Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I cannot forget the first time I learned that someone was intentionally cutting herself.  Two female high school students had asked to talk with me after class.  The friend encouraged “Amy” to tell me what she was doing.  I was dumbfounded.  WHY would you (or anyone) do this?  Amy explained that she was under a lot of stress, didn’t like how she looked, felt misunderstood at home and was generally unhappy.  I would never have guessed she was going through any difficulties by her always cheerful disposition. Unfortunately, cutting has become much more widespread for all age groups but for teens and young adults in particular.  Cutting is only one form of self harm.  Others might burn themselves, punch walls, bang their head against the wall, hit themselves, (and even worse things), all of which, in general, indicate intense emotional turmoil.  Although these actions are not suicide attempts, some individuals who self harm may also attempt suicide.   
Persons who self harm lack coping skills that work in the long term.  Several mental illnesses are also associated with self harm.  One depressed young woman I worked with told me she cut just so that she could “feel something.”  Another had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Other associated diagnoses include, bipolar disorder; major depression; anxiety disorders (esp. obsessive-compulsive disorder); and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Do you suspect that someone is self harming?
You might have noticed some of the following:
·         Wearing long sleeves/pants even in warm weather.  (some persons cut on body parts that are always covered by clothing so this is not always a tell tale sign.)
·         Someone who has frequent bruises or scars and has excuses for their clumsiness. (One mother told me her daughter’s excuse was that she accidentally cut herself while shaving.)
·         Having sharp objects in their possession – for no “real” reason
·         Taking excessive amounts of time alone (in bedroom or bathroom)
·         Bloodied clothing, bedding, tissues, bandages –more than what would be typical
·         Low self esteem
·         Difficulty handling their emotions

No matter what the person might be doing to self-harm, it is important for them to have access to other healthy and long term coping methods.  The relief one feels after self harming is only temporary and will continue unless other coping methods are established. 

What to do instead of self harming
I have found that teens have to WANT to stop self harming and will usually not be able to resist the urge when it happens.  (Sounds like a habit/addiction, doesn’t it?)  You can join them in their attempts to try new behaviors and change their negative self talk.  A very good article with suggestions about how to help someone stop the cycle of self harming can be found here:

An additional guide for parents and carers of individuals who self harm:
There is also an app that you can download to your smart phone.  Search for Calm Harm.

Kathy Thome is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling & Consulting in Neenah, WI.  She has extensive experience working with individuals, couples, and families who want to make changes in their lives.  Kathy believes that you possess the tools necessary to make positive changes in your life, and she offers a comfortable, open, and supportive setting in which to do so. Kathy's experience as a teacher and school counselor also offer a unique perspective when working with adolescents and their families. She is currently accepting new clients. To schedule an appointment with Kathy, please go to www.espritcounseling.com and schedule online today.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Conversations around co-parenting often center around what not to do. Common statements that people often hear are “don’t fight in front of the kids”, “don’t use the kids against one another”, “don’t bad mouth the other parent”, “don’t put your children in the middle of the conflict”. These messages don’t offer help or suggestions for parents on what to do to navigate the difficulties of co-parenting after a divorce. Divorce is difficult on the whole family and can come with feelings of anger, hurt, fear, and resentment. These feelings can make it difficult to co-parent in the beginning when emotions are high, however it’s important to find ways of interacting with your ex that support your kids. Below are some useful ideas on how to maintain positive interactions that benefits the children.
1.      Be there for your children: It is important for both parents to be emotionally present for their kids and engaged in what they have going on in their life.
2.      Talk with the children about the divorce: It is important for children to know they are not being abandoned, by either parent and they are not to blame. Divorce can be a long process so it is important to check in regularly as changes in the family occur. Let them know that you are there to support them.
3.      How you feel about your ex is less important than how you act towards them. Speak and act in a respectful manner towards the other parent especially when the children are present. It is important for the child's well being to shield them from conflict and show respect to the other parent.  Avoid putting the children in the middle and involving them in adult problems, it puts too much pressure and stress on them.
4.      Choose your battles. Major life decisions should be made jointly however parents sometimes have different views in these topics. Divorced parents don't need to agree, but learn how to deal with the differences and compromise. Determine what is most important to address and provide room for the other parent to make some choices to avoid fights on smaller topics. After time heals the hurt that occurs with the divorce some of those topics may be more easily addressed. Each parent has the right to develop their own parenting style, as long as no harm is being done.
5.      Support the other parent in having relationships with your children. Keep a co-parenting schedule, remain flexible whenever possible and cooperate. The kids are the ones who are affected when this is not a priority. Focus on co-parenting responsibilities rather than your relationship with your ex-partner. This can be hard when there is still hurt and anger that exists from the divorce however it is important to deal with these feeling separate from the relationship that the children have with the other parent.
6.      Maintain open communication channels with the other parent. Each party is entitled to their privacy; the only information that needs to be shared between co-parents are things that pertain to the children. If your relationship is not in a place to talk in a healthy manor try sticking to emails or phone calls rather than face to face meetings. In some circumstances, it may be beneficial to have a third-party present to help mediate.
7.      Maintain your children's community support. It is necessary for the children to feel secure especially when major changes are occurring in the family. Part of security involves maintaining routines and existing relationships with extended family, friends, and school activities. Children count on predictability in as many areas as possible; with many changes are going on in the family it is important to have predictability in their other relationships and routines.
8.      Maintain your own health and well being. Focus on what you need during this time and seek help and support when needed. In order to be there for your children, you need to be taking care of your well being through the divorce process and post-divorce.
9.    Seek out informal and formal sources of support.
So, you may be reading this thinking yes, that all sounds great; I can do that, but what about the other parent, they are not following any of those guidelines. It can be very frustrating to deal with a parent that will not cooperate. It can make it difficult for you to make good decisions and not sink to the level of the uncooperative parent even if that is not in the best interest of your child. Usually the parent who is unwilling to cooperate or involves the children in the divorce process has unresolved anger, grief or sadness. Leave the issues of the marriage in the past. Playing out the never-ending conversations does not help the situation, the divorce has happened, and continuing to relive those conversations/problems just increases feelings of frustration and anger. Continue to redirect the focus to topics that relate to the kids.

Overall divorce impacts everyone in the family. It is normal to experience emotions of sadness, resentment, anger, and frustration and it may take time to heal from the relationship ending and the change in family dynamics. At times, it may be beneficial to seek support from friends, family or a professional to start the healing process, focus on your own health and well being and find ways to figure out how to co-parent with an ex-partner maintaining focus on the children’s well being. Co-parenting is an ever evolving process from the time the kids are young until even when they are over 18, keeping the well being of your children as the focus can help with this difficult process. 


Danielle Zarling is a licensed professional counselor. She has specialty training in Functional Family Therapy, which looks at the
conflict and strain that occurs within family relationships and seeks to heal, rebuild and find new ways of interacting with
one another.  In addition to family therapy, Danielle enjoys working with adolescents, adults and couples.  Danielle
specializes in family and relationship issues, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, behavior issues in addition to mood
disorders. She provides client centered therapy and incorporates multiple therapeutic approaches depending on what is
the best fit for the client. She works alongside her clients to identify their strengths and build off of those strengths as they
work to achieve their goals.
Danielle has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology from UW Milwaukee and Master’s Degree of Science Education in Clinical
Mental Health Counseling from the UW Oshkosh. Outside of work Danielle enjoys spending time with friends and family,
traveling and exercising.