Depression…How Can I Help?

Recently, a close family friend called to ask my advice about a situation.

“My friend is really depressed…” she began. After listening to her bewilderment and frustration about how to best help her friend, who did, indeed, sound very depressed, I shared some of my thoughts.

Being in relationship with someone who suffers from depression can be a difficult road. It’s hard to know whether to broach the subject, and what exactly to say if you do.

If you love someone who is depressed, the following may help you traverse this delicate landscape:

Be open and honest about your concern

Use I-statements (“I feel concerned that you’ve missed 10 days of work in the past 3 weeks”) to convey your feelings.

Beginning a sentence with “you” (You are/do/were…) puts the hearer on the defensive. On the other hand, when we use I-statements to convey our message, we take responsibility for our own feelings, and we prevent the hearer from feeling the need to defend themselves. (This tactic works for all types of communication, now that I think of it!).

Don’t pretend that everything is ok. Your friend may work hard to hide his depression from you. Be willing to say, “I know things aren’t okay for you right now.”

Let your friend know that you are there to help however you can (and be ready for them to turn you down). Be gently persistent. Check in with him/her, even if s/he doesn’t answer or respond.

Don’t “should” on your friend

I always say that no one likes being “should” on, and telling a depressed person (or pretty much ANY person, for that matter) what they “should” do or feel is a sure way to shut down communication. And healthy communication is key in these situations.

Be ready to feel frustrated. Yes, frustrated.  It can feel very frustrating to love a depressed person. However, conveying this frustration to your loved one is likely to shut down the lines of communication, not open them up to further discussion. Remember, your friend/family member may feel frustrated, too. A significant feature of depression is feeling sad for no reason, so it can be incredibly frustrating to feel this way.

Recognize your limits

As much as you would like your friend/family member to get help, get out of bed, go to the doctor for a medication evaluation, etc., you must realize that theirs is not your life to live. You can encourage and support, but ultimately it is up to your friend to get help, to make healthy choices for him/herself. Or not.

And that “or not” can be a tough pill to swallow for those of us who love someone debilitated by depression.

And most importantly…be HOPEFUL

Remember, your depressed friend feels hopeless. And it’s infinitely more helpful to let your friend know that you will hold hope for her until she can again, than arguing with her about why she “should” feel hopeful right now. Letting your friend know you are hopeful can be the lifeline she needs to get through this tough time.

You won’t bully or cajole or guilt your friend or family member into not being depressed.

Depression is NOT a choice. It’s a condition. BUT, there are steps you can take to support this person you love while they cope with depression.

by Julie Reising 

Posted on July 8, 2015 .

Interdependence Day Celebrations

It is interesting that celebrations are expected to be a community or relational event. In fact, I would even argue that it is natural to celebrate with others rather than alone. Celebrating alone barely feels like a celebration at all. And, there is a very good reason for that.

I recently counted twenty-one different functions of the brain that contribute to interactivity and relationships. Keep in mind that this was a non-scientific count done by someone who does not have formal training in neurology. So, I would not recommend that you go around quoting that number. However, my point is that almost the entire brain works together as a system for this essential function of humanity to engage in relationships. Celebrating with others elevates both the celebration and the relationship.

On this weekend, at which we celebrate Independence as a country, gathering together with friends and family is not merely an opportunity to “Oooooh and Aaaahh” explosions in the sky or dribble watermelon down your chin. This is an opportunity to develop two essential tasks of surviving and thriving; celebrating that which is good and the strengthening experience of interdependence (mutual support in relationship).

For those in challenging relationships, a final note of safety for this weekend; fireworks can be dangerous and hurt. Exercise caution by choosing wisely how you will enjoy them. The same is true for relationships. They are supposed to be enjoyable and exciting but if not treated with respect or handled with care, danger can occur. But, with a little forethought and careful planning, you can make it through the holiday feeling good, patriotic, and closer to people than ever before.

Now who wants another hot dog?

 

by Jeff Plunkett, MAMFT, LPC

Posted on July 3, 2015 .

The Reason We Yell

Jeff Plunkett, MAMFT, LPCJeff Plunkett, MAMFT, LPCJeff Plunkett, MAMFT, LPC

In my counseling practice and personal life I have witnessed a great deal of high volume communication within families. By a vast margin, the majority of that yelling is done by the adults. They are either screaming at the other adult within the home or the kids; and from my observation over the last forty-seven years, the children are the recipients of these emotional outbursts more than anyone else.

I would now suspect that the responses to my last sentence are quite varied. Some agree and some disagree. Some may want to point out that children yell too; an undeniable fact for many children. Some may want to argue that not all people express themselves with decibels; another undeniable fact. However, while your experiences may have been different than mine, I am speaking from my observations.

My point here is not to argue the statistics, blame, or frequency of loud, emotional communication. My question here is, why do we scream at each other? What motivates us to increase our vocal volume to our greatest capacity and invest so much energy and physical resources in order to express a thought?

I am going to propose my answer and then explain my rationale for believing it to be probable. I believe we yell as a result of fear. To be even bolder, I believe fear is at the core every time we yell at someone emotionally. I could even make the argument that just yelling at someone across the room to get their attention is also motivated by fear; “I was afraid they wouldn’t hear me”, “I was afraid you would leave before I got the chance to talk to you”, or “I was concerned you would walk into the bathroom. The lock is broken and Aunt Kathy just went in there.” But, I will limit my point to strong, emotional yelling like; “I told you to clean your room and you’re in here playing video games!”

Let us first think about other times we scream. We might scream if someone jumps out of the shadows and scares us. We might scream if we are falling off of a cliff or building. We would likely scream if we are being attacked by a lion. Many scream while riding a very intense roller coaster. And, if you have ever been to a boy band concert, you know that preteen and teenage girls scream anytime someone says “One” or “Direction”. While I might have to stretch a little to say that the reason girls scream at a One Direction concert is because they are afraid of missing out on their best, while extremely unlikely, chance to be the future Mrs. Harry Styles, the other examples of screaming are clearly motivated by some level of fear.

Why does your dog bark? Mine barks every time (and I mean EVERY TIME) it thinks someone or something is approaching, entering, or even looking at our house that does not live there. Why does a monkey or primate scream? It screams at potentially dangerous intruders. Even a tiny, mother finch will squeak at you loudly if you approach her nest full of baby finches.

Before I wrap all of these things together in order to make my point, allow me to present one more interesting example of yelling. I am an Oklahoma City Thunder fan. While I am a fan of every one of the guys on the team, from his very first year I have been a huge fan of Serge Ibaka. He is an example of hard work and perseverance. If you have ever seen a Thunder basketball game, you have likely seen Serge yell. Just before the start of the game, the players will gather in a tight circle and Serge will yell loud enough to be heard over thousands of fans. Does he do this out of fear? No, he does this as a sign of dominance and strength; just like the dog barking at danger or the finch warning the predator to stay away because the mother finch, while tiny, will not go down without a fight.

Here is my point: emotional yelling, barking, screaming, chirping, or other high volume communication is an attempt at showing strength and dominance. The only reason you would need to show dominance is if you sense the potential for being harmed or dominated. Parents yell at their children when the child does not do what they have been told. The parent, at the core, perceives this as a challenge to their authority or competence. A person yells at a spouse because the other has questioned their judgment, intelligence, character, talent, or something of intrinsic value.

As people, we absolutely have the right to yell if we want to. If you feel the need to be dominant and threatening, go right ahead. But, keep in mind that when you become dominant and frightening, the person to whom you are yelling is potentially feeling threatened and therefore, they have the same right as you to respond with an attempt to be dominant by yelling. I do find it interesting that when people come across a scary looking dog that is barking at them, they immediately try to diffuse the dog’s fear by showing that they are not a threat. People are naturally understanding of a mother finch that is squeaking at them and will remove the threat to a bird. However, many people choose to be threatening to one another, even toward the people they love.

 

 

Jeff Plunkett, MAMFT, LPC

Majority Managing Member

Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC

 

Posted on May 18, 2015 .

What color am I? Which celebrity am I? What decade am I?

Probably you’ve seen them, maybe you’ve even tried them. They are found all over the internet, especially on social media networks like facebook. They are the short fun quizzes that promise to provide life’s answers in only ten multiple choice questions. I’ve taken a few, they are quick and fun, but in the end, I was more entertained than enlightened.

 

A recent test asked me “What season are you?” After being redirected to their website, I was shown groups of pictures and asked to make choices. The first asked me which jewelry I would like. It was all women’s jewelry, so I picked a grouping that I thought my girlfriend would like. Next I was shown four different entrees. They all had meat and I’m a vegetarian, so I picked the one with side dishes that appealed to me. It was an automatic choice, since this actually happens to vegetarians in real life and we trade the meat dish for extra bread and vegetables with our table partners. Sometimes we get a dessert in trade. Score!

 

Since some of my clients have occasionally commented on similar fun tests they have taken, I have one I share with them from time to time. Supposedly an ancient Sufi game, “getting cubed” is supposed to provide insight into your relationships. I heard about it from the movie “Serendipity” starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. In the movie, Kate’s character asks John’s if he has ever been cubed. John responds by asking if it hurts.

 

In the Sufi game, you are to draw a cube, a ladder, a horse, a storm and some flowers. All of these things go in an empty desert. They can be any size or color and positioned anywhere in the desert. (Spoiler alert – stop reading now and draw yours!) When I last administered the “cubing”, my client explained his drawing to me. He was the horse and the ladder was leaning against a very large cube in front of him. The cube was like a wall he would need to climb over with the ladder. When he got to the other side, he had to rescue his loved ones, represented by the flowers, from the raging storms of life.

 

He asked me if he was right and what was the test supposed to mean. I responded that that was two different things and that the test is supposedly about……(Done already? Okay, you’re on the honor system.) ……. yourself – you are the box, your spouse is the horse, your friends are the ladder, the storm is the rough times in life, and the flowers are your children. My client asked if he had gotten it wrong, and I said: “No, your drawing provides true insight into how you feel about your life, and that is what makes it right. The symbolism is supposed to be yours and not someone else’s”

 

Oh yeah, what season am I? The test continued and towards the end, I found myself choosing from clothes, shoes and celebrities I could not recognize. Finally the results - drum roll………..  I am Autumn. Looking back over the choices I made, I had chosen orange and red colored foods and the clothing I picked included sweaters. Not very scientific, but fun just the same. True psychological tests can be taken by anyone (even men and vegetarians!) there are no wrong answers, since they are projective and whatever answers you give will provide insight into your feelings, personality and outlook on life. The answer to John Cusack’s question – “Does it hurt?” Only if you take it too seriously!

 

 -  Louis Hommel.

Posted on May 7, 2015 .

THE LAST ONE TO QUIT

We live in a competitive world. Some of the “entrants” are more competitive than others, but either overtly or covertly, we all compete, at least a little bit. Sometimes, we are merely competing against ourselves.

Recently, while thinking about effort, accomplishment, and success I realized that in this competitive world we are conceptualizing this thing all wrong. When people think about success, they assume they have to be the best in order to win. They treat it like running a race to a definitive finish line and the fastest one to the end wins. That is not the way real life works. While I reserve the right to be contradicted with a small number of exceptions, most of our races do not have a finish line. If you are working for a promotion and do not get it now, the race is not over, keep going. When you have completed the school assignment and the grades are given, keep going; there is much more to learn. A parent whose child has made a serious error in judgement is usually not done parenting; there is much more to be done and more opportunities to be a parent. If your business has failed, keep going; more business is waiting further down the road.

It does not matter if you are better or worse than the others. You do not need to be the fastest runner or highest jumper. You do not need to be the smartest person in the room to succeed. You just need to be the last one to quit. Everyone who has ever succeeded at anything succeeded because they did not quit. So, stop worrying about being better, faster, smarter, better looking, or more talented than others. Just be the last one to quit.

Posted on April 24, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

INTENTIONAL VERSUS INTENTIONS: AN EPIC BATTLE

At the time of my writing I have at least five projects around the house that I have intended to finish but have given no attention to in weeks for some and ever for others. I have good intentions. In fact, they are great and ambitious intentions that will improve the quality of life for my family and silence the internal nag inside my own head; “You really need to get those things done.” (Sometimes the nag is much more forceful and harsh. Not this morning. My internal mind nag is still asleep. Shhhh. Don’t wake him.)

