<![CDATA[Laurie Levine LCSW - Blog]]>Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:26:27 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Yoga-works]]>Tue, 13 Jan 2015 01:50:58 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/yoga-works
I have been spending a lot of time at my beloved Beloved Yoga studio recently.  A true enticer for me of late has been the warm toasty yoga room on these very cold mornings.  I have been doing yoga on and off for a decade; this spring I started up again and I always wonder "why would I ever stop?"

The teachers are fabulous; they are so well educated and proficient at their skill.  I have learned so much about the body, the mind, my own strength and potential.  I love realizing how I struggled with a certain pose back in the summer that comes so easily to me now and seeing how my endurance has really improved from these months of practicing yoga.

The typical class is ninety minutes.  The teachers often give a message in the beginning of class about balance, being in the present or any number of possibilities essential to both being on the yoga mat and living our daily lives.  We then warm up, progress into a pretty intense flow workout where I love to really get my sweat on. The class  then cools  down a bit where we do a variety of still poses and balances. At the end we settle in to shavasana  where we lie still for about five minutes and relax.

This 'relax' thing is harder than one might think.  When they say relax, they really mean relax; not plan your grocery list, itemize your work to-do tasks or think about calling your mother-in-law.  One of my favorite teachers encouraged me to try to feel my heart beat while in this pose.   When I am struggling to still my mind, I often focus on his suggestion and am able to slow down and focus on, well, just nothing, which is the intended goal.

As I get in my car to drive home, I always feel really great.  Each muscle has had a chance to be stretched or worked so my whole body feels wrung out.   And, my mind is always  usually perfectly still and calm as well (last week during shavasana, I did have a panic moment when I remembered that my quarterly taxes were due, but otherwise, I tend to achieve a very calm state).

One day the week  before Christmas I had gone to one of my favorite  morning classes before a client.  I rushed home, showered and got to the office while still maintaining my post-yoga calm.

My client arrived in the throes of the pre-Christmas frenzy.  There was talk of wrapping and shopping and cooking and extended family.  She was feeling anxious and stirred up and I listened.  I was still and slow, I responded calmly and from a very grounded spot.  As the session progressed, my client began to slow down.  She became more calm and peaceful;  her speaking slowed and her anxiety decreased.

At the end she said "and this is why I scheduled a pre-Christmas Laurie appointment" (she may have even blurted out "you are a genius" at one point)(to which I just laughed and thanked the yoga teacher).

After the session, us both feeling very peaceful, I shared my "genius" with her.

I told her about my yoga class and my enhanced calm during this particular therapy  session.  I have known her for years; her sessions are generally on a different day when yoga is not part of my morning.  We were both aware and impressed with how the yoga effected not just my state of being, but also my therapy presence and ultimately her state of being.

I have been very conscious of this in my subsequent sessions with all of my clients.  I am really aware of channeling this inner yoga calm into the therapy room.   What an amazing tool and quite the testament to mindfulness and the calm that is yoga; it does work!
<![CDATA[The pain AND the ache]]>Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:35:34 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/the-pain-and-the-ache
Who remembers when I was going to physical therapy?  My wonderful physical therapist, Andre Heletsi, healed my pains and tingles like a champ.

Andre has now opened Missing Link Physical Therapy in Loudon County.  It is a unique  physical therapy practice that addresses not only traditional physical therapy needs, but also those of athletes and dancers.  The team includes physical therapists, personal trainers, massage therapists and a performing arts specialist.    Their philosophy is to provide an in-depth assessment and treatment of their patients.  Missing Link is a fee-for-service practice so that each patient receives more personal time and attention with their therapist than at an insurance based clinic.  Andre's vision is to treat the whole patient - mind, body and soul.

That is where I come in.  Andre has invited me to help with the mental health piece.  He and I have talked at length about the mind-body connection and how intertwined they are.  He is viscerally aware when his patients' physical ailments go beyond the body.  Often trauma and stress can contribute to a chronic pain issue or to prolonged recovery from surgery or an injury.

My daughter was asking how my work and his were connected.  I explained to her that "he can take away their pain" and she finished my sentence beautifully with "but not all of their ache."

I am currently creating a workshop for Mind Link Physical Therapy; I plan to facilitate a discussion on the tools we can all implement to decrease both our pain and our ache.  The date has yet to be decided (which is fine since the workshop is still in its early stages)(get to work, Laurie!), but it will be a free event at the beautiful Mind Link Physical Therapy facility.

I promise to keep you posted.

<![CDATA[My Inside vs. Your Outside]]>Wed, 18 Jun 2014 23:31:19 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/my-inside-vs-your-outside
A client's mom recently asked me what I see as the biggest challenge for teens.  I thought about all  of the work I have done with so many different teens and answered based on what is most commonly discussed in my sessions.  As teens walk through the hallways of their high schools they encounter hundreds of peers at each class passing  and scrutinize the clothes, hair and bodies of their classmates.  These teens see what appears to be  'put together' kids who look happy, confident and surrounded by friends and compare this image to their own inner struggles of anxiety, depression and low self-worth.

I remind my clients time and time again that they are comparing what they feel on the inside to what they see on others' outsides.  A teen who is feeling insecure and shy sees a bubbly group of kids walk by and assumes that the bubbly girls are happy and 'perfect'.  What the insecure teen doesn't know  is that  Ms. Bubbly's parents may be getting divorced, she may be failing in school or she may have an eating disorder.  Another piece of this puzzle is that as low as the insecure teen may feel, Ms. Bubbly might look at her and think that she has it all together and is stress free.

One never knows what is going on inside of another person  or what happens behind the closed doors of what appears to be the perfect home. Too often we assume based on what we perceive to be someone's happiness, and so many times we have assumed wrong.

I have clients tell me that they work really hard to look "happy" at school so that people won't know that they are suffering.  I ask if they share their sadness or problems with their friends and most of the time they say that they don't; they don't want people to know, they don't want to burden their friends or it is just easier to not discuss their pain.  I'm grateful that these kids are able to open up to me (or rather break the silence after gentle therapeutic coercion; they rarely want to talk to me either).  I do wish they had others with whom they felt safe about disclosing their personal challenges.

I have yet to meet the 'perfect' person.  I share this with my clients regularly and the notion that everyone has challenges and bad days.  It is true that some suffer more than others, but there is no one that is issue- free.  Often I use the word "human" when trying to impress upon my clients that no one is perfect.  We are all human; we hurt, we laugh, we grieve and we celebrate.

I must say, we grown-ups often fall into the same patterns of comparing our insides with others' outsides. That one has a nice car, great kids or perfect vacations; not so true.  Just like with the teens, we adults are not always aware of the struggles that our peers endure. If you or your teen falls into the "compare and despair" habit, try to remember that things aren't always as they appear.

<![CDATA[Community College: a great choice for some]]>Thu, 29 May 2014 23:01:53 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/community-college-a-great-choice-for-some
Disclaimer: Each of my client cases are fictional. They are compilations of hundreds of client situations I have encountered throughout my career. This is to protect the confidentiality of my clients. Anything that may resemble a real person or family is simply a coincidence.

Last night was the Spring Sports Awards Banquet at my son's school.  'Banquet' in the sense that the teens dressed nicely and ate California Tortilla in the cafeteria.  The coaches spoke and presented awards, the teens were polite and enthusiastic and it was a nice event to celebrate these athletes.

After the initial dinner and awards, each team had their own presentation.  At the track break-out meeting, the coaches got more personal, talked about the season and highlighted several of the most improved and best sportsmanship award winners.

All of the seniors were asked to stand in the front of the room, introduce themselves, announce in which track event they competed  and share where they would be going to school next year.  There were at least fifteen kids;  handsome, fit, young and proud standing before us.  They spoke from the left side of the room towards the right: Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, James Madison, Virginia Tech, William and Mary and it proceeded.  I smiled when one boy said North Carolina noting that someone was leaving the state.  Then one boy shyly said "unlike the rest, NOVA for two years and then Virginia Tech". The line went on to Virginia Tech, UVA and Georgetown.

My heart sunk.  I don't think anyone else noticed the discomfort emanating from this young man, but I couldn't let it go.   He seemed ashamed of his choice and intimidated by all of the four year schools that his teammates were attending.

