Counseling: What You Need To Know

Family Counseling Services in Lakeland

Family Counseling Lakeland

It’s OK to ASK

Family Counseling – Once upon a time I had never seen a counselor.  But I was getting desperate- my life felt like it was falling apart and things were getting to a scary point. I became grudgingly willing to see someone in case there was any way counseling could help me.  I got a recommendation for a therapist from a friend, made an appointment and went…with my tail between my legs.

There, I blurted out my entire life’s story. And in answer to the therapist’s question, I admitted to smoking some pot. She told me she could not work with me unless I gave that up immediately and entirely.  She might as well have shot me in the chest.  Family Counseling I remember leaving feeling stunned, rejected, completely vulnerable and humiliated. She ‘gave’ me an unwanted hug as I left. I was worse off than when I went in.  I suspected help would never come. I was clearly unworthy.

Family Counseling Services

To shorten up a LONG story, I went to self-help meetings for a while and then tried another therapist, and that time it clicked. She and I developed a rapport, and I went on to work hard at recovery for many months. The experience was transformative and set me on a path of recovery and growth. Now, I am happier and healthier than I could ever have imagined. Now I am a therapist, helping others to grow as well.

I remember those feelings: reluctant, desperate, hopeful before the first appointment. I remember the agony of the first appointment- fearing rejection. I remember the mystery of not knowing what was supposed to happen.

Who says what? Counseling Will the therapist tell me what is wrong with me? Will they respect me? Will they tell me what to do? Judge me? Isn’t this stuff written down anywhere?!?

If you are new to therapy, here are a few considerations:

You may have to shop around to find the counselor you work best with. That’s OK.
There are different formats for counseling: individual, group, couple’s and family. Andy also does interventions for people with addiction. That usually means a series of family counseling sessions to prepare for the intervention.

You will need to figure out how to pay for counseling. Some people pay for their own sessions, which can be $50-$150. Relationship Builders charges $100 per hour for individual and couple’s counseling. Some have insurance coverage for counseling- it can be smart to check with your insurance company regarding co-pays, deductibles, and covered providers. Some people have Employee Assistance Benefits through heir employer which offers free sessions. If you have no benefits and can’t afford counseling, group counseling is less expensive and a very effective way to work. There are free self-help groups in most communities, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and many more.

Location matters. We are in downtown Lakeland Florida, but are beginning to offer video counseling to people in the state of Florida.

Do you need counseling? Contact us today for an initial confidential consultation.

What a Little Child Can Do

We want our children to have a great childhood. We want to make their lives pleasant and fun. We may even say their only job is to do well in school. But what are we teaching? Dear child, you have only one job in life? Others will take care of the “menial” tasks? You don’t need to know how to cook, clean, care for a home? We may be unintentionally raising people who are bored, distracted, helpless, entitled, and have no idea who they are, or how to take care of themselves.

Children deserve more respect than that. Let’s show them respect, teach them self-respect by acknowledging that they are important members of the family. We can help them build confidence by helping them develop competencies. We develop their competencies by teaching them practical life skills and by expecting them to participate in the family work of the household, including vehicles, pets, family business, and care for relatives and the community.

Say what?!? Yes, actual real life responsibility. But, you say, they already have responsibilities of schoolwork, homework and perhaps arts or sports. Yes, and so do you. AND the house must be cleaned, food prepared, kitchen cleaned, dishes washed, clothes washed, dog washed. Who does all that? Why, Mommy and Daddy! Parents are working their butts off to get everything handled, while their offspring are bored, restless, filling their brains with entertainment, and not learning anything that makes them feel needed.

By teaching your children how to manage every aspect of the household, they become accustomed to teamwork, learn vital life skills, gain confidence through self-reliance, learn to earn and relish downtime, and learn to manage the work-school-rest-home-play cycle. They overcome the dependency-entitlement-resentment of waiting to be fed, waiting to be entertained, waiting to be waited on. The extra time you spend teaching them will come back to you a hundred-fold as you gain housemates who share the work of caring for the home and for each other.

Here is a list of things a child can do, because a child can do a lot, and in so doing feel like an important part of a team, gain a deep confidence from becoming able to care for themselves and others, and learn about themselves, their talents and preferences.

