Archive of ‘Feelings’ category

Destigmatizing Anger

Woman expressing anger emotion

Anger is valid, like any of the other emotions we experience. However, it seems to have a much worse reputation than other feelings due to its potential to directly harm those around us. This makes learning to control it just as or maybe even more important than controlling other emotions we experience. Let’s start by destigmatizing anger.

Anger is a secondary emotion which means that every time we experience anger, there is another emotion we are experiencing beneath the surface that may be more vulnerable to share. The “Anger Iceberg” provides a great visual of this concept. Unfortunately, the society we live in has portrayed anger, especially for men, to be much more socially acceptable to show as compared to sadness by crying, guilt, shame, embarrassment, jealousy, and the list goes on. So what can we do with this information? How can we learn to control our anger? As with all other emotions, I always say – start with curiosity, asking yourself “what” and “how” questions!

How was anger shown in my family growing up?

In addition to society normalizing anger, maybe anger was seen as a more acceptable emotion as compared to sadness or shame in your family. Having awareness of what we have learned about what different emotions mean and how to portray them from our families is key. This helps us better understand ourselves so we can either change how we show or what we think about anger or continue to engage in healthy patterns.

What is my anger telling me?” aka “What am I experiencing underneath my anger?

This may be one of the most difficult or uncomfortable questions to really sit with and answer – especially if this is not something you have had to identify previously. It may feel difficult now, and sitting with and sharing discomfort and vulnerability leads to growth! Just like every other emotion we experience, our feelings are always telling us something about our needs – either they are being met or they aren’t. This Feelings Wheel depicts just that. For example, your feeling of anger can be a result of one of your boundaries being crossed.

What are my triggers for anger?

Identifying your triggers for what makes you angry is a great way to identify what you need. Sometimes we are able to avoid certain triggers – for example, maybe sitting in traffic is a trigger and so you may identify that you need to leave earlier or later for work to avoid traffic. However, sometimes we cannot avoid certain triggers. For example, maybe seeing your family leads to feelings of anger – you may be able to see them less, but may not be able to avoid them altogether. This is where coping skills can be helpful!

What helps me control my anger?

Maybe you’ve noticed deep breathing helps bring you to a grounded place. Maybe you just need some space to go on a walk, journal your thoughts, or vent to a loved one. This worksheet goes more in depth about different coping skills for anger. Ultimately, identifying the coping skills that work best for you is a personal journey!

Anger doesn’t have to be scary or concerning for yourself or those around you. Like all emotions, it is something that you can learn to control versus letting it control you – an experience that is empowering! Therapy can be helpful in guiding you through this process of empowerment. I encourage you to continue to use curiosity instead of judgement to better understand your feelings and needs!

written by

Sarah Shah, M.S., LPC-Associate (she/hers) supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Clinician

Meet Sarah!


How to Talk to Your Kids about Race and Racism

child at protest

 
There might be a misconception that children are too young to learn about race. However, it is usually adults who feel uncomfortable talking about racial differences with their child because it may “put ideas in their heads.” Or other adults may feel that children cannot see or understand race because they are so young, which is why conversations about race and racism go unexplored. 

  • Children learn most of their information through direct teachings and modeling from their parents, which is why it is important that parents have meaningful conversations with their children about these issues. 
  • There is an overwhelming amount of research showing that children are not only able to recognize race during infancy, but they also develop racial biases and prejudices between the ages of three and five. 
  • Children are not colorblind but rather are blank canvases. They cannot develop biases and prejudices about race until they are specifically taught to do so. 

So what can parents do to start open and honest conversations about race with their children? 

Parents, be aware of your own biases 

The first step parents can take is to understand their own implicit and explicit biases. Explore how these inclinations can mislead or misdirect your children’s perceptions of difference, race, and diversity. Instead of waiting for others to teach you, take it up on yourself to listen, learn, and ask questions about how your long-held beliefs may be creating barriers and influencing judgment. 
Some reflective questions to ask yourself: How do I navigate race ? How do I discuss race in front of my family ? How do I own up to my mistakes of racism ? 

Use books 

Books are a collaborative and educational resource for you and your child to have direct conversations about race. Stories connect the readers to the information being told, whether it may be about how we celebrate different holidays, honor people of color, or cherish moments in history. They can also be stepping stones to ask thought provoking questions like: What was the story was about ?  How were the subjects in the story treated ? Were there themes of discrimination, prejudice, or privilege present ? How does this story relate to my own understanding of race ? Do not underestimate children and their ability to understand and absorb these complex and important issues. 

