Thursday, June 8, 2017

What’s my role as a Parent with my child in Treatment?

What’s my role as a Parent with my child in Treatment?

Having a child in residential treatment, no matter if you are living across the country or in the same town is very difficult for everyone that is involved.  The focus in a treatment center is mainly on the child that is in treatment and it seems that the parents often feel left out or lost at times.  I know that parents usually want to be as involved as possible with their child and their treatment.  This can be very difficult depending on the individual’s and the family’s past and current circumstances.            
Feelings of worry, loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. can often creep in and affect you as a parent when your child is away from home.  These are pretty common and normal feelings that individuals have.  With a child that has struggled for some time, there is a myriad of emotions that can be felt.

Because a parent’s core emotion for their child is normally unconditional love, we want only the best for our children.  At times we have to reach outside ourselves and get professional help from those that are trained and have experience working with the issues that children and families face.  There is nothing wrong with getting outside help for children that have struggled in one way or another and do not have a solid foundation.  As a parent with a child at Logan River Academy, remember that we are working with you to help you, your child and your family create the most successful opportunities possible moving forward.

I’d like to share an experience that I have had with a parent of one of my students, (we’ll call the student Tyler).  Tyler had been here at Logan River Academy working on himself for several months.  He was getting ready to do his first home visit.  This was a great opportunity to see how everything would go outside the environment that we have here at Logan River Academy.  I got together with Tyler and his parents and we set up some boundaries and rules, as well as some fun things that they wanted to do as a family.  Tyler went home for the weekend and came back from his home visit thrilled.  He expressed how well the visit had gone and that it was a problem free experience.  My response was not what he had expected when I said, “Dang it, I was hoping for at least one problem to happen!”  As we talked I went on to explain that I was really happy that he had such a great visit, but at the same time, when there are problems or issues that happen, we get to see what he has learned put into practice and if he was able to problem solve with his parents.
As this comic suggests, if we implement the same solution over and over that doesn’t work, and are not willing to make any change, we end up with the same results, (there is not some magical result that will happen).                           
 As Tyler’s mom is learning, sometimes things don’t have to be perfect or go exactly as she wants them to.  One important part of your child’s treatment is looking at yourself as a parent and seeing what types of adjustments or changes you are able to make as well.
As Tyler and I talked with his parents and we did family therapy that week, Tyler’s mom suggested that because she was so worried about everything going perfect that she tiptoed around every possible problem so that there was no arguing or fighting.  She felt that she had messed up the whole visit.  I let both Tyler and his mom know that the visit went great, they did a wonderful job, and that we don’t expect things to go perfect.  I expressed to Tyler’s mom and dad that it is okay to have problems.   We want to be able to learn to handle problems differently from how they were handled before.  I continued to explain that our ultimate goal is to help Tyler be able to be back in his home environment, be able to have problems and situations happen, be able to problem solve with his parents or whoever is involved, see what skills Tyler can put into action, and create balance in the lives of the individuals and family system as a whole.

Balance is extremely important and as parents, finding a balance between you and your child is crucial.  As your child grows, knowing how to create new boundaries with your child and letting them be involved in their own decisions and consequences is difficult.  It is fairly common to give our kids more restrictions and boundaries as they grow older.  This restricts freedoms and commonly causes them to rebel or be oppositional, which then back-fires this more restricted process that we are trying to implement.  Once the child is an adult he or she will be on their own without any parental restrictions, but with societal restrictions.  It is key for them to learn how to make decisions, problem solve, etc.  Teaching children the skills that they will need to succeed is vital so that as they get older they have fewer restrictions and more privileges to help them understand how to succeed in life when they are on their own.
So back to the initial question, what’s my role as a parent with a child in Treatment??  Here are some ideas or suggestions for while your child is in treatment as well as after they return home.
1 - Support your child.                                                                                                                    
2 - Give them opportunities to build trust.
3 – Work on communicating effectively.                       
4 - Take a course or get advice from a professional counselor that works with families.
5 - Work on yourself and the barriers that you face when working with your child.
6 -Be open to making changes or adjustments to parenting styles.
7 - Don’t be too hard on yourself or blame yourself, but make self adjustments where they are needed.
8 - Set up limits and boundaries.  Be positive but firm with them.
9 - Evaluate if you are an enabler and stop enabling.
10 - Recognize that there are going to be disagreements and problems.
11 - Don’t expect perfection all of the time.
12 - Make sure you know how to problem solve appropriately depending on the age and maturity of your child.
13 - Allow your child to have part in the discussion and they will be more likely to follow through, set your child up for success.

Jeffrey Openshaw LMFT

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Adventure Learning Trip Report- Grizzly Ridge Yurt

I have been looking at past blog posts hoping to find inspiration for writing this one when I read a trip report from July 2015 about our canoe trip down Stillwater Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. In that post I described the special opportunity we had as student and staff to share the grandeur of true adventure together as none of our staff had done the trip before. With great responsibility and care for our students, and a few dozen years of shared outdoor experience, it is not often that one of our guides has not completed the objective of the trip prior to striking out with our students to be more aware of the risks intrinsic to that adventure. When it came time to plan for this year’s yurt trips we decided to again look for adventure and selected a yurt unfamiliar to our adventure learning staff. Of course true adventure is hard to find these days with online resources providing so much information, but we still wanted to experience the challenges together of finding the figurative needle in a haystack (small yurt in a big forest).

We have had a near-record year in Utah with snowfall totals being way above-average as well as a few odd warming events that brought rain and snowmelt to many high elevation locations. Having experienced a handful of yurt trips where low elevations and warming have caused issues we selected this yurt for its nearly 10,000’ elevation location. Little did we know this was not quite enough…

One of the earlier mentioned warming events just so happened to coincide with the week directly preceding our trip into the southern flanks of the Uinta Mountains outside Vernal, Utah. This weather brought rain and rapid snow melt to the region and wreaked havoc on the snowpack. Trail breaking to the yurt turned out to be an arduous feat as the top 18”-24” of the snowpack was dense, heavy and water soaked, but the bottom 4’-6’ was powdery, light snow incapable of holding the load of a crew of snowshoers and their gear. For five hours we randomly broke through the top of the snowpack, up to our knees and beyond, and struggled to get back on top of the snow to further our progress up the four-mile trail to the yurt. By the time we reached the yurt in darkness we had effectively traveled less than half the rate we had anticipated had better conditions been available. And so the adventure went.

Once at the yurt we enjoyed our rest and the sunshine the next day brought. We explored the area, split wood, cleaned the yurt, played many card games, read, rode the sled, and ate food to lighten our load for the return trip. The spirits of the crew were regained as the knowledge that hiking down the trail would be vastly easier than hiking up. However, the weather felt like challenging this notion and dropped another 18” of snow the night before we were to leave. The hike out proved to be nearly as daunting as the storm brought driving winds in addition to the snow and erased the trail we had so painstakingly packed out on the way in. When all was said and done, we learned from this adventure and are one notch closer to knowing what challenges we are capable of overcoming when we keep the end goal in mind and focus on enjoying the process and understanding what it can teach us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How important is it to always be Right?


As I have worked with families at Logan River, I have seen the issue of someone needing to be right come up often during family therapy sessions. Sometimes there is conflict between a child and a parent because both are set on being right. This typically leads to arguments and each individual trying to prove his or her point to get the other person to agree or yield. However, once this conflict starts, it can be hard for people to change their viewpoint and they often get locked into very rigid thinking. But what if that conversation could go differently and people realized that often the other person thinks they are right based different life experiences? I came across this picture the other day and I think it makes a good point. 

Something I try to help the people I work with do is to go into conversations with other people with an attitude of trying to understand where they are coming from first before they try to prove their own point.  When parents or children do this, they typically have more empathy and understanding for the other person. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be conflict or that people will change their minds, but typically it can help those conversations be more productive. If you find that you are often locked into arguments or conflicts with people, try to seek understanding of that other person and why they are thinking a certain way. You may be surprised that the conversation will go differently and be more positive.
Kristjana Green, LCSW

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reflecting On Achievements and Accomplishing Our Goals

