Help!  I need Somebody! Help…!

This is the second installment of a four part series. In the first post we covered some ideas related to how families can begin exploring ways to get help and how to know when professional help is needed. In this issue we will explore some strategies that can help ensure you find the right the right therapist to help you and your family given your specific needs.

How do we find the right counselor or therapist for us?

Among the best places to start is within your current circle of family, friends and caregivers.  Ask friends who you know are in therapy if they like their therapist.  In her 2017 New York Times article, How to Find the Right Therapist, Marissa Miller suggested that If they do, find out what qualities they like about them and ask your friends to ask their therapists for referral lists.

She went on to suggest that find a psychologist, ask your physician or another health professional. Call your local or state psychological association. Consult a local university or college department of psychology. Ask family and friends. Contact your area community mental health center. Inquire at your church or synagogue. Or, use APA’s Psychologist Locator service.

Jane Ryan, co-founder of Ryan Therapy Services, based in Tacoma Washington, explained that there are some major sites that help clients find therapists in their area. The biggest one is Psychology Today. You simply put your zip code in and the therapists in your area come up. If you are looking for a therapist who specializes in a specific issue or problem or works with teens or the elderly, or couples, you can also put that in the search.  Jane suggests another simple search that many overlook. Simply plug search commands into google — something like, “therapists who specialize in… located in…”

Then you can view therapists’ websites and read in detail about their work. Jane believes any therapist worth going to will be open to a brief phone conversation during which the client can “interview” them or a session that allows the client to meet the therapist in person and ask questions to see if the match is good. Many therapists offer a short session (30 minutes) as an “interview” without charge; others offer a full session.

Another reoccurring concept that surfaced while researching this topic is the idea of looking for chemistry. Treat your first appointment like a job interview. Before making your first call, look at a therapist’s online presence on Yelp-like databases like Vitals, ZocDoc and Healthgrades. Don’t forget to do a quick scan of social media too! There will be some clues based on publicly available information that may help you determine who you might enjoy working with.

As you begin to interact with your counseling candidates ask yourself questions that will help you discern whether or not you can have a productive long-term relationship with them. Ask questions like:

Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do they really list to me? Is he or she asking enough questions? Has the therapist asked about your goals– how you want your life to be? Do you feel satisfied with the counselor’s resources? Do you feel comfortable with their level of knowledge and understanding in your areas of need? Does what the therapist says make sense to you and the rest of your family? Does it help you or not?

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One way to save time and work efficiently is to conduct your initial interview with the therapist candidates on the phone for a few minutes and ask what he or she enjoys most about counseling. Ask what school the therapist attended, ensuring proper accreditation as opposed to an online certificate. Ask about specialties, noting how comfortable the response is when you share your issue. Ask about licenses and look them up to be sure the therapist hasn’t incurred any infractions (this information is available at state licensing boards like this one in Pennsylvania). Finally, has the therapist ever attended therapy? Some suggest that it is important to work with a therapist who has actually worked through issues with a therapist. This is important for several reasons, one of which is this ensures they understand the needs of a therapy client, first-hand.

In the next installment we will explore ways to manage costs related to family therapy and support.  If you are new to the journey of care you may feel relieved to know that there are some very reasonably prices solutions you can fit into your budget. No matter how stretched you are financially you can find effective emotional support for you and your family.

Tom Nieman is a Founder and President of The LIV Foundation and a financial services industry veteran. The best place to reach Tom is on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomnieman/

or on email at tommynieman@gmail.com

If you want to learn more, need help or know someone who needs help check out the following resources:

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care: http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/social-work-and-spiritual-care/about

The LIV Foundation: http://www.thelivfoundation.org/

References used for this blog post:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freudian-sip/201102/how-find-the-best-therapist-you

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/how-to-find-therapist#1

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/smarter-living/how-to-find-the-right-therapist.html?mcubz=3

https://www.thespruce.com/when-do-i-need-family-counselor-1270709

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Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water

When and how to start your search for a therapist for you and your family when on the journey of care.