What a Little Child Can Do:

A tiny new walker under 2 years can:
Fetch a diaper or wipes for mommy
Pick up the dropped spoon
Put one item in one drawer
Do those things many times a day

At 2 years she can:
Help clean up her own spills and messes
Help make her bed
Put her dirty clothes in a hamper
Put her shoes where they belong
Bring her plate to the sink or dishwasher
Fold washcloths and dish towels
Help with grocery shopping by placing items in the cart as you hand them to her
Scoop a cup of food from the feed bag into the pet’s bowl

At 3 he can:
Put items in the dishwasher on the low rack, such as put spoons in the caddy
Sweep with a broom of a size that fits the child (yes they make those)
Pour juice from a small pitcher into a small cup for himself
Wipe up the spill
Wash the table
Choose items from a tray of available snacks
Put away clothes shoes toys in 5 minutes cycles with someone helping/supervising
Use a cup to scoop animal food from the bag pour into your pet’s bowl
Put an item in the recycle bin or the garbage
Pull their things and trash out of the car
Help set the table
Put clothes in the washer
Take clothes out of the dryer
Fold clothes
Put folded clothes in drawers
Dust specific surfaces
Pick up yard trash
Walk the dog
Take out the trash
Make a sandwich
Stir food on a stove

At 4 she can:
Learn to cut a banana safely with a real knife
Get items to help the chef
Stir a bowl of ingredients
Wash out small paintbrushes
Start the dishwasher
Operate small appliances like a toaster with supervision
Water houseplants with a small watering can
Brush her own teeth
Choose her own clothes for most days
Get dressed
Put up the towel from the bath
Put her clothes away
Put on laceless shoes
Put away her toys, books, art supplies with prompting
Feed and water the animal
Walk the animal, depending on the animal
Gather trash bags from the small trash cans and put it in the larger trash can
Replace the small trash bags
Bring in small grocery bags
Put groceries away with direction
Select clothing in a store
Choose between options in a restaurant

At 5 he can:
Help cut fruits and veg and plate these or add to a pot
Learn to make coffee for mom
Make his own sandwich
Put away the bread, peanut butter, lunch meat
Wipe up after food prep and eating
Wash some dishes by hand
Load the dishwasher
Sweep and mop with the right sized utensils
Separate laundry into whites, darks and colors
Load the washer, measure and add detergent depending on the container, and start the machine
Pull clothes out of the dryer into the hamper
Fold and stack clothes and put them in the right rooms or drawers
Select some familiar and lowly placed items at the grocery store
Order in a restaurant
Make a transaction over a counter
Rake, pull weeds, water indoor or outdoor plants

At 6 she can:
Complete her whole morning and bedtime routine independently
Walk the dog
Feed and water the animals
Run the vacuum
Start a load of laundry
Wash dishes by hand or load the dishwasher
Straighten her room for 10-30 minutes at a time
Help a younger child make a sandwich
Cook an egg on the stove
Help substantially in the kitchen, house, yard, office, farm
Wash a car
Read to younger children

Kids can do a great deal if you take the time to teach them how. A 12 year old can just about run a household. The trick is in a couple of parental intentions and habits. The main thing is realizing that kids can do, enjoy doing, and benefit learning the skills of everyday life. They gain precious things from doing: confidence in themselves and a sense of being needed as part of a homemaking team.

Making It Happen

We start by having them help, even when it would be more efficient to do things ourselves. We increase over time the help and the expectation, as we teach them skills and let them practice. Eventually they string together longer chains of behavior until they can make the sandwich, wash the dog, make the bed more independently. We continue close supervision over potentially dangerous situations such as cooking, until they have the thing mastered and show good judgement, even when things start to go wrong. We expect them to clean up after themselves, including mishaps like spills.

Kids have differing talents, some easily acquire the kitchen skills but struggle with organizational skills like sorting or putting away. The key is to watch each individual child, and carefully note what level of complexity in a skill area is displayed, and what would be the next lesson and/or next level of responsibility. It is absolutely a parent’s job to make sure that by age 18 our kids know how to do all the skills of daily living- money, budgets, food, housekeeping, nurturing others, clothing, yard, cars, pets, dealing with larger communities (teams, clubs, extended family, church) merchants, etc. The point is to keep the lessons and expectations moving forward at a rate that reflects the unique child’s capabilities. This is how we respect them, and how they respect us, and how they respect themselves.

