Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions/New Day Resolutions

Q. I know that each year I struggle with the idea of New Year's Resolutions. They are very cliche! If I am going to start the new year off on the right foot, what are some biblical suggestions you could give me?

A. On New Year’s Eve, you will take a quick glance at the past to review your accomplishments, failures or near misses. Then, the eyes of the mind turn toward next year. Questions formulate within the confines of imagination as to the possibilities of the near future:

What can change?
How to make a change?
How much to change?

Who to change?

How much effort must be infused in order to achieve the desired result?

Is there really any hope in the world today?

The New York Times gave the following as their New Year’s Resolution Top Ten List:
1) Spend more time with family and friends 2) Fit in fitness 3) Tame the bulge 4) Quit smoking 5) Enjoy life more 6) Quit drinking 7) Get out of debt 8) Learn something new 9) Help others 10) Get organized

Here are some questions I would suggest you ask yourself when thinking about what the Lord would desire from you in the coming year:
  • What must I do or give up in order to reach the majestic heights of the goal that imagination will establish?
  • How willing are you to pay the price to become the person you were designed to be by your Creator?
  • What are your intrinsic attitudes, values, and personal desires? Why do you do what you do daily? Is it to bring glory to the Lord, or for your own personal gain?
Examining your life to such a depth will change your relationships with God and the way your view day to day life. To this end, I do not adhere to the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. I think of Mt 6:34, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (KJV) Is there the luxury to wait for one specific day in the year to make changes which need to be made now, or should have been made yesterday?

Lu 9:23 also says, "And he said to them all, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.'" (KJV) Maybe your New Year’s Resolutions need to become a thing of the past and a new tradition that was inaugurated by Jesus which could be tagged NEW DAY RESOLUTIONS. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Be blessed by every sunrise. God makes all things new for those who will allow Him to do so.

Editors Note: Dwight Wilson, counselor for Pathways Professional in Sheffield, Hartselle, and Athens, is the author of this week's column.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US:
or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Check back in the New Year to see our complied list of Top New Year's resolutions/New Day Resolutions from our followers and readers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

A Letter From Pathways...

Thank you to all who have been such wonderful supporters of our Q. and A. blog this past year. We have seen tremendous growth in social networking since our launch this past summer. It is yet another way the Lord has blessed us in being able to reach more individuals and families who need solid, professional Christian counseling.

We really do count it all joy for those who support our ministry. If you have told someone about us, donated items needed or given a monetary donation, you have helped to extend our ministry even further. It is through your support that we were able to nurture and restore those who were hurting through counseling this past year. For all you have done, we thank you.

Our hope is that if there is a counseling need in the state of Alabama that we will be there to help. We are honored to serve the state of Alabama through the counseling ministry of the Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries. With our 13 counselors across the state, we want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!


Pathways Professional Counseling

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How do I teach the true meaning of Christmas?

Q. I have been talking with other moms and we all seemed to be stuck on how to teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas. We struggle with the candy canes, Santa Claus and presents to teach our kids it is all about Jesus' coming. Do you have any suggestions?

A. This is very common question. Just Google "teaching kids true meaning of Christmas" and you will come up with many ideas and suggestions. I believe the answer starts with us as adults. We sometimes struggle to keep the perspective of this time of year on the true meaning of Christmas. How much more difficult then is it for children entangled by gifts, Santa, and parties to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

First, let's define the true meaning of Christmas. It is not about presents to buy or receive, or about fancy parties or events. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but rather need to be in the proper perspective. So what is a proper perspective? December or Advent is about being thankful for God's grace in our lives so much so that he sent his ONE and ONLY son to die on a cross for our sins. (John 3:16) That is wonderful grace! He didn't have to do it, but he sent his son as a baby only to save mankind, by dying on a cross. This time of year is to celebrate the Messiah's arrival on Earth and to thank our Lord for doing so.

The best gift is not an iPad, iPod, new cell phone, game, or toys, but it is knowing and desiring Jesus as their Lord and Savior.The hope for parents is that your children will know the greatest gift they can receive any time of year is eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

