25 Feb 2019

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

ADHD / How to / Medication / Parenting / Psychology / Therapy / Uncategorized

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Before You Medicate: Considerations Before Starting Your Child on ADHD Medication Part 1

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.

Take away

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.

Thank you for reading.  Feel free to reach out with any questions or topics of interest.  In Part 2 we will be discussing treatments available, what the latest research is saying, and self-care.

25 Feb 2019

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Anxiety / Depression / Habits / How to / Life Coaching / Stress / Uncategorized

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Adjusting Your Nighttime Routine: Tips for Better Sleep and Good Mental Health

For those people who struggle to get a good night?s sleep, have you considered that you might be your own worst enemy? There are some definite ?dos? and ?don?ts? to observe, which include important measures that have a direct effect on your ability to sleep and maintain good mental health. Consistent, restorative sleep is closely tied to mental health ? when you?re tired, your mood suffers, you?re impatient, and you have trouble concentrating. Consequently, your sense of well-being is compromised, and symptoms of depression and anxiety may occur as a result.

What?s more, sleep is especially important for people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. Sleep has a powerful healing effect on the body and mind, bolstering the immune system and strengthening your metabolism. It also improves your mental outlook, an important factor in recovering from the ravages of addiction.

Consider the following points if a lack of sleep is affecting your mental condition and ability to function on a daily basis.

Observe a Sleep Schedule

Many of us get to bed only when our daily responsibilities have been completed and, as such, fail to get the necessary seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Your body functions best when you follow a regular schedule, and going to bed at the same time and waking up every morning at the same time is the best way to recalibrate your internal clock. Also, stick with your sleep schedule through the weekend and on holidays so as not to disrupt your sleep schedule. Eventually, your body will fall into line and let you know when it?s time for bed.

Winding Down

You can?t expect to climb into bed and fall asleep straight away if you?re experiencing sleep deprivation and insomnia. It?s important to spend an hour or two winding down, so prepare yourself to sleep by observing relaxing habits such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, or engaging in meditation. These activities can calm your thoughts and slow your heart rate, both of which are necessary for you to feel sleepy.

Sleep-Conducive Environment

Insomnia can be a serious problem, leading to both mental and physical complications. If it persists, it might be time to take a close look at your sleep environment. People often make the mistake of leaving a TV or computer screen on at night or keeping a smartphone on the nightstand. These are disruptions that can prevent sleep. What?s needed is a dark and quiet environment, so consider installing blackout shades and using a white noise app or machine to mask any disruptive external sound. Pay close attention to the comfort of your bed ? rough sheets and heavy blankets may drive up your body temperature, making it hard to get to sleep.

Don?t Force It

As a kid, do you remember being told by a parent just to lie in bed until you got tired? It?s a convenient piece of parental advice, but it doesn?t work when you?re an adult with a sleep problem. Whether you?re tossing and turning or just lying in bed thinking about next week?s big client presentation or an argument you had with your spouse, you?re only making the situation worse. Instead, get up and sit quietly in a darkened room, or do some light reading until your eyelids start to get heavy.

Limit Food and Drink at Night

Ingesting caffeine at night is a bad idea if you suffer from insomnia, as is eating a meal too close to bedtime. Your metabolism has to work to process the food, and you won?t feel like sleeping. Some people like to have a few drinks before bed, thinking it?ll help them wind down after a busy day. Unfortunately, alcohol undermines the healing, rejuvenating REM sleep you need to feel good and stay healthy.

Think through your sleep habits if you?re having difficulty at night. You might find that a simple adjustment will make a big difference. A consistent nighttime routine, a restful sleep space, and a little willpower in the evening can restore your mental well-being and leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated during the day.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

movie cinema at night 11 Jan 2019

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Michael French / Personal Development / philosophy / Uncategorized

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Let?s Go to the Movies!

