NJPA 2021 September E-Newsletter

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NJPA E-NEWSLETTER Official newsletter of The New Jersey Psychological Association

Welcome! Dear Readers, Welcome to the Fall edition of the New Jersey Psychological Association's (NJPA) E-Newsletter! The NJPA E-Newsletter is published on a quarterly basis to provide the public with information about psychology, the practice of psychology, and the importance of mental health in furtherance of our mission: The advancement of psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health and human welfare in an atmosphere that supports the diversity of its members and the society at large. After the ups and downs of the last 18 months, we are delighted to have been able to continue this publication on schedule. Unlike the spring edition, we did not specify a theme this time. You will find a selection of articles on various topics that we hope are of interest to you. If you are in need of a psychologist, please make use of NJPA's referral service for licensed psychologists here. Note: We are always open to new ideas and are already planning future editions of the e-newsletter. If there are specific topics our readers would like to potentially read about, please let us know here. I hope you enjoy the selection of submissions we have put together for you this September. Happy reading and enjoy all that the fall season has to offer!

Nikki Lacherza-Drew, PsyD Editor Editorial Board Members Marta Aizenman, PhD Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD Perry Bell, PsyD Marianne Dunn, PhD Janie Feldman, PsyD Resa Fogel, PhD Alison Johnson, PsyD Kenneth Langlieb Bill MacLaney, PsyD Judith Margolin, PsyD Samuel Menahem, PhD Tracy Menzie, PsyD Amy Mueller, PsyD Harry Pitsikalis, PsyD Deborah Riviere, EdD Teresa Taylor, PhD William Walsh, PhD Leah Watson Michael Zito, PhD


A Roadmap to Healthy Character: The Three Principles of Wise Parenting By, Richard Formica, PhD

Does this sound familiar? No matter what I say, my kids don’t listen to me. No matter what I do, my kids fight most of the day. My child is really lazy about his homework – he just isn’t trying hard enough. Months and months of quarantine have left many of us depleted and exhausted. One lesson almost all parents learned from this enforced family sequester: parenting is extraordinarily challenging and even impossible at times! We want to do the right thing, but often we don’t know what the right thing is!

Relationship character is related to our treatment of other people: empathy, kindness, respect, and the ability to forgive after conflict and hurt. Work character is related to the way we handle work/school demands: perseverance, grit, the ability to delay immediate pleasure, and the positive attitude that effort will slowly but surely lead to success. THE ROADMAP TO HEALTHY CHARACTER IN OUR CHILDREN:

Parents need to be guided by a vision. It is simply not enough to channel whatever parenting you received from your own parents. Nor is it sufficient to mimic what your neighbors are doing. Why let the accidents of your history, the biases of your culture, and the blind spots of your community dictate who your child will become? But what vision should guide you?

1. Accept your child as he/she is. Do NOT impose any preferred image of what you wish your child should be or should become.

Parents should help their children develop a successful identity, not based on material achievement, but on healthy, strong, positive character.


But what is a healthy, strong, positive character? Character is who we are, what we value, what we do, habitually, rain or shine, whether someone is watching or not, whether we are in the mood or not, whether it leads to immediate payoffs or not. We want our children to develop character in the realm of relationships and in the realm of work.

INSTEAD OF: You’re just making excuses about math again. Are you even trying? TRY: Even though you think you stink at math, I think you’re still a wonderful kid with lots of fun ideas.

Character is who we are, what we value, what we do, habitually, rain or shine, whether someone is watching or not


2. Set and consistently enforce the standards, limits, and rules that reflect your core family values. Do NOT impose ad hoc orders and do not shout instructions and directives based on the whims and emotions of the moment. INSTEAD OF: I keep telling you to help with the family cleanup. You aren’t listening at all! TRY: You aren’t listening to the rules we’ve agreed upon, so here is your consequence. 3. Encourage your child to be a self-directing choice-maker who learns, with your help, from their own choices. Do NOT impose your choices and do NOT shame or criticize your child about their poor choices.

