Archive for the ‘Eric Clements M.S.’ Category

Non-Medication Ways to Treat Biological Issues In Mental Health

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

stamp-895383_1920The treatment of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, typically involves a multilevel plan of intervention. We typically address social, psychological, spiritual, and biological areas. The area of biological intervention is the focus of this particular article.

Typically when we think about biological intervention, the assumption is that we are discussing medication. Yes, medication is a biological intervention, and in some situations, is an important part of the treatment plan. However, psychotropic medications are not the only biological treatments available. How we eat, our activity level, and even how much we get outside and get enough light exposure can affect our moods.

carrot-1085063_1920A healthy diet, can be a very helpful tool in impacting mental health concerns. We all know the circumstances where we’ve had a heavy meal or have indulged in poor choices of food, and as a result we don’t feel well for the short team. For the long term, healthy nutrition also plays a part in how our brain works. Having appropriate balances of macro nutrients, and micro nutrients is very important. One particular area that has shown some promise in improving mental health concerns is omega-3 fatty acids. There is a lot of research that suggests that these particular nutrients may have a mental health benefit. An increase in omega-3 rich foods may be helpful. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil capsules, might also be of benefit. However, do not begin any kind of significant dietary supplementation, without consulting your physician.

It has been well known for some time that exercise is beneficial for your mental health. Some well established research, has even suggested that exercise can be as beneficial as medication for the treatment of depression. We are not talking about training for a marathon, or becoming an Olympian. Going for a brisk walk several times a week is enough to create significant benefit for most individuals. Even increasing activity level by choosing to take the stairs as opposed to an elevator or walking more by parking further out in a parking lot, may be helpful. Again, exercise routines should not be implemented without consulting with your physician.

running-573762_1280Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a depression related diagnoses that is heavily influenced by the amount of light exposure a person receives. It is typically treated with exposure to bright light. This is a powerful and effective therapy for those who live in low light environments, such as wintertime in more northern areas. Recent research has suggested that the same light therapy may be useful for depression in general. So making sure that someone gets outside and receives an hour, or more, of exposure to bright light is a good idea. Most of the time it is suggested that this light exposure take place earlier in the morning. If someone cannot get outside, there are therapeutic light devices that facilitates getting enough light exposure to improve mood. The latest research has suggested that blue spectrum light is the source of the greatest benefit for this kind of treatment. In order to acquire one of these therapeutic blue spectrum lights, there may be a need to receive a prescription from your physician. Any decision to pursue such a line of treatment should be made in consultation with your physician.

I am not saying that these treatments by themselves will be a complete cure for depression or other concerns. However, in the context of a multi modal treatment plan, that includes therapy, possible medical intervention, and accessing social and spiritual resources, these interventions can be quite useful.

By Eric Clements

Little Things Count

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

hands-437968_1920As couples consider ways to improve their emotional connection and friendship, they typically put a focus on efforts that take some effort. Going out on dates, weekend trips, efforts to improve physical intimacy and attending marriage enrichment events, are all useful and effective ways to increase a couples’ friendship. However, we often fail to recognize the cumulative effects of the very small interactions. In fact, healthy relationships are typically full of positive mini events.

Some examples of these moments can include, pointing out a post on social media, getting your partner something to drink, even a comment about the amount of traffic encountered on the way home. Simply put, these are small efforts to initiate conversation and positive interactions between partners. While it is important to get spouses to initiate these interactions, getting them to receive them in a positive manner, may be more important. Validating responses such as efforts to extend the conversation, a brief acknowledgement or even a responsive smile will pay dividends for both spouses.

On the other hand, a rejection, while seemingly small, can pierce very deeply. When one of these small gestures is made, that partner is taking a risk. The possibility of their partner accepting this bid for connection, also contains the very real possibility of its rejection. Rejections can be derisive statements and body language, or even simply ignoring their partner all together. This can create a pattern where partners are discouraged from making these gestures for connection and thus deprive the couple of a very important element to intimacy.

If you think that your relationship could benefit by increasing the frequency of these small moments of connection, there are two things I would encourage you to do:

  1.  take the risk and make the effort to initiate these small interactions. Be active in serving your partner in small ways, give an affectionate squeeze of their shoulder, make small talk, and find small ways to serve them.
  2. look for and acknowledge the things your partner is doing for the relationship. If you have gotten in a negative pattern, challenge those negative thoughts and appreciate that they are still making an effort to connect. Even if it feels awkward at first, work though it with a sense of humor and let your friendship grow.

by Eric Clements

A Good Nights Sleep

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

sleeping childQuality sleep may be one of the most important things to maintaining our health. Regarding to mental health, sleep has all kinds of significance, both diagnostic and interventional. Often times, mental health issues will affect someone’s ability to sleep. This can ultimately create a negative cycle in which the lack of sleep makes the mental health concern more significant and then the mental health concern can further disturb sleep. Doing some things to improve sleep quality and quantity, can be very helpful in alleviating these concerns.

