How to Nurture your Teenager

How to Nurture your Teenager During Conflict

My Teenager Hates Me – Part 2

Being a parent is challenging. One day you have a beautiful baby who is the center of your universe, and then your baby grows into a teenager who you might not recognize. You may be asking yourself, “where did this argumentative young person come from?” Many parents of teens come into our office feeling hopeless. Parents are unsure if they did something wrong, and feel that they can’t understand their teen.

Well, good news! Teenagers are designed to oppose their parents. Adolescence is all about teenagers finding their identity (separating from their parents) which leads them to challenge the main source of authority, their parents.

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Teenage years are filled with extreme highs and lows. This highly emotionally charged period of life is coupled by developmental changes and growth, surging hormones, and societal pressures. Teens are trying to navigate the waters of their new body, new feelings and emotions they have on things they thought they once understood.

Five things a parent can do to help their teen through this time:

  • GUIDANCE
    All teens need guidance. Their inability to consider consequences and fully engage in future thinking, means they need their parents to do that for them. Part of a parent’s job is to keep their teen safe from harm and guide them to become the best person they can be. To be clear, we are not recommending that you helicopter. Ask your teen questions, let them make mistakes, talk with them a lot (note: do not lecture them) and you are on your way to properly guiding them!
  • PERSPECTIVE
    Keep perspective. This too shall pass. The attitude your teen is presenting (and their need to challenge you) will subside. Don’t let these battles become wars, find ways to keep perspective on the situation, and soon their emotions will fade. Find out what is important to your teen and learn how to negotiate so you can support them in the independence but also keep them safe. Get external support if you need it.
  • VALIDATE
    Validate your teenager’s emotions and let them know that you hear them and care about how they feel. Most teens don’t like to hear you say that you “get it,” so drop that if it is an irritation to your teen. Although these emotions may not make sense to you, there is merit to your teen’s feelings and validating the feelings allows the teenager to feel that you care for them.
  • LOVE
    This goes without saying, but love your teen unconditionally. Although they may scream, “I hate you!” and respond with one or two-word responses, know in your heart that they need you and love you too. Sometimes expressing this is difficult (if your teen is really argumentative) but try to get past your hurt and continue to communicate your love to them. Again, get external support if you need it.
  • CALM
    Your teen needs you to be the adult. If your teen is irrational and yells, things will only get worse if you start to act the same way. Be aware of how you respond, how your physical posture (non-verbals) comes across, and what the tone of your voice communicates. If you feel that you are unable to stay calm, state that you will continue this conversation later and walk away until you are able to manage your emotions properly. If this dynamic is not pretty and tends to not resolve itself well with you and your teen, either your and/or your teen might need help with emotion regulation skills.

Good luck, parents! Let us know how things go!

This blog was written by Rachel Samuelson and Megan Sigmon-Olsen, M.S.W., LICSW

How to Sleep Better

Help me Sleep!

How well do you sleep?  If you are like most teens and college students, then probably not too well. Most people between the ages of 14 and 24 have demanding school, work, and activity schedules that favor the Night Owl lifestyle with hopes of “catching up” on the weekends. Additionally, the biological clock naturally shifts forward in adolescence, which means that adolescents experience a surge in energy in the evening while rising in the morning is more difficult. As many as 75% of college students report difficulty falling asleep, excessive sleepiness during the day, or sleep disturbances. Many of these students report that emotional and academic stress worsen their sleep problems, which can in turn increase the stress, which then leads to more sleepless nights. If this sounds familiar to you, there are ways to reduce your stress by improving your sleep.

Healthy Sleep Habits
If you have difficulty getting enough sleep or feeling rested, try some of these tips to develop healthy sleep habits:

  • Develop a bedtime routine and use this routine consistently. Following the same ritual before bed and having a consistent bed time (including weekends) can create and improve the consistency of your sleep patterns.
  • Make room in your schedule for 7-9 hours of sleep. This is the average amount of sleep an adolescent/college student needs, which is often far less than the schedule allows.
  • This is where naps come in! Naps late in the day are not very helpful, but a 30-minute nap before mid-afternoon can do wonders.
  • Only use your bed for sleep and the activities that promote sleepy time, such as reading and journaling on paper. If you avoid watching tv, doing homework, or playing on your phone in your bed, you train your brain to know that bed = winding down.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes per day on most days. Not only does exercise help you sleep more soundly, but it will also keep you more alert throughout the day.
  • If you lay in bed for 20 minutes trying to fall asleep, just go ahead and get out of bed. Sometimes the anxiety over not being able to fall asleep complicates the problem and makes it even more difficult. Get out of bed and do something mundane like fold laundry or clean your room before trying the routine again.
  • We recommend this chart as a way to track your patterns and get a baseline on your current sleep habits.A young woman is sleeping in a bed with a cat next to her

When to See a Doctor
If the tips listed above don’t do the trick or if you experience any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with your family doctor or with a sleep specialist:

  • You gasp, choke, or stop breathing during sleep. If you have a bed partner or roommate, ask that person if they have observed any of these behaviors in you while you sleep.
  • You fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while eating, talking, or walking.
  • You feel excessively sleepy during the day and the tips above don’t seem to help.

Need a Laugh?
Hear comedian Mike Burbiglia’s recounting of his own experience with sleep disorders. But remember that even though his stories are amusing, sleep disorders can be extremely serious and should definitely be checked out by a doctor.

How Sleep Savvy are You?
Test your knowledge about sleep by reading the National Sleep Foundation list of common myths.

Blog written by Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd, LPCC

My Teenager Hates Me! How To Stay Connected with Your Teenager

In some ways, teens really have it rough (which also means that parenting teenagers is not easy, either). From a biological standpoint, teens are undergoing many changes. Their brains are developing the ability to engage in higher-level problem solving as well as a feature that allows them to “put on the brakes” in situations where they would have previously just acted on impulse. Some of these biological changes create an inherent inner struggle as they now have to “decide” who they are going to be in the world. The whole “saying no” thing actually makes sense to them now and they have to decide to make their own decisions or follow the crowd in different situations. Teens are also experiencing hormone changes & puberty. That’s a tough mix!

In other ways, teens have it made. They still live at home, they don’t have any/many bills to pay, they get to eat for free, etc. While all these things are great, the hard piece about this is that one of the developmental tasks of being a teenager is to separate from parents. So… they want and NEED to make their own choices, have their own opinions, etc.  With all of this in mind, here are a few ways to stay connected to your teen during these years of change:

1. Openly communicate with your teen. Your teen is no longer a child and they need you to talk with them in an appropriate way. They are young adults and need to be treated this way (most of the time). Talk about current events, what they have going on in their life, some of what you have going on, stressors they are experiencing, etc. Talk, talk, talk. If they put up walls… well… that’s a different blog. I promise I will also write about that. This blog might be helpful: Communicating with your Teen: Do’s and Don’ts.

2.  Let them have an opinion. Again, your teen is no longer a child. It is your job as a parent to teach them how to be an adult. When your teen no longer lives in your home (that’s just a few years away!) they are going to need to know how to make decisions, etc. The best place to learn how to do this is at home. Their opinion will often be different than yours. That is okay! You taught your kiddo to think for themselves! Though this can create controversy at home, remember that the goal is not to have a “mini-me.” The goal is to have raised an individual you can be proud of.

3. Listen to them. Let them tell you things without giving them advice. They will learn from their mistakes, and sometimes you have to let them learn the hard way. Also, do not tell other people things that your teen told you privately. This is a deal breaker for teens.

4. Have fun with them. Let them pick activities sometimes. Yes, you might end up rock climbing this weekend, but so be it! Allowing them to pick activities shows them that you value their opinion. Warning on this one: If your teen has no money and they choose an expensive activity, I encourage you to help them earn some of the money around the house, etc. My teen doesn't like me

5. Include their friends. Not all the time! Sometimes this is good, though. It is developmentally appropriate for teens to prioritize their friends. This is nothing that you did wrong. Include their friends in some activities and this will open up more lines of communication.

6. Be clear about expectations. Do not assume your teen knows what is expected of them. This is a very common mistake that I see A LOT. Be clear and have expectations written down. This will eliminate many arguments. Read here for my thoughts about teen expectations.

7. Help them reach their goals. Key word: THEIR goals. This one can be hard for parents. Let your teen be who they want to be in the world. They will be much happier as themselves than if they live their life to please you. Help them clarify their goals and help them attain their goals (as much as you can, anyway). You get to worry about their future. That’s part of what you signed up for as a parent. You can be honest with them about your thoughts about some of their goals, but please do not use guilt or shame. Again, I will blog about that in the future. For now, support them in their goals and this will show them that you love them and trust them as young adults.

8. The good ole’ family dinner. Eat together sometimes! Research consistently shows that families are happier when they eat some meals together (no phones at the table, please!).

9. You are not their friend. They still need you to be their parent. After they graduate, move out, go to college, etc., then you can have a more adult relationship with them. For now, don’t be the TOO cool parent. You can be cool, but know your limits ahead of time. Teens still need parents, rules, consequences, etc. It is your job to enforce the rules and consequences.

Hopefully these pointers help! There is no reason that you should not stay connected with your teenager. Are there any that you as parents feel that I missed?

How to Talk with your Teen about their First Therapy Appointment

First of all, if your teen has agreed to see a therapist, that is great! Teens are often anxious about their first appointment, which is why I have written this blog for you. There are a few things that will be helpful for you to talk with them about before that first session.

1. Provide your teen with some background information about the therapist. If the therapist has an online presence, let your teen look at the therapist’s website, etc. Seeing the therapist’s picture often helps ease some angst. If possible, have your teen help you select the therapist. The relationship your teen develops with the therapist will be a critical factor in your teen’s ability to make change (in their life) with that therapist.

2. Review with your teen the reasons that they are going to therapy. Reinforce the fact that they are not going to therapy to be “fixed,” but rather to find some solutions. Partner with your teen around wanting to see them find solutions on any issues that they are struggling with. Your partnership will be helpful to them, but do not try to solve their problems for them. Therapy allows teens a private space to begin making their own decisions. Remind your teen of this, as it is developmentally appropriate for your teen to want to find solutions on their own. Teens want the control and the freedom to make decisions. Therapy is a place where they will have this control. Does my son need therapy? Does my son need counseling?

3. Have as much background information about the therapist for your teen as possible (Where is the therapist located? What kind of building is the therapist in? Does the therapist see other teenagers? How long are sessions? How often are sessions? When does the therapist work?, etc.).

4. Get information from the therapist about what the first session will be like. For me, this is easy. My first sessions (I call them Meet & Greets) only last 30 minutes and are basically quick sessions that give teens and parents a chance to see if they connect with me, if they feel like they can trust me, if they like my office space, and if they feel like they can spend an hour per week with me. I also explain my privacy policy to teens and parents during the Meet & Greet. This is almost always a concern for teens (“If I tell you stuff, are you going to call my parents?”). If your chosen therapist does not provide a Meet & Greet, their first session is likely the beginning of their assessment. Assessment is just a fancy word that we mental health folks use for getting to know you better.

5. Talk with your teen about what it is they want to get out of therapy. This is something that the therapist will ask at some point, and it is important for your teen to understand that therapy time is the teen’s private time to work on whatever they want to work on. Setting goals at the beginning of therapy will help the therapist make plans to help your teen better. If your teen does not know what they want to get out of therapy, their first few sessions will likely be spent talking about what changes they want to see in their life. Even if your teen cannot answer you 100% during this conversation, ask your teen to think about it so they are able to answer when the therapist asks.

