Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: "Someone Special Died"

To stay in line with our July social media focus of "Grief: Because Love Never Dies", Renay Carroll, one of our therapists, wrote this book review on the children's book "Someone Special Died" by Joan Singleton Prestine. If you would like to purchase this book, click here. If you would like to know more about the author of this book review, click here


This book is the story of a young child approximately 8-10 years old who has experienced the death of someone special.  She and her mom talk through what happened to that person when he/she died and acknowledges the normal feelings of grief the child is experiencing. Mom gives answers and explains death in a child’s understanding reminding us that plants, animals and people die.   The book acknowledges a child’s feelings of sadness, anger, fairness and guilt.  The ending of the book suggests scrapbooking as a way for the child to remember the happy memories.  Scrapbooking becomes a way for the Someone Special who died to never be forgotten by the child. 

“Helping Children Cope with Death:  A Practical Resource Guide for Someone Special Died” by the same author is a companion guide which reviews the stages of grief describing how these stages may manifest themselves in the life of a child.  From shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and withdrawal, and acceptance, Prestine takes specific lines from the book and corresponds them with a stage of grief giving specific suggestions on how to help the child grieve the loss. 

What did you find helpful about this book?

As a clinician, I can apply the book to a wide range of grieving situations since the “someone special” is not defined as male or female or as a specific person with a role in the child’s life such as a parent, relative, teacher, friend.  I find that the honest answers to honest questions in simple terms helps in sharing the grieving experience with a child.  The companion  guide is very helpful in identifying the stage of grief the child’s feelings reference and in offering suggestions for how to help the child work through the stages of grief which may be experienced at the time of death.

“I miss him. I can’t believe I won’t ever see him again.  Sometimes I pretend he’s still alive.” This statement conveys feelings of shock and denial following the death of a loved one.  Prestine goes on to suggest using a life stages “path of life” time line, pet experiences, puppet play and planting flowers to assist in the shock and denial stage.  She explains each of these suggestions in the companion guide. 

What do clients find most helpful about the book?

Clients appreciate the simple explanations of death in a child’s language.  They appreciate the honesty of the book and the simple answers to hard questions children ask at the time of death.  Clients like the scrapbooking suggestion as a way for the child to grieve their loss.  Some clients have discovered this technique on their own so they feel empowered that they can help their child more through the grieving process in a healthy way. 

Clients find the book a ready tool when needed.  Death is a difficult subject for most to talk about and particularly in the life of a child so clients particularly parents appreciate having a resource to help them talk with their child.  The child clients I have shared the book with appear to identify with the child in the story and her feelings.  Many children will smile and affect improves when they read about how scrapbooking can help them with their feelings.  Many child clients have already begun the scrapbooking  process when they come for counseling or at least have started drawing pictures of their someone special or collecting pictures.  

Favorite Quotes:

“If I had been there, I wouldn’t have let him die.  But Mom says I couldn’t have done anything to help keep him alive.”  This statement deals with the guilt and blame a child has at the time of death.  Helping a child understand that the death is not his/her fault assists in the grieving process.

“What happened when he died?  His body stopped working.”  The simple answer to a difficult question explains the death in a child’s way of understanding.

“He died and I know he won’t be coming back.  But with my scrapbook, I’ll never forget him.”  Giving the child a tangible way to express his/her grief gives the child a place to put feelings.  Scrapbooking is helpful for children and adults alike.  

*This column is not intended to substitute for a session with a licensed counselor. If you have a question you would like for us to answer, EMAIL us at We would love to answer your question.*

Friday, July 12, 2013

Grief: Because Love Never Dies

Question:  My husband was killed in a car accident 3 weeks ago and I am worried our 5 year old son is not accepting his death.  I hear him talking to his dad when he is playing in his room with his toys.  Is this normal and how will I know if he needs to see a counselor?

Answer:  I am sorry for the death of your husband.  Grief is a very personal experience.  I would like to share with you ways you can help your child through this most difficult experience as you allow me to walk with you on this journey. 

