How do I seek help for my child or family?

You can always begin by getting a recommendation for a child therapist from your pediatrician or primary care physician.  Ask school counselors for a list of community providers. Consult friends or family members who work in the field.  If your child is experiencing issues in school whether learning or behavior related, you have the right to ask for an evaluation.  The public school system is responsible for the cost of the evaluation.  Please read the following information from the U.S. Department of Education about Individualized Education Plans.  The site walks you through the process.  Also, be aware of the strengths and limitations of a school conducted psychology test versus a community conducted psychology test. Stay informed and stay involved.

What do I look for in a good therapist?

It is important to find a therapist that fits with your family.  You will find an array of therapists with different approaches.  The approach isn’t nearly as significant as the ability of the therapist to connect and engage your child and family in the healing process.  Look for a therapist who is willing to take the time to build a relationship and help your child work through the complex feelings and behaviors that brought him/her to the office in the first place.

How long does the typical therapy process last?

It truly depends on the individual and the family.  Some children only need 4 to 5 sessions and they are able to work through their issues.  Others need a minimum of 6 months to a year.  Many people once they begin therapy find that they will periodically revisit their therapist over the years to address new issues or recurring stressors.  Heading back to therapy doesn’t mean therapy didn’t work initially or that the individual failed.  It means the person has found a healthy way to cope with their feelings and it should be utilized.

How do you feed your family?

I feed my family a whole foods diet. We eat meat, seafood, dairy, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lots of fruit and piles of vegetables.  Do we fall short sometimes? Yes! Do we eat too much chocolate sometimes? Ummm…guilty as charged.  We all enjoy food and sometimes we enjoy it a little too much. However, the majority of time we try to fill our plates with organic plant based foods and when we do have animal products (this happens weekly) we buy organic and grass fed.  We live in a processed world.  I am well aware.  I try to balance.  I want my children to eat as much homemade food as possible while allowing them the opportunity to have the occasional prepackaged food item, school hot lunch or fun dining out experience.  We do go out to eat about once or twice a month.  We rarely ever eat fast food.  Is this the way I started my journey? Heck, no! I didn’t know how to cook anything except for frozen tortellini and scrambled eggs for most of my adult life.  But my priorities changed and suddenly I found time to create healthy meals from scratch at home.  Isn’t it funny how we always find time for what we find is important?  Ohhhh…that was deep. I just got real on you.  Think about that one for a minute.

Where do you shop for food?

I am lucky to have several health food stores within a few miles of my home. I shop primarily at Natural Grocers, Green Acres, Costco and Whole Foods. I keep to a fairly tight budget for my family of five.  According to the USDA, I fall between the thrifty and low-cost weekly meal plan budget for a family of 4 yet I am a family of 5 and 90% of my food purchases would be categorized as organic!  So I don’t know what the USDA is doing but I think they may be a little off.  Compare your family’s spending habits here  and see what you think.

What are your thoughts on psychotropic medications for children, teens and young adults? 

I think some may get from my articles that I am anti medication.  I am not.  I think we overprescribe as a country.  I think we seek medication as the first and many times the only solution.  I am realistic enough to know that some people may need medication.  And they may need it for an extended period.  It may really work for some individuals.  However, I worked in the social work world for more than 13 years and I can say a majority of the children and teens I worked with were medicated and they were still depressed, anxious and continuing to self-harm.  Even worse their emotions were muted overall.  A frightening proportion were terrified of tapering off their medications, which tells me they were in some respects building a dependence – at the very least an emotional dependence.  Are we teaching children to self-medicate?  Rather than work through their emotional issues?  I am not sure.  But I think we may be.  Many parents are unaware of the dangerous and counterproductive side-effects of prescription psychotropic medications for children and I find that to be alarming.  So, no I am not anti medication.  A portion of our population truly needs the medical community.  But I will never be a proponent of medication especially as the first line of defense.  And I do believe we are medicating beyond what is necessary.  There are too many valid avenues that are research-proven (if you need that), which can lead our children to healing in a much safer and healthier manner.

What are your thoughts about nutrition and emotional health?  

You may think otherwise but I don’t believe you have to be a doctor or a scientist to make the connections.  We can’t raise our children solely on hot dogs, chicken nuggets, blue sports drinks, and fruit gummies and wonder why their brains aren’t functioning properly.  I think it is difficult to wrap your head around the concept that nutrition is tied to your brain health because it has never been included in the conversation until now.  But it should very much be part of the conversation.  How is it possible for nutrition to only affect your heart health or whether or not you develop diabetes?  But then not be relevant to the development of depression?  It is not possible because it is not true.  And you don’t need a peer-reviewed study to understand it.  I think it is a matter of common sense.  You might have to reframe the way you consider mental health but go ahead and reframe it because I am 100% positive this is the direction mental health is going.  And I say, “It’s about time.”