Monday, December 24, 2007

Our Favorite Things

As we watch the year end, all of us at Fletcher & Associates and Smart Zone Solutions have a lot to be thankful for. We look forward to 2008 with a lot of new offerings from both companies. We are moving our offices into a larger space and we are excited about our growth. We also like that our address and suite number will stay the same because it is right across the hall in the same building.

Many of our blog posts this past year have been designed to bring you value to help you stay in your Smart Zone™ and be a top performer at work and at home. As we close the year, we want to do something different. We want to give you a few of our favorite things.

Here's mine: A former patient of mine sent me an email that contained a link to one of the best video pieces I have seen this year. You will want to forward this newsletter to people just because of this video. This is my contribution to one of my favorite things (thanks to Laura). Click here to watch it.

Dee Liddle, our receptionist, is finishing her last semester for her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology at the University of North Texas. As a college student, she had some great ideas for the holidays for anyone on a budget. Click here to see Dee's ideas.

Patti Allard, LPC defends her dissertation this month and will immediately transform into Dr. Allard. We are very proud of her and thank her for her contribution: How To Deal With Anger.

Charmaine Solomon, LPC and Registered Play Therapist is excited to be gaining 4 more feet in her play room in the new office. Charmaine is pleased to give you a valuable list that will help you build Emotional Intelligence in your children.

Zan Jones, the wizard behind the curtain, responds to all requests for speaking, training, and consulting. Zan contributes her ideas on Hope for the Future.

Then finally, Sharon Beck, who keeps our office running smoothly, insisted on stepping out and giving you a peek into our lives. She brings you a list of secrets about the people who work at Fletcher & Associates and Smart Zone™ Solutions.

As we begin 2008, I am releasing my second book, Working in the Smart Zone. We unveiled the cover at the beginning of my appearance on FOX 4 Good Day last week. Click here to watch the segment.

Happy Holidays from all of us, and we look forward to bringing you continued value in 2008!

Susan, Sharon, Zan, Patti, Charmaine, and Dee

Friday, November 2, 2007

Marriage Can Make Your Kids Grumpy

Last month we highlighted how marriage can make you grumpy (click here to read the article). This month we are focusing on how children are affected by marital tension. No matter what age, children are impacted by the climate that is created when parents experience marital tension.

It's important to recognize what you can do to ease the pain and, more importantly, help your children learn to cope. It's even possible that your kids can learn some life lessons and be better for it. It's up to you.

In Part 1 we reviewed how physical ailments can be the result of marital discord. If your own physical and mental discomfort isn't bad enough, it is also important to recognize what marital stress does to your children. Charmaine Solomon, LPC sees children and adults in our practice. She often sees the effects of marital problems both from a couple's point of view and from a child's view. When there is marital tension, the effects can be seen with children in the following ways:

  • Poor academic progress
  • Difficulty with peer relationships
  • Becoming isolated in the family
  • Anger outbursts
  • Behavior problems in school that force parents to come together
  • Increased risk for substance and alcohol abuse
Charmaine points out that, through the stress on the family, sometimes a child becomes the identified patient through their behaviors such as acting out at home and school. Their behaviors may then distract the parents from dealing with their marital issues as they attempt to solve the child's problems. What we see frequently in our clinical practice is that in reality the child's behavior is a symptom of the problems in the parents' relationship and not related to issues about the child who originally was brought for therapy.

We know that children who experience and witness parental tension and conflict can, in response, suffer from anxiety and stress. Children do not have the maturity or the internal mechanisms to cope with the type of tension and stress they may see from their parents. A child whose parents fight frequently may struggle to communicate their feelings verbally, and as a result they may develop acting out behaviors at home and at school. When parental issues are addressed and resolved, the tension will more than likely decrease and the child's misbehaviors have a tendency to stop.

Here are some Smart Moves that keep children in mind when there is marital tension:
  • Don't use your kids to manage your marital stress. Kids become clingy when parents are grumpy toward each other; this is definitely a sign that they are feeling the tension and the anxiety.

  • It's okay to show conflict in front of your kids but also let them see how you are able to maintain a level of satisfaction in your marriage despite your differences. As family therapists, it makes us very nervous when a couple says, "My parents never fought in front of us." That helps explain why some couples are somewhat intolerant of their own marital conflict. They never learned how to have conflict and still maintain a healthy relationship. It's important to role model for children that you can still care about someone even when there is conflict present.

  • Keep the details private rather than secret. You "parentify" kids when you pollute them with details of your marital discourse. They shouldn't know the details that are private. It is okay to say, "I'm mad with your dad right now and that is okay. I know I will get over it." That is important role modeling. Don't try to fake that everything is okay because that tends to make kids nervous. Kids know when something is up and benefit from the reassurance that it is only temporary. That helps them learn to deal with their own anger. They learn that anger doesn't have to be terminal.

We all want to raise healthy, well adjusted children. Think about it; we are raising the parents of our future grandchildren. This can be a scary thought or it can be an opportunity. In a marriage it is important to do what you can to do it right. Our kids are counting on us to teach them the important skills of conflict and problem solving. It's important to not get caught up in only seeing how marital conflict affects you. Pay attention to how it is affecting your children and work hard to ensure that your marriage is not the reason they are feeling grumpy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Marriage Can Make You Grumpy

I often say that marriage doesn't bring out the best in us. It brings out the worst in us. We say things to our spouses that we would never say to someone we were mad at in a work environment. We tend to remove our filters with people we are close to. Having hostility and tension in a marital relationship can make you grumpy and create an environment that is less than healthy for all involved. How you manage yourself in a marriage is up to you. So instead of reaching for the Tums, take the initiative and learn how to improve the situation.

