the reckless dad

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: Counselor (page 1 of 3)

Undivided Attention – What Kids Need Part 2

In our digital, global, information overload world with rapidly changing images and stimuli, we have cultivated a culture where less is more and this has bled over into our relationships and most detrimentally to our relationships with our children. As parents, we often look for ways for us to not give our kids the Attention they are looking for.

It is the little things in life that make the most meaningful impact sometimes. It is the tying of the shoes. It is the folding of the clothes. It is the completing of the homework. It is sweeping or making of the bed together. It is the picking up of the toys. It is the time spent doing the tasks or things that have seemingly no importance at all that make the difference. It is the not-so-helpful hands preparing dinner. The snuggles on the couch before bed. It is xbox, board games, card games, kicking a soccer ball, playing war or the occasional lightsaber battle in the living room. All of these are times when children get the attention from their parents they crave desperately. Attention focused on them and no one else. Attention given to them, showing them their little lives matter to us as parents.

Sometimes it is hurtful yell or scream. Sometimes it is chastising glance and mean words given. Sometimes it is unending berating in the form of a lecture about how the smallest mistake means the child is stupid. Sometimes it is spanking, the slapping and the forcibly being put into the corner or on their bed for timeout. It is the undivided attention of a parent who can no longer ignore the actions of their child and now they have to intervene and give attention to the child because the child has so completely disrupted whatever activity the parent is engaged in.

Either way, the bottom line is attention. Children crave the attention of their parents. The old cliche is so very true, ‘negative attention is better than no attention at all.’

Many kids just want someone to pay attention to them. Someone to give them something. The challenge as parents is for us to not be irritated when our kids need attention from us. Often, if we stop what we are doing for just a few minutes we can give our kids the attention they desire and be able to get back to our tasks. It isn’t hard. It is about giving them the attention and time they need. It usually doesn’t require a lot of time. As parents it is our responsibility to be on the lookout for the attention our kids need from us and then give it to them. Offer them what they desire. Give them the love and attention they crave.

Are we looking for ways we can give our kids the attention the desire or are we viewing every interruption by them as a nuisance to be overcome? I challenge you today and the rest of the week to take the moments your kids ask for… and then some. Don’t be bothered. Don’t be agitated. Don’t get mad. Give your kids what they want from you… you. Your attention. Your time. You.

Are you willing to accept the challenge?

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A Future of Freedom

  
What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow and all your problems were gone?

In solution focused therapy, this question is often posed by the therapist to motivate the client to imagine a future without the ailment bringing them in for therapy. This question excites and empowers the client to imagine a future of freedom… freedom from what plagues them… freedom to live unbound by labels… freedom to live without the weight of their troubles upon their shoulders. 

This question is meant to evoke feelings of hope and courage for a future that is different. It seeks to break the cycle of dysfunctional thinking the client is trapped in. It aims to change perspective. 

I dare to say, it is one of the most powerful questions that can be asked in therapy. It has the ability to re-capture the excitement of life. 

The only drawback to this question, is sometimes we aren’t ready for it. We aren’t ready to dream, to hope, to envision a future of freedom. We aren’t ready because we are too happy in our misery. Sure, everyone wants freedom inside their core… but we also revel in the familiar, in what we know, in what is comfortable. Which means, it can be easier to wallow in misery and not hope for a future of freedom. 

This is what keeps us from breaking free from our ‘prisons’… it’s not that our prisons are inescapable, as much as we don’t want to escape. We limit ourselves. 

We don’t have to live this way… we don’t have to live chained to our problems, our issues, our baggage, the things that hang us up. We can be free… free to live lives unchained and unfettered to the junk that brings us down, holds us back and keeps us from moving forward. 

The miracle question allows us to realize this possibility. It allowsus to envision a future of freedom. We must be courageous enough to dream for a future of freedom. More than that, we mis be courageous enough to take the next steps to realize that freedom. 

The first step to overcoming a life chained and fettered by issues, baggage and ailments is to dream the miracle question… dream what life would be like free. The next step is working to make that dream a reality. 

What would it be like if tomorrow you woke up & all your problems were gone?

The Ordeal

strategic therapyOne of my favorite classes in my counseling program was the Brief Strategic Therapy class I took while we lived in Jacksonville. One of the things which made this class so enjoyable for me was the professor. Had I not taken the class at a Jacksonville campus, it would not hold such a high place in my heart. The professor was a straightforward, no BS, cuss like a sailor professor who told you how it was. On the first day of class, she shattered the strongly-held precept of mental health counseling – the client must have insight into the struggle before real, lasting change can be made. The first day of class she comes in and tells us we don’t care if the client understand the why or gains any kind of insight at all… all we want is for their behaviors to change. We don’t care if they understand why they act the way they do or if they understand why they need to change or why the changes work. All we want is for the client to change.

This literally, was a slap in the face to everything I had learned in my program prior to this and it was exactly what I had been screaming in my head as I sat in class. What I didn’t understand at the time, is that you want change first to allow time for the understanding to come. In a brief, strategic scenario you are time-limited and need to change to occur quickly allowing the client time to reflect later. This approach was refreshing and laid some solid groundwork for me as I began to formulate and design my own approach to counseling. Since then, I have become more convinced that real, long, and enduring change can only come when you take time to reflect and understand what the root cause of your anguish is. Having said that, there is also a time and a place for a brief, strategic approach which doesn’t waste precious time assisting the client in gaining insight, but rather forces a quick, necessary change immediately.

This morning, I arrived to work and found one of the youth in our Residential Group Care (RGC) home refusing to go to school. I walked into his room, woke him up and said, “You have two options – 1. Come sit at the conference room table in my office and let me get all the tasks on my list for today done that require me to sit in front of a computer. For this to happen, you don’t have to tell me anything… I don’t care what’s going on, I don’t care why you don’t want to go to school, I will leave you alone to sit at the table and do nothing all day long. 2. Come with me to run some errands, a different set of tasks on list for today. For this to happen, you have to give me something… you have to help me understand what is going on inside your head and heart which explains why you don’t want to go to school. Help me to understand there is something churning inside you and that you just aren’t choosing to be a turd this morning.” He replies, “I’d rather go to school!” And I say, “And there is option 3, get up and get dressed so I can take you to school.” He got up, got dressed and I took him to school.

This is a Directive technique called the Ordeal. The rationale here is to give the client something to do which is harder to fulfill than following through with the symptom you wish to alleviate. I wanted him to go to school, so I gave him options that were less desirable to him (i.e. harder) than going to school. Additionally, I utilized several Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) techniques in the process. First, I empowered him to have a choice… have a voice in the process. He was given the freedom to choose any of the options and I would have been ok with whatever he chose. This also employs the compromise technique. He doesn’t get what he wants, but he can choose from two alternatives and we roll with what he chose. It was a win-win for everyone this morning. He was empowered to choose and we did what he chose and I got him to go to school and didn’t have to have shadow all day long because he refused to attend school.

When working with the youth in our RGC, it isn’t always this easy. There are times when it goes much less smoothly. However, the key ingredient in each interaction which continues to prove successful is authentic engagement. Many times, the youth we work with haven’t been given a choice, they are shown respect, they are lead to believe their voice doesn’t matter and that no one cares for them. But we do. I do. By authentically engaging in the life of this youth, we establish a relationship where we can accomplish much simply because we take the time to engage in their lives in an authentic way which demonstrates that unlike so many others in their lives, we care about them and they matter to us.

Victimology

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colbycriminaljustice.wikidot.com/criminal-profiling-2012

victimology |ˌviktəˈmäləjē|
the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim.
I want to share with you a mindset or approach to life that has crippled me more than anything else other than being a sinful, fallen human being.
Being a victim. I should clarify, I don’t mean I have been crippled by an actual victimization that has occurred. That is different than this. Some of us have experience trauma and abuse and are victims of tragedy. I mean another kind of victim.
I mean the kind of victim that can best be described as passivity. This kind of victim revels in being a victim. This kind of victim using their victim-ness as an excuse to not move forward. This kind of victim is crippled and unable, dare I say unwilling, to make any changes or adjustments to their live in order to grow and move on from whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
This kind of victim is passive. They allow life to happen around them, to them… without taking any stand or trying to effect or impact what is going on around them. This kind of victim assumes they aren’t able to change anything so they don’t try. They passively watch as life passes them by, thinking to themselves how unfair it is that everyone else has everything they want and how good stuff happens to everyone else but me, I’m stuck here in the mud with crap just happening to me.
I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (fancy way to say Licensed Mental Health Counselor in training) and have suffered my share of mental health related difficulties. I am aware of the intricacies of mental health struggles and how difficult it can be to take responsibility and action in our lives. I know how easy it can be to allow life to happen without trying to engage and impact the direction of life. Please understand that when I say, we can’t afford to passively approach our lives.
I only took seven years to complete my Master’s degree, which gave me plenty of time to think through and mull over how I approach mental health. I have realized a couple things about how I approach mental health issues. First, we all have a backstory. Each one of us has a history that helps to explain who we are and where we have come from. For many of us, in that backstory are clues to why we are using the particular coping strategy to manage life. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize our coping strategies are maladaptive or unhealthy… they are the only ones we know.
Secondly, in that backstory is the root issue we must face and overcome if we are to move on with our lives. For each of us this is different. It may be trauma or abuse. It may be our perception of experiences we had growing up. It may be unresolved guilt or anger. Whatever the root issue is, it will eventually have to be overcome.
Thirdly, I know we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors. We have to be. We aren’t machines or robots. There are at times circumstances making it more difficult for us to act, think or behave in certain ways… but that doesn’t give us a pass to sit back and stop acting, thinking or behaving in rational healthy ways. If we want things to be different in our lives, we are the catalyst to make that happen.
We can no longer accept passivity and victimology. Can’t continue to live life from the sidelines expecting for it to somehow get better or be different if we aren’t willing to get in the game and make an effort to make it different and better. You are responsible for the way you approach life. You are responsible for your victim mindset.
And so am I.
I have come to understand when we approach life and mental health circumstances we have to uncover the root issue in life causing us problems. We have to learn better ways to cope or manage our behaviors. We have to restructure the way we think each day. We have to adjust our behavior patterns to healthier ones, to ones utilizing healthy coping strategies to combat life. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and the place in life we find ourselves.
I am no longer content playing a passive role in my life, allowing someone else other than me or God to have the spotlight in my life. Are you? Are you ready to actively engage in your life? Let’s and together and overcome passivity and victimology.

I’m Reacting to Myself

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​In my internship we had to complete two papers where we reacted to a particular therapy session we offered to our clients. This is the second one I turned in this term. This photo is my professor’s comments on my paper.

I am trying to think through a session I have had where I was caused a disturbance or caused me to feel or think in a particular way, which stands out to me as something I need to process or think through. And in all honesty, I am having difficulty. So rather than try to find something that may not be there, I would like to react to this program, and my involvement in it.

I can’t believe it! I am here! I am finally at the end of this program. When I started it years ago, I am not even really sure why I chose this program. When I lived in Gainesville and worked for DCF as a caseworker, I applied to and got into FSU’s MSW program (they offer it in Gainesville every three years or so). So for me, beginning the road to be a counselor was not what I envisioned myself doing. I always viewed myself as more of a social worker than a counselor. But here I am, or there I was… in the program now.

I have often described me begin in this program as ‘by default’. I said this because I am not sure how I ended up here. I don’t know exactly why. Over the last 6 years, I have struggled with some of the main concepts or tenets of what makes a person a counselor. Viewing myself as a social worker, I have found it hard to learn to not fix people. When someone comes to counseling, it is not my role to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. This is very hard for me. I am a practical kind of guy who wants things to be fixed and moved on from. I have come to learn and appreciate the value of assisting others on their own journey of discovery. What makes the answer so poignant to us, is when we come to it on our own. I have grown much in this respect I believe or the course of this program. I have better listening skills. I am more apt to listen first, and second before I offer advice to someone. I am willing to journey alongside people as they come to the conclusions of what they need to do and where they need to go in life. This is very refreshing! It relieves the pressure of me having to fix everyone… which obviously is impossible to do.

I have also struggled with trying to find my theoretical approach to counseling. Again, I have always viewed myself as a practical kind of guy who wanted to fix things and then move on. Because of this, I tried to fit myself into the mold of begin solution-focused. This fits sometimes, but is not the overarching fit for me. It may be my upbringing or it may be the way I am wired, but I have an intense desire to understand why people think and act they way they do. I want to know the underlying reasons for their behaviors. What is happening in their unconscious mind leading them to think and act the way they do? When I was in middle school and high school, my father completed an MSW program. I remember the family joke around the dinner table was we were going to ‘psychoanalyze people’ to understand why they were doing what they were doing. This became the running joke for us. But, there is much truth to it for me because learning this psychological motivation for why people do what they do is fascinating to me. I have seen how in my own life, this is the only real way to learn how to overcome the various struggles we have in our life. In my own journey of counseling, I tried to learn ways to manage attitudes, behaviors and thoughts; but it wasn’t until I uncovered the root cause that I was able to overcome it. I certainly don’t know all there is to know on this subject, but this program has assisted me in defining who I am as a counselor and what I want to know about my clients so I am able to help them.

While I can’t answer with certainty why I ended up in this program, I can say with certainty this program is the right one for me. I entered this program at a critical time in my life and it has been one of very few constants in my life over the last six and a half years. I have learned a great deal about myself. I have learned a great deal about how to manage myself. I have learned a great deal about how to assist other people who are facing similar circumstances in their lives. After much thought and consideration, I believe I am in this program because it fits well with who I am and how I desire to help people. I am glad I am on the verge of graduation. These last six years have been some of the most difficult years of my life and it has been the years where I have grown the most. This program has allowed me to realize the person I can be. I am thankful for being in the program and being able to complete this milestone.

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