As I offer grief assistance for your child I also want to address grief in general.  As your child’s primary caregiver, your experience of grief will also impact your child’s grief and his yours as well. 
Initially most people’s first response at a time of grief is shock and denial.  The initial awareness of the death or loss is too overwhelming for the mind and emotions to comprehend so the body has a built in mechanism to protect itself from the full impact of the loss through shock and denial.  Shock and denial is most often seen in sudden death or unexpected death situations as opposed to death at a time of prolonged illness.  For some shock and denial lasts for days and weeks; others for months.  Shock and denial are normal in the grieving process. 

Another response at death is anger and questioning of why or “what if.”  The circumstances of the death often provide this response.  “Why did this happen?”  “What if I had done . . . maybe he/she would not have died.”  The pain of grief seeks a reason and purpose.   Feelings of guilt over the death are often a way to blame someone or something for the hurt and pain of grief.  When we blame ourselves for how we responded through the dying process, survivor guilt is often operating.  While each person’s time table in grief is different, this response at death may last weeks, months or even  years.

The time frame for grief is different for every person but the sheer passage of time takes grief to new levels.  We never “get over grief.”  We learn to live with grief.  The purpose of grief as I see it is to move the very painful experience of the heart and emotions to  happy memories of that loved one.  
When that happens, we understand the purpose of grief:  because love never dies.  The happy memories of that loved one allow the love to continue and the life of that person to continue to have meaning and purpose. 

When it comes to helping a child understand the death of a loved one and experience the grieving process, I take into account the age of the child and the circumstances of the death.  In an extended illness, I help the child understand that their loved one was not just sick but “very very sick.”  This allows the child to understand that a person can get well if he/she gets sick such as with a cold or the flu as opposed to being “very very sick.”  Children can learn that all things die such as plants, animals and even people.  Children can walk through the funeral and burial experience with other family members as we answer their questions with simple explanations.

Often children will talk to their toys and imaginary friends in their play. It would not be uncommon to talk to his dad as he plays out the death and questions he has over what has happened to his dad.  Offer him the opportunity to draw a picture of he and his dad together and the happy times they had together.  Answer any questions he has about what happened to his dad as honestly as you can using simple terms.  

Your child will want to know that his mom will be ok. While it is ok and natural and cry over missing dad, you may need to have adult friends to help you process your feelings of grief.  I have not found it helpful for children to make frequent trips to the cemetery.  Some adults find comfort in going to the cemetery and others do not.  However children in my experience do not often feel the need to go to the cemetery as some adults. 

You asked how to know when your child may need to see a counselor.  If your child begins to regress in his development, lose weight, have frequent nightmares, etc.  he/she may need to see a doctor and/or a counselor.  Play therapy is often used to assist a child  in the grieving process so that the child does not “get stuck” in grief or develop complicated grief.  
 *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, June 27, 2013

Book Review: "When Happily Ever After Shatters"

Keeping in line with our social media focus for June, "Time For Healing: A Look at Divorce Recovery", our counselor Alisha Lewis has reviewed the book "When Happily Ever After Shatters". 

The book, “When Happily Ever After Shatters” is one of the most engaging books I have read regarding divorce recovery. The author, Sue Birdseye, takes you through her personal journey of divorce, after a seventeen year marriage with 5 children together ended with her husband telling her he was leaving. She is extremely open and honest as she shares her experience of divorce in her carefully chosen words in the pages of this book. This book covers a multitude of issues that arise in the divorce process and recovery. It is a comprehensive view of life before, during and after divorce. She not only carries you through the range of emotions such as abandonment, fear, anger, despair and loneliness; she provides practical ways in her book to effectively deal with those emotions. The book effectively addresses how to pick the pieces up after divorce and learn to live again. She carries you through the emotional, physical, financial, spiritual and legal struggles that one faces in divorce. She shares not only her personal experiences but talks about how her children were affected by the divorce and ways she was able to be there for them in the midst of her pain. The foundation of this book is built on how God worked in her life and the life of each of her children through the devastation of divorce to bring about a gift of hope and healing.

What did you find helpful about this book?
Having worked in the field of divorce recovery for over 15 years, I found it to be thorough in addressing the many facets that you should expect in the face of divorce. She not only shares a lot of questions she pondered in this process, she provided many answers found clearly in God’s word. In this book, she has excerpts from her journal that are moving and can easily connect someone who is going through or has been through a divorce. It provides understanding, nurture and hope. Scripture is filled throughout the pages of this book and she beautifully describes God’s every step with her through this time in her life.