A lot of articles on our website look at therapy and various topics, but for this one, we?re going to have a little fun.? I like movies that I can connect to as a man.? I have a unique insight into how your creative juices and inspiration–as a man–are created or driven by visual images.? Any guy willing to admit that the last few scenes in Toy Story 3 brought tears to your eyes?? Or the scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner?s character Ray finally got to meet his (spoiler alert?) dad and ask his father, in his prime, to play catch.? That one gets me every time.

Can you think of movies that speak of a man?s transformation?? If you?re sitting in a counseling session, you?re there because either you or someone you know is longing for change and growth.? Today’s man is challenged by the ever changing definition of what a man should be.? My father’s generation might say that John Wayne was his ideal of a man.? In the 1970s, Bruce Jenner was my idea of what a man should be–and how that has turned out!? Today, we have views of manhood that are so different.? Men struggle to define what being a man is?

Al Bundy and Homer Simpson are not who I would consider Men of the Year candidates.??? But there are movies out there that break the modern dysfunctional stereotype of manhood.?? The movies I?m going to share are merely a subjective list.? These are films that moved and impacted me. Your list might be very different.? At the end of this article, please comment and I would love to see your own list of what movies have inspired you to a higher standard of manhood.? Read on and I hope you enjoy this edition of Mike?s take on film.

First, let?s take a look at the world of football in the cinema.

?Rudy???

scene from Rudy

I love football movies.? The first one I think I cried at was “Rudy” starring Sean Astin.? I didn’t discover this gem until well after it had come out on home video.? This is based on the true story of a boy becoming a man and never giving up on a dream despite so many obstacles thrown in his way.? I still get goosebumps when I watch the film, and I tear up when the crowd begins chanting, “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy” and he finally gets to go in at the end of the game fulfilling his dream.? Remember Jerry Goldsmiths rousing score and when his family sees the fulfillment of Rudy’s dreams as he takes the field?? This movie is simply wonderful and a great illustration of never giving up.

“Remember the Titans”?

denzel washington in remember the titans

The first football movie that was inspiring to me.? I loved the theme of racial reconciliation through adversity.? This is a journey I have been on for awhile now.? I related to Coach Bill Yoast (Will Patton) and his challenge to embrace change while being an example to his football players and more especially, his little girl.? Something about football movies means some great music and the theme of Remember the Titans is instantly recognizable to me.? The soundtrack of some classic songs added an element of nostalgia.

“Facing the Giants”?

Christian movies have struggled for years to compete with mainstream Hollywood.? These movies struggle because they don’t have star power, or a big budget.? People that aren’t religious or spiritual think the films are too preachy.? The qualities of these films have been mediocre at best.? That began to change with “Facing the Giants.”

Not only was it a great story about High School football but it was the first film that I recall that presented the Gospel and a strong life changing message within the context of the story.? You can feel the genuine love and encouragement the movie cultivates within you. You don’t often find this level of faith-driven emotions in film.

My favorite part was the Death Crawl, a grueling exercise in endurance.? I recently watched this movie for the first time in a couple of years and unexpectedly choked up during the scene.? The football player, Brock, doing the crawl represents us and the player on his back reminds of the heavy load that we often carry as men in life.? That “load” is probably different for everybody.? How many times have we given up or not given our very best because we’re tired or hurting?? Or we felt the load was too much to bear?

The other person in the scene with Brock is his Coach.? The Coach was next to him every step of the way.? The Coach is active and not just standing on the sidelines observing.? At one point, the player cries “It hurts!”? The coach says, “I know it hurts! Keep going!” The coach reminds him of his need to give it his very best.? Not when things are easy and going great but when it’s difficult and painful. If you’re a believer in Christ, our coach is God.? There are moments in our life where it would be easy to give up and throw in the towel.

God doesn’t give up and I believe He is in the trenches with us in tough circumstances. His encouragement cries, “I’m with you. Don’t quit, keep going!”? Because He knows how much better we are by not quitting.? Setting this example as men, fathers and husbands demonstrates that struggling and living a life of perseverance will not go unnoticed by the younger generation.?? The results of our struggle if we keep going will far exceed our hopes and expectations.? If you haven’t seen the film, watch it and see how the Death Crawl plays out.? The end result of what the young player went through even surprised him.

