Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pressing Pause


“Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years.” -Thoreau

I wonder what Thoreau would have said about the invention of the internet.

Recently, the staff at Womencare invited child and adolescent therapists to come share in a conversation that struggled to assess and consider the impact of technology on our kids, our relationships, and our lives. In the brief 1 ½ hour discussion, we touched on many things.

We discussed communities- the creation of new, and the strain on old.

We pondered social rules- what it means to be a friend, and what it means to be a friend on Facebook, and when and how to bridge those relationships.

We thought about information- how to wade through the seemingly endless stream of data and finding ways to sift the good from the bad.

We wondered about neurological changes- if the very fabric of our brains is changing because of the new ways we receive and process data.

We considered safety- how to protect our children and ourselves in a world with even more ambiguous boundaries.

Eventually, an important question emerged- when and where do we stop to consider all of these pieces in order to act, as opposed to react? As therapists, we try to provide a space in our client’s lives for them to begin to consider their own choices with wisdom and grace. As people, we do this while trying to forge our own path through this changing scenery. Some try to abstain almost entirely, while others immerse themselves in the new world, rushing to keep up with the latest development. Either option limits our opportunity to best serve our clients, who look to us for guidance and balance. So how do we play that role in a world where people frantically feel that speed is of the essence, and feel frantic about keeping up?

Ultimately, the answer may be to do exactly what we did. We took a moment to press pause on the information overload and come together to share our knowledge, in order to best help our clients. It seems we all came away from that conversation with something new- a new thought, new guideline, or new piece of information. We wish to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who came, and an invitation to them and others to continue to take those moments when we can find them. Together, we can hold that space to think and make choices in a more powerful way than we can traveling alone. (And no one’s phone went off during that whole hour and a half… at least not audibly!)

Ellen Lonnquist 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Yoga Group: Listening to Your Body, Listening to Your Heart

As part of our foray into the blog world, we would like to increase your awareness of events occurring at Womencare Counseling Center. Please take a look at this Yoga group, which will be occurring in March and April. We'd love for you to join us!

About the group: In our bodies we experience the challenges and tensions of life hardships, yet the body can be the most forgotten element in our healing journey. This six week group will introduce participants to a supportive and soothing yoga experience through physical postures, breathing techniques, hand gestures, and meditation. The facilitators are therapists who work with the many faces of trauma, mind/body connection and are trained yoga instructors.

Group Details:
  • When: Saturdays, 3:00-5:00, March 16 - April 20, 2013
  • Where: 1740 Ridge Avenue, Suite 201, Evanston, Illinois 60201 
  • Led By: Merari Fern├índez Castro
  • Program Fees: The Yoga Group is $210 per person for the series. Group fee includes program materials. Scholarships are available. Refunds permitted until one week before the workshop and are subject to a $30 administrative charge.
  • RSVP:  To join one of our therapy groups, please contact our Intake Counselor at 847-475-7003.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Invisible Victims of PTSD

Thank you Alex Kotlowitz, author, neighbor, and Northwestern University’s Writer in Residence, for insisting in your New York Times article (The Price of Public Violence, 2/23/2013) that we expand the conversation about children and murder.

Thank you for insisting that in addition to mourning the victims, in addition to sending our deepest regrets to the families of the children, in addition to all our attempts to console by smothering schools with cards and teddy bears, that we speak about the less visible victims.

Kotlowitz reminds us that when “Hadiya Peddleton, the fifteen year old public school student and band majorette, who just a week earlier had preformed at president Obama’s inauguration, was killed on Jan. 29, she was standing under an awning in the park with a dozen friends.” Her treasured friends huddled under the awning on Jan. 29, and that day their world was also changed forever. 

The witnesses, the ones who were missed by the bullet, the ones who were spared, the ones who watched Hadiya Peddleton, all the Hadiya Pendeltons in other neighborhoods. The friends and family members of fourteen year old Dajae Coleman of Evanston, the children of Sandy Hook Elementary, all of them were witnesses and they are haunted by trauma. Kotlowitz reminds us that their sense of future is altered by what they experienced.

In 1994 the DSM-IV (the diagnostic manual) added one word to the criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from the previous edition. The word was witness. It stated that one criteria for PTSD was that “the person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.”

The children and families, who walk the streets where the murder of youth is frighteningly commonplace or for those who sleep in nicer bedrooms and once imagined it could never happen here, they may all be the hidden victims of PTSD. 

And thank you Alex Kotlowitz for also paying homage in your article in the New York Times to the impact on other witnesses, those of us on the front lines. The social workers, the child advocates, the schoolteachers, the first responders whose souls and bodies are also infected. We call it secondary trauma, vicarious trauma; we call it heartbreak. 

The witnesses multiply and so too do those who suffer from PTSD, this has become a hidden public health crisis.

Let us also remember that the solution may reside in the witnesses. Those who refuse to turn away; those who refuse to think it is somebody else’s problem, the enlightened witness: communities that refuse to be indifferent, who are committed to sustain their outrage when a child, anyone’s child, is murdered and those who are determined to seek solutions even when it would be easier to turn away. 

Director and Founder Womencare Counseling Center