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Trauma Can Shock You to Your Core (video)

When you go through something really horrible, it can shock you to your core. Trauma can take many forms. All of them have one thing in common: Feelings of Helplessness, Anger, Fear, and being Overwhelmed.

Watch the complete video on how trauma affects our lives and how you CAN heal…

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Co-Parenting Isn’t Working? Try Parallel Parenting.

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Many divorced parents are frustrated about their co-parenting arrangements. No matter what they try to do to work things with their ex, all of their efforts end up in conflict. Co-parenting feels more like game where there are no winners.

In these situations, the best advice is “no contact is no conflict”. If it wasn’t for the shared children they would have no contact and then there would be no problem but since that isn’t the case how do you co-parent with no contact? The answer is Parallel Parenting!

The situation reminds me of small children who are learning to share. Before they develop the skills to play cooperatively, they engage in parallel play. Both types of play look alike but when you watch more closely you realize that they are in the same room, with similar toys, playing next to one another but they are not really playing together. They are quite disengaged. Eventually, development will help create the skills needed for cooperative play. In the case of high-conflict divorce, parents may have to let go of the more mature cooperative parenting and shift to parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting purposefully disengages from the conflictual partner and concentrates on connection with the child. It may involve one parent focusing on dealing with the child’s school and the other on their soccer games. While both parents need to agree on major decisions, they will differ on daily logistics about bedtime routines, acceptable television watching, choice of baby sisters, and church attendance. When the daily heat can be turned down between parents, it makes the bigger decisions easier to navigate.

Parallel parenting protects the children. Research clearly demonstrates that high-conflict divorce results in higher rates of behavioral disturbances and mental illness later in life. More commonly, when a child tries to have a positive relationship with both parents who do not have a positive relationship with each other, they experience a “loyalty bind.” When the child is with parent A, he misses parent B. The child might even feel that he is being disloyal to parent B when he is with parent A and vice versa. This is easily intensified by parents who talk negatively about the other parent in front of the child. It can also occur when one parent acts like a victim causing the child to worry about them. Another way is leaning on your child for moral support and treating the child like the co-parent instead of a child.

It is a delicate balance to parallel parent and break down loyalty binds. A parents natural inclination is to protect their child and if they believe the other parent is harmful then…

The truth is that both parents are important to the child. To really protect them and find some sanity in the relationship, try using alternative methods to communication than face-to-face, like email or a notebook. Keep the wording factual about the child’s health, sleeping patterns, school events, weekend schedules, medical care, etc. Request separate school notices or records. Avoid showing up at the same events without prior knowledge. When you do end up at the same event, make a huge effort to demonstrate working together. You might actually find you can do it all the time!

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Art and Trauma: An Altered DSM by Ron Huxley, LMFT

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Art can be a way for us to heal from intense grief and trauma. Some things can’t be expressed complete in words and require the aid of images and sensory expressed movements.

It can help us transcend our emotional pain and find ways to regulate our nervous systems that encode trauma in our memories. Even when our minds cannot remember our traumatic pasts, our body still remembers.

The french painter, Charles Braque, stated that “art is a wound turned to light.” Art takes many forms. One contemporary form of art is called Altered Books. an Altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and meaning.

Ron Huxley, a family art therapist, altered a diagnostic and statistical manual along with a group of therapists to demonstrate how therapists can overuse labels to diagnose mental disorders and risk losing the essence of humanity each client brings to therapy. Therapists can take themselves too seriously and transforming a dry clinical manual with fresh artistic insights can make them better healers.

Click here to view the Altered DSM Book. 

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Your Beautiful, Wonderful, Broken Brain: Understanding Trauma-Informed Care

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Please join us for the 9th Annual Child Abuse Prevention Academy, a training for students, professionals, and community members.
Brought to you in partnership with Center for Family Strengthening and Cuesta College.​

Participants will:

  • learn how to report incidents of suspected child abuse,
  • understand what occurs after a report,
  • understand the role and funtion of the brain in Trauma-Informed Care
  • learn to recognize the effects of trauma on the brain, behavior and development
  • explore primary strategies for healing trauma in the lives of children and adults.

Presenter: Lisa Fraser, Executive Director, Center for Family Strengthening, the San Luis Obispo County Child Abuse Prevention Council

Guest Speaker: Ron Huxley, LMFT will share,
The Beautiful, Wonderful, Broken Brain: Understanding Trauma-Informed Care.