INSTEAD OF: You’re doing the same dumb things over and over again. What’s wrong with you? TRY: A lot of kids make that same mistake. Let’s talk together to see what we can learn. Successful implementation of these three principles, applied with empathy and wise judgment, leads to the development of children who have successfully achieved positive, healthy character in both relationships and schoolwork as they prepare for marriage and careers. You will be proud of having helped develop your children into adults of strong and healthy character.


Building School-Community Partnerships to Address Youth Mental Health Challenges of COVID-19

We quickly realized that schools serve as an essential societal function, where children are cared for, fed, and learn vital social and emotional skills, in addition to the 3 Rs.

By Steven J. Myers, PhD

The sudden shift to remote learning due to COVID-19 meant a loss of structure, extracurricular activities, social life, and the celebrations that mark important transitions in the lives of children. The already blurred line between school and home vanished. Remoteworking parents struggled as part-time teachers. Educators placed daily wake-up calls to disengaged students and frequently responded to their needs well past the last bell. Student mental health struggles and resource depletion, already evident in recent years, were completely exposed over the past 18 months. The COVID-19 crisis caused a major disruption in the everyday operation of families and schools, placing a spotlight on systemic inequities and a growing mental health crisis. As we enter into a new school year, we should take note of the valuable lessons of the past year and a half.

We also learned that more needs to be done to meet the needs of our most fragile children, including those whose families are affected by violence, poverty, mental health, and substance abuse challenges. The biggest takeaway, however, is the urgent need to identify key stakeholders and to develop effective partnerships between parents, schools, and community mental health resources. Many parents, having had their own negative experience with public education, maintain a distrust in the system. It is paramount that school professionals approach these parents without judgment, but with a sense of compassion, curiosity, and a desire to help. Parents need to be reassured that school mental health professionals have their family’s best interest in hand. In exchange, we may find a renewed trust that translates to active participation in the development and implementation of intervention plans for their struggling child. Schools must make genuine efforts to ensure that parents are aware of the mental health supports that are available to students, as well as the access points for those services. Most New Jersey schools include the following levels of mental health support:


Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) - a multidisciplinary team that assists in the identification of struggling students and will develop intervention plans and/or facilitate referrals for further assessment if a disability is suspected. Child Study Team (CST) - The CST provides evaluation, therapies, and educational programming for disabled students, including those with mental health challenges. Counseling/Guidance Services- School counselors provide counseling, career, and post-secondary guidance. Student Assistance Program - SAC’s typically provide counseling, substance abuse prevention programming, and community mental health referrals. A significant barrier to effective partnerships are the antiquated disciplinary practices maintained in public education. These practices compromise trust between students, parents, and school professionals, and disproportionately affect non-white students, as well as, those with disabilities and mental health challenges. Now is the time for school districts to closely evaluate existing disciplinary policies, and invest in traumainformed models that focus on restorative justice. Prevention and early intervention should include the adoption of social-emotional learning curricula, providing direct instruction on skills including: Self-awareness Self-management Responsible decision making Social awareness, and Relationship skills

Schools serve a vital role in our children’s healthy social-emotional development and education, but schools alone cannot fulfill this mission. It is essential that schools partner with local community-based outpatient providers, inpatient, and partial hospital programs, as well as county services to provide a web of support for fragile youth. When parents, schools, and community partners find common ground to stand on, we can begin to address the challenges our youth face today.


Coping with Pandemic Anxiety For most people building resiliency involves also resetting the body’s internal alarm system.

By: Tamara Shulman, PhD, FAACP, ABPP

After over a year of dealing with the dangers associated with the pandemic, it is hard to shift to a somewhat “new normal.” The “uh oh” feeling is our body warning us to be careful: something “feels wrong.” Usually a reliable warning system, this feeling can become an obstacle for many trying to return to old routines. Whether getting back to an office, attending social events, going out to eat, or just being around other people, many have become fearful and physically uncomfortable. It may be a reaction, occurring even if everyone is vaccinated, and all feel healthy. We learn through our senses what is safe. Seeing the devastating effects of COVID-19 daily was a steady reminder of danger. Many people became afraid of being at work, in groups, or commuting. Fear was a normal reaction. Behaviors that kept us safe are now hard to change even if we are fully vaccinated. If you followed the guidelines, worked from home or took precautions to stay safe, you created your own “new normal” that will now be changing as you and your communities adapt to many changes.

Experiencing anxiety is not unusual for people who were working from home. They are now grappling with new rules for reopening workplaces and commuting. Distancing, masks, plastic shields, staggered schedules and news about variants makes it clear none of us are returning to the “old normal” any time soon. We have all been changed over the past year and a half. The new “normal” is different from the pre2020 normal and from the “normal” of the past 20 months. Psychology offers a wide range of strategies to build and enhance resilience. Understanding how you coped and what was useful in getting through past challenges can help you navigate the ongoing changes. During the pandemic, we each lost feelings of personal safety. Insight helps. For most people, building resiliency involves also resetting the body’s internal alarm system. Easier said than done, but working gradually can desensitize us and lessen anxiety. It is important to have strategies to deal with anxiety and cope well with stressful situations. There are many breathing techniques that you can practice to see what works best for you. Deep focused breathing calms the autonomic nervous system which regulates heart rate and other physiological processes. Slower breathing, longer exhales, and counting breaths are among the ways breathing can send our brain a message to relax.


Imagery can also help. Imagine a calm place. Choose anyplace you like, even your own backyard or favorite chair, and use all your senses. How does it look, sound, feel on your skin, smell? Using all your senses makes the calming image more intense, allowing you to physically recall the experience of being someplace relaxing. Practice using imagery at home will also help you use it more easily in a stressful situation. Venturing out involves many steps. Start with a small step. Perhaps heading to the bus stop or train station could be a good start if you are fully vaccinated. See how you feel, use breathing and imagery if you notice anxiety or uneasiness starting. Stay with your feelings and coping strategies for a few minutes. Try this for longer

and longer periods of time. When that feels less stressful, plan a short ride on the bus or train. Try a walk around the downtown area where you work. Let your mind and body reacclimate to being there at an uncrowded hour when you can take your time. The key is to gradually expand your comfort zone. Break this into small steps. Practice relaxing until each step is easier. A gradual transition should help your body and mind adjust to the “new normal” of venturing out.


Pathway to Peace By: Susan Skolnick, PhD

Hatred and anger are self-destructive emotions that hurt the person who holds steadfast to either or both. Hatred and anger eat away at a person and harm the person’s mental and physical well-being. As Siddhartha Buddha said, holding fast to anger or hatred is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. The holder of the hot coal is the one who gets burned. The person or group toward whom the individual directs his anger or hate or both may be unaware of the negative emotions directed toward him or her. The anger or hate may seethe, foment, and metastasize inside the person, and the target or targets of these negative emotions could have no idea of the negativity directed toward them. The poison of anger and hatred destroys the person who holds fast to it as something to be cherished and valued as a lodestar. There is no peace for anyone who values hatred, anger, and intolerance. Peace comes to one from acceptance of the other, tolerance of human frailty, and love. Peace comes from humility and compassion. Anger and hatred preclude the possibility of peace. They are akin to a boiling caldron of antipathy and animosity that can boil over at any time. Anger and hatred are judgmental, arrogant, and demeaning, and do not permit the person who holds tight to these negative emotions to feel empathy or understanding for the feelings or beliefs of the target of the hate or anger. There is no peace without tolerance, without acceptance of the humanity of all others.