Incomplete intentions add to your stress. Isolated intentions are virtual failures that never had the chance for success. They are actions without flesh, they are buildings without materials, they are a meal without any food. Intentions alone leave you unsatisfied and hungry for something real.

Within countless conversations with people, they tell me about their intentions. I listen with interest and hope but, while words are powerful for information and motivation (or discouragement), words cannot complete the task. The only thing that will get the medicine cabinet in my bathroom moved 2 inches lower to accomodate the new light fixture that replaced the 1981 style that was there before is intentional action. My good intentions mean nothing without intentional action.

Most of us act as referees for the battle between intentions and intentional just trying to make sure it remains a fair fight and no one gets hit below the belt. Instead, we need to act more like a reconciliation coach and bring this couple back together to live in harmony. Through the power of a harmonious relationship between intentions and intentional, you can complete that project. More importantly, you can make those important life changes  (or as I like to call them, life empowerments). You can quit smoking, systematically reduce your anxiety, anger, fear, or hate. You can mend your relationships with your children, your parents, your spouse, or even more essential; yourself.

When people tell me about their intentions, they will usually start the sentence with “I need to . . .” If the house is on fire, you “need” to get out. But, if you just stand there and wait for the fire to magically go out or a big fireman to come drag you out, you are going to get burned. Follow “intentions” (need) with “intentional” (action).

Posted on September 14, 2012 and filed under For Clients.

THE PICTURE IS COMPLETE

On June 7, 2012, we were able to complete the final piece of the puzzle to make a complete agency. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority visited our office and, after a very complimentary review, granted our contract. We have assembled a dream team of therapists, behavioral health rehabilitation specialists, and case managers in order to provide valuable and beneficial services for our precious clients. We will now begin essential training and orientation while we enroll new clients. We are all very excited about taking this journey together as a team and most importantly with the great people within the community. Puzzles require patience and perseverance, but the final picture is so beautiful when it is complete.

Posted on June 8, 2012 and filed under Above All News.

CARF ACCREDITATION

Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC was officially awarded a preliminary accreditation from CARF International for Outpatient Treatment: Mental Health (Children and Adolescents) and (Adults) effective until January 2013. Prior to the expiration date for the prelimary accreditation, the agency will engage in an additional survey process with a goal to obtain a three year accreditation for these services.

Posted on May 17, 2012 and filed under Above All News.

SIMPLE THREE PARENTING SYSTEM

Recently, we were introduced to the Simple Three Parenting System developed by Ward V. Halverson, LCSW-R, M.Ed., a child and family therapist from the state of New York. This system is nothing short of miraculous. The feedback from families indicates that the system is about 95% successful within a week or two of implementation. Families that were facing oppositional defiance and childhood anger have been able to restore peace to the home. Families who have struggled with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have also seen significant improvement. The system uses a time-tested, highly-refined, two-step approach that is, as the name indicates, simple.

Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC will be offering the training for this system to the parent’s of our clients at no cost. We have contacted Mr. Halverson and discussed our plans with him and he has personally given us the permission to conduct our training for our families. In addition, we will be conducting free workshops at various locations in the area such as schools, churches, meeting rooms, libraries, and of course, our office. The training at these workshops is free. However, we will have the easy to read and follow book and other materials for purchase at or below our cost. In addition, families may want to invest in the kit available from Mr. Halverson. His kits are $39.99, $59.95, or $119.95. The $39.99 kit is more than sufficient for success. You can find more information about the system and even order it at www.simplethree.com or call 1-877-891-1109 toll free.

Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC has no affiliation with Simple Three or Ward Halverson other than a respect for his incredible tool for families. We do not receive any funds in anyway from Simple Three or Ward Halverson. We simply believe that this system is one of the most comprehensive and usable helps for parenting we have seen. If you are interested in a free workshop, please contact our office for details.

Posted on May 17, 2012 and filed under For Parents/ Guardians.

