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About Breastfeeding… or not

I recently read a Facebook post about breastfeeding and it prompted me to write this:

When I take a child’s developmental history from the parent, I ask about feeding.

If bottle fed, I am curious about the mother’s experience with the attitudes towards her for her decision.

Some mothers have no issues to report and some provide stories of being shamed for bottle feeding over breastfeeding. This in turn appears to at times undermine their confidence to parent which can in turn impact the child. Some of these mothers report feeling anxious or less of a valid parent as a result.

As we talk about he benefit of breast-feeding, which is clear, I can only hope though that people appreciate that for whatever reason, not all mothers can or chose to do so.

We must be aware of the social context and impact on the mother and child for how or if their decision to bottle feed is addressed by others. Shame and blame does not facilitate parenting. Support and understanding does.

One’s response may be more detrimental than the perceived outcome of her decision.

Respect, educate and inform. Don’t judge.

You may never know how her decision was formed.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Employee Assistance Program: Is free counseling worth the price?

Many people rely upon their Employee Assistance Program to offer support and counseling when in need. However, while their EAP assigned counselor may appreciate aspects of the role, a recent study by the Ontario Association of Social Workers demonstrates some concerning issues and limitations:

1. “There was no training or preparation received… I was assumed to be ready and competent to take various types of referrals. In contracting with specific EAP companies, the primary “preparation” was reviewing and signing the service agreement! One company did offer monthly one-hour professional development that is accessed by teleconference; these are voluntary and were not necessarily orientation to EAP counselling.”

2. “I have never met the supervisors or case managers of Company A, B or C (who I work for). This feels depersonalized. The limits of 4 sessions (Company C) with option to request more makes for extra work on my part (begging for more time for clients). The 4-session limit is awful when it comes to a marriage breaking down and the couple are just going to “give it this one shot” before separating. The pay should be more, for the skill required to provide excellent service, especially as the EAP does not pay for my supervision, yet I need in-person supervision at times for their cases.”

3. “My frustration was that the dollar was held higher than the client. I’m also business-educated and know that this is a business and as such, the profit margin will win every time. This is why I’ve gone from working with 7 different EAPs to one (no exceptions). I just wish that there would be a better balance between the customer and the money.”

4. “I am told by one company, in particular, that I shouldn’t tell clients how many sessions they have but that we are simply in the business of offering short-term counselling, and there is pressure to keep the total of sessions at 4 hours or less even if they do have access to more…”

5. “[The client had] very complex medical problems. I was told to do solution-focused therapy, i.e. miracle questions. The supervisor did not understand the difficulties the client was having — social, emotional, psychological, financial, and I was told to do basic solution-focused therapy.”

I am frequently seeing those persons who have been burned by and have burned through their Employee Assistance Program counseling service.

This is not a reflection on the counselor, but certainly a reflection on the context in which service is provided.

While free to the employee, the employee still must ask if the service has value. The employee should also ask about the experience, training and approach of the counselor assigned and determine if there is a match with the issues to be addressed. Free may not be worth the price.

You can read the complete report here.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Thinking of Counseling? Approach and Experience Matters.

Every counselor has their own unique style, but virtually every counselor works within the confines of the standard 50-minute session. I don’t.

I wouldn’t want my surgeon kicking me off the table saying we’ll take the scalpel out next week and I don’t want my clients to feel that our meeting ends just as we get into an issue, so I always set aside 3 hours for my meetings. This means we usually end where it makes sense rather than arbitrarily for running out of time. I bill for actual time used. If we are only 20 minutes, that’s what I bill for. If we need more time, we have it and I bill accordingly.

The benefit is in the immediacy of help and not feeling like we have to use a third of the next session to remind of what transpired the week before as we continue week-after-week. The folks I see like this. Many have had the experience of feeling like they have ended sessions too soon – before getting anywhere. They appreciate the ability to end where it makes sense having gotten something from the meeting.

Rarely then do I see people week-to-week. Because we can unpack so much in a single meeting and that I do provide feedback and guidance, clients may not return until several weeks after, if they do. Very often because of this approach, a single session is sufficient to address their needs.

My approach to counseling also means that I rarely have a wait-list (actually never). I typically can see people within a week or two, assuming some flexibility of schedule.

If you or a family member or friend is grappling with an issue, please check out my services and then give me a call. You will see that I explain all services provided and include information about fees so you can determine cost. While counseling is not a guarantee that problems will be solved, it is a sophisticated approach that is genuinely helpful to a good many people.With 33 years of service, you can bet I have heard a story or two and have a depth of experience to bring to your situation.

“Gary actually asks questions, lot’s of questions, more than any other therapist I saw before and then he gives you feedback on what he learns about you. In one session, I learned more with him than in years of therapy with anyone else.”

BTW – Not only do I have two locations (Dundas and Georgina Ontario) I am available by SKYPE.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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If You Only Knew: Today’s Educational Assistant and Your Student

Today I met with two groups of Educational Assistants (EAs) wherein we addressed the same issue with both groups. There were about 80 people in the morning session and about 90 people in the afternoon session. Both sessions were about 2 hour’s duration. These EA’s work with high school students.

