Childhood Trauma

Tiffany Jones —  24 February, 2016

What is childhood trauma and what is its impact?

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NCTSI), over two thirds of children reported experiencing a traumatic event by the time they reached 16.

Traumatic events include (and are not limited to) childhood neglect, psychological abuse, the unexpected loss of parent or loved one, cyber bullying, and serious accidents.

Since every child is unique, signs of traumatic stress may look different. In children of preschool age, they may fear separation from their caregiver, experience nightmares, cry often, or change their eating habits. Traumatic stress in elementary-aged children may consist of feelings of guilt and/or shame, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, or trouble sleeping. Children in middle and high school may have symptoms of self-harm, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, and unsafe sexual behaviors.

As a parent / caregiver, remember that there is hope for your child’s recovery. Immediate tools include reminding your child that they are safe, and that they are not responsible (it is common for children to blame themselves). It is also important to be patient with your child, and if needed, seek help from a professional.

At Renew Counseling, we have passionate counselors who are trained to work with children who have experienced trauma, and we would love to help!

For more information on this topic, go to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Understanding Childhood Trauma.

~ By Jordyn Chubb, Student Intern

Balloon Breaths

Tiffany Jones —  9 February, 2016

What are Balloon Breaths? A deep breathing technique used to help reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety. There are lots of studies that indicate diaphragmatic breathing helps to calm and relax the body.

Why call this breathing technique “balloon breaths?” Many people when taking in a deep breath tend to suck in their belly. When engaging in diaphragmatic breathing our bellies need to stick out (like a balloon). When we take a deep breath we are filling our abdomen with air.

How exactly do you do a balloon breath? 3 easy steps 3:3:3
Step 1 – Breathe in for 3 seconds
Step 2 – Hold your breath for 3 seconds (rub your belly and check if its round – filled with air like a balloon)
Step 3 – Release slowly for 3 seconds

How many of these should I do? 3-4 times

When should I do balloon breaths? Good times to do balloon breaths: feeling nervous, shy, anxious, scared, worried, before a test, during a test, before bed to help us sleep, when we feel upset, before an important appointment, etc.

Where should I do balloon breaths? Balloon breaths are SO cool and can be done ANYWHERE (home, school, private or public settings). No one even has to know you are doing them. 🙂

~ By Lisa Hoang, MS, LMHC

It’s safe to say nearly every person will experience anxiety at some time in their life. Anxiety is normal and can even be used as a helpful tool. On the other hand, too much anxiety is not helpful – and it can feel awful for the person feeling it.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 1 in 8 children are impacted by an anxiety disorder. Here are a few helpful tips posted in an article from Hey Sigmund that you can use to walk your child through the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety.

Tip # 1 – Seek to Understand.

It is natural for a parent to do all they can to comfort their child. It is not helpful to tell your little one, “Stop thinking about it, and it will go away.” The reality is that the fear they are experiencing feels very real to them, and what your child needs most is to know that you’re present with them and want to understand their feelings. Ask them what it feels like in their body. Or try helping them put a picture to what they’re experiencing.

Tip # 2 – Normalize It.

Remind them that what they are going through is normal and okay — and that many kids and adults feel anxious.

Tip # 3 – Educate.

Teach them what is going on in their brain. This can be done in a way that is fun and very helpful! (The article below explains how to do this in a simple way.)

Tip # 4 – Explain How Common It Is.

Explain to your little one that they and 3 to 4 of their friends in class experience anxiety, too.

Tip # 5 – Name It.

Let your child know that anxiety is coming from a part of their brain that is trying to help them. Maybe they want to call it the ‘hercules muscle’ that’s there to protect them.

Tip # 6 – Empower Them.

Teach your little one how to identify when their ‘hercules muscle’ is working to protect them – and what they can do as the boss to relax and feel safe.

Tip # 7 – Breathe.

Teach them how to take deep belly breaths, 5 to 10 times, holding in their breath for just a moment. You can practice this at night during their bedtime routine.

Tip # 8 – Use Mindfulness.

There is great research on the effectiveness of mindfulness for anxiety. Mindfulness is simply being present with what is going on in the moment. You can use the 5 senses tool – “what is one thing you smell, feel, hear, see, and taste in this moment?”

For more information on these tips, check out Anxiety in Kids: How to Turn it Around and Protect Them For Life by Hey Sigmund.