So how do you do this? Here are some wonderful suggestions from other parents out there who are working hard to teach their kids the meaning of Christmas:
  • Read the Birth of Christ of the Book of Luke several times
  • Give to Others
    You can sponsor a child in your own town and take kids shopping with you to buy the presents the sponsored child wants. Spend time talking to your child about how some kids do not have anything for Christmas. Also, pray with your child about the sponsored child you are buying gifts for. You can even do this with an international agency to send money to kids overseas. Have your kids do things around the house to make money to send. This is making them a part of the giving process.
  • Attend a Christmas Eve Service as a family
  • Have a Birthday Party for Jesus
    Make a cake for Jesus and have your kids sing "Happy Birthday" to him. Spend your 'party' time talking about this is the time of year that Jesus was born. Jesus was born so that he could grow up and live a perfect life. He then gave his life for us, that we might live forever.
  • Buy a nativity scene for children to play with" Click here for Little People Nativity
    A year ago, a friend of mine did this with her son. He had learned the story of Christ's birth and knew something bad was going to happen to Jesus. He then decided that he would put Spiderman and Superman in the nativity scene to protect baby Jesus. This is a great example of a child who obviously felt a connection with the story of Jesus. So much so, he wanted to protect him. Having a nativity he can play with gave him that since of connection.
  • For older children, take them to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to let them see what poverty really looks like
  • Ultimately, make sure your perspective is in the right place. Most likely, your kids will follow your lead.
Jesus' birth brought the greatest joy any of us can experience. I want to challenge all families to look at Christmas in a new light this year. Let us know how it works for you or if you have other traditions or ideas. Just post a comment for all to see and share your experience.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Blues

Q. I read your article last week about grief and the holidays. I haven't experienced grief, but the holidays are very difficult for me. What can I do battle the holiday blues?

A. For some individuals, the holidays are a time of loneliness, depression, stress, grief and other emotions that produce feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. They long for the holiday season to be over and never return.

It is important to understand that the bad feelings are not the real problem. They are the result of issues in life, whether caused by medical needs, relationship issues or other circumstances. A solution may become obvious once the real issue is identified and resolved. To effectively resolve these, you need to first understand what is happening in your life.

The factors that lead to these emotions are almost limitless. These could be issues that have happened in the past or are currently happening; they may be within or outside your control; they may be real or imagined; and they may be tied to thoughts, beliefs or attitudes. Also, be aware of underlying medical issues such as biochemical imbalances, effects of alcohol or other drugs, side effects of prescribed medications, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which a person’s feelings are tied to the change in seasons.

Along with identifying issues in your life, become aware of specific circumstances that can trigger these negative feelings. This will help you avoid those factors and instead focus on those things that help you have a positive mindset.

Some factors that may trigger negative emotions or feelings for you are stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, finances and the inability to be with friends and family. Time constraints and demands such as shopping, family reunions, parties and guests can add to the feelings of tension, as can post-holiday disappointments such as bills and the departure of guests. Some outward expressions of these negative feelings are headaches, difficulty sleeping, overeating and excessive drinking.

Most importantly, remember that God loves you and wants to be an active, daily part of your experience. Make worship a priority. A prayer like the one found in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer,” could help drive away the “holiday blues.”

Tips for coping with the Holiday Blues:
  • Keep expectations for the holidays manageable.
  • Leave the past, live the present and expect the future.
  • Do things for others.
  • Enjoy inexpensive or free activities.
  • Be aware that drinking alcoholic beverages can increase feelings of depression.
  • Spend time with caring and supportive individuals and groups.
  • Take some personal alone time to recharge your batteries.
  • Try celebrating the holidays differently and create a new tradition.
  • Set reasonable limits regarding the purchase of gifts.
  • Make a list and prioritize important activities.
  • Let others share the responsibility of holiday tasks.
  • Contact a professional, Christian counselor to help you resolve issues in your life that may be triggering the blues.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor. This article was written by Dwight Wilson, counselor in Hartselle, Sheffield, and Athens.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grief During the Holidays

Q. I recently lost a loved one to cancer. I grieve everyday. When I think about the holidays, I am not sure I even want to celebrate this year. It just seems like it will be too hard. What do I do?

A. As much as you might want to ignore it, Christmas is coming. “Silver Bells” has already begun proclaiming ‘it’s Christmastime in the city’ even though it is barely November. The empty place at the annual Christmas Eve dinner has already crossed your mind many times.

Perhaps you found yourself wanting to avoid the mall the day after Thanksgiving, not because of the crowds, but because you are not ready to do any shopping. It all reminds you of one thing -- Christmas is going to be difficult this year because of the recent loss of a loved one. Although you did not have a choice in your loss, you do have some decisions about how you mourn this Christmas season.

It is important to acknowledge to yourself and those close to you that this season will not be the same as in previous years. Your life and family have been altered permanently. As you face this reality, give yourself permission to mourn this enormous loss. There is no right or wrong way to grieve this Christmas.

Remembering your loved one during the holidays can aid in your journey towards healing. Perhaps you want to tell stories (including humorous ones) about your family member as you open presents. Friends and family members may share lists of their favorite past Christmas memories with him or her. You may also choose to begin new family traditions, such as going to an earlier Christmas Eve service followed by dinner at a relative’s home.

Perhaps your friends and family were with you from the time you heard the news until you said goodbye to the last guests at the funeral. Now you long to have that same support to endure December and the winter months to come. It is important that you ask for what you need. Spend time with friends, request prayer and talk to them about your pain. On the other hand, there may be a Christmas party you send your regrets to because you don’t feel like celebrating. There is freedom in knowing and following through with what you need. However, make sure that you do not completely isolate yourself from others.

During these difficult days ask God to sustain you. Turn to the Word of God as a source of strength. Some of the Old Testament books such as Job, Psalms and Lamentations may be comforting as you work through your grief. Memorize Scripture so that it is “hidden in your heart” no matter where you are throughout your day. Keep a journal of your feelings and write out your prayers to God. You might write a letter addressed to your family member about how much you miss them this Christmas.

As you remember and grieve for your loved one this season, remember that God is able to sustain you as the Psalmist writes: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:12).

Additional Tips on Handling the Holidays:

1. Talk to your family and friends about your expectations for this Christmas.
2. Be sure to stay involved in church and church activities during this time.
3. Make a donation to a charity or your church in memory of your loved one.
4. Do not be afraid to cry or laugh. Do whatever you need to at that time.

Editor’s Note: Anne Lawton, a professional counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes answered this week's question.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Pastors Should Refer?

Q. I am a pastor at a local church. I often times will have church members come and see me for counseling needs. There are some issues I am comfortable with handling, but when it gets past a few meetings I am wondering if I should refer them to a professional counselor. What do you think about this?

A. What a great question! We actually have a counselor on our staff who formerly served in the capacity of pastor. Dwight Wilson, counselor for Pathways Professional in Sheffield, Hartselle, and Athens, has some great insight into why pastors should consider referring out some counseling needs.

"Having had the wonderful privilege of being a pastor from 1972-1997; I discovered several really good reasons for referring individuals and couples who came to me for counseling.
  1. Although I received a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I did not take one course in counseling. I felt very comfortable dealing with Spiritual matters, and yet, I felt overwhelmed and incompetent when it came to other areas. I did not have the practical training for in-depth marital counseling nor mental health counseling.
  2. I found that as a pastor certain priorities had to be established with regard to time if proper preparation were to be given to preaching the Word a minimum of three times each week. (Counseling can be long term for some, 10 to 26 weekly sessions, or more.)
  3. When an individual counsels with their pastor revealing their innermost being (fear, insecurity, needs, sins, etc.), it can become a stumbling block to both the minister and the counselee. During sermon preparation the minister is constantly desiring-thinking of ministering the word to the people. When those things which were mentioned in a counseling session arise in the study, the pastor has to evaluate how this is going to be perceived by a counselee who has shared this issue confidentially with him. Is this individual going to think that I am betraying confidentiality, or maybe preaching to him/her from the pulpit? So, the question arises for the pastor, “Do I dare even preach this?”
  4. Often when persons have been counseled by their minister, shared their thoughts, needs, fears, pain, or letting it all hang out-so-to-speak, they no longer are comfortable attending the church because the pastor knows too much. Therefore many individuals choose to move on to either attend another church or drop out of church completely, especially if this is the only church they have ever attended.
  5. Many individuals just cannot bring themselves to share with someone they know, their pastor, what is really bothering them. Therefore, some superficial work is done without getting to the root of the issue which leaves the counselee frustrated, confused, and blaming God, the pastor, and the church because they have not gotten the relief they desire and need.
  6. A fear that keeps individuals from counseling is that their confidentiality will be betrayed. So when the preacher speaks about a particular issue, the devil will suggest to some person that the preacher is really talking about him/her! ???Are ministers competent counselors? Yes, most are. Do ministers keep things confidential? Yes, most do. But the pastor should weight out whether it is in the best interest of their church member to be counseled by their pastor."
If you have further questions about whether you should refer some to our many statewide locations, give Lisa Keane a call at 1-866-991-6864. She is the statewide intake coordinator and will be able to help you determine if professional counseling from a Christians perspective is a good fit for that church member.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holiday Tension

Q. I am very worried about our upcoming holidays. The holidays tend to be a bit stressful for my husband and I as we visit family and friends we haven't seen in a while. How can we avoid tension during the holidays and enjoy this wonderful time?

A. Holiday gatherings provide chances to reconnect with family, share old memories and make new ones. Major holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, are often accompanied by major expectations. But with major expectations can come major disappointments, major tensions, and major stress!

