Boundaries With Others – How To Set Them

When you’re trying to create boundaries with people they will be tested. It’s like when cows enter a new pasture, they will knock their shoulder against the perimeter a few times to check out where their boundaries are and how strong they are. Cows are strong enough to take down barbed wire if they really wanted to, but they aren’t really testing if they can get out, they are testing if they are safe from the external world. Once they know that the boundaries are consistent and stable they feel safe and they graze in the middle. If the cows don’t have that consistent boundary they will rely on the cowboy to tell them when they have gone too far. The cowboy, however, doesn’t have consistent boundaries, they will only correct the cow when they notice the cow has gone too far, which doesn’t create a feeling of safety. People are the same when they have never experienced consistent boundaries, or they are experiencing new boundaries. People will test boundaries, not enough to break them but enough to trust that they are there to stay and to trust that they are there to keep them safe.

A lot of young adults who never experienced boundaries, because their parents wanted to be their friend. They have a great relationship with their parents, but they will tell me that they feel like they grew up as an orphan because they don’t have a secure home base. but they will tell me that they are afraid to explore and take risks as an adult because they can’t trust that they have parents who are watching out for them, to make sure they don’t make a mistake big enough to ruin their entire life.

It’s important that people are given the space to grow and find their own solutions within appropriate limits. When your setting limits the goal is not to get a specific outcome, rather the goal is to prevent a specific outcome. It is quite spectacular what people can come up with when their possibilities aren’t limited, but just the same we don’t want anyone hurting themselves or others in the process. Limits are set to prevent irreversible and/or irreplaceable damage, while still allowing people to learn how to cope with and improve from mistakes.

When cattle are being herded they have the instinct to turn around when they feel blocked, which can be disruptive to the flow and requires more work to redirect them back into the flow. To redirect a cow, you want them to feel pressure on their shoulder. If you are in front of them when you apply this pressure they feel blocked, if you are beside them when you apply this pressure they will simply turn a bit from where they shouldn’t be. People are the same, when they are told to stop doing what they are doing (and they don’t continue trampling over you) they will do a complete turnaround, even if this wasn’t your intention. If you’re only wanting a slight redirection from a no-go zone you want to adjust your approach to let them know that you understand that they want to move forward, and you want that too, but you want them going forward in a slightly different direction.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Healthy Dependency

We have all been dependent at some point in our lives, whether it be on other people, a tool, or medication. Dependency doesn’t begin with malicious intent, we depend with a need. I think of a scene from forest Gump when forest had braces on his legs, and he feared taking them off would make his condition worse. It is unknown when his dependency on these braces became unnecessary, but they did and it wasn’t until he met a crisis in which the braces had to fall off when he realized he had been dependent on his braces longer than what was necessary. In this moment, he found his potential.

He would not have become dependent on the braces if he didn’t need them at one point. We are all dependent when we are in need to be or made to believe we are in need of dependency. Without the braces, Forest would have never met his full potential, his legs needed the assistance to become functional. Therefore, we should not be afraid of dependency its self. We should be afraid of being convinced we are in need of more assistance than what is healthy. Fear is very convincing, we become afraid when we experience something to be afraid of or we are warned by others to be afraid.

When you’re in fear of crippling yourself it’s difficult to know when what you depend on is no longer needed and its holding you back. Like Forest many people find out they are stronger without their dependency in a moment of crisis when you have no option but to let go. Throughout life we grow and change in moments of crisis. We have an instinct to let go of everything that limits us from survival. To know what we truly depend on we have to create a crisis for ourselves, challenge ourselves to experience discomfort in our relationships.

In Forest’s case if he were going to a physical therapist he would be challenged physically in a controlled environment where the physical therapist would challenge him further than his fear would allow, but ensure that his muscles would be strengthen by the challenge, rather than being permanently damaged by too much strain.  Therapy for those who are emotionally dependent is similar in that a therapist is there to gage how much more you can endure while at the same time increasing your resiliency.

