Fear of…(you fill in the blank): All About Phobias!

I stumbled across a great website, www.FearofStuff.com, devoted to nothing but various phobias, and since I missed my Friday Wrap Up last week (having too much fun with the kiddos to blog!) I figured I can go ahead and pass this web gem along.

Most common top 10 phobias

I learned that approximately 15 million Americans suffer from some sort of social phobia, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Someone very close to me (don’t worry mom, I won’t mention you by name), is deathly afraid of spiders Agoraphobia). If a spider starts creeping her way, watch out! You may be trampled when she runs away or need to get ready for CPR! Unlike many people, my mom actually traces her phobia back to her childhood when she was trapped in a dark space and a large spider blocked her only way out. I think if that were me, I would probably have a spider phobia too!

There are over 500 phobias and you can search alphabetically here. Some are fairly well known, such as Claustrophobia(fear of confined spaces). Others are not as popular, such as:

  • Acerophobia- Fear of sourness
  • Algophobia – Fear of pain
  • Antlophobia – Fear of flood
  • Decidophobia – Fear of making decisions
  • Eosophobia – Fear of dawn or daylight
  • Isolophobia – Fear of solitude, being alone
  • linonophobia – Fear of string
  • Maieusiophobia – Fear of childbirth
  • Neophobia – Fear of anything new
  • Octophobia – Fear of the figure 8
  • Osmophobia or Osphresiophobia – Fear of smells or odors
  • Phengophobia – Fear of daylight or sunshine
  • Sesquipedalophobia – Fear of long words

Having a phobia is often funny to others, but to the person suffering from the phobia, it’s no joke. Phobias can cause extreme physical responses, such as anxiety attacks, and be socially and emotionally debilitating. Imagine being truly afraid to get in an elevator. How would that affect your job, ability to visit a doctor, or living arrangements?

The severity of the phobia can vary. Think of it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most fearful. A person with a phobia can fall anywhere on this scale. The purpose of therapy is to get them as close to “1” on that scale as possible, and at least able to function better in their life.

If you stop by the website, you should read the article Celebrities Who Set Their Phobias Aside. Below are the celebs and their reported phobias, but be sure to read the article from it’s source for more detail.

Marilyn Monroe: Agoraphobia (fear of open spaces).

Paris Hilton:  Claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces).

Sheryl Crow: Acrophobia (afraid of heights).

fear of heights

Howie Mandel: Mysophobia (fear of being contaminated).

 

Sarah Michelle Gellar: Necrophobia (fear of the dead).

Justin Timberlake: Arachnophobia (fear of spiders).

John Madden: Aviophobia (fear of flying).

Woody Allen: Carcinophobia (fear of cancer).

Madonna: Brontophobia (fear of thunder and lightening).

Barbara Streisand: Xenophobia (fear of strangers)

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Do I Need Counseling? Does My Child or Teen Need Counseling? 6 Questions To Ask

Life is always throwing challenges at us. Some things we handle pretty well, and other things are more difficult to overcome. One question many people have is “When is it time to see a therapist about these issues?” I have come up with a list of questions to ask yourself to help determine whether you or your child will benefit from therapy.

If you answer “YES” to any of the questions below, I suggest you consider seeking counseling from a professional. There are many types of mental health professionals out there, so for help on finding the right therapist, read Finding the Right Type of Mental Health Professional.

Do I need to seek counseling?

  1. Am I having feelings, or behaving in a way, that is negatively interfering in my life?
  2. Have I tried to “fix” my problems on my own and cannot seem to make any significant changes?
  3. Have my symptoms or problems been ongoing for at least 3 months, or “too long?”
  4. Do I have trouble developing or maintaining successful relationships, including romantic relationships, family relationships, professional relationships, and friendships?
  5. Have my friends, family, or doctor suggested I seek help for my issues?
  6. Do I feel or think I need to seek help before things get worse?

Does my child or teen need counseling?

  1. Has our family recently experienced a significant change or transition in our life, such as divorce, remarriage, job loss, and a new baby?
  2. Have I noticed my child or teen is behaving unusual in any way?
  3. Has my child or teen mentioned they are unhappy, anxious, or angry and cannot seem to overcome these feelings?
  4. Have teachers, friends, or community members mentioned they are concerned about my child for any reason?
  5. Have the symptoms or behaviors become worse or remained the same for at least 3 months, or longer than I am comfortable with?
  6. Have I tried to help my child or teen and it didn’t work, or do I feel I don’t know how to help?

How To Find a Therapist:

Ask Your Doctor

Talk to your family doctor, OBGyn, or pediatrician if you feel you need to seek counseling or are unsure. Doctor’s have referrals for therapists in your area to cover a wide range of issues.

PsychologyToday.com Therapy Directory is probably the best resource for finding a therapist in your area. You can read the profiles, which includes contact information, payment options, and backgrounds for the therapists. The professionals have also been verified by PsychologyToday.com as a licensed professional in their state. For an example, you can view my profile.

Check for therapists in network with your insurance company. You can either call the customer service number, or you can look online for this information.

Talk to friends or family for referrals. If you are comfortable with asking, getting a referral from someone you trust is one of the best ways to find a good therapist.

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Recognizing Depression in Men

Men are often overlooked when it comes to the discussion of depression. As a wife, daughter, and therapist, it’s important to me that I am aware of the signs of depression in men and to spread education on the topic to my readers.

It’s a common belief that more women suffer from depression than men, but this is actually not the case. In fact, men commit suicide in far greater numbers than women. Why? Men often do not receive help for their depression and there are several possible reasons.

  • Failure to Recognize Symptoms. Men may exhibit some symptoms of depression differently than women, making it less recognizeable to family and friends, and even doctors.
  • Men Are Less Likely To Seek Help. There is still reluctance by many men to seek help for depression. This could be because they see it as a weakness, they are hesitant to admit they need help, or maybe they are reluctant to make the financial or time sacrifices it takes to commit to therapy.
  • Less Awareness. As I mentioned above, most people think of depression as a female problem and we are not educated on the symptoms and statistics of male depression.

So now that we’ve established there is a lack of awareness about male depression, what are the symptoms of depression in men? Men will often exhibit inappropriate anger, an increase in substance use, and will often spend a great deal of time away from home and family (escapist behaviors).

The Uplift Program has a comparison of the male and female symptoms of depression:

SYMPTOMS IN MEN               SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN
Blames others Tendency to self-blame
Anger, irritability, ego inflation Feels sad, apathetic, worthless
Feels suspicious, guarded Feels anxious, frightened
Creates conflict Avoids conflict
Restlessness and agitation Slows down, nervousness
Compulsiveness Procrastination
Sleeps too little Sleeps to much
Becomes controlling Difficulty maintaining boundaries
Shame (eg. sex performance) Guilt
Fear of failure Problems with success
Becomes over status-conscious Assumes low status
Self-medicates through alcohol Self-medicates through food
Over use of internet/TV/email Withdrawal

How To Help:

So what you do if you believe you are depressed (men and women)?

  1. Talk to your doctor. I always, always recommend talking to your doctor as soon as possible. Tell them your symptoms, how long you have had them, and how severe they are and have become.
  2. Exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins that improve mood and increase self-confidence. See how in this article.
  3. Eat well. Believe it or not, food plays a role in mood. It will not cure depression, but every positive life change helps!
  4. Seek counseling. Even if your doctor prescribes medication, studies show that medication combined with therapy will give the best results.
  5. Seek support from loved ones. When you are depressed, you can feel very much alone, defeated, hopeless, and fatigued so having a support system in place is key.

References:

Mayo Clinic

About.com

Suboxone

Uplift Program

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Simple and Effective Tips for Meeting Your Goals

DIY home projects have always been intimidating to me. I have donated so many great pieces of furniture and home decor items to Good Will over the years that I could probably own my own resale shop. Looking back, these items could have been used, if only I had the confidence to add some paint color here or a hint of fabric there.

Thanks to some guidance from my creative and crafty mom, I am in the middle of painting over a dresser set. I have had this furniture since I was little and want my little girl to use them in her room now, so it’s important for me to break out of my crafty shell and get these dressers presentable again. What I am finding along the way is that after every coat of paint and every newly painted drawer, I feel more and more confident in my ability to get this project done. It may have some mistakes, but hey, it’s done with lot of love for my little one!

What Do I Mean By Goal? My example here is about a home project, but these tips can include personal goals of stopping a habit, organizing a space, or even starting a small business! A goal is a goal, no matter how big or small.