The pressure that these kids experience day in and day out can be overwhelming; from appearances to finances to grades, peer groups and college.  There seems to always be an opportunity for shame and comparison as a teen (and adult as well).

As I mentioned in this blog post , I have worked with many students attending Northern Virginia Community College.  Some students began at NOVA directly after high school and some started at another school and for various reasons decided that NOVA was a better fit for them.

It has been a great learning opportunity for me to work with these clients that are attending NOVA.  I've learned a lot about the NOVA system, its academics and its culture.   One client who had struggled at several other universities grabbed an opportunity at NOVA and soared.   He took his classes seriously and put a great deal of time into his studies.  He was thrilled when he found that he was getting all A's and gained an entirely new outlook on academics and his own power to have success.

One of my clients struggles with learning challenges.  This client has embraced his studies at NOVA and also had success.  He took the placement exams before matriculating which placed him in the proper classes for his specific abilities.  He has enjoyed his classes and been able to receive the help that he needs with his specific challenges.

Another one of my clients always felt "dumb" at his private high school. He spent a semester at a larger university and decided that it was not the right fit for  him. Since being at NOVA, this client has become a new student; he feels comfortable in his classes, has felt encouraged to raise his hand and participate regularly.  He likes the fact that the pressure is less and it is a more relaxed atmosphere.

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with two friends.  One of them made a derogatory comment about someone going to NOVA.  I stopped her and requested that she re-evaluate her comment.  After working with all of these kids, some of who do have shame about attending NOVA, I have a better appreciation for their journey.  I want to promote the upside to community college; it can be right for so many.  With the price of college, many kids have to attend NOVA for economic reasons solely. And, as I have stated, sometimes it is just a better fit for some students.

I am really glad that my clients have taught me about positive aspects of community college and I hope to help shape others who have yet to see the benefits.

As much as the therapist in me wanted to approach the boy last night and tell him "it's going to be okay", the mother in me knew that both he, and my son, would have been mortified had I done something so outrageous (and my poor son has been witness to many an outrageous measure performed by this mother of his).  I do hope that someone tells that young man that it is okay and he is going to get exactly what he needs as he continues on his own personal academic path.

<![CDATA[Temper the stress of exam time]]>Tue, 29 Apr 2014 14:33:52 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/temper-the-stress-of-exam-time
<![CDATA[This soccer mom retires her cleats]]>Thu, 17 Apr 2014 01:25:32 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/this-soccer-mom-retires-her-cleatsAlthough this post is a little less 'therapist' and more 'mom' than normal, I write with both hats as I know many of my clients who have been on a baseball field, pool bleacher or dance theater and can definitely relate to the sentiments presented.

Grab your cleats, water bottle, shin guards and GET IN THE CAR...the words of every soccer mom.

Week after week, practice and dinner, dinner and practice and then weekend games.  Home or Away? House or Travel League? Win or Lose?

The soccer moms were my lifeline "can you drive him, I have a client ?" .  "We are out of town, can he stay with you for that game?"   "I got this practice, can you get tomorrow?".

We spent hours on bleachers together; the soccer moms (and dads).  Freezing our tails off and burning into lobsters - soccer has no regard for the weather, if the fields are  open they are playing.

So many different teams; the three-year-old clinics, the house league made up of kids from the elementary school, the All Star team and the merging of house teams to make a travel team.  Each season new faces; new players bringing with them new parents.

The parents became my friends.  I spent more time with them than with my dearest  girlfriends.  It was so very seasonal; we'd be in each other's faces all  Fall until the break before a short indoor Winter season and then Spring season started up again.   We rarely spoke to one another off season, but there were always warm greetings and hugs  at the beginning of a new game rotation.

Tournaments, oh the tournaments. Up at o'dark thirty to drive hours to a field in nowheresville.  Myself, another mom and four boys in my van.  It was always sweeter heading out than the return trip with the sweaty socks and smelly boys on their phones in the back.    We've had team meals all over Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, gathered in many a hotel lobby for pizza and once, even washed the uniforms in the hotel laundry room.  And, never was a weekend so much fun and connecting than the exhausting cold (and/or hot) tournament weekends.

