BY: Matthew Armstrong
ADHD / How to / Medication / Parenting / Psychology / Therapy / Uncategorized
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Over the last few years the health care community has been forced to take a hard look at the prescription medications that providers have been putting out into the community. The rampant misuse of doctor prescribed opiates, stimulants, and ?benzos? has compelled clinicians to re-evaluate their methods for treating patients. But as encouraging as this trend has been, it is still important for us as patients and consumers to take an active role in our treatment. A balance must be struck between relying on the expertise of providersand being conscious of what we choose to consume.
I want to preface this by saying that the correct medication can do wonders for your mental health. The difficulty stems from (1) thinking that ONLY medications can help and (2) not taking the time to figure out the true nature of the problem before deciding on treatment.
Rule out other causes
It may be tempting to want to get your child on an ADHD medication at the first sign of problems in the home or school. The presence of inattention, difficulty concentrating, irritability, excessive activity or aggression can all be disruptive to your child?s academic success and relationships with family or friends. But, like most endeavors, mental wellness must be built on a solid foundation that cannot be rushed. And the best place to start, is with a proper diagnosis.
This is often easier said than done. For example irritability, increased sensitivity, sleeplessness, temper tantrums, and difficulty concentrating can all be seen by your clinician as signs of ADHD. However, these symptoms are also what you might expect to see with DEPRESSION, as it presents in children. Taking the time to ensure a thorough diagnosis may save you years of chasing your tale with minimal benefit (not to mention money).
Who should I have diagnose?
First and foremost, a diagnosis of ADHD has to come from a health care professional. Resist the urge to self-diagnose! While no one would argue that you aren?t the expert on your child (you almost certainly are) there are clinicians out there who are experts in mental illness, which is what you need. If your child?s school is lucky enough to have a school psychologist, try reaching out to them to discuss options. In the community, the primary clinicians diagnosing ADHD are psychiatrist. These are medical doctors, with expertise in treating mental illness, and they are the only providers (at least in Kansas and Missouri) that can prescribe medication. A Licensed Psychologist may also be a good person to reach out to for an initial diagnosis. Although they cannot prescribe, they can help you create an optimal treatment plan for your child.
With all respect to teachers out there, teachers should not be diagnosing. A well-reasoned recommendation from your child?s teacher may be worth taking into consideration, as they do spend a significant amount of time with your child in a structured environment. But teachers should never diagnose. I would also strongly encourage against letting your primary care physician prescribe psychopharmaceuticals to your child. While they may have had some training in the past on mental illness, that does not mean they?re still well versed in the subject (you likely wouldn?t let your pediatrician perform an operation on you right?). It?s far if your PCP suspects your child may be suffering from a mental illness, to just ask them for a recommendation to a good psychiatrist or psychologist.
What goes into a GOOD diagnosis?
As I previously stated, there is no definitive test for ADHD. I am fond of saying things like, ?there?s no thermometer for depression or blood test for inattention?. But that does not mean we should be taking shots in the dark hoping to hit something; especially when it comes to prescribing medications to a developing brain. There are some ways for you to know that your child is receiving a good, well thought out diagnosis. A thorough evaluationshould include the following:
- Extensive history ? Any thorough diagnostic intervention is going to include a detailed history going back to infancy or earlier. You never know where important diagnostic information may pop up, so having as much information as possible is a plus.
- Multiple settings ? An often overlooked aspect of ADHD is that it appears in multiple settings.? You would normally expect impairment to be fairly global, with signs of hyperactivity/inattention appearing in multiple areas of life.? If you only see symptoms in one area (at school, at home, out with friends, etc.) then it would be a good idea to explore other diagnoses.?*this can be accomplished through testing discussed below*
- Areas of strength ? aside from the difficulties, children with ADHD almost always have tasks or topics for them that are considered strengths and aren?t impaired by symptoms of hyperactivity or inattention.? When interviewing parents of children with ADHD, you almost always hear, ?Little Johnny just can?t focus on anything, except when it comes to ______ .? With that he?s focused in.?? It?s important to focus on these areas (reading, video games, sports, etc.) and take them into consideration during diagnosing.
- Psychological testing?? I know, I know, I said there?s no DEFINITIVE test for ADHD.? But there are assessments that can lend some measure of objectivity to the diagnosing process and help rule out other issues besides ADHD. These tests include the Conners 3?, BASC-3, or Brown ADD Scales??and should be administered and interpreted only by a qualified professional.? A good psychological assessment should include 1) a developmental history, (2) a parent rating scale, (3) a teacher rating scale, (4) a self-report, and (5) observation.?
Now, clinicians certainly don?t HAVE to go through all of these steps before giving an ADHD diagnosis. In fact, there are plenty out there that will give your child a diagnosis and prescription after one, 50 minute interview. But like any treatment, you want to be sure your provider is treating the correct thing. Just like you would want testing done to confirm lung cancer, rather than asthma for example, before starting chemotherapy. Before your provider prescribes your child stimulants, it?s worth taking the time to rule out other causes; like depression.
There are plenty of good and effective medications and treatments available to help manage ADHD symptoms in your child. But, there are ZERO shortcuts. Before you invest the time, energy, and money into your child?s treatment, it?s crucial that you insist your clinician take the time to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
BY: Matthew Armstrong
Anxiety / Communication / Couples therapy / Depression / Faith / Marriage / Parenting / Personal Development / philosophy / Relationship / relationship counseling / Sobriety / Therapist / Therapy / Uncategorized
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What do you do?
My real title is Option Bringer. Clients that seek counseling often feel that there are little to no options in what they are struggling with. My role is to show them that there are options. I accomplish this by connecting. Connection is the key! My approach emphasizes creating a safe nonjudgmental space that allows clients to process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I enjoy giving clients homework in the form of worksheets that they can utilize to gain insight, knowledge and perspective. These are ?tools? that can provide clients success if they utilize them. All of this can provide hope and a way forward even in the most difficult of circumstances.
How do your life experiences contribute to your counseling style?
Helen Keller once said, ?Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.? My life and all its mountain tops and valleys are a reflection of this quote. Listing my ?credentials? in life doesn?t seem enough. We all have our trials and moments of great stress and grief that shape our life. I have endured and been blessed by my own. From the pain of addiction to the loss of my sister to suicide, those things were not easy to overcome. But God?s grace showed me I can. His strength was what I needed to stand and find my way out of the darkness.
This road of growth and change also wasn?t without error. Mistakes, yes, there were a few. But I learned from them. Through it all, including my years in graduate school and this journey of counseling, I have had a couple of constants that have kept me going. First, is my relation with Jesus Christ. He has guided me through all the twists and turns of my life. He has never left my side or walked away, even when I detoured from Him. Whatever success I have in this field I owe to Him. I can?t do this without His direction and His wisdom. Then there is my wife LeeAnn. She has validated and affirmed me like no one else. She helped me believe that I can go from being pessimistic to optimistic. I am driven to be the best I can be due to her never-ending patient love for me. So game on! I am in this game, an active participant, and I look forward to helping you elevate your game.
What do you specialize?
I work predominantly with adults 18 and up. Within that age group, I work and support clients in the following areas:
Blended Family issues.
Foster Parent issues
Depression and Anxiety
Domestic Violence, both victim and perpetrator
How do you approach therapy?
Everything in the client/counselor relationship starts with rapport. This is a strength I believe I have. As I mentioned earlier, having connection with the client is a cornerstone to success. Being consistent and showing up as myself. Showing up as authentic and fully present is something I strive for in every session. I don?t try to be someone I?m not.
Clients benefit when they see that they can be authentic. They don?t have to pretend they have it all together. They can be themselves around me. As trust increases, clients often start to peal back the different layers of their life. That?s when the real work begins. Lastly, as a Christian, whatever skill sets I have I rely on Him for guidance. So prayer is something that if clients ask for it, I offer it to them. Prayer is vital to what success I have and prayer is an effective weapon against the difficulties that all of us go through.
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BY: Matthew Armstrong
Personal Development / Therapy
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Take a moment to reflect on this morning. What was your first thought when you awoke? If you are like many people, it was, ?I did not get enough sleep last night.? It is also likely that your last thought as you prepare to go to sleep each night is, ?I did not accomplish enough today.? If you are frequently beginning and ending most days with these ?not enough? thoughts, you might have difficulty engaging in positive thinking throughout each day. Your thoughts about all the things in your life that are ?not enough? may lead to feeling that you are not enough.
Our culture is filled with messages that feed this ?not enough? mindset. There are expectations that in order to be enough, you have to be the best, work the hardest, and achieve the most. This idea that the ordinary is not enough cultivates dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Replacing your ?not enough? thinking with positive thinking will improve your satisfaction and feelings of happiness. This process starts with a shift in perspective.