6. Inform your teen what therapy IS and what therapy IS NOT. Therapists are not magicians. Therapists cannot read minds. Therapists are there to guide your teen and help them figure out areas that are causing them pain. Therapists can help your teen figure out issues they might have in relationships, school, with friends. Therapists will not “cure” your teen; your teen has to do the work in therapy in order to see changes in the world. This is an important item, because I believe that therapy is confusing for people who have never been to therapy. Therapists do not have a prescription to make things better.

7. Assuming your teen doesn’t HATE the therapist (after meeting them for the first time), inform your teen that they need to try a few (3 to 5) sessions with the therapist. Teens can be impulsive and sometimes want to fire therapists immediately. Give the therapist a few sessions to see if the relationship can develop.

Let me know how the conversation with your teen goes! Is there anything that came up in your conversation that I missed here? Please share your thoughts about this post as this is an important conversation that parents often need to have with teens.

How To Find a Good Therapist

This requires some time and patience.

There is one very obvious reason that a good therapist can be hard to find: There are A LOT of us! If you do a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for a therapist in your area, you will find page after page after page listing all of us. You will also find many of us listed on certain paid sites (such as Psychology Today). These sites are great, but you will be bombarded with blurbs that we have written. Eventually the blurbs kind of sound the same and you do not feel that you know who to call.

Steps to take to decrease your number of choices:

1. Do a Google search for the kind of therapist you are looking for. Some examples: “Family Therapy [enter your zip code or city name],” “Teen Therapist [zip code or city],” “Couples Counseling [zip code or city].” Find the sites of a few therapists who stick out to you and read what they have to say. If you find any therapists who you seem to like (as much as you can after reading their blurb, anyway) write down their name or bookmark their site.

Find a therapist

2. Keep looking. Check some of the sites that rank high when searching (such as Psychology Today). Within the Psychology Today website, you will search for a therapist by zip code. This kind of search is a good starting place, but you will (again!) find that there are A LOT of us listed! (I just did a search for my zip code and got 66 results! Wow!). After getting your results by zip code, you can make your search more specific by selecting categories (Child or Adolescent, Addiction, Anxiety, ADHD, etc.). Using these specifiers will help you find a therapist who works with whatever it is you want to work on in therapy.

3. Read some blurbs. Make note of therapists who stick out to you.

4. Google these therapists names. See what else these therapists are involved in to get a better feel for who they are.

5. Do a YouTube search of the therapists names. Some therapists have YouTube channels and you may have the opportunity to listen to them speak, see how they interact, etc.

6. Ask around (if you feel comfortable). Ask your physician if they recommend a particular therapist. Ask a clergy member or friend. Ask the parents of other teens or the school counselor (if you’re looking for a teen therapist). Check your teen’s school website as they might have a section for counseling recommendations.

7. If you intend to directly use your insurance for therapy, you can look up (usually online or by phone) who is in-network with your insurance company. They will probably have a very long list of people in your area. Those of us who do not directly contract with insurance companies will not be listed here.

Okay. Now do you have a couple therapists selected?

1. Once you have a therapist (or two, or three, or four!) picked out, call or email the therapist. See if the therapist will meet with you (I call these sessions meet-and-greets) for a short time. This kind of a session is usually free. If the therapist does offer something like this, I would encourage you to schedule this kind of session. This will allow you to see how you feel when you sit down with your chosen therapist as well as ask any questions you might have.The connection you feel with your therapist is going to be very important as the relationship between the two of you is one of the main pieces that will help you make change in your life.

2. If the therapist does not offer a free meet-and-greet, see if they are willing to have a brief phone conversation with you. You can ask them questions such as:
A. What is your educational background?
B. Are you licensed?
C. Are you an interactive therapist or are you more of a quiet therapist?
D. Do you have experience working with __________?
E. What kind of session times do you currently have available?

3. If the therapist does not offer a free consultation/meet-and-greet, you have to decide if you want to schedule the first session with your chosen therapist. The first session is generally more expensive than other sessions. You will usually need to complete paper work for this first session.

This is a brief summary about some of the ways to find your therapist. Has this been helpful? Good luck finding someone who is a good fit for you!

What is Fear? and How To Overcome It

What is Fear? and How To Overcome It

Fear is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” If we look around at our world right now, there is a lot going on that might cause fear inside of us: The spread of COVID-19, fear of losing our jobs or not being able to share important moments with loved ones, fear of screwing up this homeschooling thing. Fear of isolation. On and on, we can all name our own list of fears. And if you aren’t feeling it now, there has likely been a time in your life when you have felt fearful of something.

What do we do with this fear? Here are a few things that can help when the fear feels crippling or overwhelming:

1. Name it.

Fear is a tricky emotion. If you let it stay hidden, it will grow. Speak out loud what you are fearful of. Write it down. Share it with a friend or someone you trust. But don’t let it remain a secret.

2. Challenge it.

After naming your fears, challenge them with truth. For example, if you are fearful about the future and the unknown, name something true about the present that makes you feel safe or comfortable right now. Perhaps you are afraid if you try that free yoga class, you might look silly. What if you try it and you don’t look silly? What if you are actually an awesome, yogi warrior waiting to be unleashed? Or what if every other person in that class is also fearful of looking silly, and they aren’t giving you a second glance? Either way, the truth is you took a class to improve your overall health and wellness. Challenge your fears with truth. Sometimes when we are caught in our own fear, this step might require a little help from that trusted person mentioned before.

3. Keep moving.

Fear can stop us in our tracks. It paralyzes us from moving forward: from trying the new thing, meeting the new person. Set small goals to continue working towards the next step. This progression acts as a natural way to challenge our fears, because we make it to the next step, look around, and find that we are actually okay.

4. Look for opportunities to thrive versus survive.

Fear is an emotion that can be traced back to our survival selves. Fear teaches us to “fight, flight, or freeze” when threatened by something dangerous (real or perceived). Instead of living in this constant place of being on edge, look for the times when you feel most alive. Are you outside walking your dog? Are you listening to your favorite tunes? Attempting a new recipe? Find those moments when you feel a little fuller and perhaps a little calmer, and seek to create those throughout your day.

Here is a list of some new activities you might try to live more in that “thriving rather than surviving” zone

https://cornercanyoncounseling.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pleasurable-Activities.pdf

https://www.kiddiematters.com/80-self-care-activities-teens/

Fear is a real thing. It’s hard and scary. This post is not meant to minimize that in any way. Recognizing the fear and bringing light to it while we continue to move forward, can help keep us from getting caught in those fear traps that threaten our overall well-being, our relationships, and the lens through which we view the world.

In a time when many of us are experiencing fear about a lot of different things, remember you are not alone. Sometimes just knowing someone else is sitting in that same fear with us, is enough.

What ways can you begin challenging your own fears today?

Blog written by Tana Welter, MSW, LGSW.

How to Get your Parent(s) to Say YES!

You really want to go out with friends on Friday night and you know that mom/moms/dad/dads/mom and dad aren’t going to budge. Here’s how to get them to (at least) consider:

1. Let them know (with advance warning) that you’d like to arrange a time to sit down and talk with them about something.

2. Be flexible about when you can meet. For example, don’t try to meet at 10 at night when you know he/she/they have to wake up early for work. Set a time after dinner (that you ate WITH THEM at HOME!) or when the family is just hanging out.

3. Don’t pull siblings or friends into the conversation (unless they’re going to the event with you).

4. Sit down with your parent(s) and explain the upcoming event that you’re asking permission to attend. Important details: Who will be there, who is supervising, what will you be doing, what date/time will you need to be there and how will you get to the event, will you need money, and why you’re so excited about the event.

5. Here’s where problems are likely to take place:

  • Your parents may not approve of the other people who will be at the event. Good luck with that one! If your parents have reason to not approve of certain people, then this is gonna’ be a tough sell. Parents generally don’t like people who they feel puts their teen at risk.
  • Your parent(s) may not believe there will be supervision. Offer to have your parents talk to the person supervising. Provide them with the (CORRECT) phone number.
  • If you need extra money for the event, come to the meeting with your parent(s) with an idea of how you plan to earn the extra money at home (pick up a few more chores, mow the yard, etc.). Follow through with these chores OR IT WILL HURT YOU NEXT TIME!

6. If the discussion is not going anywhere, ask your parent(s) the main reason they’re saying no. Do not yell at them; this will only make them more firm in saying no. Reschedule the discussion for a later time when everyone is calm. Revisit step #1 and try again.

Remember, your parent(s) want honesty and they want to see you handling yourself responsibly. Come to the meeting prepared to answer questions. Have answers to the tough questions and also come prepared for your parent(s) to say no. Good luck!

How did using these steps work out for you!?

Sentier Ten Year Anniversary!

Sentier Psychotherapy

The year 2019 marks Sentier Psychotherapy’s ten year anniversary! See below for a timeline of our history:

FALL 2009
Sentier Psychotherapy, LLC is founded! I (Megan) am in solo practice in Stillwater, Minnesota. I primarily provide MultiSystemic Therapy (MST) to “high risk” teens/families in Washington County. I have a handful of private practice clients and a tiny office. My vision is to build a full-time caseload of teenagers, families, and parents, and work for 50 years as a clinician.

FALL 2011 
I move Sentier down the hall of the same building to a bigger office. The new office is more suitable for family therapy and small groups. My caseload is growing.

WINTER 2012
I no longer provide MST, as I am tired of driving to client’s homes and working until 9-10 pm. I move to full-time private practice!

SPRING 2013
Sentier moves to a historic building on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. I see 25-30 clients per week, and dream of growing into a bigger, integrative mental health practice.

SUMMER 2014
Sentier moves to the current location in Highland Park, St. Paul. My practice has been on a waiting list for the past year, and it is time to hire a couple of therapists! This is a huge move and a time of major expansion at Sentier.

SPRING 2015
We begin to offer therapy and support groups! Groups are a way to engage more people who may not need a full individual therapy treatment plan or who have limits on their time. Groups are so powerful, particularly for our teen clients.  

SUMMER 2015
I am gone on maternity leave June – September.

FALL 2015
Sarah Souder Johnson joins Sentier! Sarah is a wonderful addition to the team, and eventually gets promoted to head of Sentier’s Groups and Education department.

SPRING 2016 TO PRESENT
We have hired a handful of therapists who make Sentier what it is today. Each one of them has brought a special interest, area of expertise, or unique vision that makes Sentier stronger and more dynamic. Although some have come and gone, we are grateful for their part of our history.

FALL 2017
Our first graduate intern starts at Sentier. Helping train professionals is a big part of our vision and a great way to give back to the field and community.

APRIL 2019
We decided to stay in Highland Park and renovate an additional wing of our current building. The build-out includes three additional therapy offices, a large play therapy space, and another waiting room. We almost doubled the size of our office space! This allows us to expand services that improve the health of families. Major high points include the addition of services for kids age 0-11, perinatal mental health services, couples therapy, and increased trauma-informed care. The therapists all get to decorate their own offices now, too, which is awesome. 

TODAY, 2019
Our team is comprised of Megan, Sarah, Alyssa, Katie, Annalise, Ashley, and Jenga. The best part of working at Sentier is the feeling of tight knit community amongst our group of clinicians. We hear “I love it here” time and time again from our clients and our employees, which is a major point of pride for all of us. We are close and have a lot of fun together.

FUTURE
We dream of offering more integrative services to our community. We will add a nutritionist, a prescriber, and possibly other body-working professionals in the future… We will build or renovate our dream office space in the coming years. Look for more groups, more opportunities for collaboration, trainings, and more. We will expand our play therapy, couples counseling, and trauma treatment services. There are so many great opportunities that Sentier will provide for our community. 

I have said it many times. We are eternally grateful for the role many of you have played in Sentier’s success. Our client work is such a gift to us, and we will forever cherish our clients’ journeys. Thank you for trusting us with your friends and family, everyone. We heart you all. 

Megan Sigmon-Olsen, MSW, LICSW
Sentier Psychotherapy’s founder and owner

A Weekend Away…

I just got home from a camping weekend with friends and family. It was refreshing and oh-so-needed.

Camping, peace, clarity, relaxation

Over the course of 4 days, I had time to do many different things while enjoying nature. I was 98% unplugged from technology and was able to enjoy many things in the world that I probably take for granted on a normal, busy day. One of the things that happened without my  conscious awareness is that I arrived home with some much-needed clarity.

I came home with a better sense of some things I need to change for myself. Before leaving, I knew that I need to make some changes personally. I now know that I need to reprioritize a few things. I am now also able to see (with no question) the order that these priorities need to belong. I came home with some ideas about family needs and where I need to shift in order to best help my family. I came home mentally rested (though not physically; lots of noises while camping!), restored, relaxed and ready to shift a few things for some personal, familial and professional balance.

How do you restore balance in your life? Are you able to build in “down time” to help you focus on how you can make changes in your life (or in your family)? If so, how do you achieve this restoration?

Email your Therapist: Yes or No?

I have recently had several people ask me if it is okay to email a therapist. The answer is:

1. It depends on the therapist.

2. It depends on what you need to communicate in the email.

Email my counselor?

Here is how I handle email as a therapist:

1. I enjoy using email to arrange appointments. Email is quick and often easier than phone calls. It can be difficult to return phone calls between sessions as a therapist. If you have a scheduling question or concern, I’ll get your email almost instantly (during business hours, I always have my Blackberry on).

2. I am very clear on the front end that some emailing is okay. I do not provide crisis services via email. If you email me on a Friday, I often will not see your email until Monday. If you want to send me some thoughts after therapy or give me a quick update, this is fine with me. Be aware that I may not respond to your email (we’ll save the conversation for session). I do not provide therapy via email.

3. If I notice a pattern of emails after session about major topics, I will talk with you about this during session. This may be a way for you to avoid face-to-face conversations, which is cause for clinical concern. If you’re avoiding conversations with me (and sending them via email later), you’re likely doing this in your life outside of therapy. We’ll work on it.

4. My cancellation policy always stands. If you do not call me within 24 hours of your session to cancel, you will still be charged your full session fee. Last minute email cancellations still result in being charged the session fee.

So… I hope this answers your question about whether or not it is okay to email your therapist. If I am your therapist, you should have a clearer picture now. If I am not your therapist, I encourage you to ask your therapist his/her preference, because we are all different.

Do you have other questions about emailing your therapist that I can answer?

Legally Gay in Minnesota?

Because I live in Minnesota and there has been so much hype in the press lately about gay marriage in this state, I feel obligated to write something. Gay marriage is a difficult issue for our society, and the 2012 amendment leaves me feeling very sad.

I will keep it simple. Homophobia is based out of fear (as are all phobias). The fear is irrational and fueled by ignorance. This ignorance is harmful and takes away basic human rights from human beings.

We are obligated to educate people about human relationships, family, and being gay.

Gay marriage

Not allowing gays and lesbians to marry harms many people. Allowing gays and lesbians to marry hurts no one. Every person in this WORLD deserves to be treated with fairness and basic human kindness.  Taking this privilege away from a certain group of people makes me sick. Who do we think we are to tell people they can’t get married?!!?!

How do you plan to fight ignorance on this very important issue?

Let’s go, Minnesota. Make your vote count and vote NO on SF 1308.

UPDATE: Gay marriage is now legal in Minnesota!! So proud to call MN home!

My Parents Are Stupid

“My parents won’t let me go anywhere.” “My parents won’t let me date.” “My parents treat me like I’m a baby.” “My parents treat me like I’m their slave.” “My parents punish me for rules I never knew existed.” “My parents are SO stupid.” “My parents suck.”

I hear many teens make these statements in my office. I get that the way you feel in this moment is that your parent(s) are the dumbest people on the planet. They make you mad, and they prevent you from doing what you want to do.

my parents are stupid

I could defend them now and tell you their side. I’m choosing to not do that right now. I’m sure you’ve heard them explain their reasons.

The one thing I will do is encourage you to take charge of the “issues” that are causing you to believe your parents are stupid. If your parents will not let you go out, find out why. If you feel that your parents treat you as if you are their slave, talk with them about it. If your parents never do anything fun with you, and all your relationship consists of is fighting and “working” (chores, etc.) let them know how you feel about the current situation.

Here’s the big catch: I have seen SO MANY TEENS fail at doing what I describe above. Why do they fail? Timing. They choose to “talk” about these issues when they are mad (after their parents have already said “no” to something). The teen is angry, the parents are annoyed, and the teen hopes to push their parent enough to to get their way. This strategy will only hurt you in the long run. I promise you that.

As I say in my other blogs, arrange a time (AHEAD OF TIME and when you don’t have something big that you’re asking for coming up in the next day or two) to sit down and talk with your parents. Be calm when you talk with them. Tell them you would like to problem-solve ____________ issue that you have with them. Use an “I statement” to start the conversation:

“I feel ______________ (defeated, hopeless, hurt, sad, ) when you _____________ (don’t allow me to spend time with friends, yell at me for not cleaning my room, etc.), and I’m wondering if we can figure out a way to work through this.”

