4.17.2018

Female Leadership in the Armed Forces/US Coast Guard

Where are all the US Coast Guard Women Going?
"Retention as a whole is something near and dear to the Coast Guard.
Zukunft told Federal News Radio earlier this year, the way the service is keeping such a larger percentage of its force is through careful policy crafting, attentive leadership and programs that help circumvent the military’s rigid promotion system.
“It really begins with good leadership. Leaders that really do go to bat for their people, knowing your people and not just what do they qualify, what’s their name, but going the extra mile to say, ‘Hey, here’s someone who’s having some struggles in their relationship at home, they’re having some financial difficulty, I think they might have a drinking problem. I’m going to confront them on it.’ But not in a punitive way, in a ‘I care about you [way]’,” Zukunft said. “Our leaders really, truly do look out for their people and not for themselves.”
But Coast Guard isn’t the only one struggling with retention of mid-career women.
“There is concern across all of the branches at mid-career retention for women versus men. All of the services in varying career fields, at varying points but still within that mid-range of a 20 year career, they are experiencing challenges with women leaving at higher rates,” said Janet Wolfenbarger, chairwoman of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services."


4.07.2018


4.02.2018

For The Parents of The Ne'er Do Well Son: Adults That Fail To Thrive

A common theme in many therapy offices these days revolve around the adult son that seems to be adrift. He's often unkind, explosive, jobless, financially strapped, and feared or disliked by his siblings as they repeatedly observe him taking advantage of his parent (s) emotionally or financially.

To remind us, an adult is anyone over 18 years old. Somehow, the lines between adolescent and adult are so blurred that we have become unclear on what the magic number for adulthood is. That in itself is alarming - but many "kids" don't finish college until they are 24 years old, and insurance will allow them as dependents until 25. So, it's easy to see how a parent might want to "give a kid a break" until he gets on his feet. Couple that misdirected sentiment with the high cost of living in many areas - certainly Southern California, where I live - heartstrings are pulled towards excessive parental (usually maternal, but not always) forgiveness and generosity.

Anytime a group of people creates a name for a recognized behavior, the behavior has become a known entity across a wide spectrum, micro vs. macro. Failure to Launch spoke to the young adult living at home, after this new stage of adult (or lack, thereof) became so widely acknowledged. 

In this discussion, the Ne'er Do Well Son, I am talking about a recognized condition even more concerning than the "kid" living in the basement playing video games; it is a reoccurring theme in many families and therapist offices. Family roles are the well-established patterns of each family member - predictable, known, perhaps an on-going source of stress, or even joked about. When a role becomes a known entity, one has to wonder if a new archetype has come into existence. 

The Ne'er Do Son wreaks havoc on a family system.
Here are some examples: 
  • The 29-year old that has his rent paid by a parent because he cannot hold down a job, for a variety of ever-changing reasons.
  • The 42-year old hothead that demands time, attention, and unreasonable understanding from his parent or the family system. The family may suspect that he has a drug or alcohol problem - the parent is the last to know - or a serious mental illness, which is no excuse for immoral or illegal behavior.
  • Walking on eggshells in order to not provoke or upset him. Give him what he needs.
  • On-going financial demands being placed on a parent because son's "money hasn't come through yet" or there is a "mix-up."
  • Making exceptions for him because he was given a diagnosis at some point (e.g., ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD).
  • Helping out son after he phones, perhaps sweetly or sorrowfully, asking for additional resources (a night of lodging, a gas or food card). If the call begins kindly, but becomes hostile or explosive once a "NO" is given, take this as a grave sign of his expert manipulation.
  • Mom or Dad overcompensating for an earlier self-perceived "parent failure" - I wasn't there for him like I was for the others," "He has always needed extra help" or, "He had _________happen and I feel so badly for him." 
  • Going through money in a manner that is mysterious to all around him; "How can he need more, his rent is free and I gave him $2,500 three weeks ago?"
  • Siblings and worried family members will often approach the parent(s), worried for their financial (sometimes devastating a parent's credit rating) or physical well-being. The emotional wear-and-tear take a serious toll over time. 
  • Parent providing more funds for a sober-living or drug treatment stint, despite numerous prior "gifts" towards this goal that ultimately led to non-compliance with recovery suggestions and prior failures. (Parent: Find Alanon)
  • The adult male that takes no responsibility for his station in life, blames others and creates conflict with authority figures (bosses, teachers, landlords), often leading to conflict, unemployment, police involvement, familial cut-offs, and lack of friendships - the overall "doesn't play well with others."
  • Son uses specific comments to strike terror into the hearts of his caring (worried) family: "My roommates party all night. I have to get out of here." "My co-workers are stealing." "My tires are bald." These are known button-pushers and Mom (or Dad) usually swoop in for the rescue.

I encourage parents to avoid spending their energy on figuring out why this is happening: it doesn't really matter and won't help moving forward. Often times, I hear obvious signs of drug use - but sometimes this young man has simply never been held accountable to his own bad behavior. Low-impulse control, narcissism, explosive personality disorder are additional "reasons" behind his aggressive interactions. Often times the family members are fearful that this man will harm them or their property - either the threats are real, or simply implied. 
For a parent, the worst fears are his death - rivaled by the fear of his withdrawal, rejection, disappearance, homelessness, or his general suffering in any way. Yet, a parent who continues to do for a son what he can and should do for himself is reinforcing the idea that "you can't make it without me." How will he survive when you are gone? Our society of man is less forgiving than mom or dad will ever be and every parent wants her son to succeed!

In the primate social structure, a hierarchy exists - the Injured Monkey is the one determined by all to be helpless, weak, and incompetent, therefore, his intelligent social organization picks up the pieces for him and functions to maintain order (It's worth noting that the subordinate primate has higher stress, less food resources, less copulation and higher mortality). But, our human world doesn't work in that same cooperative fashion. In our world, this lackluster man is isolated and without social connections or romantic partners, cut-off from loved ones, and blaming others for his numerous woes. 


I encourage the siblings and loved-ones to be patient, understanding that the over-giving parent is doing what he/she feels is best (often it sounds like, "I have it to give, so why not?"). 

There will usually be a compromise of sorts, and we can facilitate parents in generating their own realistic set of rules and boundaries. If the family pressures mom to cut-off son cold turkey, her behavior goes underground and she will secretly continues contact and feels shame. After years of an entrenched relational dynamic, it's most likely that parent (s) will continue to "support" their adult son, to a some degree.
There are ways to break the cycle of enabling his helpless behavior by working with an experienced therapist. Often the parent/parents have become addicted to worrying about their adult child - it takes tremendous fortitude to change those well-worn patterns. 





3.10.2018





All professions receive their fair share of stereotyping and caricature embellishments. At the top of the "Are they really necessary?" list are therapists. Every blue moon I get a hankering to overturn the popular distaste for my beloved and chosen field, specifically when I think of my many colleagues and peers that handle the most difficult of the difficult situations. Lovingly, kindly, they are simply witnesses to pain and suffering. More often, they expertly facilitate recovery and repair. And, at it's most understated, mental health workers make the world less dangerous.