The following may help lead to fond family memories instead of frantic family meltdowns.
  1. Plan ahead - If your extended family is like most, you will not be the only ones hosting or going to holiday celebrations! It is essential, therefore, that families are willing to “share” their family members and share the dates and times of celebrations. If it is important to you that everyone (or almost everyone) be able to attend your extended family celebration, advanced planning is necessary. This is especially important if part of the family lives in another state, or you have step-families where the number of extended family gatherings can be doubled or tripled.
  2. Communicate your expectations - You are more likely to get what you want if you ask for what you want. Don’t expect your family to read your mind or “just know” how you would prefer to celebrate. Communicate your desires, being careful to not present them as demands.
  3. Be flexible As families grow and change, family traditions need to grow and change with them. Ecclesiates 3:1-3 says, “There is a time for everything…” I would paraphrase this verse and say that there is a time for building family traditions and a time for changing or even letting go of those traditions. Life situations such as job changes, marriages and even new babies call for flexibility and the willingness to begin some new family traditions and celebration times.
  4. Be creative - Be creative in planning your family holiday gatherings. “Family Christmas” can be celebrated whenever the family can get together -- it doesn’t have to be done on Christmas Day or even in December. Some families exchange Christmas gifts the Friday after Thanksgiving. Other families celebrate Christmas in July at the beach.
  5. Be peaceful - Holiday gatherings are not the time for discussing controversial topics or dispensing advice. Romans 2:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Before you speak, ask yourself if what you are about to say will build up and encourage the other person, or tear him or her down. Use caution in asking questions that may subtlety suggest disapproval – such as “When are you going to get married, have a baby, or get a job?” For those who desire these things, such questions may trigger grief or make them feel stigmatized or isolated.
  6. Be prayerful - Pray for each member of your immediate and extended family and pray for your time together. If you, your children or parents are part of a blended or step-family, pray for all the people who are part of that family -- including the ex-spouses and their families. As we do so, we will be more sensitive to their needs, more forgiving of their flaws and freer in sharing our love. Prayer also causes us to look for God’s guidance and wisdom in relating to our family.
  7. Be loving - We are called to love each other just as Christ has loved us. First Corinthians 13:4­-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” During these holidays, seek to demonstrate this love to your family in honor of the Savior who was born as love incarnate.
Editor’s Note: Melanie Howard, a professional counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes answered this weeks question.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Safety Tips for this Weekend

Q. Our family plans to attend our church's trunk or treat. Our girls, however, want to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood first. Do you have any safety tips for us when we go trick-or-treating with them?

A. This time of year can be a fun-filled time for kids. They enjoy dressing up as princesses, super heroes, or their favorite movie characters. It is also the one time a year they get more candy than any other. This can be very safe time for you and for your kids if you take the right steps to keep them safe.

You already have a good idea of what to do to keep your girls safe this Sunday. You are planning to take them to a local church event to show off their costume and have fun. You can feel much more safe knowing that your child is in a place where people you know are passing out safe candy. Most sheriff's departments recommend attending a community or church-based program to keep kids safe and off streets that could be hazardous.

If you do decide to go door-to-door trick-or-treating before hand, there are several tips I would like to offer to keep your girls safe. Pedestrian injuries are the most common among children on October 31st. Four times as many kids between the ages of 5 and 14 are injured while walking on on this night compared to any other night of the year. This does not have to be your girls if you are keeping a vigilant eye on them and following some safety tips listed below.

Here are 5 things you and your husband can do while trick-or-treating:

1. Check your state's website for sex offenders in your neighborhood. Make sure your kids
stay way from those houses. (Click here to see Alabama's)

2. Teach your children to cross the street properly. They should always look both ways before crossing the street and should cross only at corners or crosswalks. Children should never dart out from between cars or behind objects. They should also always yield to cars whether they think the cars should stop or not.

3. Make sure all children have a flashlight. Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and bags for greater visibility.

4. Have children eat a good meal prior to parties or trick-or-treating. This will discourage them from eating too much candy, which can make them sick, and will allow you time to check the candy out. Throw away spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious candy.

5. Only go to houses that you know or that have a porch light on. Never enter someone's house
or car for a treat.

If you would like to talk further with your child about how to be safe this Sunday, click here for a helpful list that is kid friendly.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Warning Signs of Bullying

Q. I saw last week's article on bullying via my Facebook newsfeed. Do you have any other warning signs to watch out for in my child?

A. There are several warning signs which may help you identify whether or not your child is being bullied.

Warning signs your child is being bullied:
  • Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings or “loses” things without being able to give a proper explanation of what has happened.
  • Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches
  • Seems afraid of: going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs)
  • Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
  • Appears sad, moody (mood swings with sudden outbursts of irritation or anger), teary, or depressed when he or she comes home
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomach aches, or other physical ailments
  • Experiences a loss of appetite
  • Appears anxious and/or suffers from low self-esteem
  • Steals or asks for extra money from members of the family (to soften up the bullies)
Remember, bullying is difficult for kids to navigate and know how to handle. They often feel they should handle it on their own and don't want to 'tattle' on the kids in their school. However, if you see or suspect that your child is being bullied, it is an issue to take very seriously. Talk to your kids about bullying and mention to them if you see the warning signs listed above.