Constant  laughter filled the parent cheering section.  We rooted for each other's kids and cringed together when one of our players missed a crucial shot.  At every (and their were many) injury, all the moms pooled their Advil and ice in the spirit of healing.  On the sidelines we talked about books and vacation spots, we compared notes about our growing kids and tried to get the scoop on our own kid from a more-knowing mom.

We always had a season end party;  often at my house which was a lot of fun.   Fourteen sweaty boys in my basement playing X-box and a bunch of parents celebrating another good season of soccer and teamwork.

With the start of each season  we would lose a player or two. They moved, switched schools or went to another team.  For me, it was  sad.  I missed the kid and I missed the mom, my friend.  I would bump into her at the grocery store, we hugged, caught up and moved on to our shopping list.  Where was the bond? Was it a real friendship? All those texts between games, the laughter in our soccer chairs with the sun beating on our faces, it was so genuine at the moment and then our kids took us to different fields and new parent groups.

I could always count on the next season bringing another new kid with new parents.  New friends.  More car pool combinations.   More tournaments and laughter.

Last year there was a shift.  High school made for more options: Cross Country team, track, swimming and basketball.  The kids had new and differing interests. They also had more school work and less time.

My kid began Cross Country/Track all three seasons;  he liked it and was progressing really well. Daily practices, weekly meets as well as a heavy academic load plus soccer practices and games became overwhelming.  It was too much to make it all work and something had to give - my kid quit soccer.

Suddenly, I am a track mom.

But, what about our soccer friends? The connections, the games, the great coach and the wonderful memories.

Was it all just that: soccer? He misses it, he loves soccer, but he is running and has joined a new group of athletes.  Does he feel the loss like I do? I miss the team, the friends, the game.  Sure, he  misses it, but he is a sixteen year old boy, not a hormonal therapist mom who oozes in emotions.

Don't get me wrong, track is great. The parents are wonderful and supportive, the coach is tough and committed.  A Cross Country meet can be half as long as a soccer game and the school provides buses!, but I miss MY soccer people.

What does it all mean? This role of being the kids' mom to whatever activity is the activity du jour? Are connections fleeting? Were they real? Was it just in the moment on that one field?

I don't have the answers, but I do have great memories and wonderful people in my heart that I know will cross my path again be it in the produce section or on some bleacher in my future.

Retired cleats and stinky stinky shin guards
<![CDATA[Pride Bubble]]>Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:33:34 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/pride-bubble
As a parent, what fills your pride bubble?  Is it bringing the newborn home,  that first poopie on the potty or marching in to kindergarten with your proud five year old?  There are so many moments; I wonder if we take the time to appreciate them enough?

Critics and naysayers say we celebrate our kids too much.  They don't know how to lose, get a C or miss a soccer goal.  I tend to see it from the other angle, perhaps because  I see kids at their most raw.  I see the sadness and the pain, uncertainty and anxiety.

Many kids feel inadequate, both in their homes and amongst their peers.  Often they compare themselves to their  siblings or to what they perceive their parents expect.  One twenty year old middle son of three  told me "I guess I'm considered the failure child since both of my brothers got the yadda yadda scholarship to yadda yadda college".   As I gently reminded him that his college acceptance was quite an excellent feat, he shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly without recognizing any personal achievement.

I feel a need to celebrate the successes.  I've had the privilege of witnessing many great times of my kids, my clients and my friends' kids and these moments make my heart happy.  I have one friend who, although she is four years younger than me, her kids are all a year older than mine. At each of their celebrations I have the opportunity to witness her family's joy as I stand behind the plate on deck.  Bar Mitzvahs, graduations and college acceptances have been a source of pride for her, me and our collective families; personally there is just never too much joy.

Weddings, pregnancies, birthdays; they are plastered all over social media and I love it.  Where some people have commented that social media, or specifically Facebook for us over forty crowd, makes them feel inadequate or  jealous when people brag about their kids' achievements, I feel otherwise.  I love seeing the positive, the joy and the accomplishments - all I have to do is click over to the Washington Post to get a dose of tragedy and despair.

