If you have been wondering what our Director of Child & Adolescent Services, Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S has been up to, here are a few of her recent TV segments and magazine articles to catch up on!
The Red Flags of Child Abuse – Fresh Living KUTV
Spring Clean Your Soul – Fresh Living KUTV
I Became a More Peaceful Parent Using These 4 Strategies – Hilary Thompson – MOTHERLY
Abuse is a tough topic to talk about, but it’s so important that we know signs to watch out for. While physical abuse is easy to identify, emotional abuse can be more subtle but can be just as damaging (while most everyone has mistreated their partner at times, we are talking about repeated and consistent behavior). Here are some signs of emotional abuse in marriage:
A few months ago, I stood on the edge of a 15 foot cliff overhanging the ocean. Several family members had already jumped and were calling to me to join them. This may not seem like a particularly high distance to some, but it was high enough for me to activate an internal battle.
Part of me wanted to jump. The water was clear and beautiful. My family was having a great time in the water below. Part of me was afraid of hurting myself. Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a theory that uses the idea that all of us have internal “parts”, which generally work together, creating the unique individual that we are. When our parts are not fully integrated, we can experience internal battles, which cause difficulty in our ability to function the way we would like.
IFS categorizes our parts as managers, firefighters, exiles, and Self.
Managers act as our protectors. They are manifest as controller, striver, judge, caretaker, passive, pessimist, planner, and self-critic. These managers work to keep things in our lives going smoothly to avoid pain or rejection.
Firefighters are also protectors, but do so in a reactive way, attempting to soothe our exiles through compulsive behaviors, distraction, or rage.
Exiles are the parts of us that hold pain and vulnerability. Our managers push them away to protect the rest of us from having to experience the pain, shame, dependency, neediness, worthlessness, or grief that exiles carry.
Our Self is the core of who we are. Our Self is calm, curious, compassionate, connected, confident, creative, and has clarity. When we are able to look at the world or situations with these eight “C’s” we’re working from our Self. When managers, firefighters or exiles take over we lose our ability act from our true Self.
As I stood on the cliff with my internal battle, I wasn’t able to recognize the various parts involved. Looking back on the experience, it’s much easier to identify the manager that created anxiety, the one that told me “if you jump, you’ll get hurt.” I can also identify the manager who told me that I had better jump to avoid being teased by my family. It was this manager who pushed through and reminded me that the cliff wasn’t that high, the water was clear, and that everyone else had jumped safely.
Often, the internal battles our parts engage in are of more significant consequence than whether we will be teased for not jumping into the ocean. Sometimes our care-taking managers prevent us from setting clear boundaries with others, leading to resentment or exhaustion. Sometimes our firefighters seek to soothe scared exiles by numbing with behaviors or substances that are not in line with our value system. When this happens, our managers beat up on our firefighters, and our firefighters respond by doubling down on their soothing behavior.
When we experience these internal battles, it’s tempting to try to ignore or reject the parts of us that seem to be causing the problems. Instead of ignoring or rejecting (which doesn’t work anyway), we can start a conversation with these parts to examine why they are behaving the way they are. We might discover that our firefighter is pushing us to lash out in anger in an attempt to protect our exiles from having to experience the pain of rejection that we’ve felt before. We might discover a manager who constantly tells us we’re lazy is really just terrified of becoming the thing it was called as a child. Understanding why our parts behave the way they do, we can begin to have some compassion for them. Compassion helps us soothe the internal battles and increase our ability to act as our true Self.
If you recognize some of these kinds of parts within yourself and would like help integrating them, call and schedule a session with Alice today. 801-944-4555.
I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on a recent episode of the “Mormon Matters” podcast; I joined other LDS therapists and experts to talk about ways that we can ensure ourselves and our families are protected in ecclesiastical situations. With the #MeToo movement and other instances of high-profile men abusing their position of power to take advantage of vulnerable people, it’s time we take a look at the dynamics of how all of this applies to Mormonism. The purpose of our discussion was not to instill paranoia or fear that dominates our thoughts, but instead to empower Mormon families to be smart and safe in how they approach ecclesiastical settings.