What do clients find most helpful about this book?
There is a statement I hear quite often from the clients I see who are in the process of divorce or who are recovering from divorce. It goes something like this, “My friends and family don’t understand what I am going through.” They feel very alone in their journey. Sue Birdseye understands. The book is personal and engaging. It is filled with sorrow and pain, frustration and humor, devastation and healing. The clients feel understood and they relate to Sue’s pain and long for the healing she shares in her book. Clients report their feelings are validated and they are able to connect to this writer because of her personal testimony. They have found clear practical answers. Clients discuss how easy it is to read and how it helped them to know that they are not the only one experiencing the pain of divorce but that healing will come. It is an encouraging and hopeful book. The role God plays in her recovery and how she reveals this in her book has drawn clients closer to God in their own journey.

Favorite Quotes:
·      “And while it was a day by day, step by step, remind-myself-to-breath kind of experience, I saw that God was (and continues to be) with me, helping me maintain a Christ-centered perspective even during the worst times.”
·      “I am thankful and hopeful because God is allowing me to be a part of the redemption of this difficult period in my life and the lives of my children.”
·      “His word reminded me of who I am and whose I am.”
·      “Knowing the truth of who God is and how deeply He loves you is foundational to your success.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

When Will I Ever Heal From My Divorce?

Question: Will this pain ever get better to the place I can move on in my life?

Answer: This is a far too common question for people who have experienced or are going through a divorce. Divorce is devastating.  It not only greatly affects the people directly involved in the divorce; it affects your children and other significant relationships in your life. It hurts. Your life will not be the same after you have experienced a divorce. However, in the midst of pain, there is hope, hope of restoration after the destruction. 

In Psalm 46:1-3, it states, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

We live in a society of quick fixes. We don’t want to sit in a place of pain and discomfort for long. However, recovery from anything is a process. Everyone has a different time table of recovery that is unique to them and to their situation. There are many variables to consider when you begin the process of recovering from a divorce. Some include the length of the marriage, children from the marriage, how loving the marriage was, how connected the couple was in the marriage prior to it ending and if the divorce was a surprise to the person. The variables mentioned, as well as others, play a part in the recovery process and time table involved in healing.

Loss is inevitable and difficult when divorce takes place. Some have indicated it is like someone has died. Recovery from a death has some finality.  However, a person experiencing divorce has to bring about closure while the one leaving is still alive and well. Some of the feelings and symptoms of loss through divorce include fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, and hopelessness. Those going through divorce, in spite of their circumstances being different, feel the same pain and need the same healing (Birdseye, 2013).

Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the 5 stages of Grief. Through the years, her “grief cycle” has been seen as a “change model” for any person who is dealing with any type of trauma in their life, not just death and dying (Kessler, 2013).  These stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 
In divorce recovery, you will go through the 5 stages shown above. I would like to walk you through the stages in application to divorce. Keep in mind that the stages you go through are not necessarily in the order you will go through them. You will go in and out of these stages based on the feelings you are experiencing.

Denial is the first stage. Denial helps you to survive the loss. In this stage, the denial helps us deal with our feelings, allowing them to come at a pace that is easier to manage. As you begin to come to terms with the reality of the loss (divorce), you start the healing process not even knowing you have started.

Anger is the second stage. It is an important and much needed stage to facilitate healing. Be willing to embrace your anger and realize the other feelings underneath the anger. It is painful but anger is our power emotion and helps take care of us and aides in making decisions needed to move through the pain to a further place of healing.

Bargaining is the third stage. It is important to healing too. This is the stage where you will try to do anything to change the outcome. You want to go back to the way things were before this happened. You will do anything to try to stop the pain. Bargaining is the process of coming to a place where the realization of the loss is closer than it has been in your recovery.

Bargaining leads us to the next stage, which is Depression. The realization of the loss (divorce) is ever present before you. You feel empty and lost. This stage takes you to a deeper level of grief. This can be a lengthy stage and can sometimes lead the person to seek professional help from a counselor or assistance with medications if significant physical symptoms occur and worsen. Contact your physician for medication assessment if you feel there is a need. The important thing to remember is that Depression is a normal response to trauma and loss in a person’s life. You can move through this stage as you do the other stages, just allow yourself the time needed to do so.

Acceptance is the last stage. This stage allows you to come to terms with the reality of your present circumstances. It is the process of healing that allows you to move forward and begin to live life again. It is an accepting of our new normal. Enjoyment of life can enter in at this stage. It is learning to live life again after divorce.

Divorce recovery is possible. The pain does get better. It is necessary to allow time for the healing to take place.  If you or someone you know is experiencing loss associated with divorce, reach out and be available to listen or ask for help. Seek out people in your life who are supportive and encouraging. Be aware of the local support groups in your community and churches that assist with divorce recovery.  You don’t have to go through this journey of healing alone.

In Jeremiah 29:11, it says, For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 *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, May 23, 2013

Book Review: "The Anxiety Cure" by Dr. Archibald Hart

Keeping in line with our May social media focus that is looking at anxiety in it's different forms, our book review this month will be on Dr. Archibald Hart's "The Anxiety Cure". This book review was written by one of our therapist - Dr. Tommy Smith. Dr. Smith works out of our Brewton, Andalusia, and Frisco City offices. If you would like to learn more about him, click here

This book is the very best I have read on Anxiety.  I have used this book for years and have recommended it to all my patients who struggle with anxiety.  Dr. Hart is a specialist in his knowledge of the underlying causes of anxiety and how it is successfully treated.  This book has helped me as a therapist in my work with those who have suffered with anxiety.  Dr. Hart’s book has covered the entire spectrum of causes and cures for the various problems that arise from anxiety.  He believes that medications are not the final answer and that a lifestyle change is necessary to overcome the problem. Reading this book will bring you more knowledge of the problem and will enable you to do the right things that will bring the real peace one suffering from anxiety longs for.  Answers Dr. Hart provides to worry, stress , and panic attacks make it possible for real lasting results without relying on psychotropic drugs.  Dr. Hart is a Christian counselor and psychologist who has devoted his life to helping people who suffer from anxiety.

The book contains 18 chapters.  In the first chapter, The anxiety Revolution,  you learn to recognize the symptoms of  your  anxiety using a symptom checklist. He describes how the problem is becoming epidemic with the American life-style of fast pace living.  In chapter 2, The GABA-Anxiety Connection, Dr. Hart explains how stress affects the brain chemistry and how this change leads to anxiety.  Chapter 3, Power Over Panic, provides insights and things to do to prevent panic attacks. Chapter 4 discuses psychotropic drugs used in the treatment of anxiety and also the counseling therapies that are available in the treatment of anxiety disorders.  Chapter 5, When and how to use anti anxiety medications. This chapter discusses the various medications and their side effects. Chapter 6, When and how to stop a tranquilizer, Dr. Hart provides very detail plan on how to adjust your dosage gradually in order to stop taking a medication.  He provides counsel as to when you should cease taking a medication.  Chapter 7, Enhancing your natural tranquilizers,  Dr. Hart reviews the research on the brain’s own natural tranquilizers and how through proper diet one can build up his/her own natural tranquilizers. The greatest stressor is one’s own self talk, what one is playing over and over in his or her mind. In Chapter 8, Changing your Thinking Habits, Dr. Hart shares how one can stop the automatic negative or fearful thoughts and to bring about more peaceful and positive self talk..  In chapter 9, Rest and Relaxation, Dr. Hart provides health promoting ways to rest and how to practice relaxation techniques to overcome the bad effects of stress overload (chapter 10).  Chapter 11 deals with the problem of worry and how to address it with a seven week plan for breaking the worry habit.  Chapter 12 reveals the connection between stress, anxiety and depression. Chapter 13 deals with phobias and strategies that lead to achieving freedom from fears.  Chapter 14  deals with the vital need for sleep as the number one stress reliever. Dr. Hart provides help in getting to sleep and sleeping throughout the night. Sleep deprivation is a very serious problem in trying to overcome anxiety.  Getting your required sleep is vital to overcoming the problem of anxiety disorders.  Chapter 15 talks about how to enhance the natural brain chemistry that leads to tranquility and a peaceful mood.  Chapter 16 addresses anxiety in children and teens. Dr. Hart also has written an entire book about how stress affects your child. The remaining chapters of the book points to  the needed spiritual resources that make it possible to resolve the root causes of anxiety and to find the spiritual life that leads to a life of peace and joy.

