October 2013 Newsletter

New Counseling Center Staff Video

We would like to introduce The Counseling Center Staff to you in our new video. Please view the video on our home page and email any comments or questions you may have..

The Psychology of Give and Take

By Dr Richard Shoup, Director

A lot of what we do at The Counseling Center is help people get along better in their personal relationships. Parents with their children,photo husbands and wives, and workplace conflict are all arenas we deal with in helping people figure out how to get along. Adam Grant has written a new book entitled Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success in which he looks at recent research that shows people can be divided into three groups: givers, takers, and matchers. Givers live to help other people; takers look out for themselves; and matchers try to make even trades. The research is interesting because it has as its focus the best pathway to success. Does it come from giving, taking, or matching?

It seems that the greatest number of people fall into the category of matching. Most of us like fair trades and equality when it comes to giving and taking. And then Dr. Grant goes into the phenomenon of takers in givers clothing: people who pretend to give because it looks and sounds good, but who in reality are in it only for themselves. But finally it turns out that givers by and large are the most successful. They create good karma around themselves and people like them and trust them. They also have what Grant calls, “pronoia” rather than “paranoia”; pronoia is the belief that other people are plotting your well-being, and saying good things behind your back. People who assume that often do better because they are not suspicious of other people’s motives, and often create the actual spirit they expect. The only warning for givers in terms of success is that if they don’t take care of themselves they can actually burn out, and then they are of little use to anyone. The most successful people are the ones who tend to give instead of take, and who value themselves as well as others.

Psychotherapy Has an Image Problem

By Dr Richard Shoup, Director

In a recent op ed piece in The New York Times, Brandon Gaudiano reports that the use of psychotherapy has declined in the last few years in America. In fact, he cited evidence that from 1998 to 2007 the number of patients in outpatient facilities fell by about 34%, while the number of people using psychotropic medication during that same period increased by 23%. This increase is attributable to a number of factors: First, there is a huge amount of money spent on advertising of psychotropic medication . . . touting it as a kind of cure-all for all that ails you; Second, insurance companies are partial to “quick fixes” and thus like the fact that treatment tends to be brief and sporadic when only medication is used; And finally, many new medications, such as Prozac have been introduced over recent decades and these medications have far fewer side effects than older medications. Thus people are more apt to reach for them when they are in distress.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that many recent studies found that patients expressed a three-times-greater preference for psychotherapy over medications. Many people do not like taking medication for things they believe they should be able to fix with the help of a therapist. Many studies have supported the finding that for conditions like depression and anxiety, psychotherapy is indeed the treatment of choice. Medications, because of their side effects should be considered only if talk therapy does not seem to be working. Gaudiano states that the public in general and even some psychotherapists are not aware of the high level of research support that psychotherapy has: particularly methods like cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, interpersonal, family, and brief psychodynamic therapies. He concludes that people in the profession need to fight for the parity it deserves in the market place.

At the Counseling Center we know how helpful psychotherapy and counseling can be. We see the results every day. People who come in and work with us, and try new approaches to problems almost always do better, and most often without the need for medication

The Importance of Mistake-Making in Adolescence

By Jane Benjamin, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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It is common for parents to tell their child” I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I made.” It is natural to want to spare one’s children pain of all sorts, both physical and emotional. In early childhood, this protective instinct is focused on keeping a child safe in the most basic ways. “Don’t run . . . you will fall.” “Don’t touch the stove; it’s hot and you will get burned.” “Don’t go anywhere with a stranger . . . ” etc. And of course this sort of protectiveness is essential for a child’s safety and it is a basic responsibility of good parenting. We live in an era of safe child rearing. Homes are “childproofed.” There are helmets for every sport. There are railings on young children’s beds. There are no peanuts allowed in most nursery schools. And there is an embedded message in this emphasis on safety: If you do everything right your child should not get hurt. Pain is preventable.

Things become more complicated when a child becomes an adolescent. Obviously the basic safety needs of childhood are far less salient, but other more complicated issues take their place: Is one’s adolescent developing healthy relationships with peers whom the parents deem as “good kids?” Is the adolescent taking responsibility for his or her academic life? Are drugs and alcohol becoming a problem? Is the teenager acting responsibly in the face of his or her burgeoning sexuality? The list goes on and on. But unlike in the early childhood years when the parent’s role as protector is fairly straightforward, the parent of an adolescent has a far more complicated job.

For the adolescent, making mistakes is essential. Adolescence is the developmental period when separation from parents and identity formation are the crucial tasks. The adolescent needs to experiment, to “try on” different sorts of relationships, different sorts of behaviors and different identities. And naturally this experimentation will lead to mistakes, both small and large. There is a great deal the adolescent will learn from these mistakes. Indeed, a teenager has to learn what he or she ISN’T in order to learn what he or she IS. A bad relationship will help a 16 year old get clear about what kind fo partner is truly desirable. Failing to study for a test and thus “bombing it,” will hopefully help a 15 year old begin to study earlier the next time. Being unkind or unfair to a peer might lead to a 13 year old feeling guilty when it becomes clear that another person’s feeling are hurt as a result. Drinking too much and feeling lousy the next day will hopefully allow a 17 year old to see that alcohol isn’t so “cool” after all. By stumbling, a teen will also learn about how one undoes or mends a mistake. How does one apologize? How does one take responsibility for his or her actions? How can the teen’s gut feeling that his or her action was a mistake begin to build that internal compass that is so essential throughout life? The adolescent HAS to bump up against adversity in order to develop as a person, and these bumps cannot and actually should not be prevented at any cost. In Jane Brody’s recent article in the NY Times Science Times, she quotes Dr. Norman Rosenthal’s new book entitled The Gift of Adversity: “Mistakes are our best teachers, so don’t waste them. Acknowledge them learn from them and become more competent because of them.”