A Man’s Man of a movie.

Finally, a look at what I think epitomizes the best qualities of being a man in the movies.?? These films have made me laugh and cry.?? My top three:

Gladiator:

Russel Crowe in Gladiator

Russel Crow starred as Maximus Decimus Meridius.?? He was Rome’s version of Chuck Norris.? You don’t mess with Maximus.? He showed extreme courage in the face of losing his family and defying an Emperor.?? Some movies have quotes that people remember and this film is full of them.

Favorite quotes:? “On my command, unleash Hell.” and? when Maximus was confronted by the Emperor, he chillingly replied, “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” Movie lines don’t get much better that that!

To Kill A Mockingbird

caucasian man next to an african american man in to kill a mockingbird

This bestselling novel by Harper Lee was published in 1960.? In the movie version, Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch, a lawyer, and widowed single dad.? From the website www.artofmanliness.com, this description of a man who lived with integrity every day:

“In Maycomb County, Atticus was known as a man who was ?the same in his house as he is on the public streets.? That was the standard he lived by. He did not have one set of morals for business and one for family, one for weekdays and one for weekends. He was incapable of doing anything that would broach the inviolable sanctity of his conscience. He made the honorable decision, even when that decision was unpopular.”? He chose to defend a black man and many people felt that was the wrong choice.? In Atticus’s mind, as long as he knew he should help someone, popular opinion didn’t matter.? He responded back to his detractors,

?They?re certainly entitled to think that, and they?re entitled to full respect for their opinions, but before I can live with other folks I?ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn?t abide by majority rule is a person?s conscience.??

?Dances With Wolves?

kevin costner with a wolf fom dances with wolves

This Oscar winning film was an illustration of a man being transformed.? Starting off at point A and by the time the movie ended, he was at point B and a very different man.? The journey that he experienced where he believed Native Americans were savages, and even had wanted to sacrifice himself as a hero to embracing and accepting a new people as equals.? That’s the power of man being willing to look at life through a different lens.

Lieutenant John Dunbar played by Kevin Costner at the height of his acting career grew leaps and bounds by the rugged serenity of his new surroundings. Not to mention a really cool pet wolf and faithful sidekick, his hoarse.? Likewise, echoes of his transformation were mirrored by Rodney A. Grant’s character Wind in His Hair.? He disliked Dunbar but over time slowly accepted him and at the end proclaimed him his friend.? I cry every time I see the scene as Dunbar and his wife “Stands with a Fist” leave the camp and Wind in His Hair sits on a horse high on a rocky ledge crying,

“Dances with Wolves. I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?”

Who grew the most, the soldier or the Native American?? Perhaps they were both transformed. ??Have movies encouraged or motivated you to be open to growth? Are they simple forms of escapism or do they challenge us to look deep within ourselves and strive to be living our very best? Movies have been a great form of self care for me. I enjoy escaping for a few hours.? But as the credits role, I have to return to real life.? These men are both real and fictional. They share a common value such as courage to do what’s right. They may stir motivation within us to embrace change and to live life differently within ourselves.? Films with a message call us to life of intentional integrity.?? It’s integrity of how I strive to live my life when I have my final curtain call that will determine how I’ll be remembered.? Not what movies I like.

If you are looking to elevate your game, find hope and meaning for transformation in any area of your life, I can help facilitate that journey of becoming intentional in manhood.? Contact me at Armstrong Family Counseling today.

10 Jan 2019

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Anxiety / How to / Mindfulness / Personal Development / Uncategorized

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Dr. Weil?s 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath

We live in anxious, chaotic times. Watch 10 minutes of any news channel or spend time on any social media app and notice your blood pressure rise. We pride ourselves on our abilities to multi-task. You?ve seen them (or this may be us), during rush hour, driving, talking/texting, putting on make-up (or dry shaving), and eating breakfast, all the while trying to navigate successfully to our destinations. Mindfulness is a call for us to slow down and focus on one thing, one event, one activity at a time…purposeful breathing is at the foundation.