A common concept, foundational to helping improve sleep is Sleep Hygiene. These are a set of suggestions that are designed to set the stage for healthy sleep to occur. If someone is dealing with a serious sleep disorder these may not be enough to overcome that problem, however, they are still important in achieving a solution. If you are struggling with any kind of difficulty sleeping, you may want to implement some of the following ideas.

Eliminate anything from the bedroom (especially the bed itself) that has is not conducive to sleep. This would include a television, computers, even radios and reading material. The idea is that the bedroom, and the bed specifically, is for sleeping and that should be its lone focus. OK, those who are married might find another use for the bed.

Be careful what you eat and drink. Avoid foods and drinks that are going to upset your stomach and caused distress. Minimizing fatty and spicy food, anything that might upset the stomach or cause distress should be avoided for understandable reasons.

Avoiding caffeine, especially at least six hours before bedtime, is very helpful. Even those people who think they’ve developed some resistance to caffeine, should eliminate it during the evening hours. There’s a reason over-the-counter medications designed to help people stay awake are essentially caffeine tablets.

Avoid thinking of alcohol as a sleep aid. The problem with alcohol, while it may induce some drowsiness or sleepiness, is that it actually decreases the quality of sleep.

Develop a calm down routine before bed. For about an hour and a half before you go to sleep, it is a good idea to do something soothing and relaxing, preferably with the lights dimmed. This could include reading, prayer time, personal Bible study, even a soothing bath or shower. It would be best to avoid anything like roughhousing with the kids or watching something that is likely to rile you up.

Regular exercise is an important part of sleep hygiene. Just be sure it is done several hours before going to bed. Exercise does have a stimulating affect for the few hours immediately after the activity. So sleeping right after exercise should be avoided. When you are exercising, intensity is a lot less important than simply being active. Brisk walks several times a week should do the job. Of course consult a physician before beginning a new exercise program.

The environment of the bedroom is important. A cool room has proven to be more conducive to healthy sleep. Also, a dark room is very important for fostering a healthy sleep environment. Light exposure is an important part of waking up, thus eliminating light is an important part of getting to sleep.

Maintain a regular schedule. It is a really good idea to go to bed and get out of bed at the same time every day. Developing a sleep/wake routine, can be very helpful in setting your circadian rhythm, also known as your sleep cycle.

While this is not an exhaustive list of sleep hygiene suggestions, it is good place to start. If you are having significant sleep issues and would like some help regarding them, please contact us at Christian Family Institute. We can help you determine exactly what your sleep issues may be and help you in overcoming those concerns.

by Eric Clements, M.S.

(more articles on managing stress)

CFI on Mental Health

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Greg Pittman, minister at Cedar Ridge Christian Church, interviews Dr. Dale Doty & Eric Clements on mental illness and how the church should play a part in mental health of individuals and families.

When Your Child is Anxious

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

We all strive to provide a safe and satisfying life for our children. We want to protect them, as long as reasonably possible, from the worries of this life. However, some children (adults as well) just seemed prone to be more anxious than others. This can be very discouraging for parents. These children tend to find things to worry about. They often find things that seem outrageous for a child to be concerned with, yet they lose sleep and find these thoughts intrusive and overwhelming.

So what is a parent to do? Initially, avoid going into panic mode. Managing your own anxiety is an important part of helping our children manage theirs. Also, episodes of anxiety that go away as quickly as they begin, are not abnormal for many children. We all have struggled with these moments in our lives. However, if a child has developed a pattern of excessive worry and it is beginning to impact his or her ability to function, then intervention is indicated.

Initially, helping a child to think clearly, and providing appropriate reassurance, may be all the help that is needed. Also, aiding them to find healthy diversions, to short circuit troubling thoughts, can be very helpful. Even simple lifestyle habits like a healthy diet and exercise can be useful tools in overcoming anxiety.