Recommended Books: 

  • All the Colors We are (Age 3-6)
  • Don’t Touch my Hair (Age 4-7)
  • Mixed (Age 4-8)
  • Let’s Talk about Race (Age 4-8)
  • The Proudest Blue (Age 4-8)
  • New Kid (Age 8-12)
  • Young Water Protectors (Age 9-12) 

Teach your child to own up to their mistakes 

Inevitably, your child will say or do something explicitly or implicitly racist and in these moments you can teach your child a valuable lesson about responsibility. This can equip them with the tools to learn and understand the harm that was done and what they can do to repair it. There may be an inclination for your child to defend, excuse, or blame others for these mistakes; however, this is an opportunity to teach your child how they can repair ruptures using remorse and self-responsibility. 

Ask your child how they feel – directly 

Having direct heart to heart conversations about how your child perceives race and racism can create dialogues about what they are seeing, thinking, and believing. Over time, these conversations will evoke trust, acceptance, and understanding between you and your child. By no means is navigating race and racism easy. However, talking openly with your child and giving them a space they can be curious, will reinforce the belief that they can come to their parents to process and explore these difficult topics. 

Written by: Geetha Pokala, LPC-Associate, Supervised by Kirby Schroeder LPC-S, LMFT-S

Meet Geetha!


What is Non-Directive (Child-Centered) Play Therapy?

Do your kiddos ever sit you down on the couch and explain to you what they are feeling and why? Well, usually not. You see, adult brains are fully developed and are able to talk and share what’s going on in their lives. Children, on the other hand, are still building their brain and don’t have all of the words to be able to express themselves. However, children can connect, process, and express themselves through play. Garry Landreth, the Founder of Child-Centered Play Therapy, shares, “Toys are children’s words and play is their language”.

What is Play Therapy? What does Non-Directive Mean?

Let’s start with the definition of play therapy, which means children, usually ages 3-12, using toys and art to express themselves and process what they need. That’s right, this counseling room is filled with toys and art supplies. These items serve as a child’s way of expressing what an adult would share with their words. Non-directive allows the client to lead the sessions, meaning getting to play freely without the counselor directing activities or questions. Counselors who use this theory believe the client is the expert in their own lives and will bring into session what they need that day. It can be harmful to force clients to process before they are ready, ultimately delaying progress. 

What Happens in Non-Directive Play Therapy?

Play therapy takes the form of what the child needs it to be in that session. Play therapy could involve the child playing with toys to act out a fight they just had or using art supplies and the sandtray to regulate themselves. Play therapy could also be connecting with the counselor in an activity together, that the child came up with on their own, to build trust and self esteem. The counselor is there to support the child and assist with processing, regulation, and limit setting. If the child invites the counselor into their play, then the counselor will continue to follow the child’s lead. Allowing the client to take the lead enables them to build self-esteem and confidence.

Who Could Benefit from Non-Directive Play Therapy?

Really any child could benefit from play therapy! Play therapy has proven success with children from pre-k to middle school. It is a safe space for them to process and express themselves with someone who isn’t a family member or friend. It establishes a personal relationship that is free from any connection to their outside world. Play therapy can be used with anxiety, depression, emotional dysregulation, anger outbursts, life transitions, divorce, low self esteem, social skill issues, school behavior problems, grief and so much more.

How Does Non-Directive Play Therapy Work?

First of all, play therapy takes lots of time and is thought of as a journey. It is extremely important for the child to come to weekly sessions to create safety, trust, and consistency. Sometimes things can get worse at home before they get better, which is normal since a child is having big feelings that they are not used to expressing. 

The counselor will meet with the child one-on-one, so they are fully able to process what they need without their parent present. The very first step is building trust and rapport with the counselor. Without that, how could anyone process what’s going on in their lives? The counselor will observe and be fully present with the child in a calming space, track the child’s play, and reflect feelings. The counselor will also set limits as needed to provide safety for the child, counselor, and room. The counselor will label positive characteristics and strengths they notice in the child as well.

Is There Parent Involvement?

Yes, and this is so important, you and the counselor are on a team now. The counselor is only with the child once a week for 45-50 minutes, while you, the parent, are with your child the majority of the time. The counselor will first set up an initial intake session with the parent to hear all concerns and goals for the child before even meeting with the child. The counselor will then set up separate sessions, usually every 4-8 sessions, to discuss play themes they are seeing in the session, to hear how the kiddo is doing at home, and to provide parenting support while teaching skills to use at home.

It will be so challenging to not know what is going on in session right away, and it is common for it to take at least 10 sessions before safety and trust is built with your child. It is quite valuable for parents to recognize that when their child begins their journey through therapy, the parent does too. With that comes the task of parents being patient and understanding that their child’s progress is fully maximized when the parent changes alongside with them.

Written by: Sumayah Downey, MA, LPC-Associate, NCC Supervised by Cristy Ragland, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S


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