?Breathing?? you may ask, ?Don?t we know how to breathe?? Clearly, it is automatic in the sense that we don?t even have to think about it. The medulla oblongata is the part of the hindbrain that detects levels of CO2 and O2 in the bloodstream and automatically determines if any changes are needed, sending nerve impulses to the heart and diaphragm to either increase or decrease activity. However, the breathing I am talking about in this blog is deliberate and intentional, to produce physiological calmness, emotional well-being, and mental clarity.

Dr. Weil offers us his 4-7-8 breathing rhythm, the ?relaxing breath.? On his YouTube video, he explains that breathing in this manner over time can produce wonderfully ?pleasant states of consciousness? and is one of the best ways to control anxiety and emotional reactivity (especially if you have been triggered in some manner).

To begin, hold your tongue in the Yogi position (behind front teeth, where teeth meet the gumline) exhale for a count of 8, inhale (through your nose) for the count of 4, hold this breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely for a count of 8. Do 3 more breath cycles to complete the circuit and notice any changes. Keeping the ratio is important, of note, the exhale is twice as long as the inhale and holding the breath for 7 facilitates a drop in blood pressure. Practice this throughout the day (bare minimum is twice a day), especially when you notice yourself getting upset, irritated, or otherwise emotionally reactive. Choosing to breathe in this rhythm instead of emotionally reacting allows a gap between irritant and reaction; thus, thoughtfully responding and in control of your words and actions (not emotionally reacting).

The applications for using this skill are numerous: someone cuts you off in traffic (breathe); your child speaks to you in a perceived disrespectful tone (breathe); you are in the check-out line at the store and there is no movement and your ice cream is melting (breathe); you are next in the queue to be interviewed (breathe); you are sitting down to take a test (breathe); you are getting ready to take a free-throw to win your basketball game (breathe); you get the idea. For as many anxious moments we face throughout the days, months, and years of our lives, use this breathing rhythm to calm your body and your mind and be deliberate in your words and actions. Relationships can flourish when we take the time and make the effort to regain emotional control once triggered. Practice Dr. Weil?s breathing rhythm at every opportunity…you will benefit greatly.

*For Dr. Weil?s account, watch his YouTube video here.  

03 Dec 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

How to / Parenting / Psychology / Uncategorized

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4 Ways to Help Encourage Your Children to Attend School

School refusal is becoming and evermore common concern for parents of children and teens.? School anxiety effects 25% of school aged children, with 2-5% refusing to attend school altogether.? With it?s short- and long-term consequences being particularly concerning, parents often feel unsure about how to address the problem.

For our purposes, school refusal should be considered separate from general truancy, due to the presence of emotional distress (specifically around attending school) and an absence of antisocial behaviors.? School refusal is a psychosocial problem, meaning it can be considered the result of both psychological and environmental issues.? This may manifest as complaints of physical symptoms shortly before it is time to leave for school or asking to the nurse, but once allowed to stay home, the symptoms quickly disappear.? Common physical symptoms include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or diarrhea with behavioral symptoms manifesting in tantrums, inflexibility, separation anxiety, avoidance, or defiance.

The emotional distress that is frequently associated with school refusal often manifests as fear or anxiety, with about 50% considered to have anxiety disorders. However, while it is often characterized as anxiety driven avoidance of school and school-based activities, there seems to be no absolute-uniformity in the development of these behaviors. ?Depression has also been shown to be associated with poor school attendance. ?And although mood-related issues are often centered around school or school related activities, that is not always necessarily the case.? For example, the presence of depression often manifests in symptoms that may result in poor attendance yet not be directly related to school, such as general lethargy and/or loss of interest.

