• Parenting a Child with Special Needs

    The concept of selflessness is often seen as a virtue; and yet, if we fail to fulfill our own needs and nurture ourselves, we are less able to help and serve others. At Healing Focus Counseling, we want to help you care for yourself so you can have the strength to care for others. Depression and Anxiety can be increased when you don’t have time to care for yourself.

    As a parent of a child with special needs, you probably spend most of your days so busy with the demanding needs of your family that you neglect to take care of yourself. For parents of special needs children, a little selfishness is an absolute must. In order to give the most of yourself, you have to be your best self. To be at your best, a committed regimen of self-care is a must.


    Among the most fundamental of needs is rest. Adequate sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. A full night’s sleep will boost your energy, mood, memory and creativity while lowering stress levels.


    Good nutrition is not just a benefit to you as a parent, but it has a long-term impact on your children as well. You’ll teach them healthy eating habits that will carry on into adulthood as you improve your own health and longevity. Keeping your meals and snacks colorful with fruits and vegetables will provide energy and help you stave off lethargy as you boost your mental clarity.


    Taking your child on a short walk to the local park or playground will benefit both of you as you get in some much needed sunlight and a bit of exercise. According to the World Health Organization, just five to fifteen minutes of casual sun exposure will provide you with the vitamin D benefits of the sun; this includes a general feeling of well-being along with numerous health benefits.


    Play dates are a great way to integrate your special needs child socially, but it also benefits you with some much-needed downtime. Make a list of friends and loved ones you can call or video chat with when you need to talk. See if any of those friends or family are willing to provide respite care. Also, respite care may be available for your child’s disability. Check with the local Child and Family Services. Look for community support groups to find other parents in your area you can turn to for advice and understanding. You can also seek the professional guidance of a mental health specialist for additional support.


    Meditation can seem like an unnecessary indulgence or a waste of time to a busy parent, but numerous scientific studies have proven the many health benefits of meditation. Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Meditation is easy, and something anyone can learn. Simply type “how to meditate” into a search engine or on YouTube and you’ll find several guides on how to get started on this simple practice. It is also a great thing to learn with your child so they can learn to care for themselves.

    If you’re a special needs parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office, Healing Focus Counseling, today and let’s schedule a time to talk.


    September 12th - National Day of Encouragement

    Healing Focus Counseling – Encouraging Healing through Mental Health

    By:  Julie Mathewson, LCSW

    Our focus this month at Healing Focus Counseling has been on anti-bullying and being kind to others. 

    A week or two ago I was pondering the events of 9/11, while trying to create a blog about kindness.  Many memories about 9/11 ran through my mind that are sad, scary, and negative.  There is so much to grieve, so many lives lost.  So many risked their lives to save others.

    The day after the attacks, on September 12th, marked the start of and outpouring of concern, respect, and thoughtfulness from around the world.  This solicitousness helped many Americans feel the healing power of love.  This empathy shown by ordinary people was remarkable.  People gathered all over the country to show their love and support.  Volunteers by the thousands showed up in Manhattan to provide what they could.  All over the world flights were canceled.  Thousands of people stranded.  Local businesses and families welcomed and cared for the people until they could return home.  In our local congregation we sewed booties to protect the paws of the search and rescue dogs.  Many volunteered at various organizations.  Others felt the call to join the military.  Others founded charities, donated to philanthropic causes, or helped in other ways.  This all led me to find out about September 12th, The National Day of Encouragement.  This day was signed into place in 2007. 

    The National Day of Encouragement


    This day was started by a group at Harding University.  They chose this day to help honor the victims and families of 9/11.  Encouragement is free and provides a valuable resource for our society.  This day was set aside to provide motivation and positive affirmation toward others.

    What does encouragement do:

    Keeps people going

    Recognizes efforts and talents

    Lifts people when they are down

    Builds stronger relationships

    Changes perspectives

    Easy ideas to observe the National Day of Encouragement


    Provide reassurance to people around you.

    High five someone for a job well done.

    Send a card or message to someone who may be struggling.

    Attend a friends or family members performance, sporting event, etc.

    Notice when someone has achieved a goal or encourage them to keep going.

    Leave a sticky or comic to brighten a co-workers day.

    Go out of your way to help someone open a door, carry their groceries, or complete a task.

    It doesn’t take much to provide encouragement to others.  The more we do it, it will become a habit and spread to others.  When you need encouragement, hopefully someone with come along and share some encouragement with you.

    If you feel that you could use some encouragement or are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and the general weight of life, please give Healing Focus Counseling a call at 801-679-3932 or visit our website www.healingfocuscounseling.com to request an appointment.

    Parent’s History verses Child’s Problem

    Have you thought your child needs help with behaviors?

    Have you considered your personal history may be affecting the child’s behavior?

    As a parent, you have all kinds of styles and skills.  Many are based on how you were parented, experiences you have had, and your life choices.  Parents do the best they know.  You love your child and want them to be healthy productive people.

    Learn how your style affects your child

    • What meaning have you attached to your child’s behavior?  You are interpreting your child’s interactions with you, but are you correct?  You think your child is being bratty or entitled but your child thinks she is asking for attention.  Try to discover what your child is asking for.
    • How do you regulate your behavior to best help your child?  You are busy, tired and have many things going on at once.  You need an arsenal of self-regulating skills to keep your self calm and doing your best.  Install resources that protect, support, and encourage.  Images can help us and our children determine where we are emotionally.
    • Change sorter– put in the change, it is sorted, then comes out more organized.  Take in what is going on.  Think it through.  Then respond.

    • Thermometer – are you already in a heated space or cold space.  How can you neutralize your feelings to respond to your child.

    • Playground – have you created many “playground” experiences that can be remembered and brought to mind when having a tough time.

    A parent has cognitions, emotions, somatic reactions, and strategies and defenses that affect how they interact with their child at any given time.

    • Cognitions are your thoughts and beliefs that we hold most of the time or when interacting with the child.
    • Emotions are what you experience often as a parent, especially when interacting with your child
    • Somatic reactions tell the body’s story.   Your body language, illnesses, and body sensations are all somatic reactions.
    • Strategies and defenses are patterns such as distancing, controlling, or criticizing.

    Ana Gomez (a renowned child therapist), asks parents to challenge their thoughts and feelings.  “Is what I am doing meeting the child’s needs.”  Remember a child that has experienced some trauma will ask for help in challenging ways.

    What triggers you as a parent?  How can you find new ways to manage the trigger so you are available for your child.  Children make all kinds of noises, run, crash, yell, sing, and many other things.  These behaviors are ways for your child to express themselves and learn.  Some of these may just be plain annoying to you even though the child is doing nothing wrong. 

    Here a few steps to help you start increasing your awareness and develop stronger coping skills.

    •  Learn a variety of breathing techniques to calm yourself and recognize what your child is needing.
    • Make time to take a break and use the change sorter.  Take in what is going on with you and your child, sort it out, then you will be able to have an organized response. 
    • Look at your thermometer.  Are you hot or cold?  How can you adjust your temperature before help your child? Drink cold water or hot tea.  Splash cold water on your face.  Go outside barefoot and feel nature.
    • Remember your playground.  You have no doubt, had many happy and fun memories with your child.  Remember that you and your child are capable of fun.  Remind yourself and your child of those memories.

    Don’t get discouraged.  If something isn’t working, try something else.  If you need help, get help.

    If you would like to talk with someone about your relationship with your child, please give us a call at 801-679-3932 or go to www.healingfocuscounseling.com for more information.


    Brain Growth Through Relationship Building

    The brain changes with interaction.  As soon as a baby’s brain starts to grow, it begins to interact.  The brain synapsis and neurons reach out to discover what is around them.  All the child’s senses are involved.  Once a child is born there is brain activity looking for a response.  How and when we responds produces the hormones that either grow the brain or stunt the brains growth.  The positive hormones, such as serotonin, come from hearing positive sounds, feeling positive touch, and seeing positive reactions from their caregiver.  When a child is safe, their brain can grow and explore.  Negative hormones, such as cortisol, come from not having their needs met, feeling the stress of a caregiver, or being exposed to harsh responses to their senses.

