Author Archives: Hurley Counseling

Your Child’s Mental Health: Facts and Fiction

Nobody wants to realize that somebody they love is struggling, be it with their physical or mental health. It is an especially hard realization when that individual struggling is a child. Additionally, determining when a child is struggling can be hard. Children don’t have the same vocabulary or introspective abilities that adults do and sometimes it can be hard to determine what is a normal part of development and what is cause for concern. Additionally, there are myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health treatment for children. Examining these myths and teasing apart facts from fiction can help parents and caregivers provide the best care possible for their children.

Myth: Children do not struggle with mental health issues

            This is false. In addition to what is often considered a childhood issue, such as ADHD and learning disorders, children can struggle with some of the same mental health issues adults do, such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, many people who will go on to develop disorders start showing symptoms at a young age. One study suggests that as many as ⅓ of those who will struggle with a mental health issue will show signs before the age of 15, and as many as ⅔ will show signs by 18.

Myth: Children will grow out of mental health problems if left to their own devices

            It is very unlikely that a child will grow out of their mental health issues if left untreated. What is more likely to happen is that those untreated issues will intensify and be harder to treat later in life. This is why early intervention can be so important. Children are still growing and developing and as such are very resilient. Early interventions can teach them skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. In fact, research has shown that treatment within the first few years after symptoms develop is the most likely to have lasting results.

Myth: Children cannot be treated through therapy

            This is false. Therapy for children is different from therapy for adults. It uses age appropriate methods and terminology to engage the children. Therapy for children does not just involve sitting in chairs and talking. It is designed to be a helpful and engaging experience for the child and often involves play. Additionally, a therapist can help both the child and the caregiver understand what the child is going through.

Myth: Childhood mental health struggles are just a result of bad parenting

            Childhood mental health issues are not the parents’ fault. The exact cause of most mental health issues is unclear, but they are believed to be a combination of genetics interacting with life experiences. Though home life can and does affect a child’s mental health, it is not the only factor at work. Additionally, parents or caregivers are an important factor in helping a child cope with the things that are going on in their life. By working together with a therapist, caregivers can vastly improve the state of their child’s mental health.

            Many children struggle with mental health issues and seeing a licensed therapist can help them build the skills they need to succeed in life and grow into happy, healthy adults. Hurley Counseling has several therapists that see children and teenagers. If you have any concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to call at 251-222-8880.

            For excellent information on a huge variety of issues related to childhood mental health please visit the Child Mind Institute.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.

Welcome Dr James Hurley!

Hurley Counseling is thrilled to announce that James Hurley, D.Phil., Ph.D. will be joining us. Dr Hurley has been a marriage and family therapist for over 35 years. He holds doctorate degrees from both Florida State University and Cambridge University.  He will be joining us in mid-December doing telehealth.

Yoga and Health

In the past couple of decades, there has been a growing interest in yoga in the United States, and around the world. What was once seen as a rather niche pursuit is becoming more and more common, with yoga studios becoming a standard landmark for many areas. When considering taking up any new hobby it is often important to look at what the potential benefits could be. If you’ve been considering taking up yoga (or even if you haven’t yet) read on! Yoga is something that has been shown to benefit both physical and mental health in a wide variety of populations.

            First, let’s examine the effects yoga can have on your mental health. It is pretty common knowledge that yoga is a stress reducer. It helps regulate breathing, promotes relaxation and body awareness and has been shown to reduce cortisol and increase GABA (two chemicals in the brain related to stress responses and the nervous system). Given this, it makes sense that yoga can have a positive impact on individuals struggling with anxiety. In addition to that, it has also been shown to help reduce depression, increase focus in those with ADHD, and (in one study) it improved the symptoms of those with schizophrenia (when combined with medication). Yoga can also help improve sleep quality, which in turn can improve focus, concentration, and cognitive abilities.

Yoga can also improve physical health. Because of the focus on relaxation and deep breathing, participating in yoga can reduce blood pressure, which in turn can improve heart health. It also has been shown to help reduce inflammation and chronic pain in some situations. Additionally, yoga can help increase balance, flexibility, and strength, which also has a positive impact on overall health and wellness.

The benefits of yoga have been studied in all age groups from teens to older adults, as well as people with and without physical and mental health conditions. Overall, a large number of participants saw some positive impact from regular yoga. Now it is important to note that yoga is not a magical cure all, but when combined with therapy, medication, and/or other lifestyle choices it can be an important tool in improving physical and mental health as well as overall wellness. If you have any chronic conditions, it is also important to talk to your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes. 

While joining a yoga class is always a good option, as it provides support and a community, but between the pandemic and the financial cost of classes, that isn’t always an option. Luckly, thanks to youtube, yoga can easily be done for free from the comfort of your own home. Everyone’s needs and taste are different, but here are some beginner videos to get you started. Lengths vary, there are 10 , 20, and 45 minute options, as well as 5 minute yoga that can be done at your desk.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of yoga, here are two articles to get you started.

Take a Stand for Yoga Today

13 Benefits of Yoga

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.

Living Ishly

I recently came across the children’s book Ish, by Peter Reynolds. Ish tells the story of a little boy named Ramon who loves to draw, until one day his older brother makes fun of him because his drawing of a vase doesn’t look very much like a vase. This makes Ramon incredibly self conscious and takes the love and fun out of drawing until finally Ramon gives up. Then Ramon finds out that his younger sister, Marisol, has been saving all of his drawings and hanging them in her room and that his picture of a vase is her favorite. Ramon tells her that she shouldn’t like it because it doesn’t look like a vase and Marisol replies, “well, it looks vase-ish.” The idea of ish opens up a whole new world for Ramon. When he realizes that his drawings don’t have to be perfect his love of drawing returns. Ramon draws pictures that are tree-ish, boat-ish, fish-ish, afternoon-ish, and happy-ish. Besides being a fun book for those who are young (or young at heart) Ish teaches an important lesson about the dangers of perfectionism.

Perfectionism is something that seems appealing at first; who wouldn’t want to be perfect all the time? In reality, however, perfectionism can be a very damaging characteristic. After all, nobody can be perfect and so someone who is striving for perfection will end up being disappointed. Perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, self-confidence issues, relationship difficulties, and eating disorders. Additionally, perfectionism also spells death to productivity as it leads to procrastination. Someone who is so determined that everything must be perfect will often delay starting or completing a task for fear that they will not do it correctly. Like with Ramon, it can also kill creativity. The creative process is one that is full of roadblocks, false starts, and other imperfections. Finally, perfectionism prevents growth. Mistakes are a learning opportunity, but when they are viewed critically or as something that should not be allowed then it becomes harder to learn from them.

 Perfectionism is usually a learned behavior. That means most people who are perfectionists often have parents, grandparents, caregivers, or teachers who were or are perfectionists. This is one of the many reasons that we should all be careful what we say and do around young children. They pick up on more than most people realize and are accomplished mimics. It is important for us all to be more aware of our perfectionist tendencies both for ourselves and for the Ramons in our lives. Go forth and make mistakes. Embrace them. Live a little more ishly. 

Read the following articles for more information on the dangers of perfectionism and how to help children overcome perfectionism.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.

Living with Ambivalence

Ambivalence. It is a seemingly simple concept that is a part of many of our everyday lives. To be ambivalent about something is to simultaneously feel two ways at once. This comes up at every stage of life. Ambivalence comes in several different forms. It could be ambivalence around making a decision; for example, if you were offered a new job that came with all kinds of advantages, but also requires you to move across the country away from all of your friends and family. Ambivalence can also arise regarding past decisions; for example, you could wonder if you made the right decision regarding college, sure you had a good experience and enjoyed your college years, but what would have happened if you had gone somewhere else or majored in somewhere different. Ambivalence can also be related to things outside of your control. For example, if your best friend got a promotion you were hoping for, you might simultaneously feel happy for them and upset that you didn’t get it. It can also appear in relationships. You can simultaneously love your child and realize that they are driving you up the walls. Or feel a deep affection for your spouse or romantic partner while wishing they would be just a little bit more considerate.

Ambivalence is a natural part of existence. We humans are very complex creatures who are capable of feeling a lot of different things at once. The problem with ambivalence arises when it causes distress. This happens because even though we have a tendency to feel ambivalent, we also tend to be unable to accept ambivalence. Things are nicer when they make sense. Life seems like it would be so much easier if we could package everything into nice, boxes and ignore everything that didn’t fit into a box. The most common reaction to try and push those feelings aside and move on. Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually work. Instead, it leads to more and more unhappiness and (when the ambivalence is around a decision) an inability to decide.

The trick with ambivalence is to accept that contradictory things exist at the same time. Often the best way to begin is to change the language that you use. Usually, when we think or speak about things we feel ambivalent about, we use the word “but”. “I am glad my friend got that promotion but I wanted it too.” “I love my daughter, but I hate that she doesn’t sleep through the night.” “I want that promotion but I would be very sad to leave my friends and family.” This language makes the ambivalence harder to deal with because it sets the two feelings up as opposites that cannot exist together. Instead, try using the word “and”. “I am glad my friend got that promotion and I am sad I didn’t get it.” “I love my daughter and I wish that she would sleep all night.” “I want that new job and I will miss my family if I move.” Moving from buts to ands allows us to embrace the contradiction. Instead of putting the two feelings in contrast with each other, we allow them to exist together, which helps us make peace with our ambivalence. This also helps facilitate decision making. When we accept that we simultaneously feel two ways it allows us to fully look at the different sides of the situation and see that there are pros and cons on both sides. Realizing that there are no perfect choices prevents us from constantly looking for one and leads to a more realistic approach to making decisions. By accepting the ambivalence that we all feel, we can grow to lead happier and more productive lives.

For more information on ambivalence and how to live with it look here or here.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett