Bowden McElroy was interviewed by the First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK as part of a series on marriage.
Archive for the ‘G. Bowden McElroy M.Ed.’ Category
Bowden McElroy was interviewed by the First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK as part of a series on marriage.
When I work with people I spend a lot of time asking them to pay attention to their self-talk. Each of us has a near constant dialogue running through our head. Some of the dialogue is incredibly negative: life is terrible, bad things always happen to me, this is a catastrophe, etc. Most of us are completely unaware of the stream of demeaning, negative, self-talk that we subject ourselves to on a regular basis. One of the first steps in counseling is to learn to pay attention to what we are saying to ourselves.
The next steps are to reject the half-truths and catastrophic thinking and replace them with more objective, realistic thoughts.
Isn’t that just positive thinking? I don’t think so. I believe some of what passes for positive thinking can be equally untrue.
For example, I was often told as a teen that I could do anything I put my mind to. I don’t believe that’s true. If it were, I would be playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. God did not, however, gift me with athletic ability. No matter how hard I try (and in high school I tried really, really hard) my asthmatic, uncoordinated body places limits on my athletic ability.
Visualizing something won’t create a reality. I can visualize being 50 pounds lighter all I want but until I put down the Krispy Kreme’s and start hitting the gym it is unlikely I will actually lose weight.
If you have a flat tire at rush hour on a bridge during a torrential thunderstorm, I don’t expect you to jump out of the car thinking “Best! Day! Ever!”. Neither do I want you to be thinking “this is the worst day of my life”, “@&*#^ always happens to me”, or “God hates me”.
Counselors are not in the business of peddling unrealistic goals or creating euphoric feelings based on wishful thinking.
We are in the business of helping people peel back the layers of unrealistic, overly negative thought patterns and replacing them with good reality testing and sound judgment. We are in the business of helping people identify patterns of negative thinking and dysfunctional behavior, changing those things they have control over, and exercising their faith that somehow it will all work out in the end.
Pay attention to your self-talk. If you need some help “taking every thought captive”, we’re here to help.
(written by: G. Bowden McElroy, M.Ed.)
It is nearly February and your New Year’s resolutions are gone. Long gone. It was the 2nd, maybe the 3rd, definitely by the 5th that you last went to the gym, said positive things to your spouse, mediated or read scripture, or whatever it is you decided you need to do to improve your life.
And, you think, there’s no sense starting today – it’s January 26th – so you will wait until the 1st. But you won’t because the 1st is a Sunday and nobody starts a new habit on a Sunday… you’ll wait until Monday.
And so it goes until New Year’s Day 2016 rolls around and you decide to give it one more try.
You really can start something new in the middle of the month or the middle of the week.
1. Think Big.
Don’t imagine yourself losing 10 lbs; imagine a healthy lifestyle maintained for years. Don’t picture fewer arguments with your spouse, plan on a loving, healthy marriage.
2. Plan Small.
Small behavior changes that are habits in themselves will build toward a lifestyle change. Don’t promise yourself you will get up early and run 5 miles. Start instead with getting up early. Once that is a habit, add a realistic goal such as walking around the cul-de-sac. You can choose to go further, but success is simply walking the two minutes it takes to go around the circle. People give up when they feel overwhelmed with the activity. Micro-goals create success and prevent feeling defeated.
3. Set goals you have some control over.
Less conflict at home isn’t entirely up to you. What is up to you – what is within your control – is what you say to your spouse or how you respond to your children. Don’t give someone else control over your success.
4. Manage your self-talk.
Most of us tend to be our own worst enemies. We can talk ourselves out of just about anything, including those things that are good for us. After you have set a behavior changing, realistic, micro-goal… congratulate yourself.
It is difficult to know how many children (pre-teens) suffer from depression. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that, at any given time, 11% of children under the age of 18 meet the diagnostic criteria for Depression. We know that girls are more likely than boys to suffer from depression and that the risk increases as the child becomes older. But these numbers include teenagers; it is hard to find statistics for children from pre-K through age 12.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) the symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode include:
- Depressed or irritable mood most of the day.
- Loss of pleasure in activities.
- Significant weight loss weight gain.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day.