~ By Jordyn Chubb, Student Intern

We all get to a place in our lives where we realize that something has to change. Once we decide we are ready to do something different, then what? It can often be really helpful to meet with someone who is not connected to our lives in any way for guidance and support. They can have an objective viewpoint because they are not connected to our daily lives like our family and friends. But people often share stories where they haven’t had the best experience in therapy. So how do we know who to pick?

Just like in life where we don’t always connect with every single person we meet, you will not connect with every single therapist that you encounter. I always encourage people to give it at least 2 or 3 sessions to see if you feel you can work with someone. However, you need to feel safe, heard, seen and able to connect with the person you choose to do therapy with. The therapeutic relationship is a huge component of what helps us heal, so choose someone you feel comfortable with!

Another significant component of picking a good therapist is finding someone who is doing their own work. While your therapist has training that you might not have, we are ALL on this same journey of life and everyone – including your therapist – is human and has issues they are dealing with in their lives. Not that your therapist has to be in therapy constantly themselves, but they do need to believe in it and be aware of and working on their own stuff. We all know people who genuinely believe in what they are doing. Find someone like that for your therapist!

Finally, it’s important that your therapist be able to describe to you how they conceptualize therapy and what their role and your role will be in the therapeutic process. This will help you know what to expect and how to feel safe as you begin what can often be an uncertain process of change.

These are some of the major things we work on at Renew Counseling so that we can give you a positive experience that will be for your good and growth. We would love to walk with you on your journey of healing, so feel free to contact us!

~ Tiffany Jones, MS, LMHC

Present Moment Processing

Tiffany Jones —  19 January, 2016

Have you ever felt like there was something you needed to express but just could not
bring yourself to share it with someone? Everybody feels that way at some point in
time. What your mind is telling you is that there is something that carries a lot of
weight on your heart and it needs to be released. If it does not feel like something
that you can share with another person, give your heart and mind some freedom and
get it down on paper. Write a story, journal, sketch, or even just write down ONE
word that describes what you are experiencing. A recommendation is to carry a
small journal around with you, something small enough to fit in a purse or a pocket,
and when you feel the intensity of emotion swell up, it doesn’t matter where you are,
at work, out to dinner, at a red light- write it down; revisit it later.
Once you release it on to the page it may be easier to share with a therapist or
trusted friend. Take advantage of the small moments each day to be kind to your
heart and practice present moment processing.

~By Niko McManus, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

Hope this New Year is starting off well – happy 2016! During the New Year many people start off by creating plans, goals and resolutions. Developing plans and goals are great, but reflection is beneficial as well. I encourage you to start the New Year by taking some time to reflect on the good, bad and ugly of 2015. Reflection allows us to assess what areas we need to let go of, details in our lives to be grateful for, the acknowledgement of personal growth that took place, as well as an understanding of needs and areas for continued attention and cultivation. Think of journaling or reflection as a gift of validation to yourself. Take some time to pay attention and
allow yourself to engage with your 2015 experiences.

Journaling is a wonderful tool to aid in reflection. Journaling is also a great form of releasing anxiety, stress and ruminating thoughts. Journaling allows us to externalize our thoughts, feelings and emotions – this process can give us a new perspective and understanding of self, others and our experiences. Below is a link to an article about journaling, which also includes a variety of great questions to jumpstart your reflection. Take some time to reflect on your experiences of 2015, which will hopefully provide you with some clarity, peace, release, gratitude, inspiration and renewal for this new year!

Journaling Article

Written by Lisa Hoang, MS, LMHC


Tiffany Jones —  13 January, 2016

The month of January finds us recovering from all that the holidays entail and creating new resolutions to become better versions of ourselves in the new year. It is an exciting time as we give ourselves permission to restart, refresh, and renew.

Often, our resolutions involve taking better care of ourselves such as eating more green vegetables, cutting out diet sodas, or actually following through with our weekly workout routine. Or our resolutions may involve being more intentional in our relationships by being a better listener to our spouse, more patient with our children, or more generous in our friendships.

It’s a unique season, infused with optimism and excitement. But then, more often than not, high expectations are met with reality – and we find ourselves feeling defeated and frustrated.

What would it look like if this new year, in the midst of resolutions and reality, we decided to commit ourselves to self-compassion? What if, in the moments that we find ourselves not meeting our own expectations, we extended love and compassion to ourselves – you know, the kind of compassion we find easy to give to others?