Skills training only works if the parent(s) are willing to expect the participation of their child; and teach their child how to do things bit by bit as the child is able. We teach kids to pick up after themselves by introducing the ‘ten second tidy’ at a very young age, and do it often, many times a day, every day. We are talking literally thousands of repetitions over a young lifetime.

So in any one instance, we are not expecting more than the child can deliver. Kids have fewer resources to deal with moments when they are tired or stressed or craving some distraction. We are patient yet firm. If the two year old won’t put her dirty clothes in the hamper, well we can’t have the bedtime story until it’s done. We may offer one buy-out option per week to lessen the power struggle, but we, like the tide, come again and again with our expectation. Figure out your consequences for chore refusal ahead of time. And/or build a reward for good citizenship or clean room into the weekly routine. That’s actually another article, so I will leave this here. You might be amazed at what a little child can do.

Is My Kid Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol? Help for Parents

Here are a few items that can reduce your anxiety if you are worried that your kid may use or is using alcohol or illegal substances.

If you attend to the media, you may think that all kids are using, and that they will all end up with a serious addiction. The statistics on teen substance use do not say that. Most kids experiment, a sizable portion are drinking or drugging periodically, but the addicted kids are a small minority.

Teens are prone to substance use because of curiosity, cultural influences, and impulsivity. Because their brain is developing quickly, it can quickly develop into a lifelong problem.

Be preventative. Spend time with your kids. For example, recent research states that having dinner and doing homework with kids is predictor of kids not using substances. Spend non-structured time, and listen. Everyone wants to tell their story, given they have a person willing to listen without nagging, advice-giving and lecturing.

Is your kid at risk? The three biggest risk factors for teen substance use are trauma, divorce and mental illness. In these cases, professional assistance is highly recommended.

Assess your kids. An easy barometer is acceptable grades, participation in chores, social interests with peers, respect of the parents, and are they involved with substances. Although I believe it should be optional for teens, involvement in spirituality can be very powerful for teen development.

Don’t panic! Despite what others think, teens deeply need us more in this stage of their life. They are facing more challenges than any previous generation. Most kids need grounded, well adjusted parents to make it safely to adulthood. Best thing for an anxious parent is to address their own anxiety, before unknowingly making the kid responsible for that parental anxiety. For example, I have worked with many parents that grew up poor, overindulged their kids, and severely regretted it later.

And how not to panic! Get a consult and do not work alone! A family session with parents with a Certified Addictions Professional that works with teens (see resources at the end of this post) can really alleviate some of the anxiety. Other parents, extended family, church and  school resources can be of invaluable assistance. Often parents find value for themselves to see a therapist. Understanding substance use and our own reactions to our kids is paramount to effective parenting in the substance use issue. Some parents will find NarAnon or AlAnon (see resources,) family support groups, very useful and comforting.

Check your own judgements at the door. The most important development task of a teen is freedom. They are supposed to push against us and take risks. Humans are healthy when they do not accept only one view, and when they take risks. Our biggest responsibility is to love our kids and help them become self-sufficient. Can we love them when they make mistakes? The challenge for parents is to recognize teen development, allow for freedom, growth and risks, and help them keep themselves safe.

Understand substance use. Often parents do not understand substance abuse, and make snap judgements and consequences. Kids are caught in a dilemma of feeling good by using with friends, and parents who send the message that using substances is horrible. Human beings are wired to seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad. Substance use is often just a symptom of other emotional challenges.

Know signs and symptoms of using behavior. The simple ones are secrecy, isolation, change in friends and interests and unexplained mood swings or bizarre behavior. Know signs and symptoms of drugs of abuse (see NIHDrugsofAbuse .)

Keep your kid safe. The silver lining to finding out your kid is using is that you have an opportunity to remove driving  privileges. You will sleep better at night. You have the right to forbid your child from being with a drug user. Secretly your kid could be relieved that someone drew a line in the sand.

Don’t be scared of drug screens. Not only do we use screens to detect drug use, but they help your teen. Many people do not use because they know they have a screen awaiting them (see resources for Drug Screens.)

Don’t be scared of treatment. Most therapists recommend starting with the lowest level of care which is outpatient counseling. The addictions therapist can recommend the best level of care for your kid. The next levels of care are intensive outpatient and residential treatment. Sometimes kids need residential treatment because they can not extract themselves from their using friends.

Resources (short list for Polk County Florida!)

Addiction therapists:

Joe Martin, LMHC, CAP, 863-808-7416

Andy Quinn, LMHC, CAP, 863-683-9600

Rhett Brandt, Ph.D.,863-606-5922

Intensive Outpatient:

Lifecare of Lakeland,  Donna St. Rock, 863-937-9659


Dr. Curtis Cassidy 863-686-0800, late teens only

Dr. Chris Davenport, 863-646-9600, late teens only

Dr Mark Helm, 863-683-2600

Dr. Karen Teston, 863-647-8043

Drug Screens:

Target drug testing: 863-701-0777

Quest diagnostics: 866-697-8378

Polk county drug court: 863-534-4612

Self help groups:

AlAnon 863-687-3800

NarAnon 1-888-947-8885

Help for Families of Addicts, Part I

Andy Quinn 2014Just the word “addict” makes us cringe! Then to think that our child or husband may be an addict is certainly unsettling, even devastating. Despite our best efforts at convincing, controlling and cajoling the addict to quit they keep on. And despite all the tragic events and difficulties they just keep on. Truly we are baffled and most of us in the helping professions have been confused and frustrated by trying to help these people.

So what can you do? I tell folks  that if you are going to cure addiction you have to understand the addict. There are a lot of myths about addiction, that if held onto, can actually can contribute to the problem. Even mental health professionals are still working  on outdated models of assisting families and their loved ones. The culture that we live in devalues asking for assistance,  the idea of helping one another.. Having addiction in the family can cause family members to feel shame. These dynamics can cause families to isolate and control, desperately trying to help in ineffective ways. This can lead to increased shame and more acting out by not just the addict but by family members themselves. So misguided, misinformed methods make things worse!

Most of us are going  to be traumatized by the substance using of our loved one. Susan Johnson, an attachment theorist that developed Emotional Focus Therapy, defined trauma  as a psychological wound that leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless. This is how spouses and parents of addicts often feel. When human beings are traumatized, physically, emotionally,  mentally, the mind contracts to a form of tunnel vision. Our assessment of the situation is inaccurate and our reaction is off the mark. We will spin  into anxiety  and shame and become controlling and reactive. We are often  reliving  some of the same trauma from our childhood. I would not trust such a mind for solid decision making.

Lenora gardener

This sense of losing  everything important, the trauma, reinforces a need to isolate. The isolation will reinforce, make stronger the anxiety around having substance abuse in the family. Our American culture values “being strong,” and devalues being vulnerable. Paradoxically what we are typically running from is fear…..”what will people say? (when they find out my son is an addict)”  or “what does it feel like to me to have no control?” So in a round about way it takes courage to face the pain, and relief that I do not have  to have all the answers.

Working with professionals and support groups like Al Anon leads to the most important part of helping the addict….getting help for yourself. Research consistently confirms that people are happier when they have loving relationships and talk about their problems. So getting help for yourself stabilizes the mind. Once the mind is stable, it can become more malleable, flexible to entertain new concepts about the nature of addiction. The open mind will also become more intuitive about how to help my particular addict. This openness can also be conducive to loving our addict, a powerful force in getting better.

We learn to soften toward the addict when we understand that their destructive behavior has to do with impaired neurological functioning, that may have been genetic or due to childhood experiences. Family members learn that their loved one is not of sound mind, their mind so impaired that they can not control their use. Families can learn that the addicted person is suffering, and deserves compassion like we all do. So the first step in getting help for our addict is to begin the process of understanding, forgiving and loving our addict.

by Andy Quinn

The Family Balancing Act

It can be as though nothing you say is getting through to your child or teen, and very often yelling, grabbing or door slamming is what ends up happening. You wonder how you got here form holding that precious baby in your arms. You worry about your kids and you want the best for them, but you don’t know what to do. Everything you’ve tried has failed.

Counseling can help. Everybody can benefit from having a neutral person who will listen and be supportive. This is true for your kids as well as for you. Further, there may be some unmet needs, or big problems no one is talking about, or hurts and losses that need healing. Perhaps family members just need some new tools- to become better listeners, or break away before the argument starts, or ways to approach a difficult conversation that will lead to better outcomes.

Try just slowing down and listening more carefully to your loved one. Acknowledge their feelings. Reflect on their point of view. Sometimes this alone will begin to create solutions! If not, there are about a thousand other things you can try. Give us a call.