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
- Feelings of worthlessness guilt.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness.
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), suicidal thoughts either with or without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt.
Adults and teens can talk about how they feel. The younger the child, the less they are able to verbalize feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and sadness. Instead, children act out their feelings instead of talking about them.
The depressed child may be more irritable and angry than sad. They may be clingy, sulky, or grouchy. It was once thought that all depressed children hid or masked their depression with anger, but we now know that some kids do indeed look sad and blue.
The main things to look for are:
1. Changes in social activities.
2. Loss of interest in school.
3. Changes in academic performance.
4. Physical complaints such as headaches or stomachaches that don’t respond to treatment.
5. Crying spells for no or little apparent reason.
Treatment options for depressed children are the same as for adults – counseling and medication. For children, we are more likely to recommend family counseling than individual counseling. Medications may be helpful but generally we want to try counseling first and are slower to refer to a physician for medication.
There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of a number of factors. Psychology textbooks like to talk about “nature versus nurture”: are people’s problems the result of genetics and brain chemistry (nature) or the result of family environment, life experiences, and choices (nurture)? The truth is that nearly all of human experience is some combination of both.
Depression is no different. If you ask your family doctor, she might tell you that depression is a “chemical imbalance”: there are not enough serotonin or dopamine molecules hanging around in your brain waiting to be used. The solution for a chemical imbalance is – medication.
A counselor might tell you that depression is the result of distorted or negative thinking. If you want to change how you feel, you have to change how you think.
The best research indicates that depression does affect the way the brain works. New technologies have shown that the brains of people who are depressed look different than those of people without depression. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. We also know that people who are depressed view the world in globally negative terms.
So which came first? Did brain chemistry create negative thinking? Or, did negative cognitions change the chemical make-up of the brain? How we think – what we say to ourselves – can lead to a chemical imbalance. Likewise, not enough neurotransmitters in the brain can cause us to see the world as completely negative.
The best thing one can do for mild or moderate depression is to work on changing perceptions and self-talk. For severe depression, a combination of anti-depressant medication and counseling may be in order. If I had to choose one or the other, I would pick counseling… medication may help me function more effectively, but – in the end – it won’t change what I say to myself.
(for additional articles on depression: click here)
Usually this is asked at the end of a particularly difficult or emotional session. It’s often followed by the statement, “I couldn’t do what you do”. The truth is, I probably couldn’t do what you do. Not day in and day out. I believe one’s vocation is a calling. We usually think of ministers and missionaries as “being called” to the pastorate or the mission field. I think God has plans and designs for each of us and some are called to be counselors or bankers or truck drivers, and some are even called (though I think it’s more a curse than a blessing) to be Junior High math teachers. Counseling is what I do, it’s a part of who I am; it is what I have been called to do.
That is the short answer. A longer answer is comprised of three parts. First, I have a well defined sense of self and very firm boundaries. In other words, I don’t take responsibility for the outcome or direction of your life. My job is to be the best counselor I know how to be for the time you are in my office. What happens after counseling is over is up to you. That doesn’t mean I don’t care (I do) or that I don’t worry about you as you leave my office (I try to keep that to a minimum but the reality is some of my clients are in a really tough place). It does mean that I take responsibility for my life and I expect my clients to take responsibility for theirs.
I don’t do the same thing hour after hour, day after day. Counseling is a process made up of different parts or phases. Some of my day is spent doing assessments: figuring out what is really going on in order to create the most effective treatment plan. Being a good diagnostician is like being a detective. I question, probe, and investigate. I analyze, summarize, and interpret. At other times I teach skills: communication skills, problem-solving skills, parenting skills, etc. I get to take off my detective hat and put on my educator hat. Still other parts of my day are spent listening, empathizing, and understanding. On occasion I confront people, at other times I explain how they are quite normal and anyone would react/think/feel as they are. Counseling is much more than just sitting in a chair murmuring “And how do you feel about that?”. I actually enjoy those difficult situations that require me to call upon all of my training and experience; even if the client never realizes just how much work that is.
Finally, I do what I do all day long because I take pride in my work. I make a difference in people’s lives… and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
Licensed Professional Counselor
We’re catching up on our postings around here at CFI. This past January, Mr. Bowden McElroy was also interviewed by FOX23 about the impact on children when they are exposed to parents who use, abuse, and cook meth.
