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“The Notebook” .. Because Let’s Face it … We All Need to Vent!

28 Apr

I have trust issues. I readily admit that. In the sphere of my life, of the tons of people I know as acquaintances, I have very few that I open up to fully. I’m like a labyrinth of emotional gates, each person with their own respective levels of access to my core, my feelings, my heart. I feel-out and analyze every person with which I may have to have repeated encounters. Quick snapshots of conversations, the way someone carries themselves, pointed observations on the way that person engages others, contradictions, etc .. all factors which I deem pertinent in deciding how open I choose to be. Most people (save for family and childhood friends) don’t make it past the friendly superficial, knowing little about me beyond inconsequential things like my favorite snack or the environmental dynamic (work, school, the supermarket, and so on) in which we engage. Summary? YES, I’m guarded … very, lol! I have a soft / trusting heart and I hate being vulnerable with people who don’t’ deserve it I’m unsure of. Besides, who likes having their feelings hurt? Hence the walls, either you’re in or you’re out. Everyone has their “thing” in relationships, both personal and social. This just happens to be mine.  And like many others, as you’ve probably guessed, it’s rooted from some deep seeded event(s) of my childhood, events that I won’t go into here, but were poignant enough that they played a part in the kind of adult I am today. So … what’s a person to do if they, like me, are leery of most people initially? How do you vent, process emotions, or find a sounding board when, the circle of people you trust enough to let your guard down with happens to be so small? What if you hate burdening loved ones, especially if the situation is particularly stressful?  Cue, the notebook.

Last summer, I came upon an empty, small, brown notebook at work. Being the dork that I am, I thought it would be a cute place to record fun, new summer adventures in the city. A nice little addition to the growing time capsule I keep at my mother’s house. Very soon however, it developed into something more. After a recent emotional setback, it became the place where I shared my anger, disappointments, fears, realizations, and thoughts. A vent book. It became a private place where I could pour out the entirety of my feelings without hesitation or reservations. No tapering or sugar-coating of the wording. No half-truths.  No biased opinions from others. No judgments. This notebook was 100% from my heart and allowed me to say all of the things I wanted regarding this issue, while also helping me face and process some hard realizations about myself and others in a brutally honest way. The peace I felt after each entry was amazing; my mind clear from the overwhelming and sometimes confusing journey of trying to “figure it out.” The puzzle pieces slowly clicked together. I had my answers. True catharsis in action. Take away lesson? Everyone needs a safe place to vent, particularly the sad moments in our lives. Whether it be confiding in a parent, friend, therapist, or even a notebook … please be sure you have a healthy avenue to release. No good ever comes from bottling up your emotions. Moving forward mentally becomes increasingly difficult if you remain mired in stressful, circulatory thinking. Find your positive outlet. Then? Let it go at a rate that feels good to you.

Today, the contents of my notebook have transformed once again. From hurt and disappointment, the pages have returned to its original purpose and is filled with exciting plans for the future, recent discoveries, personal musings, new goals, and thoughts of self-exploration. Personally, I feel my notebook works so well, because it’s written as an unedited thought stream. To heck, with punctuation and grammatical rules. I write it down immediately as I feel / think it. No revisions or rewording. It is 100% raw emotion of the moment. I haven’t gone back to re-read any of my entries yet. I’m still choosing to keep it as a time capsule of sorts. Someday perhaps, years from now, I’ll take a look back … and laugh possibly at how crucial / monumental everything seem to be at that time .. LOL .. Perspective, it can be such a funny thing : ]

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Happy Child Life Month!

24 Mar

Happy Child Life Month!

Celebrating my fellow Child Life Specialists for all of the fun, unique, creative, therapeutic, educational work we do with children and families in sometimes scary medical settings.

Keep up the awesome work! I’m proud of all of you : ]) For more information about the profession Child Life, feel free to click on the Child Life card in this celebration post or “The profession” tab at the top of this blog page.

~ Angela B.

Oh God, It’s Monday Already??

10 Jun

The impending work-week pressure of “it’s Monday” can be SO overwhelming. What has helped me? Remembering to take it one goal, one task, one moment, one breath at a time. Then? Celebrating any achievement I made that day, no matter how small the victory, and especially on my rough days! Ultimately, realizing that some days might be a set-back is also key to not berating oneself over a seeming loss of emotional progress. We are human … with different biological makeups and different coping strategies. Yes! Some days you will want to scream, panic, pull at your hair, and run out the office door arms flailing towards the nearest cave to hide. In those few moments before you bolt, stop, take a breath, and find your center (what I call a calm mental space free stressors). Believe me, as scattered as your internal compass may feel, a core source of peace lies within you. With a little help / practice from a trained professional, you too can gain the tools to call upon it at will.

”Palm Leaves” …. The Return!

29 Mar

After a long (and much-needed hiatus) I’ve finally returned! So much has happened in the month or so that I’ve been gone. I’ve  firmly planted my feet in a new job working with children and families in crisis here in NYC (I’ll elaborate at a later point), completed my biology / genetic midterms for my pre-med coursework (with three classes left to go until the medical school application process), and began the final stages of launching my private play therapy consulting firm. Growth, progress, sacrifice, and insomnia! All this and then some can certainly describe my life at this point. Along these lines, someone recently made a comment about wrapping up a project we were working on and moving on so we could get back to “having a life. ” My reply? “A life?? What’s THAT??” In truth, my reply to him was partly in jest, but ultimately, based in truth. What I’ve come to realize is that in order to make the real tangible changes I hope to see in my life and in the lives of those around me, this hard-nosed diligence is necessary. The task I have charged to myself in attempting to close the health and social gaps in communities of color, is no small feat. But it is my passion. Where I once resented the fact that I always seem to be “on the grind” with limited personal time, I have now have come to realize that in my short professional life, I have accomplished quite a bit. In the end, I now also realize how blessed I am to be on my life path toward saving the world .. uh .. I mean making a small difference; I’m truly grateful : ]).

So all of that said, I’ve returned! Back to sharing my knowledge, tips, experiences, dreams, and health aspirations one post at a time. Keep a lookout in the next three days for my next update.

Thanks for reading everyone!  *Kisses*

~Angela B.

*Taps Mic* … “Um, Is This Thing On???”

20 Nov

Not long ago, I mentioned that I attended my grad school reunion at Bankstreet not too long ago. At the end of the social hour, we were invited to participate in a live Skype session with world-renowned play therapist Gary Landreth. While I’ll mention the specifics of Mr. Landreth’s discussion in a later post, there was one major point he made that completely struck me. Actually, the comment was moreso a story that was so poignant and meaningful I to share it. Although, I can’t recall the exact wording (ironic right? : ]), I will attempt to give you a gist of the narrative …

I was walking into the store when I passed a man in a wheelchair greeting customers at the entrance. I asked him how his day was going and he replied, ‘It’s not my day, it’s my LIFE. Some days I feel like I just want to die.’ With a sad expression, at the door of this shopping establishment, he began to tell me about his life. I listened. He told stories of his struggles, his pain, his seeming disconnection from the world. When someone came to finally relieve him for a break (about an hour later), he apologized for the long story, then thanked me before he departed. Apparently, I had been the first person to truly listen to him in quite some time. As I walked away, it is then I realized that all around us are people longing to simply be heard. How many are born, live, go through life, but are never truly acknowledged? Never truly knowing if they’ve ever existed? ~Gary Landreth

Tear-jerker right? I admit my eyes watered a bit after that story. I’m sure we can all think of a time where we’ve passed a needy stranger on the street, promised to call back a friend but somehow forgotten, or just may not have been as attuned to those in our surroundings as we could have. So many people are suffering in isolating silence. If only we as a human community were more attentive. The essential message I took away from Mr. Landreth’s story was simply become more mindful. Am I valuing the humanity of each person I meet? Do I give others space to express themselves fully, without interruptions or formulating my response as they speak? Am I willing to enter each encounter with another without preconceived notions? Do I listen to little ones as much as I listen to elders? I won’t say these things are easy feats, but I will say that I plan to make much more of an effort. After all, everyone deserves their moment to exist. A chance to take center stage, grab the microphone, and be listened to. What type of audience will you be?

“From Bankstreet with Love”

15 Nov

I just came back from my graduate school alma mater, Bankstreet College of Education. The event held last night served as one-part reunion and one-part celebration as we honored the anniversary of our school’s Child Life Department. Since its inception 10 years ago, the Child Life Program at Bankstreet College of Education has grown into a thriving, unique setting for those eager to incorporate their prior knowledge of child / human development theory into the medical setting. As a profession that originated from the “play ladies” of early orphanages and children wards in 1920’s hospitals, the field of Child Life is ever expanding and continues to re-shape itself. Each year, the graduating cohorts of today at Bankstreet are well-trained clinicians who enter the workforce ready, willing, and fully committed to nurturing the healthy development of populations in a family-centered, individualized way.

As I walked around the room during the celebration, so many of my peers were involved in such great work serving families around the greater New York Area; it was inspiring. In the end, we laughed, we reminisced, we hugged, we even cried some. All in all, it was a great night to come together and celebrate the unique kinship that comes with being a Bankstreet graduate. Like the Olive Garden commercial says ” Once your here, you’re family.” Salute to my Bankstreet Child Life family : ]).

For more information regarding Bankstreet’s Child Life program, please select the following link: http://ow.ly/1Ao6fh

*Official logo of Bankstreet College of Education

“Things Fall Apart:” When a Tough Economy, Anxiety, & Medical Stressors Collide

7 Nov

scream blog

For many families, life during these hard economic times can be full of stressful triggers. Putting food on the table, paying the house note, keeping the lights on, getting gas into the car, maintaining your social/love relationships, looking for new work .. all of which can be anxiety provoking. While keeping this scenario in mind, imagine now adding the serious stressor of having a loved one admitted to the hospital or dealing with a new medical illness. It can be enough to literally make you want to pull your hair out! Sadly, this is the reality for many families around the country. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are resources to help.

1: Sound Mind: Within many hospital settings, there are often well-trained psychologists on staff who are ready and willing to help. They can provide a safe, non-judgmental outlet for you to vent, talk through your fears, address personal challenges, and brainstorm on coping strategies that best fit you. Best of all, these medical psychologists and counseling staff personnel are specially trained to work within the hospital setting to serve those who are affected by the pressures of health concerns. They can offer tools to not only decrease your heightened emotional state, but also ways to promote engaging ill loved ones in a positive way without experiencing what is known as “caregivers fatigue” (when a loved one caring for another becomes physically and emotionally drained).

2: Sound Body: Did you know that many hospitals are now offering spa services? YES! Unbeknownst to many patients and families, a growing number of hospitals around the country are offering holistic services such as: yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, dance, and music therapies to name a few. Even beauty enhancement services are becoming increasingly common to address the need of boosting emotional morale. While the primary focus remains treating the illness and ensuring true health, who doesn’t feel better after a nice massage or a few beauty regimes? It reminds families that they are still human and can have a big normalizing effect for everyone who participates.

3: Sound Life: Now that the mind and body have been cared for, what services are available for the other non-medical stressors? With the help of human services, social workers do more than simply help with discharge. They can: work with your doctor and insurance company to ensure care is financially covered as well as make community referrals to assist with securing key needs (such as housing, food, utility support, etc).

In the end, though things may seem bleak, help IS indeed available. Please, if things seem unbearable, reach out to a friend, loved one, doctor, etc … you don’t have to struggle through life’s rough spots alone.

Famous Quotes

7 Nov

“Play is a Child’s Work” ~ Jean Piaget, world renound Human Development Theorist

Social Networking: Going to the Next Frontier

7 Nov

In the past ten years, the explosion various social networks have been remarkable. While used for many different reasons, social networking can also have a strong therapeutic value as well. Through monitored social networking and communication applications (such as FaceTime and Skype), those facing isolation due to prolonged hospitalization have the opportunity remain connected to friends and loved ones between visits.

This use of technology, can be especially helpful for children and adolescents. During this stage of development, youth typically are very close to their peers and thrive during socialization. Via this use of technology, children can have a safe vehicle to express fears, stay connected with ongoing life events at home/school, stay connected with siblings, or simply enjoy non-medical conversations with friends who understand them. Social Networking can not only provide much-needed opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions, but overall, it is a great and familiar way for young people to normalize their hospital experience and connect, gaining much-needed emotional support in the process. Ultimately, social networking can be a good choice for the entire family. As seen often times through my work, as children begin to better cope with hospitalization, so do adult caregivers and family members. Stress begins to wain and a return to increasingly positive interactions can resume.

“A Teddy Bear’s Work”

7 Nov

A great way to ease the fears of children who are often anxious about doctor visits is the use of “Medical Play.” Child Life Therapist’s such as myself, believe that through play, children learn and experience the world around them. With this in mind, we often use medical play to teach children about the medical environment in a fun, non-threatening way. Through this sort of unique imaginative play, Child Life Therapists help children address: fears / misconceptions about the hospital setting, questions about medical equipment, the different roles of medical staff, or upcoming tests. Children are able to gain control as they assume the role of doctor and practice on a “patient” (often a stuffed animal) some of the very same routine procedures their own doctor may perform on them. As these sessions involve medical concepts and may raise difficult emotional responses from children and they work through their concerns. All play therapy / medical play session should be conducted by a trained (licenced or certified) professional.

Overall, when children are able to rehearse various aspects of the medical environment , they are more likely to feel in control and are able cope better than children with little to no preparation education. Doctor visits do NOT have to be stressful moments filled with screams. With a little prep-work and lots of emotional support from caregivers, even the littlest patient can head home with less tears.

For additional information regarding medical play or to discuss if medical play therapy might be a helpful option for your child, please feel free to reach me via the “Contact” tab above.