Advice for Psychology and Social Work Majors and Aspiring Professionals

Tips for Young ProfessionalsI’ll never forget my first year as an LPC-Intern. I knew only what the books taught me and nothing about real world application. I’m pretty sure I literally shivered with nerves through my first year of face-to-face counseling sessions, and I sought my supervisor’s validation constantly. However, where my counseling  skills and confidence lacked, my passion and thirst for experience made up for it.
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Improving Routines and Behaviors for Toddlers Through Elementary

Morning routines, evening routines, and even weekend routines… this is an ongoing challenge for parents of young children. We know the importance of keeping kids on a consistent schedule, but it can be quite stressful making the process smooth. As a mom of two young kids and a child therapist, including one toddler, making this process easier was important to me. As a therapist, I also saw this to be a struggle for many parents of the children I was seeing.

The Challenges with Routine

  • Distractions. The temptation for the kids to want to play instead of eat dinner, and for me to watch the news instead of prepare dinner, is one example of how distractions affect us at my house.
  • Stress. Getting yourself and the kids ready in the morning is no easy task and often very stressful. You do “what you have to do” just to get out the door on time.
  • Change. There’s no getting around the fact that changes in your family/life happen and adjustments have to be made. New babies are born, job schedules change, kids start new extra curricular activities… all requiring a modification to your routine.
  • Lack of Energy. I don’t know any parent who feels they get enough sleep and with all the activities of life today, disregarding a routine is very tempting, especially when you kids are resistant (bath, bed, etc.).

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A Letter of Encouragement to Myself

10 X0JTVjQzNDkuanBn“I don’t always love Parenthood”

I talk a lot about my life as a mom on this blog. Usually I am sharing joyful moments, techniques, and other positive themes on parenthood. I’ll be completely honest though. While a moment doesn’t go by that I don’t love my kids more than life and want to give everything to them… the truth is that I don’t always love “parenthood.” It’s a HARD JOB, often filled with stress and always requires sacrifice. I work hard as a mom. I give my whole heart to them and desire to give them a happy, structured, opportunistic childhood. I want to raise them with good character and values. This kind of parenting requires a lot of effort and I am thankful to have a wonderful husband and father to my children to share in these responsibilities. Still, all you mothers and father know what I am talking about when I say that being a parent isn’t easy.

Negative Self-Talk = Negative Mood

In the middle of the most stressful times, like getting the kids dinner and bath by yourself, when one of them has an ear infection and the other is testing boundaries like there is no tomorrow, all on an empty stomach and back ache from an injury during your work out… Yes this is me! 🙂 You have to draw strength to continue without biting everyone’s head off! 🙂 I noticed my self-talk was very negative during these moments. I was really making those stressful times even more miserable for myself and spiraling into a state of stress, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. I want to look back and know I enjoyed my kids when they were little, not the experience I was having.

A Letter From My “Negative Self” to My “Positive Self”

When things are calm (aka when kids are in bed or entertaining one another) my mind set and perceptions about parenthood are totally different. I decided to write a letter from my calm, joyful self to my stressed, negative self.

I’m going to share this personal letter with you here.

Dear Kim,

I know you are stressed right now and feel like giving up. Raising kids is hard, especially when both of them are so young. Please remember: You are strong; You are a good mommy; Your kids are amazing; And this won’t last forever! Time will go by so quickly… it already has and you want to relish in the precious moments you have with your babies. Give yourself a break if needed! If your kids are in bed 30 minutes later… they will get an extra long nap tomorrow. If water splashes out of the tub, just put a towel down. If the kids are crying and clingy, it’s because they miss you… give them love and nurture them tonight! Take it moment by moment and remember to breath. Your babies are precious and your family is beautiful. There is no reason to stress like you are. Take care dear kimmy and focus on that warm bath and glass of wine you have planned for later tonight!

