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.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Light Therapy

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Light Therapy

Let’s talk about winter. Hot chocolate, sledding, and crackling fires can make us feel all warm and cozy, but having fewer and fewer daylight hours takes its toll. As Daylight Saving Time ends in early November, and our days become even shorter and darker, it is important to have tools in place to combat the downside of the season.

One such tool is called Light Therapy. Light therapy consists of indirect exposure to bright UV-free light. It is primarily used for the treatment of the winter blues and sleep problems. Clinically speaking, there is a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (also called S.A.D. or Seasonal Depression; learn more here). The dramatic reduction in sunlight during Minnesota winter months causes our hormones, brain chemicals, and daily rhythms to get out of whack. All of those changes can lead to sleepiness, fatigue, and sad moods, which are symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.Light therapy, cozy by the fire

Spending time with a specially-designed light box can help reverse these symptoms by tricking our brains and bodies into thinking we are getting the sunlight we need. Research consistently shows that regular use improves energy and mood. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604

Light therapy boxes with 10,000 LUX, the optimal amount of cool blue light that looks and feels like the blue sky on a summer’s day, can trigger biochemical changes in your brain. The right amount of full-spectrum light helps regulate melatonin and boost serotonin, giving you a better chance at restful sleep and a happy (or happier!) mood all winter long.

Light therapy is most effective when used for 30 minute periods several days or every day of the week. When using the light box, sit 20-30 inches away from it, and go about your business–read, study, work at your computer, or eat dinner. The light is meant to enter your eyes indirectly. Just like the Sun, never look directly at the light!

Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for your specific light. Although side effects are rare, they can occur, so make sure to pay attention to how you feel when using your light.

Has light therapy been helpful for you? If not, what has helped during these long winter months?

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Sarah Souder Johnson.

Preventing Social Isolation to Protect our Mental Health

We are living in an uncertain time. Today’s children will tell their grandchildren about the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and how everything stood still for a period of time: schools and libraries closed, store shelves emptied, and almost everyone stayed home. The purpose of this “social distancing” was to protect one another and stop the spread of disease. 

That’s where we are today, and putting space between us will work to flatten the curve if we all do it. With that said, there are some real downsides of staying apart even for relatively healthy people with safe homes, Internet access, and plenty of food.* Interpersonal connection is a key component to human wellbeing, and social isolation is a risk to mental health. At a time when it is absolutely necessary to socially distance, many more people than usual will experience the rippling effects of loneliness.

Depressed Teen Impacts School Performance

The good news is that there are ways to decrease the effects of social isolation. Here are some strategies for staying well while figuring out this (temporary) new normal. 

  1. Ramp up your virtual communication with friends, family members, and co-workers. This is especially effective if you can see one another, so try using apps like Skype, Facetime, and Zoom for video calls and conferencing whenever possible. We are also seeing an increase in individual and group therapy sessions taking place online so that people can start or maintain mental health care. Here is a listing of virtual recovery meetings, for example: Online AA Meetings During COVID-19
  2. Get outside. Interacting with others even from quite a distance is beneficial to our wellbeing. Waving to people across the street or when biking past them gives our brains the feeling that we are interacting and boosts mood. Try some Spring yard cleanup, pulling the bikes out of storage, or even some apartment building sing-a-longs like we have seen from our friends in Italy.
  3. Create a schedule and shared objectives. It may go without saying that people do better with routines, but did you know that working toward common goals with others is also a protective factor for health? Work on a puzzle with your roommate. Play board games or trivia in teams via Google Hangouts. Create a solo workout plan that a friend will also follow and then check in on your mutual progress each day. Plan, start, and finish a project around the house. (Give an air high-five when you check it off your list!)

Most importantly, remember that this situation is new, and we are all just figuring it out as we go. Taking daily actions to stay connected will protect our individual and collective mental health. And then, perhaps, the ways we pulled together – from a distance – to prevent social isolation will also be part of the pandemic story for future generations. 

What are you going to do to take care of yourself during this hard time? 

Blog written by Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd, LPCC, therapist at Sentier Psychotherapy

*For local readers in the Twin Cities, here are some helpful links to food and safety resources:

Free meals for kids at local restaurants

Child care services division of Department of Human Services; hotline: 651-297-1304

Expanded hotspot capabilities for internet access

Mindfulness During COVID-19 Pandemic

How to Stay Grounded During this Stressful Time

In the United States, we are in the midst of a nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though necessary, being apart from others comes with a significant risk to mental health. Many people are also experiencing increased health anxiety in general. Others have new or continuing financial insecurity or even loss of jobs. Not leaving the house removes the ability to escape from problems at home when home isn’t a safe place. And the necessary “social distancing” we all have to do promotes withdrawal and the loneliness that can follow. (Read our other blog post about social connection.)

