July marks Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. According to Mental Health America (MHA), it was established as such in 2008 to bring awareness to the unique struggles faced by marginalized populations with respect to mental illness in the United States. The term ‘minority’ is understood most commonly as being linked to racial, ethnic, or cultural minorities in our country, but MHA has their eyes set upon expanding this term to include people from a wider range of underserved communities, such as the LGBTQIA+ community, refugee and immigrant groups, religious groups, and other individuals who are often times overlooked. Through making the term more inclusive, the need to address mental health problems with a distinctive lens while incorporating the various needs of diverse communities is highlighted.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides their own understanding of minority mental health issues via 2017 statistics focused on people of color (POC). They report that 41.5% of youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35.1% of Black youth and 32.7% of Hispanic youth were given treatment for their condition. The administration points out that Asian American adults were less likely to utilize mental health services compared to any other racial/ethnic group. They state that 13.3% of youth ages 12-17 had at least one depressive episode, but that number was found to be higher among American Indian and Alaska Native youth at 16.3% and Hispanic youth at 13.8%. Finally, SAMHSA informs that 18.9% of adults (46.6 million people) had a mental illness. That rate was higher for people of two or more races landing at 28.6%, non-Hispanic Whites at 20.4%, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 19.4%.
So, you may be wondering to yourself now, What is the “big picture” to be taken away from all of those percentages? Basically, they illustrate the fact that despite the advances that have been made in health equity in America, disparities in mental health care remain at large. In sum from The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care. Poor mental health care access and quality are contributing factors to poor mental health outcomes, like suicide, amongst racial and ethnic minority populations. It is undoubtedly a case of the folks who are most in need mental health-wise being left stuck at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (HHS OMH) recommends that the community keep educating itself on the importance of enhancing access to mental health care and treatment for minority clients and help break down other barriers standing in the way, such as negative views on mental illness overall. As a biracial (Black and White) therapist, I, Miss Stephanie, would also like to encourage you, with my whole heart, as the clients and families of Thrive Counseling Center to research how you can have a greater impact on your own mental health experiences or those of your POC counterparts. For additional information on how you can play out your part in helping the cause during this month, please feel free to visit: https://www.mhanational.org/minority-mental-health-monthand https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=9447
Covid-19 has changed the lives of many creating loss, financial stress, life unbalance, job instability worries and many other issues. Most of us have had to change our daily lives and the way we move and interact with the world. It is almost rare to visit a grocery store and see someone without a face mask or experiencing that you need to use telemental health to speak to your doctor before setting a physical appointment. Business parking lots are empty, parks are closed, and the internet has become the platform for children’s education. Nonetheless, this has become the world’s “new normal”. So how do you mentally maneuver through this untimely and unexpected transition? Experts today are not yet able to provide much information on an end date to the coronavirus and your anxiety may be increasing daily with the constant uncertainty.
How do you plan your life around Covid-19? The answer may not be as simple but an adjustment. We as people have to rely on focusing more on the factors of what we have control over versus what we do not. It is typically a battle for most people when we lose control or structure in our lives. We are witnessing this even more now than ever which can be the result of why many people are experiencing such troubles with transitioning and isolation. The greatest way to plan your life is to focus on what makes you and your loved ones safe. Continue to keep following the basic recommendations from the CDC such as washing your hands for 20 seconds, wearing protective face masks when around others and social distancing. This is a time where you have to become more creative and safe when implementing your past routines. You may not be able to control the longevity of this pandemic but you can control your decisions, protecting yourself and your loved ones.
When you are stressed, overwhelmed, fatigued, exhausted and anxious it’s safe to say that your body is letting you feel it. You may find yourself having trouble with regulating your emotions and that’s fair. The pandemic does increase a lot of emotions for everyone including anger, anxiousness, depression, and even loss. You may be impacted by many new challenges or stressors daily and have no idea how to manage them all. Here are a few things that may be able to bring some peace to your day to day challenges.
We must consider challenging a stressor is to understand the true power of the stressor. Ask yourself, do you have any true control over this situation? Do you have the power to make changes to the situation at hand or correct it? If the answer is no, you must find peace with that stressor that there is nothing you can do and it is out of your hands. If you do have control over the stressor, try coming up with a realistic plan to assist you in completing that task. Don’t be afraid to ask for support if necessary and try to be kind to yourself when setting realistic expectations.
I recommend exploring and applying emotional regulation techniques. When we have the ability to gain control of our emotions we tend to be able to navigate through life better. But the true question is how do you regulate your emotions? Ways to regulate your emotions can be simple but may not look the same to everyone. When we say regulate your emotions, we mean a way to simply calm yourself down, bring you back to the here and now, get you to relax the tensions in your body. It can be as simple as taking deep breaths, counting backward, meditating, listening to music, eating a sour candy, or focusing on a distinctive calming sound or light. By doing this, you are forcing your body to lose focus on the negative distraction and to find a more positive one that you now have control over. Doing this technique not only allows you to not become so reactive but it allows you to control the way you respond.
As you are probably aware the news media has reported on cases of coronavirus (also called COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV). Most of these cases have been reported in China and other Eurasian countries with a handful in the United States. To date, there have been only 2 confirmed cases in Georgia, specifically Fulton County. We want all of our families to know that your child’s health and safety is our highest priority! Our Thrive Team is closely monitoring this situation and is prepared to address any situation should it become a concern in our community.
Every year common viruses circulate in the United States, and some of these can cause upper respiratory illnesses much like the common cold, along with symptoms such as fever and cough that resemble seasonal flu. According to the Georgia Department of Health, the overall risk of coronavirus to the general public is low.
We want to encourage all clients and families to use everyday actions and to help stay healthy and happy! These are the same Health Department recommended preventative strategies used during the normal cold and flu season. These include:
Washing hands regularly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating.
Cover coughs and sneezes and wash hands afterward.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible.
Keep sick children home from school/activities and limit their contact with others while sick.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or a disinfectant wipe.
Thrive Counseling Center is committed to the health and wellness of our clients and families, in addition to the entire Cobb County Community. We will continue to be in contact with the Cobb County Health Department as we monitor any changing conditions. If you or someone you love is concerned that they may be experiencing symptoms of the virus, please don’t hesitate to alert your Primary Care Physician.
Sadness and unhappiness are emotions that can strike at any time. Whether it be over the loss of a loved one (bereavement), financial difficulties, or even disappointment over a bad grade, periodic sadness and unhappiness is a normal part of everyday life. But what if the feelings of sadness and unhappiness aren’t periodic? Can you imagine being in a chronic state of emotional and mental distress to the point of not being able to shower, eat, or do any of the tasks associated with daily functioning? For those with depression, this is just a glimpse into what they may be experiencing.
Depression is an abnormal and often unwarranted emotional and mental state that persists past what is considered a ‘normal’ period of time. Depression affects the way a person thinks, behaves, and feels and drastically impedes daily functioning. This illness can be characterized by low energy, fatigue, less enjoyment in once desirable activities, and even insomnia. Although there are key symptoms to look for, not everyone with depression share the same symptoms. While one individual may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or at all during the day, another may refrain from interacting with others and become closed off.
Although an individual who is depressed will likely experience sadness, being sad doesn’t imply depression. A key difference between sadness and depression is duration. While sadness will usually go away on its own (within a time-frame specific to the trigger), depression is a condition that can arise for no reason at all, persists for more than 2 weeks, and typically doesn’t go away without treatment. Symptoms associated with depression are persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, unwarranted guilt, worthlessness, and even thoughts of suicide.
However, many assume that depression is obvious in others (and even themselves), but this isn’t always the case. Depression doesn’t always manifest as blatant sadness and can occur in people that seem to have life completely figured out. The complex nature of depression can seem helpless, but treatment is possible. The first step is seeking help if you feel that you may be experiencing any depressive symptoms.
My middle school and high school days were a bit rough for me. Though I wasn’t bullied or perpetually harassed, I constantly felt that I didn’t fit in. Perhaps a better way to put it is that I didn’t know who I was as an individual. This struggle for identity lasted well into college where I eventually settled into the idea that perhaps it was okay to wrestle with identity. As this notion became more of who I was rather than just a mere idea, I became more confident and sure of myself. In many ways this process of becoming has greatly influenced my decision to join this field. It’s my hope that I can aid in or foster a space that promotes personal growth for others as they search for identity and purpose.
What do you think is the most important characteristic of a counselor?
Wow, what a question! If I had to pick just one characteristic that a counselor must have (and he should certainly have several!) I would say the ability to empathically listen nonjudgmentally to the client is absolutely essential to the therapeutic process.
What is rewarding to you about being a counselor?
There is something invaluably rewarding in being witness to the growth of another individual. For some, growth takes the form of standing up themselves. For others, growth may be mourning the death of a loved one or a futile fight against cancer. I guess what I mean to say is that growth doesn’t always look “nice and pretty”. Sometimes it’s downright ugly and terrifying. It’s rewarding, to me, to accompany those who seek growth in their lives—no matter what form it takes.