Marital stress can cause any of the following:

  • Stomach upsets
  • Severe headaches
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Overeating and/or under eating
  • Back aches
  • Teeth clenching
  • Poor relationships with others

One of our therapists, Patti Allard, LMFT, LPC, is also a Registered Nurse. She believes that physical ailments can be warning signs that you need to work on your marital coping skills. According to Patti, "People usually have physical signs of stress that they often ignore. They think it is something they ate, or too much caffeine before going to bed. It's easier to think that the physical ailments are not related to marital stress." Of course it's important to have a physical exam conducted by your family physician to rule out other physical reasons for these symptoms as you work to eliminate them. Once physical reasons for the symptoms are ruled out, recognizing that marital stress is causing the problem means you have to deal with it.

Patti offers the following suggestions for couples who need to deal with marital tension:

  1. Learn to self soothe when tension is present. Many people think it is the other spouse's responsibility to make them feel better. In fact, it is important to be able to calm yourself down rather than needing your spouse to "do something" to make you feel better. Make yourself feel better and have a conversation with yourself to keep your cool.

  2. Focus on "repair attempts" rather than "resolving issues." Some issues are not resolvable. Let's face it. But agreeing to disagree just may not cut it. Work to "maintain a level of satisfaction despite your difference" to build a better marriage. Don't sacrifice your relationship in the name of being right or getting the last word. Click here to see my frequently requested handout on this subject.
  3. Maintain healthy behaviors even when life is stressful. Try and get at least 30 minutes of sustained exercise a day and eat healthy foods. Treating your body well will go a long way in helping you manage the stress of marital difficulties. Consider exercise and healthy foods a prescription for feeling better.

It's important to take responsibility for creating a tense environment when marriage makes you grumpy. We all have the opportunity to decrease tension by building an environment that reinforces optimism and happiness. While many couples can do this on their own, some may have difficulty without the help of a professional. Typically, people wait an average of 6 years after their marriage gets tough before they seek help. Confront the problems sooner and become an active participant in helping your marriage bring out the best in you.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Do Ask and Do Tell by Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Life gets busy for each of us. Time goes by. Then we get some kind of news that stops us in our tracks and reminds us how precious life is.

Two weeks ago I got some very sad news from my friend Don from high school. Don emailed me to tell me that our high school friend, Eric (pictured left), had been found dead in New York the day before.

Don began his email like this: "I don't know if you have seen this yet. Not sure there is a good way to tell you. I stumbled across this while surfing the web this morning."

Eric Wishnie was an Emmy award winning television news producer. Click here to see NBC Nightly News coverage. Very accomplished, very charming, and unforgettable. He was in the group Don and I hung around with in high school. We talked infrequently in the past 25 years and reconnected about two years ago and communicated by email. He talked to me about his marriage, his dog, what he loved about his job, and how he kept in touch with few people from home. I teased him for being designated as a distinguished alumni from the University of Florida. He sent me the article with his picture. The same picture I saw as I read about his death.

I hadn't heard from Eric in the last 6 months. I didn't know the trouble he was in. I didn't ask and he didn't tell.

For this month's eNewsletter, we had an article prepared about depression. Somehow, after learning more about Eric's death, the article wasn't enough to do the job of educating people about what to look for in people they care about. Instead, read an article about my friend Eric (click here) and look for the signs in people you care about. Do ask and do tell.

For more information about depression, please read the original article entitled "Depression is Treatable" that was planned for this month. You can also learn more about substance abuse and depression through

And Don, thanks for sending me the email.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Depression is Treatable by Patti Allard, LPC, LMFT

Everyone feels “down in the dumps” or “blue” sometimes. Feeling sad is a normal part of life. But when sadness interferes with everyday functioning, we are talking about a more serious and fairly common problem of depression. Depression impacts normal life functioning for a person and their family and serious depression can destroy many relationships at work, in a marriage, and with family and friends. It is estimated that 9.5% or 20.9 million American adults suffer from depressive illness. People are often afraid to admit that they have a serious problem but much of the suffering associated with depression is unnecessary.

Do these symptoms sound familiar?

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.

If any of these behaviors are occurring in your life, then you may be dealing with depression. However, there is good news! The symptoms of depression are treatable and can be managed through expert therapy and medications. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that depression is treatable and go without help for too long. Undiagnosed depression can be life altering and life threatening. Finding a therapist who is able to treat depression and help a person get out of the “fog” that being depressed can create is an important step to getting the assistance needed and could save a life.

Depression impacts mind, body and spirit. It affects eating, sleeping and feelings of self worth. Remember, depression is not a sign of weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot simply "snap out of it" and get better. A depressed person needs support, gentle guidance and a listening ear. Friends and family members can help a depressed person by helping them get into treatment and find a therapist who will work in collaboration with the person dealing with depression, their family as well as a physician to create a helpful and workable plan.

Nowadays, depression and its effects on an individual’s well-being is clearly understood. However, the creation of a partnership with a therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced with this illness is essential to achieve the best outcome.