    As your child grows, it is important to remember that good interaction produces positive hormones.  It is good to spend dedicated time with each child each day.  Find a time that works.  Lay down next to them in the morning and talk about their day. Take time right after lunch, after school, or after dinner.  Let them be in charge of the activity or conversation.  Don’t wait until bedtime and get frustrated that kids won’t go to bed because they want your attention.  Plus everyone is tired and often everyone’s behaviors might not be as good.  Explore what they are experiencing by asking questions that can’t be answered with one word.  Try to understand what they are feeling.

    As your child gets older it may become harder.  Don’t give up.  Start small and build.  Make positive comments, listen to their music, play video games, create videos, dance, play sports, or help with chores or homework.  When older kids are doing homework, are they stressed?  Offer help with their homework, have them teach you, bring a snack, or pick up their room while they work.   Be consistent and do the same time daily.  Talk about what you are engaged in such as hobbies or work. 

    Look out for what triggers you.  Are you more reactive based on time of day or by certain behaviors of your child.  Why are you triggered?  You may need to explore why certain behaviors increase your negative emotions.  Take care of yourself.  Show self-care.  It is important that your children see how to take care of themselves.  When you care for yourself, you will be able to be there for your children.

    Having meals together is an evidenced based way to build family relationships.  Dinner time together with no electronics.  Another evidence-based practice is setting aside a few hours every week to do a activity together as a family.  Start now. Set an example and eat and have fun with your family. 

    Finding the Right Mental Health Counselor for Me

    Maybe you finally feel it is time or maybe you had a recent traumatic experience.  You have a specific problem, and you need help to resolve it.   Your peers or family are saying you should get some help.

    Regardless of the reason…it’s time to find the right mental health counselor.


    Find who is best suited for you.  Make sure you are looking for someone that has an active license with your state.  Ask questions about their specialty.  Find out if they have worked with other clients with similar issues.  Are there certain types of therapy they use. It should be evidenced based.  This means there is published research showing controlled studies that meet acceptable criteria.  It is very important to find a therapist you feel comfortable with.  They should be a good listener and ask for your perspective, as your therapeutic relationship should be a partnership between you and your therapist.  You should feel that your questions are being answered. 


    What do you want help with?  It is good to think about the problem that is interfering in your life right now.  It is also helpful to think about where this problem started or came from.  You may have trauma, unhealthy ways you managed that trauma, depression, anxiety, or addiction.  Often there is a combination of things such as learning disabilities, autism, and mental health issues.  Being able to honestly express your needs will help you find the right mental health therapist.


    Try to find a counselor conveniently located to you home or work.  Therapy is a commitment and if they are too hard to get to, you may find yourself using that as an excuse not to go. Whenever possible it should be in a safe part of the community, have security measures, and be well lit.  Make sure the environment is comfortable and peaceful.  It is important that you be able to take time to relax before and after the session. 


    You can get a referral from a trusted friend, family member or your clergy.  Your primary care doctor may also have some referral preferences.  Perhaps you want more anonymity, your local or national advocacy organizations may be able to help find the right therapist for you.  Are you thinking, I’ll just take a pill for that.  Medications help with symptoms but don’t solve the root problem.  Medications can also cause other side effects. Therapy gets to the root problem of emotional pain.  It is best to work with a therapist and determine if medication might help in conjunction with the counseling. 


    Now! It takes courage to get help for ourselves.  It also takes work.  You must think about the time and effort you will put into your own care.  You will not only have sessions to attend but you will often be given daily skills to practice as well as other homework that will help you.  You are worth the time and energy.  You can make the changes.  You can learn to avoid toxic behaviors, end negative patterns or behavior, improve happiness, increase your self-worth, strengthen your relationships, and build positive coping skills. 

    So…pick up the phone or type in the email and get started on your self-development.