As per my approach to providing workshops, rather than waiting to the end for questions, I begin my workshop by asking what the attendees were grappling with and what they hoped I would address. After surveying their learning needs, I then provide information to address the identified issues.

I didn’t know I would be opening up a hornets’ nest today.

I was quickly and passionately informed as to the challenges the EA faces as the toe-to-toe support persons to students whose today’s difficulties often include violence, apathy, depression, anxiety and suicidal thought.

Gone are the days when the EA was more simply there to help the challenged learner with educational strategies to meet academic expectation. These folks are the front line to those students who might otherwise not even be granted admission to the educational facility if not for considerable attention.

In addition to the educational challenges posed by such difficult issues, the EAs also expressed dismay and upset for the context in which they provide service:

Limited to no prior background information about the assigned students;

Some students receiving EA services have considerable background issues and diagnosis where access to that information can facilitate the role of the EA. EAs are regularly told they cannot have access to that information leaving many feeling they are flying blind or trying to be supportive with one hand tied behind their back. While there are many reasons as to how or why this occurs, it may indeed be shortsighted from a student support perspective. It may also place the EA at risk of harm when a student with a propensity to violence is unidentified. In addition to being an educational issue, it may also be a health and safety issue.

Limited to no collaborative work with fellow EAs or other teaching staff assigned to the same students, but working in other classrooms;

EAs in the high school setting may work with several different students throughout the course of the day as the students rotate through their various classes. This also means that the same student, who is assigned the services of an EA, may be subject to the service of 4 or 5 different EAs throughout the day. If the EAs and teaching staff or special education staff do not conference together and form a unified educational plan and behavioural approach, then the likelihood of success may be diminished. EAs expressed a desire for greater collaboration to enable better coordinated educational and behavioural plans where all their input can be utilized to the benefit of the student.

Students who have extra funding for added support where the funding is being stretched to provide support to other students;

Several EAs reported that some students present with greater needs than others. In those situations additional funding may be directed specifically towards a single student. However, given other funding constraints, the funding directed to the single individual is at times used to support the needs of other students. This undermines the intent of funding the student who was requiring of this additional support.

Report writing or administrative duties without the infrastructure to carry out those duties;

Not uncommon in today’s world of increased accountability, reporting obligations have increased in many institutional setting. EAs report that while reporting obligations have increased, the time to meet those obligations has remained the same. This creates a conflict of time impossible for the EA to resolve. This creates an added layer of stress and anxiety as the EA seeks to be accountable and of service to students.

Given the above issues, EAs also reported feeling undervalued in their role and having no power to address those issues for fear of retribution by persons in administration. Many hold the view that they are treated as the poor cousin in the education system and can be overworked and their issues overlooked.

Please note, in reporting the above, I am reiterating information as presented and do not purport the issues identified to be as reported. Notwithstanding, there was clearly a consensus between two independent groups of EAs and across the approximately 170 in attendance overall.

What also seemed apparent was that many EAs were distressed given their desire to work comes from a place of loving the students and seeking to be as helpful as possible. If/when feeling thwarted in their duty, they feel not just undervalued but concerned that they are not meeting the needs of their students to the best degree possible. These scenarios are known to lead to poor job satisfaction, worker burnout and absenteeism. These are not trifling concerns.

I offered the EAs strategies to be heard and where their sense of value comes from their own action over the desired recognition and support of others. To that end I suggested:

  1. Opening more channels of communication to those in administration;
  2. Requesting administrative meetings;
  3. Requesting to attend meetings where a student’s educational plan is discussed;
  4. Advancing the profile of the profession by working with the mainstream media to inform others about their role and interests in the education system;
  5. Utilizing social media to go directly to the public through their own existing pipelines with stories and information about their roles, trials and tribulations;
  6. If/when informing the public or administration, to offer not only concerns, but to add to the dialogue by proposing solutions.

I don’t know if the public truly does understand or appreciate the role of the EA in today’s school. These are not glorified babysitters, there to pacify the child to simply get them through the day. Nor are the EAs the in-house security system to guard the would-be violent student and maintain the safety of other students.

The EA is the system the educational system has put in place to enable the challenged students’ participation in education, to facilitate learning, to in turn facilitate later autonomy, independence and social functioning. In fulfilling their role, the EA regularly is at risk of violent behaviour, is frequently attacked, spit upon, harassed and disrespected. That forms their day-to-day experience, all invisible to the general public.

This is an issue for all parents, not only those whose children receive the service of the EA. If all parents want a safe environment conducive for learning, then investment in the EA is a place to start. Investment is more than financial. It includes having institutional structures in place to facilitate the role. When we listen to those who have the job, it becomes easier to figure out what they need to do the job.

Today I listened and they were greatly appreciative.

Oh and as an aside, please don’t indulge your kids and please have them leave the cell phone at home. There are already enough attitudes and distractions to deal with.

I loved meeting with these two feisty groups.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Your Child at School and What the Principal Grapples With

I had the pleasure to speaking to two groups of school principals and vice principals yesterday as a guest speaker at their annual conference. Both groups were sold out and we addressed the same issue in both presentations: The Principal as the Custodian of Mental Health.