If these things are not enough, then professional help may be necessary. Many parents will want to start with their pediatrician. It is useful to have the pediatrician involved early in the process so that possible medical concerns can be ruled out from the start. The pediatrician may suggest seeing a therapist. A therapist can help the family determine the sources of the anxiety problem and suggest appropriate treatments. Typically, treatment will involve a combination of individual and family therapies. Treatment will often focus on controlling troublesome thoughts and managing stresses in a child’s life. If response to these interventions is not sufficient, there may be a need to include medical intervention. The pediatrician and/or a psychiatrist would need to be consulted on these occasions.

Throughout all these processes, it is important for parents to be patient, hopeful and encouraging. The ability to model hopefulness and realistic expectations will go a long way though all aspects of treatment.

by Eric Clements, M.S.

(more articles on anxiety)

(more articles on children and parenting)

What is the Difference Between Perfectionism and Anxiety

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

For purposes of simplicity, let’s define anxiety as excessive worry that can result in fatigue, tension, difficulty sleeping and concentration problems. Anxiety can take a variety of forms, from generalized anxiety, which sticks with someone most of the day, to anxiety attacks, brief episodes that are extremely intense and often have physiological elements. Anxiety attacks can be so overwhelming, that they are frequently confused for a heart attack.

The causes of Anxiety are quite varied. Apprehension about the future, medical concerns, feeling out of control, even fear of anxiety itself, can cause us problems. Perfectionism is one of those causes. In fact it is often intermingled with many other causes. Perfectionism is most easily seen in the Anxiety Disorder known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There a is need for things to be done in a specific, often ritualized way and if it is not done as desired, fear of perceived consequences can become overwhelming. Often these required elements may not seem to have any real connection with he feared outcome.

Frequently, perfectionism takes on a spiritual element. As Christians, we often feel the need to be “good enough”. When we are saved, it is as if we are making a commitment to be without sin or blemish from now on. I believe this to be a fallacy. In order to be saved we must depend upon God’s Grace. That does not change after salvation. In fact, as we mature we realize that our dependence on Grace is an eternal state. God loves us in spite of our failures and we must learn to take on an attitude of grace as we look at ourselves and as we relate to others.

Grace is not an excuse to just keep on sinning. Grace in fact introduces us to a new motivation to transform our lives, and thus avoid sin. God’s Grace is a direct result of His love for us, and our loving response is to allow that same Grace to penetrate our lives and transform the way we live.

As we take on this Gracious mind set, we are better able to reject perfectionistic thoughts. Taking on new thoughts that are tinged with, understanding, forgiveness and compassion, goes a long ways toward overcoming the common perfectionistic roots of our anxiety. Looking at it from another direction, we may even be able to see our efforts of perfectionism as a hindrance to God’s purposes. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

by Eric Clements, M.S.

Mr. Clements’ website

(more articles on Anxiety)

Understanding the New Definition of Autism

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

About a year ago, the American Psychiatric Association published its latest diagnostic manual. Known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-V), it has a number of changes from the previous edition, and not all of them are popular. One of those changes has to do with the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Previously the DSM-IV, identified three different diagnoses, that were understood to be on the Autism spectrum. (There were others that had some relationship, but aren’t as relative to this article.) Autism, was used in situations where social, academic and self care skills, were all significantly impaired. Aspergers, was used when there was less impairment, and that impairment was usually focused, in the social realm. Often, academic capacity, might even be enhanced. This enhancement might be focused in specific academic fields. Pervasive Developmental Disorder was used when there was some level of impairment, but it was even less severe than Aspergers. Many individuals with Aspergers or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, can be quite creative, and likely have been significant contributors to very many, of the scientific and engineering advances, across the history of humanity.

In the DSM-V, all of the above diagnoses, are listed as Autism. Then the level of severity is identified. The phrase “on the spectrum” is often used, to identify individuals who have, Autism related difficulties, with widely varying degrees of severity. This use of a single term, is controversial for a number of reasons. Because of how the word “Autism” has been used historically, those on the higher level of functioning and their families, often prefer the previous designations. The association with the more significant level of impairment, is considered a hindrance, to their acceptance, by society. Many, had been able to take some level of pride, in the previous labels, as more than likely, names like Einstein, Tesla, and Bill Gates, could be counted among their numbers. The broadened use of the Autism label would remove much of this positive perspective.

However, this change in terminology, has very little, if any, impact on the manner in which we treat and interact with those who are “on the spectrum”. The following are some things to consider when dealing with someone identified with these issues.

-Those on the spectrum typically do not read facial expression and tone of voice well. Coaching them to become aware of these elements of communication, is very important.

-They do have emotions, but often appear emotionless. We must be careful with what we say and do around them. We are still impacting them, in either an encouraging or discouraging manner, even if it does not appear to be the case.

