Blog Articles and Resources
This article was found on the GoodTherapy.org website. This website is an excellent resource on a wide range of topics for both therapists and clients alike. This particular article focuses on personality characteristics that can impact the ability to effectively cope after experiencing a trauma.
7 Personality Characteristics That Help in Managing Trauma
June 22, 2016 • By Marjie L. Roddick, MA, NCC, LMHC, Posttraumatic Stress / Trauma Topic Expert Contributor
Psychological trauma, defined as the experience of an event in which a person feels their life is threatened or in danger, may be accompanied by a sense of helplessness, horror, or numbing as the internal alarm system becomes activated.
We react to trauma in a number of ways, and certain factors put us at risk for more severe psychological difficulties. Fortunately, there are qualities we can build on to help us manage our reactions to traumatic events.
There are four main types of reactions we may experience following a trauma: emotional, cognitive, physical, and interpersonal.
Emotional reactions include shock, fear, grief, anger, guilt, shame, helplessness, numbness, sadness, confusion, denial, abandonment, anxiety, and depression.
Cognitive reactions might include problems with concentration, indecisiveness, difficulty making decisions, and intrusive or unwanted memories. You may notice thoughts such as, “How could someone do this?” or, “It felt like time stood still.”
Physical reactions consist of bodily tension, feeling fatigued, insomnia, startling easily, racing heartbeat, nausea, change in appetite, chills, digestive problems, or profuse sweating.
Interpersonal reactions involve feeling a sense of distrust, experiencing a loss of intimacy, increased conflict with others, isolation from others, or problems at work or school.
Other reactions to trauma are less common and more severe, and may require professional intervention. These may include:
Emotional reactions that include intrusive or unwanted reexperiencing of the event after it has happened such as nightmares, flashbacks, and terrifying memories
Extreme emotional numbing that leads to a sense of emptiness
Potentially harmful attempts to avoid intrusive experiences through alcohol or substance use, lying, self-injury, or suicide attempts
Physical reactions that involve hyperarousal, panic, rage, extreme irritability, agitation, restlessness, or violence
Ongoing anxiety, uncontrollable worry, helplessness, or obsessive or compulsive behavior
Dissociation (or a sense of being separate from one’s body), having fragmented thoughts, lack of awareness of surroundings, or involuntarily spacing out
Not everyone will develop a mental health condition or posttraumatic stress (PTSD) following a traumatic event. There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of experiencing more severe reactions to trauma, including severe exposure to a disaster, low socioeconomic status, having a preexisting mental health condition, being part of an ethnic minority, lacking social support, and lacking social resources.
Although there are factors that increase the risk of severe trauma reactions, there are also at least seven personality characteristics, described below, that can help a person successfully cope with or manage trauma.
Locus of Control
Locus of control is the extent to which we believe or expect we can control the outcomes of events that affect us. Our locus of control may be internal or external. If we have an external locus of control, we believe our behavior is guided by fate, luck, or other external forces. If we have an internal locus of control, we believe our behavior is guided by our own decisions and efforts, and that outcomes are related to our actions.
Crises challenge our beliefs and expectations about the level of control we have in the situation. Attempting to assert some degree of control following a crisis can aid in more effective coping and can help create a greater sense of meaning and consistency. Some researchers have observed that an external locus of control is related to learned helplessness, a condition in which a person perceives no sense of control, expects that there can be no escape, and believes any attempt to escape will result in failure.
While an internal locus of control can have positive effects in moderation, those who attempt to unrealistically control events may need assistance adjusting their expectations about outcomes. For instance, someone with an unrealistic belief that they could have prevented a crisis on their own by doing A, B, or C may need help focusing on what they can realistically control.
Self-efficacy is our belief about how capable we are to handle situations. If we have high self-efficacy, we exert effort to overcome challenges. If our self-efficacy is low, we avoid actions we think will exceed what we’re capable of. Self-efficacy builds on itself as we add to our successes. It is thought that people who expect to successfully cope with their emotions and moods are more likely to be proactive in their healing and to seek out something positive in threatening situations.
Optimism is holding hope and expecting that good things will happen. Optimism is focused on a desired outcome and not on who is in control or how capable one is in reaching the outcome. Optimists emphasize the positive during difficult situations and have been found by some researchers to be less anxious, hostile, depressed, and self-conscious than those with pessimistic attitudes.
Hardiness as a personality characteristic describes someone who is curious, actively involved, believes they can influence outcomes, expects that life will present changes, and tends to believe that challenges are opportunities for development. People with hardiness have a willingness to learn something of value, and merge those lessons into their lives. Hardiness is also associated with active coping and decreased emotional distress.