As with all my workshops, after advising of my background and experience, I ask why they chose to attend this workshop. I wonder what brought them in and what they were hoping for me to speak about and what issues they were grappling with that they thought I might help with.

By seeking the group’s input at the beginning of the workshop, I can then tailor my presentation and information directly to meeting their needs.

Two separate groups, consisting of a mix of high school and elementary school principals and vice principals from the same school board provided a near identical list of issues they grapple with:

  1. Indulged/coddled students with a sense of entitlement, mostly from middle class to more affluent neighborhoods;
  2. Students who were traumatized by life in poverty stricken and violent neighborhoods;
  3. Parents who defended and advocated for their students against the input and guidance of school professionals (across socioeconomic boundaries);
  4. Students who were difficult to connect with;
  5. Parents who were difficult to connect with;
  6. Anxiety and depression in students and parents as well as staff and how to provide support.

From each group one person requested that I provide specific guidance – tools to better manage the issues they grapple with. This wasn’t presented as a challenge but a heartfelt request as clearly there was a sense of at times being overwhelmed by the enormity of issues they grapple with against the backdrop of sincerely wishing to be helpful. These were two very engaged groups of caring professionals dealing with some degree of impotence in their role as educators and administrators.

I took my first order of business to normalize and contextualize their collective experiences. I spoke to the social and economic changes over the past 30 years and the impact of same on family and individual functioning. Things have changed and people are more challenging to serve. You’re not crazy. You are not lacking skill. The landscape is different as are the issues confronted as a result.

Changed is seeing people as having authority as a result of their role. Now people must recognize that authority is supplanted by the notion of influence and influence is determined by relationship. The degree to which we can facilitate relationships that are experienced as caring and well-intentioned, the greater the influence we may have on the decision making of the other. I offered guidance and tips on how to create the impression of a caring relationship recognizing that one doesn’t truly have to care (as odd as that many sound) to be perceived as caring.

Also changed is the notion of giving directives and expecting compliance or follow-through.

Giving directives (not uncommon by people in authority) is now experienced in a power and control paradigm by those subject to the direction. This begets resentment. I offered that while it is still appropriate to provide professional opinion, the discretion to utilize the opinion provided must reside with the person receiving the opinion. There must be no pressing expectation by the person delivering the opinion for it to be followed. We respect decision making, but with the understanding that any decision made does not exclude the person making the decision (parent, child or other staff member) from the consequences of that decision. In so doing, we are only seeking to change the context from one of a pare/control paradigm to one of concerned consultant. Those were only a few of the tools and tips offered to help increase the likelihood of being helpful.

Overall, I was pleased with the workshops and I believe they were too. My take-aways included:

  1. Mental health issues are a forefront concern for educators. They are seeing the impact of societal and economic changes on individual functioning and well-being;
  2. There remains a dearth of resources to support not only the student and family, but those responsible for their education at all levels of administration. This is a political-economic reality and not a reflection on the educators;
  3. Not only are the so-called poor areas affected, but middle class and affluent neighborhoods, albeit with some different contributors to causation. The so-called afluenza problem is real and affecting many;
  4. We in mental health must do more to educate and inform the public on these social-economic trends and provide guidance to parents to help meet the more modern demands of parenting.

I wish to express my appreciation for both of yesterday’s candid discussions.

I continue to advocate and educate in this area in the interst of children’s well-being. I remain available to provide workshops to professional and parent groups. It is a pleasure to be of service in this capacity.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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The Principal as the Custodian of Mental Health

In my workshops to parents of elementary and high schools last year, what I heard most was concern about children’s mental health. In talking with these parents it was clear that not only are their children suffering, but so too are the parents. Anxiety and depression were chief among their concerns and issues.

The school is the microcosm to the macrocosm of students and families. What is experienced out there is also experienced within the school setting by staff. As school staff is addressing students and their families issues so too are staff addressing their own issues of mental health.

At the helm is the principal who too may have his or her own personal challenges to address.

How does one cope with this complexity of issues?
How does one balance one’s own needs and issues with the competing needs and issues of the staff group, let alone students and their families?

When it all gets confusing, it is important to sort out who owns what and to have strategies and services in place to address competing needs. It also behooves the principal to be able to manage him/herself a midst the challenges of the other.

Tomorrow I am providing a workshop to school principals of a local school district.

Within this workshop, we will address this complexity of issues and determine when listening is sufficient to meeting ones needs or when a referral for mental health service may be appropriate. Strategies for presenting concerns to a staff member will also be provided.

I am looking forward to working with this group.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Attachment Theory Made Simple

Much has been written about attachment theory, yet for some it can be a challenging subject to grasp. This 5 minute video provides a general explanation of what it is and why it’s important in understanding adult intimate relationships. The value of the video is in its simplicity. I hope you find it helpful for yourself, a client, a family member or a friend.

 

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I help people get along and I help people feel better about themselves. Please feel free to call for counseling services either in person or by SKYPE.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

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