feelings.

For further information on this technique,  CLICK HERE

As you learn more on the art of Mindfulness, are you starting to look at the question “why do you do the dishes” differently?  Take some time give yourself the gift of mindfulness!