CLAY THERAPY, PAUL WHITE, AND THINK/FEEL/DO

In 2010, I was told about Clay Therapy and Mr. Paul White, LCSW. I even saw it used within a session between a therapist and a child. I found it to be fun and interesting but to be honest, I did not completely understand the purpose. In February 2012, I was able to attend a play therapy seminar in Oklahoma City and, unknown to me, Paul White was the instructor. Without going into great detail, this was the most beneficial seminar I have ever attended. Paul is blunt and both sweet and sour at the same time but I do not know many therapists that care more about children than this grandfatherly man and I certainly do not know many, if any, that have his knowledge about children. I bought his Clay Therapy book and it has been beneficial and I do recommend it. His website is www.playtherapyclay.comand I believe the book is $45.00. However, this seminar was not about Clay Therapy. He has a plethora of practical and usable techniques and tools that I have implemented into my practice. My work is much more effective and applicable and I enjoy every session.

Allow me to provide you with one small nugget of information that I believe, and tell my clients, is the most important thing you will hear and if you learn to understand it, you will always have the power to effect every single thing that happens in your life.

1. You are the BOSS of your brain, which is where you THINK.

2. Your brain is the BOSS of your FEELINGS.

3. Your feelings are the BOSS of your ACTIONS.

I draw a picture of a person on a piece of paper (it does not have to be good). In the head area, I squiggle some lines and tell them, “even though this looks like hair, this is the brain inside the head.” In the chest of the person, I draw a heart shape and say, “even though this is not what a real heart looks like, this will represent your heart”. Then, I draw a line near the head and an arrow from the line to the brain. I do the same for the heart. The last line, I place nearer the waste area and draw arrows from the line to a hand, a foot, and the mouth. Then I say, “I bet you know what you do with the brain.” Paul suggests creating a little bit of anxiety about getting the answer correct. This helps them engage more. If they start giving answers other than THINK, I will encourage them by saying, “You know, I THINK you know this answer.” If they don’t catch the hint, then I will say, “You know what you do with the brain. It starts with ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘sink’.” Sometimes I have used “stink” but not if the child has a negative perspective. I will do the same for the heart to get them to say “Feelings” and then the last line can be either “Actions” or “Do”.

We talk about the BOSS system from above. I will give them an applicable example of how CHOOSING to CHANGE the way you THINK changes your experience EVERYTIME.

EXAMPLE:

1. What if you came to school next year and when you looked in the little window in the door, you didn’t know any of the other kids in there. If you THINK the sentence, “These kids won’t like me”, how will you FEEL? (I let them list the negative feelings: sad, scared, angry, lonely, nervous, etc.). Now, if you feel these feelings, how will you ACT when you go in the room? If you are sad or lonely, you might not talk to anyone. If you are angry or scared, you might tell people that try to talk to you to go away. If that happens, how will the kids feel about you? (They almost always say, “they won’t like me”.) You were right about them before you ever met them. But, not because of the other kids but because you made it that way.

2. What if you came to school next year and when you looked in the little window in the door, you didn’t know any of the other kids in there. If you THINK the sentence, “Most of these kids will like me because I ________ and ________.” (We talk about the fact that MOST will like me, but not all. Some people like Lemonade, some like Tea, and some like at least one of a thousand different drinks. They have the right to like what they want and not like what they don’t.) (The two blanks are two real things the counselor sees in the child – “I’m smart”, “I’m fun”, “I’m funny”, “I have a pretty smile”, “I like people”, etc.) If you walk into the room thinking “most of these kids will like me because _________ and ___________”, how will you FEEL? (brave, confident, happy, loved, caring, important, etc.) If you feel _____________, how will you ACT? You will talk to the other kids, ask them their names, smile, ask them about their last school, ask them about their pets, or something like that. (Coach the client on social interaction by suggesting positive things they might do.) If you act like that, how will the kids feel about you? (They almost always say, “most will like me”.) You were right about them before you ever met them. But, not because of the other kids but because you made it that way.

WHAT CHANGED? The situation and the kids in the room did not change at all. The experience, however, was completely different because YOU CHOSE to be the boss of your brain and chose a different thought. Or as, one of my client’s says, “Think a different think”. You may be thinking, what about abused or neglected children? How can they change their experience? Unfortunately, thousands of children are abused every day. Some, remain victims and remain diminished. Some, overcome (Maya Angelou for example) and become influential. WHAT CHANGED?

by: Jeff Plunkett, LPC, MAMFT, CEO/Clinical Director of Above All Behavioral Health Services, LLC

Posted on May 17, 2012 and filed under For Counselors.