Don’t expect this to cure anything. It may not work on the first attempt, but this is a good starting place. A few more pointers: Don’t yell. If they are not budging on the issue, agree to disagree, and revisit the issue later. Exercise ahead of time if you think you might end up yelling. Don’t have the conversation when anyone is hungry, on chemicals, or tired.

Let me know how this goes for you. I have other strategies in my tool belt, but I have seen this one do wonders. Good luck! 🙂

June 11th, 2013

My parents are fighting – What can I do?

First of all, if your parents are fighting, please know that it’s not your fault. Second, if you are not in a safe place (or someone is getting hurt) please get help. Call 911 if someone is in need of help.

Okay, got that scary disclaimer out of the way. NOW… a bit of background. Parents have many, many things to disagree about, and disagreeing is NORMAL. Raising kids/teens and working, paying bills, living life (etc.) is not a simple thing to do. Parents are going to fight. My thought, since you are reading this, though, is that your parents are fighting A LOT (frequently) or BIG TIME (the fights are scary). I’m really sorry you (and they) are going through this.

My parents are fighting

Even if your parents are fighting about YOU, it is NOT YOUR FAULT. If you’re thinking, “Yes it is my fault. If I could only do _______ better, then they would not fight,” you’re wrong. Even if you changed _______ behavior, your parents would still disagree. Either about your behavior, how to pay the bills, which vacation to take over summer break, or something else. That is not on you. They are adults and will figure out how to get through their fighting. They will resolve their disagreement in their own way.

You are probably feeling a ton of emotions (angry, sad, confused, scared, hopeless, pissed) and that is okay. It is best to talk about the way you’re feeling with a friend, trusted adult, etc. If your parents’ fighting is getting really bad (and you are not in danger) it might make sense to talk with them about it. ***DO NOT DO THIS DURING ONE OF THEIR FIGHTS!*** They may not realize that their fighting has gotten out of hand, or that you’re aware that they’re fighting (not joking about this. Many parents are shocked to learn that their kids hear their fights). I cannot safely recommend that all teens talk with their parents about the fighting. Please talk with a trusted adult if you are thinking of talking with your parents and it feels scary.

I do not know what your parents fights mean. Many teens ask me if their parents are going to get divorced because they are fighting. I don’t know that answer. Just know that all parents disagree/fight, and this does not always mean that divorce is near.

Please talk with someone you trust, know that your parents’ fights are not your fault, and keep yourself safe. This time in your life will pass…

Was this helpful? What else do you want to know about fighting parents?

My Siblings Hate Me

My Siblings Hate Me

Life is stressful enough as a teenager. You’re likely already trying to balance school, other activities, friends/social life, and parental expectations. When you have tense and complicated relationship with your brother(s) or sister(s) on top of all this, it can be overwhelming… and isolating at the same time.

Your siblings are supposed to be the ones you can confide in, right? The ones that understand the way things are in your family. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not like that and you can have siblings, even close in age, and still feel all alone.

If you find yourself in this situation here are some tips:

  1. Evaluate if you would like to have a closer relationship with your siblings. Sometimes being close with siblings is not the best choice. 
  2. Apologize, if an apology or explanation for your behavior is needed.
  3. Work on reaching out… maybe it’s a “how was your day?” while you’re getting a snack after school, maybe it’s wandering into their room after dinner to say hi.
  4. Focus on shared interests to start reaching out. Do you like the same music? Follow some of the same people on Instagram? Have funny family quirks you can both laugh at?
  5. Keep trying to connect with them, but also honor their space. It’s a slow process to repair or build a connection so don’t get discouraged, but also acknowledge that your sibling might need a little time as well.
  6. Reach out for help! If the above ideas are not working, reach out to a parent, other adult or counselor to help you.

Have you done something else that helped improve a relationship with a sibling?

Blog written by Katie Fleuriet, MSW, LICSW

How to Tell your Parents you want to see a Counselor

I want to start off by saying that you know your parents and I don’t. I don’t have a “one size fits all” response that will magically get them to allow you to go to therapy.That being said, if you’re reading this, you are wondering how to tell your parents you want to see counselor and are nervous about how your parent(s) will respond. Here are some common reasons teens go to therapy. If I were sitting with you (in person) I would ask you a few questions that are worth knowing the answer to before talking with your parent(s).

1. Why are you nervous about asking them if you can start counseling? Many teens are afraid that if they tell their parent, their parent will want to know everything they have going on so that the parent can ‘solve’ the problem. If this is the case for you, I encourage you to tell your parent that you are trying to solve some of your current challenges independently.

2. Other teens know that their parents believe therapy is for “sick” or “crazy” people. If your parent has a belief similar to this, it makes sense to let them know that you are sorting through some personal/social issues that need an objective adult’s viewpoint. This has nothing to do with some scary diagnosis.

Okay. If you have answered the above questions, you might be ready to talk with your parent(s). At this point, you should have a basic idea about whether it will be best for you or a trusted adult to have this conversation with them.

1. Set a time with your parent to have the conversation. Find a time that allows for few distractions and a lot of privacy.

2. Be sure no one is using chemicals at the time of the conversation.

3. Let your parent know you wish to talk with an adult about some things you have going on, and that you want this person to be completely objective to your situation (in other words, the adult/counselor doesn’t love you like your parent(s) do, so they will be able to guide you with basic, non-influenced decision-making in a way that family members generally cannot).

4. Assuming you are not in danger, reassure your parent(s) that you are not in danger and that you just need some support from another person in your life.