Also, be aware bullying can take place not only in a school, church, or neighborhood setting, but also online. Many bullies and online predators are using the anonymity of the internet to attack their victims. October is Cyber Safety month. If you would like to learn more about cyber safety and keeping your kids safe in this new frontier, check out this article on Cyber Safety.
(You will leave our blog page and be directed to our main ministry website:

Source: http://http//

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What do I do about Bullying?

Q. I am worried that my son is being bullied at school. What should I do?

A. You are right for being worried about your son. Bullying has become a big problem for kids in today's world and the psychological impact is great. Kids who are bullied tend to have a lower self esteem and are more likely to struggle with depression. There are, however, things you can do to help your child deal with bullies. First, instruct them that they can tell you or any trusted adult whenever they are being bullied. Telling is not tattling. Then try the following:

(1) Talk with your child. Ask direct questions such as: “Are there any kids at school who are picking on you or bullying you?” “Are there any kids at school who tease you in a mean way?” More subtle questions would be: “Are there any kids at school who you don’t like? Why not? Do they leave you out of things?” Reassure your child you are there for him.

(2) Talk with the staff at your child’s school. Meet with your child’s teacher. He or she will probably be in the best position to understand the relationships between your child and other peers at school. Share your concerns and ask about how your child relates to his classmates. Allow the school to set up an appointment with the parents of the bully to curtail the bullying if needed. (See footnote 1)

You may want to suggest your child do the following when dealing with bullies:
  • Do not fight back.
  • Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
  • Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
  • Calmly tell the student to stop…or say nothing and then walk away. Use humor, if this is easy for you to do.
  • Try to avoid situations where bullying is likely to happen. You might want to: 1) Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around. 2) Make sure you aren’t alone in the bathroom or locker room. 3) Sit near the front of the bus. 4) Don’t bring expensive things or a lot of money to school. 5) Sit with a group of friends at lunch. 6)Take a different route through the hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes. (See footnote 2)
If none the above works, give us a call. We will be happy to help talk further with your child or you to help your son deal with being bullied.

Be sure to check back next week to see a follow up article on bullying and what warning signs to look for in your child if he or she is being bullied.


*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What is Sexting?

Q: I heard on the news that teens are heavily involved in sexting. What does that mean?

A: The term sexting is defined by Wikipedia as, “the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones.” According to a recent survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20 percent of all teens have sent or posted nude pictures or videos of themselves. If that statistic isn’t alarming enough, 1 out of 3 teens have received such pictures on their cell phone. There are a number of legal, emotional and sexual implications related to sexting.

The legal ramifications in some cases across the U.S. have been high. A number of teens have been charged with child pornography due to the inappropriate material found on their phones. It is possible they could face prosecution for obscenity. In October a teenage boy in Texas spent the night in juvenile detention after his coach found nude pictures on his phone sent to him by a classmate. Most recently, three Pennsylvania adolescent males were charged with child pornography for having inappropriate pictures on their cell phones of three younger girls. Many adolescents do not understand the long-term consequences of sexting. It is important to educate teens on this matter. Even if you believe your child will not be involved in this behavior, knowledge of the ramifications could allow your teen to prevent a peer from making a costly mistake. Make sure your teen realizes the high cost of possibly being a registered sex offender before they are even an adult.

Emotionally, teens often do not understand the implications for hitting send on a text with a nude or semi-nude picture. It seems that they are sending the picture to one individual boyfriend or girlfriend. However, the trend seems to be that the couple breaks up and the picture may be forwarded to others and can easily end up on Facebook or MySpace available for anyone to view. The pictures end up in countless places the individual never intended nor thought possible. The ridicule from friends including name calling can be devastating and the teen may lose his/her reputation and relationships close to him/her.

Certainly the sexual concerns are great for adolescents. Teenage girls report that pressure from a guy causes them to send the picture. Once the picture is sent and numerous teen boys in her high school see the picture she may be viewed as an object or as someone who is available as a sexual partner. It is vital that the church and parents educate their children on healthy sexuality. Often this topic is difficult to talk about, but the more that healthy discussions occur, the greater potential there is for healthy relationships. It is best to have these conversations prior to adolescence, as teenagers are many times genuinely embarrassed to have these candid conversation with their parents. The idea of a one-time “birds and the bees” conversation is probably obsolete (and it may not have been a very good idea, even in the “good old days”). Parents of teens may benefit from reading excerpts from “Soul Virgins” by Doug Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson, which can be a healthy approach to sexuality for the teens and single years.

One of the primary responsibilities of the parent of a teenager is to keep their child safe and to protect them from those who do not have their best interest at heart. Therefore, if you discover that your child has been using their cell phone inappropriately, it is a great opportunity to correct your child through the use of natural and logical consequences. A cellular phone is a privilege. Most current parents did not have cell phones when they were teenagers, and we all lived to tell about it. Your teenager will suffer no significant long-term negative consequences for having their cell phone privileges revoked. If your teenager misuses their cell phone, that is a great opportunity to have a conversation with them about the importance of not abusing or misusing privileges and it is an opportunity for them to learn that if they misuse a privilege they may lose that privilege. If the offense is small (too many text messages in a billing cycle), the privilege may be revoked for a few weeks (or until they pay you for the extra expense of the text overage). If the offense is greater (sexting or cyber-bullying), then the revocation may be for a much longer time (several weeks, months, or even permanent revocation).

