A Good Person Doing Good Things

October 29, 2015

Why don’t we hear more about good people doing good things in our communities? This bothers me, so I keep my eyes open for noteworthy people who aren’t in the news. Dr. Michelle Woody strikes me as one of these people. I’m getting to know her as one of my LPC Interns and here’s what I see:

Michelle Woody PictureMichelle specializes in counseling children and youth from families experiencing domestic violence, substance and/or sexual abuse. She is a ‘first responder’ for families in deep trouble and people who encounter multiple forms of misery. She has tough skin. But through her toughness comes a very sensitive and compassionate spirit that reveals her genuine caring. She takes seriously the Bible’s directive to “Defend the cause of the poor and the fatherless! Vindicate the oppressed and suffering.” (Psalms 82:3)

Often, highly educated people operate at a lofty theoretical and abstract level. Not Michelle. She communicates effectively with young people who have very little sophistication but whose needs are very concrete. Did I mention she has a Doctorate degree from USC in Educational Psychology? Her dissertation was entitled, “Evidenced Based Practices in two Juvenile Detention Centers in Los Angeles County.” Wow. While in LA, she was the Executive Director of a residential treatment facility for adolescent boys who had substance abuse and legal challenges. She is able to see the world from the both kids’ point of view and the academic and professional view.

Often, individuals who are highly educated and skilled in Psychology are not very spiritual. Michelle, however, sees herself as a broken person in a fallen world who needs to constantly abide in her Savior for wisdom, courage and direction in life. As a Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, she teaches Master’s level classes in the Biblical Counseling Department.

In Michelle we see a highly educated woman who chooses to serve those in serious trouble with the wisdom and grace only found in Christ. It seems to me that she has chosen to develop her most important character traits at a high level while maintaining a practical effectiveness with those who are without resources and who want to transition to a better life.

This is some of the good news about a good person. Are you looking for help? If you would like her to help you, your kids, or your whole family, call her at 310-923-6824. I’m very impressed by the character and competence of this woman.


Character and Quality Make Reliable Rehab Center

November 1, 2014

I like organizations that are led by men of character.  Robert Shryoc is one of those men and the Stonegate Center is one of those organizations.  It’s a Christian drug and alcohol rehab center for men located west of Fort Worth in the country.  Robert founded the center some years ago and continues as its CEO.  I had lunch with him a few weeks ago and was impressed with his world view and his attitudes toward treatment.  

He says that addiction is about impaired choosing.  The addict is a broken person who sees things in a distorted way and makes bad choices that make his condition worse.  Robert likes the Twelve Steps because they help a person gain (1) peace with God, (2) peace with themselves, (3) peace with others and (4) and enduring peace that comes from a transformed life from the inside out.

The program itself  works on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues that pertain to addiction and recovery.  A typical day there is structured from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM but includes time to relax and reflect.  Robert says that real change happens IMG_0008in the context of real relationship, so community is very important at Stonegate.  I find that to be true in the personal counseling that I do as well.  Robert practices this with his organization as well, referring to specialists in the community and accepting referrals from other professionals in the community.

Another thing I like about the program is that it focuses on how to live a full and meaningful life beyond simply not doing the harmful thing.  In other words, let’s evaluate progress by the presence of good, not just the absence of bad.  It reminds me of the passage in Colossians 3:1-17 that uses clothing as a metaphor.  “. . . rid yourselves of . . .  and clothe yourselves with . . . “.

Perhaps these are some of the reasons the program has a 70% success rate.  I hope you don’t have a need for a recovery center, but if you do, consider Stonegate.  It’s a quality program run by a quality person of high character.


Helping Teenage Cutters

June 15, 2012

When I look around the community for good people doing good things, I need look no further that to one of my previous Interns, Kristine Newton.  She brings her maturity and competence to the counseling room to help, among other situations, teens who are cutters.   If you are one of these teenagers or if you know one, you would do well to read this article.  I asked Kristine to write something to help us understand what’s going on that drives this behavior and also what can be done to help the teen move from despair to a more mature contentment.  Need help?  Call Kristine.  She’s good.

It seemed like a normal night, their teenage daughter, Alice had come home and said good night. She seemed safe and happy; Mom and Dad were relieved and began to watch TV.  Less than ten minutes later, Alice came down the stairs, face flushed, tears in her eyes and blood gushing down her arm. While her parents were relaxing, Alice had gone to her room and slashed her arm. She had been cutting secretly for over six months, but tonight she used a box cutter and didn’t realize how sharp the blade was. The cut was so deep it required a trip to the ER and six stitches. Alice’s parents were in shock, what in the world had she done to herself and why?!!

It is estimated that one of every 200 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 in the United States engages in self-harm of some kind; of those 70% cut themselves. When families come to my office, the scene normally plays out like this.

Two very anxious parents and one scowling teenager enter the room and sit across from me. The adolescent informs me, “I will not talk to you or to them!”  They either deny the cutting is serious or state that their parents are being overly dramatic. “After all,” the teen says, “It’s not that big of a deal; cutting just makes me feel better.”

“Makes you feel better?!! That is ridiculous!” the parents exclaim.  With desperation, the parents turn and give me a look that begs me to talk some sense into their teen immediately.

The weird thing is . . . the teen is at least partially right. Cutting is a coping mechanism that “works” for some people.  Scientists have studied the issue, and believe cutting creates a temporary high, similar to the way adrenaline works.  For most of us, this does not make sense.  How in the world can hurting yourself make you feel better?  Like other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, outsiders can easily see the dangers, but the person engaged in it cannot.  Cutting is deceptive, destructive, and can be addictive; even though for a time, it helps relieve tension, reduce numbness and/or create a distraction from stressful life events.

While cutting may appear to “work” for the person using it, like drugs and alcohol, it leaves a bitter aftertaste, and is a dangerous illusion. Cutting can lead to unplanned medical expenses, trips to the ER and, infections which sometimes cause life-long health problems. At minimum cutting leaves unattractive physical scars, and never gets to the root of the issue. Emotionally and relationally, people engaged in cutting end up isolated from others, filled with deep shame and self-hatred, and develop incredibly effective skills at hiding reality from those closest to them.

It is important to note that while cutting may look and feel like a suicide attempt, or a cry for attention most times it is not.  This surprises most of us.  Many people who engage in cutting are not attempting to kill themselves; they see cutting as a way to deal with their pain, so that they can keep on living. While cutting is not often a suicide attempt, it can be a precursor to it, and those who engage in cutting are more prone to attempt suicide in the future.  Sometimes like our teenager Alice in the first paragraph, the cutting may lead to an accidental cutting that is much more serious than intended – even accidental suicide.

To help us understand some of the reasons why a person might cut, there are several characteristics that seem common. Most cutters have experienced more than their fair share of pain.  Many have been sexually abused, grown up with family members who have drug and/or alcohol addictions, or have experienced an extraordinary trauma in their lives. When we actually begin to hear their stories, it is often a wonder to us that they are still alive, and it is understandable that they are struggling.

A second characteristic is that they often feel they have become a burden to others, they feel isolated, and thus tend to deal with their problems without outside help or advice.  They believe others are sick of listening to them, don’t understand them and can’t or won’t help them. Therefore, rather than ask others, they take on the pain themselves and engage in self harm.  One client who ended up in the emergency room said, “I didn’t want to kill myself.  But I didn’t want to burden my mom anymore by telling her I was down, again!  I thought I could cut myself and deal with it that way.  But the cut was a lot deeper than I intended. Now I am so mad at myself, I was attempting to take care of myself, but now I have created more drama and cost my parents even more money because of the hospital bill.”

A final characteristic is cutters are very passionate, sensitive individuals who feel their emotions in vivid Technicolor.  God has given them a unique personality and emotional framework that has very sensitive receptors to the soft side of life.  Many times those who struggle with cutting are fun to be with, exciting to share struggles with, and often very compassionate with others. This places them on a very steep roller coaster ride. The highs are very high and the lows are almost intolerable! The downside: pain they feel at a high level and don’t know how to deal with it. They may try to tell someone they are hurting, but are blown off because others don’t experience the issue at the same intensity.

So what do you do if like the parents in the opening story, you have discovered someone you care about is cutting? Here are six suggestions.

1.  Trust.  Trust that God loves your loved one even more than you do! He loves to shine light in dark places so that He can bring restoration. Trust in His power, loving-kindness and timing to do what He has promised in your life and your loved one’s life.

2.  Don’t Panic.  My guess is that like the parents above, you would be a bit freaked out. That is normal. Don’t be shocked by your reaction.  It is very important to deal with the problem, but do so calmly and not in a panic. Remember, cutting is usually not a suicide attempt, but it is often a cry for help. Your panic could encourage more hiding, aloneness, and be a precursor to more not less cutting.

3.  Communicate love and care. Tell your loved one that you care about them, that you want to be supportive and that you want to see them get help. Do not scold, rebuke, or preach at this point, simply and clearly let them know you are in their corner and cannot be run away!

4.  Find a therapist.  I recommend finding a good therapist for your loved one. A therapist who is experienced in working with cutters is best. Therapy is often necessary not only to teach the cutter new coping skills, but also to work through the trauma that is at the root of cutting. Therapy also helps to educate the cutter of their sensitive emotional nature so they may see it as a blessing, not a curse, and to teach them to use that gift properly and well. If you are the parent, you should attend sessions as well. This is beneficial. It helps the cutter feel supported, and it will also help you. I know this may sound scary, but the therapist can not only help you know how to best deal with your situation, but also work through any doubts you may be having about your parenting skills.

5.  You find a therapist. Dealing with a cutter presents unique challenges; seek a counselor who can help you learn to react to your sensitive loved one in a new and godly way. Even if your loved one will not go to therapy, you should go! Therapy can help you deal with the situation when the person you care about does not want to change.

6.  Be a friend.  This is a time where your loved one really needs a healthy relationship. Listen when they need to talk, open the door to deeper issues, but don’t try to pound down the door. Make sure that you that you remember how to have fun with them! Don’t treat them like a project or a problem. And be patient. This behavior has usually occurred in secret for some time, a few sessions with a therapist will not make it go away. Like addictions, there may be periods of sobriety and then some relapse.

Kristine Newton, MA, LPC works with adolescents and adults at Heritage Counseling and Consulting, in the Park Cities area of Dallas. Through her earlier work at Heartlight Ministries, an inpatient rehab center for teens, and Metrocare Services, she has extensive experience working with adolescents and adults who have engaged in self harm.  To contact her, call 214.363.2345


Good Counseling Comes to the Broader Community

May 8, 2012

Good counseling costs a lot of money.   But not always, thanks to Dr. Michael Leach.  He has opened Richland Oaks Counseling Center right in the middle of a multicultural area and commits to providing services that are

     accessible,

     effective

     and culturally responsive for all who participate.

Right across the street from Richland College near Abrams Road and Walnut St., “ROCC” provides easy access.

How does he do it?  First, he focuses on social justice rather than making a lot of money for himself.  That’s the kind of guy he is.  A highly trained and skilled therapist and educator himself, he opts to supervise doctoral students and master’s level students from Argosy University and other graduate schools in the Dallas area.

He holds to a vision of a community in which staff, clients and various community organizations join in supporting persons with mental health needs so that all persons have the opportunity, including the necessary services and supports, to participate, with dignity, in the life of the community, with its freedoms, responsibilities, rewards, and consequences.

So, here’s a good man doing a good thing in the community.  How can you benefit from this service?  Give them a call at 469-619-7622.  Check out their Facebook page by clicking here .  Then, give them a try.  Some cynics say about counseling, “What you want, you can’t afford and what you can afford, you don’t want.”  Here’s a refreshing exception.


“Understanding the Male of the Species”

March 17, 2012

Kelly G. Antwine, M.Ed., LPC

Kelly Antwine presented a verbal time-lapse picture of how the “Male of the Species” developed into what it is today.  Cultural pressures have shaped the roles in the home.  Prior to World War, 27% of the families lived on what they could produce on less than 100 acres of their homestead.   Neighbors helped each other.  Children worked along side their parents.  After the War, we clustered into the new invention called “suburbs.”
On the negative side, he explained how men have deteriorated relationally after returning from the War.

  • Men no longer worked with their sons out on the farm producing the family’s sustenance.  Instead, they worked in the factory, away from the family.
  • Men no longer worked cooperatively with one another in mutual assistance.  Instead, they competed for the ever-narrowing opportunities for advancement.
  • Men no longer valued their worth on the blessings that provided dignity.  Instead, they turned to status defined by income and material possessions for their worth.

On the positive side, he called for restored manhood by

  • sharing emotions and vulnerability with one another, implying that transparency builds intimacy.
  • taking back the responsibility of training our sons how to be persons of integrity, refusing to outsource that responsibility to “professionals” like daycare workers and teachers.
  • entering into a personal relationship with God that is genuine and authentic, resisting the temptation to just going through the motions of religious rituals that have little personal meaning.

Lots of good food for thought.  The North D/FW Chapter of the Christian Counselors of Texas organized the meeting which deserved more attendance than came.  Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Preston Place Counseling in Dallas.  He has a lot of experience with addiction recovery and can be contacted at 972-960-2222 or Kelly@PrestonPlaceCounseling.com.


Helping Kids Out of Sex Trafficking

November 19, 2011

Truly righteous people respond to the needs of the vulnerable members of our society to meet their needs and to restore them to a place of dignity and effective coping.  They often do so with remarkable compassion and great sacrifice to themselves.  We have two such people in our community.  Two professors from Dallas Baptist University, Doctor Shannon Wolf and Doctor Dana Wicker, presented their work to our local CAPS (Dallas/Fort Worth) chapter.  They specialize in helping young girls (ages 10-19) find deliverance from their entrapment in sex trafficking.

Dr. Wolf

Dr. Wicker

As many as 300,000 young girls are forced into sexual slavery in the US every year.

One out of every three children who are homeless are sold into sexual slavery within 48 hours.

More hotline calls come from Texas than any other state in the country!

Praise God for Doctors Wolf and Wickern who explained the effects of trauma on young girls, how to assess their wounds, how to set treatment objectives and how to make appropriate clinical interventions.

I also met Alisa Jordheim, the Safe-house Development Director of “Traffic 911,” a two-year-old organization in Fort Worth to help fight human trafficking.  The human trafficking hotline number to report abuse is 1-888-373-7888.

“. . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

We have seen an example of what this looks like in this community.  Thanks Dr. Wolf (shannonw@dbu.edu) and Dr. Wicker (dana@dbu.edu).  If you’d like to receive a file copy of the handouts for this workshop, drop an e-mail request to either of them.

Click here for Animoto video of the meeting.


Choices

July 19, 2011

Jeremy Ezell just moved from Dallas to Austin.  He’s an excellent counselor.  Any of you looking for a counselor in the Austin area, give him a call.  I know he’s good because I watched him grow like a weed here in Dallas.  I had the privilege of supervising him for part of his LPC license requirement.  He started a blog which I’m now following.  It’s thoughtful.  It’s well written.  Check him out.  I copped this picture from his post which wrestles with the problems that accompany our freedom of choice.  We all want freedom, but yell loudest at what we want freedom FROM.  We need to get clear on what positive goals we have in mind . . . using freedom TO.  Reminds me of the Berkeley students in the early 60’s hollering for “free speech” when it seemed to me they had plenty of freedom but not much to say.

Back to Jeremy.  He’s Jeremy the Counseling Pastor at Austin Ridge Bible Church.  You can reach him at jeremy@austinridge.org and is part of the Hyde Park Baptist Church Counseling Center