waypoints

Friday Waypoints- 06/21/19

Being a Father

I spent some time this past week reflecting on fatherhood. I look into the mirror and more often than not, I see my father. It scares me sometimes, but not because I don’t like what I see, but because I didn’t expect to see Jerry Neese in the mirror. My father was a very handsome man. I loved seeing him put on his suit every morning to go to work. The summer after I graduated from High School, I worked with him as I waited to enter the Air Force later that Fall. I loved going to lunch with him and his staff and I was so proud to be his son. I remember the morning he drove me to the airport to travel to San Antonio to enlist. He told me that he was a little envious of me because of the the new journey that I was beginning. It’s a wonderful memory. I do not remember ever have a cross word with him. I never remember a feeling of disappointment from him.

We clinicians describe that as having a strong attachment figure. It didn’t stop at 18 years old. It continued until the day he died at 82. I remember those hugs from a 6’ 4” man. I had to step on my tippy toes to hug my father. We said that we loved each other.

John Bowby wrote, “Throughout the adult life the availability of a responsive attachment figure remains the source of a person’s feeling secure. All of us, from cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figures.”

My life has been a series of long and short excursions from the secure base of my father’s (and of course my mother’s) love and acceptance. And they have been happy excursions!

Thank you Dad for being a loving, gentle and strong father for me and my brothers and sisters.

Electronic Nicotine Organization

I’ve been asked to sit on the advisory panel for Electronic Nicotine Organization. Tom Popescu recently started this organization to address the problem with Teenagers using nicotine vape pens. We will look back on these days and see them as pivotal for preventing this young generation from becoming addicted to nicotine and cigarettes. Support this organization!

Tom Popescu, the President of ENO writes, “Our goals are to: educate youth and adults of the consequences of electronic cigarettes, inform policy makers and help shape the debate, utilize social media influencers to expand awareness, counteract the marketing efforts of vaping and tobacco companies, create a support platform and resources for users who are addicted, and develop a mobile app for on demand counselors for users and research.”

vaping program

Introducing RAVE: Reduce Adolescent Vaping Education

Raising Awareness Around Vaping

Vaping, or the act of inhaling a vaporized liquid from an electronic smoking device, is becoming an epidemic across the country. Teenagers are picking up BLU cigarettes, JUULs, and other vaping devices for a multitude of reasons and ending up addicted to nicotine. Whether teenagers are interested because they see their friends vaping, enjoy the flavors, or think it looks cool, it’s detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

There is a common misperception that vaping is safer than smoking because vaporizers do not contain the hundreds of chemicals found in the tobacco leaves and filters of cigarettes. However, research is showing that this is not the case. The vapor is infused with propylene glycol, flavoring chemicals, and nicotine. A person who vapes, just like a person who smokes cigarettes, becomes dependent on the nicotine within the product.

Some vaporizer liquids do not contain nicotine, but most do. In fact, JUUL is the most popular brand of e-cigarettes and 100% of their “pods” contain nicotine. While it is marketed as a smoking cessation device to help adults kick the smelly habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, the marketing is also targeting teenagers. Until they were reprimanded by the FDA, JUUL had a highly engaging presence on Instagram, a social media platform mainly used by teenagers. And still, to this day, the design and packaging of the JUUL is sleek, “sexy”, and appealing to easily influenced teens.

More worrisome than the design and accessibility of the JUUL, and other vapes, is the discreetness of them. Unlike traditional cigarettes that come in a large pack and carry a lasting odor with them after they’re smoked, vapes are discreet in size and omit no odor. This makes it much harder for parents, teachers, and other adults to recognize when their teenager is vaping.

The RAVE Program

According to research reported in the Wall Street Journal, vaping rates among teenagers jumped 75% in 2018. Alarmed by this increase, Mark Neese, principal therapist at True North Counseling in Louisville, KY, has decided to raise awareness around the dangers associated with this behavior by introducing a special program. RAVE: Reduce Adolescent Vaping Education, is a 4 to 6-week program that combines individual, group, and family therapy with education to ensure that parents are able to act as change agents in the lives of their teenagers. Teens enrolled in RAVE will attend 4 weekly group sessions that are facilitated by two certified clinicians. True North Counseling’s certified clinicians include one behavioral specialist and one social worker who will provide up-to-date information about the dangers of vaping and smoking. Each session will feature a strong Mindfulness component as well.

In addition to the four group sessions, a family session will kick off the program and three individual sessions are also included with the goal of enlisting a commitment from the teen to stop vaping. During this process, parents are given strategies for relapse prevention including the use of Nicotine Test Kits. Nicotine can stay in your system for up to three months depending on the frequency of use. When used randomly by parents and guardians, nicotine testing proves effective in deterring teenagers from continuing to vape. Nicotine Test Kits will be provided to the parents or guardians who participate in the RAVE program, so they can test their teenagers as frequently or infrequently as they’d like.

Tips for Parents & Guardians

If you are a parent, guardian, or adult concerned that a teenager you know may be vaping, the first thing to do is talk to them. Ask them if they feel they are dependent on the device or if they feel agitated when they are not doing it. Discuss the risks of vaping including what’s known and not known about the long-term effects. Make sure that they understand vaping is just as bad for them as cigarettes, but with different effects and different results.

If you’ve already talked to them and still suspect that they are vaping, let True North Counseling in Louisville, Kentucky help. With the new RAVE program available at True North Counseling, parents or guardians can work with their teenager and True North Counseling’s certified clinicians to help teens stop vaping. As a team, everyone will come up with a strategy to quit vaping, prevent relapse, and stay mindful of the dangers associated with vaping and the benefits, both short-term and long-term, of not vaping.

To learn more about the dangers of vaping, read our past blogs on teen vaping and vaping facts. True North Counseling’s first RAVE program begins on July 11, 2019. For program costs and enrollment those interested in learning more can contact Henry L. Buckwalter, CSW, an Associate Clinician at True North Counseling, by calling 502-377-4814 today. 

Friday Waypoints- 6/14/19

What I’m Reading

“Changing Body Composition through Diet and Exercise” by Michael Ormsbee, Ph.D.

I’m actually listening to this book on Audible. I’m on the road a lot and I spend most of this time listening to books. Ormsbee writes, “Improving body composition by losing body fat and optimizing lean is not about vanity –it’s about health.”

This book is not about losing weight. It’s about decreasing the amount of body fat in your body and it’s about insuring that you do not lose muscle mass. I like this approach because I do not want to lose weight. My BMI puts me in the overweight category, but that’s because I work out and exercise regularly. I realized years ago that you begin losing muscle mass as you age and I have worked very hard to maintain and grow muscle. I “preach” to clients, “You need to work at becoming stronger as you age.” Maintaining your lean muscle mass is one way of do this. Ormsbee does a very good job explaining the basics of nutrition and puts the focus on the right things.

What Are You Listening To?

Apple Music is introducing me to new music and helping me stay in touch with my favorites. Just hit the “For You” tab on the app and you get the option of “New Music Mix,” “Favorites Mix,” and “Chill Mix.”

Don’t underestimate the power of music in your life. Recently, I’ve been utilizing the Mindfulness Meditation that encourages you to “Step in the Feeling.” This could include “stepping into the sadness. Most of us DO NOT like listening to “sad” music, but there can be something therapeutic about purposely sitting during a mindfulness session and “stepping into sadness” while listening to sad music.

Of course, listening to “happy and upbeat” music is important too! I’m listening to some past favorites right now and this music is conjuring up many memories associated with that music. Let music by thy medicine.

Families Want to Get Along

One of the reasons I love what I do is the desire that most families have to get along. They want to end the conflict. They come to me hoping that I can help and many times I can.

Raising teenagers is not easy! Teenagers are under a lot of pressure! Neither Parents not teens want to fight and when I see them years later, they scratch their heads and wonder why there was so much conflict.

This week, I witnessed a wonderful family following the “therapeutic map” that I laid out before them. I saw them all working together. And they left with smiles on their face because they saw something work. It keeps my compass pointed toward “True North.”

Things We Don’t Talk About: Child Abuse

Content note: This post contains mention of childhood abuse and trauma. Please exercise discretion if this is something that may be triggering or upsetting.

Following on the heels of the previous post about Things We Don’t Talk About: Miscarriage and Stillbirth, I thought I’d exercise my role as “Namer of the Elephant in the Room” and talk about child abuse—specifically, childhood sexual abuse. From 2009-2013, national Child Protective Services agencies substantiated (or found strong evidence to indicate) that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse. A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17. The majority (9 out of 10) of these assaults happen to girls. Our own Kentuckiana community has seen several serial abusers in the news recently, with perpetrators who gained access to victims through schools, childcare organizations, and scouting community activities. The overwhelming response on all of these cases where children were abused has been “Where was her mother?”

The idea that sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger is simply false. Not only is it untrue, it’s also dangerous, because it shifts the focus from helping children be heard and feel safe to teaching children that there is nothing they can do to keep themselves safe from strangers. The vast majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against children are known adults who were trusted by the child’s parent(s). RAINN estimates that up to 93 percent of victims under the age of 18 know their abuser.

Make no mistake: the responsibility for child sexual abuse rests solely with the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse isn’t a symptom of “bad parents,” or being negligent or not caring about your kid. However, there are things that parents can do to reduce the risk of their child(ren) being sexually abused.

First, know the signs.

Physical signs:

  • Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
  • Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Pain, itching, or burning in genital area

Behavioral signs:

  • Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively
  • Develops phobias
  • Exhibits signs of depressionor post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
  • Has trouble in school, such as absences or drops in grades
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behaviors
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Overly protective and concerned for siblings, or assumes a caretaker role
  • Returns to regressive behaviors, such as thumb sucking
  • Runs away from home or school
  • Self-harms
  • Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact

It’s never too late to have these conversations.

  • Teach your child about boundaries. Let your child know that no one has the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable — this includes hugs from grandparents or even tickling from mom or dad. It is important to let your child know that their body is their own. Just as importantly, remind your child that they do not have the right to touch someone else if that person does not want to be touched.
  • Teach your child how to talk about their bodies. From an early age, teach your child the names of their body parts. Teaching a child these words gives them the ability to come to you when something is wrong. Learn more about talking to children about sexual assault.
  • Be available. Set time aside to spend with your child where they have your undivided attention. Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If they do come to you with questions or concerns, follow through on your word and make the time to talk.
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble. Many perpetrators use secret-keeping or threats as a way of keeping children quiet about abuse. Remind your child frequently that they will not get in trouble for talking to you, no matter what they need to say. When they do come to you, follow through on this promise and avoid punishing them for speaking up.
  • Give them the chance to raise new topics. Sometimes asking direct questions like, “Did you have fun?” and “Was it a good time?” won’t give you the answers you need. Give your child a chance to bring up their own concerns or ideas by asking open-ended questions like “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”