-Often they deal with hidden anxiety and depression. Our interactions with them still necessitates the skills of being a safe person, who listens to and cares for them. As with everyone else, those on the spectrum, will find this helpful as they deal with these distressing emotional issues.

-Understanding social appropriateness is difficult. i.e. conversation topics with buddies, may not be appropriate with your teacher. We must not jump to conclusions when these inappropriate statements or topics seem to come out of nowhere. This is an opportunity to educate them about related social skills.

-There may be difficulty dealing with some sensory triggers. Loud noises, large crowds, temperatures, some touch or textures may be troublesome. Occupational Therapists use the diagnosis of, Sensory Integration Disorder, and they can be quite helpful in treating these issues.

-Many of these individuals, are quite brilliant and creative. Many, if not most of the innovations that make up modern life, are the result of someone who has aspects of high functioning Autism (Aspergers). Helping them to see the positive in this, can be quite encouraging.

-Parents will need to educate themselves about their child’s difficulties, and become their advocate in many situations. Some situations may include educational, church, teams, extended family, and even with neighbors and friends with whom they may be spending significant time.

Therapy can be quite useful for the families and individuals who are dealing with these particular disorders. If you think someone you love may be dealing with Autism spectrum issues, please consider finding a therapist to serve your needs.

Eric Clements

Making the Most of Family Vacations

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I love vacations. I have been accused, and I can’t disagree, of having a Vacation Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I particularly enjoy family vacations to anything Disney, and trips with my wife to go diving. Why is this? I think a good part of the reason has to do with the opportunity to have fun with my wife and/or my boys. The fun with them, is ten times greater than without them.

There are a couple of commercials for Orlando that have caused me to think about this topic.   In one of these commercials, a father and son are experiencing an attraction. In the middle of the attraction the father transforms into a child the same age as his son. This is initially a bit confusing as to what happened. Then the two boys cast a reflection on some surface and you see that one boys reflection is actually the fathers reflection. The other commercial is of the same concept except this time it’s a mother and daughter.

When I saw this commercial the first time, I told my wife how much I liked it. To which, she replied, “Of course you do, it’s about you.” To which I have to fully agree. There is something special about sharing fun with my family. It creates a bond and memories that I will cherish forever.

I think I come by it honestly.  One of my favorite memories from my childhood, is riding the log ride at Six Flags over and over with my dad when he realized that there was virtually no line.  We must have done that at least six or seven times. Even as I type this, I can’t help but feel that joy again.

Whether it is a multi-week, trip of a lifetime, or a simple day trip, vacations create special opportunities to connect with family members.  As we enter the summer season and consider our vacations, put a bit of planning time into creating those truly special connections and memories.

Some ways to enhance your family vacations can include…

  • Involve the entire family in the planning of the trip.  With the travel books and internet sites available today, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by information about virtually any vacation destination.  Why not make the planning a family project.  Encourage everyone to research and explore the possibilities. This way, each member can know they contributed to the process of organizing a trip that may have lifelong meaning.
  • Create family traditions around vacations.  If you are a family that goes to the same place over and over, get your picture taken in the same place and pose each year. Visit the same restaurant you all love.  If you go to a variety of destinations, you could do some sort of scavenger hunt.  Some families have discovered Geo-caching using their GPS. Visit a historical place or go to a museum.  All these are things that can be used to connect the positive times from one year to the next.
  • Do a service project together.  This might be the primary focus of the entire trip, a family mission trip.  It could be a one day project associated with a ministry or volunteer organization in the area you are visiting. It could be delivering supplies or some item the family has created together previous to the trip, i.e. blankets or care packages.
  • Take the opportunity to teach your kids.  If you are traveling by plane, and have enough time between flights.  Let the kids do the work of figuring out what gate to get to for the next flight.  Obviously this may not always be an option, but, in the right circumstances it can be an opportunity to teach real life thinking skills and reasoning.
  • Also, take advantage of unique educational opportunities in the destinations you are visiting.  A little research before hand, or upon first arrival, can reveal some pretty amazing opportunities.  Upon visiting the Grand Canyon, we discovered a Jr. Ranger program.  My then 9 year old son had a blast learning and exploring as he fulfilled the requirements to attain his Jr. Ranger badge and certificate.  I have to admit I was quite proud of him as he took his Jr. Ranger oath. Now, all four of us have an appreciation for things we would’ve never given a second thought.  For example, we spent most of a morning observing California Condors that we all learned about as he pursued his badge.  Opportunities like this come in all shapes, sizes and natures.  You can find them at most, if not all national parks.  Even places as seemingly different from national parks, as Disney World, often offer opportunities for learning.
  • Take lots of pictures and videos.  With today’s technology and the ability to take hundreds of pictures, there is no reason not to overdo it.  Then you will have a record of the time you spent together.  Often, the pictures you cherish the most will have little to do with the destination and a lot more to do with capturing the things you love the most about your family. Some families use these pictures/videos to create scrapbooks, slide shows and even youtube style videos to commemorate their vacation.
  • Be flexible and spontaneous.  Purposely build in unscheduled time into the vacation.  Some of the greatest memories will be things you just can’t plan.  It may be as simple as laughing together over someones slip of the tongue.  It may be an opportunity to observe something that just spontaneously happened.  On the same trip mentioned above, we stayed in a hotel in Flagstaff. One morning our porch was visited by a Tasseled Eared Squirrel who literally tried to come into our room.  The silliness of that morning is now a precious memory for our family.
Remember, vacations are not going to cure your families ills.  If you have some issues as a family, a vacation may not be the cure.  In fact it might just serve as an opportunity to exaggerate some of the problems that are already there.  If there are things you need to fix in your family, start that work well before the vacation.  Once that work is finished, then the vacation can serve as an opportunity to celebrate the families accomplishments.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I hope this article as given a vision of the value a vacation can have for your family.

