Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teen Therapy Groups

Despite greater public awareness of gender inequality, studies on teen girls have repeatedly shown that girls lose self-esteem and self-confidence between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.  Girls lose themselves as they try to become what the dominant culture defines.  Girls are neurologically and physiologically built to “tend and befriend,” to grow and thrive by harnessing the emotional and social benefits of close relationships.

Research has been repeatedly shown that girls’ developmental strivings for autonomy are coupled with a strong desire to maintain important relationships, and further the emotional intimacy within these relationships.

At Womencare, our teen therapy groups are designed not only to meet the ordinary challenges young women face, but also the traumatic challenges they must work to overcome.  Within these groups, the growth of each girl’s autonomous self, which strives for competency and individuality, can be encouraged and celebrated.  Within our groups, the growth of each girl’s relational self, which desires connection and collaboration with others, can be developed and nurtured.  When provided with a safe place to give voice to goals, dreams, feelings and desires that may be in sync with or run  counter to the dominant culture, girls are afforded the opportunity to find and honor their true selves. 
We invite you to visit our website,, to check out our two teen therapy groups, A.R.T. Adolescent Girls Reclaiming Themselves and Stronger Together, which are specifically created to meet the needs of young women as they grow through their adolescent years.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Launching the Womencare Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Program

The memories of traumatic events are often stored in our bodies and may lay dormant.  Talk therapy with a trauma therapist can help move wordless, unspeakable events into words.  Yet sometimes, these memories are still held in our bodies.  There is a growing body of evidence to support that yoga is helpful in managing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. 

As an adjunct treatment for trauma, Womencare will be launching a trauma-sensitive yoga program.  Beginning in January 2014, Womencare will offer a trauma-sensitive yoga (TSY) group on Monday nights from 7:30 to 8:30 pm.  No previous yoga experience is necessary to join this group.  You do need to have an individual talk therapist in order to participate.

Trauma-sensitive yoga is different from traditional yoga.  TSY is yoga that focuses on creating safety so that students can practice:  interoception, choice, and action.  Interoception is sensitivity to stimuli originating inside of the body; it is a specific type of mindfulness that focuses on body-based internal experiences.  Traditional yoga classes are often directive and command-based whereas TSY classes incorporate invitational language.  Also, traditional yoga classes often involve the yoga teacher adjusting students by physically placing his/her hands on your body.  In TSY, there are no physical adjustments or assists.  Students can safely practice yoga without worrying whether the yoga teacher will touch them.

Interested folks may also participate in individual trauma-sensitive yoga sessions, if they prefer.  If you are interested in the trauma-sensitive yoga group or in individual sessions, please contact yoga teacher and staff therapist, Alissa Catiis at 847-475-7003 x37.

For more information about yoga and trauma, click here.

If you are interested in trying a chair-based trauma-sensitive yoga class, click here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Reflections on Nelson Mandela

Image from BCLC

Nelson Mandela was a not only a great man, but also a humble man, and a man of vision courage and wisdom. To me, he was a hero, a hero at a time when we have too few.

Nelson Mandela understood trauma.  He survived twenty-seven years in prison. He believed in justice and forgiveness. He invited his jailer to his inauguration to be president of South Africa.

In 1996 I was invited to South Africa to be part of a delegation of trauma therapists to study post-traumatic stress.  This was a time when South Africa was in the midst of massive social change, beginning to rebuild its very foundation. I had the privilege of attending the inauguration of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Capetown.  President Mandela stood in that church in Capetown because he believed that the traumas of the past must be addressed and acknowledged or they would come to haunt the new South Africa.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a public forum for private grief where many would come to understand the power of community witnessing.  Its mission was to encourage truth telling about what happened during the years of apartheid and, through hearing the truth, to mourn and heal.

Image from History Channel, Text Added

“Ordinary South Africans", Nelson Mandela explained, "are determined that the past be known, the better to insure that it is not repeated. They seek this not out of revenge, but so we can move into the future together.”

In dark times, Nelson Mandela’s story, his legacy, can give hope and inspiration. To transform traumatic experiences into acts of justice and forgiveness is a way to honor his legacy. Surely we will all fall short but that does not give us an excuse not to try.

-Laurie KahnMA, MFA, LCPC, Director of Womencare Counseling Center

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Staying Honest This Season

I know you celebrate something... Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas or that Seinfeld holiday George made up. There is almost inescapable, manic pressure in our country to wrap perfect presents when the weather turns cold. Whatever it is that has you pulling out your dress slacks and making that bread bowl spinach dip people go crazy for, I actually won't suggest that you "remember the reason for the Season.”

I won't suggest you savor the glow in a child's eyes as the warm radiance of holiday lights glisten off the snow reflecting their timeless joy. Those messages often shame us. We end up hauling our overtired 6-year-old away from the damn bowl of red and green M&M's for the millionth time at the holiday party of the snippy neighbor we resolved to be nicer to, using that harsh voice we resolved last New Year’s to abolish.

I could instead give you permission to leave the wrapping paper all over the floor and roll in it after opening presents, to get a babysitter on December 23rd, and eat the grilled cheese sandwich you actually like, instead of your aunt's beef wellington.

That's good, but what I really want to suggest you do this winter is something taboo. Really taboo. I want you to talk to your kids about how all the pressure of the magic and merriment stresses people out and explain that they're probably feeling that too. About how wonderful family get-togethers sometimes cause a confusing pit in their stomachs because it seems like everyone is smiling, but a lot is not being said. I want you to notice when your child is looking out the window with glazed eyes and ask yourself, have they been so bowled over by the frenzy to be blissful that they're panicked something is wrong with them because they're feeling drained and dissatisfied?

Holidays are hard for kids, too. Maybe harder. They don't know that it's a bunch of bunk to have the brightest bow, the best new bike, and the most creative holiday plans to go skiing, help the homeless, and batik your own Holiday Cards. They see the commercials and holiday marketing, too. So, create a magical holiday for them by making the spinach dip, stringing up lights, AND talking to them about how icky it was that Mommy and Daddy yelled at each other in the grocery store over what size Pannetone cake to get for the new 4th grade science teacher.  

It won't take away from the magic-  being honest and present is the magic. It will make the holidays cleaner, clearer, and better connected. Looking at the bad doesn't negate the good. You'll emerge partners in knowing that you'll be there for them in whatever confusing illusion is wrapping everyone else up in stress and sparkly sweaters. They'll know you see them… and nothing feels better at any time of the year.

*This post was written by Womencare Staff Member Jennifer Cutilletta, LCSW