If you believe your teen is sexting and would like some help in knowing how to deal with this, email us or give us a call: or 1-866-991-6864. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

For a recent story about the consequences of sexting click here: Cell Phone Picture Ruins Girl's Life

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What is Theraplay?

Q. I heard that Pathways Professional Counseling is holding a conference next week on Theraplay. What is Theraplay and what is it used for?

A. You are correct. Pathways is holding a conference next week for all its counselors and some social workers on the treatment approach called Theraplay. Theraplay is very different than the standard approach to counseling with children. According to the Theraplay Institute, "Theraplay is an engaging, playful, relationship-focused treatment method that is interactive, physical, personal, and fun. Its principles are based on attachment theory and its model is the healthy, attuned interaction between parents and their children." Counselors use Theraplay to enhance attachment, engagement, self-esteem, and trust in others.

Theraplay activities are very simple with the therapist in charge. "The simplicity allows the full impact of the process to be felt by the child. Theraplay activities aim at creating a feeling of closeness between the child and parent, which is attained through activities in which the child experiences the adult as creating the structure (the rules, etc.) and also nurturing the child. The goal of therapy is that the child be more at ease with adults and other children, have less of a need to stay in charge, and be more spontaneously able to experience and express her feelings." (Theraplay Institute).

Oftentimes, children who have experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, medical issues, seeing traumatic material, etc., will have a difficult time regulating their emotions and behaviors. Theraplay is designed to help them relearn how to regulate themselves and their emotions. It is essentially work the child needs in order to get back on track in their developmental process. Therefore, Theraplay is geared toward a child's emotional level, not their chronological age.

Theraplay is used with a wide variety of issues. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder can all benefit from Theraplay. It is also used to work with children with developmental delays and Autism. Some children without a diagnosis can also benefit from the interactions of Theraplay, including children who are acting out, angry, non-compliant, withdrawn, depressed, and those with attachment insecurities.

If you believe your child could benefit from Theraplay or if you would like to know more about Theraplay, email us or give us a call: or 1-866-991-6864. We will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

For another article for parents on Theraplay by Janet Mullen, LCSW click here.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Growing your Marriage through Infertility - Part 2

(From last week) Q. I saw your article a few weeks ago about infertility. My spouse and I have been struggling with 'childlessness' for a while and it is taking a toll on our marriage. Can you offer some guidance on keeping our marriage strong through infertility?

A. It sounds like you can also use some helpful tips on what exactly you both can do to strengthen your marriage. Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional Counselor in Hoover, Tuscaloosa, and Columbiana, explains there are many ways couples can strength their marriage during this difficult time.

  • Pray, worship and study the Bible together.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between you and your spouse.
  • Set a time limit on how much you talk about infertility during a single conversation. You don’t want to exhaust each other’s ability to listen.
  • Plan special dates where you agree not to discuss infertility. Focus on each other.
  • Recognize that neither of you is able to provide 100 percent of the emotional support the other person needs. Consider joining an infertility support group or talking with a compassionate friend.
  • Before beginning treatment, discuss the moral and ethical issues that can arise. Prayerfully seek to make informed, scriptural decisions about which treatments you would or would not consider.
  • Before beginning treatment, seek to reach agreement about how to finance treatments, whether or not you will go into debt, and how much debt you will accrue.
  • Discuss taking a break from treatment. Use this time to renew your commitment to your marriage. · Take a vacation together to reconnect and enjoy your relationship.
  • Have intercourse during the “infertile” part of your cycle and enjoy relating with one another without the “agenda” of trying to conceive.
  • Agree together on when it’s time to stop treatment.
  • Seek professional counseling if infertility is causing significant problems in your relationship.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotions of this journey, our counselors are here to help. Contact us at 1-866-991-6864 or

To see the first part of this article, click here.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Growing your Marriage through Infertility - Part 1

Q. I saw your article a few weeks ago about infertility. My spouse and I have been struggling with 'childlessness' for a while and it is taking a toll on our marriage. Can you offer some guidance on keeping our marriage strong through infertility?

Infertility is devastating for couples who long for a child. Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional Counselor in Hoover, Tuscaloosa and Columbiana, wrote an article about this very subject for LifePrints magazine

Protecting Your Marriage Through Infertility
By Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional Counselor

Zach and Liz were exhausted. Thousands of dollars and endless months spent trying to have a child were taking their toll. Although they had a great network of friends and family supporting them, the isolation of being the only “childless” couple was overwhelming at times.