The question then becomes, what can be done to help combat school refusal problems?? Most of the research done on school refusal interventions has centered around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), behavioral interventions, and psychopharmacological interventions. A 2016 study that examined the effects of combined intervention of CBT and fluoxetine (Prozac) showed significant improvement in school attendance and mood concerns; with the improvements showing stability at 6 and 12 months. Behavioral interventions often draw upon principles of operant conditioning, focusing on how school refusal has become reinforced; either positively or negatively.? Graded or In Vivo exposure both have a long history of use in anxiety management and can be implemented to help re-acclimate the child to being in school.? Parents can also help support consistent attendance by emphasizing the positive aspects of school, helping to develop a support system within the school, meet regularly with teachers/counselors, encourage distractions such as hobbies and interests, and talking with your child about their feelings/fears about school.

4 Ways to Help Encourage Your Children to Attend School

Although it can be scary and troubling when your son or daughter starts refusing to go to school, it?s important to remember there are things you can do to help.?students chairs

  1. Don?t panic!? It?s tempting to interpret refusal as disrespect, rather fear or distress.? Keep your cool.
  2. Intervene early, as it will improve outcomes.
  3. Utilize outside support; spouse, teachers, counselors, therapists, etc.? You don?t have to do it on your own.?(816) 448-1663
  4. Be supportive.

For more information about helping your child or teen manage their anxiety reach out to Armstrong Family Counseling, (816) 448-1663?or at ArmstrongFamilyCounseling.com.

01 Dec 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Anxiety / Communication / Couples therapy / Depression / Faith / Marriage / Parenting / Personal Development / philosophy / Relationship / relationship counseling / Sobriety / Therapist / Therapy / Uncategorized

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Q&A with Michael French

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.

Credit: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

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:

Relationship Counseling
Singles Counseling
Blended Family issues.
Foster Parent issues
Career concerns
Depression and Anxiety
PTSD
Christian Counseling
Domestic Violence, both victim and perpetrator
Addictions

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.

 

Contact Michael French today!

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Hand over water | symbol of freedom 06 Sep 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

philosophy / Trauma / Uncategorized

Comments: 1 Comment

Freedom From the Past?

Living With the Past?and Freedom From It?

Our past is host to many memories and stories.? Past moments of our lives can bring about a plethora of thoughts and feelings.? Some of my most favorite memories are of the many adventures my wife and me have done together.? Although I’m grateful that I have a lot of fond memories from my past, I have?other memories that are difficult to look at.? These memories serve as reminders of my bad choices, disappointments, my sin, and failure.? I’m sure that if you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you too have struggled with past moments and situations in your life.?

A guy with sunglasses on smiling?People put on a front and cover up those less than pleasing things when interacting with others.? I see these personas when I am at church or out eating and in front of others.? We put on our best clothes and our biggest smiles acting like we have it all together.?? Sometimes we overcompensate by being overly joyful or talking too much.? Most people can see right through it, yet we continue the charade of keeping the mask on that tells the world that everything is ok in our life.

I see it when I meet with clients.? But a few sessions in, that?s when the mask starts to drop and they begin to reveal that on the inside, they don?t have it all together.? Most of their feelings of insecurity, sadness, guilt or shame were rooted in the past.? Past behavior, past hurts, and pain.? They struggle to live in the present because they are stuck, living in the history of their life.? It could be about anything.? Perhaps they were fired from a job for making a mistake.? Maybe they hid a family secret or even a secret of their own like an addiction or bad relationship.

person holding a sad face sign over their face

I recall when I was in college; I attended a support group called Adult Children of Alcoholics.? There were people in attendance that were 60 years or older.? For the first time in their life, they were dealing with things that impacted them from 30-40 years before.? ?Some of them had been carrying their past on their backs like a heavy bag of boulders that represented their most painful and difficult memories.? They became prisoners of those things that preceded their present.? There was no freedom to live in the here and now and look forward to the future as long as they were shackled to their heavy load.? I had my own heavy bag of memories but when I observed the struggle those people went through, I knew I had to let go of that heavy bag before it became heavier or buried me under the weight.? The chains had to drop and I had to find my freedom.

The question then becomes how?? How do we let it go?? Sometimes we don?t even know what bothers us.? Often, the answer is buried under years of repressing and concealment. ??All we know is that ?something? is causing us pain or emotional insanity.? We get to the point of being sick and tired of what we are going through.? That might lead us in seeking out extra help like a counselor or a support group. ??Counseling often stirs things up and one of the consequences of that is that we may feel pain.? That?s difficult for most of us.? We don?t like to feel pain.