It is normal to feel out of sync with yourself at this time. Thankfully, there are some relatively simple ways to connect with yourself and start to feel better. One way to do so is through a practice called mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is the state of being aware. A leader in the field named Jon Kabat-Zinn says that mindfulness is awareness of the present moment without judgment. It is when we purposely pay attention to what is happening in the here and now without a determination that anything is right or wrong. It helps us respond wisely to things that are happening to us instead of just reacting blindly. Since a lot of things are currently happening to us that are not within our control, we can all benefit from starting – or increasing – our mindfulness practice. 

We wanted to share a few resources we often use in therapy and suggest for our clients at home: 

Here is a basic video describing mindfulness:

Why Mindfulness is a Superpower

Here is a brief video about mindfulness and meditation:

Headspace Meditation Tips

Your breath is one of the most important tools for achieving a calm state. Try this simple Breathing Box technique:

  • Inhale for 4 counts
  • Hold for 4 counts
  • Exhale for 4 counts
  • Hold for 4 counts
  • Repeat

Yoga is a spiritual practice that promotes mindfulness and connection between the brain and body. Here are a few video sites we use:

Cosmic Kids Yoga

Yoga with Adrienne

Yoga Ed.

Dr. Dan Siegel is a leader in the field of neuroscience and the brain-body connection. His website is full of wonderful resources including Everyday Mindsight guided meditations.

Apps we like:

Headspace
Calm
Mindfulness Daily
Welzen – How Are You?
#Mindful
Insight Timer
Reflectly 

Some books we like:

The Gift of Awareness: Mindfulness Guide for Women (it applies to everyone!)
By Caroline Welch

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation
By Dan Siegel

I Am Peace
By Susan Verde

This one is great for children! Here it is read aloud by the author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXA3837uv3w

We hope you will build some mindfulness into each day as we face uncertain times ahead. A person’s body and mind are interconnected; you actually strengthen your immune systems when you use mindfulness, so it’s a win-win! What will you do to help yourself today?

Blog written by Sentier Psychotherapy therapist, Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd, LPCC

Home (from college) for the Holidays

Home (from College) for the Holidays

Winter break is around the corner. You imagine having time to unwind, sleep in, and decompress after final exams. You want to reconnect with high school friends and maybe just hang out with the family pet. Maybe you’ll work at your old job a bit to make some extra spending money for next semester or stop by your old high school to say hello. It all sounds pretty dreamy, but being back at home can be more challenging than many anticipate, especially for first-year college students.

Although many students welcome the thought of spending some quality time with their family, parents can have a much different idea of how much time together constitutes a sufficient amount to be “quality.” The long and short of it is that they might expect things to go back to how they used to be before you moved out. This can be very frustrating for a college student who is in the throes of becoming an independent adult (and seems to be doing a pretty good job at it thankyouverymuch!)

Here are some common scenarios that you might encounter going back and tips for how to handle each one:

  • You are exhausted after a difficult semester, and all you want is to catch up on your sleep. Parents may see this as laziness and wonder if all you do while at school is sleep. Obviously not—you work hard for school because you like it and it is important. Ask them not to come in and open the blinds at 8AM please—this is a VACATION after all—but you appreciate their hospitality and will of course help with some chores later.
  • If you have siblings at home, the family structure might have to reconfigure. For example, the middle sibling is now used to being the eldest, and for them it may be more of a drag than a delight to have big brother or sister home again. Let them know not to worry, because you’ll be out of the house soon enough. A friendly game of Monopoly or a trip to the mall together might break the ice and make it fun to be around one another again.
  • Be prepared to discuss money issues openly. Becoming financially independent is a process—a journey, really—with a lot of opportunities to learn and make mistakes. Maybe you bought 87 pizzas this semester when you only had enough money to buy 64. Budgeting is important—ask your parents to help you out or give you some pointers…not just more money.
  • Again, time may be an issue. You may be grabbing your coat to leave as your flabbergasted parents were about to get in bed. As author Karen Coburn state in Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years, “It’s tough on parents because even though they have grown used to not knowing what time their child comes back to her room when she’s away at college, parents can’t turn off their ‘worry button’ when it’s 2AM and the car isn’t back in the driveway. Parents don’t stop being parents. They worry about their child’s safety. It helps to come to an agreement that recognizes their child’s growing independence, as well as their own need not to worry.”
  • Talk to your parents about your experiences in college. Parents err on the side of educational and professional progress (i.e. asking about grades, teachers, and goals), so tell them about your favorite subjects, books, performances, or pieces of music that changed your life. Tell them the highlights of your semester and how you’ve changed; it can be rewarding for both of you to acknowledge your accomplishments. 
  • Try to make plans in advance. Family gatherings might interfere with social gatherings, so try to talk about things ahead of time so conflict is kept to a minimum.

