School starts and Anxiety Rises

This week and in the next few weeks high school will begin again. Summer will fade into Fall and games, cheerleading and dances will be the fare for many teens. Doesn’t that sound great? For some kids that is what it is, but for many kids there is way too much drama and anxiety associated with school to earn it a “great” label.

Surely there must be ways to lessen the difficulty so many teens experience in the social setting of their high school. Let me suggest some coping skills that have proven helpful to teens I’ve worked with:

  1. Get involved: Sports, theater, student government, band, academic debate clubs, and service groups, choir etc. These groups help you belong and have a feeling of value.
  2. Plan your day: Figure out how to be with friends. Lunch, and other unstructured times of the day can be difficult and unnerving if you do not find support.
  3. Reach out: One of the tricks to being comfortable is to make someone else feel more accepted and included.
  4. “Fake It Till You Make It”: A little known fact, to teens, is that many adults suffer from some form of social anxiety and have learned to cope with faking techniques. Most of us are trying on various ways to be part of the group at whatever level we want to belong.
  5. Practice Makes Better: Give yourself a break and realize that each day holds a new possibility to practice getting through discomfort and social anxiety.
  6. Talk to someone: Share your feelings with a trusted person and/ or someone who appears to be able to handle the “drama” well. You are not alone.
  7. Above all else: Love who you are and trust yourself.


Be gentle with your kids and be aware that they are often in a situation that needs your wisdom and guidance. We all went through high school and yet teens today are in a different time and circumstance than we were. I think kids need the support of adults more than ever but that is probably not easy for them to admit to or even recognize. We too are often facing some of the doubts we went through in our teen years but we can draw on years of experience and courage for the kids in search of our input.

Please know that counseling can help your family and or teen who is struggling with anxiety and other issues.

Call: 682-465-1225 and talk to Katharine O’Connor

Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse is so subtle and so blatant at the same time that it is confusing and baffling to those who are its targets. What is the seduction of emotional abuse? How can anyone be treated so badly and still stay in a relationship that is replete with this type of treatment?

Emotional-abuseA few thoughts come to mind:

There is a pattern that we accept as normal when we have grown up with sarcasm and repeated “put downs”. We just think that this is the way it is supposed” to be.

Many children have seen their parent used as a whipping “boy”….”girl”….”post” and have taken this behavior to be the way  of romance and intimacy.

An additional twist on the “romance” side of abuse is that the abusing parent only speaks or deals with the one he/she abuses the most.  The silence of the abusing parent and the seeming attachment to the victim sets up another ambivalent atmosphere in the family about the significance of the verbal mistreatment of the abuser.

The victim is often deeply afraid of the abuser.  She/he is so intimidated that she/he will do anything to avoid confrontation in both private and public settings.

The victim will do anything to keep the veiled threats of escalation from becoming real. Abandonment, physical violence, public humiliation, and divorce seem to be avoidable if the abused person doesn’t aggravate the person who is abusing them.

To the observer, it seems hard to believe that the one being abused can’t just walk away.  The problem is that the abused is often “trauma bound” to the abuser.  Somehow the pattern is either acceptable or something the abused just got used to as the relationship continued.

An additional nuance that the abused will articulate is that the abuser isn’t always “that” way.  The victim often becomes the protector of the abuser when someone points out the unacceptable behavior to the abused.

There are many questions to consider in breaking the hold of someone who is an Emotional Abuser:

  • Who will support the person who decides to confront the abuser?
  • How will the abuser react?
  • Is it possible for the abuser to learn another way of acting?
  • Is the abuser willing to seriously address his/her behavior and put in the time it takes to learn to act differently?

The family may need to come in for sessions that help look at the damage being done by the abuser and whatever the family system is doing to enable the abuser to continue acting  the way he/she does.

The fact is that no one can act completely alone in a cycle of abuse.  The Karpman Triagle shows us that  if we are in a “conditional OKness” then we are either being a Victim,  Persecutor, or Rescuer.  

There is no need for the perpetuation of the cycle of abuse

Are you in a family or relationship that is typified by the elements of Emotional Abuse?

There is help for you and or your family. Call for an appointment so that the abuse can be brought to an end. 


Holidays. The word either excites you or depresses you.

For some people the holidays are joyous occasions for which to hope and plan times of family and friends in the most idyllic of settings. For others the holidays are times of anxiety and depression over unmet expectations and desires for the all perfect mythological dream. 

Something must drive us to the desire for holiday bliss.

There are all those songs…
There are all those ads…
There are all those lights…
There are all those religious images…

There are all those children, who sing, and dance and pageant their way into our dreams of the perfect Christmas, if not for us, at least for them.

The child in most of us wants to have a “most wonderful time of the year” whether it is Christmas, Hanukah or another celebratory time with family and friends.

So what is in our way?

Well there are the expected gifts…
There is the expected time with one or the other family…
There are the children who are split between mother and father…
There are the households who are still mourning the loss of a loved one…
There are the families who are unable to provide food and gifts….
There are those who are empty of many things like love, friends, family even shelter…
There are those who have members in nursing homes with whom there is no way to express the holiday spirit…

So the word EXPECTATION overshadows our holidays in a profound way keeping many from enjoying the simple pleasures of being with others we love.

So what can one do? For starters give some thought to the deepest reason for the holidays. Think about the religious meaning for many of you. Think about the familial possibility of this time together. Think about what is ENOUGH for you and the joy you most want to experience at this time with those whom you love.

