• Embracing Healthy Parenting This Summer: Balancing Work, Play, and Setting Boundaries

    As summer approaches, families everywhere look forward to a season filled with sunshine, outdoor activities, and cherished moments together. For parents, this time of year presents unique opportunities and challenges, especially when balancing work responsibilities, addressing children’s boredom, and ensuring a healthy, active lifestyle. At Healing Focus Counseling, we understand the importance of maintaining a healthy parenting approach during these months. Here are some essential tips to help you navigate the summer with a focus on play, boundaries, and overall well-being.

    The Importance of Play

    Summer is synonymous with play, and for children, play is more than just a way to pass the time—it is a critical component of their development. Through play, children explore their creativity, build social skills, and develop problem-solving abilities. Encouraging outdoor activities like biking, hiking, swimming, or simply running around the park helps children stay active and engaged.

    Our clinical director, Julie Mathewson, works with kids as a therapist and utilizes play therapy to help children express themselves and work through challenges. Play therapy can be a powerful tool in fostering emotional growth and resilience.

    As parents, it’s important to participate in these activities whenever possible. Playing with your children not only strengthens your bond but also allows you to model healthy behaviors. Whether it’s a family game night, a day at the beach, or a backyard campout, these moments create lasting memories and foster a sense of togetherness.

    Balancing Work and Family Time

    For many parents, summer can bring the added challenge of balancing work commitments with the desire to spend quality time with their children. This balance is crucial for maintaining a healthy family dynamic. Here are some strategies to help manage both:

    1. Create a Schedule: Establish a daily routine that includes designated work hours and family time. Having a consistent schedule helps children know what to expect and reduces stress for everyone.

    2. Set Clear Boundaries: When working from home, it’s essential to set clear boundaries between work and personal time. Communicate with your employer about your availability and create a workspace that minimizes distractions. Let your children know when you are available and when you need to focus on work.

    3. Flexible Work Arrangements: If possible, explore flexible work arrangements that allow you to adjust your hours to spend more time with your children during the day. Many employers offer options such as remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks.

    Addressing Boredom Constructively

    Children often experience boredom during the summer months, especially when their usual routines are disrupted. Boredom, however, can be an opportunity for growth and creativity. Here are some ways to help your children manage boredom constructively:

    1. Encourage Independence: Allow your children to take the lead in finding activities that interest them. Provide them with materials for arts and crafts, books to read, or puzzles to solve. Encouraging independent play fosters creativity and self-reliance.

    2. Plan Activities Together: Involve your children in planning summer activities. Create a list of fun and educational activities, such as visiting a museum, exploring nature trails, or having a DIY project day. Planning together gives children a sense of control and anticipation.

    3. Limit Screen Time: While technology can be a helpful tool, it’s important to set limits on screen time. Encourage activities that promote physical movement and face-to-face interaction. Set specific times for watching TV or playing video games and offer alternatives that are equally engaging.

    Setting Healthy Boundaries

    Setting boundaries is a crucial aspect of healthy parenting. Boundaries provide children with a sense of security and help them understand expectations and limits. Here are some tips for setting effective boundaries this summer:

    1. Be Consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to enforcing boundaries. Clearly communicate your expectations and the consequences for not following them. Consistent boundaries help children understand what is acceptable behavior.

    2. Be Positive and Encouraging: Frame boundaries in a positive way. Instead of focusing on what children cannot do, emphasize what they can do. For example, “You can play outside after you finish your chores” is more encouraging than simply saying, “No playing outside until your chores are done.”

    3. Involve Children in Decision-Making: When appropriate, involve your children in setting boundaries. Discussing rules and expectations together helps children feel respected and more likely to adhere to the agreed-upon boundaries.

    Conclusion

    Summer is a time of fun, relaxation, and family bonding. By embracing play, balancing work and family time, addressing boredom constructively, and setting healthy boundaries, parents can create a nurturing and supportive environment for their children. At Healing Focus Counseling, we believe that healthy parenting is the foundation for a happy and harmonious family life. Enjoy the summer, make wonderful memories, and cherish the moments you spend together.

    For more tips on healthy parenting and family well-being, explore our website or contact us at 801-679-3932 for personalized guidance and support.

    Understanding Addiction: The Power of Parts Work in Recovery

    Addiction, a pervasive issue affecting millions worldwide, manifests in various forms—from substance abuse to compulsive behaviors like gambling or other harmful habits. Our therapists at Healing Focus Counseling are trained and experienced in working with clients recovering from addiction. Amidst the complexity of addiction, a promising approach gaining traction is parts work therapy. This method delves into the multifaceted nature of addiction, breaking it into manageable pieces for targeted treatment. 

    At its core, parts work revolves around recognizing and understanding the different “parts” of an individual’s psyche, each with its motivations and functions. One crucial element in addiction therapy is identifying the “addictive part,” which drives cravings and the pursuit of addictive substances or behaviors. By exploring this part, individuals gain insight into their triggers and can develop healthier coping mechanisms.

    Parts work extends beyond the addictive part to encompass other parts contributing to addiction. For instance, a “protective part” might emerge, shielding individuals from underlying trauma or emotional distress by engaging in addictive behaviors. Through parts work, individuals can confront these underlying issues, promoting healing and resilience.

    Parts work fosters self-awareness and self-compassion—essential ingredients for recovery. By acknowledging that addiction stems from a complex interplay of factors rather than a moral failing, individuals can release feelings of shame and guilt. This shift in perspective empowers them to approach recovery with compassion and determination.

