It's Pride Month... Celebrate YOU!

Pride month is in full swing and celebrations are kicking off all around the world.  What a fantastic month for us members of the LGBTQIA++ community! This is a month in which we remember those who fought so tirelessly for our rights and paved the path for future generations.  It is through these efforts that we’re able to more fully embrace who we are as individuals and who we are as a community. While pride and joy do absolutely abound for many of us this month, June can also be a source of tremendously painful self-reflection, regrets, and “if only’s”.  For many of us, the wounds from our pasts can be closely tied to our own coming out processes resulting in this month feeling like a double-edged sword of joy and pain.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend and colleague about our thoughts and feelings on Pride month.  He shared that, although he does feel a tremendous amount of joy and happiness in seeing the ‘younger generation’ embracing their identities earlier in life, he wrestles with feelings of jealousy, resentment, and regret. He went on to share his coming out story in saying that he didn’t ‘come out’ until his mid-thirties – six years into his relationship with his current husband.  “Back then, it wasn’t safe to tell people that you were gay so I had to keep my secret.” We both bonded in our shared experiences and started down the path of ‘if only I was born later, I wouldn’t have had to hide myself from the world’. As I chewed on this, I found myself thinking about the vast amount of other individuals who have had similar experiences and how this life of secrecy has impacted all of us.  

Even though the social acceptance and support of non-heterosexual identities have tremendously improved over the years, I still find myself shocked when I hear stories of the blatant phobias that abounds in this day and age.  Today’s teens are caught in a very interesting time. They’ve heard the support from the community and are finding comfort in embracing their identities at younger and younger ages yet there are still sects of the community that continue to try and push them down and force them back into the closet.  In sessions, I hear clients tell me that they’re encouraged to ‘be who they are’ yet receive notices and threats that they can and will be ousted from: school, sporting events, church groups, their own homes, etc. if it is learned that they are ‘out’. What terribly confusing messages these young people are hearing today!  It’s pretty fascinating to me that the sentiments experienced today have so many similarities to the overt sentiments experienced by older generations - “go ahead and be who you are, just do it within these specified parameters and spaces.”

So where does that leave us?  I know this is really going to date me, but I’ve got Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” running through my head - ‘secret secret, I’ve got a secret...’.  As far as we’ve come as a community and as a society, we’re still being taught to keep secrets. We are told to embrace who we are yet are expected to hide our very truths.  We’re encouraged to find our happiness yet only act on that happiness as long as it falls in line with others’ ideologies. The message from decades ago of “you chose this lifestyle so just accept the consequences that came with your decision” is still being regurgitated today. So continues the cycle of shame, guilt, secrecy, and the search for pseudo-happiness.  I don’t know about you, but this leaves me feeling all kinds of yuck!

As an empowerment and relational therapist, I can’t help but say this has GOT TO stop.  We all are beautiful individuals with amazing stories, gifts, and attributes. Yes, we’ve all experienced the ‘yuck’, pain, and shame that accompanied our own identity journeys but these wounds don’t have to define us, rather, they can reinforce us.  The word ‘celebration’ often accompanies Pride month and, prior to my conversation with my friend and colleague, I interpreted that word as one of:  happiness, joy, partying, and cutting loose. Somewhere inside me though, there was a shift and I now hear that word as a signal to celebrate the challenges, struggles, and yuck that we’ve gone through. These experiences have helped to shape who we are as individuals and who we are as a community.  The ideas of joy and pain do not have to take the shape of a double-edged sword, rather these two ideas can come together as a two-armed hug – embracing and celebrating who you are, all that you’ve waded through, and all that you have yet to live. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it, love yourself for you’re the most important person in your own life!!!  Happy Pride month everyone!!

Building Family Rituals This Summer

If there’s one concept most families are familiar with (and crave), it’s the idea of routines. Routines help us stay organized and keep track of multiple moving parts. Routines are what help family members decide how to spend their time, together and separately. Rituals, on the other hand, are how families invest time and emotion. Rituals are predictable activities that help family members forge a strong sense of group identity and belonging.

Rituals and routines are especially crucial during times of high stress and transition, which occur frequently during the adolescent years. This life stage is marked with navigating the unknown, searching for identity and juggling physical and emotional changes all at once. Routines and rituals at home can help adolescents and their families find some footing. So how do we put rituals into practice? Many people associate this practice with holiday rituals and celebrations, for example: your birthday rolls around and you can predict how the day is going to go. Ideally, your loved ones are gathered with cake and candles, invested in spending time together and creating memories for years to come. However, rituals can also be the small things, the day-to-day moments that add up. Maybe family dinners or car chats after a soccer game; the intentional moments that allow space for communication and connection. Rituals are the wonderfully predictably practices that remind us we’re in it together.

While rituals can vary greatly by family system and culture, what each family deems worthy, allows it to become worthy. Here are a few simple ideas that can help your family get the ball rolling with establishing your own family rituals:

  1. Family Game Night: This is a time for play and laughter which directly contributes to a sense of connection. Also, allows family members to take turns pitching in game ideas and rule suggestions.

  2. Bedtime rituals: For littles, this can include storytime and snuggles. For older kids/teens this can mean identifying a high/low of the day or some form of emotional check-in before closing the day out.

  3. Family Meetings: Intentionally and consistently set aside time time to allow family members to discuss various topics and bring other family members up to speed on what's going on in their lives. Even allow space for discussions around changes in family rules or routines, or bring up ways to better meet family needs.

  4. Family outings/road trips: Hit the road! Whether this be an annual family vacation or perhaps just a short Sunday adventure. Your family can easily alter this based on time or financial constraints.

  5. Family walks/ exercise: Perhaps there is a sport that your family is interested in and would benefit from participating in together. Or keep it simple and take a short walk around the neighborhood to unwind and talk.

  6. Cooking/ Meal Preparation: If this is something that could be enjoyable for your family, let everyone get involved. Even allowing room for family members to experiment with recipes or learn how to make traditional family recipes. There is so much creativity and love that can go into cooking. (Note: if it wouldn't be enjoyable to get the whole family involved in the cooking, remember that there are people who enjoy to cook for others and some who take joy in eating it! That's how we bring everyone into the fun!)

  7. Family Wishlist: Set time aside to identify some wishes/goals for each season or calendar year as a family, and make it happen! Maybe in the summer you want to have a cookout, swim or make time to go the county fair. Allowing each family member to contribute and then feeling the gratification when you cross each item off the list!

These are all general ideas that can be adapted to each family and their unique needs. However, feel free to take this concept of family rituals and add your own twist!

How to Get Unstuck

Photo by  Radu Florin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Have you ever felt stuck in a situation, an emotion, a thought pattern? It is extremely human to find ourselves physically and/or metaphorically stuck in unhelpful circumstances. It is also extremely human to feel as though there is little agency you have in shifting your experience in those moments. While it may feel accepted as fact that you do not have the ability to shift your experience, I encourage the practice of creativity and flexibility in cultivating more helpful experiences and therefore shifting associated emotions, thoughts, and attitudes.

For example, let’s say you notice that you've felt down recently. Perhaps you missed a deadline at work or in school, you felt excluded in a recent social event, or you've experienced conflict among family members at home. These circumstances might contribute to feeling down, lonely, unmotivated, etc. Furthermore, we might create a dialogue around our recent experiences linking them together (i.e. “Life feels really challenging right now at work/school/home and I seem to be the common thread among these incidences: it must be my fault”). The events, emotions, and thoughts noted above can contribute to a mindset of feeling stuck. Whether or not our perception of these experiences is accurate is inconsequential. However, the ineffectiveness of this perception really does matter; it can be incredibly unhelpful in allowing us to moving forward. 

I encourage a shift in focus on noting what works for you in cultivating helpful emotions. Reflect on experiences that bring about more neutral emotions such as contentment, connection, peace, calm, etc. Perhaps during your reflection you note the following - doing yoga cultivates peace, spending time with genuine friends cultivates joy, cleaning your room cultivates calm, etc. While seemingly unrelated to your current experience, you might identify that there are experiences that you’ve had that do bring about more neutrality and even positivity. We can then choose to cultivate more of those emotions in our day-to-day by practicing intentional choices about what we do that promotes certain feelings.

Of course, taking a yoga class or going to summer camp (both experiences perhaps offering helpful emotions) are not always accessible to us, so we might practice creativity in how we can do something similar in order to foster similar emotions. While doing more of what feels helpful and less of what might not change the circumstances we find ourselves in, it can create a felt shift in having agency over our lives, emotion regulation, our attitudes, and our ability to continue moving forward.

See some tips below in cultivating more helpful experiences:

  • Reflect on what works for you and what doesn’t

  • Identify how you want to feel and what makes you feel that way

  • Practice creativity in cultivating more of what feels good and letting go of what does not

  • Remind yourself that nothing is permanent, everything is temporary - emotions, thoughts, circumstances will pass and practice intentionality around those that feel helpful while knowing that the unhelpful ones will pass


Self-Compassion: Becoming Your Inner Ally

Photo by  Fares Hamouche  on  Unsplash

“Through self-compassion, we become an inner ally instead of an inner enemy”.  

-Kristin Neff, PhD

We’ve all had the concept of self-esteem thrown down our throats, which usually teaches us that the ultimate goal is to have high levels of self-esteem. While the idea of feeling good about ourselves is absolutely essential, we’ve learned that our “feeling good” is based on:  how many trophies we have on our mantle, how many A’s we earn in school, and how many points we scored in the last game. What happens when we don’t score that last point or we end up with a B+ instead of an A? For some of us, our sense of self can crumble and our self-critic can begin screaming at us telling us that we’re not good enough, smart enough, or strong enough. It doesn’t have to have such a strong voice, though. Self-compassion provides us that cushion and soft blanket to catch and cradle us when we do fall short of our goals and expectations.

The concept of self-compassion is broken into three categories:  self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity. Through the interweaving of these three ideas, we’re able to shift our focus from the potentially superficial feelings of goodness that self-esteem can bring, and replace them with a  solid embracing of who we are through self-compassion. Let me break down the three components of self-esteem:

  • Self-kindness – Think for a second what you would say to a close friend who has come to you expressing feelings of sadness and low self-worth.  Perhaps they just failed an exam and said to you, “I just knew I’d fail that test! I’m so stupid!!” Would you agree with them and tell them that they are indeed stupid?  Well, no, of course you wouldn’t. You would amp up your compassion meter and do everything in your power to help them feel better and dispute their negative self-talk. Now let me blow your mind for a minute; what would it be like if you were to display that same level of compassion and kindness to yourself?  What if you were to change your harsh thoughts of, “This is so stupid...I’m never going to get this...I’m a complete failure!” to “I didn’t do so well on that last test and I’m going through a lot right now.  I need to cut myself some slack”? Feels weird yet oddly comforting, huh?  That’s self-kindness. Giving yourself the same kindness and compassion that you give to a good friend.

  • Mindfulness – I know that I’ve talked about mindfulness a lot in previous blogs.  Take all of that and add to it the idea of recognizing and embracing your feelings for what they are.  Feelings and emotions are just a piece of information for you to acknowledge without placing any judgment on them.  Being quick to judge our feelings and emotions can quickly lead to desires of suppressing those feelings or over-identifying with them.  Being truly mindful allows us to shift our focus from the “shoulda, coulda woulda’s” to the present, because the present is the only state of being where we possess control.

  • Common humanity – When we trip on that crack in the sidewalk or drop our cup of coffee in front of our friends, it can easily feel as though we are the only one’s in the world that have done this.  Likewise, when we feel down, sad, angry, and hurt, it can also seem as though no one else has ever felt as bad as we do. In embracing the concept of self-compassion, we’re able to see that we’re all in this boat together.  We all trip, fall, cry, yell, struggle, and suffer. Why? Because we’re human and we all have feelings and emotions.

For more information on the concept of self-compassion and to obtain deeper tools on how to begin practicing your own journey toward self-compassion, I encourage you to check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s work at www.self-compassion.org.  In wrapping these three components into your daily life, you will be able to enhance that love that you feel for yourself and, in turn, the love that you feel for the world around you.



Meet Savannah!

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Hi there! 

I’m so excited to join the GT Therapy team and I’m eager to share more with you about my journey as a therapist. I grew up in the delightfully small town of Tomball, TX, a rural suburb of Houston. Ever since my days as a “peer mediator” in elementary school, I knew that I wanted to be a therapist. I loved helping other classmates sort out their problems (and getting to miss class probably didn’t hurt). My heart has always had a special place for kiddos and families. When I was in high school I babysat and taught ballet to three year olds, and in college I worked at a preschool and nannied. 

I studied social work at the University of Texas as an undergrad, which sparked my passion for mental health and social justice. From there I went straight into graduate school for social work at UT, eager to continue honing my skills as a clinician and advocate. After graduating with my Masters of Science in Social Work, I worked in various jobs within the non profit world, supporting and training foster parents, facilitating group and individual counseling to survivors of domestic and sexual assault, offering family counseling and play therapy for children, and working as a school based therapist in middle and high schools across the Austin area. I’ve lived in Austin for quite a while now, and there’s no place I’d rather be. I love spending time outside with my dog Boone, catching up with friends over a meal, and when at all possible- not taking life too seriously.

I am so thankful for a career where I get to connect with people, hear their unique stories, and offer them genuine empathy. Getting to see my clients grow in self compassion, laugh with me (or sometimes at me), communicate more effectively, or mend a broken relationship makes my so heart happy. I’m continually inspired by the people that choose to take the brave step toward healing and seek out therapy, and am so thankful for each of the clients I have the privilege of working with. If you want to take the next step toward healing, please reach out, as I’d be honored to walk with you on your journey. 

Meet Austin!

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Hello!

My name is Austin. Thank you for pulling up this post and letting me introduce myself to you.  I’ll start by how I got here. I was born in Chicago and grew up in Chicago, LA, Dallas, France, and a couple of countries in central Africa.  I went back to Illinois for college and majored in Psychology and Philosophy. I also spent 6 months of my senior year in Rwanda working with a local organization that promotes reconciliation between perpetrators and victims of the 1994 genocide.  My psychology studies and experience in Rwanda strengthened my desire for a career in mental health. After college, I moved to Austin for love, following my now wife as she started a PhD program at UT. I have spent the last 6 years working for various nonprofits around central Texas and getting my MA in Professional Counseling with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy from Texas State.

I love to travel but spend most of my vacations enjoying time with family.  I almost always prefer listening to other people to talking myself. In my free time I am usually reading or playing a game of some sort.  Following many years of throwing out the dry, brown remains of plants that didn’t make it, I have kept two different plants alive in pots for more than a year and counting.  I play video games but have only ever owned Nintendo game consoles because for me the main purpose of owning a video game console is to play games with friends. I have a puppy who embodies the mixing and melding that makes Austin (the city) so wonderfully weird.  

Probably as a result of moving around so much as a kid, I love variety and chances to learn new things.  In the last several years I have worked with everyone from kids who were going in and out of the mental hospital to kids and families grieving the death of a family member to people of all ages who have experienced trauma to kids and teens and adults who are feeling anxious or depressed to couples at every stage of a relationship. I don’t love the variety of pain that people experience. What I do love is being able to hold a safe space for people, provide some tools, and watch the strength and courage and compassion and growth and humor and ingenuity that shows up.

Thank you for taking the time to get to know me better.  If you want to know more about me, you can read my bio and get in touch at the link below!

Sync Up and Parent as a Team

Imagine parenting to be like managing a ship. You plan a route, assign tasks to your crew and hope that everyone pitches in. The crew relies on the co-captains, or parents, for guidance and reassurance. Now imagine if the co-captains are sending conflicting information. This approach leaves the crew confused about how to proceed. Often, what ensues is chaos, stress, and a crew that either attempts to benefit from this discord or proceed with discouragement.

This is similar to families when the co-captains, or parents, are not aligned. Each partner is working hard and making decisions based on their own goals, often unaware of what their co-captain is delegating at the same time. Let’s be clear, this is typically done with the best of intentions and belief that you are steering your family in a great direction. Yet, if the ship is being steered in two different directions, not much is accomplished. If you notice your children going behind your back to ask your partner permission, the rules often shift, or perhaps there is no family mission in place, this can be a fantastic opportunity to reflect with your partner on how to sync up. This can feel like a big undertaking. Many of us did not grow up in homes that had consistent structure and a transparency in why our parents operated the way they did. However, this is an opportunity to grow and learn. Remember: perfection is not the end goal here!

A great starting point is to sit down with your partner and discuss what values you are wanting to instill in your family. Whether that be adventure, honesty, selfless service, etc., start to discuss why these values matter to you. Really hear each other out and try to connect with your partner’s point of view, even if your lists differ. Second, reflect on how your current “rules” or guidelines at home either support or deviate from these values. You want to both be clear on how each guideline directly promotes your top values. Once these guidelines are clearly established, they also need to be written out so that all ages can understand what is expected. When spelling out guidelines think “SMART” - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. For younger kids, pictures are also effective.

It can be helpful to call a family meeting and sit down with your kids to discuss, especially when changes have been made. Now with the family present, explain what is the purpose of each guideline. For example, we will spend each Sunday morning together as a family at breakfast for one hour, without phone/tablets to include quality time, holidays and vacations included. If you have buy-in about the purpose of this, there is more likelihood your children will have buy-in as well. Allow for questions and even for a respectful discussion to ensue. With teens, it oftentimes helps to allow some flexibility for feedback or editing the guidelines together so everyone can feel invested in the process. Having everyone sign the list and posting a copy for reference can symbolize this commitment of the entire family.

Now, the most important piece: FOLLOW THROUGH. Louder for the people in the back!! CONSISTENCY is key. If you and your partner agree to establish a rule or guideline, stick to it. It can be tough, but it’s so crucial to make sure you’re honoring your co-captain and the mission you’ve laid out for your family. If you slide, that actually means you are going against your commitment. This lends to anxiety and confusion.  It is crucial for your children to learn that you are true to your word and that what you expect of them is consistent. Perhaps this feels like something too big to take on without some extra support or you and your partner feel way off track. This can be common, especially with separated or blended families that are trying co-parent and are struggling to communicate. Know that family therapy is an option. There are wonderful therapists who can patiently walk parents through this process, and help clarify how to work together to steer the ship in an intentional direction.

Approaching Life with a Beginner's Mind

Photo by  Max Andrey  on  Unsplash

Photo by Max Andrey on Unsplash

Do you ever find yourself making assumptions about the way your next history exam will go, how a conversation with a parent will transpire, or how you will perform in your next soccer tournament? Often times we cultivate expectations of ourselves, others, or situations in general based on past experiences. While this is a natural and adaptive aspect of human nature, it can also inhibit us from being open to the potential of experiencing something new and different. Furthermore, assumptions based on our experiences sometimes take us away from the present moment and transport us backward into the past or forward into the future. Again, while not entirely unhelpful to reflect on past experiences or consider our futures, living in the past or the future can bring up unhelpful emotions. It can also inhibit our ability to experience the here and now and furthermore to be effective in the here and now. Today I offer you the concept of “Beginner’s Mind” as a means of cultivating the opportunity for new experiences and practicing mindfulness of the present moment.

What is a beginner’s mind? It is what it sounds like! Remember the first time you made a new friend, got an A on your exam, went on a rollercoaster? During any of these “firsts” you approach the experience with an unknowing and open mind because you have not yet had that experience. Beginner’s mind is a way of approaching an experience that, while it be familiar in many aspects, has the potential for a new and different outcome. Perhaps you have had several conversations with a parent on earning privileges back that have not gone in your favor. These experiences build on each other and cultivate an assumption that this type of conversation will always transpire in the same fashion and have the same end result. This assumptive mindset, while seemingly accurate, inhibits us from being creative and experimenting with a different approach and outcome. It can feel hopeless, defeating, and other unhelpful emotions when we get into our assumptive mindsets. If we are to shift our perspective to utilizing a “Beginner’s Mind”, we might consider approaching this conversation in a different manner with an open mind about the result looking different. In doing so, we allow for the possibility of change and new experiences. Cultivating the opportunity for a new experience may foster emotions such as hope and optimism.

Now what we know what Beginner’s Mind is, how do we achieve beginner’s mind? First, we must acknowledge that there is a part of our past experience that informs our current experience. For example, that last conversation with my mom did not go well. We might draw attention to the areas in which we felt this conversation was ineffective and tweak those areas to open the opportunity for a new outcome. We must then let go of that past experience with our tweaks in mind. Rehashing the past in unhelpful to our current situation. Similarly, we might envision what could happen in the future; however, we must acknowledge that we are not fortune tellers and therefor we cannot predict the exact outcome. In this scenario, make peace with the fact that we cannot with certainty predict the result of our conversation. Once we have made peace with our past experiences and our assumptions about the future we allow ourselves to come back to the present moment and furthermore be effective in this current experience.

Beginner’s mind can be challenging, especially if you notice your mind often wanders to a different time and place. I offer you the following tips in practicing Beginner’s Mind and cultivating more experiences in the here and now:

  • Practice self-kindness, do not judge yourself on your ability to stay in the present. Rather, gently remind yourself to come back to the here and now when you notice you have wandered

  • Make peace with what you cannot change about the past and what you do not know for certain in the future

  • Practice Self-Care and grounding strategies to help you move through difficult emotions

  • Remember that Beginner’s Mind is challenging and requires practice! Resist the temptation to give up on your efforts!

Behind the Scenes of Your Therapist's Maternity Leave

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We’ve had the good fortune of partnering with Work Muse for a series on how we (Blake & Tracy) stumbled into job=sharing the role of co-owning and co-directing our beloved team here at GT Therapy Group. (See Part One here and Part Two here). This week we’re diving into what it’s like when a therapist and small business owner goes on maternity leave and how our partnership supports our work/life balance, our group practice, and ultimately serves our clients.

As some of you know, I will be going on maternity leave sometime in the next 6 weeks (!!) and I can’t credit my partner Tracy enough with making the whole process smooth and comfortable for me, our clients and our team. This is our fourth maternity leave to navigate together, and we’ve grown and transformed from each experience, personally and professionally.

For clients, it can be unsettling and disruptive when your therapist goes on an extended leave. It’s common to experience anxiety and uncertainty, wondering: Will she come back? What if I need support while she’s out? Who do I turn to? Is it ok to see another therapist while mine is on leave? How do I even do that? With a partnership like ours, we can leave our clients in capable hands, knowing that whatever comes up while we are out, our partner and support staff will be there to guide and support them with compassion and care, including connecting clients with other therapists or resources when they are in need.

For business owners, the prospect of going on maternity leave can be daunting and anxiety-provoking. What will happen to my business while I’m away? Who will put out the fires? Who will hold it all together? What if it all falls apart?? Having a job share team means that we can take our time off to focus on our family, having trust in our partner to keep the ship afloat while' we’re away. This peace of mind is priceless.

As I enter into my last weeks before my leave, I’m filled with gratitude for my partner Tracy, my GT Therapy Group team, and my clients. Thank you for walking on this journey with me and enriching this experience every step of the way.

Work Muse  supports job-sharing as a means of achieving work-life balance while having a thriving career; something near and dear to our hearts. Follow all the awesomeness here !

Treating Parents is Key to Treating Anxious Children

Earlier this week in the break room, Blake and Tracy shared about a recent study they had read.  As one of the rare individuals who thoroughly enjoy reading academic research, I was PSYCHED – not just because I got to hunker down with my highlighter in hand, but in that it pertained to treating children with anxiety.  While these two things alone would bring a smile to my face, the results were tremendously powerful: TREAT THE PARENTS. While this may seem like a simple and maybe obvious solution to a family systems therapist like myself, you’d be surprised how little family/parental work is done when the main client is a young person with anxiety.  It is not uncommon for parents to believe that their anxious child is the one who needs therapy, which is certainly still true. However, if the goal of all involved is to support the child in reducing symptoms of anxiety, treating the parents is very much the key to success.

According to Eli Lebowitz, the associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders at the Yale Child Study Center, parents of anxious children almost always try to accommodate their child. She states, “For instance, if the child suffers from social anxiety, no friends are invited to the house; in the case of separation anxiety, parents sleep with their child or never leave the home. Parents constantly reassure a child with generalized anxiety. While the responses of parents are natural, studies have shown that they also leave children suffering from debilitating anxiety into adulthood”.  Currently, there are only two evidence-based treatments for anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT, which I provide and have written about in past blog posts - Embracing Self-Compassion and Let’s Talk About Teen Mental Health), and medication. Of those able to receive these options, however, only half of the children respond to treatment. Because of this, it has been vital for researchers to find additionally effective treatments.

Yale researchers randomly assigned 124 children ages 7 – 14 with diagnosed anxiety disorders to either receive cognitive behavioral therapy, or their parents were enrolled in the Yale SPACE program, or Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions. For 12 weeks, parents attended weekly counseling sessions geared toward helping themselves cope with their anxious child.  While both approaches were equally effective in reducing the child’s stress levels and anxiety symptoms, the “accommodating” behavior parents typically engage in reduced significantly after receiving SPACE counseling.

For example, a parent assigned to SPACE was able to decrease the number of daily text messages sent to their child from “dozens” to about 2 – 3.  Also, parents who repeatedly kept their child out of school because of anxiety-related stomachaches learned to say, “I know you are feeling upset right now, but I know you’ll be okay,” and sent their child to school.

It is believed that the accommodating behaviors were reduced due to encouraging parents to validate their child’s emotions, while also creating and maintaining boundaries and consistent support for the child. In a 2013 study about Space, Lebowitz shared this example script:

“We understand it makes you feel really anxious or afraid. We want you to know that this is perfectly natural and everyone feels afraid some of the time. We also want you to know that it is our job as your parents to help you get better at things that are hard for you, and we have decided to do exactly that. We are going to be working on this for a while and we know it will probably take time, but we love you too much not to help you when you need help.”.


I am very much excited to share that I will now be challenging myself to learn more about the SPACE approach, and will begin engaging parents more frequently when treating their child’s anxiety.  Also, for you parents of anxious children out there, I’ve created a short and quick cheat sheet that may also help you in this process:

  1. Listen to what your child is saying, both verbally and with their body language!

  2. Validate your child’s feelings – “I see that you feel _______”.  

  3. Normalize the feelings – “Everyone feels _______ sometimes”.

  4. Support – “We are all working on this together, and I love you”.

Thanks for letting me share this exciting work with you, and as always, be safe, be peaceful and be kind ☺