People with resilience are those who are at risk for failure early on in life but who nonetheless become successful. Resilient people can take responsibility for their own part in a situation and let go of responsibility for the things they cannot change. Some qualities of resilient individuals include active problem solving, perceiving difficult experiences constructively, gaining positive attention from others, and an ability to continue finding meaning in their experience.
Sense of Coherence
People with a strong sense of coherence understand that stress is an inevitable part of life and recognize that dealing with it successfully can be beneficial. Having a sense of coherence means we seek to comprehend, manage, and find meaning in situations. When we attempt to comprehend the crisis situation, we try to make sense of what happened and explain how it occurred. To manage the situation, it can be helpful to utilize available resources. Meaningfulness indicates the situation is worthy of our time and investment. Having high meaningfulness motivates us to search for ways to comprehend the situation and seek out resources to aid in managing the incident.
The ability to creatively cope is related to one’s ability to let go of the usual ways of solving problems. People who can produce creative solutions are better able to cope with traumatic events in which there are limited opportunities to exert control. Creativity involves flexibility in dealing with one’s environment.
How we react to a traumatic event can be greatly influenced by a number of factors. There are several common ways we react to trauma, and some reactions are more severe than others. Numerous personality traits were identified here that can be learned or cultivated to deal more successfully with trauma and obtain what is increasingly being recognized as posttraumatic growth.
Roddick, Marjie L. "7 Personality Characteristics That Help in Managing Trauma." GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. GoodTherapy.org, 22 June 2016. Web. 28 June 2016.
This article can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/7-personality-characteristics-that-help-in-managing-trauma-0622165
The following video was found on YouTube.com and features Dr. Stan Tatkin as he discusses the PACT Institute and what it means to have a secure relationship. This video was published on September 30th, 2014 by The Pact Institute.
The following article was found on the Huffington Post website. It takes into consideration view points of a few different therapists on staying in a negative marriage for the benefits of children. This article shares an interesting perspective on an issue that many parents face when considering divorce after having children.
7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage
Therapists caution against staying together for the kids.
Brittany Wong Divorce Editor, The Huffington Post
When you’re getting a divorce, there’s no real way of knowing to what extent your decision will affect the kids.
Still, if your marriage has created a toxic home environment, they’re probably better off getting some distance from it, said Rosalind Sedacca, a divorce and parenting coach and the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?
“Having been raised by parents that chose to stay together in a miserable marriage, I opt in favor of the other side,” Sedacca told The Huffington Post. “For me, divorce is preferable to years of living in a home where the parents fight and disrespect one another.”
Below, Sedacca and other child-centric divorce experts share seven reasons why divorcing is preferable to staying in an unhealthy marriage.
1. You may not be sparing your children emotional and psychological scars by staying together.
It’s confusing for kids when parents are “emotionally divorced but still living together.”
You may live under the same roof, but your nuclear family status means nothing if your kids are only used to seeing you fight, reminded Sedacca.
“Children feel the tension and are confused by it,” she said. “The emotional and mental pain children endure when their parents are a couple in name alone doesn’t get touched on enough; the scars are much the same as for those who experience a poorly handled divorce.”
She added: “Happiness, harmony, cooperation, respect and joy are all absent when parents are emotionally divorced but still living together.”
2. Your kids will feel uneasy in their own home.
Kids thrive on predictability. Chronic marital conflict undermines their sense of safety and sameness at home, said Deborah Mecklinger, a mediator and therapist based in Toronto, Ontario.
“Kids don’t know what to expect in this situation. They walk on eggshells, never knowing where or when the next land mine will explode,” she said. “Divorce, when done right, diminishes the conflict. Children have the opportunity to learn about respect, real cooperation and communication.”
3. It may lead to low self-esteem for your kids.
Children are likely to grow into “adults who have low self-esteem and trust issues” if they’re exposed to parents who are chronically unhappy.
A tension-filled home can leave even the most confident, sure-footed child feeling uncertain and rejected. Indeed, studies have shown that being raised in a high-conflict home can cause children to have feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness, said Terry Gaspard, a therapist specializing in divorce and the author of Daughters of Divorce.
“Children are like sponges and they will absorb negative emotions and internalize their anger and shame,” she said. “If they’re exposed to parents who are chronically unhappy, kids will grow into adults who have low self-esteem and trust issues. An important question to ask yourself is, would the well-being of the children be enhanced by a move to a divorced, single-parent family? If the answer is yes, then a divorce can be advantageous.”
