social skills

Hello, It’s Nice to Meet You!

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Alicia Cox, MA

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I’d like to introduce myself to all of you. I am one of the newest marriage and family therapist associates at Healing Pathways Psychological Services and am so excited to be working with such an amazing and supportive team. I am currently gaining hours towards my license and am working under Dr. Kashersky’s advisement.

As an undergraduate, I majored in genetics and psychology. I think my science background gives me an interesting perspective with clients. I sometimes like to view problems from an evolutionary psychology perspective and use cognitive behavioral therapy in practice. I also have training in Mindfulness and use it in as a therapeutic invention with my clients.

Before going back to school for my graduate degree, I worked in the field of clinical research. I initially started as a research coordinator in a pain medicine clinic, working on research studies focused on pain medication addiction.

Most of my career in research was spent at the UC Davis MIND Institute, where I worked for 9 years. In my position as a clinical research coordinator, I worked with families who had children, adults and families impacted by Autism Spectrum disorder, Fragile X syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, Down syndrome and adults being treated for strokes. Even though I loved my work, I realized the limitations of my position and wanted to pursue a career in which I could contribute more to the treatment of individuals and their families. My trajectory then shifted and I decided to become a marriage and family therapist.

As a graduate student, I completed some clinical training at the MIND Institute. I was a co-leader for multiple social skills groups. I also worked in the ADHD and Learning Differences clinic, helping with a parent education group and completing intakes for new clients in the clinic. From working on research studies and in the clinic, I also gained a lot of experience and training in administering psychological, neuropsychological and academic testing.

My clinical interests include working with families and individuals diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders and/or chronic illness. I also have an interest in working with individuals experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility.

In my time at home, I have a very active life with my husband, two sons, two dogs, two cats and two fish. We are animal lovers and have adopted 4 pets to prove it! I also enjoy traveling, running, playing tennis, reading, gardening and listening to podcasts in my free time.

I look forwarding to working with my colleagues at Healing Pathways and with many of you. Also, look at for my future blogs featuring topics on neurodevelopmental disorders, chronic illness and women’s issues.

 

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On Parenting: A Classroom for Healing the Generational Conflict Cycle

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(Photo Credit: ESB Professional)

“…The universe is part of this one cry,
every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

By Jason Briggs, MA

According to the Global Survey of Violence Against Children put out by the United Nations, “every year, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence”. 1 Alice Miller, PhD, is a psychologist, sociologist, philosopher and renowned author of many books on child abuse describes in her book, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, how past child abuse is meted out against children in innumerable ways and typically by parents who assume consciously or not, a “for your own good” maxim.  Miller shows how the many parenting approaches endorsed in western society produce a multi-generational conflict cycle, through overt and covert trauma bonds. These bonds within the child/caregiver relationship are felt and aren’t impacted by analytical thought so they touch all our families equally, regardless of educational level, socio-economic status, race, etc. This blog will explore one aspect of this generational conflict cycle and be a part of a series of blogs with some solutions offered in each blog. The goal is to help parents identify and begin healing to eventually resolve the generational conflict cycle. (See Alice Miller’s book: For Your Own Good: Hidden Roots of Cruelty and Violence in Child Rearing for exploring the ways this cycle is perpetuated.)

The generational conflict cycle begins when parents with unhealed emotional wounds unconsciously attempt to get their own emotional needs met by their children. Parents will do this both consciously and unconsciously and often see their children through the veil of their own unfinished business (by bypassing this aspect of their powerful inner life), which consists of “…past internalized perceptions, which are ‘frozen’ and usually stemming from childhood.” The effects on children are they must idealize their parents to survive as their own healthy needs go unmet, the ability to soothe themselves is further perceived as hopeless, and the true self (the entire access to ones innate inner life: feelings, thoughts, wants, needs, choices, decisions, beliefs, sensations, dreams, fantasies) goes into hiding in the unconscious while a false self emerges. This child’s false self is the one that complies and relates from the parental emotional wounds as solidified judgments, which are projected onto their children, seen predominately as children’s misbehavior, oddities, attitudes, or any other judgement. This is the way a parent unconsciously ends up placing the emotional needs of the parent above their children’s emotional needs and maintains the generational conflict cycle.

Emotionally neglected children, commonly grow up to be adults who in turn, emotionally neglect their inner emotional world and those of their children. Our neglected emotional and psychological needs by the now adult parent are automatically passed on to the next generation. This generational conflict cycle, when denied, operates as generational conflicts maintained in the parent/caregiver/child relationship and takes many forms (See Alice Miller’s book: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, for exploring more in depth ways we function in society to hold power over children, to the betrayal of children).

As parents, cultivating a mindful stance that addresses the neglect of our own unmet emotional needs helps shift the parenting stance from mindless to mindful. The hope of making this shift from the mindless to the mindful means choosing to end the bypassing of doing one’s own inner work and being self-responsible for the condition of one’s own mind. One way to do this is by choosing to see our pain as an opportunity for healing and growth, rather than a curse. Exploring that opportunity as a healing choice means to begin addressing one’s own generational conflict cycle, regardless of the time, patience, and persistence required. Therapy that helps promote healing maintains that parents focus on certain essentials to recovery, by: 1) slowing down and understanding the steps in going from ‘zero to sixty’, 2) learning about projection and it’s guises (projection is an emotional wound that is seen in another, because it is been denied in ourselves), 3) seeking therapy that focuses on experiential work that at some point includes body awareness work, 4) learning about the nature of the psyche, what constitutes its dynamics, and explore if and when a self-help approach is limiting our efforts to heal (as we may be unknowingly perpetuating a belief  that we must do our inner work alone), 5) being willing to learn about mindsight research in attachment and effective parenting (see Daniel Siegel’s work), and the way the caregiver’s role, emotions, and psyche condition impact our children’s healthy and unhealthy development, 6) exploring new and creative ways to heal and nurture ourselves as parents, as the cause for our truly being there for our children, 7) being willing to cultivate understanding and compassion in our healing and growth process, as parents.

All parents have a thankless job with most never consciously wanting to harm their children, and appealing to that truth, I see this daily in service to my clients who are parents, and see this is true, being mostly out of awareness. The generational conflict cycle may mean we need help in understanding its causes, effects, and what heals it.  One way to explore essentials to healing it is to enjoy a great read by Charles Whitfield, MD, researcher and psychotherapist from Atlanta, Georgia, titled, Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self. For help with understanding these skills more experientially by using emotional, psychological, or spiritual disciplines, ask yourself, “Is it time to give a gift to myself and my children by seeing my own emotional and psychological pain as a classroom for learning about my inner life?” For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES! Before I cultivated a proper focus on addressing my own unmet emotional and spiritual needs, I was a smiling, charming and successful parent but was only one half alive, meeting only my physical and mental needs! We are here to live life fully and with joy. As parents, one way of taking steps toward that fullness of life is to explore our choices for healing, and when ready, to decide to begin to explore what it means to see parenting as a classroom for healing our own generational conflict cycle.


References

Miller, Alice (1984). Thou shalt not be Aware, society’s betrayal of the child    Toronto, Canada. Collins Publishers

Miller, Alice (1997).  Drama of the Gifted Child, the Search for the True Self   Garden City, New York.  Basic Books

Trout, Susan (1990).  To See Differently, Personal Growth and Being of Service Through Attitudinal Healing. Three Roses Press

Whitfield, Charles (1993).  Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing Protecting and Enjoying the Self.  Health Communications, Inc.

https://www.compassion.com/poverty/child-abuse.htm United Nations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Toward a World Free From Violence: Global Survey on Violence against Children, October, 2013.

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The Voices Within, Part 1

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(Photo Credit: Klaus Hertz-Ladiges)

By Paul Hubbard, MA

Voice Dialogue work is a psychotherapy modality developed by Drs. Hal and Sidra Winkelman Stone. It has roots in Jungian psychology and involves accessing different sub-personalities like the inner child and the inner critic, among many others. Most people go through their lives more strongly identified with particular sub-personalities, or primary selves, while generally dis-identifying from other, more opposite sub-personalities, or disowned selves.

In Voice Dialogue work one learns to identify both their primary selves, and their disowned selves. The primary selves are the part of the personality that one tends to be more identified with. For example, the selves that help one to better fit into and/or be more successful within a social circle or in the world in general that one moves in.

In Jungian terminology, the disowned selves are a part of the shadow (Stone & Winkelman, 1989). The shadow represents the aspects of “ourselves that we do not know or refuse to know, both dark and light. It is the sum total of the positive and negative traits, feelings, beliefs, and potentials that we refuse to identify as our own.” It is the “part of us that is incompatible with who we think we are or who we are supposed to be.”

In our relationships, we tend to attract others who reflect the disowned aspects of ourselves. The more these various aspects have been disowned or more deeply buried in the unconscious the stronger the reaction tends to be when we encounter others who live out more overtly the disowned parts of ourselves. “We can be helpless victims to the multitude of relationships in our lives that reflect our disowned selves or we can accept the challenge of these relationships and ask: ‘How is this person or this situation, my teacher?’”

What is common to all sorts of relationships is that people get in bonding patterns which are parent-child energetic dynamics wherein one person tends to be more heavily identified with a parental role and the other person tends to be more heavily identified with a child role. Bonding patterns happen in all types of relationships, including, but not limited to romantic relationships and actual parent-child relationships. The parental sides tend to be more power oriented and the child sides tend more towards vulnerability.

One of the goals in therapy using voice dialogue work involves accessing the aware ego, which is the part of oneself that has some separation from the sub-personalities and can even, through increased awareness, be aware simultaneously of two or more very different parts of oneself, like parental and child aspects, or our power and vulnerable sides. This is not necessarily an easy process and can be hard work at times, but it is possible even though generally one is not aware of a bonding pattern until after it expresses. With development of the aware ego, one can avoid getting into bonding patterns as intensely and then get out of them more quickly when they do occur. A key to this awareness is understanding the role of vulnerability in a relationship and how a disowned or unconscious vulnerability can be a trigger for going into a bonding pattern. If only one of the two people in the bonding pattern has some awareness that a bonding pattern is happening then it is much easier to avoid it being so painful. Having a sense of humor and being able to laugh is a good indicator of accessing the aware ego.


References

Richo, D. (1999). Shadow Dance. Boston, MA: Shambala

Stone, H. & S. Winkelman (1989). Embracing Our Selves. San Rafael, CA: New World Library

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The Compassion Door: 5 Steps to more LOVE!

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By Leona Kashersky, Psy.D.

For the last year I have deepened my study and practice of compassion, using embodiment practices to integrate  “Lovingkindness” or “Metta” into my daily life and physical being.  My personal experience mirrors what research in the fields of transpersonal and mindfulness psychology is saying about the overall health benefits of the practice. This practice actually enhances immune  function, cardiovascular health, glucose regulation, and even improves social skills!

Metta can be loosely defined as love and compassion for the self and others. Researchers are learning that practicing lovingkindness or metta has objective and observable emotional, physical, social benefits. Donald Rothberg, whose work spans over 30 years as a leading teacher and writer on transpersonal psychology, meditation, and socially engaged spiritual practice, wrote “The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World.” Both Donald Rothberg and Barbra Fredrickson have been influential in conducting and participating in research to establish evidence for the health benefits of meditation, self-love, and compassion in modern society.  Fredrickson teaches what she calls “micro-moments of love” or  “positivity resonance” in scientific lingo and in everyday language. As Fredrickson points out, compassion generates loveand love feels good! Start with yourself, and it will naturally radiate out to others near and far.

In my most recent experiences with meditation on love, compassion, and kindness I have used Metta mantras such as “rest in an awakened heart”, “safe and free from harm”, “the body supports the practice”, “surrounded by love and kindness”, in combination with movement. The pairing of movement, breath, mantra, and human connection help to assist in the integration of the compassion practice into the entire mind, body, and spirit.  Movement can include yoga, walking, and dance, including 5 Rhythms; Included are a couple of links to local favorites! The practice of movement meditation has assisted in my personal journey to embody the practice of loving kindness.

The following  techniques reduce burnout and increases positive emotion and LOVE on many different levels in the lives’ of individual people, families, and communities.  A brief and concise description of how the mantras are used are outlined below:

for HP Blog

Step 1:

Cultivate self-compassion: First, focus on the easiest person to grow compassion towards, the self. This is done by not merely reciting words or phrases, but by allowing one’s self to feel the meaning of the phrase or words during the meditation.

  1. I rest with an awakened heart
  2. May I be safe and free from harm
  3. May my body support my practice
  4. May I be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 2:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘dear one’, someone you love dearly. This may be your child, your parent, or a romantic partner, or even a pet!  This is the second easiest form of compassion to grow. As you concentrate on the meaning or feelings of phrases or words, picture the face of the dear one; allow yourself to really experience the face of this dear one. Then slowly use  following mantras. One meditation session may only focus on one of the phrases for each of these steps.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 3:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘neutral person’. This neutral person can be someone you see at Starbucks every weekday morning; however you don’t really know them. You don’t usually talk or say hello, you may just see each other in passing. You have no strong feelings towards them, neither positive or negative. Allow yourself to really imagine them in your presence, see their face in your mind’s eye. Begin the following mantras for them.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 4:

Cultivate compassion for a ‘difficult person’, someone you find challenging to feel compassion for at the moment.  The difficult person can be someone  close to you, or a someone you’ve never met, such as a political leader. Sometimes the ‘difficult person’ and the ‘dear one’ can be the same person depending on how you feel at the time. Really allow yourself to feel the presence of the difficult person before using the following mantras.

  1. May you rest with an awakened heart
  2. May you be safe and free from harm
  3. May your body support your practice
  4. May you be surrounded by love and kindness

Step 5:

Cultivating compassion for all beings is a meditation focusing on humans, plants, animals, and the entire living planet. We continue to use the four focused mantras or phrases to do this with the following.

  1. May all beings rest with an awakened heart
  2. May all beings be safe and free from harm
  3. May all beings be free from pain and suffering
  4. May all beings be surrounded by love and kindness

 

References: 

Cultivating self-care and compassion in psychological therapists in training: the experience of practicing loving-kindness meditation. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol 7(4), Nov 2013, 267-277 Boellinghaus, Inga; Jones, FergalW.; Hutton, Jane
Effect of Kindness-Based Meditation on Health and well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Galante, Julieta; Galante, Ignacio; Bekkers, Marie-jet; Gallacher, John Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Jun 30, 2014, No Pagination Specified.

The nondiscriminating heart: Lovingkindness meditation training decreases implicit intergroup bias. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(3), Jun 2014, 1306-1313 Kang, Yoona; Gray, Jeremy R.; Dovidio, John F.

Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlations, and interventions. Barnard, Laura K.; Curry, John F. Review of General Psychology, Vol 15(4), Dec 2011, 289-303.

Effects of intranasal oxytocin on ‘compassion focused imagery’.  Rockliff, Helen; Karl Anke; McEwan, Kirsten; Gilbert, Jean; Matos, Marcela; Gilbert, Paul Emotion, Vol 66(8), Nov 2011, 1388-1396

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