I encourage us all to celebrate the joys; be in the moment and take it all in.  We all experience health issues, disappointment and life challenges, why not let loose on the good stuff when we can?

This post was prompted by an upcoming celebration in my family.  I am swelling with pride as I think about my daughter's Bat Mitzvah next week; she has worked very hard and is beyond excited for her special day.  We will worship and celebrate her rite of passage as a family and a community.  I think I am writing this for me  as a reminder to celebrate and be filled with pride, to let go of the little details like guests flights and menus and focus on the moments that highlight the joy and celebration of my daughter.

My pride bubble is/will be bursting.  I choose to celebrate the joy and be proud of my kid.  Tell me more about your joys;  it's contagious and so much fun to fill our air with little bubbles filled with pride and joy.

<![CDATA[The physical therapy way]]>Mon, 03 Mar 2014 20:12:21 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/the-physical-therapy-wayUntil last year, I had never been acquainted with physical therapy.  My only brush with it was when I would tell a passerby I was a therapist and they would ask "physical therapist?", or when people I knew would be going off to PT several times a week.  Last spring, my daughter began having some hip/foot issues from her dancing and the pediatrician sent us marching to this "PT" thing.   Once we got settled in at  Bodies in Motion, she and I were both hooked.  She for the individual attention and kindness of the therapists and me because it was so very fasciniating.

What was I fascinated by?  First there is a big room of tables with multiple therapists and multiple patients doing all sorts of body work together.  Bending, stretching, pushing, pulling, there are even people getting needles in their bodies right there in the middle of everything. Therapists and patients all chit chat amongst one another; be it type of injury, latest snow storm or lunch cravings - chatter and laughter abounds.

My mental health therapist head is thinking HIPAA?  We operate under strict  ethical codes highlighting all manners of confidentiality, conduct and boundaries;  I get antsy when one of my clients happen to bump into another in the waiting room and here we have the PT patients being assessed,  worked on and massaged in front of the entire patient population.

The other intriguing thing for me is the toys.  Not only are there stationary bikes and treadmills, there are bands and balls and gadgets for every last muscle.  My daughter was picking up marbles with her toes and placing them in a bucket.   I was struck by the creativity of it all.  I discussed it with her therapist and was amazed by all of the engineering technology involved in their "toys".

Now it's my turn.  I've been having a shoulder/arm issue that just won't quit.  It started with pain and over the duration of the winter has turned into a nerve thing with tingling up and down my arm.  When I walked back into the 'toy' room for my first appointment, I was warmly greeted by the two PT's that had worked with my daughter. How is she,  how is her dancing, let me see pictures etc.

One of these  kind gentleman was assigned to my tingling.   He took my history,  asked about the initial injury and then began touching my arm, shoulder and hand.  (Another bizarre thing for this mental health therapist, touching a client? If a client asks for a hug every clinical nerve in my brain is on "alert" due to our very rigid boundaries).

Push, pull, resist, stretch, turn, shrug - my PT is beginning to assess the tingle.  He checked mobility, range of motion and who knows what? The good thing is HE knows what he is doing, I am just the body on which he does his work.   And this is where my "aha" moment struck.  He is looking for the cause of the tingle;  by pushing and prodding at my muscles, assessing  where I am tight and when I loosen up, subtleties of  which I  am barely aware, but he understands the body and can figure out what is going on with my nerve.  He constantly asks me if I notice any difference, is the tingling more or less, rate it on a scale of 1-10.  The tingle can't speak to him, thus he must rely on my evaluation.

The 'tingle' doesn't talk; I feel it, it is uncomfortable and irritating, but I'm not sure of its source. It is inconsistent;  fingers, hand and arm depending on the moment or my movement.  How is this similar or not to the mental health therapy that I do? Sometimes I see a client that knows exactly what is going on.   "My mother died, I am heavily grieving and am having trouble getting my work done."  PT patients can know the root cause; many of them are there for rehabilitation following surgery,  have specific injuries or various medical needs.