Basically, the key is communication. Don’t be afraid to express how you like to do more things on your own now and to kindly request respect for your need to develop independence. That being said, try to also respect your parents’ necessity to be parents and to look out for your safety, success, and well-being. Do you feel equipped to head home for the holidays?! Good luck!

Blog was written by therapist Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd., LPCC 

DBT Therapy – What is it?

DBT Therapy – What is it?

Everyone’s talking about DBT, but what is it, exactly?  

You tell your friend about the recent behavioral issues your teen has been having, and they tell you that their child was in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and that it really worked!  They tell you that you should consider putting your child in DBT.  Your doctor refers your teen to DBT after he discover she has been cutting herself.  Your cousin, who is a therapist, suggests you look into DBT for your daughter after your daughter has an emotional outburst at the family reunion.  

Young teenager girl typing and messaging on her smartphone

You Google “DBT” online and find the same information over and over: It’s a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder and people who were chronically suicidal.  It’s now been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and substance use disorders.  It teaches mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness skills.  While all of the above is accurate and informative, chances are you still don’t have a clear understanding of what it is your teen will actually be getting out of DBT or how it will help your teen.  Let me try to help.   

DBT is a treatment approach meant to help those who might be more emotionally sensitive and reactive than the average person.  What do I mean by emotionally sensitive?  People who are emotionally sensitive tend to experience emotions more frequently and more intensely than others.  For example, when the average person gets cut off in traffic, they will likely feel frustrated or mad for a short time and then go back to thinking about what they were thinking about before they got cut off.   A person with high emotional sensitivity, however, may react by cursing, flicking the person off, and speeding up to pass and cut them off.  They may think about the event for hours after it happened. Another example is a person who plays the wrong key at their piano recital.  The average person would be embarrassed or disappointed in themselves, think about it for the evening, but sleep on it and move forward within the next couple of days. A person with high emotional sensitivity may become depressed, suicidal, and internalize this mistake by telling themselves that they are a screw up, a failure, and don’t deserve to be alive.  These intense feelings and thoughts may lead a person to engage in behaviors such as isolation, self-harm, substance use, or other unhealthy behaviors.  

The examples above show how being emotionally sensitive can negatively impact a person’s life. However, being emotionally sensitive can also be a very positive quality.  Feelings such as love, happiness and joy are felt more often and more intensely.  People who have high emotional sensitivity often exhibit characteristics such as kindness, creativity and empathy.  The goal of DBT is not to get rid of a person’s emotional sensitivity, it is to help a person learn how to manage these extreme emotions.  

A full DBT-intensive outpatient program includes weekly individual therapy, phone coaching calls between client and therapist and a weekly skills training group.  Typically these programs are anywhere from 6 months to 14 months in length.  Some programs, however, adapt DBT to fit the population in which they are serving.  For example, there are DBT groups that have been developed specifically for people struggling with substance abuse.  Many eating disorders treatment programs have been incorporating DBT into their programming to address problems specific to eating disorders.  We have adapted DBT to be more teen-friendly and meet the needs of adolescents who don’t need an intensive DBT program. What this means is that we don’t do coaching calls, we only meet once per week, and the teen is not required to be in individual therapy to be in the group. Our model is less intensive, more user friendly for today’s busy teens, and focuses on learning skills. Click here for more information about our next Teen DBT group in St. Paul.

This blog was written by a therapist at Sentier Psychotherapy

What can my Teenager do this Summer?

Summer is a time that almost all teens look forward to and almost all parents… well… look forward to, too. Teens often end up with a lot of “down time” which can lead to changed sleeping patterns and a change in diet, which then changes mood, etc. Though we want our teens rested, too much sleep is not always good, either.

I am writing this blog post to announce a group that I am very excited to be doing this summer. I am facilitating a group in St. Paul, MN that is called “Getting What You Want: A Group for Teens to Explore Happiness.” This group is for teens who want to better understand how to be happy. We will watch the documentary, “Happy” during the first group session and will then focus our next five groups on the main themes that the Group of teenagers meditating.documentary covers: Community, Movement, Defining Success, Service, Gratitude, and Self-Awareness. We will spend one session learning Laughter Yoga… and YES, I will be participating! Group members have the option of participating in the Color Run on July 14th (they can walk it, run it, or volunteer to dump colored powder on runners!). This group is going to be a lot of fun.

Please contact me with questions or to see if a teen you know will be a good fit for my group.

See you this summer!

Megan 🙂