What type of people do you like to work with?
Though I would love the opportunity to work with adults eventually, right now I absolutely love working with teenagers and children of all ages. This certainly springs from my struggles as a child/adolescent as I want to be a positive force and influence in the youngsters I work with—perhaps a person that most kids don’t have in their lives as they begin the scary journey of shaping themselves.
How do you infuse creative elements into your counseling sessions?
I like to facilitate dance, song, and movement into my therapy session as a creative touch that helps build rapport and allows the client to express things in a new and different way.
Why is using creative approaches to mental health important to you?
Creativity is a something that lives within all of us. It’s certainly nuanced and looks different for each person; but it’s there. Thus, I believe it’s important to be creative when approaching therapy because it allows the therapeutic relationship to be even more inherently different than other relations. A creative therapeutic relationship is exceptional in the sense that this relationship is an exception to every other relation the client has with others. In that sense, I want to be an exceptional therapist.
What is your educational and work background?
I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology and minor in Sociology from the University of West Georgia. Subsequently I also received my Masters of the Arts in Psychology degree from UWG. During graduate school I worked at Willowbrooke’s Child and Adolescent Outpatient Program as a clinical intern. During my tenure he I facilitated both individual and group therapy sessions.
What is the counseling theory or approach that you most closely follow?
I approach therapy from a humanistic and existential perspective and believe people inherently dwell within a continuum of growth and that one of the major conflicts and anxiety provoking issues in life is the search for meaning and purpose.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not counseling?
I love spending time with my soon to be wife. She is the most important person on this earth to me and sometimes I like to think she was an angel sent directly down from heaven just for me. We often spend our time rock climbing and exploring the beauty of the southern mountains.
Allison L. Pharris, MFT, graduated from Mercer University School of Medicine and is in the process of becoming licensed as a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT). Allison has experience working therapeutically with a wide variety of clients through the Mercer Family Therapy Center, DeKalb County Women’s Resource Center, Forsyth County Juvenile Court System, and the State of Georgia Department of Family and Children Services has driven her to gain a better understanding of children, families and relationship dynamics. In these roles, Allison gained experience acting as a healing presence and tailoring treatment plans specific to clients in times of emotional difficulty with a focus on improving family functioning and connection. Allison’s goal has always been to provide a genuine, warm, therapeutic relationship her clients can use for healing and growth.
Allison was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and has lived in various cities around the state. She loves spending time outdoors, gardening, hiking, or just taking a walk around the neighborhood with her fiancé and their dog, Clover. Allison also enjoys taking trips to the beach and getting out on the river in her kayak. Reading is one of Allison’s favorite ways to spend time. Lately, she has been reading books about mindfulness and incorporating mindfulness practice into everyday life. Allison also likes trying new restaurants, spending time with friends and family, and watching home improvement shows.
Allison takes an existential, experiential approach in therapy and loves collaborating with clients when it comes to creative expression. Allison practices from the belief that all people are inherently good and oriented towards growth, health, and healing in the core of their being. She helps clients access this core by encouraging authentic interactions, mindfulness, genuine emotional expression, art and play therapies, sand tray therapies, and by building a strong therapeutic alliance. Many of Allison’s clients have found a sense of wholeness. They notice an increase in self-awareness and self-acceptance. Allison’s passion and dedication to her work, as well as her genuine interest in her client’s well-being, contribute to success in therapy.
The month of April is full of lots of wonderful things: the allergenic burst of fauna and flora preparing for Spring, tax deadlines, spring-breaks. No seriously, April signals Child Abuse Prevention Month for Thrive Counseling! Throughout April, Thrive Counseling will be celebrating this awareness month with flare and style! We don our adorable “Thrived-out” t-shirts and parade around the office promoting child well-being.
Did you know that every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children); and that the United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect (CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, Child Maltreatment 2012)? Why should there ever be a reason to abuse a child? Do you know? Never.
Abuse, more often than not, sets a child up to fail in their future and unfortunately provides a life of mental and emotional issues. Children abused and/or neglected have a significantly higher risk of becoming involved in criminal activity. Child abuse isn’t just physical abuse. Mental and emotional abuse can be damaging as well. This leads to kids having a severe lack of trust in their relationships (friendships, family, and romantic relationships). Did you know that most child abuse happens with someone the child is related to? Most often, unfortunately, the abuser is a family member. Strangers aren’t the only danger to your child.