Peace comes to one from acceptance of the other, tolerance of human frailty, and love. People who feel worthless, inadequate, and lack self-confidence sometimes adopt anger and hatred of others to boost their own selfconfidence and sense of self. They tell themselves they are better than the other and project all evil and negativity onto the other. They themselves are all good and the target is all bad. This prevents a person from growing as an individual and instead allows the person to blame all his or her issues and problems on the target of the hate or anger. This false story or narrative is unstable and fragile because it does not have a sound foundation of truth, honesty, and fact. Peace comes from doing the right thing. Peace does not come from anger and hatred. There is a well-known Native American parable that is relevant to this topic. A grandfather is talking to his young grandson. He tells the boy that inside him are two wolves struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love, and kindness. The other is the wolf of fear, anger, and hatred. The boy asks which wolf will win. His grandfather replies, whichever one you feed. Each of us needs to feed the wolf of peace, love, and kindness and starve the wolf of fear, anger, and hatred. That is the only pathway to peace.


The ABCs of Back to School By: Anthony Ferrer, MA, Doctoral Student

The kids are going back to school and for children starting school for the first time, or for experienced learners, a new school year comes packed with adjustments. With special considerations for the unique in-person or virtual styles they may be learning in, the ABCS can help you and your learners get ready to go back to school. Approach and Action! Where are we going and what are we doing? Not having an idea of what is going to happen can lead to discomfort or possibly anxiety. A Plan of Approach, or a general idea of how the year will go, can be a helpful tool. By developing a Plan of Approach, we can help our learners be ready to take action this school year. The weeks leading up to the start of school, and into the first week, start having conversations about the upcoming year. Remember to gauge their views and ask open-ended questions like: “What are you excited to learn about this year?” These types of open-ended questions will allow your learner the chance to express their own ideas, beliefs, and potentially worries about the year. Now you’ll be able to get a sense of what they are excited for, and help them work through any fears or concerns they might have. Boundaries Whether school is happening virtually or transitioning back to in-person, setting a routine that is complete with boundaries will be key this year. We can start creating a routine before the school year even starts! Develop a routine that takes school, work, chores, after school activities, and family meals into account. While it is admittingly challenging, creating a consistent routine can be a beneficial method to help your children adjust to school.


Remember to consult with your children in developing this routine. An essential part of this routine process is the development of boundaries. Help your children create boundaries that are beneficial to their education, their mental health, and physical health. When creating a routine, encourage them to set boundaries with electronics, as well as their homework. Spending excessive time on completing homework assignments can be overwhelming and stressful. Clear Communication Allowing for clear and open communication early on in the year can be impactful throughout each marking period. Creating a safe space for your children to communicate with you is vital as we return back to school. Remember when talking with your children about school, adapting Mindful Communication techniques can help your children feel heard. When talking to your children make sure to be: 1. Present- Put away distractions and offer your full attention.

2. Non-judgmental- What they are sharing may be challenging to hear, but remaining supportive when they share something challenging encourages them to share when things get tough. 3. Intentional- Try Active Listening by making eye contact (if they are comfortable with it) and occasionally summarizing what they have told you. By using these, your children will feel heard and will continue to communicate with you. Set Time for Fun! Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Remember to have fun! You can use A, B, and C to have fun too! Create a Plan of Approach to do something fun! Use Clear Communication to think of fun activities for the whole family to do together. You can set Boundaries and create a routine to plan a time that works for everyone. Creating a healthy balance of work and fun with the family is a healthy mindset to establish early. So when they go back to school remember to keep bringing the fun!


When to ADHD Test 3. the parent/child was referred for testing but there was no follow up. This last category is usually rooted in parental fears of “over-medicating” their child, a common reason young adults seek out an ADHD diagnosis. They show up at their primary care physician with the expectation that they will receive ADHD medication and the physician refuses because a diagnosis was never given as a child. By, William MacLaney, PsyD

There has been an uptick in awareness and testing of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with young adults seeing looking to be tested. Social media is partially the source for fueling these concerns around this disorder. A number of “influencers” on social media are demonstrating what it is like to live with ADHD. The videos usually portray a person who gets distracted, going from one task to another, never quite completing what they originally set out to do. Before one begins diagnosing oneself off of what is seen on TikTok, it is a good idea to learn what it takes to be diagnosed with ADHD. The fact that ADHD is a neurological disorder means that the condition does not just “go away” once one becomes an adult. It is possible to become better at dealing with the symptoms as one ages. However, there are a number of people who slipped through the cracks and never were diagnosed. In the majority of cases, ADHD is screened for early in life, usually in school. In some cases, a person slips through the system. This usually happens for several reasons: 1. the child’s parents offered considerable support and help managed the disorder with effective behavioral tactics. 2. the symptoms were mild and/or the child was not in a demanding school setting.

