New Page on the FPSCH Website!
One of the things that I loved about graduate school was giving presentations at conferences. I loved sharing new and interesting information, interacting with the audience, and leaving feeling reinvigorated to continue my work. I have had the chance to continue this in private practice and am now officially sharing it on my site. I have created a "Media and Speaking Engagements" page so that others can learn about this passion of mine. I love sharing with groups and hope to do more of this in the future. So, check out the page and please share with others. Let me know your thoughts as well. Where would you like to see me speak? What topics are of interest to you? What would help you improve your or your child's psychological health? Comment below, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback!
A Parent's Perspective
I think this is an important article as it is extremely relatable. The article is written from the perspective of a parent who has a son who has struggled with mental illness. The fact that she is a celebrity probably afforded her the opportunity to write the article, but other than that, her celebrity status is irrelevant. What this mother describes is similar to the experience of many parents trying to figure out the best way to go about supporting their child. Even if you do not have a child with a mental illness, I encourage you to read it. Chances are you have, or will have, friends with a mental illness or friends who have a child with one. It's important to understand what parents go through in order to increase compassion and understanding. I commend this mother and her son for their willingness to put their story out there.
I also encourage you to check out Psych Week on the Discovery Channel. It was not something that I was familiar with, but I intend to check it out. Here's a link: http://www.discoverylife.com/tv-shows/psych-week/. Check it out and let me know what you think of some of the programming. Comment below, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. I look forward to hearing what you think!
I had a professor in graduate school who would tell his students when they entered the program that college was for all students. While I worked closely with this professor and took some of his classes, I was not in his program so I heard this statement second-hand from some of his students. Most of the students who mentioned this to me disagreed with his philosophy. They believed that college wasn't necessarily for everyone; that there were some students who simply couldn't handle college or really didn't belong there. At the time, I honestly didn't know what to think. However, after reading this article and gathering information over the years about expectancy theory and the Pygmalion Effect (another blog post at another time), I realized that my professor was right. The authors in this article state that college isn't for everyone, but that we still don't have nearly enough students in college. I agree that college isn't for everyone, but we should assume that it is. There are many students that are told that they won't make it in college; that they can't or won't be successful. But so many of those students are capable-they just need a little encouragement and an adult who actually believes in them. So while I'm not sure that every child should actually go to college, I do agree with my professor-we should at least act as if they should. Check out the article and then let me know what you think. Comment below, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. Enjoy!
This is one of the least scientific articles that you'll see me post. In my opinion, the title is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, therapy can be expensive, but there are so many options-especially if you live in and around a large city like DC-for finding therapists who do pro-bono work and offer a sliding scale (reduced rate depending on your salary). There are also many foundations and other organizations who offer services for free so please please don't make the mistake of putting of seeking help if you need it because you think you can't afford it. More than likely, you can find something that fits your emotional and financial needs.
That being said, I think that this article offers some great tips and resources between therapy sessions. I wouldn't advocate using them in lieu of therapy, but if you waiting for an appointment to open up with a preferred therapist or reducing the amount of time you see your therapist, these offer some great options for ways to cope. There are many things listed so don't feel that you have to use all, or even most, of them. Pick one or two options-such as a hotline and an online support community-and use as needed. They may be just the thing to get you over the hump.
Enjoy and feel free to comment here, @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. Happy Friday!
Effective Child Discipline
Discipline is topic that I have discussed extensively on my blog. Therefore, I'm not going to comment very much here. But this is a great, short article that you can also listen to that has some wonderful and very specific suggestions about effective discipline for children. What I especially like is that the article begins with a discussion of a link between discipline and aggression-an important topic that many parents, teachers, and caregivers struggle with. Read or listen to the article and leave comments here, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. Enjoy!
Sleep is something that I've talked about several times on my blog. It is incredibly important-more so than people often realize. And very few people are getting enough. I have found in my work that this is especially true of teenagers. In my former life when I worked in public high schools, I would often meet with students who were struggling emotionally, behaviorally, and/or academically. When I would ask them how many hours of sleep that they were getting, a common response was '5 hours'. Five hours!?!?!?!?! Adolescents need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep. Five hours isn't even close to the recommended amount. Even though this response was troubling, what bothered me more was the twinge of pride that I detected in these responses. As if getting little sleep was an accomplishment. Now I am not saying that the sole cause of these children's (yes children-teenagers' brains are still developing rapidly-up until about age 26) troubles was lack of sleep, but it certainly wasn't helping anything.
