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The Best Wedding Gift Money Can Buy

As I meet with married couples young and old, to help them improve their sexual intimacy, I have become aware of something very clear. Most married couples wish they had learned what they learn in our sessions, before they ever got married to one another! I frequently hear from couples, “We should have done this years ago!” or “Wow, we really should have talked about that before marriage.”

I have noticed that some couples, depending on their value systems or home life, do not feel comfortable talking about sexual intimacy before marriage. Whether a couple chooses to be sexually intimate before or after marriage, most new couples are eager to have sex, but unsure how to talk about it. I can understand this, however, I feel there are tremendous benefits to having these conversations beforehand, rather than a honeymoon crash course where expectations can be annihilated and typically not for the better. It is good for couples to discuss what their expectations are for frequency of intimacy, history of any sexual trauma or sexual addictions and how that may impact intimacy, and thoughts regarding what is okay and not okay during intimacy. A counselor who has experience working with sexual intimacy can inform a new couple what the different stages of the sexual response cycle are and what types of things in the relationship or the individual may impede progress in the cycle. A session like this gives couples the language and breaks the ice to set the stage for many healthy and safe conversations about sex throughout their lives together.

So, next time you are stumped about a wedding gift, perhaps buy something that certainly won’t be on the registry. Buy the budding new couple one premarital counseling session to talk about intimacy. This is an atmosphere that feels more safe for couple’s to talk about these things, rather than trying to duck away from their parents or roommates somewhere.


A List of Surefire Ways to Feel Happier & Fight Depression

walkway sea
A List of Surefire ways to Feel Happier and Fight Depression
Over the years depression has been steadily increasing in adults as well as children.  So how can we fight these feelings of sadness? How can we help our children?  I recently came across this website that discusses nature and our mood, and why it helps.  It is a very quick read and the website offers a list of ways that we can increase our happiness; each suggestion is backed by clinically proven research.  The source offers specific ideas and things to do for adults as well as for children.  It gives suggestions that can take as little as five minutes of your time, to more extended amounts of time.
Check out his link and get see if there is a something for you to get you feeling good:

5 Common Creativity Myths: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

5 Common CreativityMyths(1)

When you think of the idea of creativity, what comes to mind? A brilliant painter? A famous film director? An acclaimed composer? While those examples certainly are true, there is more to creativity than famous artists and their work. For the purpose of this discussion, the definition of creativity is the ability to make new things or think new ideas, transforming existing materials into something novel and beneficial. Here are 5 common myths about creativity:


Fight the New Drug

popular kids

A few months ago I attended a presentation with my teenage son at Canyons School District titled “Fight the New Drug”.  As a therapist, I was expecting the typical “why porn is bad” -type of platform.  What I found was a fresh approach that was all-inclusive, carrying out an anti-pornography message across borders of religious beliefs, political agenda and social backgrounds by presenting it as a public health issue, rather than as a moral, political or religious argument.  Historically, pornography used to be a matter of personal opinion.  Some people felt it was natural, normal, even expected to be consumed.  Others felt it was “bad” or “wrong” due to their personal religious beliefs or political views.  However, few people, if any, seemed to have concrete evidence to support their view.  FTND’s mission exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography  by raising awareness using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

Teens learn how they are impacted  on 3 levels:  Personally, (recent finding in neuroscience), relationally (personal stories) and socially, (connecting the link to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation), in a delivery using multiple creative mediums that captivate youth!  Founded locally here in Salt Lake City, Utah as a non profit organization campaign in 2009, they have carried their message to over 300 schools and colleges in North America, reaching thousands of teens (it’s target population).  They also deliver through social media and have a massive following that has created a powerful social movement online.  Their slogans can be seen on T shirts worn by Hollywood stars like “Porn Kills Love”, “Fight for Love” or “Stop the Demand”.

What impressed me most about this presentation I attended and what I find sets it apart from any others I’ve seen, is their online recovery program, “Fortify”: A Step Toward Recovery”, free to anyone under age 20.  Most young people (I never see in therapy), suffer silently, already deeply trenched in a porn addiction, too embarrassed or ashamed to reach out and ask for help.  Fight the New Drug offers anonymity where  teens (and adults for a nominal fee) can finally seek help NOT just feel guilty.  The website also offers a free book “Parents guide to addressing pornography with children” to assist families.  FTND encompasses 4 programs: Media, Mobilization, Protection AND Recovery, a solid, comprehensive non profit that few others offer.

Check out today.


When Frustration Overflows – Tantrums Promote Learning


Review of Hand in Hand Article “When Frustration Overflows — Tantrums Promote Learning”

Have you ever found yourself sitting across from your little one who is in the midst of an emotional outburst and realized that it could possibly be the ideal time to connect with your child? Expressing emotion can manifest in many different ways, what we do with it as parents and caregivers can offer us a gateway to connecting and attaching to our children in amazing and powerful ways.
The article “when frustration overflows — tantrums promote learning”
published  by~ Lyra L’Estrange who is a Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor with Hand in Hand can be found at:
In this article you will gain some insight into:
  • Why tantrums can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with your child.
  • Understanding your child’s needs
  • Allowing you child to feel heard and validated
For more specific support surrounding parenting dilemmas and struggles contact Melanie Davis CMHC with Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.
Hand in Hand Parenting
Author of article: Lyra L’Estrange



KIDS GROUP FLYER SLC - SUMMER 2015This weekly group is designed to help school-aged children navigate the challenges of social situations and understand what it means to be a friend. Focusing on understanding their role and impact on those in their world.