Noted child and familiy therapist, speaker, and blogger Ron Huxley has worked in several systems of care, including community-based mental health, child therapy clinics, wraparound, County mental health, private psychotherapy practice, and faith-based counseling/coaching services. He has certifications in various clinical evidence-based and promising practices: EMDR, Incredible Years, Family Wellness, Love & Logic, S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting), TheraPlay, Love After Marriage, and Developmental Dyadic Psychotherapy (attachment-focused family therapy).

Student participants are urged to attend and will receive a Certificate of Participation. The training is free, but preregistration is required. Register here!

When

Friday April 28, 2017. 9:00am – 12pm
Add to Calendar

Where

Cuesta College Student Auditorium – #5401
 CA-1, San Luis Obispo, CA, CA 93403

Free Parking  Lot #2

For More Information, Contact:

Center for Family Strengthening
805-543-6216
support@cfsslo.org  

NeuroResilient Play Therapy ©: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Healing

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The goal of therapy with traumatized children is to help them learn to regulate and develop the executive functioning skills of the prefrontal center of the brain. I call this the state of being NeuroResilient.

All children are born emotionally impulsive and need to learn how to manage their moods, initiate and stick with tasks, plan and organize, and learn from past mistakes. This is nothing new and neurological studies of the brain suggest that the prefrontal areas of the brain do not completely develop until people are in their mid-twenties.

The challenge with trauma is that it can set a person back socially and emotionally so that while they are 15 years old chronologically, they react to the world as if their were 5 years of age. We call this, in the field of trauma-informed care and attachment-focused research, “age vs stage”. The individual’s chronological age doesn’t line up with their stage of development causing problems in relationships and daily functioning.

Many parents and professionals believe that an emotionally regulated child is a calm child which would be nice, even understandable, but not realistic for a child who has been traumatized. Consequently the goal of therapy is to build resilience, not calmness.

Resilience refers to ability to “spring back, recoil back into shape” or “recover quickly from a difficult situation”. It literally means to “leap back” to a place of safety and security. Who wouldn’t want to have more of that in their lives or the lives of their children?

Children have to build resiliency in their neurology so that behavioral strategies will stick. Parents and teachers get frustrated when their behavior charts and modification tools don’t have any effect on their hurt children.

NeuroResilient Play Therapy © models, to parents, how to integrate the various physiological and mindful parts of the child so that they can function optimally. It is based on identity focusing on the strengths of who the child was created to be instead of forcing the child to fit into a mold made by adults who believe the child has no motivation or seeks only to manipulate.

For more information on how to be NeuroResilient for children and adults, contact Ron today about speaking opportunities or schedule a session in his Avila Beach, Ca office (skype services are available).

Don’t Let Depression Destroy Your Life

Don’t Let Depression Destroy Your Life: A Special Report on Treatment

Edited by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Since the end of the Second World War, the rates of depression around the world have soared. Depression is an illness that can destroy lives ad families. Many people try various forms of treatment before any improvement is realized. Many are not so lucky and end up paying the ultimate price. Drugs and medication are one way to treat depression. However there has been a lot of criticism in recent years over the amount of medication we are taking. Depression can be treated naturally and the natural approach should be attempted first if possible.

Natural Treatments:

Getting good nights sleep is essential. Sleep and mood are closely linked. When we are tired we react to things differently than we do when we have had adequate rest. Remember to sleep well and regularly.

Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided. They do give you temporary energy but have been known to deplete your serotonin levels. Low serotonin levels are a prime cause of depression.

Take a multi vitamin everyday. This is especially important if your lifestyle causes you to skip meals. Low vitamin deficiency has been linked to depression.

You may want to try getting in touch with your spiritual side. This can be done in a variety of ways. If you enjoy going to church, this is a good opportunity. You may want to look at prayer and meditation as well. You do not have to be overly religious to be spiritual. There are many ways to get there.

Finally, you may want to try getting more exercise. This doesn’t mean marathon training. Start out slow and build up if you feel the need. Exercise helps release endorphins which make you feel more empowered. There is also the health benefits attached to more activity.

The natural approach may be effective. It can also have other positive influences on your overall health.

The natural approach isn’t always the best or most effective. However, if the depression isn’t severe and the person isn’t suicidal or incapacitated, then it is recommended to at least give the natural way a chance.

There are many natural remedies that can be tried before trying drugs and medication. Some have tried that natural remedy known as St. John’s wort. This has been known to improve the mood of some depression sufferers without any side effects.

Those that suffer from depression should avoid excessive alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant so it will slow your body down. It could react with your body’s chemistry and make your condition worse. Alcohol is also a toxin that they body does not need.

Try to eat a well balances diet. Loss of vitamins and minerals are directly linked with depression. Make time to eat despite the type of lifestyle you have.

You may want to consider cognitive behavior therapy. This will help you refocus your thought and generate a more positive feeling. Your thoughts have a direct bearing on your mood. The more negative they are the more likely you are to become depressed.

Stress Management:

If you lead a stressful lifestyle, then some stress management training could be for you. Stress can be the cause of all kinds of ailments, not only depression. Keeping your stress levels low and learning to deal with highly stressful situations can go a long way in helping your depression.

You may want to try helping others. Sometimes doing volunteer work and helping those less fortunate will help. It can be quite rewarding and can negate some of those negative thoughts about yourself.

If the natural approach does not work, you should not feel bad. It is fine to take medications if this is what will help. You can at least be pleased for giving the natural approach a try.

Family Members With Depression:

If someone you love is suffering from depression, it is only natural to want to help. Family members can provide an incredible amount of support for someone suffering from this illness. However, you must know how to be effective. If not the family member could end up doing more harm than good.

The first thing you should do is read everything you can about depression and its treatments. Being forewarned is being forearmed. By making yourself knowledgeable, you can help make decisions when perhaps the loved one isn’t in a fit state to do so. You should also read up on how your loved one will feel. Getting as much insight as possible as to what depression will do to this person will help you cope with the worst days.

You have to keep in mind that caring for a depressed person is very braining both physically and emotionally. You need to set aside time for yourself. You won’t be any use to your loved one if you are tired and stressed out. In fact you may make things worse. Talk about what you are going through with someone who understand or even join a support group. Take some time to enjoy yourself as well. Don’t let your loved ones depression takes over your life as well.

Depressed people do need lots of love and support. You don’t want to smother them but you need to be there when they need it most. Knowing they can rely on you will help them get through some of the darkest moments.

Don’t deny your own feelings. There will be times when you’re feeling angry and frustrated. You need a support network to help vent these feelings out. A good friend or a support group again can be a great source of comfort. Keeping your feelings bottled up can lead to your own illness.

Dealing with depression is difficult and draining. It puts stress and strain on the life of the depressed person as well as those close to him or her. Many types of therapies may have to be tried and tested before any improvement is seen. One such possibility is talk therapy.

Talk Therapies:

Talking therapies can be of a great help when it comes to treating depression. It involved various types of counseling with a psychologist, Psychiatrist or therapist. Talking therapies allow the depressed person to get their feelings out. They also allow for the two people to work together to try to find the root cause for their depression.

Talking therapies do vary but most involve the same key elements. First there is the listening session. The therapist listens to the person’s problems. Over time the person develops a relationship with the therapist where they feel they are understood. Next there is the emotional release. This is helpful but cannot be done to often. Letting the emotions out too often can have the opposite effect and lead to further depression. Next comes the advice and guidance. The patient may be able to seek the answers on their own through session and homework. Finally, there is information provided. They are giving information in small bits but as progress is made it can be increased. Depressed people can sometimes have poor concentration and memories so information is given carefully.

Talking therapies can be very effective in treating depression but they do take time. Several sessions may be required and the patient’s family may have to be involved. Talking therapies can help mild to moderate depression greatly; however severe cases of depression will usually need a combination of talk and medication.

Inner Healing:

Inner healing is a faith-based approach to dealing with depression. Traumatic events in our lives can interpret our reality and cause us to believe falsehoods about ourselves, our relationships, and our faith in God. Replacing the lies with truth will set us free but it is a battle to renew our minds. It can be done and life can be lived in abundance and not with victim or poverty mindsets.

Need help with Depression? Let Marriage and Family Therapist Ron Huxley assist you and your family members.

Call today at 805-709-2023 or email at rehuxley@gmail.com for an appointment in Ron’s Shell Beach, California office.

Children who no longer live with their birth parents must go through their own version of grief…

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

In 2014, Child Welfare Services checked up on 3.2 million children reported as abused or neglected, in the United States of America*. Many of these children are removed from their birth parents and enter foster care. Some return to their parents while others are adopted by loving families. The goal is always permanency for children but the issues of grief must be addressed regardless of the child’s placement.

What is Grief?

Grief is the state that individuals experience when a significant loss occurs in their life. The loss might occur as a result of death, divorce, and/or abandonment by a family member. It might be said that nontraditional families, like foster and adoptive families, are born out of grief as they are formed as a result of a loss. This is confusing due to this is a time for both celebration and sadness.

