Christopher is also the author of the following articles:
Imagine the following situation: Your son is a teenager and has been writing badly about you in a social media forum (such as Facebook) for quite a while. He has been using foul language and misrepresenting how you treat him. Anger is coming from your 13 year old that you are having a hard time understanding. You wonder why he hates you and feel very hurt by the words he is writing. Why Is This Happening? For a moment let's take you out of the middle... Read more
Parents often struggle with how to draw and enforce boundaries for their teenage child. For example, consider the following situation: Imagine your 16 year-old daughter wants to go to a party on a school night – something that you are totally opposed to. On the night of the party, she walks out the door so you tell her to think about what she is doing. She gives you a look. In reply, you tell her that if she can’t obey the rules then she can’t stay in the house. ... Read more
Send your mom flowers, buy her lunch - here are other ideas for Mother's Day. Mother's Day can become very routine. You call your mother. You take her out to lunch. You take this opportuntiy to express your love and gratitude to her. However, Mother's Day is an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and to engage in some alternate activities. Here is a countdown of 10 activities that you might want to consider. For Those Who Have Mothered You: 10. Send a note to 3 people who have... Read more
Adolescents and young adults with ADHD can face many challenges when they first leave home, but once living independently, what can parents do if they suspect substance abuse or addiction? Individuals with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), especially if not effectively treated, can experience a range of difficulties. Parents can be glad when they find their way in life, especially when they find an occupation that matches their passion and skills. People with ADHD can have very successful lives in their own way and be able to earn a reasonable living, even if they were not successful in school. Here's some information on helping your adult child find success by avoiding the substance abuse that too commonly accompanies under-treated ADHD. ... Read more
There are all sorts of counselors out there - could a pastoral counselor help us? There are so many types of counselors out there. If your relationship is in trouble, who can you turn to? An LPC? LMHC? LMFT? LCSW? Psychologist? Pastoral Counselor? Lucy from Peanuts? Some other designation? Is a pastoral counselor qualified to handle relationship difficulties? Mental health professionals do come in a wide variety of flavors and even within a particular type of mental health professional there is a lot of variability about the expertise and specialization of individuals. It is always important to be careful in the selection of a mental health professional and to understand the strengths and limitations in their training and background. What is a pastoral counselor? ... Read more
Is a pastoral counselor qualified to handle serious mental illness? The DSM (the manual which mental health professionals use in diagnoses issues) covers a broad range of mental health conditions, such as: personal concerns (such as relational problems or an occupational problem), less permanent disorders (such as adjustment disorders or oppositional defiant disorder) and serious mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder). While it is always important to be careful in the selection of a mental health professional, this is particularly the case when looking for someone to help address a serious mental illness. So should a pastoral counselor be considered for counseling around a serious mental illness? ... Read more
Disasters often have a human component, including New York’s World Trade Center on 9/11 , the death of a teenager following misuse of alcohol , mass shootings , and, in the day before the writing of this article, the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon . Elsewhere, you can read about many themes that relate to dealing with a disaster, such as being prepared , responding to a crisis , dealing with the broader impact of the disaster , speaking to children , recovering from the damage , and living in the world after a disaster . These all provide things for therapists to be on the lookout for or even to actively explore. These explorations are appropriate in different ways, regardless of whether the person was a primary victim or near-victim of the disaster, connected to such a person, or just someone who has learned of the event through media or social circles. Exploring a person’s initial reactions to a disaster can provide insight into some dimensions of his or her spirituality....Read more
Letting go of a loved one is never easy, but remembering their love can be the best way to cope. When we hear tragic news stories, we can't help but picture ourselves and our loved ones placed at the center of such events. The deaths of Audrey Pott in California, Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia and 8-year-old Martin Richard have broken hearts around the world — not to mention the hearts of their parents who are left behind. Audrey Pott, Rehtaeh Parsons, Martin Richard from the Boston Marathon bombing and others like them should not have their lives reduced to the headlines surrounding their tragic deaths. No one understands this more than their families. These families struggle to preserve their child's memories outside of the spotlight. They don't want the lives summed up and remembered solely by acts of violence. These same parents are the ones that often have to make tough decisions at a time when their hearts are hurting... Read more
The President's State of the Union is over – what would be part of yours if given about your union? In political chambers throughout the country, including in our national Capitol, political leaders give annual addresses to talk about how we are doing and what challenges we need to face in the year ahead. Thinking about the highlights offered in the State of the Union tonight, there are similar categories that you could use to evaluate your union. How would you rate your marriage, domestic partnership or other significant relationship? Consider the following items to work out your State of the Union and use it to celebrate what has gone well and to advance in the coming year that with your significant other that you may write a wonderful story for your life together. A recent study from Northwestern University has found that regularly reappraising your relationships can help you keep that loving feeling - so why not start with this list? Roles. How are ... Read more
Kids and the twelve days of Christmas – turn stress to learning what’s behind Christmas traditions. In society, Christmas begins earlier and earlier. In fact, it often starts before Advent even begins. In religious tradition, it actually starts on Christmas day and continues to be observed for twelve days until Epiphany (January 6th). This is also a time when children are often off from school which can lead to added stress in families. Here are twelve video clips that you can watch with your children during this time. As you do, you and your child(ren) will explore different aspects of the Christian meaning behind different Christian traditions. You may simply use the viewing as an activity to do each day or you may chose to do something together in response to what you have heard. However, you use these twelve steps, may they help you have peace in your family during this time.... Read more
Advent traditionally involves 4 small words that can also enhance your relationship. Advent is the season Christians observe leading up to Christmas. During this season, Christians traditionally focus on hope, peace, joy and love. These very same themes can also be important things to focus on in our relationships in order to enhance our relationship whether it is at the beginning early stage or is more mature. This focus can occur during Advent or can be something that is worked on by a couple at any time. For each of these ideas, here is two lessons you can take from Advent to understand the deeper sense these words can play and an exercise you can do with your partner to enhance your relationship:... Read more
Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish celebration that can teach us much about improving our lives.
Hanukkah (or Chanukah or one of many other spellings) is a Jewish festival that comes around the time of Christmas. Many people know it for the progressive lighting of the candles on its nine branched menorah, for latkes or potato pancakes, for gift giving, for singing and for dreidels. From a religious standpoint, there are many holidays that are more important in Judaism, but culturally many more people have heard of it than more significant Jewish holidays. Each of us can learn lessons from Hanukkah about winning in life. Here are three things we can learn from this festival:... Read more
This morning, news came out about another tragic, mas shooting - this time in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. On one level, this is just one more tragedy in a series of tragedies that have occurred in our country. On another level, the victims here were considerably younger. Additionally, this particular Connecticut community was also severely affected by Superstorm Sandy. However, the impact of a tragedy this large ripples across the country and beyond.
As a parent, whether you live near the incident or far away, you naturally think about your own child(ren). What will you say to them? What will you do? Here are seven suggestions:... Read more
Do your children know the importance of gratitude?
As a parent, it can be awfully tempting to spoil your kids, especially around the holidays. And while it's okay to regale them with gifts every so often, it's essential that they learn to appreciate what they have. With that in mind, here are some tips from YourTango Experts about how to teach your kids the importance of gratitude:
1. Model gratitude for your children. Your children can easily see if you are thankful for the things that come into your life and whether you share that thanks with the people who bring things into your life. When you model this, you reinforce... Read more
The Diwali Festival of Lights shines into our lives with ideas for better living and relationshipsDiwali is an unusual religious celebration in that it is a festival for Sikhs, Hindus, Jains and some Buddhists. Each of these religions has their own particular take on the festival. This holiday is characterized as the festival of lights. The light is to welcome and guide the richness and wealth into their lives for the new time that will come. The light is also part of closing out old books, including traits such as anger, hate and jealosy. So what can we learn from... Read more
The shortage of fuel after Hurricane Sandy parallels fuel for relationships often taken advantage of
In recent weeks, Hurricane Sandy has affected many dimensions of life in the greater New York area. Among this has been a shortage of fuel which has not been seen since the 1970s. Those who drive in the area are suddenly becoming acutely aware of how much they take for granted that they can fill up their vehicle with gas as rationing is now being implemented in both New Jersey and New York restricting when area residents can even attempt to buy gas. Just as fuel has become something that we take for granted, there are also elements that fuel our relationships that we also take for granted. What are some of these spects? Read more
Hurricane Sandy is one of the disasters I have lived through in my life. During Sandy, I was living and working in New York City. I am thankful that others have challenged me to be introspective and think about what I have experienced and what can be learned from these experiences. Some of the lessons learned (and how they can be applied to other areas of our lives) are in other articles that I have written. What I want to share with you are a few vignettes from within the storm and its aftermath. Read more
When a crisis occurs, stress goes up. Learn to identify this and fight the negative effect.
There are many types of crises that can enter our life. These can be natural disasters, problems in our relationships, facing life changes, discovering significant health issues, or any of many other things. Some crises are very intense and concentrated while others occur over a longer period of time. The effects of some crises are relatively easy to address (such as running out of time every day) while others will require years to address (such as a major hurricane). In any case, it is important to recognize the stress that is being caused by the crisis and to respond to that stress in a way that can help you to keep some sense of internal peace as you face the crisis. Here are seven ways that the crisis can be increasing your stress and what you might do for each of them: Read more
Natural disasters help highlight relationships and interconnectedness in today's world
Our world has become connected in ways that a couple of decades ago could only have barely been imagined. Often this is taken primarily as a matter of technology, a matter of ease of getting information, a matter of the speed of effects being felt in distant places. Hurricane Sandy and its impact in the Northeast along with all the calls that were made beyond the storm show that our connected world has also created new patterns of relationships.
The work of a marriage and family therapist is often about problems that exist in significant relationships and ways to build strength into relationships. The relationships that arise from living in a connected world are very different and can even exist between people who do not even know each other. Communications I have been involved in about the storm show how these relationships have their own way ... Read more
Repairing what you do not know that you have done - lessons from the Jewish Yom Kippur
Today is Yom Kippur, the end of the Days of Awe or Repentance, ten days that began with Rosh Hashanah, for those of the Jewish faith. It is probably the most important holiday of the Jewish year and teaches us some important lessons in our own relationships.
1. Even as our own beliefs change, there is still meaning found in rituals that come from our tradition. Read more
Don't write off a date just because of a pesky criminal record. He could be the one!
Many people would say that there are dangers
of dating a criminal and even advocate checking criminal records of online daters. In many situations where your potential date is a criminal there is reason to be cautious. Sometimes this fact will be a good reason to not pursue a relationship or even a date. In other situations, you may still be interested in dating the criminal,... In fact, there are even felons that you might want to date because of the fact that they are a criminal. Here are four reasons you should consider dating a criminal. Read more
How shared spirituality can help strengthen your relationship.
Spirituality has been linked to mental health by a number of studies including one from the University of Missouri.
While this study focused on how spirituality was linked to individual mental health, increased spirituality also helps in the area of forgiveness in couples. The capacity for forgiveness is also important in a couple's relationship.
There are a number of ways that couples can increase the role of spirituality in their relationships, Read more
New beginnings are often needed in our lives and relationships - learn how from Rosh Hashanah
Have you ever heard the sound of the shofar? Its sounds is one that you would remember, whether the short blasts or the longer sustained blast that goes on over many seconds. This ram’s horn sounds one hundred notes a day during Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year.
Rosh Hashanah is very different than the American idea of New Year’s celebrations (December 31-January 1). The focus is on God’s sovereignty and the original creation of humanity, the sealing in of good for the coming year (which some will still use the time until Yom Kipur to make things right) and refocusing for the new year (casting off sins and wishing for a sweet new year). So, in relationships, how can you learn about new beginnings from looking at Rosh Hashanah? Read more
Forgiveness is for you as well as the relationship - find sources in your spirituality to help do it
When you have become emotionally close to another person, you have become more vulnerable. This vulnerability opens the doors for that person to do things that really hurt, which often comes out when conflicts arise. At the same time, you can develop higher expectations about what the other person does and how they should act towards you. This also can lead to unfulfilled expectations which could result in resentment or even anger, even without the other person knowing that they have done something to hurt you.
A recent study has shown that people with increased spirituality have improved mental health, in part because of the role of forgiveness. This helps to point to... Read more
Take responsibility for your health by setting and following a plan - beyond the government's role.
The Supreme Court decision to uphold one of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act is a monumental decision. It has impact many individuals such as individuals who are concerned about the ability to afford health care or to have insurance while seeking a job. Interst groups and politicians are already talking about the costs and implications. Regardless, what is being affirmed is each person's right and responsibility for the ability to work for health. This prompts three things that you need to think about in terms of seeking health.
1. Acknowledge the part of your life that is not healthy. Identifying where you need a new start - Read more
Lent's end can be freedom to go back to the old - instead Easter points to hope for the future
Many things can bring you to the point of despair. Learning that your spouse has cheated on you; finding out about the secret past of a partner that was kept secret even from you; the sudden death of a family member; the loss of your home - all of these events and many more can bring you to the point of despair. Despair is a natural reaction but is one that tends to take away any sense of hope that we ave.
The context of Easter is very much the same.
Easter is the end of the Lenten journey many have been on. Christians remember... Read more
Our world can change suddenly, like it did on Passover or Good Friday - how do you find a future?
Many things can drastically and suddenly change our lives. With the economy, we all know people who were doing well (or at least okay) who lost their job and as a result their whole world changed. Another person's life may be changed when their spouse is injured in a car accident or diagnosed with cancer. And for another person, the change may be the result of relocating to a new town for the promise of a great new life. Whether the change comes in the form of a welcome or challenging motivator, facing the changed world can be hard and it is natural to wonder what the future will bring. Some will experience this as depression while others will experience other emotions.
In looking at facing a changing world, two religious celebrations happening at his time can give us suggestions. Read more
Finding peace and wholeness in the midst of family conflict, by drawing on Maundy Thursday lessons.
If you are like most people, you experience some form of conflict within your family whether it is just two of you, involves children or even the extended family. Sometimes this conflict can be just in the situation, but there are also times that it runs deeper. There are even times that trust has been severely broken and you do not trust whether another will live up to the support that they talk about or whether another will directly do you harm by betraying you. So, what should you do when you find yourself in such a spot? Read more
Starting over on a goal is usually depressing but Ash Wednesday teaches us to celebrate instead!
“Remember that you are dust and to dust, you shall return.” This Biblical verse is one that many hear during an Ash Wednesday service, marking the beginning of Lent. It is commonly said as ashes are placed on their forehead. For those involved, this is a powerful reminder of our mortality and the need for both confession and repentance.
Creating a new start in our own lives is very similar. A new start is most likely to succeed if... Read more
Temptations abound in our lives - learn 6 steps to avoid them from Shrove Tuesday
Temptations fill each of our lives. Sometimes these are temptations we wrestle with all of our life and at times these are short term temptations. Regardless, what we are often tempted to do is to try to avoid the thing that is tempting us. Often, it can be more effective to remove from our lives the things that lead to the temptation. This is a lesson we can learn from Shrove Tuesday. Read more
When some people get down, they turn to spirituality and religion in the hopes that it will turn things around providing them a lift. For others, feeling depressed makes them feel alienated from their higher power. A review of the literature shows that spirituality (more than religion) can help even a person who is clinically depressed.
Here are some ways that you can draw on your spiritual side when emotionally you are feeling down:
1. FIND HOPE from your spiritual sources. Read more
- Christopher L. Smith, "Serious Mental Illness and the Way Others Can Minister", Horizons, 2003.
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