Your Turn: Writing a Letter to Yourself

Practicing positive self talk and positive affirmations is not a new concept. However, I found it very helpful to write Depositphotos_26703933_mthis. The act of writing itself is therapeutic, such as journal writing. You also have something to reference during your times of stress. We all see things differently when we are in a good mood versus a bad mood. Reminding yourself of your “good mood perceptions” can encourage you to push through and give you positive affirmations that may be hard to come up with during times of stress.

You don’t have to be a parent to use this tool. Whether you are battling an illness, training for a competition, attempting to loose weight, or studying for an exam or overall degree, this can be a useful tool to apply in your life. When you feel strong, confident, and joyful, this is the time to sit down and write down reminders to yourself about how you feel now and the reasons to push through whatever adversity you are facing.

Applying This Tool In Therapy

I find that client’s often describe their moments of distress in therapy as being really bad at the time, but when they talk to me they say things like “I know this is normal…” or “At the time it felt so hard…” Writing a letter to can be an excellent homework assignment. Have the client write a letter to themselves when they are feeling more positive and strong and use it as I have described here.

You May Also Like:

No Longer A Super Mom Wannabe
Exploring the Benefits of Unwanted Behaviors
4 Play Therapy Skills I Use In Parenting

Journal Writing

journal writing

I often encourage my clients to keep a journal. I find them to be a great way to explore feelings outside of the session and it often generates thoughts they may want to bring up in their next appointment.

What is Journal Writing:

Most simply, journal writing is keeping written or typed form of your thoughts. These thoughts can be structured by answering questions or following a journal prompt, or they can be free style. You could even say a diary is a journal.

Why journal?

Journal writing is a wonderful tool for increasing self-awareness and expressing your self.  It is a way to explore your inner thoughts, feelings, and desires. Some people even use journals to record important memories or dreams.

When and how?

Anywhere and anytime! Many people journal before bed, and others may journal when they feel the need to get their thoughts onto paper. All you need is a journal book, notebook, and even a laptop. Journaling can be in written form or typed. If you have a hard time starting a journal, I suggest using some journal prompts.

I created a journal prompt, which you can download and print for free by clicking on Journaling Writing Prompts. Here are the prompts in the print out:

1. Finish the sentence…

Today I feel…

I’m so happy I have…

I fear…

I feel challenged by…

A wonderful thing that happened today…

If I had the courage, I would…

Often times I wonder…

My mother …

I showed a lot of strength when…

Sometimes I imagine…

I’m embarrassed that…

My greatest achievement in life is…

2. Write about a difficultly time in your life when you showed strength.

3. People often have scripts, or sayings, that they repeat over and over again in their mind. Identify 2-3 common scripts you find yourself saying.

4. Describe how you want your life to look in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years.

5. List your top three…

Worries.

Wisest people in your life.

People you trust.

Achievements.

Strengths.

Joyful memories.

Songs that make you happy.

Lifelong challenges.

Current challenges.

This is only a fraction of the ideas you can journal from. If you have any experiences with journaling, or if you have a good resource for more prompts, please share!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com!

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Rory’s Story Cubes… Why have I not found these sooner?!

I was scrolling through toys for my kids a couple weeks ago and came across Rory’s Story Cubes. I thought they sounded fun and wanted to try using them in session so I purchased them for around $7 plus shipping on amazon.com. Turns out… I love this game!

About the Game

There are 9 cubes in the box about the size of your typical dice. Each cube is white with a black picture, different one on each side of the cube. The player,or players, roll the cubes and tell a picture from the story.

Ways To Play and Use In Therapy

1. One person rolls all the dice and tells a story using the pictures on the tops of the cubes while the other person listens. I used this on a young male client and young female client (both middle school age ranges). These were individual sessions and not as a group. I asked the child to roll the cubes and tell a story about their life and try to incorporate some difficult things they have been struggling with. At first, I wasn’t sure how effective or easy this would be, given it takes some thought and creativity. But the stories, and process of telling the story was great! It allowed the children another medium to describe what they were experiencing and I learned more about them as well. For example, one child rolled a cube with an alien face and used this to describe their parents and why they saw them in that way.

2. Two or more people roll the cubes and take turns telling a part of the story with one cube at a time. This will allow the therapist to incorporate themes or characters in the story and see how the client responds.

3. Incorporate superheros and villains. This idea is directly off the Rory’s Story Cubes website and I love it.

1. Describe your superpower.

Each person takes a turn to roll 3 cubes.

Use these to describe your superpower. (And a name, a name is very important).

2. Create a backstory.

Next everyone takes turns to roll all 9 cubes.

Use these to give your hero a backstory. Remember to add a flaw or weakness, this is what makes your hero human.

3. Create a Super-villain

All superhero teams need an arch-nemesis or super-villain to go up against. To create a super-villain, roll all 9 cubes then, as a group, use the 9 images to describe this villain. give him/her or it a unique ‘calling card’ a modus operandi, so for example The Joker always leaves a card, Bomb Voyage from the Incredibles leaves bombs etc.

Give him/her/it a name and a reason for doing what they do. How does the villain justify their actions?

Now that you have your characters, you are free to create all kinds of super-powered stories featuring the heroes and their arch-nemesis.

Story Cube App for iOS and Android

While pulling up the website for this post, I found out there is an app. Why not? There seems to be an app for everything these days. I downloaded the app for $1.99 and it’s pretty cool too. You shake your phone to roll the cubes and move them around as you wish with a touch of your finger. There are also different themed cubes you can purchase for another $1.99 each with themes of voyages, clues, enchanted and prehistoric. Below are pictures I took from my phone using the app.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for using this game? I hope you enjoy it as much as I have! 🙂

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

What to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving

My neighborhood is grieving the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our own this week- a devoted father, husband, and friend. This shocking news has forced the family and all of us to ask many difficult questions over the last week, such as “What do I say to the family?”, “How do I tell my kids their father has passed?”, and “How do I know if my kids are coping in a healthy way?” With these and many other questions in mind, I will be spending some time over the next couple of weeks posting topics related to such a tragedy. To start with, I dug up a post from last June.

griefWhat To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving (original post from June 2012)

I talked with a friend recently who has experienced a personal loss. As a therapist, I know the best thing I can do is to  offer support and sympathy. As a friend, this was difficult because I wanted so badly to have the right words to “make them feel better” and even an urge to “fix” their problem. It got me to thinking about how difficult this situation is for many people. What do you say to someone grieving a deceased loved one, or to someone fighting a terminal illness? I am even referring to people experiencing difficult life struggles, such as the loss of a job, divorce, or finding out your child has a terminal illness or disability. These all entail grief in some way and are highly distressful.

The unfortunate news is that we all will be put in this position many times throughout our lives. The good news is that knowing what to say and do is actually pretty simple. Let them know you care. That’s all. You don’t have to have magic words, or a solution, or an explanation. Just tell them you care.

Examples of what to say:

These examples convey to the person that you are sympathetic to their personal sorrow and that you want to be supportive for their needs.

  • “I’m truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “I’m here whenever you need me.”
  • “Although I can’t know exactly how you feel, I understand how difficult this must be for you.”
  • “I’m off all week if you need me to come over. Just call me.”
  • “Let me know when you are ready to talk or have lunch. I’m here for you anytime.”
  • “Your ‘loved one’ was such an amazing person and my life was blessed by their friendship.”
  • No words- just a sincere and warm hug or touch will do.

Examples of what may NOT be the right words:

These examples can convey that you think you know exactly how they feel, are trying to fix their problem, trying to find some reason for what happened, or minimize the grief. As a grieving person, these comments don’t typically feel good at the moment. But remember, everything has a time and place too.

  • “It was their time.”
  • “Maybe God is trying to teach a lesson in all this.”
  • “I know how you feel.”
  • “You can always have another child.”
  • “At least you had 10 good years.”

In the past, I have said some things that were not the best, but they were all with a good heart. If you have said some things in the “not good” example list, please don’t beat yourself up. It’s most important that you cared enough to even be there any say something. For the next time you are confronted with a grieving friend, remember to keep it simple and just be there for your friend or family member.

Have you ever experienced a loss or gone through a difficult time? If so, what were some of the most comforting words or actions you received from others?

References:

Supporting A Grieving Person

What Not To Say To A Grieving Person

Things To Say To A Grieving Person

You May Also Like:

Helping Your Child Or Teen Through Difficult Times

Our Times Of Struggle

Staying Connected As A Family

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Autism and the Benefits of ABA Therapy: A Guest Post by Spectacular Kids!

Autism and ABA

Autism is one of those words that was once rarely heard of, and now it seems to be all we hear. 1 in 88 children are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder; an alarming number, which has made drastic changes from the 1 in 150 reported in the year 2000. What is Autism? How did my child get Autism? What can we do to help? The questions are endless, and while scientific advances are on the rise, we are still limited in our knowledge of how Autism manifests, and why we continue to see this increase in prevalence.

 Autism is a developmental disorder, characterized by developmental delays, most apparent in language and social interactions. Since Autism is considered a “spectrum” disorder, characteristics differ from individual to individual. While some diagnosed with Autism may engage in tantrums and aggressive behaviors, exhibit little to no language, and show little interest in social engagement, others may have average language skills, show no aggression, and enjoy social interactions. As the saying goes, “Once you’ve met one individual with Autism, you’ve met ONE individual with Autism.” With an increase in awareness, parents are asking more questions, screenings are being done at 18 months, and professionals are creating Autism Assessment Teams to get thorough and comprehensive evaluations complete as early as possible.

The types of therapies available for an individual diagnosed with Autism are endless, however, those most often recommended include Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA, the only scientifically validated method of therapy for working with individuals with Autism, is a comprehensive therapeutic method, which encompasses: language, social skills, cognitive skills, self-help skills, fine & gross motor skills, and the management of problem behaviors. Throughout treatment, data is collected on all aspects of the treatment plan to ensure changes are made as needed to maximize success. Due to the extensive nature of the skills addressed in ABA therapy, it is most often recommended as an intensive approach; some individuals receive between 15 and 30 hours of therapy per week (intensity of services is determined after the initial evaluation). While ABA is generally done in a one to one setting, some groups that focus on building social skills may also be ABA based.

 Spectacular Kids ABA

Spectacular Kids ABA Therapy & Consulting, LLC, is owned by Dana Harris, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has been providing ABA services for 12 years. Spectacular Kids currently provides ABA, Speech, and Occupational Therapy to individuals with and without a diagnosis of Autism or related disorders. ABA therapy is provided on a full-time or part-time basis servicing both in-home and clinic-based clients between 12 months and 10 years. Our Speech and Occupational Therapy services are provided in clinic only by our partner, Brite Success; these therapies service individuals from childhood through adulthood. Our clinic is located at: 3059 Woodland Hills Drive Kingwood, Texas 77339. Contact Spectacular Kids for more information: 1-800-460-7459 ext 207 or visit our website at www.spectacularkidsaba.org.

Good Resource for Cognitive Therapy

Sorry for not having posted in a while. I have been busy! I’m missing my blog though and planning to get back into regular postings next week, so stay tuned! 🙂

I do have a new resource to share with those of you who use Cognitive Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral therapy in your practice, and for those who are not therapists, but try to use more “positive thinking” in your every day life. The website is appropriately called Cognitive Therapy Guide. I liked this template on How to Write a Thought Record.

So this is a short post, but like I said, I’ll see you next week!

10 Ways To Nurture Your Relationships

FamilyDoesn’t it feel good when someone you love rubs your shoulders or surprises you with a warm bath? Hopefully you know this feeling of being cared for and loved. It’s often the little things that make a big difference in our relationships.