As more college-aged adults are becoming familiar with the symptoms of ADHD and the effects of proper treatment, there has been an increase in those seeking ADHD testing. But how to proceed? A number of providers can diagnose ADHD, such as physicians, psychiatrists, and other mental health practitioners; however, psychologists tend to be the providers that do thorough assessments to rule-out other potential disorders.


Things to consider to rule-out before giving someone a diagnosis are other neurological/developmental disorders; mood/behavioral disorders, such as depression and/or anxiety; psychosocial/environmental factors. To put it into perspective, people are sitting in front of probably the most addictive device in the whole world. They have to watch all their stuff online. It's really easy to get distracted, bored, and restless. In addition, they are not sleeping well. They are stressed. They are depressed. They have lots of other people around them that are distracting. Sifting through all these potential reasons for poor performance can take considerable effort. A good and thorough ADHD assessment will include cognitive, personality, and performance testing. But

more importantly, it will be an exhaustive look into one’s academic, social and emotional past. It is important to remember that in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, one has to have significant impairment in academic settings, as well as some form of impairment as a child. Simply having a “bad semester” in college when one has done consistently well throughout school does not warrant an ADHD diagnosis. To prepare for your ADHD assessment as an adult, it is important that the clinician has access to old report cards and transcripts, test scores such as ACT or SAT, and access to one’s caregivers. Making an ADHD diagnosis requires the clinician to be a bit of a detective because one of the criteria for the disorder is that it has to be present one’s whole life in some shape or form.


Mindfulness. It’s More Than Being Relaxed There are two basic mindfulness exercises: Breath Awareness that involves focusing attention on the sensations of breathing and the Body Scan that involves focusing attention on sensations in the body.

By, Lynn R. Mollick, PhD

Mindfulness means maintaining attention on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations you presently experience without judging them. Explained very simply, mindfulness means being “right here right now.” When you are mindful, you don’t dwell on the past, worry about the future, or mercilessly criticize yourself or anyone else. And as a result, you struggle less and more fully experience life just as it is. There are two ways to practice mindfulness that are especially important: “in-themoment” mindfulness and formal mindfulness practice. “In-the-moment” mindfulness means being aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations throughout the day. You can walk mindfully, wash dishes mindfully, or eat mindfully. Simply paying attention to ordinary activities instead of being on automatic pilot, immersed in thoughts and feelings, can make a qualitative improvement in your daily of life. Mindfulness practice means taking out a short period of time to do mental exercises that encourage nonjudgmental, present-focused awareness throughout the day.

The instructions for Breath Awareness and the Body Scan are straightforward, but the practice sometimes presents difficulties, particularly during early attempts. If you experience a jumpy mind or less than comforting thoughts and feelings, try to accept your experiences instead of concluding “I’m no good at this” and giving up. If you continue to have difficulties, consult a mindfulness coach or mental health professional who is experienced with the technique. Mindfulness practice and “in-the-moment” mindfulness are often relaxing because they help you focus on something other than your worries, grievances, and regrets. Being focused on sounds, sensations, thoughts, and feelings help you tune in to aspects of what’s going on around you that you might not have noticed otherwise. Observing more helps you slow down and choose an effective course of action instead of automatically reacting over and over to your assumptions about the way things are. Mental health professionals recommend mindfulness for many problems. If you seek out a therapist who uses mindfulness in their practice, they will design a mindfulness regimen that fits your lifestyle and brings you closer to a mindful and rewarding life.


Free Yourself From Being Overwhelmed By, Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

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