Now a solution has been suggested and is highly supported by pediatricians: Move the school start time back for teenagers. I know that this suggestion is not perfect, but it could be extremely helpful for the students. I am really surprised by the amount of pushback it has gotten from numerous groups. Now I acknowledge that it's easy for me to be supportive of this measure. When I worked in high schools, getting in at 7am was rough, but the ability to leave by 3:30 and beat rush hour traffic was phenomenal. I would not have been happy if my schedule was uprooted and my commute increased. But I do think the students will benefit. I've seen many students do quite well academically, but can't seem to raise their grade in their first period class. I've seen students who ALWAYS got in trouble at a certain point in the day because they just couldn't hold themselves together emotionally on so little sleep. A later start time better matches up with a teenagers natural circadian rhythms and would benefit them immensely. Conversely, a younger child's circadian rhythm better matches up with an earlier start time (anyone who has children older than 3 can attest to this).
Check out the following article and then decide which side you stand on. Leave a comment here, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. I'd love to hear people's thoughts!
Reduce Your Stress Level!
'Don't sweat the small stuff.' It is a phrase that we've all heard before. But it turns out that this advice is worth paying attention to. When you worry about every little thing in your life, your stress levels spike enormously. It turns out that it doesn't matter what you are stressing about: being 5 minutes late to a meeting or anticipating major surgery. Your body doesn't know the difference. It responds to any type of stress in the same way: raised cortisol levels. If your cortisol levels are constantly high then your body reacts in the same way as if you were in a war zone. So learn mechanisms for keeping your stress levels at bay. Meditate, practice yoga, drink a warm mug of hot chocolate-whatever you need to do to keep your cortisol levels down. If you are having trouble managing your level of stress on your own, please contact a psychologist or other therapist. They can help you develop and maintain strategies for reducing your stress.
Enjoy the following article for more information about stress: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/22/349875448/best-to-not-sweat-the-small-stuff-because-it-could-kill-you
The title of this post and this very short article really speak for themselves. If you have been contemplating going to a therapist-do it! If you find a good fit (which is incredibly important), you likely will not regret it. And even if you think you can't afford it, contact your health insurance provider and find out your options. It may be more affordable than you think. Check out the following article and then do a quick search for a mental health professional in your area. Even if you are not ready to take the plunge right now, knowing who is available can be comforting. Enjoy!
Affluence and Mental Health
We live in a culture where it is assumed that more equals better. However, this interview suggests otherwise. According to the research that Dr. Luthar describes, the children of affluent families may far worse than their lower-income counterparts. It appears that these children have higher levels of depression and anxiety as well as higher levels of substance use/abuse. The reasons for this seem to be unclear, but Dr. Luthar hypothesizes that there are a number of reasons. The children may feel pressure from parents and peers, but having worked with affluent teens before, I have seen that much of this pressure becomes internalized. Often, by the time the children become teenagers, they have very high expectations of themselves. Sometimes this is irrespective of their parents' and teachers' expectations.
It seems that this is all bad news, but Dr. Luthar outlines some concrete steps that families can take to support their children. Thankfully none of those suggestions include making less money! It is important for parents to help their children manage their expectations. Every child does not have to keep up with the Joneses and parents should be careful not to put this pressure on their children. In addition to talking to children about this, parents need to lead by example. It also needs to be pointed out that depression and anxiety and very treatable. If you are worried that your children are showing signs of depression or anxiety talk to your child's pediatrician or a mental health professional right away. It is best to address this issue sooner rather than later.
So check out the interview and comment below, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly. Enjoy!
Girls with ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sometimes appears to be everywhere. Many people have a picture in their mind of what a child with ADHD "looks like". Often that child is rambunctious, talkative, disruptive. Often the child that is pictured is a boy. However, many girls also have ADHD and while they can certainly have the hyperactive subtype described above, many girls have the inattentive subtype or their hyperactivity manifests differently than it does for a boy.
The following article describes one mother's journey with coming to terms with her girls' disorder and why it took her so long to come to terms with it (at least for her oldest child). I applaud this mother for her willingness to share her story, because it can certainly help many other parents who are experiencing something similar. If you have concerns about a child's behavior it is always good to speak with someone about it. As this mother stated, she mentioned this to her child's teacher. This is not a bad place to start, but whatever your teacher's opinion-get a second one. Your child's teacher can give you a lot of information about your child's behavior in another context, but teachers are not trained to diagnose a child with a disorder such as ADHD. Approaching her daughter's pediatrician was smart and contacting a psychologist or psychiatrist would be good additional options.
Whatever the outcome, keep in mind that a diagnosis is not a death sentence. In fact, it fosters understanding and the development of compensatory behaviors. If your child is diagnosed, share this information with him/her. It is important to do so in a developmentally appropriate way, but keeping the information from your child would not be helpful to him/her. If you are having trouble determining how to speak to your child about ADHD, ask your pediatrician, a psychologist, or psychiatrist.
Enjoy the article and, as always, comment here, tweet me @fpschDrSweeney, or contact me directly.