Grief is a profound loss for children that is not always recognized by parents and professionals. One reason is that children do not grief in the same way that adults do. Young children often act like nothing happened at all and adults wrongly assume they are not grieving. Later, when they erupt in anger and aggression towards others, adults are surprised by their behavior. Misunderstanding the behavior will lead to incorrectly managing it and parents miss an opportunity to address the loss and create a healing bond.

Stages of Grief

Despite the confusion, grief has predictable stages of development. This is beneficial to the nontraditional parent as they attempt to make sense of their child’s grief experiences. Most importantly they know that the most negative feelings of grief and loss will not last forever, at least not in the same intensity as when it first started.

Perhaps the best known framework for grief and loss are the stages listed in the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who wrote the book On Death and Dying (1969). Her stages of grief include:

Denial
Anger
Bargaining
Depression
Acceptance

These stages can manifest differently depending on the child’s developmental stage. As a child matures, their ability to understand themselves and their world changes, allowing for deeper levels of grieving. This is why young children can act like they don’t grief or care about their past. They may not want to talk about their past or have any questions for adults. When they are older, however, they may “suddenly” have questions and this can be perplexing to adults.

Another way grief can affect children is creating a division between “age and stage.” A child may be 16 years of age chronologically but act emotionally and socially like a 6 year old. Would a parent allow a 6 year old to take care of his or her younger siblings? Of course not! A 16 should be responsible to watch their younger siblings for a short time. A 6 year old would not have the cognitive ability. A 10 year discrepancy between age and stage can cause grieving children to look like they are on an emotional roller coaster ride. One minute they are responsible and calm. Then next they are reactive and impulsive. Parents can easily make the mistake of dealing with the child’s age and not their stage.

Close the gap between the child’s emotional and chronological stage by creating a space for them to grief past losses.

Waves of the Ocean

A useful metaphor for understanding grief are the waves of an ocean. When you are way out in the ocean, the waves are large and frightening. They pull you under and twist you about, creating a sense of hopelessness or fear of your future. This is similar to the stage of Denial or shock at the reality of the loss. When the waves pass and the ocean feels momentarily calm, this is called the stage of anger or bargaining. The shore represents the stage of acceptance. As nontraditional parents and children swim for the stage of acceptance, waves continue to crash over them, sometimes threatening to pull them under in denial and shock and at other times settling down and letting anger and bargaining propel them forward to the shore. The closer you come to the shore the less intense the waves. But even small waves, when standing on the edge of the ocean can unsettle and cause you to lose your balance.

Parents can use this metaphor to help themselves and their children find emotional balance. Because they are in the ocean and not on the shore they cannot compare their children’s action to others. In addition, rather than live up to society’s expectation of what an ideal family should look like, parents need to concentrate their energy on helping their child swim for the shore, in their own timeframe, even if it must be developmental stages.

Art and the Heart

Expressive arts can open the heart of the child who is grieving by allowing them to freely process thoughts and feelings that have been trapped in her heart and possibly . Parents have to set an atmosphere of acceptance to help the child “swim to shore”. Parents who avoid talking about sad or angry feelings communicate that it is unsafe or unwise to share. You don’t have to be an art therapist. Just get out the crayons and paper. Pull out paints and use your fingers. Play with legos and dolls. Make believe and role play. As adults we can interject healing ideas and allow grief and loss to work naturally. 

Talking about Birth Parents

It can feel rejecting for foster or adoptive parents to talk to their children about birth parents. Ironically, opening up conversation and allowing children to grieve will create a closer, more intimate attachment. Not talking about them will reinforce shame in the child and idealizing birth parents creating a vicious cycle or hurt between parent and child. The loss has already occurred. Avoid it doesn’t make it go away. It stays buried until it comes out in more painful ways. 

If parents need help in this area, consult with a child therapy and spend some time working through the age and stage of grief. 

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Sources: 

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/in-a-year-child-protective-services-conducted-32-million-investigations/374809/

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying (1969).

Ron Huxley, Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting (1998).

Do you have Trauma A or Trauma B?

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There are two types of trauma: Trauma A and Trauma B. Do you know the difference? Which one has impacted you? One is much more recognized by society but both are important to healing from trauma, managing anger and aggression and improving our family relationships.

(via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXWUrRXSSoU)

Get our special report “5 Steps to Transforming Trauma” here!

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We live in a broken world, full of broken families and broken hearts, resulting in anger, depression and anxiety. When people come to see a family therapist, they want change but they want other members of the family to change, not them. How much pain do we have to go through before we are willing to do something different than we have always done before? Listen to Ron Huxley, Family Therapist, as he shares some insights on how to create love and honor in the home to have real, permanent change in the family. 

Be sure to share this with a friend…