So what stance does the parent need to take when these mistakes occur? The answer is in no way for the parent to condone the behavior or the decision. This is not about having no rules and being overly lenient and permissive as parents. It is about assuming that rules will be broken, pushed, circumvented and consequences will follow. It is about assuming that one’s adolescent will make many wrong choices. And it is about knowing that these mistakes are not the result of a parent’s failure. The most critically important thing any parent can do is to HEAR what happened . . . and not just from another adult, but from the teen him or herself. Truly listening and questioning are paramount. The parent should not try to fix the problem FOR the teenager . . . but help the teenager come up with solutions that he or she will implement. Sometimes it helps for the parent to share a similar mistake that he or she has made in the past. Maintaining communication with the teen is the most helpful thing a parent can do. If a parent only blows up and punishes, the message is really twofold: 1. Mistakes should never be made and 2. Don’t come to me with your mistakes because I will not listen.

There is nothing easy about being a parent of an adolescent. The key is in expecting the teen to stumble . . . not because something is “wrong” but because healthy development depends on it.

To Explain the Unthinkable: Reflections on Mass Shootings

By Jennifer Naparstek Klein, Psy.D.
The Counseling Center
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Every day, living in a bucolic town such as Bronxville, we send our children to school not even wondering if they will return. The most that concerns us is how they will perform on a test, whom they will play with on the playground, what they will eat for lunch. Then, the news floods our television networks and our newspapers and our social media pages-the worst has happened. Innocent lives have been senselessly taken. Now, when we walk our children to school, or release them from the buckled-in safety of our cars, we have a terribly gnawing and frightening worry: Can that happen here? The anguish of grieving families around the country is so palpable, so painfully real and close. Newtown, for example, is not that far away, and the Newtown community seems all too familiar.

I write this message to you not just as a psychologist, but as a mother. There are two tasks at hand for us as a shocked society–one is to help ourselves, as adults, understand what has happened, and the other is to help our children. Children process this kind of news so differently from us, and they also are different from each other, depending on their ages, stages of moral and cognitive development, and individual personalities. Some children are more prone to fearfulness than others, and some just ignore such news, and in an appropriately self-oriented way, just move on with their own lives. Just as we adults cannot take time off from work or parenting to absorb ourselves in this horrible tragedy, our children must focus on the business of living.

As adults, we may want to put this news into a few different compartments. Some of us like to talk about such occurrences in terms of laws and politics, and that is a fine and sometimes productive way to handle such events. Those of us who think politically like to learn from such incidents, and think proactively about how to prevent them in the future. This is a natural inclination. Others prefer a more spiritual orientation, contemplating life and death, and the religious or spiritual framework of such concepts. This is also quite helpful to many of us. Some like to talk about it, and some do not want to process it. Some like to find and avenue for outreach, to contribute to the well-being of the hurting community and its families.

Remembering Jack McNally

John J. McNally, a Bronxville resident for 41 years, died at the age of 86 on July 23, 2013. Jack was a great supporter of The Counseling Center for many years. He was instrumental in our going out on our own as a separate business about 15 years ago. jackmcnallyOn the board for many years, he was always friendly and very helpful in his wise and quiet way. After serving in the US Navy in World War II, Jack graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1950 and Harvard University Law School in 1953. Jack joined White & Case in NYC and practiced law there until his retirement in 1994.

Throughout his career, Jack found time to give back to his community. He was active on the boards of All Hallows Foundation and High School (which he attended), Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Lawrence Hospital and Mohawk Paper. Other board service included The Community Fund of Bronxville, Eastchester and Tuckahoe, Holly Sugar Corporation, Waterman Steamship Corporation, and Caedmon Montessori School.

Pastoral Care Seminar – October 21, 2013

“What clergy and church leaders need to know about hospital discharges these days – placement, coverage, criteria and how to assist your congregation as we navigate this new landscape together”

A long title but a very important topic. Our presenter will be Eileen Mullaney, director of the Case Management Department at Lawrence Hospital Center. The Pastoral Care Seminar is sponsored by The Counseling Center, John Hagedorn, Coordinator, and the Chaplaincy Department of LHC, Sim Gardner, Chaplain.

The seminar will be on Monday, October 21 from noon to 2 pm at the Reformed Church, Copenhaver Room. The Pastoral Care Seminar is a free gift to the community and includes a free light lunch. Come yourself and invite members of your congregation who could learn from this important topic. Call Carol Laco-Cueto at 914-793-3388 to reserve a place!