  • Keep and make friends
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Discover skills for coping with anxiety
  • Strengthen social skills

Next Group begins: Wednesday, July 15th (5:00 – 6:00 PM)

Price$50 per week/ per child

Ages: 8-12


Guilt: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Stressed Mom
A quote recently appeared on my Pinterest wall. It read “You only have 936 Saturdays with your children. Make them count.” My palms started to sweat. My stomach sank. Instantly my mind raced with a million questions. Have I been using my Saturdays wisely with my kids? Do I try to accomplish too many tasks on Saturday? Do I have enough fun with my kids? Am I a fun mom? As you can probably guess the barrage of questions only lead me to feel an intense amount of “mommy guilt” over my lack of fun Saturday activities with my kids.
Too often we get caught up in a cycle of feeling guilty about the things we are or are not doing. Whether it be over children, work, spouse, or just everyday tasks we can bring ourselves down to a very negative place that is hard to get out of. Daniel Nayeri wisely said, “Guilt is a useless feeling. It’s never enough to make you change your direction-only enough to make you feel useless.” How true! Guilt is a feeling that can take our day from bright and shining to dark and dreary. If you find yourself on a constant track of guilt here are a few steps to help you get out of that cycle.

When Your Spouse is Depressed

Frustrated Couple

*Important disclaimer to following article- the tips below address non-suicidal depressed mood. If your partner is showing signs of suicidal ideation or talking about wanting to die, get them to emergency MEDICAL help immediately. At that point it is about life saving measures, and a spouse cannot provide that help.

Hard work and compromise are necessary to keep any marriage alive and well, even during the “up” times of life. But what happens when the stress becomes overwhelming, and emotional challenges get thrown in the marriage mix? What happens when one of the partners can’t give as much because they feel, just… down? How does a marriage whether a storm of mental health challenges?

I’m going to get very personal, with the permission (and help) of my husband. We agree that depression, and its effects on the loved ones of those suffering, is a prevalent and important issue and we are willing to share our own experience. We both have families with histories of mental illness, and have had minor bouts with “the blues” ourselves at different times when life was stressful. Over the last year, however, things got serious emotionally for my husband. His “blues” hit symptomatic levels that made daily activities and participation in family life difficult to manage. Stress from work became oppressive, and soon hopelessness and exhaustion were about the only thing he was feeling. We’ve struggled together to get through this storm and return positive, hopeful feelings to our home.


Dr. Hanks Publishes Peer-Review Journal Article “Bringing Partnership Home”

Dr. Hanks Publishes Peer-Review Journal Article “Bringing Partnership Home”

As part of my dissertation study I created a model of family transformation to help families move from a dominator systems to a partnership organization that values cooperation, caring, connection, collaboration,  celebration of all contributions, compassion,  conscious language usage, and creativity. Based on Riane Eisler’s Cultural Transformation Theory, my Partnership Model of Family Organization offers a path for families to shift from ranking to linking.

Bringing Partnership Home: A Model of Family Transformation

Free article access here

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, Wasatch Family Therapy


Eisler’s cultural transformation theory suggests that the global crises we face can be addressed only through movement to a partnership model of social organization. Drawing on cultural transformation theory and systems theory, a partnership model of family organization (PMFO) is outlined as a practical framework to guide families toward partnership relations. Eight components of PMFO are presented and expanded on as a path toward furthering familial and societal transformation. The eight tenets of a PMFO are: 1) cooperative adult leadership, 2) connecting orientation, 3) caretaking emphasis, 4) collaborative roles and rules, 5) celebration of unique contributions, 6) compassionate communication, 7) conscious language use, and 8) collection and creation of partnership stories. Finally, specific strategies of application of the PMFO will be discussed.


Cultural transformation theory, marriage and family therapy, family organization, partnership model, dominator model, partnership model of family organization, family life, partnership studies, partnership families

Download the article for free


Social Skills: Let’s Teach Them !


As this school year wraps up, most students and parents will eagerly, or  for some anxiously, wait for report cards. Progress in reading, math, writing, physical education and perhaps, depending on your district or structure of your school, aspects of learning such as ‘motivation’ or ‘character’ will be indicated somewhere on the document. However, do you know how your child is functioning regarding social skills? Does it really matter?

Research in education today signals a resounding yes. In generations past, children acquired these skills almost exclusively at home and within their families. With increasing negative societal influences and various sources of stress bombarding so many of us, it’s hard for parents to go it alone. Schools can often be an important partner with parents to provide positive social skills development. Yet, what can you do if your child doesn’t seem to be interacting socially in age appropriate ways?