  • Find Support. First, everyone needs their own “creative and crafty mom.” In other words, find a mentor, support person, or teacher for projects that intimidate you. Allow yourself permission to call this person anytime you need them.
  • Set Small, Achievable Goals. Not only am I painting the dresser set, but I am also updating the knobs and adding stenciling (big time I know). If I think about this entire project at once, my non-crafty mind gets nervous and I want to forget the whole thing. However, if I concentrate on one piece at a time… “Get the smalled dresser painted first”…then I feel more confident, and even some relief. It’s a small, achievable goal! Also, it may be more appropriate for you to set time goals, such as not smoking for 5 days, then 10, and so on.
  • Use Positive Self Talk. It’s easy to beat yourself up when attempting something that is difficult for you. Negative self talk can sound like “I stink at doing this,” or “I always screw up.” Stick with the positive self talk, which sounds more like “I’m actually doing this!” and “I’m impressed with how well I did, only one mistake today!”
  • Reward Yourself. Go ahead and reward your efforts in working towards your goal! I suggest smaller rewards at the end of each small/short-term goal and a great, big reward for full completion of your goal.

I hope these are helpful for you. If you have another tip that has worked in your life, please share!

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Finding the Right Type of Mental Health Professional

When it comes time to choosing a professional to help with a personal or family issue, sifting through all the different options can be confusing. Before entering graduate school to become a Licensed Professional Counselor, I had no idea the profession even existed, much less the difference between that license and any other.

For Medication, you want to find a Psychiatrist, who is a Medical Doctor with specialized training in menal health diagnoses and medication.

For Psychological Testing, you will generally seek services from a Clinical Psychologist. These professionals have a doctoral degree and more training than other mental health professionals in psychological testing.

For Individual, Couples, or Family Counseling, you will do well with a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Most Clinical Psychologists also offer counseling services. Each of these licensed professionals are trained in counseling a wide range of issues, with a slight difference in their educational and licensure requirements. If you have a choice among an LPC, LMFT, or LCSW, I recommend reviewing the backgrounds and any specializations of each individual to help sort through who may best fit your needs.

You may also look at specializations or additional certifications for each professional that may fit your needs. For example, I have a certification as a Registered Play Therapist from the Association for Play Therapy. This just means I have completed the coursework and clinical experience requirements to implement the skills of play therapy into my practice with children. There are endless specializations that clinicians can obtain. If you see letters behind someone’s name that you don’t recognize, they are likely because they have a certification. Do your research to find out more about that training.

PsychCentral.com has more detailed descriptions that may be helpful:

Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and the only professional that specializes in mental health care and can prescribe medications.

Psychologist – A psychologist is a professional who does psychotherapy and has a doctorate degree (such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D.). Psy.D. programs tend to focus on clinical practice and result in the professional having thousands of hours of clinical experience before they enter practice. Ph.D. programs can focus on either clinical or research work, and the amount of clinical experience a professional will gain varies from program to program. Psychologists receive specific training in diagnosis, psychological assessment, a wide variety of psychotherapies, research and more.

Clinical Social Workers – Typically a clinical social worker will have completed a Master’s degree in social work (M.S.W.) and carry the LCSW designation if they are doing psychotherapy (Licensed Counselor of Social Work). Most programs require the professional to go through thousands of hours of direct clinical experience, and the program focuses on teaching principles of psychotherapy and social work.

Marriage & Family Therapist – These therapists tend to have a Master’s degree (but can have as little as a Bachelor’s degree or less in some states) and typically have between hundreds to thousands of hours of direct clinical experience. Because this designation varies from state to state, the quality of the professional may also vary significantly from person to person.

Licensed Professional Counselor – The requirements for this designation, which can be in addition to the professional’s educational degrees, vary from state to state. Most are Master’s level professionals who have had thousands of hours of direct clinical experience.

Other – There are a wealth of other professional designations and initials that follow professionals’ names. Most of these designate a specialty certification or the like, not an educational degree.

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Parents: Educate Yourself On Cyberbullying!

Bullying is not a new topic and one that has been pretty prominent in the news lately. We have all lived bullying, on one end or the other, but today’s bullying has a whole new form that we never had to worry about- online bullying. As a parent, I feel pretty confident about relating to my kids when they feel left out in the school lunch room or scared to run into a bully in the hallways, but not so much when it comes to the whole “online social life” of today’s adolescent.
An article  on ParentFuther.com tells us more about this topic. First, we learn how to recognize bullying as opposed to conflict between peers.
Recognizing Bullying
Bullying is a complex problem, but there are good tools and resources that can help parents, educators, and caring adults identify bullying behavior. Did you know that there are four, specific characteristics that can qualify a situation as bullying? The behavior has to be intentional, be repetitive, be hurtful, and involve an imbalance of power.
  • Intentional—Children can hurt other children by accident. Bullying, however, is always intentional and meant to cause some sort of harm, whether it is physical or verbal. This behavior may persist even after the victim has asked the bully to stop.
  • Repetitive—In most cases, bullying happens repeatedly. Bullies often target children who they know will not do anything about the behavior, so they can continue bullying as long as they like.
  • Hurtful—Bullying is a negative behavior that may include physical or verbal harm. The types of hurtful behavior that qualify as bullying are varied, but they all cause harm of some sort to the victim.
  • Imbalance of power—If two children hold an equal amount of power, one cannot bully the other. This imbalance of power can come from different sources, including age, size, strength, and social status.
And then we learn more about cyberbullying, or bullying online, and how it differs from the bullying most of us adults have experienced. I feel for these kids just reading about this stuff!
Characteristics of Cyberbullying:
  • First, cyberbullying can be anonymous: youth who are being cyberbullied may not even know who the bully is, or specifically why they are being targeted.
  • Second, the impact of cyberbullying can be wider-reaching than bullying done in person. The speed and breadth of the internet have permitted groups of youth to create websites just to make fun of other young people, to impersonate other teens on social media sites, and to circulate embarrassing photos, all within a matter of minutes.
  • Finally, cyberbullies can be teens who might not otherwise have engaged in bullying behaviors. It is often easier to be cruel when the bully is sheltered from their target’s responses which can over time include devastating consequences such as withdrawal from family and friends, depression, diminished performance in school and in the most severe cases, self-harming behavior and even suicide.
Online bullying is very real and parents will be wise to pay attention and get educated on the topic. If we are going to help our kids, we must learn to identify the problem and know resources and actions to help them. The impact and danger of being bullied online shouldn’t be dismissed.
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Is It Possible to Choose Our Mood?

Many therapists at some point in their practice, myself included, espouse the idea that people can make a choice about how they feel and how they respond to circumstances.  For example, when I am getting ready for the day tomorrow, I can proclaim that I choose to be in a good mood and when something does not go as planned, I can choose to respond positively and rationally. Psychology Today even has a blog post out titled Stress Is a Choice: How to Give Up Getting Worked Up. It’s a great post that highlights how people can choose whether they will feel stressed. As I was reading this piece, automatically nodding my head in agreement, I paused and thought “Boy, I wish it were as easy as it sounds. I would be stress free and happy 24/7!”

Cognitive behaviorist believe whole-heartedly that your thoughts will directly affect your mood.  Let’s say you have a co-worker who is always in a negative mood in the morning. If you think to yourself, “Her mood ruins my morning every day,” then you will feel frustrated and crabby. If you think to yourself, “Her bad mood sure does make for a hard day for her. I’m glad I choose to be happy,” then you will feel less frustrated and probably happy!

First let me say that I strongly believe in the cognitive behavioral thearpy techniques and apply it in my own life, as well as teach it to my clients. However, I also think you should get a disclaimer first. The truth is, choosing our moods, thoughts, and behaviors is not easy! In fact, it takes a lot of practice and mental energy, especially in the beginning. There are so many factors that affect our moods (or so we are led to believe) that it often feels like you are constantly playing defense against the environment. There will always be factors out of your control, such as your c0-worker’s mood, or whether the printer jams when you have a deadline to meet. The goal is to make your responses thoughtful, and then emotional, rather than emotional first. Secondly, recognize that there are circumstances which are extremely difficult to nearly impossible for one to choose their thoughts or mood. These can include serious mental illness, hormonal imbalance, and substance use.

Before I get emails about the simplistic manner in which I presented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I must mention that this therapeutic intervention entails so much more than this post give credit. For more information, you can visit PsychCentral and the National Association for Cognitive Behavioral Therapists.

To answer the title of this post… Yes, I believe it is possible to choose our mood in most normal every day circumstances. Remember, practice makes for more success!