Dr. Hart's book, The Anxiety Cure, is a must read for everyone who wants to have a genuine and lasting cure for the fear/anxiety that so many people struggle with. This book is easy to read and provides simple easy to apply methods for anyone wishing to overcome fear and anxiety;  a real cure for anxiety without depending on life time use of drugs or psychotherapy.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here

Saturday, May 18, 2013

How Do I Deal With My Anxiety?


ANSWER: Anxiety is the most common group of psychological problems for children and adults in the U.S.  About 40 million people suffer from anxiety which often leads to depression. We are told in Philippians 4:6 to stop being anxious over everything! In the scripture we find that humans have "phobos," a tendency to run away when we are scared. We have all heard of the fight, flight, freeze response when faced with an overwhelming stress. Man was made in God's image, but when man became sinful, immediately became anxious about being near God. It seems that our very nature is "hard wired" for anxiety. In contrast, Jesus is never said to have been afraid! 

Stress overload or "dis-stress" result in panic and anxiety attacks, depression, or even heart problems.  It is not enough to say to oneself, "stop it" when anxiety hangs like a cloud. Yes, anxiety can be a lack of trust in God's purpose and provision for you. But, we see children being more anxious naturally from the beginning of their life. In our fallen world, we observe that some people are "naturally" more anxious than others.  Research supports this. We have "anxious brains." Even Christians suffer from anxiety, experiencing intrusive negative thoughts and fears, often occurring over and over in one's thought patterns. We call that "flight of thoughts." These reoccurring intrusive thoughts on one's mind frequently  interferes with sleep. Sleep deprivation increases the anxiety.

Another major area of stress damage especially for children is the anxiety that comes from having experienced a trauma. We are indeed living in a violent world and our children are very much occupied with fears. They constantly hear all the bad news coming in from media that indirectly may traumatize them. Even more harmful is a child that has been neglected, molested, or abused. Children have little life skill to deal with such overwhelming stress. Even fighting at home, a separation or divorce can affect a child like a trauma.

So, what is the Biblical answer? The Bible, addressing the problem of anxiety, emphasizes that anxiety is reduced by changing the thinking (Romans 12: 2; Phil. 4:6; John 14:27). Often our negative fear based "automatic thoughts" are related to a belief in a very small god. Core beliefs about God often fall short of the present,  gracious, omnipotent and sovereign God of the Bible. Our attempts to "run away and hide" betray our faith in God and we will need to learn to act on faith more than feeling. I remember teaching my children in their younger years when they came in the middle of the night in fear,  the scripture, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord." We indeed will be afraid, but against the fear we must take hold of God's assurance that He is with us. For many of those who have grown up with childhood trauma, the journey is longer and often requires that special care and healing that is associated with the help of a mature gifted Christian counselor or pastor.  Fearful people often feel that they have no "safe person" that they can tell their story to.

Some pain is inevitable in life. We will have times of fear and worry. We are called upon in scripture to "count it all joy when trials come" (James 1:1f) . We should not fight against God's providence but learn to accept it by faith. By faith we can develop a greater appreciation for our own life and deepen our spiritual beliefs. I think of the hymn, "Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God." Your fears and anxiety can lead you to a deeper and more satisfying faith and may lead you to pursue unexpected new pathways for your 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, April 11, 2013

My Child Was Assaulted...Now what?