Often I get the 'tingle' clients.  "I've been feeling depressed", "my daughter is cutting herself ", "our teenager is self-medicating with drugs".  These symptoms have less of a clear source.  Sometimes they can be an offshoot of a trauma, root from a deeper depression or can be the beginnings of a chronic mental illness.  These symptoms, as the 'tingle', can be a mystery.  Like my PT, I begin to push and prod at the emotional muscles; I assess and ask and maneuver.  Unlike my PT, who can push a muscle really hard (AND hurt my inner arm like nobody's business), I need to approach more gently.  If I push too hard, I may cause my client to shut down or even worse, scare him away. (Of course the PT could push the limit, but based on my first two appointments, he has more wiggle room with the idea of gentle).

Over time, building rapport and trust, my clients and I dig together towards the source of their symptoms.  Often, they too, find that their 'tingle' doesn't speak.  Many of my clients struggle with identifying their emotions; they aren't familiar with them,  can't discern between sadness or anger, or just can't find them.  I slow things down and help them to build an emotional vocabulary and learn to identify emotional triggers via body sensations.  Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? Pressure/pain/shaky? All of these prompts help people to get in touch with their emotional temperature.

The word therapy, meaning curing or healing, comes in many forms.  While I am doing talk therapy, there are so many ways to heal us humans.  I am glad to know that both our bodies and our souls lend  to pushing, prodding and healing so that we can all achieve the mental, physical and spiritual peace that enable our days to be filled with  joy.

<![CDATA[The Boomerang Teen Part 2]]>Thu, 06 Feb 2014 01:23:00 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/the-boomerang-teen-part-2I said I would return with suggestions to avoid having your teen flop back into the house for an extended stay in the middle of a semester.  I make no guarantees, sometimes a one-way ticket home is inevitable and necessary, but here are some thoughts on how to prepare for a successful flight out of the nest.

I love the idea of sleep away camp. Any reader that has spotted one of my summer posts is aware of my proclivity towards all things camp.  I have promoted camp for infinite reasons (friendship, bonding, summer structure etc.) and one of the biggest reasons is for kids to get a taste of  being away from home.  There are many kinds of  camps that can meet this objective;   sports camps, Scout camps, academic camps and arts camps and they vary in length from a few days to an entire summer.

Camps provide a sense of independence for kids with the safety net of responsible adults who are not their parents to guide them.  At camp kids learn to manage their own clothes, toiletries and meals without mom and dad micromanaging all the details. If they miss a night of teeth brushing or lose a sock (or hundreds), it is all part of the process of learning to have some independence.  I have found that the kids that have spent time away from home for a period of time during their middle and high school years have had the easiest transition to college and have had  less risk for the boomerang swing.

When a teen has increased responsibility throughout high school, he will have an easier transition to college.  Freshmen start slowly, perhaps getting  more opportunities to socialize with peers in groups before they are juniors and driving independently. Many juniors and seniors obtain part-time jobs which teach them responsibility, time management and a bit about finances.   Extra-curricula activities also help a teen with independence; there are clubs with responsibilities, teams with obligations and bands and theater with commitments that the teen must learn to balance with academic and other expectations.

One of my biggest selling points with my clients and their parents is for the kids to become responsible for their own academics.  A freshman in high school should manage her own schedule by knowing when she has an exam, when papers are due and the status of her grades.  I encourage parents to be supportive and helpful WHEN ASKED, but to allow the student to manage his own work load.  The more autonomy a high school student has, the more success will occur in college.

Parents often tell me that their teen will fail if the parent lets go of the academic reins.  The best advice I ever got was at a back-to-school night when my oldest child's teacher said "Parents, you have already completed second grade, it is their turn."  Yes, it is their turn; their turn to learn,  their turn to succeed and their turn to fail.  I constantly stress to these parents that the fall is easier when they fail junior year before they are legal adults and still in high school than when they are half a state or country away, paying thousands of dollars for tuition and suddenly realizing that they don't know how to manage their work load without mom leading the way. (Students with learning disabilities or attention challenges do require more parental supervision.  It is important to strike a balance between over-doing and supporting the student; not an easy task for many families).