    Individuals who engage in parts work gain the tools needed to actively navigate their recovery. By recognizing and understanding their different parts, individuals can proactively manage triggers and cravings, taking control of their healing process.

    Importantly, parts work promotes integration and wholeness. Rather than viewing addiction as something separate from themselves, individuals learn to accept and love all parts of themselves. Through this process, they can gently address underlying wounds and traumas, cultivating personal growth and fulfillment.

    Here at Healing Focus Counseling, our therapists utilize parts work along with other evidence-based treatments to offer tailored support for individuals seeking recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, take the first step towards healing by scheduling an appointment with one of our experienced counselors. Together, we can embark on a journey towards understanding, healing, and reclaiming a life of health and wellness. 

    Contact us at 801-679-3932

    Using Your Spirituality to Practice Mindful Gratitude

    It’s a familiar memory for a lot of Americans: sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, each person taking a moment to mention the things they’re grateful for. We still do it. It can heart warming and funny. Unfortunately, being grateful seems to be something we’re reminded of only once a year on the holiday.

    When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, with the difficulties that life throws to us on a regular basis. We start to focus on our troubles, then wonder why we’re often so tired or unhappy.

    Practicing mindful gratitude, and being thankful for things all year long, will improve your life in several ways: it will improve your physical health, your mental health and your relationships. If you’re a spiritual person, you can use your spirituality to improve your gratitude in the following ways.

    Improved Physical Health

    Gratitude helps improve your physical health in numerous ways. According to a 2013 study published by the journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and were more likely to take care of their health. Improved self-care will have a positive impact on your willpower and mood, and help you sleep better.

    Improved Mental Health

    Regularly practicing gratitude can help you learn to appreciate yourself more. By being grateful for your blessings, you’ll look less enviously on the special trips and occasions of your friends in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts will help bolster your self-esteem and keep your mood lifted. Gratitude can also help ease depression as you stay mindful of reasons to be happy and appreciate the positive things in your life.

    Improved Relationships

    Saying please and thank you shows good manners, but it also exhibits a positive attitude that can attract new people into your life. Showing appreciation will not only lead to new friendships, but will also help improve existing ones. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, recognizing the positive in the people in your life and letting them know, you’ll create loving, long-lasting bonds.

    Finding reasons to be and stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not quite prepared to handle. But leaning on your spiritual side in times of trial can give you the edge you need to practice gratitude regularly. The benefits to mindful gratitude are so numerous, it’s well worth the time and effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.

     

    If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to practice mindful gratitude, give Healing Focus Counseling a call today. One of our specially trained staff will be more than happy to help. Visit our website at www.healingfocuscounseling.com or call us at 801-679-3932.

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    The Power of Gratitude Journals

    Title: The Power of Gratitude Journals: 

    Evidence-based Happiness Boosters:  In the pursuit of happiness, we often overlook the simple yet profound practice of gratitude. Gratitude journals, a popular tool for cultivating a positive mindset, have gained attention for their potential to improve happiness. In this blog, we will explore the evidence supporting the effectiveness of gratitude journals and their impact on overall well-being.

     1. The Science of Gratitude: 

    Numerous scientific studies have highlighted the positive effects of gratitude on mental health and happiness. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) revealed that individuals who kept gratitude journals experienced increased levels of happiness and life satisfaction compared to those who didn’t. This research provided initial evidence of the transformative power of gratitude.

     2. Improving Psychological Well-being: 

    Gratitude journals have been linked to improvements in various aspects of psychological well-being. A study by Seligman et al. (2005) found that participants who engaged in a daily gratitude journaling practice reported higher levels of positive emotions, increased optimism, and decreased feelings of depression. These findings suggest that gratitude journals can serve as effective tools for enhancing overall psychological well-being. 

    3. Enhancing Relationships: 

    Cultivating gratitude through journaling can also have a positive impact on relationships. A study conducted by Algoe et al. (2013) demonstrated that expressing gratitude towards a romantic partner increased relationship satisfaction and strengthened the emotional bond between partners. By fostering appreciation and acknowledgment, gratitude journals can contribute to healthier and more fulfilling relationships. 

    4. Stress Reduction: 

    Gratitude journals have been found to be effective in reducing stress levels. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Wood et al., 2008), participants who wrote about things they were grateful for experienced a significant reduction in stress compared to those who focused on daily hassles. This research suggests that incorporating gratitude journaling into our routine can provide a powerful stress management technique. 

    5. Physical Health Benefits:

    The benefits of gratitude journals extend beyond mental well-being; they can also impact physical health. A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Jackowska et al., 2016) demonstrated that individuals who practiced gratitude journaling reported better sleep quality and lower levels of physical symptoms. This connection between gratitude and physical health highlights the holistic nature of gratitude’s influence. Gratitude journals have emerged as evidence-based tools for improving happiness and overall well-being.

    Scientific studies support the notion that regularly practicing gratitude through journaling can lead to increased levels of happiness, enhanced psychological well-being, improved relationships, stress reduction, and even physical health benefits. By incorporating a gratitude journaling practice into our lives, we can harness the power of gratitude to cultivate a positive mindset and lead more fulfilling lives.  Please contact Healing Focus Counseling at 801-679-3932 or check out our website at www.healingfocuscounseling.com

    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.

    Sleep

    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.

    Nutrition

    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.

    Sunlight

    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.

    Support

    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.

    Meditate

    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.

    www.healingfocuscounseling.com

    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

    Smile.

    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.

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    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.

    Who?

    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?

    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.

    Where?

    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. 

    How?

    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. 

    When?

    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.