January is often a time of reflection and pondering. We think about the prior year and what we accomplished. We reflect on the goals we achieved and the ones we ignored 11 months ago. Gyms are bursting at the seams in January but often go back to a regular flow in late February. Sometimes our goals can be difficult to achieve and to track. 
Some people dislike "New Year's Resolutions." I often hear the argument that January 1st is just another day of the year. I think some dislike them because we have had such little success with follow through in the past that we automatically think the setting of goals is pointless. My view is somewhere in the middle. I believe that many people set goals which are not realistic or achievable which defeats the purpose. I would like to share with you what has worked for me. 
Concept #1: Reduce the number of goals you set.  
I think the reason why many individuals fade in their motivation to achieve their goals has to do with the concept of multi-tasking. The human brain is not meant to multi-task. We are much more efficient if we focus on one thing at a time. This is why we should not text and drive! In my opinion, we are much more likely to achieve our goals if we focus in on just a few of them. 
Concept #2: Write them down. 
A goal that is not written down is not a goal. It's a wish or a thought. We need to write the goals down somewhere where we see them often. I personally use the 'notes' app on my Iphone to track my goals. Some like to post their goals on their bulletin board or in their closet. Find what works for you. This allows you to track your progress and remember what you are working on and trying to achieve. 
Concept #3: Make them matter. 
I like to really ponder and consider what goals I want to work on. If the goal is superficial and constructed on the spur of the moment, one is likely to lose motivation quickly. Typically I am able to come up with a few things I really want to achieve or work on if I carefully ponder my life. 
Concept #4: Check them off. 
I am a believer in the power of checklists. Checking off an accomplishment brings feelings of satisfaction and achievement. When I have accomplished a goal it feels good to check off the goal and know that you truly did it. 

My hope is we will all find a few goals this year that really can make a difference in our lives. More importantly, I hope we can formulate a good plan and stick with that plan until we have accomplished our goal. 

Matt Erickson, LCSW, Clinical Director
Logan River Academy

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Where Have We Been?

Where Have We Been?

I have not had the opportunity to write a blog post since the beginning of the year when we were knee deep in fresh snow and making laps at Snowbasin. Since then we have been adventuring all over our cherished local mountains and waterways and hit the road for trips in Southern Utah and Northern Montana. An especially memorable trip was a four-day float trip via canoe on the Upper Missouri River in Montana where we faced start-to-finish cold temperatures, rainy weather, and driving wind. Despite the obstacles, our students excelled and learned valuable lessons in teamwork, endurance, positive attitudes and ingenuity. Our next river trip was quite different as the temperatures along Labyrinth Canyon on the Green River stayed above 100۫ F during each of the four days we floated and evenings offered little respite. Fortunately the water temperature was in the mid 50’s from increased water releases at Flaming Gorge that week and we spent just as much time in the river as we did on top of the boats to beat the heat.

Other trips had us snowshoeing into yurts locally and in Southern Idaho for extended stays during the snowy days we weren’t hitting the slopes.

Besides that? Rock climbing in City of Rocks, local hikes and mountain biking, canoe and standup paddleboarding on every river, reservoir and marsh in the valley, and always white water rafting on the Snake River in Wyoming. Yeah, it has been a good year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thinking Errors

Thinking Errors
Looking at how we think and making changes to be successful

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
Sometimes we see things as being black or white. Instead of recognizing shades of grey, we can be guilty of thinking in terms of things being all good for all bad.
2. Overgeneralizing
It’s easy to take one particular event and overgeneralize how it applies to other situations. If one thing in the week goes wrong, you may think that the whole week is bad.
3. Filtering Out the Positive
If nine good things happen, and one bad thing, sometimes we filter out the good and hone in on the bad. Maybe we declare we had a bad day, despite the positive events that occurred or we look back at our performance and declare it was terrible because we made a single mistake. Filtering out the positive can prevent you from establishing a realistic outlook on a situation. Developing a balanced outlook requires you to notice both the positive and the negative.
4. Mind-Reading
Although deep down we understand that we don’t really know what other people are thinking, it doesn’t prevent us from occasionally assuming we know what must be going on in someone else’s mind. When we think things like, “He must have thought I was stupid,” we’re making inferences that aren’t necessarily based on reality.
5. Catastrophizing
Sometimes we think things are much worse than they actually are. If you fall short on meeting your goals one week you may think, “I’m never going to achieve my goals,” even though there’s no evidence that the situation is nearly that dire. It is easy to fall into catastrophizing the situation when your thoughts are negative.

6. Emotional Reasoning
Our emotions aren’t always based on reality but, we often assume those feelings are rational.   It’s essential to recognize that emotions, just like our thoughts, aren’t always based on the facts.  We must create a balance between our emotional mind and our rational mind.  This is often referred to as a wise mind or balanced mind.
7. Labeling
Labeling involves putting a name to something or someone. Instead of thinking, “He made a mistake,” you might label him as the mistake, calling him “an idiot.” Often, these labels are based on isolated incidents and are not accurate.
8. Fortune-telling
Although none of us know what will happen in the future, we sometimes try to predict what will happen. We think things like, “I’m going to be embarrassed if I talk to him/her,” or “If I do my homework, it won’t be good enough anyway.” These types of thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies and are not correct.
9. Personalization
It’s often easy to personalize things. If someone doesn’t call back, you might think, “He doesn’t care about me,” or if a friend is upset, you might assume, “He is upset with me.”
10. Unreal Ideal – Shoulds/Oughts
Comparing ourselves with others can ruin our motivation and successfulness. Looking at someone who has achieved much success and thinking, “I should have been able to do that,” isn’t helpful, especially if that person had some lucky breaks or competitive advantages along the way.
 So what do we do???  Once you begin recognizing thinking errors, you can begin working on challenging those thoughts.  Look for exceptions to the rule and gather evidence that your thoughts aren’t 100% true. Then, you can begin replacing those thoughts with more realistic thoughts.

It is important to recognize if you have thinking errors and continually challenge them as you go throughout your life.  Thinking errors are common and if we are unable to recognize the ones that we have, they will hold us back in the areas that we are working to accomplish in our lives.

Jeff Openshaw LMFT

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Parenting Patterns

Kids are expected to work on themselves while in a program such as Logan River Academy. It is helpful to know that parents can assist in the overall process by working on better understanding themselves as well. Parents often fall in common patterns when their kids act out, but many of these patterns are not helpful in aiding the child in progressing and growing positively.

Common Patterns Parents Assume:
u  Rescuing: doing whatever possible to remove the child's discomfort in order to make the child happy.
u  Yelling: using blame, guilt, or threats in order to get the child to listen.
u  Withdrawing: resorting to silence and isolating from your child or the conflict.
u  Finding distractions: always looking for something else to focus on, keeping busy and planning future events.
u  Stoicism: removing yourself emotionally form any conflict and responding in a detached, unaffected way.
u  Workaholism: seeking out reasons to avoid home in order to stay at work, where you feel more at ease and in control (or working out of the home, while avoiding family interactions).
u  Lecturing: focus is to solve or explain the problem – telling the child what he or she ought to do and what should be taking place.
u  Addictions: indulging in something that provides an escape: gambling, alcohol abuse, excessive internet and computer use, etc.
u  Worrying: consistently assuming the worst-case scenario, endless feelings of unrest, and anticipating a catastrophe.

Parents Can Break Their Patterns:

1) Self-knowledge: Since we all have blind spots, parents may not be aware of any or all of the patterns they may fall into. It is much easier to identify other peoples’ patterns than our own. Seeing ourselves more clearly or accurately comes through asking a trusted friend or family member.
2) Self-attunement:  A parents' reactiveness to their child's moods and emotions. Well-attuned parents detect what their children are feeling and reflect those emotions back in their facial expressions, voices, and other behavior.
3) Accountability: Parents be willing to own their own pattern in order to break it. Many kids seem to focus more on their parents’ behavior above their own. The reverse also holds true.
4) Responding in a New Way: One effective way is Reframing.
** Remember the goal is to disrupt an existing negative pattern**

Reframing is a way of attuning, seeing, validating, and empowering your child to meet their own needs.  It’s a way of communicating the problem in a new way, by shifting the responsibility for the problem back onto the child.” - Krissy Pozatek (Author of “The Parallel Process.”)

7 Steps for Reframing:
1)      Listen closely to your child and attune to the underlying emotion.

2)      Remember – the underlying emotion and tone is more important than the content.  The content may be the child arguing over social media use, wanting to come home early, or get some new clothes.  Getting locked exclusively into the content can lead to missing the real issue.

3)      Reflect and mirror the underlying emotion back to your child.

4)      Validate your child.

5)      Keep yourself out of the problem, since parents sharing their opinions and thoughts can often lead to power struggles and can lead to the child feeling disempowered.

6)      Place the responsibility of problem-solving back onto the child.  (How do you want to proceed?  What helps when you feel this way?  How will you cope with this?

7)      If you have already attuned to your child and they continue to push the content, then it is time to set a boundary.

**Does not often escalate to this stage if the previous stages were applied