What about you? Do you think this concept works?

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Being Prepared for Postpartum Emotions (of Mom AND Dad)

The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes, in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression at one time or another. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.

With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind.  In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?

There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:

* Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.

* Fatigue: In case you didn’t know yet, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up between that time for a multitude of other needs.

* New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings up floods of joy, as well as an “Oh my goodness, this is a big responsibility” kind of feeling.

* Financial Strains: Babies are expensive… and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.

* Social Changes: The days of care-free living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.

* New Identity: Having a baby also means being called “mom” or “dad” and owning this new identity, and all that comes with it, can take some time to adjust.

* Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.

With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.

So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?

* First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives- sadness, tear fullness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.

* Attempt to identify some of the greatest area of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?

* Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.

* Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.

Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor anytime you have concern.

Related links:

Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Postpartum Men

Men’s Health article

Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born

Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues

Books:

The Postpartum Survival Guide

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

Postpartum Depression and Child Development

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Goodtherapy.org: Number 1 Complication at Birth

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Five Qualities of a Good Child Therapist

I probably don’t have to tell you that finding the right therapist to work with  you and your child is key to their success in treatment. If you are seeking help for the first time, or had a negative experience in the past, finding the right professional can be daunting. As a child therapist, I have talked with many parents who have been satisfied or dissatisfied with prior therapists. Using their feedback, as well as my own beliefs about the therapeutic process for children, I feel there are 5 key elements of a child therapist.

1. Knowledgeable:

Your therapist should be knowledgeable in child development, as well as in the problems and concerns you present. Specialized training in working with children, such as a certification in play therapy, is also important. Children are a very special population and require a treatment approach geared towards their developmental level.

2. Loves Children

This sounds obvious, but it is too important not to include. A therapist who claims to work with children should love children! Trust me when I say that your child will know if their therapist is not enthusiastic about them or their play.

3. Parent Involvement

Your child’s therapist should show a willingness to communicate with you regularly. This communication can include feedback from the child’s treatment, parenting techniques, and suggestions for helping the child outside of the session. Parents should also feel open to asking the therapist questions and sharing regular updates on how things are going at home and at school.

4. Coordinates Care with Other Professionals

Children who attend school or daycare are likely exhibiting their behaviors in the classroom. In fact, many parents seek counseling because their teachers have expressed concerns and want help as well. It may also be important to communicate with your child’s pediatrician, especially if medication is involved. A willingness to collaborate with your child’s teachers, doctor, or other providers can further foster their success outside of the play room.

5. Establishes Good Rapport

Just like any other relationship, you will connect with some therapists and not with others. Especially in a field when you are trusting this professional with intimate details of yourself and your life, you want someone you are comfortable with and trust. Your child will feel the same in their sessions so be sure they enjoy being with that individual.

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Must Read Books on Childhood Abuse

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month!

Below is a list of books for children, as well as parents, teens, and professionals on child abuse. As you will see, abuse during childhood is not only an issue for child therapists. Adults who were abused as children continue to struggle with feelings of anger, shame, and depression from their experience.

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Something Happened and I’m Scared to Tell

A Terrible Thing Happened: A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma

The Trouble with Secrets

Reena’s Bollywood Dream: A Story About Sexual Abuse

Annabelle’s Secret: A Story About Sexual Abuse

Please Tell: A Child’s Story About Sexual Abuse

PARENTS, TEENS, AND PROFESSIONALS

A Child Called It

The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family

A Man Named Dave

Play Therapy with Abused Children

Finding Sunshine After the Storm: A Workbook for Children Healing from Sexual Abuse

The Words Hurt: Helping Children Cope with Verbal Abuse

When Your Child Has Been Molested: A Parent’s Guide to Healing and Recovery

How Long Does It Hurt?

We Are Not Alone: A Guidebook for Helping Professionals and Parents Supporting Adolescent Victims of Sexual Abuse

Therapeutic Exercises for Victimized and Neglected Girls

Structured Psychotherapy Groups for Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents

Gentling: A Practical Guide to Treating PTSD in Abused Children

Repair for Kids: A Children’s Program for Recovery from Incest and Childhood Sexual Abuse

A Brother’s Journey: Surviving a Childhood of Abuse

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

My Story

Am I Bad: Recovering from Abuse

The Invisible Child

Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families

The Breakdown of an All-American Family

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