However, it is through the pain that we begin to find a way out.? Finding that freedom from our past comes from 2 essential building blocks: Acceptance and forgiveness.? We?ll tackle these one at a time.acceptance displayed through 2 girls laughing together

Acceptance

One the biggest stumbling blocks to moving forward are denial.? We deny the reality to what occurred.? We make excuses or we self-medicate to avoid acknowledging the truth.? Once we can find acceptance, then there is a measure of peace that gives us strength in saying, ?this happened.? Or ?I did this.? There can be no moving forward without this.? I have worked with clients that struggled with addiction, PTSD, and were perpetrators to abuse or were victims of someone else?s violence.?? The first step to their healing began with bravely confronting the past and saying, ?I will face this, no matter what!? ?What things in your past do you need courage to face?

Michael J. Fox is best known for his role as Alex Keaton on the ?80s sitcom ?Family Ties? and the Back to The Future trilogy however in his personal life, he has battled with Parkinson?s disease.? He was diagnosed in 1991 and he had to face that his life would never be the same.?? He had this great thought on acceptance.? ?Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.?? For many of us, after acceptance, the way through to finding freedom from the past points to forgiveness.

Forgiveness:

There are two kinds of forgiveness:?Self-forgiveness and forgiving others.?? In acceptance, we face reality and what happened.? In self-forgiveness, we own the responsibility of what the flaw or mistake was that we committed.? I was fired from my first counseling job because I made a mistake.? After about 6 weeks of struggling with guilt, self-condemnation and?the shame over my actions, I was at my lowest.? I had to be broken.? In my brokenness, I found some scripture that allowed to me work through that difficult time.? They gave me hope for the future.? God wasn?t done with me.? Perhaps they can help you.

Jeremiah 8:4: ?Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.?

Philippians 3:13-14:??Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead, I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.?

Self-forgiveness and accepting Gods forgiveness didn?t take away the action or the consequence.? But it allowed me to live with what happened.? Now when I look back, it is merely an event in my life.? I no longer have feelings of guilt and failure.? I?ve learned and moved on from it.? It no longer holds me as a prisoner.

Johnny Cash once said this about our failures of the past:? ?You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.?

We have talked about self-forgiveness but what about forgiving others.? When someone has wronged us, forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things we do.? For some, it seems impossible and creates a paralysis in even thinking about it and for others; they have tasted a freedom and release of bitterness and hate.

Carolyn Holderread Heggen wrote the book Sexual Abuse: in Christian Homes and Churches.? While the book focuses on abuse in the church and home, you can apply her words to your own journey of forgiving others.?? She writes that offering the offenders forgiveness is not forgetting and it’s not about letting them off the hook.? She said that ?while extending forgiveness is a profoundly spiritual act and can bring spiritual growth, it is not a way of avoiding the pain. It is not done quickly or flippantly to avoid the terror of woundedness.”

So if you’re struggling to come to the point of forgiveness, there is no timetable when such a thing should occur.? Talking to a counselor can help to begin this.?? The author notes that forgiveness “is a process that allows the victim to let go of the intense emotional pain associated with the abuse/offense and replace it with inner resolution and peace.”? She indicates that sometimes the abuser may not be repentant and then forgiveness becomes the process of letting go of the pain and bitterness to God?s care.

We must choose forgiveness–either live with it as it begins to burn bitterness and resentment onto our heart or be willing to give our burden over to a higher power. That requires actively exercising our faith by asking God to help us to work through that struggle to forgive.??? Al-Anon has a saying, “Let go and let God.”? When we let go of this burden and place it into Gods care, the transformation begins and like spring bringing new life to the land, so too does God brings us a new life and peace to our heart.

If you are struggling to find freedom and relief from where you are currently at in life or from your past, I can help.? Perhaps you are struggling to forgive or maybe you have been in denial on certain things.? Contact Armstrong Family Counseling and let us help you begin the road to recovery and independence.