Moving forward allowed forest the flexibility to move directions when he wasn’t going where he intended to go. If he remained in that spot, in those braces, if he didn’t like where he was, there was little movement he could make.  Building his strength and losing the braces allows for choices to be made. It’s not always easy to let go when you believe that you have no choice. Having someone there, giving you choices, faith in yourself, and pushing you when your fear tells you that you can’t handle any more, and supporting you when you need rest means everything when you are taking the risk of vulnerability.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Understanding Your Childs Anger and Depression

Children often show depression through anger or being upset. They don’t know how to be depressed and act out instead. Understanding this, as a parent, you can approach your child in the right way. You would approach a sad child different that you do an angry child. Children need validation for what they are going through. The difficulty is that they often don’t recognize what they are going through. If you do, or if you have at least an idea, you can model for them how to recognize it. For example, if you child is getting picked on at school and is having a hard time with it, you could say to them, “It looks like school is hard for you right now and that it’s making you sad”. This would be instead of saying, “Hey! Stop being mean to your brother and yelling. What is wrong with you!?” It helps when you approach your child and give them permission and space to feel sad. It’s easier to accept and work through with someone who gets it. It’s not as scary when someone is with you.

Counseling for children uses the same principles. Children often act out instead of expressing their emotions. In therapy, children are given something to do instead of just talking about what they are feeling. This is partly how they are able to express their sadness. It’s easier to do something hands on then to talk about their emotions through words.  A good play therapist will be able to help children express and experience their emotions through activities at first and then eventually through words.

Written by Dr. Triston Morgan, LMFT, therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Is Your Teen Depressed?

Many of the parents that I see often wonder what is and isn’t normal teenage behavior. They sit in my office and try to make sense of the most recent argument that they have had with their teen. They wonder how on earth their teenager can sleep until noon on a Saturday and cannot for the life of them figure out the patterns or the causes of their teens good and bad moods. Teenagers face a variety of pressures and stresses. As they enter Jr. High they are adapting to an entirely new way of learning and socializing. Often times their group of friends are changing and the teen naturally wonders where they fit in as they are trying to figure out who they really are. Beyond the natural biological changes of puberty, teenagers are also dealing with the pressures of getting good grades, maybe dealing with high stress family issues, or struggling with feeling accepted in their social circles. So, what is normal and what is depression?

 

Teen depression goes beyond moodiness. It’s a serious health problem that is estimated to affect one in five adolescents from all walks of life. Between 10-15% of these teens suffer from symptoms at any one time, and sadly only 30% of depressed teens are being treated for it. A depressed teenager’s entire life is impacted. The depression can affect their self-esteem, their family and social relationships, their overall health and their ability to function in everyday life.

Many times, the teenager has just not learned how to cope or handle the new set of emotions and feelings that they are feel as their bodies are changing and as they are starting to face real daily stresses and pressures. Rather than seeking support and help from their family and friends they become withdrawn, anxious, and sad. They begin to act out in an attempt to cope with their emotional pain. If depression isn’t treated or addressed it can destroy the essence of your teen’s personality causing them to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, anger and disappointment. Below is a list of signs and symptoms to look for in your teen if you think that they may be struggling with depression:

 

  • Irritability or hostility
  • frequent crying
  • Withdrawal from friends/family
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor school performance
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Teenagers often times suffer silently, feeling alone. They become hopeless and believe that life will never get better. Teenagers rely on their parents and caregivers to recognize their suffering and to get them the help that they need. If you are unsure if our teenager is depressed or just “being a teenager” consider how long the symptoms have been present and how severe they are and then consider how different your teen is acting from his or her usual self. Be proactive and find a professional who can help your teen overcome this difficult part of their life. There is hope, and things can get better.

 

By Brandi Hess, LAMFT

Pornography Use –

Pornography use in our community is at an all-time high – and there seems to be no slowing down. Unfortunately, those who get caught in its grasp struggle to get free as their lives and the lives around them suffer. Shame accompanies pornography use in a way that is damaging and debilitating. Pornography often acts as a numbing agent for those who use it. Not wanting to feel uncomfortable emotions, several people go to pornography because it takes them from that uncomfortable emotion. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes people get into pornography out of curiosity and it become habit forming. Now-a-days, young people are getting exposed at younger and younger ages to more and more explicit pornography. The ease of access makes this a serious problem at a young age. I often work with clients who tell me that they started using pornography after stumbling on it when they were anywhere from 5-10 years old (at first use). They report that their parents didn’t know and didn’t ask – they certainly didn’t tell anyone either. They used heavy/severe pornography for years before they were caught or eventually told someone. The secrecy that enables this type of behavior is damaging and serious. Ask your children what their experience is with it – you will be surprised to what they have to say. If we aren’t asking and talking with them about it, they are facing it on their own. A professional counselor can help you talk with your child about pornography.