4. Kids often feel responsible for their parents’ happiness.
It doesn’t matter how much you try to shield your kids from the unhappiness and lack of love between you and your spouse — chances are, they’ll pick up on it, said Betsy Ross, a Massachusetts-based psychotherapist.
“Even the youngest children can sense that you’re suffering and that things are not right,” she said. “Since children are naturally ego-centered and generally have the idea that they are more powerful than they really are, they are likely to think they’ve somehow caused your unhappiness and that it’s really about them.”
This isn’t the message most parents want to convey, of course, but “it’s important to recognize that your child may believe that your anger, disinterest or frustration is their own fault,” said Ross.
5. Unhappy spouses are often less present as parents.
When it’s a struggle to get along with your spouse, you may not be raring to head home to your family every day, said Mecklinger.
“Usually, spouses look to ‘escape’ unhappy marriages and avoid being at home in order to avoid their partners,” she said. “They may work longer hours, spend more time with friends or use alcohol to avoid being present. Sometimes as a result of divorce, kids gain a parent.”
6. You’re showing your kids an unhealthy model for relationships.
Ask yourself if you’re teaching your kids that “it’s OK to settle for less than they deserve in relationships.”
Parents in high-conflict or extremely unhappy marriages tend to provide their children with an unhealthy template for romantic relationships in the future, said Gaspard.
“You’re teaching them that it’s OK to settle for less than they deserve in relationships,” she said. “Children who observe their parents settling for a miserable marriage might become passive, depressed or pessimistic about their ability to love and be loved in a healthy intimate relationship.”
7. Divorce can bring peace to the whole family, if it’s handled correctly.
Co-parenting with an ex may not be how you envisioned raising your kids, but when the alternative is two incredibly unhappy adults parenting under the same roof, it may be your best option, Sedacca said.
“If children are being raised in a war zone or in the silence and apathy of a dead marriage, divorce may open the door to a healthier, happier future for everyone in the family,” she said. “But only –- and this is the key point — only if the parents consciously work on creating a harmonious, child-centered divorce that puts the kids’ well-being first.”
Wong, Brittany. "7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage." The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 17 May 2016. Web. 28 June 201
The following article was found on the GoodTherapy.org website which is an excellent resource for therapists and clients alike. This article talks about signs of depression in teenagers and was written by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC.
Kids Get Depressed, Too: 8 Signs of Depression in Teens
March 2, 2015 • By Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC
As parents, the one thing we want to do is protect our children. We baby-proof our houses, snap our kids in car seats, and give them helmets to wear while riding their bikes. As they age, though, we find that protecting them from everything becomes impossible. No matter the level of care we show our children, parents generally cannot protect against mental health issues such as depression.
Depression affects about 11% of adolescents by age 18, according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). The symptoms of depression are sometimes obvious, sometimes not. If you suspect that your child is depressed, schedule an evaluation with a mental health professional. With the help of talk therapy and perhaps other treatments, depression can be managed and teens can flourish.
Depression leaves telltale signs and symptoms along its path. Eight of the most common in teens are:
For teens, management often includes talk therapy with a licensed professional. Often, just the idea of getting help and making an appointment create enough hope that a teen will feel somewhat better quickly. Over time, and with care, the therapist will assess for depression and suicide ideation and provide coping skills and management strategies for dealing with depressive symptoms.
It is not uncommon for parents to wonder about medication for depression. Medication is a private, family decision which should be made with the help of a medical doctor, preferably a psychiatrist who specializes in pediatrics. However, medication is only one part of the puzzle and is not right for every person. That decision should be made on an individual basis and with the help of professionals.
Other tools and management strategies may be helpful in treating depression in teens. In my own work with depressed teens, I often use a strategy of “untangling” problems. This strategy helps us determine what is going well in the teen’s life, what is not going well, and where the weak spots are. After we’ve untangled, we begin to work on tools and skills to handle depressive feelings and dark thoughts. No matter what, the first tool is always exercise. Aside from the physical health benefits, exercise floods the brain with endorphins and feel-good chemicals.
Then we collaborate on behaviors that make the teen feel better. This is an individual preference, but is necessary because teens feel empowered by being part of the process. Once we have a few known “feel-better behaviors,” we start incorporating more and more techniques to manage depressive symptoms.
Often, teens love the creative part of finding what works for them. Does the teen like to bake cupcakes or draw? Does the teen like to watch funny YouTube videos? Enlisting the teen’s preferences gives the teen a sense of control and empowerment over his or her mind.