5. If possible, choose a therapist/counselor ahead of time (you can find many of us online). Read my blog about how to find a good therapist for yourself. If your parent has questions they want to ask the therapist, most of us are happy to sit down and answer questions that teens and parents might have before therapy starts. Most of the time, this question and answer session is free of charge.

6. If your parent does not respond well, it makes sense to end the discussion for the night. A fight is not necessary. Some statements might help you: “I need additional support from another adult,” “You did nothing wrong as my parent. I just need to learn how to get through this on my own,” “I need a space that allows me to discuss private things.”

How to tell your parents you want to see a counselor

This is just  a starting place. If the conversation doesn’t go well (more than once), you may want to talk with your school counselor, a trusted teacher, pastor (etc.) to see if they are willing to talk with your parent(s) about your need for therapy. The counselor can help your parents understand your need for therapy (without spilling the beans about what you have going on). They can recommend that you see a therapist and give your parents a “referral.” (Click here to read my blog: How to Find a Good Therapist). If you choose to talk with an adult who is not a school or church official, inform that adult (before they talk with your parent) that you want privacy maintained when they talk with your parents. In other words, tell the adult that you don’t want them telling your parents everything. Most adults will honor this request as long as you are not in danger of hurting yourself or someone else.

Were these steps helpful for you in talking with your parents about getting counseling?

My parents hate me.

The longer I am a therapist for teens, the more emails I get from desperate teenagers. The emails are most often about a painful incident that makes a teen believe their parent(s) hate them.

Other reasons I get emails from teens:
1. Looking for help: How can I get my parents to say yes?
2. Looking for help: How can I make my parents like me more?
3. Looking for help: Why won’t my parents trust me?
4. Looking for help: Why won’t my parents let me be myself?

I generally respond to the email by letting the teen know that I need to know more about their situation and that I would love to meet with them and their parents. I might give a tiny bit of “advice” if something seems really obvious to me. Generally, though, I don’t hear back from the teens and then don’t end up in my office. So… I think about these teens…

My Parents Hate Me

If you feel like your parents hate you, we need to figure out what the disconnect is.

When parents: Try to get you to value the same things they value (church, school, volunteering, etc.)
They are: Doing their best to raise you into their version of a good and successful person. You do not have to value their church or way of dressing long-term. Before long, you will get to live your life as you choose. If this is a really big issue, it might help to sit down with a therapist to come to some compromises. Read here to find a therapist in your area.

When parents: Take away your cell phone/ipod/computer for the weekend…
They are: Generally trying to say that you broke the rules, and now you must pay. They don’t hate you if they do this to you, even though this brings you *PAIN.

When parents: Call you names…
They are: Either unsure that the name hurts you (could they be using sarcasm?) or they are not handling their anger the way adults should handle their anger. The name-calling usually does not mean they hate you, but that they don’t know what do to. Again, if name calling is happening a lot, I suggest therapy. If that is not an option, do your best to talk with trusted people about your situation. Know that the names they are calling you are not true and that their hurtful words actually show you that your parent is struggling. This is not your fault. I will write a blog at some point about how you can counter the name-calling in your mind with affirmations.

When parents: Hit you…
They are: Not managing their anger appropriately. Talk with a trusted adult. Hitting is not okay and therapy (at very least) is needed.

When parents: Ground you.
They are: Telling you that they don’t like something you did or said. This usually does not mean that they hate you. Grounding can feel really bad, though, and if it is being used constantly, you might need to negotiate some other consequences (not during an argument, though. That won’t work). Also, if you’re being grounded constantly, something needs to change. Work on somehow meeting your parents in the middle with whatever rule of theirs you keep breaking.

One last thing. Life is not always fair and sometimes you are dealt a bad situation. The one thing I can tell you is this: THIS IS TEMPORARY! YOU HAVE A LONG LIFE AHEAD OF YOU.

Teens: Please email me or comment below and I will write more about general topics to help you figure out what is going on when your parent does a certain thing. What do your parents do that makes you feel as if they hate you?

**Please note: I will respond to some comments/questions below. Because I am not your therapist (and, therefore, do not have all the information about your situation) please do not mistake my comments as professional advice. I cannot always respond to the questions quickly and if you are in need of professional help, do not rely on this blog for that type of support. Please call your therapist or 911 if you are in need of immediate hep.**

“You always/You never…”

Teens: Generally speaking, it is not helpful to accuse your parent of being a crappy parent in order to get what you want. Let me clarify with an example.

Teen: I’m going to Sam’s tonight.

Parent: Excuse me? Were you asking me if you could go somewhere tonight?

Teen: Yes, I’m asking to go to Sam’s house tonight.

Parent: You need to ask me for permission. Not TELL me what you are doing.

Teen: I AM asking! I’m asking to go to Sam’s house! What don’t you understand?

Parent: I understand this just fine. I understand that you’re telling me where you’re going tonight!

Teen: You always do this! You never let me go anywhere! You’re always on such a power trip! You’re a control freak!

Parent: You’re not going anywhere because you’re being so disrespectful right now. This conversation is OVER.

Teenager fight with mom Boom… endofstory. You’re now stuck at home tonight. A word to the wise: Parents like to be asked for permission. Additionally, telling them what a horrible parent they are (while asking them for permission to go somewhere) is not going to get you what you want. Nor is it going to help your relationship with your parent.

Teens, try to avoid starting your sentences with, “You always,” and “You never.” You’ll get further in your conversation.

Has avoiding these words helped you in conversation with your parents?

Think Positive Thoughts

How To Think Positive Thoughts

Has anyone ever told you to “just think positive?” This statement is a lot easier said than done, which can be very frustrating when it’s your parent, teacher, coach, or friend telling you to do so. They aren’t thinking about how your brain works (or they don’t know!) and they don’t know what it’s like to be you. However, the person saying this might actually be onto something. Research shows that thinking positively about ourselves and others, leads to increased self-esteem, increased self worth, and increased happiness.