Eric Clements, M.S.

Hope is a Big Word

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

HopeHope is a big word.  It is what keeps us going. It is something that helps us to cope with bad times and the essence of what we celebrate in the good times. It is something that is often lacking in a therapists office.  Lately, I have realized that one of my primary goals is to instill hope.

Hope is the confidence that something better is to come.  Whether it is a hope that grief will pass, that we can turn a struggling marriage around or that survival will actually occur, hope helps us persevere.

A lack of Hope steals our motivation.  It wrecks our energy and it halts any progress.  Without hope, we have no reason to do anything.  This is why it can be one of the most devastating symptoms of depression.  Hopelessness is the lie that tells us “things cannot improve, in fact they are likely to get worse.”  We can take harbor in the fact that it is just that, a lie.

We serve a God of hope.  Look at 1 Corinthians 13:13  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  I must admit as I have contemplated faith, hope and love, it has been common to highlight faith and love and overlook hope. That’s like trying to construct a two sided triangle.  Faith is dependent on hope.  Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for…”  If we have no hope, then we have no reason to love.  Without hope, following the Christian faith offers us very little.  With hope, our faith offers us and the world everything, including an eternity with the absolute source of love.

Just as the eternal optimist needs to be reminded that it isn’t always going to be pure bliss, the person caught in the grips of crisis and grief needs hope to remind him that this season will also pass.  Better times are to come.

We can glean hope from a variety of places.

Sometimes, it really is true that things will soon become better. In the research world we speak of “regression to the mean.”  It’s a fancy way of saying that when a circumstance varies from the norm, in all likelihood it will gravitate back towards a more normal position.  So, if someone is very depressed, even without treatment the next time you evaluate their level of distress there is a likelihood that there will be some improvement.  Maybe not as much as is desired, but some inching back towards normal.

Some people find hope in the simple presence of others.  Knowing that others genuinely care, can go a long way.  A little bit of comfort, which provides us with even the smallest amount of relief points us to the fact that greater relief and even joy is going to come.

At times, simply looking at the facts and helping someone to be more rational can prove hopeful.  The more extreme the emotion, the more difficult it is to see a situation accurately.  Emotions tend to exaggerate our extreme thinking, even to the point of causing us to think there is no hope.  Often, simply escaping the extreme emotions and checking into a more rational state will help us to see that there really is hope.

As a Christian the greatest source of hope likely comes through our faith.  This hope focuses us on God: On what he has done for us;  On the value of Christ’s teaching; On His resurrection and the faith that we will someday be likewise resurrected;  On eternity with Him, experiencing true joy rooted in His love.  This hope focuses us on today, on his presence in the Holy Spirit, on the idea that He is in control and that we don’t have to be.  It guides us to look to those thing that lift Him up and reminds us that we will be right there with him.  We have so much in which to look forward and that is the essence of Hope.

It is when things look dimmest that Hope has the greatest power.  It helps us to see that troubles are temporary.  That, joy comes tomorrow, along with Hope, allows us to imbibe in some of that future joy today.

Eric Clements, M.S., LPC, LMFT