Circumstances have a lot less control over your emotions than you might realize. Your emotions, including feelings of happiness, are closely connected to your thoughts. Positive thinking leads to positive emotions. A key to increasing positive thinking about yourself and your experiences is gratitude.
Gratitude is more than saying, ?thank you,? to a stranger for holding the door open. Gratitude is a state of being ? a lifestyle. Living in a state of gratitude means recognizing that you do have control of your thoughts and choosing to trade in your, ?not enough? thinking, for ?enough? thinking. Gratitude is choosing to say, ?this is good, because?,? or, ?I am doing well, because??
Mindfully choosing to practice gratitude will increase contentment, reducing ?not enough? thinking which traps people in shame and feelings of inadequacy. Gratitude provides freedom from feelings of shame and inadequacy and allows you to begin thinking positively about yourself and your circumstances.
BY: Matthew Armstrong
Life Coaching / Personal Development / philosophy / Therapy
Comments: No Comments
Why do you do what you do?
My main goal is to connect with people, build real authentic relationships & participate in a journey of change together! I encourage my clients to be authentic, transparent and assertive in getting their needs met. I feel genuine satisfaction and gain energy after every session. This is honestly my dream job.
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What makes therapy with you unique?
I use humor and laughter to break barriers with clients. I am easy going and I understand that life happens. My goal is for therapy to be enjoyable and something people can look forward to instead of dread! I use unique ways to connect with clients-art, music, games, role play?whatever is needed to keep it fresh and engaging.
What is a therapy session with Lauren like?
I use mindfulness meditation strategies at the beginning of every session to help patients relax and be in the moment. I love many different modalities, specifically I use DBT tools, CBT, SFBT, ACT, EFT and EMDR to assist my clients with problem solving, process trauma, reduce misery and improve their quality of life.
I love to play games, do collages, make playlists and other strategies to keep therapy fun and interesting. I enjoy connecting with clients in the group setting as well, engaging with each individual, as well as helping the group become cohesive and work towards similar goals.
What makes you, you?
I am a musician and often incorporate the feelings that are created by music into therapy. I enjoy utilizing music as expression. I also am a photographer and enjoy making clients laugh and smile throughout their wedding/engagement sessions because capturing joy is a passion of mine. I play volleyball weekly, sing karaoke, travel whenever I can and use those hobbies and experiences to help my clients understand different avenues where they can express themselves or build mastery. I have lost a parent and have experienced grief/loss first hand, so I use that knowledge to truly connect with those who are suffering from loss.
How does your specific skill set benefit your clients?
After working with me (or during) I help my clients feel and more importantly, assist them with accepting things they can?t change, feel in touch and in control of their emotions, develop healthy and happy relationships and feel a sense of fulfillment & mastery.
BY: Matthew Armstrong
Anxiety / Depression / Faith / Family / Marriage / Relationship / Therapy / Trauma
Comments: 1 Comment
I am a therapist because I believe therapy is a tool that God created to heal the broken-hearted. I believe that this is a broken world and sin often leaves trauma in its wake. As a therapist, my goal is to work with families to break the family cycle of trauma. Trauma impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. Too often, I?ve seen people minimize their own trauma or the trauma of others. Minimizing the travesty of trauma does not help the healing process and can lead trauma victims have low self-esteem due to belief that they have little or no worth.
I love this quote that I came across on twitter last year, ?Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling yours or anyone else?s traumas just because it wasn?t ?as bad? as someone else?s. This isn?t a competition. We all deserve support & recovery? @jesssxb
My goal as a therapist is to provide support and recovery to victims of trauma so that they can learn to know their own worth and view themselves as worthy of growth, positive change, and a healthy life.
I cater my approach to individual client needs. I find that depending on the therapy approach that is most appropriate to the client, there are often pre-existing exercises/worksheets that are evidence based. I naturally have a DBT therapy style, but am eager to continue to grow in the use of models which come less naturally to me as no therapy approach fits every client?s needs. I have had training in Motivational Interviewing which is based in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Motivational interviewing is incredibly helpful for helping individuals make difficult changes and stick with those changes.