It’s very common among teens to engage in a lot of what we therapists like to call “negative self-talk.” Statements like, “I’m not smart enough,” “I wish I was prettier,” or “why am I always screwing up?” are all examples of negative self-talk. Due to the strong influence of societal messages and social comparisons, negative self-talk among teens is more present today than ever before. Because of this (and other factors, of course), we are seeing an increase in depression, anxiety, and a variety of other mental health concerns. This is why it’s important that we work to change the way we “talk” to ourselves. Would you tell your good friend that they are not smart enough, pretty enough, or always screwing up? My guess is probably not. So why should what you tell yourself to be any different?

Here are some ways to practice thinking positive thoughts:

  • Notice your negative self-talk. Start paying attention to your thoughts.
  • When you notice yourself thinking negative thoughts such as “I’m not smart enough” don’t judge yourself.
  • Try to find some evidence against your negative statement. For example, if you are thinking “I’m not smart enough” try to think of a time where you were smart enough, like when you got an A on a test or when you made a really whitty joke (intelligence is not just related to academics!). Then tell yourself “I am smart” or if you can’t connect with that statement because it doesn’t feel true, try something like “I am working hard in school.”
  • Work on giving yourself compliments or thinking positive thoughts at random times throughout the day. For example, when you wake up in the morning, give yourself a compliment. When you go to bed at night, give yourself a compliment.
  • Lastly, don’t get discouraged if this doesn’t come naturally at first. For some of us it doesn’t because we are so used to our negative self-talk and it has become such a habit. The more you practice positive self-talk and thinking positive thoughts, the more natural it will feel and the more automatic it will become.

Has thinking positive thoughts helped you to take a different perspective in any situation in your life?

Blog written by a therapist at Sentier Psychotherapy.

LGBTQ Support Groups

There has been an increase in LGBTQ+ visibility in television, music, schools, and social media. This increased visibility has helped young people find acceptance in their gender and sexuality. Increased acceptance does not mean that young people do not face discrimination and bullying every day in schools and their community, however. LGBTQ+ suicide continues to happen at an alarming rate. Students face discrimination at home, in their schools, and in the community.

There are places of refuge for young LGBTQ+ people, and many of them find community on social media and the internet as well as their school. While this is great for many young people, this can also be a place of isolation and loneliness especially for LGBTQ+ youth who do not have access to community spaces or struggle with anxiety/depression and are unable to interact with people “in real life.”

For LGBTQ+ young adults, the places of refuge and community tend to be bars and clubs where there is exposure to alcohol and drugs. There are not many safe and sober places for young adults to make supportive friends. This is especially difficult for young adults who are not yet 21, or for those who struggle with chemical use.

At Sentier Psychotherapy, we provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to create community and find support as they come out and become more confident in themselves. Sentier currently offers two groups that run weekly. We have a support group for LGBTQ+ teens (ages 14-17) and a young adult LGBTQ+ support group for ages 18-24. Groups provide a safe and supportive space for young people who are in any stage of the coming out journey. Our groups provide resources and information as well as support and mentoring for young people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Please check our website for dates and times of groups: www.sentiertherapy.com

If you would like more information about the LGBTQ+ groups at Sentier Psychotherapy please contact Ashley at agroshek@sentiertherapy.com 

Link to current Young Adult LGBTQ+ group: https://sentiertherapy.com/group-therapy/lgbtq-support-group-young-adults.html

Link to current Teen LGBTQ+ Support Group: https://www.sentiertherapy.com/group-therapy/teen-lgbtq-support-group.html

What Does PRIDE Mean to You?

This year, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York. For those of you who do not know about the Stonewall riots, here is a brief description of the event:

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement <https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/history-of-gay-rights> in the United States and around the world.

As we celebrate pride this year, it is it important to look back at the history of the LGBTQIA+ population, and to honor those who came before us.  They sacrificed SO much, and their sacrifice has resulted in the rights we have today. To celebrate PRIDE this year, let us take a minute to talk about what PRIDE means to the people around us. 

What does Pride mean?

I asked several people what PRIDE means to them and here are their answers. Please feel free to include what it means to you in the comments section below.

  • “Pride, to me, is remembering our history, and honoring everyone fighting for our community to just exist. Remembering Pride and who fought before us… The cafeteria riots and the Stonewall riots were just the beginning as we continue to fight. To learn, and continue to grow as our community evolves, also to love and accept the changes and evolution of our community.”
  • “Pride means accepting and loving myself for who I am.  It means coming out to my family, friends, and others to show my true, authentic self.  It means honoring the people who came before me to bring more acceptance and love to our community.  It means being in community with my people and celebrating who we are and the progress we have made in society.”
  • “It means I am the only one who defines who I am.self-acceptance”
  • “Pride is joy and celebration of my full self and the beautiful rainbow of people in out LGBTQIA+ community! It’s shared experience and safety and love in a crowd of strangers and friends.”
  • “Pride = life. The ability to live out loud with courage, vulnerability, and self acceptance.”
  • “Pride means being yourself against all odds.”
  • “Pride is not only a celebration of community, but it is also a reminder of our struggles, how far we have come and where we still need to go.”
  • “Pride means I get to be my full self. And to have conversations with friends about the full spectrum of what it means to be queer.  I just had a conversation with a bi friend about privilege and being in relationship with cis het men, and how we can still express our queer love as a part of that. Pride means loving all my people, and celebrating who we are in community.”
  • “Pride… It’s a feeling that you are who you are and that there are others like you. Chosen family and safety in community.”

What does Pride mean to you? 

Blog written by therapist Ashley Groshek, LMFT. To read more or schedule with Ashley, please read her therapist bio.