Tag: Catharine Toso

Part One: Why You Should Raise Securely Attached Children

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It wasn’t until the combined efforts of John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth that the world discovered the instinctual, evolutionary, and marginally distinctive behaviors exhibiting the need for healthy attachment between children and their parental figures to survive and thrive in adult relationships.

A Brief History Of Attachment Theory

According to R. Chris Fraley of the University of Illinois, John Bowlby was, “a British psychoanalyst who [attempted] to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who [are] separated from their parents.” He postulated in the 1900s that this distress response children exhibit when separated from their parental figure was not a weakness in their undeveloped, emotional abilities but, rather, an instinctual response that aided them in surviving from an evolutionary standpoint.

Mary Ainsworth, an assistant to Bowlby, developed a remarkable experiment that took Bowlby’s attachment behavioral system theory to the next level. This experiment, called the strange situation, was used to examine the variable behaviors of numerous children who became physically separated from their primary caregiver. Her conclusion was, in short, that there are, at minimum, three different attachment styles children use to attach to their caregivers and that these behaviors are learned within their first twelve months of life.

She labeled these attachment styles secure, anxious-resistant, and avoidant.

  • Securely attached children exhibit healthy emotional behaviors.
  • Anxious-resistant attached children are hard to console when a caregiver returns to their presence and they even try to penalize their caregiver.
  • Avoidant children almost completely ignore their parent and shut down on them for causing them distress by leaving their presence.

Attached is a basic overview of how these attachment styles work for reference:


How Do Children Develop Attachment Styles?

Using That First Year Wisely

The first year of a child’s life is crucial in developing this attachment style in children. To a parental figure, this can be incredibly frightening to think that their responses to their children in their first year of life will determine the way in which these children will attach to others, and particularly to romantic interests, throughout their entire lives.

Inconsistent Scientific Findings

Before we jump off the deep end, it is important to recognize that scientists who study children as they age and monitor their attachment styles from birth to their current age have vastly different opinions on the duration and endurance of these attachment styles as they age. Some postulate that these attachment styles fade away and are replaced as they form new relationships with various individuals. Others suspect that these attachment styles impact how these people will attach to others for the duration of their lives.

To Cover Your Bases, Secure Attachments Are The Way To Go

Whether these attachment styles are carried over from childhood to the rest of their lives or not, what this boils down to is that is important to raise children who have secure attachment styles. If they don’t carry over their attachment style from childhood, they will have a more difficult time transitioning to a secure attachment style as they grow and make new connections. The children that do, however, will have a much easier time attaching to others in a safe and confident manner for all time to come.

Either way, raising a child to have a secure attachment style is a win-win situation.

Children Learn By Interacting With Caregivers. Children develop attachment styles based on how their caregivers respond to their needs and desires. If parents are consistently attentive and provide for their child’s needs, the child tends to develop a secure attachment style. If the parents are inconsistently attentive, the child tends to develop an anxious-resistant or avoidant attachment style.

Children Learn By Observing Caregivers With Others. It is also important to note that children tend to develop their attachment styles based on how their caregivers react to others. If a parent, for example, shuts down on someone trying to confront them to re-establish an intimate relationship of any kind, the child will pick up on this and be more likely to develop an avoidant attachment style.

Next month, look for Part Two of this blog series where I go into more detail about how you can raise securely attached children.

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2uKsX7I

The Best Time Of Day For Psychotherapy

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If you’re planning a therapy session, make sure that you pick the right time to go. Research has shown that, when it comes to mental health, not all appointment times are equal.

Here are some tips on finding an appointment time that works for you.

Think about your schedule.

Obviously your schedule will limit when you can make it to the therapist. If you have a 9-5 job, you will have to decide between an appointment early in the morning or late in the evening. If you have other commitments, like visiting the gym in the morning, it may be more complicated to fit therapy into a busy schedule. However, it’s important that you prioritize your psychotherapy appointments. Work may not allow your schedule to be very flexible, but it may mean rearranging your schedule so that you find other time for your regular commitments.

Think about your energy levels.

To get the most out of your therapy session, you want to be alert for it. If you are unable to focus in the mornings, a morning session may not be the best thing for you – even though science is in favor of morning sessions for certain types of therapy. And on the other hand, if you leave work every day feeling drained, then attending therapy after work might not be in your best interest. But this is something you can test with your therapist in order to find a time of day that works the best for you.

Think about how you feel afterwards.

How do you feel after therapy? Do you feel that you think more clearly? Do you feel energetic and ready to face the rest of the day? Then a morning session might be great for you. However, some people leave therapy feeling drained and emotionally raw. This is partially dependant on the person and partially dependant on what the therapy is for, and not at all a sign that the therapy is not effective. But if you typically feel emotionally exhausted after every session, you may want to schedule it later in the day so that you can go straight home to recover rather than needing to immediately engage in other responsibilities.

What are you going to therapy for?

If you are receiving exposure therapy, which helps people with phobias learn to control their panic responses, it has been more rewarding for these individuals when they attend a session in the morning. Research has shown that the stress hormone cortisol is in higher concentration in the morning. This hormone also seems to be useful in unlearning conditioned responses, meaning that those who participated in exposure therapy in the morning made significantly quicker progress than those who underwent the same therapy in the afternoon.

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2qT1baJ

Implement This 3 Step Action Plan If You Think Your Child Has Anxiety

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Can your child suffer from anxiety? To many, anxiety is perceived as something that develops over time as the stressors of life begin to build up, not something that occurs in children who are so young. But it is estimated that around 17.1 million children currently have or have had a psychiatric disorder, which is greater than the number of children who have been diagnosed with cancer. If this statistic shows us anything, it’s that the problem of anxiety is not small by any means.

Children who suffer from an any type of anxiety are not exaggerating how they are feeling. The symptoms associated with anxiety in a child can be quite vast, complicated, and have varying levels of severity; the important thing to remember is that you are on your child’s team, and they need to know that you are there to help them push past the anxious thoughts and feelings.

There is an ever-growing need for parents to learn how to identify the signs of anxiety in their child so that they can determine what needs to be done to help them, rather than allowing the symptoms to go untreated.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Know that you’re not a bad parent.

When a child suffers from anxiety, parents can be tempted to feel insufficient in their care for their child. They may feel frustrated that they can’t fix everything for their child. They may become upset, depressed, or frustrated and their hope in their parenting skills may diminish over time. You are not bad at parenting because your child has anxiety.

2. Understand the common symptoms associated with child anxiety.

The one common thread between most children with anxiety is this: verbal expression of their anxiety happens in little to no cases. Children who have anxiety don’t often know how to express themselves. It may come out in tears, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, fits of rage, depressive symptoms, or social issues. The child may not be able to focus in school or remember assignments, have low self-esteem, or eat an increased or decreased amount of food than normal. The child may exclude themselves from active and exciting social activities and may be just as frustrated as you feel about this anxiety.

3. Seek help for your child.

Here are four active things you can do to support and care for your anxious child:

Schedule an appointment with a professional. Visit my website to schedule an appointment at my private practice! The first steps are seeing whether or not your child suffers from an anxiety disorder and, if so, what steps need to be taken in order to care for the child.

Take the screening. If you are concerned your child may have anxiety, take this brief 15-question screening that has been made available from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Explore your resources. Anxiety, to the surprise of many, is common in children and adolescents. There are plenty of resources available to you so that you can learn more about the different types of anxiety, as well as what you can do to help.

Offer positive reinforcement. Children who are praised for their good behavior and encouraged to keep pressing on when things are tough are much more likely to overcome and cope with their anxiety.

There are millions of people who struggle with anxiety in the United States. You are not alone, nor is your child. For more help, schedule an appointment today and begin the process of seeking professional help for your child.

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2qLbLRi

A Parent’s Guide to Raising a More Confident Child

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Most of the time, a child’s confidence stems from learned behaviors of the adults around them. As a parent, the ability to raise a child beaming with poise can become challenging. Along with setting a good example as a parent, here are some tips to help any child feel better in their own skin.

Encouragement, Not Criticism

Whether they win or lose their soccer game, children should always be appreciated for their efforts. Discouraging a defeat or mistake often leads a child to feel a sense of embarrassment – a key factor in lack of confidence. Whenever an attempt at something new is made, the child should receive praise, even if they stumble along the way. Of course, as children age, they seek constructive criticism in areas they want to thrive in. However, at younger stages, consistent encouragement to avoid active embarrassment guides them towards self-assurance.

Trial Without Error

Every new experience in a child’s life should be looked at as a trial, without any assumption of error. Say the child wants to join a ballet class, yet the parent knows difficulties are likely to arise as her child is not very coordinated. Allowing the child to try this new endeavor with no preconceived notions of failing gives them the confidence to walk into the class and start fresh, even if they do end up falling a few times.

It is important to allow your child to discover traits about themselves independently because it gives them the courage to continue exploring new areas of life without having to consult you on whether it would be a good idea or not. Show the child there is no shame in needing to work hard at something because not everything will come naturally to them. Adults make mistakes and struggle with things as well. Be honest with your child and, when possible, attempt to resolve these mistakes in front of the child, as it shares a noteworthy lesson in confidence construction.

Foster Independence

An obvious way to ensure a child is brought up knowing self-worth is allowing them to discover their independence. This doesn’t mean that you should stop monitoring them, but it’s important to give them space to make their own decisions. For example, encourage your toddler to pick their own clothing or choose what’s for dinner one night.

As the child ages, more intricate and important decisions will require parental guidance, but allowing them to seek certain fates on their own will help boost their self-assurance. Mistakes are bound to be made, but treating them as building blocks for learning instills confidence within errors.

Don’t Always Rescue Them

Of course, no parent wants to see their child get hurt, but sometimes letting them problem solve and find a solution without stepping in and completely solving the issue is the right move. Parents.com notes that when a parent constantly rushes to their child’s side to save them, they are likely causing more harm than good and the child thinks they will always need a parent to fight their battles.

It would be hard to find someone who claims raising a child is easy. Do not look for a guide on the “right” and “wrong” ways to raise a child. Every child is different and requires a unique strategy. The great thing about these tips for raising a confident child is that they are adaptable in order to suit the needs of various styles of upbringings!

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2ocyjUK

What To Do If Your Child Experiences School Anxiety

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Children of all ages can experience school anxiety. At the onset of a new school year, it’s normal to have first-day-of-school anxiety about all the changes they are going to face – unexplored territory, a new set of faces in the classroom, unfamiliar teachers and teaching styles, more challenging school subjects, etc.

While mild apprehension is expected, especially during the first few weeks, it is your role as parent to observe your child’s behavior to determine when this anxiety becomes too much and should be addressed by a professional.

When should you consider hire professional help for your child?

It should come as no surprise that anxiety is one of the most common psychological disorders that affects school-age children. Everyone experiences some level of anxiety from time to time, especially during the more stressful periods of life. This occasional anxiety can be a positive thing, though. Without this anxiety, we may not take proper precaution during certain situations or feel motivated to do our best in others. It’s when anxiety starts to interfere with daily life where it becomes a problem.

Your child may not be able to identify when anxiety is handicapping their day-to-day lives, which is why it is important that you are observing their behavior on a continuous basis. If these symptoms only persist for the first few weeks of a new school year, there may be no cause for concern. It is when these behaviors persist after a couple of weeks that it may be time to seek treatment. If not dealt with early on, anxiety disorders can manifest in other ways as your child gets older, leading to more serious issues like clinical depression.

How is this kind of anxiety treated?

There are a variety of different treatment methods for this type of anxiety in children. I, personally, prefer to approach treatment through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Through this treatment, a child is encouraged to talk through their problems and, with the help of a professional, works to change the way in which they think and behave. Depending on your child’s age, it may affect exactly how this type of therapy is given – whether it be individually, with a parent, or in a group.

What can you do to help raise an anxious child at home?

Seeking professional help for your child was the first – and most monumental – step in helping them deal with their anxiety. While the professional will deal with the most rigorous part of treatment, there are a few things that you can do at home to help your child:

  1. Don’t completely shield them. As their parent, you want to do anything you can to protect them. However, shielding them completely for their problems is only going to make things worse.
  2. Talk to them about your experiences. It may be comforting for your child to hear that you, too, deal with anxiety every now and then. If you are going to discuss a specific situation with them, make sure that you share how you worked to alleviate the anxiety as well.
  3. Praise them. If your child shares with you a story of coping with their anxiety (or you see it happen), make sure to praise them!

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2o2bUcD

How Autism Affects Children’s Development

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It should be no surprise that children who have been diagnosed with autism develop at a different rate and capacity than children without autism.

Autism shows itself differently in children depending on its severity, but it affects very similar areas of development. One of the major challenges lies in how children communicate and interact with those around them, whether family members or complete strangers.

For those who want to learn more about the effects of autism within various stages of development, here is how it can show itself in a child’s growth:

How Autism Affects Speech

Not only does autism influence the rate of development, it can cause the order of development to vary from child to child. For example, for a child with autism, it is more likely that they will learn vocabulary at a much slower rate, often taking years before they can begin to string words together to form complete sentences. And, of course, there is always the possibility that they may remain nonverbal for the rest of their lives.

How Autism Affects Interaction

Some children are simply quieter than others, often shying away from communication, even if it is with someone who is familiar to them. Children who have autism often don’t make a lot of eye contact with other individuals and aren’t prone to gesture to someone unless told to, like waving hello or goodbye to someone as they are leaving. This ability to focus and engage is referred to as joint attention.

How Autism Affects Understanding

Children who have been diagnosed with autism often don’t have the capacity to see where other people are coming from or why they engage in certain behaviors. This is a social skill that helps people form relationships with one another, so this is a reason why many children with autism have difficulty getting along with other children. They are often not aware of how their behavior affects those around them.

How Autism Affects Focus

We rely on our organizational skills to get us through our days, but this is a skill that doesn’t always develop completely in children with autism when they are younger. As you can imagine, this hinders their ability to learn, which is why school can be a major challenge for children with autism. Some may understand certain aspects of a subject, but are not able to put together everything they were taught in order to come to a complete and clear conclusion.

from Catharine Toso, Psychotherapist (Newtown, PA) http://ift.tt/2odNtNi

How Managing Your Emotions Can Benefit Your Relationship

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As you get older, you will experience an increase in responsibilities that will begin weighing more heavily on your shoulders. While these changes are an exciting transition into new stages of life, they can occasionally feel burdensome as feelings of overwhelming happiness, fear, heartache, and loneliness weave together and blur the lines between each individual emotion. This makes it difficult to separate these feelings in an attempt to conquer them independently.

When difficult emotions arise, it not only affects the person, it affects their relationships as well. If not addressed, these emotions can cause serious implications between a person and their family and friends – and, more specifically, with their significant others.

When you find yourself under the weight of pressure, it is imperative that you learn how to properly cope with your different emotions:

Allow yourself to fully feel the emotion.

You may think you are already doing this since you currently feel angry or depressed, but you most likely try to escape from your current state as quickly as possible – no one prefers to feel those negative emotions. However, it’s important that you allow yourself to truly feel through the emotion instead of pushing it away.

Separate yourself from your emotions.

Your emotions do not define you, they are just a part of life that requires your attention every now and then. If you identify yourself with your emotions, it is much harder to separate yourself from them when they are in full force. Be aware of their presence, but detach yourself from them as quickly and as often as possible.

Try to identify the triggers of your emotions.

Don’t try to do this in the heat of the moment because it will be difficult to try to deal with your current state of mind while also analyzing the reason for why you feel this way. Once the emotion has subsided, take the time to think back to what triggered the feeling. Why did it cause this reaction? Is it something that can be avoided in the future if you can just adjust your mentality? These questions may not be fun to work through, but this change in perspective will help to reduce how intense these emotions will feel in the future, making them easier to process.

If you can be more in tune with yourself, approaching every situation with mindfulness and the necessary attention, it will show itself in your relationship with your significant other. Instead of going from bad to worse, you will have more control in how the situation will play out because you will be better equipped to work through these difficult emotions before approaching your partner.

If you both approach life this way, it is going to positively show itself within your relationship!

5 Ways to Manage Stress When You’re Home for the Holidays

Commonly thought of as a joyful time of year, the holiday season is full of many wonderful events. Parties, exchanging gifts, decorating, baking, and other activities fill our calendars throughout the season. Returning home to visit family and friends is a common holiday activity that has become routine for many. Although visiting with family can bring cherished and happy moments, it can also be a source of stress.black and white photo of pensive man
If you typically face stressful situations when visiting family over the holidays, there are steps you can take to create the most positive experience possible. As you get ready for your holiday visit, review these tips to help keep calm for the duration of your stay:

Utilize Deep Breathing Exercises

In moments of intense stress, deep breathing is an exceptional way to hit the “pause button” on your body’s response to the situation. Using a breathing exercise when you are in the middle of a stressful situation will help reduce tension and ease anxiety within minutes.

Exercise Regularly

Not only is regular exercise wonderful for your physical health, but it is also essential in keeping your mind relaxed. Exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and increase levels of endorphins in your body, which helps boost your mood (Mayo Clinic).

Avoid Discussing Controversial Subjects

Nothing can be more stressful at the dinner table (or anywhere else, for that matter) than being forced to participate in a conversation that deals with a controversial subject. Although you cannot control what subjects others bring up, you can control the conversation you introduce. Stay away from subjects that can stir up heated discussions among your family members. Keep conversations as friendly and positive as possible.

Let Go of Perfectionist Tendencies

Being a perfectionist during the holidays can create highly stressful situations. No matter how well you have planned your holiday gathering, things can (and do) go wrong. A side dish may end up being overcooked, you might forget to pack your holiday attire, or any other number of things could make your visit less-than-perfect. By learning to accept the occasional bumps, you will feel a lot more relaxed during your stay.