Children who have been abused have a difficult time expressing their emotions. They tend to suppress them. A lot of kiddos end up feeling worthless or like they aren’t loved. Especially children who have been sexually abused. Sexual abuse isn’t always as apparent as physical abuse. You cannot see that a child has been exposed to an adults genitals or that they touched another person’s private parts. It isn’t as easy to spot as a black eye. Take a child seriously if they try to tell you that they have been abused. Children tend to feel as if they are the reason that they were abused or raped. They have a guilt placed upon them that they are not equipped to handle. If a child is sexually abused, they tend to either go one of two ways and engage in sexual promiscuity or cannot maintain an intimate relationship. This is all due to the shame and guilt that they encounter after they have been raped.
Neglect is another form of abuse. You think, I didn’t do anything to the kid. Right. You ignored them or left them unsupervised. Do you recall the incident that happened last summer? The 2 year old toddler that was left inside his father’s car. In the summer! That is a form of neglect AND child abuse.
Thrive Counseling has lots of options for support for children who have been abused mentally, emotionally, physically, or sexually. Our Thrive Therapists are trained in the area of trauma and grief and are experts at providing therapy for the younger population. If you suspect that a child is being abused, please report to someone. There are many websites and phone lines out there that are for this. Let’s prevent and end child abuse together!!!
Ms. Stephanie is a new therapist at Thrive Counseling. She enjoys working with teens who need help through those tough years! Ms. Stephanie’s interests lie in depression, anxiety, mood disorders, self-injury, ADHD, LGBTQ issues, and self-esteem issues. Ms. Stephanie received her master’s of Professional Counseling from the University of West Georgia and her bachelor’s of Psychology from the University of Georgia. GO DAWGS!! She was a member of Chi Sigma Iota (Professional Counseling Honor Society) and Psi Chi (a national honor society for psychology). Ms. Stephanie is currently a member of the American Counseling Association, Licensed Professional Counselor Association of Georgia, Association for Play Therapy, and American Art Association. Ms. Stephanie is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor and is actively pursuing her requirements to become a registered play therapist. Ms. Stephanie loves to travel and her favorite place to be is the beach. She loves dance (especially ballet) and has been a dance instructor for the past three years. Ms. Stephanie also enjoys doing yoga and meditation. She loves animals and enjoys spending time with her cat named Maisy! Ms. Stephanie hopes to provide every client with a unique therapeutic experience to make necessary changes in his or her life.
In this month’s article, Thrive Counseling will explain ten great ways to teach your child empathy. In order to begin, let’s clarify. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of someone else. Let’s not confuse empathy with sympathy, though sympathy is another good quality you might find in a well-rounded person. Empathy is a personal understanding of emotions from another. Parents, to teach your child how to show empathy, one: allow your kid to express all emotions (even the negative ones). In homes where emotions are shut down, a child will never be able to truly experience the emotion of sorrow or sadness, grief. It is important to let them experience even the positive emotions: surprise, excitement, happiness. If they are not aware of how those emotions feel themselves, how are they to empathize with a friend who is going through a similar situation? Two: it is a good idea to respond to your child’s “boo boos” with empathy. Even the small ones. Showing that you care about their scrape or cut will make them feel loved and nurtured. They will, in turn, do this for a friend, sibling – even you. Three: surely, by the time your child can tell you what they are feeling, you can pretty much judge for yourself. You may be able to tell that they are angry or upset. Identify with these feelings. Identify with their emotions. Four: label your own emotions. Identify your sad, your angry, your excited. Five: point out the emotions of other people. Show your child the facial expressions and body language of someone who is really happy. Let them try to grasp that image. Do it with a sad person and an angry person. Six: use his or her story time as an opportunity to practice empathy. Maybe read them their favorite book, and then swap stories about “a time when…”, and let them try to relate – empathize. Seven: model empathy through play. When playing dolly with your daughter, try to set the scene to show empathy. “I know how dolly feels. I’ve been excited about going swimming, too!” Eight: practice yourself. Try to place yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand where they are coming from. You can’t teach empathy well if you don’t have the ability to relate yourself. Nine: suggest that your kid “think out loud” to identify other’s behavior. Have them make positive remarks on their observations. And ten: help your child make amends. Have your child try to understand that if they’ve done wrong, they must be held accountable and should apologize. Try to have them see themselves in the other person’s shoes. Ask them how it would make them feel if that were them.
The sooner children are taught empathy, the stronger their ability will be as they grow. Empathy is a great quality that will positively enable your child in so many social situations: school, sports teams, friends. They will be the better for it!!