Category Archive Mental Health

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

What is Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder?

Have you heard of DMDD, or disruptive mood dysregulation disorder in children? Unless you work in the mental health field, are a pediatrician, or a parent of a child who struggles with DMDD, it’s quite possible that you haven’t heard of this relatively new diagnosis.

13 Facts About Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

  1. Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) is a relatively new diagnosis (newly found in the  DSM-5, published in 2013) that describes children who have frequent explosive outbursts that seem grossly out of proportion to the situation and inconsistent with a child’s developmental level; in between the outbursts, these children are chronically irritable. The angry or irritable mood should be observed by parents, teachers, and peers (in more than one place, in other words). So if a child only exhibits such behaviors at home, but not at school, then it’s not DMDD. If a child shows symptoms only at school, but nowhere else, then it’s not DMDD.
  2. The DMDD diagnosis was created to more accurately categorize some children who had previously been diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder but do not experience the episodic mania or hypomania symptoms of bipolar disorder, and they don’t typically develop adult bipolar disorder. Years ago, many children were diagnosed with bipolar disorder because there really wasn’t a better descriptor of what was going on with the child, but not all of these kids had true pediatric bipolar disorder.
  3. A clinician considering a DMDD diagnosis for a child would look for severe temper outbursts that occur, on average, three or more times per week. Additionally, the child’s mood between outbursts must be consistently and observably angry or irritable. The child must experience this pattern of frequent outbursts, plus conistent anger or irritability between outbursts, for 12 or more months. During this 12-month period, the child must show symptoms consistently, meaning that he doesn’t experience a break of three or more months without DMDD symptoms.
  4. Outbursts, or elevated or expansive moods that last for longer than a few hours or for days on end, are more likely to be signs of mania, which would rule out disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
  5. The diagnosis of DMDD cannot be made before age 6 or after age 18. The onset of symptoms typically takes place before age 10.
  6. Parents should work closely with their child’s doctor to learn what works best for their child, but in general, medication or psychological treatments (e.g., psychotherapy, parent training, computer based training) are primarily used to treat DMDD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) recommends that psychological treatments be considered first, with medication added later if necessary, or psychological treatments can be provided with medication from the beginning.
  7. The diagnostic criteria for disruptive mood dysregulation disorder are meant to separate children who have chronic trouble regulating their moods from children who are afflicted with other mental disorders that may also express themselves in intermittent outbursts, irritability and anger, including bipolar disorder, autism, intermittent explosive disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder. But DMDD can occur alongside ADHD, a depressive disorder, conduct disorder, an anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or substance use disorder.
  8. Children with DMDD may find it hard to participate in activities or make friends. DMDD can impair a child’s quality of life and school performance and disrupt relationships with his family and peers.
  9. Having DMDD increases the risk of developing depression or anxiety disorders in adulthood.
  10. DMDD has a prevalence of 2%-5% and occurs mostly in boys; bipolar disorder affects boys and girls equally and affects less than 1% prior to adolescence.
  11. Before diagnosing DMDD, it is important for the clinician to assess for a history of psychological trauma. Trauma affects many aspects of a child’s life; in the case of outbursts, it is emotional resilience that is impaired.
  12. It is important to recognize that the child is not “just angry,” but very distressed.
  13. Hugging and verbally consoling the child’s distress is sometimes effective and does not reinforce the behavior unless the parent also yields to demands. But once outbursts begin, you can liken them to a bomb going off – there really isn’t a good intervention at that point. Instead, the task of the family, and over time that of the child, is to recognize and better manage the triggers.
ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Spend Meaningful Quality Time with Your Child while Instilling Kindness: 45 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Do with Your Child This Week

While checking out Facebook one day, I found a great video by Kristina Kuzmic in which she suggested an awesome activity to do with your kids. The video showed her and one of her children spending some good quality time together driving around town (which in itself is a good way to connect with your kid) and finding different ways they could do random acts of kindness together.

If you don’t know who Kristina Kuzmic is, I strongly recommend checking her out! Kristina is energetic and she’s really funny while she offers her perspective on issues of parenting and life in general. She does “mom-centric” videos about raising children and juggling all of life’s challenges. She really is great! And the video I watched about how she spends some good one-on-one time with her kids (individually) especially inspired me!

We all hope to instill kindness in our children. And we all know the benefits of spending good quality one-on-one time with our kids. Kristina’s idea offers both! After watching her video, I knew I had to give it a try with my own children. I have two kids – both boys – who are always vying for mom’s attention. Spending one-on-one time with each child can be challenging. Either we don’t have the opportunity or we aren’t quite sure what to do together – at least this is a roadblock I’ve found in raising only boys.

Okay, enough introduction. Let’s get to the acts of kindness ideas, right?! The following ideas are all free or pretty affordable, hence why you can do most of these acts this week if you want to – there’s no prerequisite of having a lot of money.

My challenge for you is to pick a time this week that you can spend some one-on-one time with your own child, then together choose at least three random acts of kindness to do during your special time. Brownie Points: Do something like this once or twice a month if you’re able! Hope you have fun!

photo courtesy of Pixabay

Random Acts of Kindness You Can Do with Your Child This Week

  1. Leave happy notes around town.
  2. Go to a fast food restaurant and grab a bite to eat. If you see someone sitting alone, strike up a conversation and maybe even eat lunch with them!
  3. Help an elderly neighbor take out the trash, mow their lawn, or shovel snow.
  4. Bring a box of donuts to the school custodians or drop them off at a local fire station.
  5. Spend time together making and/or filling out cards to send to soldiers serving in the military.
  6. Bake cookies together and deliver them to a neighbor.
  7. Donate warm coats or blankets to the homeless shelter.
  8. Surprise an older person or couple with dinner. (Drop it off, don’t stay.)
  9. Find someone who looks like they’ve had a bad day and give them a gift card. ($5 for coffee or an ice cream cone)
  10. Offer your child’s teacher your services and help clean or do other tasks for him/her together for the day.
  11. With your child, go through their old toys and donate those in good condition to a charity or local children’s hospital.
  12. Put together care packages for the homeless and distribute them together (either to a shelter or on the street handing them out to those you see in your own town).
  13. Put together care packages for children who have to stay in the hospital (a small stuffed animal, a coloring book, some crayons, etc.); distribute them together.
  14. Put together care packages for parents of children who have to stay in the hospital (toiletries, a word search book with a pencil, a $5 gift card for coffee at the hospital’s cafeteria).
  15. Make breakfast together and bring it to your child’s school teacher.
  16. Fulfill an angel tree request together.
  17. Go to a nursing home together and visit – if it’s a holiday, take something related to the special day and pass them out to tennants (like candy canes).
  18. Leave one dollar bills around a dollar store.
  19. Donate coloring books to a hospital or doctor’s office waiting room, distributing them together.
  20. Take the neighbor’s dog for a walk together.
  21. Challenge each other to smile at every single person you see for one whole day!
  22. Write thank you notes to special people in your lives.
  23. Have a bake sale and donate your earnings to a local charity.
  24. Leave some extra money in vending machines (or tape it to the outside) with a note that says “This treat’s on us!”
  25. Have your child go with you while you donate blood, showing them how easy and how important it is to do it.
  26. Babysit for a single parent or for a couple who desperately needs a date night; babysit together!
  27. Pick up litter together.
  28. If you both can carry a tune, go door to door and offer to do some Christmas caroling.
  29. Challenge each other to compliment at least 5 people in one day.
  30. If it’s Christmastime, help someone (or some place) in your area wrap Christmas gifts.
  31. Go to a local grocery store and together, round up carts and put them in the cart bins or take them inside so they’re not scattered and wandering around the parking lot.
  32. Recycle together.
  33. Wash someone’s car together.
  34. Go to the animal shelter together and offer to walk the dogs.
  35. Bury treasure at a local playground.
  36. Write positive chalk messages on the sidewalk together so you can brighten others’ day.
  37. Donate food to the food pantry.
  38. Tape change to parking meters.
  39. Go to the children’s hospital and offer to read books or otherwise volunteer together.
  40. Sing songs together at a nursing home.
  41. Make get well cards for children at a local hospital.
  42. Make kindness stones together and leave them at a local park.
  43. Volunteer at a soup kitchen together.
  44. Collect books for the library.
  45. Participate in a YOU MATTER Marathon. Click on the link to learn more!
ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Separation & Loss Jenga for Kids (free printables included)

Losing a parent or caregiver is difficult for any child, whether the loss is through death, separation, or removal from their home. Working with these children, they are often found to be struggling with grief and adjustment issues that might show up as a significant change in mood or acting out behaviors. Working with children who have been temporarily separated or sometimes permanently removed from their home can sometimes prove particularly difficult when trying to find creative ways to help them work their way through the loss of their parent or caregiver who has been a significant part of their lives for some time, often since birth.

Losing someone is never easy. While I certainly am not wanting to downplay the loss any child feels when a parent or caregiver dies, children who are separated from their homes, whether temporarily or permanently, face a unique challenge in itself. The child knows their parent didn’t die, so why can’t they still be with them? In cases where there has been neglect or abuse, a child may especially have difficulty understanding an array of confusing feelings… “I love my mom, but I didn’t like how she hurt me. But I feel guilty for not being with her but it’s kind of nice that I don’t have to worry so much or be so scared.”

In some cases, children aren’t even particularly sure why they’ve been separated from their parents or caregivers at all. They may not be given much information or they may not even realize that their parent’s neglect or other inappropriate behavior was ever wrong in the first place. From these kids’ perspectives, they have a really hard time understanding why or even how their lives seemed to suddenly be turned upside down. And sometimes, depending on the age of the child, it isn’t appropriate to offer a lot of details; regardless, it still doesn’t make up for the intense hurt and pain they feel from being separated from the only home they ever knew.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Child-centered play therapy, I’ve found, is especially helpful for these children when they are particularly young, but I’ve found that a more directive approach is often needed for middle and older elementary children and pre-teens. Seeking out ideas for techniques to work with these children has continued to result in dead ends. With the exception of a few specific techniques out there on the internet and in books for children who have lost their parent or caregiver not by death but by separation, therapists frequently need to adapt general grief activities for these vulnerable children. While this is certainly not a major problem, I began creating some of my own games, art, and other play activities myself.

The Idea Behind Separation & Loss Jenga

I came up with the idea of creating a Jenga game to help kids who have been separated from their parents or caregivers not long ago. The Jenga game has been a popular therapy tool for many therapists for years, as it can be easily adapted for a multitude of therapeutic purposes just by gluing question strips onto the individual blocks or marking the blocks with various colors and creating corresponding card decks filled with questions to ask or prompts to give children for anything from identifying feelings to learning and practicing social skills.
Coming up with questions for the individual Jenga blocks came easier than I anticipated. There are so many thoughts and feelings in these children’s minds when they’ve been separated from someone they love; pulling these thoughts and feelings out by using traditional methods of talk therapy only tend to work well for some kids (and usually these are the older ones). But give kids an activity or game, and suddenly the same things that a therapist has been trying to help the child express becomes less threatening for that child. There is a lot of psychology behind why and how play (such as playing games or doing other activities) works in the healing of children. Play is a child’s language.  It helps them express what they cannot express in words, whether it be because they don’t yet have the language or because they have been more reluctant or it has been too difficult to talk about such painful feelings.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Though I created the game with the idea of being used in therapy between a child and therapist, it can also be played in the child’s new home with their current caregiver(s). Either way, when the therapist or caregiver chooses a question block, they can read the question out loud to the child for him or her to answer or if you feel comfortable in self-disclosing a separation or loss (even if it was through the death of someone you once knew), this can be done also. Regardless of how you adapt the game, just make sure the child you’re playing with knows the rules and what you’re doing before you play. The child may not respond well if they find out after you draw your first question block and direct the question to them if they didn’t know ahead of time that this was what you had planned to do.
It’s also important to validate the child’s answers when he responds to a question. If the child discloses that he feels sad, for example, that he is no longer living with his abusive mother, it will not help for you to say something like, “What do you mean you feel sad? She did nothing but hurt you!” Just. Don’t. Really, don’t.
Even if you think the child’s answer is “wrong” (which by the way, there are no “wrong” answers in this game), validate what they’re telling you because what they’re saying is very real to them. For the earlier example, you could say something like, “It can feel sad when you’re away from a person you love and care about.” Then. Stop. Really. Don’t try to put a “but” at the end of that sentence. Just leave it there. Trust me, not validating something like this isn’t going to help build your relationship with the child. At all. This isn’t the time to refute the child’s beliefs. Please leave that up to after you know more about the child and they are further along in their healing process and have built more trust in you.
(There are no “wrong” ways to feel anyway, regardless of how we might think they “should” be feeling; it’s not up to us to tell anyone how they should or shouldn’t feel. Don’t refute a feeling, even if you’ve known the child for a really long time and you have a good relationship. Give the child permission to feel the way they’re feeling and validate those feelings, even if you disagree or can’t totally understand why anyone could ever feel such a way. Empathize.)
By the way, it’s important to let the child know before you begin playing, that they should only share what they feel comfortable sharing. If they look like they’re struggling to answer a particular question, especially, give them a pass or allow them to answer another question instead. I don’t like forcing children to rush through any healing process. This will also help build your relationship with the child and plant the seed that you’re someone that isn’t going to push him any faster than he is able or willing to go, and that helps to build trust in your relationship.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Creating Your Own Separation & Loss Jenga Game

To create your own game, simply click below and print the Separation & Loss question strips. After you print the questions, I recommend laminating the page for durability. Then simply cut out your questions, and glue each individual question onto a Jenga block. The blocks that are left over can be used as “free pass” blocks, blocks that allow the player a turn without answering a question or they can be rapport (relationship) building blocks.

I find “free pass” blocks to be helpful over utilizing each and every block for a question, as it seems to make kids more comfortable and feel less overwhelmed. Rapport, or relationship, building blocks are ones in which you can use questions such as those found below, to lighten the mood and discuss something a little more fun and less heavy. The topic of losing or being separated from someone you love can be pretty sensitive, let’s cut the child a break! I personally use some of the rapport (relationship) building questions AND a few “free pass” blocks.”

In regards to the rapport building questions I have included in this post, you obviously wouldn’t use all of the strips for this particular game or you wouldn’t have many blocks left for the separation and loss questions. You can pick and choose which of both sets of questions you would like to use. Or you might also decide to glue two questions onto each Jenga block, with one side having a separation and loss question and the other side including a rapport building question. This is what I choose to do. This way, if a child does feel particularly uncomfortable about answering a separation and loss question, there’s a “back up” question they can choose to answer instead.

Separation & Loss Jenga Question Strips

Relationship Building Jenga Question Strips

Enjoy playing!

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

55 Art Journal Prompts for Teens

In counseling children and teenagers, I must tell you that I’ve seen some incredible talent. Some kids are talented musically, some are talented in sports, some are great writers, others are great artists, and some can tell you every country’s capital as though it were as easy as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In every kid I’ve ever worked with, I’ve found an amazing amount of creativity flourishing inside them.

creativity (noun) – the use of the imagination or original ideas

Everyone is creative in their own way. Don’t believe me? Those kids who can rattle off facts like it’s nothing to them? They had to use some creativity in order to be able to memorize and remember those facts, such as using mnemonics or using music. You have to be creative in different ways if you play a sport, remembering all the moves and such.

I hear a lot of kids (and adults, especially) tell me that they’re not creative. They think that because someone told them back in second grade that their drawing wasn’t “good enough” that they themselves are not “good enough.” I say those people that told you that don’t know what creativity is. Everyone is creative!


There’s something cool about using art in therapy. Please note that while I know some various art therapy techniques, I am not a fully trained or certified art therapist. I do, however, use quite a bit of creative expressive techniques in my work as a therapist. One technique I use to help show people that they are creative and that creative expression is remarkably healing is assigning them to journal. Whether it’s through writing, music, art, or any other creative expressive technique, we can find healing in our lives.

Let me say that you don’t have to be an “artist” to do an art journal. There is no “wrong” way to do art; there is no “bad artist.” Art is an outlet for the thoughts from your soul to your hands and onto paper. For art journaling, you can draw, you can color, you can paint, you can collage… the possibilities are endless. I’ve included in this post some of my favorite art journaling prompts that I use especially with teens (and even adults!). Please note that just because the prompt might say “draw,” doesn’t mean you have to draw. If you’d rather collage or do some other form of creative expression (like knitting or writing or sculpting, etc.), you can still use these prompts! Don’t overthink them. Just let yourself be in the moment and do it. Draw in the dark if you think you’re “not a good artist!” Just let yourself be. Just try it.

55 Art Journal Prompts for Teens

  1. Draw a picture of yourself as something other than a person.
  2. Draw a picture of your family doing something.
  3. My perfect day looks like…
  4. Draw the monster you struggle with (i.e., anxiety as a monster, anger monster, depression monster).
  5. Make a picture of the person you let other people see and a picture of the person you really are.
  6. Draw a picture of how you think others see you.
  7. What makes me unique…
  8. I feel happiest when…
  9. I wish I could…
  10. Draw or paint your emotions.
  11. Create a picture using only colors that calm you.
  12. Create a collage related to a quote that inspires you.
  13. Create a picture of what freedom looks like to you.
  14. Document an experience where you did something you didn’t think you could do.
  15. Draw or collage someone you admire.
  16. Draw a place where you feel safe.
  17. Create a motivational collage.
  18. Create a timeline and journal the most significant moments in your life, with the most important moments highlighted visually.
  19. Create a picture of an important childhood memory. Try to understand why it was so important to you.
  20. Illustrate a fairy tale about yourself. If you could put yourself into a happily ever after situation, what role would you play? How would the story go? Create a visual story that tells the tale.
  21. Create your own coat of arms. Choose symbols that represent your strengths.
  22. Draw a comic strip about a funny moment in your life.
  23. Create a picture for someone else.
  24. Who are the anchors in your life? Make an anchor and decorate it with the people and things that provide you stability and strength.
  25. Make a mind map that is a visual representation of all your thoughts.
  26. Draw your dreams.
  27. What do you need right now at this time in your life? Draw a picture or make a collage depicting this.
  28. Draw or collage a picture showing what you are currently worried about.
  29. What smartphone app would you like to create or see created? Represent this visually.
  30. If magic was real, what spell would you try to learn first?
  31. What problem are you currently grappling with?
  32. Create a picture of what helps you feel better when you’re feeling down.
  33. What is something you really wish you could tell or explain to your family?
  34. What is something you really wish you could tell or explain to the teachers at your school?
  35. What is something you really wish you could tell the other kids at school?
  36. What do you wish would get better?
  37. Draw your superpower (or the superpower you would like to have).
  38. Create a vision board.
  39. What is your good luck charm?
  40. Draw a picture of something that is better broken than whole.
  41. What do you need help with right now?
  42. What question are you afraid to ask?
  43. What people or activities leave you feeling drained?
  44. Create a picture of how you would like your home to feel.
  45. Draw or collage 10 things that make you feel loved.
  46. Design your own logo.
  47. Create a picture depicting what keeps you up at night.
  48. If I really loved myself I would…
  49. I’m afraid people won’t like/love/accept/want me if they knew ____ about me.
  50. If you came across a genie in a bottle who could grant you three wishes of anything at all in the world that you want, except for more wishes, what would you wish for?
  51. Create a picture of what everything would look like if you woke up tomorrow and everything was better.
  52. I think I’m really good at…
  53. Draw a picture of where you would be if you could be anywhere right now.
  54. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  55. Draw a self-portrait WITHOUT drawing your face (make it symbolic).

There you go. Have fun! 

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

The Worry Worm Game

Children with anxiety sometimes have a hard time opening up about what they’re worried or anxious about. Enter the worry worms. Worry worms are simply construction (or cardstock) paper worms that look like… well, little worms. I use them in play therapy, but you can easily make your own worms at home and play the worry worm game.

The Game

Worry worms are pretty easy to make. Simply draw or trace a worm onto brown construction paper (or cardstock paper works well too). Make several worms, and cut each of them out. Wa-la! Worry worms! I laminate my worms, simply because this allows me to keep them durable for multiple children to play with.

Next I hide these little guys (the worms) around the room for the child to find. For each worry worm the child finds, they are asked to tell one worried thought they have or have had.

Simple right?

It looks like a game of hide-and-seek to them, but let me tell you what really happens when you play the worry worm game:

  • The child is identifying their worried feelings. This is a huge thing. The mastery of this skill is a major foundation to helping children learn how to cope and regulate their emotions.
  • The child is able to begin tolerating the idea and practice of sharing uncomfortable thoughts out loud because they are motivated by the challenge, reward, and fun of finding the hidden worms.
  • The game itself offers a titrated set of exposures to anxiety producing content that is completed while remaining grounded in the safety of the worm prop.
Have fun playing the worry worm game! Do you have ideas or strategies that you use to help kids talk about their feelings? Please feel free to share in the comments. I’m always looking for new ideas to use in the playroom!


ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

What Happened to My Sweet Kid?! Little Monster Psychology

Take a minute and think about your child. Picture that excitement in their face right after they learn that their team won that first t-ball game. Can you see that surprised look on their face on Christmas morning when they get that much longed-for gift? Look at their face. Aren’t they the sweetest things ever? Their big round eyes, those long, beautiful eyelashes, that precious little nose, and those sweet lips that kiss your cheek every night before they fall fast asleep in their bed. Look at them. See how sweet they look while they’re fast asleep? And when they wake up so pleasant and well rested every morning and smile at you as they brush their teeth and get ready for school (without even having to be asked!), can you see them?

pic attributed to

Wait. What?

 Okay, so maybe you were able to visualize just how sweet they look once they’re asleep… assuming that you’re one of the lucky ones who has a child who sleeps. And I bet you can see how precious their face looks when they’re happy and content. But did I lose you at the end? Yeah, that may have been a little fiction I stuck in there. At least for many of us parents, that last part – the waking up so pleasant and smiling as they go about their morning routine – is a pretty rare scene.
My own kid is not quite so pleasant to wake up. He moans and groans and asks me for the billionth time why he has to go to school. Then he rolls over, pretending like this hasn’t been the routine for years now. He mumbles and grunts to himself as he gets dressed and eats his breakfast. And as far as brushing his teeth… Some days that takes some real work. He’ll do it, but he decided a long time ago that he doesn’t have to be happy about it. As for after school, some days are less than fun for either of us. There’s homework to be done, practice to go to, and there are baths to take. Some days he does all of this willingly and with little complaint. Then there are the days where he’s grumpy for one reason or another, and that’s when the fun begins. He wants something or he wants to go somewhere, and well, the answer just can’t always be yes. And then…
But wait, weren’t they just babies yesterday? They were so sweet. Remember when they wanted to cuddle with you? Remember those little kisses on your cheek and how innocent they seemed. And then you think about this day that you’re having now. The one where your child asked you to buy them something beyond expensive or wanted to hang out with that kid from down the street that likes to swear at everyone and smokes cigarettes when he thinks no one is looking. And you say no. Then all of a sudden, they don’t seem so pleasant and sweet. They seem… almost like a monster. WHY?!!

Little Monster Psychology

pic attributed to


In each developmental phase, kids wrestle with new skills and abilities, and these are some real struggles for them. Assuming the phase goes well, after a period of intense struggle and effort, finally a breakthrough occurs. A personal victory that changes everything. The child discards his old way of doing things and determines to keep moving forward.
Each time your child masters a new skill, be it learning how to use a spoon by himself or learning how to drive a car, he makes a leap in maturity. And he loves this feeling of mastery; it’s a rush of confidence in his own abilities. He is now stronger and more powerful. And we as parents are right there cheering them on, we’re so proud of them! This parental applause motivates them to keep striving for more mastery. To keep moving forward.
Here’s the thing though. That drive for independence, the one each and every child (and person, in general) holds within them… Well, it promotes conflict too. With mastery comes a yearning for more independence. In other words, kids will begin to reject their parent’s support. Imagine the baby who has just learned how to use the spoon by herself. Then you, the parent, try helping her use the spoon one day when you see that she could probably use a little assistance. The baby doesn’t want your help though and swats your hand away. And the more you try to help, the madder she gets.
To complicate all of this, inexperience and impulsivity play in to this drive for greater independence. Kids don’t know their limits. They don’t always know what’s good for them and what’s not. They aren’t sure when to stop and when to go. The thing they do know though is that they don’t want their parents hovering over them every step of the way. This means that eventually every parent has the unpopular job of going against their kid’s will.
Let me repeat that. EVERY PARENT has the unpopular job of going against their kid’s will, at least sometimes (and usually more often than that).
Here’s something else that’s pretty important. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be a good parent without saying no from time to time.
So the battle of wills begins. You see, kids don’t really like hearing the word no. Do you? Kids are perplexed when they’re prevented from getting what they want. “What? Why are you doing this to me?! Can’t you see…?”
They don’t understand that we’re protecting them. To them, it feels like restraint, and they don’t like it. Not. One. Bit.
It’s actually human nature to rebel against restrictions, and no kid wants a parent standing between them and what they want. Yes, nature puts kids and their parents on a collision course. That’s why, eventually, all healthy kids must enter into battle with their parents. This fight is natural and necessary. It’s how kids can begin to define themselves as different from their parents.
That’s right. Kids have their own wants and needs, their own interests; if kids are too accommodating or compliant with their parents, they will grow to lack confidence and self-definition in life. In every developmental stage, kids instinctively battle against their parents’ restrictions. And as parents impose their will on their kids, sparks fly. These clashes are unavoidable and an IMPORTANT part of parenting.

pic attributed to

Now we as parents enter into a crucial moment after we set a restriction for our child. The child will see how far he can push his parents and give him what he wants. It’s his will against theirs. It’s up to us, the parent, to decide what we’re going to do at this point: stay firm and refuse to give in to demands, or concede to the child’s demands. Sometimes the choice is an easy one, such as one where we are trying to protect them from a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes the choice is more difficult to make. Should we give in? Should we negotiate? Not all choices are black and white, but it’s up to us as parents to do our best to help our children and protect them. It’s up to us to help our “little monsters.”
ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

8 Parenting Resolutions for the New Year (with Free Printable)

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to “be a better parent.” Okay, so it’s one of my resolutions every year. Every. Single. Year. Yes, I strive for this every year because the truth is that I’m by far not a perfect parent. I sometimes lose my patience. Sometimes I get frustrated and raise my voice. Okay, honestly, sometimes I even yell. Yes, I know, this is what every single parenting book I’ve ever read says not to do. But I’m human. I have emotions. And some days are hard. Really hard. My mind is on something else, I’m overwhelmed, I’m stressed, I’m tired, I’m in a hurry. And on top of everything else we grown-ups have to do, we’re expected to be “perfect parents.” Our society tells us that anyway. But the truth is, there are no “perfect parents,” just parents who are, darn it, doing the best we can.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t strive to do “better” in my role as a parent. Even those that we perceive as excellent parents still aren’t sure they’re doing it right. We’re all just doing the best that we can, and honestly, that on top of loving and caring for your kids, is what I consider to be good parenting. We don’t have to be perfect for us to be good parents, so let’s first preface this article with a resolution to stop being so hard on ourselves!

Even though I know with one hundred percent certainty that I will never be a “perfect parent,” I still strive every day, moment by moment, to do the best I can. So I came up with eight parenting resolutions for us parents who made this one of our goals this year.

1. Recognize the Goals of Discipline

One of the most important things that we, as parents, can do is recognize the goals of discipline. Too often, we respond to our child’s misbehavior as though consequences are the ultimate goal. This isn’t true. According to Drs. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, as they wrote in their book “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” there are two basic goals of why we discipline our kids:
  1. To attain cooperation in the short-term
  2. To instruct our kids in ways that help them develop the skills and resiliency to handle and cope with life’s challenging situations, frustrations, and emotional storms (in the long-term)

2. Be Responsive, Not Reactive

How do we typically try to accomplish these discipline goals? Threats and punishment. Our child misbehaves, and we dish out the consequence, right? So what’s really going on is that our kids ACT and in response, we REACT.
Well, you ask, what else are we supposed to do? Just let our child get away with their misbehavior? Absolutely not. To be more effective in accomplishing what we’re setting out to do (our goals of discipline), we should instead RESPOND to our child’s behavior. Instead of being REACTIVE, we want to strive to be RESPONSIVE to our children.

3. Be Intentional

So how do we become responsive? By being INTENTIONAL. By making CONSCIOUS DECISIONS based on principles that we’ve thought about and agreed on BEFORE a misbehavior even occurs. This means considering various options and then choosing the one that helps us achieve, or at least move toward, our intended outcome (the goals of discipline). What lesson do you want to teach? Are you wanting your child to learn self-control? Understand the importance of sharing? To act responsibly?
Whatever you’re trying to teach, your response should be directly related to your goal. Yelling and screaming demands at your child when he punches the wall in anger isn’t going to actually teach him how to handle his anger more appropriately. In fact, our reacting like that will only model for him the opposite of what you’re looking to teach.  Really, think about it. What are we really teaching him when we ourselves clench our teeth, spit out a rule, or spank them in reactive anger?
Using fear and punishment actually teaches our kids that POWER and CONTROL are the best tools to get others to do what we want them to do. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely NOT what I want my child to learn from this kind of situation. Not only are our hair-trigger reactions generally not going to be very effective in getting our message across (especially when you consider the long-term), but this kind of reaction is also counterproductive in terms of building your child’s brain.

4. Connect and Redirect

What are we supposed to do? How do we teach our children to be more cooperative, to learn self-control, to become more responsible?
Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson encourage and teach us to CONNECT AND REDIRECT. When your child misbehaves, do you still love them? Sure, you might be angry with their actions at that moment, but you still love them, right? We want our kids to know that we love them. We may not like their particular choices or actions at certain moments, but even when we’re angry, we still love them. LET THEM KNOW that we love them not only during times when they’re making us proud, not only when they’re displaying kindness to others, and not only when they’re home playing quietly and showing cooperation. SHOW them you love them when you’re addressing their misbehavior too.
 Connection means giving our kiddos our attention and letting them know that we respect them enough to listen to them. It means letting them know that we value their contribution in working together to solve the problem at hand and communicating to them that WE’RE ON THEIR SIDE – whether we like the way they’re acting or not.
Make no mistake, connection is NOT the same thing as permissiveness. That connection should be COMBINED with clear and firm boundaries that create structure for our kids. That’s where the “redirection” comes in…
 Once you connect with your child and she is more calm, we can then redirect her toward more appropriate behavior and help her see that there IS a better way. Here’s something to remember. Until your child has calmed (or regulated) her emotions at least to a certain extent (reaching closer to her emotion equilibrium, as we psych folks call it), she isn’t going to hear a word you’re saying, regardless of how logical and rational your explanation might be.
 Not only is your child physiologically wired like that, that’s how ALL humans are wired. When we experience a stressful or threatening situation, our body reacts in ways to help us deal with the perceived danger. Our body shuts down its nonessential systems and begins to channel blood flow to our large muscles. Then it begins creating extra fuel for energy. It heightens our sensitivity to signs of danger, all the while releasing hormones that will help us deal with the stress. When all this occurs, it also impairs our ability to process information and to think clearly before we speak – exactly the abilities we need to have in order to work through difficult situations. This process is called flooding. And when we become flooded, we operate from a self-preservation mindset. We seek then to protect ourselves (think fight, flight, or freeze).
When our emotional arousal is really high like that, our thinking and reasoning abilities are overwhelmed. Consequently, we say and do things that reflect being overwhelmed. Once our emotional arousal goes up, our thinking abilities go down, and we start to lose the emotional balance we need to communicate effectively. Then we become reactive. Being upset and likely having a lot of negative thoughts in that moment, we start to say things that don’t always reflect what we really want (like attention, understanding, and so on). Instead, we just end up saying something bitter or nasty.
Now let’s apply this to our misbehaving child. She misbehaved, and now she knows that she’s in trouble. When we’re in trouble, our brains send signals to our body that we are in a dangerous or stressful situation, so just like every other human, her brain sends her body that same signal. Nonessential systems are shut down. Emotional arousal goes up. Thinking abilities? They’re likely out the window right now. Now start talking to her. Does she hear you? Probably not, remember that her body’s nonessential systems are shut down at the moment. She’s in survival mode now. You might be too. Best to connect and let her calm herself (you may need to help her do this, particularly if she’s very young) so she can reach equilibrium again so she can begin fully understanding what you’re saying.

5. Ask Yourself, “Why? What? How?”

While all of the above is going on, this is the perfect time to think about how to respond to your child’s misbehavior. Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson provide us with an excellent model in which we can take the time to ask ourselves three important questions. Remembering these questions (and answering them) is important and can help us respond to each and every misbehavior our kids is exhibiting.
 WHY did my child act this way?
Look at what your child is doing, and ask yourself why he might be acting the way he is. Look deep at what’s going on beneath his particular misbehavior. I personally recommend using Positive Discipline’s Mistaken Goal Chart for this (check out #6 below). When asking yourself this question, try not to approach it with assumptions; instead, approach it with curiosity. An assumption would be asking yourself this question and deciding right away that your kid’s just being a brat, plain and simple. Or he’s just being selfish or spoiled. Approaching this with curiosity, however, will help you recognize that there’s very likely something deeper going on (again, check out #6 where we’ll briefly look at “breaking the code”).
WHAT lesson do I want to teach in this moment?
The goal of discipline is not to dish out consequences. We want to teach our child some lesson. Maybe it’s learning how to control his emotions more appropriately. Maybe it’s for him to understand the value and importance of sharing, or perhaps you want him to start acting more responsibly. Whatever the lesson you want to teach, keep this in mind when choosing how you want to discipline his misbehavior.
HOW can I best teach this lesson?
Remember your answer from the previous question? Okay, now think about how you can most effectively communicate that message you want to get across. It’s important that when pondering this question, you also consider your child’s age, their developmental stage, and the context of the situation (did he realize the bullhorn was on before he raised it to the dog’s ear?).
Imagine that your four-year-old comes up and smacks you really hard while you’re emailing something important for work and can’t stop right away to play. This very act is likely enough to trigger your own emotion regulation system, so first it’s important to remember to take a moment for yourself to calm down so to avoid simply reacting. (I know, easy to say and harder to do, but you can do it!) This pause between reacting and responding is the beginning of choice and intention as a parent.
As soon as you’re able, you then want to pause and ask yourself the three questions:
  1.  Why did my child act this way? More than likely in this case, she hit you because she wanted your attention and wasn’t getting it. First consider her age. Is this behavior typical of a four-year-old who is wanting attention and can’t immediately get it? Definitely. Is the behavior pretty developmentally appropriate for a four-year-old in this situation? Absolutely. It’s hard for any child this age to wait. Add that to her big feelings of this moment, and you likely have a recipe for dysregulation and misbehavior. At four, she’s not old enough yet to be able to always be able to calm herself effectively or even quickly enough to prevent acting out. In that moment, hitting is her default strategy for expressing her big feelings of frustration and impatience. She still needs some time and skill-building practice to learn how to appropriately handle her anger and for delaying gratification. That’s why she hit you. She wasn’t just being a brat, I promise.
  2. What lesson do I want to teach in this moment? What do you want her to learn from this? Obviously, just because she’s four and not developmentally capable yet of always being able to handle her big emotions appropriately, we can’t just let her walk around hitting people. The lesson isn’t that hitting merits a consequence; the lesson is that there are better ways of getting your attention and handling her frustration than to resort to violence. You want her to learn that hitting isn’t okay, not that feeling frustrated or angry isn’t okay.
  3. How can I best teach this lesson? First, try connecting with her. Pull her to you, get on her eye level, and let her know that she has your full attention. Acknowledge (validate) her feelings and model how to communicate those emotions more appropriately: “It’s hard to wait. You really wanted me to play with you, and right now you’re mad that I’m busy. Is that right?” Now she knows that she has your attention, and you have hers too. Now talk with her, keeping in mind that as she becomes calmer, she’ll be better able to listen and actually hear what you’re saying. Explain that hitting isn’t alright, and talk about some other alternatives she can use in order to get your attention.

Click for your free poster to help remind you of the 3 questions!


6. Break the Code

In all likelihood, you’ve probably already figured out in your years as a parent that kids seem to speak a language of their own. The way kids “speak” is most often portrayed in play and behaviors. With children and adults alike, all behavior is purposeful. This is actually one of the major premises of Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory. Dr. Glasser, who is also the founder of Reality Therapy, notes that almost all behavior is chosen and that we’re driven to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. In essence, behavior has a purpose. “All of our behavior is our best attempt at the time, given the resources at our disposal (knowledge, skills, etc.) to meet our needs.”

As I already noted, children and adolescents are no exception to this theory. In fact, it’s quite evident once you “break their code.” The behaviors they exhibit are done so in order to satisfy their needs, particularly their need for love and belonging.
Positive Discipline, a parenting program founded by Dr. Jane Nelsen that teaches young people to “become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities,” uses what I consider to be one of the best and most valuable resources to help us “break the code” of our child’s misbehavior: The Mistaken Goal Chart.
Seriously, you’ve got to get your hands on one of these. You can find an excellent PDF version of The Mistaken Goal Chart here, or if you have very young children (ages 0-3), here’s a great PDF version especially for parents of those kiddos. Really, print that out. I use it in parenting my own children, as well as in my own private practice when working with children and teens. And if you’re looking for an excellent parenting resource, check out Positive Discipline; it’s widely used and praised by many, many psychologists and therapists.
According to Dr. Nelsen, “‘Mistaken goals’ are called such because their behavior is based on mistaken beliefs about how to achieve the primary goals of belonging and significance.” There are four mistaken goals of behavior:
  1. Undue attention – to keep others busy or get special service
  2. Misguided power – to be boss
  3. Revenge – to get even
  4. Assumed inadequacy – to give up and be left alone

Let me briefly summarize.

  If your child’s goal is undue attention, then his mistaken belief is “I belong only when you pay constant attention to me, and/or give me special service.” But let’s look at the coded message; this is what he’s actually saying: “NOTICE ME. INVOLVE ME USEFULLY.”
 If your child’s goal is misguided power, his mistaken belief is “I belong only when I’m the boss, or at least when I don’t let you boss me around.” Coded message: “LET ME HELP.”
If the goal is for revenge, his belief is “I don’t belong, and that hurts, so I’ll get even by hurting others.” Code for: “I’M HURTING. VALIDATE MY FEELINGS.”
 And finally, if his goal is assumed inadequacy, his mistaken belief is “I give up. Leave me alone.” Again, the coded message: “DON’T GIVE UP ON ME. SHOW ME A SMALL STEP.”
Look again at coded messages. All of a sudden, instead of just anger, annoyance, irritation, and helplessness, you’re liable to also feel a little compassion for what the child must be going through. If a child could say “Don’t give up on me,” instead of portraying through their actions “I give up, leave me alone,” it helps us begin to answer that question from earlier: “WHY is my child acting this way?” Looking at it that way, from their core belief, helps us to better help them.
 Think about it this way: Imagine an iceberg. We only see the tip of the iceberg. The belief is hidden underneath. We just have to remember to look for it.

 7. Validate feelings

Imagine this common scene between a caring mother and her child (found in “Positive Discipline Parenting Tools” by Dr. Nelsen, Mary Nelsen Tamborski, and Brad Ainge):

Billy is sad because his friend doesn’t want to play with him.

Billy’s mom tries to comfort him by saying,

“Don’t feel sad, Billy. You have other friends, and I love you.”

Okay, raise your hand if you have been an actor yourself in this play. Don’t be shy, my hand’s raised too. Raise your hand again if you remember being the child actor in this scene when you were younger. My hand’s raised.

Let me first preface what I’m about to say with the fact that, maybe like your own parents or caregivers, Billy’s mother cares and loves him a lot. She’s in no way intentionally trying to do the opposite of what I’m getting ready to say here. Just like you and I are also not trying to purposely do the opposite when the same scene plays out with our own kids. Billy’s mom loves Billy and is sincerely trying to help him and comfort him. Unfortunately, she’s not validating her son’s feelings here.

As children, we’re often taught that we shouldn’t feel certain feelings. Not because of malicious parents and caregivers, but because of parents and caregivers who are actually trying to protect us and shield us from those negative feelings. Often we do the same with our own children. It’s important that we instead, validate our child’s feelings and experiences: “You‘re sad because your friend doesn’t want to play today. I know how much that hurts. I felt the same way when my friends didn’t want to play with me.”

Do you see the difference? It’s an important tweak to the wording. By validating our kids’ feelings we’re allowing them to discover that all feelings are normal and okay, that they can work through their feelings, and that they can even learn from them. Just something for us all to remember the next time we feel like fixing, squelching, or  denying our child’s feelings. If you’re not quite sure what to say in responding to your child when they’re feeling their big feelings, try something like “How are you feeling about that?” or “I can see that makes you very mad,” or “Little brothers can be so annoying.” Obviously you would want to substitute the appropriate words based on the situation. 😉

8. Empower

Finally, one more thing  for us parents and caregivers to aim for is to strive to empower our kids. Share control with your kids so they can develop the skills they need to have power over their own lives. Some suggestions for how to do this (Positive Discipline):

  • Teach life skills.
  • Focus on solutions together.
  • Have faith in your children.
  • Let go (in small steps).
  • Increase self-awareness: “How do you feel? What do you think? How does this affect what you want in your life?”

Alright, there you have it. Eight of my parenting resolutions for the new year. Wish me luck (and lots of patience)!

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Inside a Professional Counselor’s Kindle Library – Part 2

Therapy Books, Kindle LibraryIn my last post – Inside a Professional Counselor’s Kindle Library – I shared just a few books you can find in my Amazon Kindle library, including books about depression, anxiety, ADHD, executive functioning, life skills, mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and stress management.  If you thought that was the extent of my Kindle book collection, let me assure you with this post that my first list didn’t even cover half of my wide selection.

I’m a huge research junkie.  And I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who treats a wide variety of mental health issues and concerns.  I like knowing what the latest research says about what might help those struggling with mental health issues.  I am up front with my clients that sometimes I just don’t know all the answers (nor should I), but I will try to help them find someone or something that might.

Soooo… My Kindle library is quite extensive.  Even after sharing this post, I won’t be able to list every single book.  My bookshelves are the same.  My books may soon need their own house!  I frequently get asked about the books I have – both Kindle versions and those that are hard copies.  As promised in my last post, today I will share a few more selections you can find in this counselor’s Kindle library.

Again, as with the last post, I want to note that this is not a sponsored post., nor anyone else, is paying me to share my book selection.  Also, just because I have a particular book in my library doesn’t necessarily mean that I recommend it.  Most of the books in my Kindle library are really good.  Others, maybe not so much.  You live, you learn.  You’ll find that some books are specifically written for clinicians, while others are written for everybody else.

So here we go again…

Some Research

From a Professional Counselor’s Kindle Library – Part 2

Therapeutic Resources: Parenting, Family

  • “101 Bedtime Questions to Help Kids Talk About School” by Aaron Shaw, PhD
  • “365 Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ to Your Kids” by Jay Payleitner
  • “The Defiant Child: A Parent’s Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder” by Douglas A. Riley
  • “Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children” by Matthew Toone
  • “How to Motivate Kids – No Nagging Required!” By Susan L. Paterson
  • “Little Book of Routines: A Practical Guide for Mums and Dads” by Michelle Kemp
  • “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
  • “A Parenting Guide to Crisis Intervention for Today’s Teens and Difficult Children” by Steve Stevenson
  • “Playful Parenting – Fun Games & Activities for Families” by Judy H. Wright
  • “Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… In You and Your Kids” by Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller
  • “The Staycation Jar: 200 Family Fun Ideas for Creative Meals, Main Events, Silliness, Love Projects” by Erica McNeal
  • “Toddler Discipline” by Rhonda Hart
  • “Who’s the Boss?: The Win-Win Way to Parent Your Defiant, Strong-Willed Child” by Don MacMannis PhD &Debra Manchester-MacMannis MSW
  • “Zombie Party Ideas for Kids: How to Party Like a Zombie… Zombie Approved Kids Party Ideas for Kids Age 6-14” by P.T. Hersom

Therapeutic Resources: Couples, Relationships

  • “The Drama Triangle (Transactional Analysis in Bite Sized Chunks” by Catherine Holden
  • “Games People Play” by Eric Berne
  • “The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy, and Validation” by Alan E. Fruzzetti, PhD
  • “Relationship Guides: Exercises to Improve Relationships” by John Gottman & Julie Gottman

Therapeutic Resources: Play Therapy

  • “Play in Family Therapy, Second Edition” by Eliana Gil
  • “SANDPLAY: A Sourcebook for Play Therapists” by Susan McNally

Therapeutic Resources: Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • “Adult Asperger’s Syndrome: The Essential Guide” by Kenneth Roberson
  • “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Definite Guide Toward Understanding and Treating Asperger’s Syndrome” by Robert Korsh
  • “Autism: Help for Autistic Adults, Understanding Adults with Autism” by Mark Spectrum
  • “Creative Expressive Activities and Asperger’s Syndrome: Social and Emotional Skills and Positive Life Goals for Adolescents and Young Adults” by Judith Martinovich

Therapeutic Resources: Trauma

  • “Breaking Free: A Handbook for Recovery from Family Abuse and Violence” by Esly Regina Carvalho, PhD
  • “The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms” by Soili Poijula & Mary Beth Williams
  • “Self Help: Child Abuse: Childhood Abuse” by Hanna Monahan
  • “Sexual Assault is Really Rape of the Soul” by Bob Bray
  • “When Your Anxiety and Fears are Complex PTSD from Complex Trauma (C-PTSD): The Truth About Childhood Trauma, Relationship Trauma, Workplace Trauma, Natural Trauma” by J.B. Snow

Therapeutic Resources: Bullying

  • “The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job” by Gary Namie PhD & Ruth Namie PhD
  • “The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School – How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle (Updated Edition)” by Barbara Coloroso
  • “Employee Rights Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Fighting Back Against Firing, Harassment, Discrimination and More” by Richard Campbell
  • “Know Your Rights: Easy Employment Law for Employees” by Charles Henter
  • “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” by Robert I. Dutton
  • “Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees & Psychopaths in the Workplace” by Patricia Barnes
  • “When You Work for a Bully: Assessing Your Options and Taking Action” by Susan Futterman
  • “Your Rights in the Workplace” by Barbara Kate Repa

Therapeutic Resources: Addiction & Recovery

  • “The Addiction Recovery Skills Workbook: Changing Addictive Behaviors Using CBT, Mindfulness, and Motivational Interviewing Techniques” by Suzette Glasner-Edwards
  • “Kickstart Your Recovery – The Road Less Traveled to Freedom from Addiction” by Taite Adams

 Therapeutic Resources: Grief

  • “Grief and Loss: How to Get Through the Five Stages of Grief, Death and Loss after Losing a Loved One” by Ariana Kats
  • “Grief Recovery” by C.S. Hickman

Therapeutic Resources: Emotions

  • “Emotion Amplifiers” by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
  • “Emotions and Feelings: How do you feel today? A Kids Book About Emotions and Feelings” by Jenny River

Therapeutic Resources: Communication

  • “Body Language” by Craig James Baxter
  • “Non-Verbal Communication – Body Talk” by Dr. Harry Jay

Therapeutic Resources: Online Therapy/Counseling

  • “Online Counselling: A Handbook for Practitioners” by Gill Jones & Anne Stokes
  • “Online Therapy – Reading Between the Lines, A Practical NLP Based Guide to Online Counselling and Therapy Skills” by Jethto Adlington
  • “Therapy Online: A Practical Guide” by Kate Anthony & DeeAnna Merz Nagel

Therapeutic Resources: Creative Expression

  • “The Big Book of Therapeutic Activity Ideas for Children and Teens: Inspiring Arts-Based Activities and Character Education Curricula” by Lindsey Joiner
  • “Creative Expression Activities for Teens: Exploring Identity Through Art, Craft, and Journaling” by Bonnie Thomas

Therapeutic Resources: Miscellaneous

  • “1001 Solution-Focused Questions: Handbook for Solution-Focused Interviewing” by Fredrike Bannink
  • “20 Change Exercises for Group Workshops” by David Williams
  • “Allen Carr’s Easy Way for Women to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr
  • “Creative Problem Solving Techniques to Change Your Life” by Colin G. Smith
  • “The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual: Practical DBT for Self-Help and Individual and Group Treatment Settings” by Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC
  • “Free Your Mind” by M.P. Nearly
  • “How to Light Up a Room: 55 Techniques to Help You Increase Your Charisma, Build Rapport, and Make People Like You” by Kate Kennedy
  • “Inspiration, Confidence, Success: Motivational Ideals to Live By” by Nicholas Muir
  • “Over 600 Icebreakers & Games” by Jennifer Carter
  • “Ten Interesting Things About Human Behavior” by Suzanne Davis
  • “Top 100 Quotes About Education: Great Quotes and Amazing Images that Will Change the Way You Think” by Marco Dragovic
  • “The Top Ways to REMEMBER EVERYTHING” by Ian Stables
  • “Treating Somatization: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach” by Robert L. Woolfolk & Lesley A. Allen
Well, there you have it: a comprehensive list of the therapeutic resources I keep daily at my fingertips in my Kindle library. Watch for future posts and I may just give you a peak into what sits on my bookshelves. 😉


ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

Inside a Professional Counselor’s Kindle Library



I admit it.  I’m a research junkie.  This is no surprise to anyone who knows me, including the clients I work with (and their parents).  When I want to know something, I’m notorious for finding every bit of research I can on it.  If, in my research, I find a book cited frequently or I find a raving review, I can’t help but check it out on and most likely, add it to my Wish List.

Then of course, there are also times that I just browse a topic I’m interested in learning more about in the store just to see what’s out there and look over the many reviews to see if the particular book is worth my time.  Kindle book, paperback, hardback, spiral-bound…  My iPad and my bookshelves are filled with resources I use in my counseling practice.

I often get questions about the books in my library – both in my Kindle library and my hard copy library.  Today I thought I would share a few of the many therapy books (my “therapeutic resources”) you can find on my Kindle.  I will share some of my other books in a future post.

I should note that this is not a sponsored post., nor anyone else, is paying me to share my book selection.  I want to further note that just because I have a particular book in my library doesn’t necessarily mean that I recommend it.  Most of the books in my Kindle library are really, really good.  Others, maybe not so much.  You’ll find that some books are specifically written for clinicians, while others are written for everybody else.

Okay, so here goes…

On the Tablet

From a Professional Counselor’s Kindle Library

Therapeutic Resources: Mindfulness, Meditation, Relaxation, Stress Management

  • “10 of the Best Relaxation Techniques: Helping You Live a More Balanced and Peaceful Life” by Michael Hetherington
  • “Five Minute Meditation: Mindfulness, Stress Relief and Focus for Absolute Beginners” by Lisa Shea
  • “Lolli and the Lollipop: Meditation Adventures for Kids” by Elena Paige
  • “Meditation: The Proven Guide to Alleviate Anxiety, Depression, and Stress” by Nathan Reynolds
  • “Mindfulness for Busy People: Everyday Mindfulness Tricks to Enjoy Your Life, Be Happy, Reduce Stress, and Create Freedom” by Marta Tuchowska
  • “Mindfulness without Meditation: Creating Mindful Habits that Actually Stick” by Shea Matthew Fisher
  • “Mindfulness for Beginners – Change Your Life by Living Anxiety Free and Stress Free” by Angel Greene
  • “Mindfulness for Beginners – The Anxiety Cure: A Guide to Replacing Worries, Anxiety and Negative Thoughts with Happiness and Fulfillment by Using the Power of Mindfulness” by Henry Hill
  • “Name That Emotion: A Mindful Approach to Understanding Your Feelings and Reducing Stress” by Erin Olivo
  • “The Primal Meditation Method: How to Meditate When Sitting Still is Infuriating” by Matt Peplinski
  • “Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)” by Eline Snel
  • “Stress Management Made Easy – How to Relieve a Stressed and Worried Mind Today” by PP Brennan
  • “Zen for Beginners: How to Achieve Happiness, Focus & Mindfulness by the Power of Zen Buddhism” by James Arvin

Therapeutic Resources: Depression & Anxiety

  • “The 18 Rules of Happiness: How to Be Happy” by Karl Moore
  • “40 Worth-it Life Quotes” by Jade the Mystic
  • “The Anxiety Survival Guide for Teens: CBT Skills to Overcome Fear, Worry, and Panic” by Jennifer Shannon
  • “Cognitive Behavior Therapy: CBT to Cure Anxiety, Fight Depression, and Beat Back Against Natural Phobias” by Nathan Bellow
  • “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A Practical Guide to CBT for Overcoming Anxiety, Depression, Addictions & Other Psychological Conditions” by Jane Aniston
  • “Confidence: Positive Thinking: How to Get Confidence” by Laura Boyle
  • “Depression Help: Stop! 5 Top Secrets to Create a Depression Free Life” by Heather Rose
  • “Gratitude Journal: A Daily Appreciation” by Brenda Nathan
  • “Happiness 365: One-a-Day Inspirational Quotes for a Happy YOU” by Deena B. Chopra and KC Harry
  • “Happiness Quotes: Inspirational Picture Quotes About Happiness” by Gabi Rupp
  • “365 Quotes for Daily Motivation” by Jonny Fox
  • “The Irritability Cure: How to Stop Being Angry, Anxious and Frustrated All the Time” by Doc Orman MD
  • “The Most Unique Anxiety Relief Workbook for Your Child in the Universe” by Renee Jain
  • “The Secret to Happiness: Change Your Life Around” by Jenna Louise
  • “Success and Happiness – Quotes to Motivate, Inspire & Live By” by Atticus Aristotle
  • “Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong: A Guide to Life Liberated from Anxiety” by Kelly G. Wilson & Troy DuFrene

Therapeutic Resources: ADHD, Executive Functioning, Life Skills

  • “21 Ways to Organize and Declutter Your Home” by Jane Denham
  • “The 4 List Method: A Simple Way to Organize Your Life and Reclaim Productivity for Entrepreneurs and Others Living with Disarray” by Ketra Oberlander
  • “The Adult ADHD Tool Kit: Using CBT to Facilitate Coping Inside and Out” by J. Russell Ramsay and Anthony L. Rostain
  • “Cleaning Hacks and Decluttering Ideas” Box Set by Riley Stevens, Kathy Stanton, & Rick Riley
  • “Clutter Kills: How to Declutter and Release Your Power” by William Wittmann
  • “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Adult ADHD” by Mary V. Solanto
  • “Effective Decision-Making: How to Make Better Decisions Under Uncertainty and Pressure” by Edoardo Binda Zane
  • “Focus: How to Overcome Procrastination and Distractions (2nd Edition)” by Zayne Parker
  • “Goal Setting: 10 Steps to Success: Write It Down and Make It Happen” by Matt Morris
  • “How to Improve Your Memory and Remember Anything: Flash Cards, Memory Palaces, Mnemonics (50+ Powerful Hacks for Amazing Memory Improvement)” by John Connelly
  • “How to Stop Living a Cluttered Life and Get Organized” Box Set by Kathy Stanton and Rick Riley
  • “How to Study” by George Fillmore Swain
  • “Level Up: Ways to Be More Productive, Manage Time and Get Things Done” by Zak Khan
  • “Life Skills Activities for Secondary Students with Special Needs” by Darlene Mannix
  • “Masterful Focus: 33 Tips to Improve Concentration, Work Smarter, and Be More Productive” by I. C. Robledo
  • “Mastering Your Adult ADHD: A Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program Therapist Guide” by Steven A. Safren, Carol A. Perlman, Susan Sprich, & Michael W. Otto
  • “The Motivation Switch” by AJ Winters
  • “Motivation: Master the Power of Motivation to Propel Yourself to Success” by Ace McCloud
  • “Organize Your Day: Life-Changing Tips on Becoming More Productive, Clutter and Stress-Free!” by Jessie Fuller
  • “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD (2nd Edition-Revised and Updated) Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized” by Susan C. Pinsky
  • “Rock Your To-Do List: Get to Your Biggest Goals Faster, with Less Stress, in Only 15 Minutes a Day” by Lain Ehmann
  • “Smart but Scattered Teens: The ‘Executive Skills’ Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential” by Richard Guare, Peg Dawson, & Colin Guare
  • “Time Management Systems: 3 Simple Time Management Systems for Busy People” by How To eBooks


There you have it… Just a few of my growing library of Kindle books!  I didn’t even start to cover the books I have on relationships, parenting, family, addiction, and trauma recovery.  Those will come later:-)

ByStacy Garcia, MA, LPC, NCC

42 Cognitive Coping Strategies That Will Work Your Mind and Help Regulate How You Feel

Coping strategies (also referred to as coping skills or self-regulation skills) carry enormous potential to be effective at calming us down, helping us cope with life’s situations, and assisting with regulating our wide array of emotions.  There are SO MANY types of coping and self-regulation strategies.  Some work better for children and adolescents, while others are better suited to be used by adults.  Individuals generally find that some techniques are more effective than others, depending on the situation, the emotion one might be feeling, or what you’re trying to achieve by utilizing a skill.  There are numerous coping strategies out there that a person can try, if they’re just willing to give them a shot.  Most people find that not every coping skill they find suggested on Google or Pinterest or even in therapy proves to be effective for everyone every time.  A coping technique that your friend may use to help him calm down when he’s angry might not be as effective for you when you’re mad.  That’s okay because there are LOTS AND LOTS of coping strategies out there!  If you find that one technique doesn’t seem to help, look for another.  Just don’t ever completely trash a skill though, as sometimes it takes more than a couple tries to notice that a strategy really helps, and what may not work today may help significantly in the future, and vice versa.

Cognitive Coping Strategies

So, What Exactly Are “Cognitive Coping Strategies?”

In my last post, I introduced a list of diversion strategies to help people better cope with their emotions, as well as distressing events they may be experiencing in their lives.  In this post you will find a list of 42 positive cognitive coping and self-regulation skills that you can try when you’re in need of something that involves using some brain power and thought processes in order to help influence the way you feel and/or behave.  You will likely find that some strategies may be more appropriate for adults, while others might prove more appropriate for children and teens.  Trying all of them, however, won’t hurt you as long as the task is within your skill level (for example, a five-year-old may find it difficult and equally frustrating if she tries to learn how to code).  These techniques can be utilized by anybody, though some skills will probably appear more appealing than others.

Try them out.  Let me know in the comments section if they help, or maybe you have some of your own ideas that you would like to share!  Remember, if one strategy doesn’t seem particularly helpful, try something else.

42 Cognitive Coping Strategies That Will Work Your Mind and Help Regulate How Your Feel

  1. Make a gratitude list.
  2. Keep a daily positive experiences journal.
  3. Brainstorm solutions to a problem you’re facing.
  4. Make a pros and cons list.
  5. Keep an inspirational quote with you.  Cognitive Coping Strategies
  6. Find different inspirational and meaningful quotes and start a notebook so you can read them whenever you want.
  7. Write a list of goals.
  8. Create a vision board.
  9. Make a bucket list.
  10. Make a “forget it” list.
  11. Take a class (online or on a campus).
  12. Act opposite of negative feelings you’re experiencing.
  13. Write a list of your strengths (and refer to it often).
  14. Complete a crossword or word search puzzle.
  15. Play a word game on your phone or on your computer.
  16. Make a to do list.
  17. Write.
  18. Journal.
  19. Make a list of your best qualities.
  20. List things you’re proud of.
  21. Start your memoir.
  22. Start a blog. Cognitive Coping Strategies
  23. Research your family tree.
  24. Start a dream journal.
  25. Write a letter.
  26. Call or write your senator to discuss an issue that’s important to you.
  27. Learn a new skill (like typing, bookkeeping, etc.).
  28. Learn 10 new words.  Cognitive Coping Strategies
  29. Learn photography.
  30. Do a puzzle.
  31. Play a videogame.  (Minecraft is an excellent game that works your brain!)
  32. Count things.
  33. Study and learn a foreign language.
  34. Study and learn sign language.
  35. Join a book club.
  36. Check out a book from your local library.  Cognitive Coping Strategies
  37. Research something you’re interested in or would like to learn more about.
  38. Color a mandala or a page from an adult (or child’s) coloring book.
  39. Learn how to play an instrument.
  40. Practice playing an instrument.
  41. Learn how to read sheet music.  Cognitive Coping Strategies
  42. Learn how to code.

Hope these help!  Check back for future posts about other types of coping strategies!

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