Plan a Relaxing Activity Each Day

The holidays can often become a flurry of activities, especially when going back home to stay with relatives. Between the cooking, cleaning, gift wrapping, and everything in between, you may not have a spare moment to decompress from it all. To help preserve your health and stress levels, plan something relaxing for each day of your visit. Take at least 30 minutes each day to engage in a favorite activity that will help you wind down. Read a book, take a warm bubble bath, do yoga, or anything else you consider to be relaxing.

from Catharine Toso’s Counseling Info http://ift.tt/2fZxGL3

5 Family Bonding Activities to Try this Holiday Season

The holiday season can get busy. With all of the hustle and bustle that surrounds holidays, sometimes the most important part gets lost in the mix. Regardless of your background, the holiday season is a perfect time to remember the most important people in our lives, our families. The holiday season provides an excellent opportunity to reconnect and bond with your special people. holiday wreath with ornaments

Build a Snowman or Watch a Holiday Movie

Depending on where you live, building a snowman with your loved ones is a great bonding activity. It’s not just for young children. Older children, adult children, and couples can enjoy the healthy and genuine fun that creating a snowman gives a family. Deck your snowman out in a holiday theme and hope the cooler temperatures guarantee your snowman will last. If you live somewhere where snow is not in the forecast, try watching a holiday movie together instead. You can watch one about a snowman, and you can use your imagination to create a unique snowman that doesn’t require snow. Let your imagination and bonding guide your ideas.

Decorate a Holiday Tree

A holiday tree shouldn’t get reserved for particular belief systems or traditions. If you live in a household where a holiday tree is a tradition, then kick off the holiday season by decorating it together. You can make your ornaments and get creative with the way you decorate the tree. Even if you are from a household where a holiday tree is not a tradition, you can start this tradition this year. A holiday tree is an excellent way to welcome the winter season. Break out a string of lights and inspire new tradition in your home.

Bake Cookies or Pies

Not much says it’s the holiday season like the scent of fresh cookies or pies. Even for the most health conscious amongst us, baking together is a great way to bond. Let young children get creative by decorating cookies or let older children get creative with ingredients. When you are finished baking, make sure you give yourself a break, and enjoy the fruits, or cookies and pies, of your labor by indulging together.

Read Holiday Stories

Reading a holiday story is a great way to start the holiday season. Take turns reading and doing voices for the characters. Reading opens up a world of creativity, and it’s a wonderful way to expand creativity and bond together.

Sing Holiday Songs

You don’t need a Billboard 100 voice to enjoy singing together. Let your guard down, and enjoy the company of your family by singing classic holiday songs. It’s a fun way to showcase your talents or showcase your humility.
During the holidays this year remember the people who give your life meaning. It’s easy to lose sight of the reason for the holiday season, but a perfect way to give thanks is by embracing your family and making time to bond.

from Catharine Toso’s: Family Counseling http://ift.tt/2gE0MAM

Keeping a Marriage Healthy

Spousal communication is the key to a happy marriage and, if kids are involved, a healthy family life. Writing for Psych Central, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S sought insight from family therapist Ashley Thorn, who shared several of the pointers she often gives clients.

Making Time

This is, understandably, the foundation on which all other goals are built. Between children, careers, and personal maintenance, spending quality time with your spouse can be quite a challenge. Thorn provides several suggestions for meeting a base-level of quality time with your partner. For starters, she mentions that you should make time once a week to discuss upcoming schedules. Being aware of major activities throughout the week means you know when to ask for help and when to give them some alone time.

Thorn also tells her clients to set apart two hours per week for quality one-on-one time, allowing them to reconnect and rekindle. Presumably this is time spent alone, or out on the town. But every few months it is necessary to really let go and plan for an extended getaway. You chose your partner because you enjoyed their company, so continue to make that a priority.

Your Spouse is Your Friend

“Friendship is a large part of the basis of a good committed relationship,” writes Thorn. Think of your spouse as your best friend first. This means reflecting on what a good friend means to you, and then pursuing it in your relationship. Don’t be shy to probe and ask questions— you never know someone 100%. What are their likes and dislikes? There’s always more to find out!

Get a Handle on Stress

Instead of dealing with stress effectively, Thorn notices that sometimes clients lash out at each other. In order to prevent this, you need to take a closer look at you. Find out what stresses you out, then learn to deal with it in an productive and mature way. Maybe meditation works for you, or perhaps it’s retreating to a place of quiet. And of course, there is always exercise.

Knowing how to cope with everyday stressors will lead you to positive interactions with those in your family.

from Catharine Toso’s: Family Counseling http://ift.tt/20tr9tB