At Renew, our team wishes you happy resolutions and a Happy New Year – as well as the gift of self-compassion. And for you, self-compassion may mean reaching out for someone to walk with you as you navigate the challenges you are facing this season. We would be honored to take this journey with you.

“Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”
— Christopher Germer ☺

Written by Jordyn Chubb, Student Intern

Well, we’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas is looming. People are decorating, putting up trees, going to parties, making Christmas cookies…and you feel completely alone. The holiday season is such an interesting time of year. Our society dictates to us that it should look a certain way, and much of it is centered around families. Even the commercials on TV show happy families gathered around a table, eating a huge yummy meal together. But what if this isn’t your story?

Many people deal with deep sadness and depression and feelings of loss during the holiday season. If this is you, I am so sorry that you are feeling this pain. But I do hope you will take comfort in knowing that you are not alone! During this season, it is common for us to be confronted with our losses. Some people are single or newly divorced or have lost a loved one and this is the first holiday without them. For others, the holidays are never the same because a loved one is gone and no matter how many years pass, this time always triggers a feeling of loss.

While we are surrounded by celebration and festivity, let’s not forget that there are many who are quietly hurting. If this isn’t you, be aware of those around you who may be struggling and offer an extra hug and reminder that you’re there for them. If this is you, find a safe place to share your hurts and pain. Don’t be afraid to be honest and to grieve your loss. If you don’t have someone in your life you can talk to about this, we would love to walk with you through this journey of grieving and healing. May peace be with you during this season…even in the pain.

By Tiffany Jones, LMHC

As long as things are going smoothly, we’re fine. However, when we experience conflict, controversy, or crises we tend to respond with less-than-adultlike reactions.

Over the years, those who have studied the “adult child” phenomenon have compiled a list of common characteristics which many people who grew up in dysfunctional homes seem to share. The following characteristics were developed in 1983 by Dr. Janet G. Woititz. You may recognize some of them.

Adult Children:

…guess at what normal is.
…have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.
…lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
…judge themselves without mercy.
…have difficulty having fun.
…take themselves very seriously.
…have difficulty with intimate relationships.
…overreact to changes over which they have no control.
…constantly seek approval and affirmation.
…feel that they are different from other people.
…are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
…are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.
…tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.

These characteristics are, of course, general in nature and do not apply to everyone. Some may apply and others not. And there are still other characteristics which are not on this list. But if any of these sound all too familiar, you may benefit by learning more about the phenomenon.

You might want to read Dr. Jan’s book Adult Children of Alcoholics for more detailed descriptions.

You might take the Adult Children Screening Quiz to get an indication of how much you may have been affected by growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home.

If you would like to learn more about support group programs for those who grew up in alcoholic homes, check the resources from Al-Anon Family Groups or the Adult Children of Alcoholics organization.

By Dr. David Lawson

Mindful Thanksgiving

Tiffany Jones —  7 December, 2015

Why is it easier to see the negative instead of the positive? During the holiday season, it is common to push past Thanksgiving and focus on the holidays that are in December. Or if there is a focus on Thanksgiving, it is on food and football or our December focus often turns to receiving gifts during Christmas. And do not get me wrong – I am eternally thankful for food and football and gifts! But how can we be thankful no matter our circumstances?

A lot of interest and energy in therapy is put toward personal mindfulness, and I completely agree with needed awareness. I am encouraging myself and you to become aware of personal thankfulness. Below are three simple tips on having mindful thankfulness.

1. Focus on the present moment
Currently if you are reading this, you are alive. You are breathing and able to read. I know it is a simple thought but that alone is something to help with having mindful thankfulness.

2. Focus on your surroundings
Looking outside of yourself can help you take a deep breath and see beauty. It can help with thankfulness both by seeing something outside that is both beautiful or in need. It can allow for gratefulness which is a brother to thankfulness.

3. Focus on your feelings
This might seem surprising as a tip because what if the feelings are negative? But I have found that if I dismiss my feelings, it will be 100% reality that I am not thankful. How can a person be thankful when they are not even aware of their feelings? A major component of mindfulness is a person’s feelings.

I hope that these tips can encourage you this holiday season. These tips will not solve the world’s problems or take away past pain, but it could help with having mindful thankfulness.

By Matt Martin, LMHC