My last thought is to address mental health issues if and when they present themselves.  If a child is predisposed to anxiety or depression and has struggled throughout her adolescence with symptoms of sadness, feeling overwhelmed or anger management issues, please GET HER HELP.   Sending a child off to college who is struggling emotionally can be a set-up for failure.  College is inherently stressful with its huge life transitions and rigorous academics.  If your teen seems to be struggling, getting him the help he needs before he leaves home can arm him with the extra tools he may need to have a successful college experience.

Again, sometimes things happen.  Unplanned trauma, anxiety or homesickness can occur; kids come home and it is okay.  There is always another path and other options, so don't fret.

One last thought, have your kids learn to do their own laundry......if nothing else it will make for a more pleasant aromatic experience for the roommate.

<![CDATA[The Boomerang Teen]]>Thu, 30 Jan 2014 02:57:37 GMThttp://laurielevinelcsw.com/blog/the-boomerang-teen
As has been previously mentioned, I work with many adolescents.  I work with them both in high school and beyond. One population that I have had nice success with is the college kid who, for a variety of reasons, has returned home for a semester (or more).  I have worked with several kids who have become very depressed and/or anxious while away at college which has necessitated a medical leave of absence.  The schools' counseling centers have been very supportive in such a scenario and huge advocates of the student taking the time off to heal.

Bringing your child home from college for mental health reasons is terrifying.  Many parents have shared their fearful trip of driving to the college to pick up the pieces of their child's lost semester; kids so depressed they haven't left their room in weeks, have fallen behind on all of their school work  and become so anxious about academic failure that the cycle becomes a virtual tornado whirling inside the poor kid's soul.  After being dismissed from the mental health center and packing up the dorm,  the families find themselves in uncharted territory.  Our child is home, our child is really struggling, our child won't get out of bed, our child has no peers around.  How can we make it right?

Enter Laurie Levine. When I  get the frantic call, I schedule the assessment for as soon as possible.  Usually the parents come in for the first session and I never see them again (they are left to pay the bill, contain the worry and get a vague update every few months).  That is good, that is how it should be; the teen establishes a nice rapport with me and begins to delve into his presenting problems in an independent and adult-like manner.

What went wrong at college? How is it that so many students are able to make it work in what appears to be a seamless manner when others find themselves back in their childhood beds struggling with mental health issues, legal charges or or sometimes somatic symptoms brought on by stress?

Each kid has his unique story.  Be it a predisposition to depression, an uncomfortable roommate scenario  triggering despondency or an over arduous academic load.  Sometimes college or this specific college is not a good fit for a specific student.  That is okay, it saddens me though, that to find the right fit there are often periods of despair and worry both for the student and the family.

I work with the teen on the initial complaints until she is feeling stabilized. Sometimes a referral to a psychiatrist is necessary when medication is indicated, other times weekly therapy isn't enough and we bump up the intensity for a short time.  Usually, the crisis period is short lived (weeks to a  month) and then the task becomes identifying and processing deeper core issues to avoid a relapse back to the  malfunctioning  behaviors.

Meanwhile, there are many hours per week that the client is not in therapy.  Lying in bed should not be tolerated for more than a day and  half.  Family discussions about employment, local schooling and household chores can cause conflict especially when the teen is still feeling low.  I always encourage structure in one's day, especially in the case of depression, he needs to get up, shower and have a reason to leave the house.

I am happy to say that the kids that I have worked with have  had good outcomes.  One student took a semester and a half off and then returned to his original school.  We did Skype sessions upon his return to school and then terminated after his first semester back because he was doing so well.  Another student struggled with such depression that after coming home, it was a struggle to just get her in for her session. After a year of good therapy and the proper medication regime, she found her calling in another field and attended a certification program. She is now working in her chosen career  and has not received therapy in over a year.  I've worked with several students that have settled in to some classes at Northern Virginia Community College during their time at home.  Most of them have had very positive experiences which has afforded them the time to work on their mental health challenges while also continuing with their education.

You are probably thinking: "Thanks Laurie for sharing your professional experiences with us, but what can we do to avoid being the next boomerang family on your caseload?"  I will fully oblige with such recommendations in a Part 2 to this post.  Give me a few days to collect my thoughts and I will be back here with brilliant (?) suggestions.