Dear Anne,
My daughter recently disclosed that she was sexually abused by a family acquaintance.  We have already met with both the department of human resources and the police.  At this point I am really struggling with what to do.  I feel horrible that my daughter has gone through this but I don’t know how to respond to her.  My husband says I am babying her too much but my mother says that I need to baby her more.  I just don’t know what to do or say?
-Hurting Mom-

Dear Hurting Mom,
I am sorry that your child and your family have experienced this trauma.  After ensuring safety, one of the most important things you can do when a child discloses sexual abuse is to support them by letting them know you believe them and that they did the right thing when they told you what happened.    Stay as calm as possible and listen when the child wants to talk about the abuse.  Don’t ask questions; leave the investigating to the authorities.  Just listen and support. 
It is also very important to get back to a “normal” routine as soon as possible.  What was normal before the disclosure, such as rules, routine, and discipline, need to be the same following the disclosure.  Structure and routine provide a feeling of safety for children.
Your child may have times when she is more emotional.  That is ok.  Let her know that it is ok to be sad, mad, or have any other feeling she is having. You also may be more emotional as you work through this.  Acknowledge those feelings.
It may be helpful to seek professional help from a counselor that specializes in working with families and children who have experienced traumatic events.  

*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, April 10, 2013

Book Review: "A Terrible Thing Happened"

In line with our social media focus of "Wounded Heart: A Look at Sexual Abuse", we will be reviewing Margaret M. Holmes' "A Terrible Thing Happened". This book review was written by one of our therapist - Kristin Lowrey. Before coming to Pathways, Kristin worked at Children's Hospital with children who has been abused and so she is very knowledgeable on this topic. If you would like to read more about her, click here


"A Terrible Thing Happened" is a children’s book by Margaret M. Holmes that tells the story of a young Raccoon, Sherman, who witnessed something terrible.  Initially he tries not to think about the terrible thing, but soon it starts to bother him.  He then experiences anxiety, bad dreams, anger and many other symptoms.  He starts to meet with Ms. Maple who helps him sort out his feels and begin to work through the trauma. 


The book is written and illustrated in a way to appeal to young children, preschoolers and up, who have experienced or witnessed some kind of trauma.  It normalizes feelings that could result from trauma and helps to explain how suppressing feelings can lead to so many problems including acting out behaviors.   At the end of the book there is a parent/caregiver guide that gives suggestions on how to work with a child following a traumatic event. 

Potential Uses: 

This book could be a wonderful resource for either a family or a professional.  It is a great tool to use to open up communication with children about the internal aftermath of trauma that is often hard for them to understand.  

*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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: "The Connected Child"

In line with our March social media focus this month of "Attachment Matters", we will be reviewing "The Connected Child". This book review is written by our Clinical Director and Counselor, Lisa Keane. She works out of our Birmingham office, and if you would like to read more about her, click here


If you are looking for a book to help you better understand your foster child/adopted child, this is it.  The Connected Child is the number one book I recommend when it comes to working with children from hard places.  Dr Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross do a fantastic job of helping the reader understand why children from hard places behave the way they do as well as how to practically help them regain control of their emotions. 

I first heard about this book at a conference that Dr. Purvis spoke at in Nashville, TN. I was blown away by the information she had to offer as a therapist and knew that I needed to read more. I bought the book and had it read within two weeks. 

The Connected Child is a great, practical resource for foster/adoptive parents. Topics range from dealing with defiant behaviors, disarming their fear response, teaching life values, re-dos, nurturing activities and being proactive.  One of the major tenants of Drs. Purvis and Cross’ work is the idea that you need to set your child up for success.  It is so important that we set the bar at a place that the child can succeed.  If we continually put them in places where they are likely to fail then we will only perpetuating their negative feelings about the self and the world. 

What did you find helpful about this book:

The most helpful items in the book for me, as a therapist, were the applicable and practical suggestions they make.  For example, they write often about being as proactive and preventative as possible.  The more often a child can experience the right way to do something, the more likely they are to choose the right often in the future.  Here is an example below:
“Challenging situations such a visit to the supermarket will go a lot easier with planning and preparation.  As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  By anticipating problems and rehearsing solutions with your child, you can reduce the unpleasant surprises.  This technique works for a variety of situations – from supermarket visits and bedtimes to social situations.  By explaining guidelines for your child ahead of time and practicing ‘scripts’ together for the potentially problematic scene, you can make many situations go more smoothly.”
Once a foster/adoptive parent has done this and begins to help prepare the child for challenging situations, they begin to see improvements.  I love that I can recommend this book to foster/adoptive parents and know that there are interventions they can use the very next day!