The process of finding depression coping techniques takes time and effort, but with help, depression can be managed. Teen depression should be taken seriously and cautiously. If your teen has symptoms you believe look like depression, contact a professional for help.
To access the original article on GoodTherapy.org, please click the following link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/kids-get-depressed-too-8-signs-of-depression-in-teens-0302154
Avery, Angela. "Kids Get Depressed, Too: 8 Signs of Depression in Teens." GoodTherapy.org. GoodTherapy.org, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 June 2016.
This article talks about the significant effect regular exercise can have on depression. It was written by Kelly Baez and was found on the GoodTherapy.org website, a favorite of mine for articles on a wide range of topics.tO reda this article directly from the Goodtherapy.org website click the following link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/depression-exercise-getting-started-in-right-direction-0729134
Depression and Exercise: Getting Started in the Right Direction
July 29, 2013 • Contributed by Kelly Baez, PhD, LPC, NCC
I have heard countless times that depression is anger turned inward. I see the point, but I tend to see it not just as anger turned inward, but energy turned inward. Like everything in life, balance is key. Energy flows in when we sleep, and energy is meant to flow out in balance—to flow into our relationships, our meaningful work, our interests and hobbies. When we have more energy flowing in than out, we get stagnant, frustrated, and ultimately depressed. Fortunately, there is no need for pills for this type of depression.
Depression is a difficult topic to discuss, mainly because the term “depression” is often misunderstood. Depression in the clinical sense is an all-encompassing, overwhelming feeling of sadness and lack of energy to do even the most mundane tasks. I have seen people so deep in an actual clinical depression that they were nearly catatonic. More often—much more often—I see people who are experiencing mild to moderate depression and/or frustration. For these people, exercise is enormously beneficial.
Exercise can protect you from future struggles with depression. Why? Because when you are exercising regularly, you are maintaining the flow of energy outward and maintaining balance. Also, you are building self-esteem from a series of small successes—say, from completing a daily exercise routine. Self-esteem will give you a healthy sense of outrage if your life starts to take another difficult turn.
“But I’m depressed,” you say. “I don’t have the energy for exercise.”
Yeah, you do. Start small—very small—and build slowly but progressively. Celebrate small successes and refrain from comparing your journey to anyone else’s.
Tips on starting an exercise program to help with depression:
Talk to your doctor to make sure you are physically healthy enough to do the exercise you are planning to do.
Choose small, achievable goals where you can build on your success. There are hundreds of free apps where the work is progressive, building on the previous day’s success. If you start out on day one trying to do 100 squats, you’re likely to hurt yourself and your chances of staying with it are zero. By starting with small, simple goals and building progressively, you and your family learn how to incorporate this new routine into your life. This cuts down on a lot of resistance.
Think about what you want from your exercise time: Do you need more time for yourself or do you feel lonely and want a workout buddy? Your exercise time is yours to shape in any way that meets your needs.
Don’t share your plans with your Facebook friends or significant other(s). This is important! In the words of the Nike ad: Just do it. Talking about your plans—what you’re going to do—sets you up for feelings of shame if you happen not to achieve that goal. You don’t need that if you’re treating depression. Exercise is something you do for yourself, not anyone else. Keeping it to yourself keeps your motivation coming from within.
Talk to your significant other(s) about the time you need—which is different from talking about your exercise plans. If your family is used to having your attention at any given moment, this may be hard. Give them advance notice and stick to your schedule as much as possible. Sure, situations may come up where you can’t stick to your plan, but as this will be a learning experience for your family, keep in mind that sticking to the plan will help them adjust to your new routine so that it isn’t a huge amount of emotional energy to get out the door.
Baez, Kelly. "Depression and Exercise: Getting Started in the Right Direction." GoodTherapy.org. GoodTherapy.org, 29 July 13. Web. 28 June 2016.
This video was found on YouTube.com on June 29th, 2016. IT was originally published September 17th, 2013 by Autumn Asphodel. This video talks about the different types of personality disorders and what traits are unique to each.
The following article was found on GoodTherapy.org. This article talks about a client’s perspective of things they wish their felt confident in saying to their therapist. Have any of you felt this way when working with a therapist, or maybe had other thoughts you wish you therapist knew?
7 Things I Want to Tell My Therapist
February 15, 2015 • By Share Your Story contribution by G. H. Francis
Diagnosed with a mental health issues 15 years ago, first with bipolar and finally with schizoaffective disorder of the bipolar type, I’ve been in therapy off and on for that same amount of time. I’ve cycled through many therapists, some with a great grasp of what it’s like to have a mental illness, and others who didn’t have a clue. Therapists go to school for years, but how can anyone possibly understand mental illness without actually having a mental illness? Isn’t that like learning to swim without any water?