A child wants to be delighted by the surprise of presents and the deliciousness of cookies. We adults might take a clue from the children and let the “child within” out enough to experience the surprise and wonder of love that this time of year drives us to want and expect.

Set aside the kind of expectation that is rigid and so fixed that there is no room for surprise or wonder.

Yes, there are many potential disappointments during the holidays but we can adjust our expectations to a more sane and joyful result if we are prepared with openness and flexibility. Too many times we come into the holidays with a preconceived idea that leaves no wiggle room for the unexpected. If we choose to see the times we have for the holidays as times that are adorned with sparkling wonder rather than draped in unfulfilled expectations or demands then there may be greater than any presents awaiting us during this year’s holiday season.

Talking about and sorting through the myriad of disappointments and feelings of failure and frailty may be some things that a therapist can help you with. Knowing what is enough and bringing your expectations into balance with the possibility of joy and happiness during the holidays is always  hopeful.

And……Happy Holidays!  

Teen issues are like dirty diapers

What new parent would complain about changing a diaper? What parent does not expect a wet one or a “poopy” one? And, if babies don’t have a dirty diapers something is wrong and a possible call to the doctor is in order! 

So, why do parents expect teens to not have “issues”? Really? Isn’t becoming an adult exactly what teens are doing? This becoming has to have “issues”!

Why are adults surprised when an “issue” just like a dirty diaper shows up? What are kids supposed to do to get the help they need to move through the confusion and “issues” of their teen years? Working with kids has clued me into some of their struggles. I call them their little, sometimes big, secrets. Adults either don’t know about their kid’s lives or are afraid to face a kid’s “issue”…which is about as helpful as not changing a dirty diaper!

Let me give you some clues to a few well kept “little secrets” with the following questions:

Did you know kids are scared….nervous…anxiety ridden?

(Although they may come off as aloof and arrogant.)

Did you know that many kids use marijuana to calm down by self-medication?

(Although they act li8ke they are just making a statement bout their freedom.)

Did you know that cutting can be a form of controlling the global pain kids are over whelmed with?

(Although they may be acting like they’ve got life figured out.)

Did you know that many kids are sexually active from the age of 12?

(Although they know very little about sexuality or when a girl can get pregnant.)

Did you know that kids don’t have anyone they feel they can talk to?

(Although they may never be alone.)

Did you know that both young men and women weep deeply, like little children, when someone listens to them with openness and non-judgment?

(Although they often act like they don’t need anyone to know their inner thoughts or feelings.)

Kids, teens, and adolescents need help just like young children who are in diaper. These teen-age years are critical times of transition. Unfortunately these years evoke fear because many parents, grandparents, and teachers feel inadequate to address the “issues” teens face. No one either wants to or can help with the “issues”, like dirty diapers, that teens are dealing with.

The counselor brings a new perspective to the teen and his/her family in facing the “issues” that seem so insurmountable that they cannot even be admitted to. The counselor is not “fixing” a teen or the family of a teen but rather is there to offer techniques in communication and insight so that the teen and his/her family may be able to creatively work through the ”Issues” being offered to the family by this teen who is both challenging and challenged.

The family, as well as the teen, is needing to arrive at balance in order to be more functional.

Just as dirty diapers keep showing up with young children ” issues” are repetitive, challenging occurrences that keeping showing up in the life of teens and their families.

Let me help you look at the needs of you family and teen in a effort to bring your family together with skills that offer the possibility of harmony and balance.

Aging and Depression

Aging is a pretty all-encompassing concept. We are all aging, aren’t we?

I love it when someone says they are concerned about getting another year older because it gives me the possibility of telling them that the alternative is not good. We all are aging but the reality is that as one begins to get older there are certain things or occurrences that can cause depression.

Many people decide to retire at 60+ years.

For many folks this is a blessing but for many others this is a time of loss. Losing the meaning of a job and the relationships that go along with a job can be very painful. The loss of meaningful employment can cause a person to question his/ her worth. The ability to be a “bread winner”, even though one may have enough retirement money, is another loss of stimulus for the aging person.

Depression may be recurrent or it may come to the older adult as a first time experience.

Loss of Life Partner

If one is lucky enough to continue to have a life partner then there is the possibility of companionship. If, however, the life partner becomes ill and unable to function either physical or mentally, then a sometimes long and painful scenario defines the aging person.

Chronic Illness

Depression affects approximately 25 percent of those with chronic illness such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, C.O.P.D., arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

How to Recognize Depression

Depression is not feeling sad for a day or two, but rather a persistence of symptoms that interfere with the ability to function normally for a prolonged period of time. The symptoms of depression in older adults vary greatly and may include:

  • Sadness persistently lasting 2 or more weeks
  • Difficulty with sleep and or concentration
  • Withdrawal from regular social activities
  • Worrying excessively about money or health problems
  • Nervous pacing/ fidgeting
  • Feeling worthless or helpless
  • Frequent tearfulness
  • Weight / appearance changes
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Seeking Help

Encouraging the depressed or discouraged older adult to seek help is important. There may be resistance to seeking help when the person suffering already feels that he/ she is not in control.

Family support is very important at this point. No one who has experienced a full life wants to feel like a failure as one ages. The compassionate listening of a counselor can be extremely helpful so that the older adult might feel more competent and in balance as he/she progresses through another stage of living.

Having experienced many years of life myself, I bring a unique quality to my counseling with older adults. I look forward to being that compassionate, understanding counselor who can help you or a family member with issues of depression or discouragement in the aging process.