Who you gonna call when...
Your 14-year-old daughter is cutting herself.
Your 18-year-old receives a DUI in which his best friend and passenger was seriously injured. 
Your adult sister, with bipolar disorder, is wrecking financial and emotional havoc on your elderly parents.
Therapists are gentle midwives to the couple striving for repair post infidelity, or post miscarriage.
We provide play therapy for young, anxious children and for the boy that is losing his young beautiful mother to cancer. And the 23-year-old in college, who can’t seem to manage her time and grades to survive college. 
Good counselors can assist with job burn-out, caregiver fatigue, and be there to happily listen to the wise and cheerful 86-year-old woman in assisted-living who has lost everyone she’s ever loved other than her busy adult children, and who wants to bother them? 
You might find my young co-horts working in VA Centers,  Fire Departments, in elementary schools, rehab facilities, universities, prisons, mental institutions, foster care settings, and corporate wellness; with refugees, torture victims, Service Members stationed abroad, mentally and physically disabled.
I, myself, started in the counseling world at age 17, working in a flea-bag county mental health agency in Westminster, Ca. I loved every minute of it. 
I once heard an artist describing the decision to choose his art, as a vocation; "If you can do something else, you are not an artist." 
My professionals peers are often aged (one is still going strong at 81!) - we feel lucky to have a field that allows us to work late in life.
I suppose we are a lot like the police; it’s easy to dislike us until you need us, except no one in the mental health field considers themselves a hero, applauding those baby steps, small successes - ginning up courage where possible, imploring personal insight and reflection, sharing a different perspective and holding up that mirror.
Where's the love, man?

Read here about the everyday risks associated with House Managers, Social Workers, Psychologists, and Mental Health Counselors. IN LOVING MEMORY OF THOSE KILLED 03/09/18. Jennifer Golick, Jennifer Gonzales along with her unborn baby, and Christine Loeber.

2.25.2018

This month's outstanding piece in National Geographic Magazine.


On-site Shooter Program for Local Schools

Is this what we've come to? Perhaps we will resort to metal detectors in every US school. Can you imagine the time that will take to walk onto campus, the extra costs of manning the entering, the cost to install. Are there no other choices??? Hmmm

Stop Faking Service Dogs

Please, please, please. The backlash has begun - those who really need them will suffer.

 Stealing at the Self-Check Out

1.24.2018

Larry Nassar/A Historic Systemic "Look Away"


My Thoughts and Comments on

Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics Coach:

This will go down as the largest systemic serial predator event in history, to date: bigger than Jerry Sandusky/Penn State event - and that was horrific.
As I have worked with abuse victims for the past 37 years, the trail of damage in this case is made all the worse because of the vile, "look aways" that occurred for decades, also known as the "enablers."
Chronic and repeat patterns of  abuse 
(in this case, 265 young ladies have come forward, which probably puts Dr. Larry Nassar's number of victims closer to 500)  indicate that a number of people and institutions, systems, failed these children. In other words, there was a multi-level system failure to protect, in fact, one could even argue, there was a promoting of sexual abuse and complicity that goes beyond simply putting blinders on and avoiding the obvious.
Whether we work in cubicles, executive environments, on group projects, or punch a clock in a factory, we know the twitchy patterns of our co-workers. 
We know what they eat for lunch, what music they like, their favorite restaurant, and the alcohol they prefer. We can smell it. Our spidey senses are well-aware of miscreant behavior when we are close to it.
For years, Dr. Larry Nassar was fed a human chain of young, healthy, ambitious, athletes (and let's not overlook the 37,000 child porn images and videos found on his computer).
Who, besides Nassar, is culpable here, within the USA Gymnastics  team?
Civil suits will rain down on the agency and changes will
surely be implemented, as three directors have resigned this week, appropriately so. 
The most recent press
states that the US Olympic Committee is asking that the entire US Gymnastics Board quit because of their negligence, lack of oversight, and the house of horrors that Nassar was permitted.
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon (age 71, with an annual salary of $860,00), where Nassar kept his office and "treated" (his deviant grooming language) young patients, has resigned. 
N.C.A.A. has opened an investigation; Nassar was also the athletic doctor for MSU's members of the softball and cross country team.
The USA Gymnastics Team has severed ties with the  world-renowned Karolyi team, and their Texas training site, which additionally housed Nassar and afforded him privacy to carry out years of abuse.
Yes, please!
When an active duty service member takes his life, groups of people sit around a table and ask themselves: 

Where the fuck did we go wrong? We failed this young man!
This psychological autopsy is meant to take stock, inventory, count the bean cans; forensically accounting for all choices, decisions, commitments, priorities, agency resolve.
This is the post-mortem of the United States of America's Olympic hopefuls. We are poorer for this historical event.
Work place ethics, a company conscience that holds leadership and financial profit within a reasonable balance, should be the cautionary tale. 
Many clinicians like myself are often given the opportunity to come into a business and provide a mental health overview. Small mom-and-pop companies can be just as toxic as larger, remote businesses. The two-man flower stand is a work environment and the 100-employee company both have social responsibility to the care and well-being of the "little guy." 
Leadership. Leadership. Leadership.
The smart money is on being pro-active and cleaning house. Intelligent business owners benefit from workplace wellness; protecting themselves prophylactically is the investment; allegation-proof.
Corporate responsibility saves money and protects the longevity of business; just ask the Weinstein Company shareholders what they wish they had done differently.

Dr. Larry Nassar Was Not a Doctor



1.14.2018

Recommended Parenting Classes

Parenting Classes in San Diego 






"I'm sorry for my kid. I want to apologize in advance for his rude behavior.
I'm sorry that he has chosen to wear his dirty pants again. He has clean clothes and we begged him to change. We throw out the bad stuff but still...

I'm sorry that my kid is so rude to you in line. We've repeated "Please" and "Thank you's" since he was born. We are civilized people and highly regard manners.
I'm sorry that he was defiant and contemptful to his terrific teachers this year. We raised him better than that. 
Let me apologize in advance for how he is ignoring your sweet kids. I see the effort they are making; he is disengaged. I encourage him to socialize and make new friends.
Let me say now, I am so sorry for my child's behavior this season. Your players love you and the parents have been great. We just couldn't implement teachability, even with groundings, consequences, and taking the phone away. 
I am sorry that my child didn't take you up on that great offer. I tried to force it but the motivation just wasn't there.
I apologize that my kid has blown such a great opportunity. It hurts my heart. 
I cannot believe that my child would behave this way. I don't understand it. We are good, hard working "normal" people. My other kids are not this way.
I am heart broken. What can I do? This is painful beyond belief."
says every parent at some point

The hardest job in the world...being a parent.









12.20.2017

Not Doing Christmas This Year

I was at a Christmas party last weekend, and enjoyed a terrific conversation with someone I don’t know very well; a lovely older woman. 
She told me that due to a recent difficult family circumstance she has decided "not to do Christmas this year." 
It was painful for her to get to this emotional resignation, the deep acceptance, that she just didn’t have it in her this peppy holiday season to provide food, purchase gifts, socialize, mail Christmas cards, cook, or decorate. 
She said, "I have given myself permission."
 It was such a graceful and self compassionate (she was not boasting in a selfish manner, and I could still hear some longing) but it was mature and wise and intelligent. 

Three points for the holiday that have been made clear to me recently, and you certainly don’t need my permission but, just in case...
1) December 25th is just another 24 hour day. Of course, it may have significant religious or spiritual meaning for you but we still have 364 other days of the year to celebrate our faith. 

2) If you were invited to a gathering, you can simply say "No, thank you for thinking of me." And if you choose to say yes, you don’t need to say,"May I bring something?" I don’t know about you but when I bring food or gifts there is always an over-abundance of food these days. 
Sometimes it’s smarter to show up empty-handed (I learned to say this after I had my second baby: "May I come empty-handed?" Otherwise, I began to dread the social commitment, and would cancel altogether). 

3) And finally, may be the greatest act of celebrating the end of the year is maintaining a small footprint, giving yourself a present, laying in the sun for 20 minutes, ordering a fancy meal to go and taking it to the beach, planting some flowers, writing a silly poem to an old friend, giving the dog a bath and a pretty red bow. 
Honestly, if that’s all you do on December 25th, or December 31st, or January 1st, those are extraordinary, lovely, meaningful, gestures. That's enough.


My youngest son and the crazy man, 2004