Did you know that April 20th has been deemed a National Day of Action? It’s the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School and a day that many communities are planning events designed at keeping kids safer in schools.
I thought I’d let you know about something I am doing to help professionals, parents and teachers like you on this day and challenge you to take part with me:
It’s the School Safety Summit, and it’s totally FREE to register!
I will giving a presentation called Putting Back the Pieces After Community Violence: Using Play Therapy To Mend Broken Attachments
And other top mental health and play therapy experts are talking about:
Reducing bullying using the Nurtured Heart Approach
How we might actually be increasing aggression by trying to keep kids calm
Toolkits for schools to prepare for crisis responses
This is a politics free event focused entirely on how to help parents and teachers feel more prepared to help the kids that they care so much about.
In the fallout of the news that former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter was physically violent to both his ex-wives, some have begun to question the wisdom of LDS Bishops counseling women in abusive relationships (reports indicate both women were encouraged to stay with their husbands). Working with women in private practice, I’ve heard of this kind of thing happening. It’s embarrassing, it’s infuriating, and it’s my hope that this cultural moment of awareness and the #MeToo movement can spark social change. I shared some of my thoughts on this subject with KUER news.
Most of us grew up hearing the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While the intent of this quip perhaps was to toughen kids up, in more recent years we’ve clued in to how false this message is! Name calling, harsh words, verbal bullying does hurt. Aggressive words and/or harsh tones can inflict emotional pain just as real as getting physically punched. And when such verbal punches are thrown in the home, it is especially hurtful. As parents and/or the adults in a child’s life, most of us are quite clear about the need to protect children from the bullying that can too easily happen among groups of children. But are we aware that when we speak harshly or critically to our children or spouse it is potentially even more harmful than schoolyard bullying?
What is the verbal climate in your home? How do you communicate with your children or spouse, especially when the pressure is on? Do you yell when you’re frustrated or angry? Do you use harsh, cutting, or condescending words with your family or with others within their hearing? Does this happen frequently? Occasionally?
A growing body of research is demonstrating how verbal hostility negatively impacts a child’s brain in much the same way as does acts of domestic violence including sexual abuse. The greater the intensity of the verbal hostility, the greater the frequency of it, and the occurrence of other forms of abuse in combination with it are factors that determine the degree of the damage inflicted upon the child’s brain. In short, yelling at your children can cause actual, measurable brain damage (Teicher, Samson, Polcari, & McGreenery, 2006; Teicher, 2016). To be sure, this damage can be healed, but the abuse has to be stopped first—the child’s climate has to be changed.
If the verbal climate in your home is “hot,” the therapists at Wasatch Family Therapy can help you reset your emotional thermostat and change out old, broken down communication styles for healthy, refreshing ones—ones that create a safe climate for your family to live in. Give us a call at 801-944-4555 and make an appointment. It’s one of the best things you can do for your children, your spouse, and you.
Teicher, M. H., Samson, J. A., Polcari, A., & McGreenery, C. E. (2006). Sticks, stones,
and hurtful words: Relative effects of various forms of childhood
maltreatment. The American Journal Of Psychiatry, 163(6), 993-1000.
Teicher, M. H., & Samson, J. A. (2016). Annual research review: Enduring
neurobiological effects of childhood abuse and neglect. Journal of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 57(3), 241-266.
Are the children in your life (whether in your family or your professional world) seeming to constantly misbehave? Do you know adults who seem to have missed some important steps in growing up? Maybe that adult is you. Have you heard of the ACE studies? ACE is an acronym that stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and is the title of a growing body of research that is shedding new light on how childhood trauma impact a person’s social, psychological, intellectual, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Fear is a common emotion that everyone experiences. We generally spend a lot of time trying to avoid or get rid of it, but the reality is, it won’t ever disappear completely from our lives. So, how do we deal with it? Ashley Thorn LMFT recently had the opportunity to contribute to a 2-part article series about facing fear and using it to our advantage. The following links to these 2 articles should provide you with some helpful insight into managing your fears more effectively, and in a way that benefit (rather than hinder) you: