JIM ANDERSON, MFT
LICENSED MARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPIST
WORKING WITH KIDS
Kids enjoy the creative process and are often eager to try new skills. Many kids and teens struggle to deal with their own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Being a kid shouldn't be a stressful job, but unfortunately in today's world of uncertainty it often is.
Kids can also face real life stressors including peer pressure, school stress, sibling conflicts, parent divorce and blended family issues. All of these can add up, affecting mood, attitude, self confidence and overall life motivation.
Learning to verbalize and process emotions is no easy task. Often times with no other means of expression, we see children and teens acting out their emotional distress in a variety of negative behaviors that end up getting them into trouble.
I teach kids how to understand their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions from a creative objective lens. Kids are sponges for new ideas, tools and positive coping strategies. As resistance is released, learning is processed as a positive, fun, and rewarding experience.
I start with your child's strengths and build out from there. For one kid it might be about academics, for another it's all about sports, and still for others it may be about music. Once identified, these creative unconscious strengths and resources are utilized in the context where they are most needed. New social and psychological skills are then reinforced through indirection and tied back to real world challenges for growth and change.
WORKING WITH PARENTS
When I work with parents, the first goal is to identify and understand the child's symptoms as a set of communications. I use a variety of parenting techniques and skill sets to help educate families on process and context.
Clinically, all behavior is purposeful. I teach families a model based on process awareness; to notice what is going on, develop an observer's lens and get out in front of the problems. As insights expand, negative behaviors are seen more as purposeful communications that are seeking new solutions and support.
There are many forms of strategic intervention. Educating with talk therapy is great for some family situations. For others, a more creative approach can be utilized to break through the resistance and help kids and parents collectively find new answers to change.
The key is to engage the creative component to redefine both problems and work collaboratively to find the best solutions. Reframing issues creates a new positive context for change to occur. It's a great feeling when families begin to think clinically and outsmart old negative patterns of behavior with a new psychological frame of reference. Symptoms are soon replaced by awareness, insight, support and encouragement.
How a problem is conceptualized is extremely important to open one's awareness, insight and activate change. People become symptomatic when they don’t believe they have any choices. As distressing as this is, symptoms such as anxiety and anger are often unconsciously pushing us to create new changes.
Understanding your own personal process is key. All experience is subjective. It's the method of how we do what we do that matters most. As we begin to process challenges from a new vantage point, new resources, solutions and contextual shifts begin to emerge. Internal skill sets are formed and resources are utilized in the context in which they are needed. Integration of ideas thoughts, feelings, attitudes and perceptions all combine to reshape new life experience.
Therapy is not something to dread but rather an insightful journey of learning; a process to be enjoyed. From this frame of reference therapy is best seen as an opportunity to grow; an educational experience to expand insight and awareness.