How can I start to explore ways to get help for my family?

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When you start your child’s treatment journey the direct care team likely will be your first and best source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Support services are a critically important part of your child’s care because they help to fortify the holistic elements of care for your sick child and your whole family. These resources might include nursing services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, and/or spiritual help. Several families who have lived the treatment journey and several healthcare professionals have explained that often the best way to start your exploration of these resources is through the social work team assigned to you and your child at the hospital where the diagnosis was made and/or where initial treatment ensued. The Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for example, is staffed by nearly 100 masters-trained social workers. They provide services to families during inpatient hospitalizations, when visiting an outpatient office or clinic, and even after a child returns home after treatment.

Support groups and organizations like The American Cancer Society also have programs and services – including lodging, support groups, and more – to help your child get through treatment. They also can serve as a good referral source for ideas related to therapy options and emotional support.

How do I know when we need professional help?

Deciding if marriage and family therapy is right for a family can be an enormous decision. While it may feel initially like admitting defeat, failure or weakness, in truth choosing family counseling can be a sign of strength. Perhaps Wayne Parker said it best in his blog post entitled “When Do I Need a Family Counselor?” posted on The Spruce back in March 2017, when he suggested that one should think of family counseling as adding additional tools to your family’s relationship and coping toolbox. You can learn new ways to communicate effectively, examine and adhere to your values, to work through challenges together, and disciplines which will help you relate to each other.

Wayne went on to say that if your family is experiencing and of the following symptoms, it may be time to consider engaging the services of a qualified professional marriage and family therapist.

  • Family members have difficulty functioning in their normal capacity. Do you feel an “energy drain” in your family? Things that used to be routine and normal are now burdensome?
  • Family members tend to have extreme emotional reactions. Do members of your family exhibit excessive anger, fear, sadness, depression or other emotional reactions?
  • There is a significant breakdown in communication between family members. Do you find it harder to communicate than usual? Are you experiencing the “silent treatment” more often than usual?
  • Family members are withdrawing from family life. Is there a new pattern of one or more family members going into seclusion?
  • There are symptoms of violence or the threat of violence to oneself or other family members. Beyond normal “horseplay,” do you feel that violence is a problem? Is there behavior that would be considered “assault” if it weren’t between family members?
  • Family members express feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. Do you feel that you have reached the end of your rope? Is coping with the stresses just too much to bear? Do you wonder if your family will ever recover?
  • There have been changes in the children’s behavior at home or school. Are grades taking a nosedive? What about attendance problems or disruptive behavior at school? Is one of the children out of control at home?
  • The family has had a traumatic experience by way of the diagnosis. Are family members are having a hard time coping or difficulty adjusting to the new reality while on the treatment journey?
  • Family members have substance abuse problems. Are there challenges with alcohol or drug use? Is there a family member with an eating disorder?

Many families who have gone through the treatment journey have expressed that therapy or counseling has helped them gain perspective, remain effective at work and even helped the family grow closer together emotionally.

Stay tuned for our follow-up blog post entitled “Help!  I need somebody…” where we will share insights related to how to interview and select the right counselor or therapist for you and your family while on the journey of care.

Tom Nieman is a Founder and President of The LIV Foundation and a financial services industry veteran. The best place to reach Tom is on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomnieman/

or on email at tommynieman@gmail.com

If you want to learn more, need help or know someone who needs help check out the following resources:

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care: http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/social-work-and-spiritual-care/about

The LIV Foundation: http://www.thelivfoundation.org/

References used for this blog post:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freudian-sip/201102/how-find-the-best-therapist-you

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/how-to-find-therapist#1

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/smarter-living/how-to-find-the-right-therapist.html?mcubz=3

https://www.thespruce.com/when-do-i-need-family-counselor-1270709

Quiet Warrior Next Door

5 things you may not know about your friend or family member who cares for a chronically ill child

Amazing advances in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic illness in children and adolescents have changed drastically in recent years. Diseases that were once fatal are now effectively treated and children survive at much higher rates than just a few years ago. Today, as a result of this tremendous progress, millions of children and adolescents in the United States now live with chronic illnesses and medical conditions including diabetes, cancer, neurofibromatosis, sickle cell disease, asthma, and chronic pain. A second order result of this progress is that more and more parents and families are confronted with chronic stress related to caring for their children on the long and difficult treatment journey.