As an adolescent I struggled with a lot of insecurity and depression. I was raised in a legalistic Christian home where I learned all about God?s wrath, and nothing about his mercy and love. I felt trapped in my own imperfection and was certain that perfection was the only acceptable lifestyle due to my family culture. This caused a lot of feelings of worthlessness and led to deep depression. I was blessed to be part of a great youth group at my church where I had a mentor and healthy mother figure who poured a lot of prayer, time, and love into me. God used her in my life to show me that the perfection I was striving toward was crippling me and keeping me from genuine growth.
As I began to believe that I have value and worth, I found myself wanting to empower other women to break free from their own insecurity and low self-esteem. When I was working toward my bachelor of social work degree, I worked in a restaurant. I recommended to a coworker that she should go home after work and write down ten things she likes about herself because she I observed that she had little to no sense of self-worth. I learned years later that she actually did so and it began her own journey of increasing her self-esteem. I have met very few women that do not experience shame/guilt for not meeting societal expectations. I have also seen the ripple effect that occurs when women empower other women to improve their core beliefs about themselves and the world.
BY: Matthew Armstrong
Therapy / Trauma / Uncategorized
Comments: 2 Comments
A personal philosophy I have is the butterfly in the cocoon. The caterpillar typically has spun a cocoon around themselves, and are struggling and fighting to change (fighting their existence of being a caterpillar, fighting the environment, fighting the metamorphosis itself). If someone tears open the cocoon the butterfly will die. The caterpillar must do the work to change and become the beauty the lies within. They may not understand who they are as a caterpillar, they may not know how to change, they may not have an environment that is safe for them to change, they may fear or not believe they can become a butterfly.
As a therapist I want to assist in understanding of self, to define desires or goals, to encourage and support change and work toward goals, to give tools and interventions, to provide information and education, and to celebrate the butterfly.
BY: Matthew Armstrong
Anxiety / Life Coaching / Personal Development / Therapy / Uncategorized
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There is an old proverb, ?Confession is good for the soul?. ?But is it really?
It sounds odd but can talking with somebody make you feel better? ?It can and it does. But why does it work? Why can just something as simple as talking about something that you are worried about, or feel guilty about make you feel better and less stressed?
To understand that question you have to understand how memory storage in our brains work. ?Doctors as far back as the 1890?s have recognized some memories fade into nothing and some memories resist that fading away. ?Mostly the memories that won?t fade are ones that are charged with emotions.
Simply, there is a part of us that feels and there is a part of us that thinks. ?Generally, we want to keep these things in balance. However, in life when we are scared, worried, guilty or sad we feel those emotions strongly. ?When your feelings are strong it diminishes your capacity to think; especially, your ability to say what you are feeling.
Have you ever seen a parent tell their screaming child to ?use your words?? ?The parent instinctively recognizes that a child has to calm down and talk before they can stop being hysterical. That is because when the part of your brain that feels gets overwhelmed your body will actually shut down parts of itself in order to conserve fuel. ?When the ?fight or flight? part of your mind is triggered, energy is diverted from other parts of your brain?systems in order to give you energy to fight of run. One area that is impacted?is your ability to think rationally. ?
So, let?s say you got in an argument that escalated. Or that you made a mistake at work and are scared you will be fired for it. ?So, in that moment you are feeling strong emotions instead of thinking.? If you do not communicate with anyone about it, after your emotions have calmed down, you will be putting that memory into the bookshelf of your mind with an emotional charge.
So what does an emotionally charged memory do? ?An emotionally charged memory is one that when you think about that memory you feel that emotion all over again. So you could be lying in your bed after having had a great day but start thinking about something from your past and BAM! Right there in your bed you feel what you felt then. ?Despite the fact that you just a moment ago felt at peace with the world. That is an emotionally charged memory.
Going back to the initial question, why does talking help you feel better?? Because in order to take the charge out of a memory you have add thought to that memory.? ?Remember that you both think and feel.? A memory that is all feeling and no thinking will remain a charged memory.? But when you talk about the past, especially when you think about what you were feeling and why, it helps add thought to that memory . ?A memory that has thought and feeling in it a memory that can be put on the bookshelf of your mind and just fade into the thousands of other memories there.
When you talk to someone who influences you to think about why you felt what you felt it can make that emotional charge go away which feels wonderful. ?This is why the whole practice of counseling even exists. To help people remember their past without feeling what they felt in the past.
Do you feel that you are haunted by your past? ?Do you feel that there are things in your past that you will never get over?? Let’s get together. I can help you move forward. Contact me today!