As Liz and Zach talked about their next step, both wondered at the stress they felt, both individually and as a couple. Liz felt she was facing the loss of a dream, the fulfillment of a core part of who she was meant to be. Zach was grieving just as deeply, but didn’t know how to share his thoughts and feelings with his wife.

For many couples, the season in their marriage before the arrival of children is often a time when marital satisfaction is high. However, for a childless couple dealing with infertility treatments, the months or years of trying to have children can turn the season of new love into a difficult rollercoaster of grief, emotions and other stressors that place a great deal of strain on their marriage.

First, let me validate the strain you are experiencing in your marriage. This strain can be caused by a variety of factors:

· Men and women respond differently to infertility. In general, fertility and parenting are not usually as central to a man’s identity as they are to a woman’s. The loss many women feel with infertility would be comparable to the loss a man might feel if he became permanently unable to work. For some men, the biggest loss in the infertility is not the loss of a dreamed-about child, but the loss of the happy wife he once had.

· Men and women process information differently. In general, women process information globally and are better at multi-tasking. Men process information compartmentally and are better at focusing on one subject at a time. A wife’s grief may be triggered by walking past diapers in a store or seeing a baby or pregnant woman. Husbands often have an “infertility compartment” and their grief is expressed only when that compartment is open. She may mistakenly conclude that because he processes his grief differently, he isn’t hurting or doesn’t care as much as she does.

· Infertility treatments are frequently detrimental to sexual satisfaction. Infertility treatments can turn one of the most private aspects of a couple’s marriage into a science lab, causing a decrease in the frequency of intercourse and the couple’s level of satisfaction. This can turn intercourse into a chore and painful reminder of disappointment and failure.

· Infertility treatments are expensive. One intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle may cost as much as $2,500 for medications and the procedure. An in-vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle may cost more than $6,000 for medicine and $6,000-10,000 for the procedures. While insurance laws vary, most health insurance plans in Alabama do not cover assisted reproductive technologies and most prescription plans cover only 80 percent of the cost of infertility medications. Some insurance plans to do not cover infertility medications at all.

· Infertility treatments are time consuming. A woman who is undergoing a typical IUI cycle will usually make 6-8 trips to her reproductive endocrinologist’s office in a 28-day cycle. An IVF cycle involves even more visits. In general, the husband is only medically needed for one appointment per cycle. This can create great stress when balancing visits with work, travel and get-togethers, eliminating the spontaneity that many couples without children enjoy.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotions of this journey, our counselors are here to help. Contact us at 1-866-991-6864 or

Return next week to see our Part 2 article on what exactly you can do to strengthen your marriage through infertility.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What is Play Therapy?

Q: My child's school counselor suggested play therapy for my child who is anxious. I have to admit, it sounds strange. Can you tell me more about what play therapy is and how it works?

A. These questions are not uncommon for us as Play Therapists to hear. Oftentimes we are asked, "Does playing with a child really help them?" The answer to this question is absolutely!

Play therapy is designed to meet a child on their level. The basic assumption of play therapy is that play is a child's language and the toys are their words. Dr. Gary Landreth, the father of play therapy, says, "Children's feelings often are inaccessible at a verbal level. Developmentally they lack the cognitive, verbal facility to express what they feel, and emotionally they are not able to focus on the intensity of what they feel in a manner that can be expressed adequately in a verbal exchange."

Rod Marshall, Director, Pathways Professional Counseling/VP of ABCH, talks more about play therapy in the video below. Watch and listen as he explains more about how play therapy works.

For more information about play therapy or whether your child might benefit from play therapy, visit our website at: or give us a call: 1-866-991-6864. We would love to talk to you further.

Also, look back next week for a follow up article on infertility and your marriage.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Supporting Someone Through Infertility

Q. I have a friend who is going through infertility. I am not sure what to say or what to do. Can you help?

A. Melanie Howard, Pathways Professional counselor in Tuscaloosa, Columbiana, and Hoover will be answering your question today. "Infertility is often a very painful and private issue that is a source of grief. If a loved one has entrusted you with information about their infertility diagnosis, take a moment to reflect on the responsibility that comes with this before you say or do anything. It can be difficult for even the most caring friends and family members to offer constructive support. But there are ways you can help"

Things to Do:

• DO pray for those who are struggling with infertility, and ask permission before telling others about their struggle — even as a “prayer request.”
• DO have the courage to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This is often more helpful than any attempt to cheer the couple up. Avoid offering suggestions such as “Maybe God is trying to teach you a lesson.” These can sound like heartless accusations. Leave it up to the couple, when they are ready, to testify to God’s grace and His sovereignty.
• DO respect the couple’s privacy. While some couples are very open about their struggles with infertility, others are very private. When the couple wants to share, do be available to listen. Express empathy using words like “loss and sorrow.”
• DO remember that holidays and special events can be painful reminders of the absence of children in the couple’s home. Try not to pressure their attendance, and allow them to come late or leave early. They will not need to avoid these events forever, but may need to do so at particular times in their grief journey.
• DO educate yourself about infertility, both the medical and emotional experiences. Your local hospital, library and the Internet can be good resources.
• DO offer to put them in touch with others who have dealt with infertility or adoption. Let them decide whether or not to pursue that contact. This is MUCH better than sharing secondhand stories about others who tried for years to conceive and eventually got pregnant.
• DO be aware that couples who already have one or more children can experience “secondary infertility,” which is difficulty getting pregnant following the birth of a biological child.

Things to avoid:

• DON’T give advice unless asked. Unsolicited suggestions about home remedies, physician referrals or infertility treatment options may not be very well received.
• DON’T ask the couple invasive questions about the reasons for their infertility, whether the problem is his or hers, or what types of infertility treatments they have tried.
• DON’T say “just relax.” In 85 percent of cases, doctors find a medical cause for the infertility that no amount of “relaxing” will cure. In general, it’s best to avoid statements that begin with “just”, or “at least.” These can be very hurtful and cause the couple to feel their very painful experience has been invalidated and trivialized.
• DON’T push adoption or say “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant.” Adoption is a wonderful way in which God builds families, but God doesn’t call every infertile couple to adopt. And while there are couples who have gotten pregnant following adoption, studies have shown that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adoption is the same as for infertile couples who become pregnant without adopting — approximately 5-10 percent

If you would like more information about how to help a loved one through infertility or if you know someone who could benefit from counseling due to infertility, give us a call. You can click on the contact us tab. We will be happy to help.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Invalidation in Marriage

Q. I've seen the last three blog post and have really been working to better my marriage. What is the fourth negative pattern we should avoid in marriage?

A. The final negative pattern to avoid in marriage is invalidation. We tend to invalidate by subtly or directly putting down the thoughts, feelings, and character of others. You can either directly say that your spouse is wrong or you could simply minimize what they have to say. It causes your spouse to feel unimportant, hurt and disregarded. Of all four of the patterns to avoid in marriage, this could be the easiest to avoid.

Luckily, in order to validate your spouse, all you have to do is treat them with respect and listen. Many times, when a spouse comes with an issue or hurt, they do not want a plan of action to fix it. They are often looking for someone to listen to them and respect their perspective. Many arguments in marriage could be solved simply by listening and validating.

Does this mean that you have to agree with your spouse? No. You can validate feelings and concerns simply by acknowledging them. In fact, research shows that invalidation is one of the best predictors that there will be future issues in the marriage. However, having validation does not say that you will have a healthy marriage. Therefore, stopping invalidation is more important than actually validating. Just listen to your spouse - it will make all the difference.

We are reminded of this idea in Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." When we apply this principle to our marriage relationships, we will see a drastic change in the amount of invalidation that is currently present. Work to build up your spouse and help them to feel validated in their life.

All information taken from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Withdrawal and Avoidance in Marriage

(Continuation of Last Week's Post) Q. I saw last week's article on escalation. My wife and I really struggle with escalation in our marriage and want to work on making our marriage stronger. You mentioned there were more patterns to avoid in your marriage. Can you explain those?

A. To continue our discussion of the four patterns in marriage to avoid, we will talk today about withdrawing and avoiding. This can be as simple as walking away or no longer playing an active part in the discussion to simply avoiding any opportunity for a topic to arise. Both of these actions are incredibly harmful to a marriage. Both also happen to be the same negative pattern but with different ways of showing it. Ultimately, if you are withdrawing from conflicts or avoiding them all together, you are stiffing communication in your marriage. You have stopped being open and honest about what you are feeling and are no longer sharing what is truthfully going on with you. Resentment begins to build in a marriage at this point and begins to erode positive feelings about one another.

So how do you avoid avoiding? That is a great question with an answer that is grounded in scripture. Ephesians 4:25-27 says, "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. In your anger, do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." This directly addresses the need to be open and honest with one another. You would never want to allow your anger and resentment to grow and cause it to harm your marriage. It is more important to deal directly with the issue at hand.

All spouses must remember that your actions are not independent. Every decision you make directly affects your spouse. When you came together in the covenant of marriage, you vowed to work together and became one. For this reason, you must realize that you are not independent. If you find that you are not able to handle an issue on your own, seek out a trusted friend, mentor, or contact us for counseling. Never let an issue go on too long before seeking help. As a counselor, my number one warning for those seeking marriage counseling is, "Don't wait until a great deal of resentment is present to seek help."

All information take from: "A Lasting Promise" by Scott Stanley, Daniel Trathen, Savanna McCain, and Milt Bryan