Photo of Michael French M.A., PLPC | Armstrong Family Counseling
Michael French M.A., PLPC

Butterfly | Angela Lake | Armstrong Family Counseling 24 Jun 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Therapy / Trauma / Uncategorized

Comments: 2 Comments

Angela Lake’s Philosophy

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.

Contact me today to start your journey towards, healing, hope, and joy!

14 Jun 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Anxiety / Life Coaching / Personal Development / Therapy / Uncategorized

Comments: 1 Comment

Can Talking To Someone Help My Anxiety?

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!

Girl at peace around flowers 21 Apr 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Depression / Emotional Intelligence / Life Coaching / Personal Development / Uncategorized

Comments: 2 Comments

The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Self-Care

Saying the mind and body are connected is nothing new. The Ancient Greeks attempted to understand the mental phenomena of emotions and their complex connections to physiological order. That fascination continued through the Roman era, the Renaissance, and on throughout history — and that?s just Western European culture. Physicians and philosophers all over the globe have explored the mind and body connection since the beginning of time and even recent science backs up the claim that they are intrinsically connected.

If you are not taking care of your physical self, your mental health is likely not where you want it to be. For instance, one of the main symptoms of depression is poor personal hygiene. Addicts are another good illustration of this problem. Addicts turn to self-harm in the form of drug or alcohol abuse as a way to cope with their own mental health issues. While environmental and genetic components also contribute to the disease, the mind/body link plays its part.

Taking the time to take care of the physical self can have a helpful impact on your mental health and addiction recovery. In addition to seeking help and supervision through a physician, try incorporating the following self-care rituals into your routine.

Establish a Solid Sleep Routine

Sleep is awesome, so why do so many of us get so little of it? According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million American adults have some sort of sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common one. Sleep problems are common in addicts, as well. Drug and alcohol abuse disrupt the body?s natural rhythm along with the neurochemicals and hormones that help control rest. After a while, the body forgets how to rest properly.

Thankfully, you can retrain your body by establishing a sleep routine and following it religiously. It?s not just about going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day — although those two things are key. Practicing good sleep hygiene has a lot to do with how you spend the hours before bedtime.

  • Limit stimulants including nicotine and caffeine.
  • Invest in some soothing herbal teas you can drink leading up to bedtime to help brain and body relax.
  • The glow of your television, computer and smartphone screens keep the brain alert. Turn them off and put them away an hour before bed.
  • Turn your bedroom into a sanctum of rest. Buy yourself nice linens, keep the room temperature cool, and use a white noise machine or essential oils to create ambience.
  • Read a chapter of a book before you fall asleep to help your mind wind down. If you are still not sleepy, read another chapter until you are.

Exercise Regularly

You may think exercise is just something you have to do if you want to lose weight, but it?s essential to the addiction recovery process. Drugs and alcohol trick your body to think it needs them by triggering the brain?s reward system. When you give up those substances, you can help beat cravings with exercise. Physical activity also stimulates that part of the brain while also releasing neurochemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which relieve pain and promote a positive mindset. You don?t have to train for a marathon to get these benefits, either. Just walking an extra half hour a day provides significant benefits.

Explore Healthy Stress Release

Finding some way to release stress and anxiety in a healthy manner is essential for addiction recovery. Meditation, yoga and hobbies like knitting help people tune out those thoughts and criticisms without having to use drugs or alcohol. Think of them like exercise for your brain. During these mindful exercises, you will experience negative thoughts. However, by recognizing those thoughts, dismissing them and returning your attention to your activity, you are training your brain to dismiss them on its own. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and your brain learns to automatically pass over self-criticisms in your day-to-day life so you can stay focused.

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Since the mind and body are connected, your physical health has a significant impact on your mental health and vice-versa. When you struggle with a mental health issue like addiction, incorporating a solid sleep routine, exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms for stress all contribute to recovery. Incorporate daily physical self-care routines in your efforts to heal yourself holistically.

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