What do clients find most helpful about this book:

Interestingly, most of my clients find the second and third chapters to be the most helpful.  Drs., Cross and Purvis believe it is vital that we view children from hard places through the lens of their past.  The goal is not to feel sorry for them or to make us sad all the time, but rather to help us have a true perspective on why they behave the way they do.  It often helps foster/adoptive parents work at not taking the behavior so personally. 
In a section titled, Seeing Beyond Misbehaviors, the authors say:
“Children who act out may appear strong but are surprisingly fragile inside.  When their externalized misbehaviors are met with an assault of adult force, they come to believe that no one understands them or cares about their needs.  This simply motivates further acting out…Behavior provides clues to the history of the child – his paid, his far, his needs.  Although we address misbehavior directly and quickly, we also must address it sensitively and responsively as a clue to the deepest need of the child.” 
If a parent learns nothing else from this book other than learning how to see their child with compassion, they will still make great strides and gains in their relationship with that child. Often times, however, learning this compassion is the gateway for making great changes and motivating parents to meet their child where they are emotionally and behaviorally. 

Favorite Quotes:

  • “Deep down, these children want desperately to connect and succeed but don’t understand how.  As parents, it’s our job to show them.” – page 6
  • “Shift your mind-set so that you see misbehaviors not as a head-ache but as an opportunity to teach a child new skills.” – page 94
  • “This is an investment model of parenting; the foundation you establish while the child is young will reap rewards as he or she matures.” – page 132
  • “The analogy that comes to mind is that you and your child are being asked to team up and perform an unfamiliar dance together.  Oth partners are struggling to observe, get coordinated and learn the new steps. This is a shared process that, with practice, will soon seem effortless.” – page 234
*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, March 14, 2013

Attachment: What is it and Why it Matters

Q. I have an adopted child that I have had since he was six months old.  However, due to some struggles that we have been having with him, I have been doing research on attachment and why it matters so much.  I never thought that we would have attachment issues with my son since he was six months old when we adopted him.  Can you shed some light on this for our family?

A. I am sorry to hear that you are having some issues with your son. I know that can be disheartening and frightening. The good news is, there is hope and healing for your son and his attachment. Parents often believe that because they received their child at such a young age that they could not possibly struggle with attachment. However, what most parents find is with all adoption comes some level of grief and with that grief the possibility of attachment challenges.

The time your child spent in utero, their first few days, and first few months are crucial for their attachment and development. It is hard to imagine that those first few days are the building blocks for later attachment. Regardless of what your child's life looked like those first few days though, research tells us there is hope to help fill in any missing building blocks.

First, let's define what attachment is. Attachment is defined by many components but the most common definition is: an enduring emotional relationship with a specific person. This is usually the mother, father or significant caregiver. This relationship is also characterized by, "safety, comfort, soothing and pleasure. Loss or threat of loss of the person evokes intense distress" (Perry, 1999).*

So how does this attachment take place? It takes place through sequences of events called bonding.  Bonding is having shared interactions with child and caregiver. It is through these countless numbers of interactions that the child is able to receive the safety, comfort, soothing and pleasure. My favorite description of this comes from Dr. Karyn Purvis of the Texas Christian University Child Trauma Institute.  She refers to this process as a dance**. As a child and care-giver dance with one another through the parent meeting the child's needs, then the child learns the world is predictable and safe.  When they are hungry and they cry, the parent meets that need with food and learns they are valued and worth taking care of. When the child is wet and needs to be changed, the parent changes that child and the child learns they are safe and will be made comfortable. Through hundreds and thousands of dance sequences like this, the child builds their attachment with their primary caregiver.  This sets the stage for their entire life and future relationships.

So what happens when something goes wrong? Unfortunately not every child has the best start in life. In those cases, the parents and care-givers must work to help that child rebuild. You can accomplish this through a healthy, attuned relationship with your child. Because their trauma is relationship centered, it will only be through relationships that they will experience healing.

You and your child may need additional help. If you would like more information about a specific type of therapy called Theraplay, please click here to learn more.

If you would like to read a heart-warming story of a family that has experienced healing and hope, please click here.

