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What I Think About Racism and Violence in America

June 17, 2020

During the past week, I sought consultation for my business and my staff as it relates to racism and violence in America.  These consultations were with both Caucasian and African-American therapists with a similar level of experience as myself and who have directed large staffs of mental health therapists.

In this email newsletter/blog post today on June 17, 2020 I am outlining my Mission Statement as it relates to these issues.

Myself and my associates are against all-or-nothing thinking that lumps people into groups.  This includes extremist thinking which is being perpetuated in the news media and on social media which insists on the far left “All White People Are Racist,” or on the far right that “All Black People Are Victims,” or as another example, “All Police Officers Are Bad.”

As a leader on conflict resolution, I am very concerned that this kind of extreme thinking is affecting many people’s mental health and is also a symptom of poor mental health.  I am also concerned that this is perpetuating division and is leading to more conflict in our country.

At my Relationship Repair Shop, myself and my associates acknowledge that White institutions collectively and White people individually have used the social construct of race to abuse, control, and hold power over Black individuals.  Too many of these discriminatory acts are still occurring today.

Many Black American clients have spoken to me about how racial discrimination has hurt them during the past two weeks, and I hope to support any clients in the future who need to discuss or resolve traumatic memories related to how they have been discriminated against.

Right now, the news media and the culture is very focused on Black individuals and the Black American community receiving support and understanding.  I do understand that this is a long time coming for the Black community.

However…I am a mental health therapist, and I am also concerned about the mental health of all Americans and all my clients as it relates to violence and racism in America.

I have had the unique position of listening to approximately 80-100 hours of therapy clients talk about racism, discrimination, and violence from just about every ethnic or religious background that you can think of during the past several weeks.    It is on almost every client’s mind and almost everyone is talking about it as part of their therapy.

Some people may not want to hear this but it’s the truth: I am also hearing from many clients (both Black and White Americans) who feel that Black Americans are also responsible for helping to resolve racial differences, to also not perpetuate stereotypes, and to take personal responsibility for their actions when it comes to Black on Black or Black on White violence.

As a leader, I cannot ignore any of these conversations from any of my clients.  I am taking steps to ensure that all of my Associates are open to hearing any client of any racial or religious background discuss discrimination and or racism, including White Americans who feel that they have been discriminated against by Black Americans.

Myself and my associates are nonviolent, and we encourage people to discontinue any kind of violence against other Americans.   My associates will always make recommendations against the harsh corporal punishment of children by any American of any racial background.  Harsh corporal punishment is not supported by any group of professionals, including pediatricians, child development experts, and neuroscientists in addition to mental health experts.

My associates will also sympathize with and not condone any violence that is victimizing the many people during protests and they will discourage and confront any kind of behavior or thinking which is discriminatory towards other humans when it is discussed during personal therapy sessions.  My associates will also encourage people to repair relationships and that if someone feels hurt by racism or racial comments, to have a discussion that leads to repair.

As the owner of the Relationship Repair Shop, I am also concerned about how racial trauma has affected the Black community and how it has perpetuated higher levels of violence within Black American families.  This is an indisputable fact grounded in statistics that I have discussed with other scholars and experts on racism. I am deeply concerned about my Black American clients and their families.

Although I gave support to Black Americans in my email newsletter on June 5, I also mentioned reverse racism and concerns about racial trauma and Black families collectively disciplining their children more harshly and more frequently than white families.  As a point of clarification, my statement did not say that I think every Black parent harshly disciplines their children or that if they have used corporal punishment that I judge them for it.  I also did not say that White parents or parents from ethnic backgrounds do not use harsh corporal punishment.

My statement did raise consciousness and is supported by research.  The truth that some individuals may not have been ready to hear is that black families are twice as likely to use harsh corporal punishment as families of any other ethnic group and that those Black parents who do use corporal punishment are more likely to use it more consistently and frequently than people from other ethnic backgrounds.  There are scholars who have reported upon this research within the American Psychological Association and professionals from other mental health forums have written about family violence within the Black Community as it relates to racial trauma.

The truth that some people do not want to accept is that children are not meant to be beaten or physically assaulted anymore than adults are. I know that many people are not ready to accept this truth based on the level of reactivity I received from my initial email newsletter on June 5.

However, pretty much all experts from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds agree that corporal punishment puts children at risk for various problems.   Yes, you may have gotten a beating and you may have turned out fine.  But as a mental health therapist, I can tell you that this is not true for all people and not all adults who received corporal punishment as children fully recover.  I am of the opinion that no child should be put at risk and that is my opinion.

I have compassion for the racial trauma of all Black Americans and the violence that they have endured, and I pray that ALL Americans of all of ethnic backgrounds will stop using beatings and “wuppins” on their children.  I also pray that as a culture we can move away from extremist thinking and make changes to become a more democratic society that respects the rights of others instead of violating them.

I also realize that some people were not initially ready to accept the truth that some Black individuals also perpetuate racism and discrimination (AKA “reverse racism” or “reverse discrimination”).  However, there are also many scholars  (including Black American scholars) who agree with this concept, and I am one of them.

Please know that my comments based on this blog post/email newsletter and in the previous one that I sent on June 5 are grounded in research and discussions with other experts.

Furthermore, I should also have the right to make my comments as a Capitalist living in a Democratic society without being attacked especially given my level of experience and training.  I have my right to my freedom of speech.  And I most certainly have the right to my opinion as a Ph.D expert on racism, conflict resolution, and family violence given my level of training, my twenty years of experience, and my consultation with other experts.

Although initially I was told I need a publicist and I thought perhaps that was true; I decided today that I did not actually need a publicist when I made my initial post nor do I need one now.  I simply need to clarify my Mission Statement.  I have been putting out newsletters and blog posts without a publicist for quite a while with no problem and have developed a large following and a growing business.  This newsletter/blog post will gain me some followers who like my Mission Statement and I may lose others who do not agree with it.  However,….

I am going to speak the truth according to God’s calling for me, and I trust that it will lead me down the right path and that my business will continue to grow and flourish in the way that it needs to.

If some of you who are clients of my brand do not like my Mission Statement, then I would suggest that you explore your reactions to it within your own individual therapy.  Perhaps you have emotional work to do in therapy regarding your own your own implicit biases, your own stereotypes against White individuals, or by exploring how corporal punishment has affected you or might be affecting your children.

Of course, if you are completely against the mission of my business then you have the Democratic right to seek services somewhere else rather than at my Relationship Repair Shop.  Your complaints will not change my overall Mission Statement or Values which are grounded in my training, education, and clinical experience.

Please know that even while under attack with some people being  unkind in how they approached me, I still reached out to many people who felt hurt and made apologies.  I never want to hurt individual people.

However, a leader of many people, please know that although I value all of my clients and Associates, I also value my moral beliefs, my education, and my American rights in a Capitalist society.  And in today’s society, which is so divided, I feel that I have to take a stance.

If you like this message and support the Mission of my Business I would like to hear your comments and please share this message to other Americans who might be suffering from extremist thinking and who are being victimized by racial trauma getting passed around in today’s world in one form or another.

As a Christian who is ecumenical, I have employed and have had many clients of various faith backgrounds and have also shown compassion and service for those clients who reject religion entirely.

However, as a Christian I am praying that as a Relationship Repair Shop we can truly help to create more repair and less division by healing traumatic experiences and by showing compassionate love to all who are being affected by division and violence in our world.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Teletherapy Should NOT Just Be Your Flavor of the Week

May 27, 2020

Today, I saw my client who always tells me I became her therapist because we do more than just discuss the “flavor of the week.”

What did she mean by this?  She had previous therapists, and she would just talk about whatever happened that week … without drawing any conclusions about how to make life changes or reach any treatment goals.

Sadly, I have heard this kind of complaint from many clients over the years!

Of course, talking about your “flavor of the week” is frequently a part of therapy.  However, you should not only be discussing your current flavor!  It is your therapist’s job to help you understand how whatever happened in your life that week ties in with your overall therapy goals.

It is the therapist’s job to remind of what your therapy goals are, even if you are completely caught up in a “rocky road” kind of week.    They should help you to see if what you are describing from your week is a step forward towards your goals or a step backward or a complete detour!

Then, they should give you some guidance and support regarding the next week.  Make sense?

There are a few occasions in which a client has told me they want supportive therapy.  They want to talk about their “flavor of the week” and that is enough.  In these cases, I make sure that the flavor of the week kind of discussion helps the client in some way (for example, perhaps reduces anxiety symptoms or helps reduce their sense of isolation).  In these situations, I have provided this type of client-centered therapy.

However, I believe that most clients want more direction, more guidance, and they want to really resolve their problems and meet certain goals.  Just talking about what happened during the week with a therapist listening is not going to provide the kind of results that most people need from therapy!!!

If you are only getting a “flavor of the week” from your therapist, then you should ask them for more guidance and more direction!  Then… if you still do not get it… it is time for a new therapist who is more engaged and active.

If you need more assistance from a therapist and want to speak with one of our Relationship Repair Associates, please complete this online Preregistration Form today.

The Intimacy of Teletherapy During the Pandemic

May 26, 2020

One of my former clients sent me a link for a recent article in the Washington Post by Lori Gotlieb called “The surprising intimacy of online therapy sessions during the pandemic.”

The article resonated with me.

For those of you who have been doing teletherapy during the pandemic, I know you can relate!

In one session, my nine year old brought me a glass of water and it spilled all over my laptop.  (You guessed it, I now have a new laptop)!  My client (who is used to seeing me be professional) saw me shriek as I lunged to protect my smart phone from getting water damage also!

I have started wearing comfortable sweatshirts and yoga pants to work on a daily basis – and have ended up snacking and taking my lunch or dinner during sessions while talking with clients.  They are likewise sometimes eating, snacking, or drinking coffee.

After all, many of us are juggling more these days with  home-schooling children …and with staff no longer at the office to help in the same fashion with work tasks.

I have also noted that people have had therapy in a variety of locations: in closets, in their car, outside on the porch, or pretty much anywhere they can get some privacy from family members and housemates.

Part of therapy is not even about the client’s original treatment goals!!!

Treatment plans in part have changed to add the goal “surviving the anxiety and grief brought on by the pandemic.”  Many clients have a need to have time in their session to discuss the anxiety and stress to include such things as: more conflict with family members, fear of death and mortality (that they suddenly feel more intensely), exploring emotions about a loved one sick with covid, and the stress of not one but two spouses out of work due to the shutdown.

For me, the most interesting part is that I can relate to my clients even more than normal.  After all, this is a traumatic situation I am going through at the same time.  There is shared drama and shared meaning that we are making while clients are exploring their emotions and setting goals to cope and overcome.

Of course, in most cases we are still also working on other therapy goals as well…

However, I will say that the treatment goal of building rapport with a client has been the easiest!  After all, we are hanging out in our sweatshirts in whatever location brings the most privacy- sometimes with kids screaming from another room… fun times…

For those of you who have been receiving therapy during the pandemic, you know what I am talking about.

If you have been afraid to try teletherapy but desperately need it for one reason or another…. Well perhaps this post will be a gentle calling for you to give it a whirl.

To get a quote regarding the cost of therapy and to find out your options to work with one of our Relationship Repair Associates, complete our Preregistration Form today…

 

 

Welcome to Our Newest Therapist Mordecai Andemichael, LGPC

April 21, 2020

Our newest therapist is Mordecai Andemichael, LGPC.  Although right now Mordecai sees many clients for teletherapy, he is also scheduled to see clients on Mondays 12-8 and Tuesdays 10-6 at Padder Health in Laurel.  His office hours at Dr. Stephanie’s Laurel office location are Wednesday 4:00-9:00pm, Thursday 10:00am-4:00pm, Friday 11:00am-8:00pm, and Saturday 3:00-7:00pm.

Mr. Andemichael earned his Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.  He has experience working with adolescents, adults, and seniors. As a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor, he has helped many individuals overcome depression, grief attributed to the loss of a loved one, and anxiety due to life transitions.

Mordecai also helps clients with relationship concerns under the supervision of Dr. Stephanie.

Specialties include:

Anxiety
Depression and Grief
Trauma and PTSD
Addictions (including gambling, pornography, and sex addiction)

Mordecai can be contacted with questions directly at mordecai@drstephanieonline.com

 

I Completed My First Virtual EMDR Teletherapy Session…. AND It Worked!!

April 20, 2020

EMDR has always been done in my office … usually with my light bar or sometimes manually the old-fashioned way with my fingers waving in front of the eyes of my client.  For those of you who have never heard of EMDR therapy, it is a form of prolonged exposure trauma therapy.

I love using EMDR to help reduce all kinds of symptoms and problems associated with traumatic and painful human experiences (panic attacks, insomnia, intrusive thoughts, OCD symptoms, and more…).

With the pandemic surrounding us and causing additional trauma and fear, I expect to be doing more EMDR in the coming weeks and months to help reduce various mental health symptoms.   For example, there are clients whose family members have passed away from the virus.  And then there are the more subtle ways that the pandemic and stay at home orders are triggering anxiety.  People with past histories of trauma are having more symptoms because they feel more helpless during this time.  In some cases, people may be feeling helpless to make money or to have enough time in the day to complete their work while home schooling, or in other cases to simply have a physical break from someone whom they are in a conflicted relationship with.

What I love about EMDR is that I can get results quickly, sometimes with only one or two sessions, a client’s panic symptoms can completely dissipate.

The pandemic seems to be pushing me out of my comfort zone in all kinds of ways!  Besides the fact that I can’t go to the salon to get my hair colored (so I am being pushed into accepting my hair becoming increasingly gray LOL), I am also being pushed to try therapies online.  I would have never thought of trying to do virtual EMDR Therapy.   However, when more clients began using teletherapy to stay safe a few weeks ago, I went to my friend Google and searched “Can EMDR therapy be done virtually?”

I found that therapists have been using virtual EMDR therapy with clients in rural and remote locations via an app on the client’s smart phone, iPad, or other device.

My next step was to try out various EMDR therapy apps to figure out which one works most similarly to what I have currently been using with my clients.  I found an app called EMDR Therapy for $9.99 that I think works the best.  If you are interested in trying virtual EMDR Therapy, I have included a screenshot that includes what the EMDR Therapy App looks like below…

Basically, the client observes the light bar via their phone or device through the App.  In addition, the client uses ear buds plugged into the phone to receive the auditory bilateral stimulation.  I still guide the session and tell the client when to turn the light bar on and off to stop the processing between sets of eye movements.

On Saturday, I tried out virtual EMDR with my first client who had a panic attack and was having intrusive thoughts about an event that had occurred during the pandemic.   We hit a couple of roadblocks but worked through them readily, and she felt better by the end of the session.  I trust that when I see her again, she will say that her symptoms were reduced all week as a result of the therapy.

Just like everyone else, I am not happy about being at home so much.  I must use my coping skills and get through the day to day!  However, on a positive note, I have been pushed to learn how to better use teletherapy and my clients have become more accustomed to it.  When this pandemic is over, I am happy to say I will be better prepared to be able to do teletherapy (including EMDR therapy) while traveling away from Maryland to care for loved ones or to teach workshops.

If you are interested in Virtual EMDR Therapy other Teletherapy services with one of our Relationship Repair Associates, please Register to become a new client today or Schedule your appointment!

Thank You and Good News – You May Have No Deductibles or Co-Pays for Teletherapy…

March 26, 2020

Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield put out a notice that during the Coronavirus crisis they will pay 100% for psychotherapy that is completed via teletherapy instead of at a provider’s office.

We are thankful to our many clients who have continued psychotherapy during these difficult times…You likely find that it is still beneficial to help you reach your therapy goals!

In addition, though, many people are also still doing what they can to support small businesses.  For those of you who continue any needed therapy treatment over videoconference, you are helping our small business to stay afloat during this time.

However, we also aim to give you information and resources that can help you to cope with stress and feelings of depression or hopelessness…

For starters, I recommend movies for the children stuck at home guilt-free.  It is the only way that I am getting this information out to you today (while my nine-year old watches Frozen 2 so that mommy can get some work done).  LOL.

Hang in there, and don’t feel bad about using a little more television or movie time than usual to help everyone pass the time…

Take care until we meet again in person or online!  To schedule an appointment, please go to www.therapyportal.com/p/drstephanie/

One Day at A Time… and Yes, Your Insurance Will Pay for Teletherapy

March 19, 2020

My new therapeutic motto is one day at a time… one week at a time… to help clients who are having a lot of anxiety about the virus pandemic and the future.

My advice is this: try to STOP from thinking about 4 weeks, 8 weeks, or 6 months from now.  Many clients are talking about their fears about next month and into the summer and fall.  It’s understandable, but you can train your brain to STOP!

No one knows how everything is going to develop.  However, worrying about many things that might go wrong during the next 6-18 months and watching the news for hours a day is probably making it worse!

Keep your news intake to less than 30-60 minutes per day.  Focus on what you can do today and this week to cope with your current situation. If your mind goes to more than one week into the future, STOP!  Tell yourself, you will figure out the future when you get to it.

For myself, I have had moments when I start to think about the following questions: will my son be able to graduate from high school this May?  Will we still be able to go on the planned vacation we had scheduled in June to celebrate two graduations?  Will I be going to NYC the end of April to present Gottman Art and Science of Love?  What will happen to my business next month – will we have less clients?  Or, will we have more than we can handle?  Will I be feeling completely stressed out if the children do not go back to school this spring at all?

And then I must STOP!  I turn off my anxious amygdala with some soothing thoughts about coping for today and go back to focusing on one day at a time.  You might be surprised to know that I went through a terrible crisis in 2008 and another one during 2014 and during those years, I could only just take one day at a time to get through it.

I hope you can learn to train your brain to shut off the worry by focusing on today and today only.  Find your way to cope with today’s challenges… maybe you will write in your journal, read a book or watch a funny movie or television show, bake a cake, engage in meditation, play cards with a family member, take a walk or do some yoga poses in your family room…

Another future worry is that there has been some concern from our clients about insurance coverage for teletherapy [ which is done via videoconference.   Research has indicated that telemedicine is also an effective form of treatment to help most clients reach their therapy goals.  When you are stuck at home feeling anxious you might benefit from using this time to work on your relationship or learning how to better cope with anxiety.  Some clients have a very small co-pay or even no co-pay…

Rest assured, Care First, Cigna, and many other insurance companies will pay for teletherapy that is done over video conference.    If you are concerned about this, you could call member services to check on your plan; however, we frequently file claims for teletherapy and there has been no problems with getting those claims paid!

If you would like to engage in teletherapy, insurance coverage is one worry that I want to take off your mind!  You can reach out to schedule an appointment by going to our easy to use scheduling link any time at www.therapyportal.com/p/drstephanie

Is There A Silver Lining?

March 18, 2020

After many conversations during the past week with clients and associates at my Relationship Repair Shop, I have been focusing on having a positive mental attitude about the effects of the Coronavirus on my household and business.

Not smooth sailing…  I went from denial, to bargaining, then to anger, and now into full acceptance that social distancing and threats of contamination are actually happening!  LOL.

It doesn’t feel like there is a Silver Lining to all the uncertainty, and I am sure that some families are feeling more financially and mentally stressed than others, depending upon their particular situation.

However, I am working to change my mindset and attitude that perhaps there is a silver lining?

Social Distancing doesn’t seem to include Emotional Distancing for most people.  In fact, neighbors are checking in on neighbors…

And families are being forced to spend more time together at home.  Our household has already found a bit more time for an additional family movie night, Uno, some extra sleep, and some household projects.  Instead of running out to lacrosse games and track practice, we are spending a bit more time talking at the dinner table!

Now that some of the shock is wearing off about what is happening, I am considering what conversations we might have during this time that could help us feel closer.  Perhaps we can take advantage of this additional time at home to become closer and more connected.

This reminds me of time growing up on the farm.  There wasn’t as much entertainment outside of the farmhouse, so we played Sorry and Hide and Seek and went for long walks and baked cookies.  That is what I am going back to during this time, and I hope you can too!

Clients are continuing to have therapeutic conversations over videoconference, and I pray that will continue.  Because more emotional connection and showing more care to one another just might be one of the only Silver Linings from the effects of the coronavirus…

If you need additional help coping with stress or having therapeutic conversations with a loved one, please Register to have an appointment with one of our Relationship Repair Associates today…

Welcome to two new therapists on our team!

March 17, 2020

In these uncertain times, our therapy practice is staying busier than ever.  Our mission is to help clients find meaning and manage stress via teletherapy and in-person appointments…

We have two new therapists – Yolanda Hayden at the Laurel office and Samantha Steininger at the Owings Mills office.

Yolanda Hayden, M.S., LGPC, earned her  Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She also hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Bennett College for Women in Greensboro N.C.  Yolanda sees clients at the Laurel location on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 am – 9 pm, Friday from 9am – 4pm, and Saturday 3-6 pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samantha Steinger, M.S., LGMFT earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Family Science with a minor in Human Development and her Master’s Degree in Couples and Family Therapy all from the University of Maryland. Go Terps!  Samantha sees clients at the Owings Mills location on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm and on Wednesdays from 1 pm – 8 pm.

 

Our Coronavirus Procedures Include Telemedicine and Taking a Deep Cleansing Breath!

March 16, 2020

We encourage you to take deep cleansing breaths as you go through the worries of this upcoming week.

All our locations in Laurel, Maple Lawn, Owings Mills, Upper Marlboro, and Annapolis are still open with videoconferencing options available for clients who are quarantined at home.  Most health insurance plans will not pay for a therapy session over the phone; however, they will pay for your online video session through your computer or smart phone at home.

For clients coming into one of our locations, we have taken steps to clean and disinfect surfaces and to have hand sanitizer and paper towels available for hand washing.

I respect that each person and each family is having their own unique challenges and stressors related to the coronavirus emergency.

For example, you may be feeling more anxiety than normal due to your fears about sickness.  I have successfully helped many people who have specific phobias and fears about getting flu or virus symptoms.  Also, if you have an elderly or sick family member near and dear to your heart, you likely have concerns about their welfare and keeping them protected.

Some families, including some small business owners, may be experiencing more fears about their finances at this uncertain time.

Other people with children may need many deep cleansing breaths each day simply because their children are home from school for two weeks!

After more than a few cleansing breaths myself – I have decided to accept this unplanned break and roll with the punches.  We are currently having a pajama morning and watching Annie!  I am taking a few days off next week so I can hang out with my kids and get some spring cleaning done while everyone is at home anyway.

If you are a former or new client and need to come in for some additional stress management, please reach out for a videoconference or in-person appointment.  You can easily select a therapist and a time at our easy-to-use scheduling link at www.therapyportal.com/p/drstephanie/

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Dr. Stephanie's Relationship Repair Shop
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