As someone in therapy, I’ve always wanted to say these things to therapists in order to help them understand me, and to let them know how I feel about them:
1. You’ve Experienced a Lot of What I’ve Experienced
Everyone has good days and bad days; everyone gets manic, depressed, or paranoid at times. I didn’t always have a mental illness; it was first brought on by drug use and the stress of 9/11, so I know that even before the initial onset of my mental health issues, I still experienced emotional shifts. We all get in a good mood when we get a raise, or depressed when a family member dies, and sometimes we’re paranoid that someone doesn’t like us. Take those experiences and use them to understand my mental illness, realizing that those with mental health issues experience these same emotions—except that theirs often come without reason, or for irrational reasons.
2. I Want Your Guidance, Not Your Advice
In his article The Best Advice a Therapist Could Get? Stop Giving Advice, Justin Lioi, LCSW discusses the importance of not giving advice to people in therapy. As a client I can tell you that most of the time I want therapists to just come out and tell me what to do, and a lot of other people want the same; however, as a therapist you don’t always know the full story—only what we want to tell you. So it’s best to leave direct advice up to close friends and family of the person in therapy. That being said, I consider the ability to provide guidance a key element for a great therapist. Guidance isn’t about giving answers; it’s about guiding people to come up with their own answers. Just asking questions is often enough to help us see things from a different perspective, and to come to our own conclusions.
3. I’m Human. You Should Be, Too
There’s nothing worse than talking to a therapist who doesn’t seem to care: their answers are halfhearted; they seem disinterested; and half the time it feels like I should be giving them advice. Mental Health Workers May Not Recognize Their Own Burnout, by Zawn Villines, explores the emotional and mental exhaustion health workers face as a result of their jobs. I imagine it’s not easy listening to other people’s problems, which can weigh heavy on the heart and mind and can wear on a therapist or cause compassion fatigue.
You need to understand that no matter how hard you try to cover up your burnout, it carries over into your work. People see it during their therapy sessions, and it affects them. Therapists have important jobs, and I know from first-hand experience that they can change lives. You’re as human as I am, and despite the pride that may come with being a mental health worker, sometimes you may need to work on improving your own mental well-being, too.
4. I Want to Get to Know You
I’m not really sure what therapists are taught in school about maintaining distance between themselves and their clients, but I don’t want therapy to feel like a one-sided relationship. Sometimes I feel a little selfish talking about myself for 45 minutes straight, and it’d be great to hear a little about your life to break up the monotony of my own voice. It doesn’t have to be personal—just a little back and forth that feels like a real conversation. If I know you, I can more easily trust you, and trust is the foundation to successful therapy.
5. You’re the Expert, but I’m the One with First-Hand Experience
As discussed in Justin Lioi’s article, empowering people is important during therapy sessions. Because I’ve been through a lot—that’s why I’m seeing you—I want to feel like I can teach you something, and I want to get the impression that you’re eager to learn from and about me. Simple questions about how my experiences felt give me a sense of knowing something you don’t, and that helps me open up and also helps build our relationship.
6. This Stuff’s Embarrassing … and Kind of Funny
When I started going to therapy I was mortified to talk about the things I thought when I was depressed and the things I’d done when I was manic. After all, who wants to admit that they were once certain they were the Son of God, and also the devil, and also the reincarnation of Jim Morrison, and also a rat? Not me! The thing is, though, with a little perspective these things are actually kind of funny. If I genuinely laugh at them, don’t be scared to break a smile (but don’t ROFL!); that confirms that these memories are harmless and not really that serious in the long run.
7. We Can Get Through This
Over the years my therapists and I have been through a lot: depression, mania, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, confusion, anger, hopelessness, etc. While at times our sessions seemed like nothing more than spinning car wheels in mud, over time I learned the coping mechanisms needed to manage my mental illness, thanks to the help of my therapists. Once despondent, depressed, feeling hopeless after three manic episodes resulting in hospitalizations, and living at my parents’ house at the age of 30, I now own two businesses, manage over a dozen people, and have written numerous books. It may take time, but we can get through this.
To access the original article and many other informative articles on the GoodTherapy.org website please click the following link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/7-things-i-want-to-tell-my-therapist-021515
Francis, G. H. "7 Things I Want to Tell My Therapist." GoodTherapy.org. GoodTherapy.org, 15 Feb. 2015. Web. 28 June 2016.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.