I am definitely referring to romantic relationships, but also relationships with our kids can be included here too. In a continuing education seminar I attended a while back, the presenters shared some of their techniques for improving and reparing relationships between caregivers (parents, grandparents, foster parents, etc.) and children. One of the ways they did this was to have the child and their guardian display acts of nurturing. These acts included rubbing lotion on each other’s arms and feeding crackers to each other. So simple, yet so effective.

  1. Rub, scratch, or pat their back.
  2. Prepare a favorite meal and/or dessert.
  3. Communicate how you feel. Tell your loved one how much you love them.
  4. Draw a warm bath. Throw in some bubbles, relaxing scents, or candles too.
  5. Smother in kisses and give great big bear hugs.
  6. Buy them something special. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but make it a meaningful gift.
  7. Be playful. Life if full of stress and tension. Making a funny face, bumping their hip with yours, or playing a silly joke can remind each other of life’s joys.
  8. Show interest in their day. Ask questions about their day. Show interest in what they have to say.
  9. Stroke their head or play with their hair. Who doesn’t feel special when your head is rubbed or hair is played with.
  10. Make physical contact when you walk by, such as rubbing their shoulders or touching their back.

Try these acts of nurturing as often as possible with your loved ones and notice how they help strengthen your relationship. Feel free to share your experience and ideas as well!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy

Self-Care During An Unlikely Time

One of my colleagues started working closer to home this year. While a shorter drive is always a good thing, she said that being 5 minutes from home, instead of 20 minutes, didn’t give her enough time to rest and change her mindset after a long day of work before getting home to four young kids. This got me to thinking more about my own 15 minute drive work to home. This is a time of my day when I don’t have kids in the car or a reason to be on the phone. I often put on music that is quiet so I can wind down from the day’s events. I use this time to think about my sessions and clear my mind of anything that may interrupt my focus on my husband and kids.

How To Use Your Drive Time for Self-Care Time

What do you do with your time in the car? Here are a few ideas that come to mind!

PS: These are best during your individual time if you have any and not with kids in tote! 🙂 Also, if you rarely to never spend time driving, replace with walking, riding, boating… whatever works for your life!

Process Your Recent Day. Think about the people you interacted with, emotions you may have felt, and thoughts you may have had. When our minds are busy, this can take away from being in the moment with our loved ones, so if you have an opportunity to process the day’s events before getting home, take advantage of that time.

Plan Your Upcoming Day. Whether you are early or late in your day, consider things you want to accomplish, calls you need to make, and goals for the upcoming day.

Practice Deep Breathing. This is one of the best ways to relax, especially if you had a challenging day, or find yourself feeling anxious.

Notice Your Surroundings. Do you have a beautiful view? What interesting things do you notice? What sounds do you hear? Try using this time to practice being in the moment, even for this part of your day. I bet you will notice something around you that you’re glad you took a moment to find.

Listen to Good Music. My music varies depending on the time of day and my mood. You may choose upbeat, happy music to get you motivated in the morning, and relaxing, inspirational music at the end of the day.

Identify What Your Thankful For. Often times, we spend the car ride focusing on problems or thinking about what needs to be done, but this is a prime opportunity to think about what areas in our life are positive. List these areas in your mind and your will find yourself feeling joy from the positive thinking.

Listen to an Audiobook. I have always been a fan of book on audio, ever since I was little and listened to a Bengi cassette tape over and over. If you think about how much time you spend in the car over a year, it’s likely an incredible amount of time you could be spending getting through a good book! You may choose a good fiction novel (I loved the Hunger Games series), or a self-help book (my most recent was John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).

Learn a New Language. I’m sure Rosetta Stone has an audio series that works for traveling. If you spend enough time in a car, I think it would be awesome to use that time to learn something new!

Pray. You definitely want to keep your eyes open on the road, but talk to God on your way to your destination. You may want to express thankfulness or request help for a problem from a higher power. No matter your reason, prayer can bring a sense of peace and joy to your day, whether it is beginning or ending.

How do you spending your car time? I would love to hear your thoughts!

For more information on my clinical practice, please visit www.kimscounseling.com. 🙂

Kingwood Counseling and Play Therapy