Written by Dr. Triston Morgan, LMFT of the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Family Therapy

Even the happiest families hit speed bumps along the way. Whether your family is experiencing major changes, experiencing a crisis, or things just feel off, you can find yourself wondering what has happened to our family? As your family grows and enters new stages of life, new expectations, and new life experiences in general, it can often be hard for family members to adjust and adapt. As these changes occur it is important for the family system to strengthen their communication skills and work together in the family unit. Change is part of life and is often something that adults and children are not comfortable with. Whether your family is overcoming a new transition or trying to adjust to the changing dynamics of your family system, seeking help from a therapist can help to create new ways of relating to each family member, strengthen communication skills, and learn better ways to work together so that your family can get back on track of enjoying each other through this thing called life!

 

Stayed tuned for some quick tips on things that you can do to help  strengthen your family!

5 Simple Tips for The Mother of a Teenage Daughter – Part II

Are You Even Listening to Me?

This may be a statement that we say as adults to children, but more times than not our daughters are wondering the same thing. Through your example you can teach your daughter the powerful skill of active listening. This skill will not only strengthen your and her relationship, but it will also benefit her in every other relationship that she has.

Active listening techniques include: building trust and establishing rapport, demonstrating concern, paraphrasing and repeating back what you are hearing, demonstrating nonverbal cues which show understanding, such as nodding, eye contact, or leaning forward and lastly affirmations like “I see” or “I understand”. As you practice active listening pay close attention to the feelings underlying the message, this is often the real message. Active listening allows us to connect and understand each other on a deeper level. Through genuinely listening you are showing your daughter that she is worthy of your time. In that moment she will feel that she is more important to you then whoever is texting you, or that mountain of laundry that is piled on the floor.

Repair Because You Care

People in healthy relationships don’t avoid conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any type of relationship, so practice dealing with the conflict head on. The sooner you address the conflict issue with your daughter, the less time there is for feelings of anger, frustration or resentment to keep building. Avoiding conflict will not only weaken your relationship, but it will also cement a pattern of not resolving conflict for your daughter. Teaching your daughter how to address conflict gives her the tools necessary to have tough uncomfortable conversations without being afraid. It exemplifies unconditional love and tells her that you respect her and value your relationship with her, even if you are arguing for the fourth time that week!

Check back soon for part III.

Written by Brandi Hess, LAMFT – Therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

5 Simple Tips for The Mother of a Teenage Daughter – Part I

I have a vivid memory of holding my newborn baby girl, rocking her late into the night, staring at her chubby face and thinking that she and I will be best friends forever. Flash forward to today and one might now find me in the late hours of the night googling the realities of demons actually being able to take over bodies, because surely that is what is going on with my teenage daughter…right?

There is something magical about the idea of a strong mother/daughter bond. Many people crave it or grieve because they don’t have it. Whether you consider your relationship with your mother/daughter to be strong or weak, there is always room to strengthen it and connect on deeper more meaningful levels. Below five simple ways to help strengthen your relationship with your daughter, helping you to thrive rather than survive the teenage years.

Communicate

Many mothers and daughters are simply not communicating. When was the last time that you sat down with your daughter and really talked to her about her day, her life, her dreams and goals, with the purpose of truly gaining an understanding of who she is. Find ways to spend time with your daughter. This will create communication opportunities. Go for a walk, cook a meal together, go shopping, anything that you and her can enjoy together. As you laugh, and talk you become connected through joy. As the connection is strengthened communication becomes more natural, allowing you both to feel comfortable discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Check back soon for part II and part III.

Written by Brandi Hess, LAMFT – Therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Pornography Counseling

Pornography addiction is becoming more prevalent in our society. Organizations like Fight the New Drug do a great job of educating the public on the harmful effects of pornography. What do you do if you struggle and can’t seem to find a way out? For many, the way out seems elusive and unobtainable. It’s difficult to find how when you have tried so many things, only to have this problem keep coming back. Many that come into counseling have already been before and are discouraged that they just can’t ‘get over it’. Knowing how to use the power or education and relationships is part of the answer. A good therapist can help you access both in your efforts to let go of this addiction. At the Holladay Center for Couples and Families we specialize in relationship therapy in regard to pornography use. Knowing how to communicate with your loved ones about this difficulty is an important part of the process.

Family Therapy

Families often struggle to communicate. We often work with families that have a hard time creating and enforcing rule and boundaries, co-parenting and dealign with adolescents and teenagers. A good family therapist will help a family develop relationship patterns instead of just treating symptoms (i.e., depression and anxiety). Symptom abatement will result in additional problems (really just the same problem manifesting itself again). Working on fundamental change will help progress continue past therapy. We do counseling for families in Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek, Murray, Sandy and Sugar House.