5 things you may not know about your friend or family member who cares for a chronically ill child:

  1. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms are experienced in 30-40% of parents with children who have cancer within six months of their diagnosis 1,2  That’s right… PTSD is normally associated with wounded combat veterans but parents and children on the long hard chronic illness treatment journey suffer terribly when dealing with similar symptoms.
  2. They are nearly twice as likely to report symptoms of burnout. 40-60% of parents with chronically ill children report symptoms burnout of syndrome, as expressed by symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, listlessness, tension and cognitive difficulties.3
  3. Some good news perhaps? The divorce rate amongst parents with children diagnosed with cancer is no higher than the rest of us married folk.4  Albeit this study was conducted in Norway which may not be reflective of results in other parts of the world.
  4. 27% of parents caring for children with chronic illness like Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia relocated residences in many cases out of necessity or financial hardship5
  5. 68% of parents decreased work hours and 46% of those parents who have decrease their work hours either quit or lose their jobs5

These illnesses and their treatment, present children and their parents with significant sources of chronic stress that can cause many challenges beyond the illness they battle including emotional and behavioral problems. Furthermore, many pediatric illnesses are exacerbated by stress encountered in other facets of children’s lives like school, extracurricular activities, and changes in relationships with friends, etc. It is therefore essential to understand the ways that children, adolescents and adults cope with stress to better illuminate processes of adaptation to illness and to develop effective strategies to enhance coping and adjustment while on this journey.

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Nothing prepares us for parenthood. There is no manual; there is no training commensurate with the commitment of being a parent and there is no required license. Parents want to protect their children, keep them safe and watch them grow into productive, happy adults with rich full lives. It can be particularly devastating to learn that your child has a chronic illness such as diabetes, cancer, neurofibromatosis, juvenile arthritis or any of the other chronic illnesses that comprises the very long list of such conditions that will have a large unpredictable impact on your child, your family and your future.

When on the journey of caring for a chronically ill child it is all too easy to forget about the importance of self-care. This is why it is important to seek and accept help. The best place to start is at your hospital’s Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care. Leveraging the expertise of professionals when on this journey can save families time, reduce frustration and give them access to resources and information that can be difficult to find without help. With information, support, and talking about their experience, most children and families are able to cope with the stress related to the extraordinary demands placed upon them during their journey of care.

About the author

Tom Nieman is a Founder and President of The LIV Foundation and a financial services industry veteran. The best place to reach Tom is on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomnieman/   or on email at tommynieman@gmail.com

If you want to learn more, need help or know someone who needs help check out the following resources:

Caregiver Action Network: http://www.caregiveraction.org/

Family Voices: http://www.familyvoices.org/

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities: http://www.nichcy.org

The National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/caregiver-support/parents

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care: http://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/social-work-and-spiritual-care/about

The LIV Foundation: http://www.thelivfoundation.org/

References to research:

  1. Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Parents of Children With Cancer Within Six Months of Diagnosis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243458/
  2. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in families of adolescent childhood cancer survivors: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15131138
  3. Increase Prevalence of burnout symptoms in parents of chronically ill children (PDF Download Available). Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/38088120_Increase_Prevalence_of_burnout_symptoms_in_parents_of_chronically_ill_children
  4. Child’s cancer does not raise divorce risk: Reuters Article written by Amy Norton that references a broad study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, online December 28, 2009. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cancer-divorce-idUSTRE6073GA20100108
  5. Family Life Events in the First Year of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Therapy: A Children’s Oncology Group Report: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4282930/