Be on the look out in two weeks for our book review on The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis.  In that review, we will have the opportunity to talk more about different strategies with children who struggle with attachment. 

*Perry, Bruce, 1999, Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children
** Purvis, Karyn

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages"

Today's book review was written by one of our awesome counselors - Larry Daniels. Larry is in our Mobile, Flomaton, and Chatom offices. If you would like to learn more about him, click here


This book succinctly examines the five love languages of marital relationships.  When one spouse employs their mate’s love language (what makes them feel loved), the one spouse is “filling their spouse’s love tank.”  The five love languages (with examples of each) are: 
  •       Words of Affirmation:  affirming, complimenting, appreciating, encouraging, supporting and/or praising one’s spouse with kind and positive words.
  •       Quality Time:  giving one’s spouse undivided attention; togetherness; quality activities and quality conversation with eye contact & reflective listening; along with focused/full attention with no TV, no multi-tasking, and no interruptions.
  •       Receiving Gifts:  purchase, made or found gifts (something that can be held in the spouses hand) that says “I was thinking of you;” gifts are visual symbols of love; one’s presence can be a gift of self; gifts need not always be expensive. 
  •      Acts of Service:  requires thought, planning, time, effort and energy; helping one’s spouse and/or doing things for one’s spouse (e.g., doing/assisting with house chores/repairs; helping out with the children; ironing clothes, washing the car, etc.; requests are better than demands when seeking to receive this gift. 
  •      Physical Touch:  hugging/embracing, holding hands, kissing, touching, sexual intimacy, back/foot rubs; communicate with your spouses what types of touch feel more loving than others.
The author is quick to say that each of us, often, will speak our own love language.  For instance, if my love language is gifts, I may find that I am often buying/getting things for my spouse.  If my spouse’s love language is quality time, she will often be taking and making time to spend with me.   The author encourages spouses to ask one another “how full their love tank is.”  And if the spouse answers that it’s low (or not full, even), that the spouse is to ask what they can do to “fill up their love tank;” and then employ their spouses love language!  The author reminds the reader that love is a choice; that one can always choose to act lovingly, even if the feelings of love are absent.  When one begins acting in a loving way, the feelings of love have a greater chance of returning. 

What did you find helpful about this book?

Some of the things I find helpful about this book include:  (1) it is an easy read, (2) the principles are easy to understand, and (3) the book is practical.  The author gives numerous suggestions for how each love language can be employed to help their mate feel loved.  The author gives examples from over 30 years of counseling experience with which couples seem to relate.  There is also a section entitled “Children and Love Languages,” that gives parents suggestions of employing the same five love languages to help their children feel loved.  The most helpful thing about this book, I believe, is that this it is based upon biblical principles. 

What do clients find most helpful about this book?

Through the five love languages, this book gives clients a clear and concise perspective to better understand their spouse and to meet their love needs.  Clients enjoy taking the love language profile at the end of the book, to discover their own love language.  In so doing, clients can share their love language with their spouse(or guess, if this makes it more fun), and together brainstorm how they can assist in keeping one another’s “love tank” closer to full on a regular basis.  

Favorite Quotes:

  • “We must be willing to learn our spouse’s primary love language if we are to be effective communicators of love.” 
  •   “…the founder of the Christian faith wanted love to be the distinguishing characteristic of His followers.” 
  • “Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct.” 
  • "Love doesn’t keep a score of wrongs.” 
  • “Don’t expect him [or her] to read your mind.” 
  • “Love makes requests, not demands.”
  • “Earlier in His life, Jesus had indicated that in His kingdom those who would be great would be servants.” 
  • “…the individual whose love tank has been empty for so long…” can “go back to the experience of falling in love and ask… ‘What did I like about my spouse in those days?  What did he do or say that made me desire to be with him?’  If you can conjure up those memories, it will give you some idea of your primary love language.”
  • “Can emotional love be reborn in a marriage?  You bet.  The key is to learn the primary love language of your spouse and choose to speak it.”    
  • “…love requires effort and discipline.”
  • “Love is kind.” 
  •  “Love doesn’t erase the past, but it makes the future different.” 
  • “Love is a choice.  And either partner can start the process today.”