“Kids model themselves after their parents; they take on the values of their parents,” said counselor Bowden McElroy. “They’re at risk to become abusers. Once mom and dad go to prison, and the kids go to foster care– it really does become everyone’s problem: emotionally, morally, and financially.”
CFI’s Bowden McElroy was also interviewed by FOX23 in the recent past. He talked with FOX23’s Frank Wiley back in December 2011 about more dad’s taking on the role of caring for children while mom’s are at work full-time.
An excerpt from the interview:
McElroy said more dads are taking on the role for any number of reasons: wives are able to earn more; husbands were laid off, or even the soaring prices of childcare.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice I often work with parents who express frustration with their child’s school experience. The parents know things aren’t going well, they want their child to succeed in school, and they can feel unheard by the teacher or school administrators.
There are many things I can do as a counselor: family therapy, individual therapy with the child, teach parenting skills, refer for testing for learning disabilities, etc. One thing I often do is help parents navigate their way through the school system by acting as an advocate and by teaching conflict-resolution and negotiation skills.
Put simply, you really can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Or as my wife – a public school teacher – puts it: the “problem parents” aren’t the ones who are voicing problems or demanding solutions. “Problem parents” are the ones who do so in an obnoxious manner. Being labeled an obnoxious parent won’t help your child and may slow down the process of finding solutions.
- Do read all the notes sent home by the teacher. Most teachers have access to all kinds of technologies from websites listing homework assignments to email and newsletters. But many teachers still do things the old-fashioned way: they send notes home. Go through your child’s backpack and folders and make sure you have read all the notes. Nothing is more embarrassing than raising a stink only to find the information was available to you all along.
- Don’t call the teacher 20 times a day. Call once and leave a brief message (perhaps directing them to a more detailed email you just sent) with both day-time and evening phone numbers.
- Don’t expect a call back until after the kids have left for the day. Just because the teacher has a phone in the classroom (something unheard of when I was teaching 30+ years ago) doesn’t mean s/he has time to talk.
- Do attend all of the meetings, parent conferences, and activities you possibly can. It is human nature to look more favorably on someone with whom we have a relationship than a person we’ve never met before. Who would you go out of your way to help? The angry person you’ve just met or the one you know? If your schedule doesn’t allow you to attend meetings or activities then send the teacher a nice email describing your limitations and asking to be kept informed.
- Do get both sides of the story before you rush to complain to the teacher. Some kids leave out vital details. Just because your child would NEVER tell a lie doesn’t mean she has all the facts. I expect parents to support their children; I also expect them to gather all the relevant data before rushing to their child’s defense.
- Do understand the school system. Teachers are responsible for what happens in their classroom. They are not responsible for school policies or district-wide decisions.
- Don’t skip over the chain-of-command. If you have a complaint or a concern then start with the teacher before going to the Principal. If you still aren’t satisfied then the next step is the Superintendent followed by the Board Members.
- Do expect a solution to your child’s learning or behavioral difficulties. But don’t expect it to occur without your helpful input.
I see many newly divorced or separated fathers in my office who are good dads. They have been involved in their child’s life attending parent-teacher conferences and all of the holiday parties at the grade school. They went because their wife had informed them of the school schedule and they made it a priority to show up.
And then they stop. Not because they are suddenly bad fathers or they stopped caring about their children but because they lost their in-home secretary.
Newly divorce dads need to remember:
- Your ex-wife is no longer responsible for keeping you apprised of your child’s schedule. Neither are young children. That’s why teachers send notes to parents.
- Give the school office and your child’s teacher your email address and phone numbers. Many teachers communicate by email and it is easy to add your address to their email list.
- Many schools have implemented websites where a parent can check grades and homework assignments for each child. Make a practice of checking in regularly.
- Look in your student’s backpack for notes sent home by the teacher. Don’t assume that this is your ex-wife’s job. If your ex-wife has had the kids for a few days make a point of asking specifically about notes and communication from the school.
- Show up at every event you can: your children need re-assurance that you and their mother divorced each other… not that you divorced them!