<![CDATA[ALLISON HURWITZ COUNSELING AND ART THERAPY - Articles & Blog]]>Mon, 10 Jul 2017 06:51:12 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[ NEW GROUP FOR SUMMER 2015! SELF-COMPASSION FOR ADULTS WITH ADHD]]>Tue, 16 Jun 2015 06:09:14 GMThttp://allisonhurwitzcounseling.com/articles--blog/new-group-for-summer-2015-self-compassion-for-adults-with-adhdSELF-COMPASSION FOR ADULTS WITH ADHD
Led by Allison Hurwitz, LPC, LSW, MSW, MA, ATR 

**4 Week Group:  Wednesdays, 2-3:30 PM OR 7-8:30 PM**
July 8th through July 29th; 20 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542

Life with ADHD is difficult!  Stress, embarrassment, and self-blame are unwanted companions in daily life for adults living with ADHD. So are the negative judgments and the constant stream of apologies:

·      "I'm sorry I'm late"
·      "I'm sorry I lost my keys"
·      "I'm sorry I left the garage door open"
·      "I'm sorry I can't keep my desk neat"

Despite what many people think, judgment, shame and self-criticism are not effective ways to inspire change and in fact do more harm than good.  They lower self-confidence, increase isolation, heighten anxiety and depression, and contribute to an overall sense of inadequacy and helplessness.

By comparison, self-compassion, mindfulness and other strengths based approaches are actually much more effective ways of managing life with ADHD. In fact, research shows that they are linked to increased self-confidence, motivation, optimism and resilience as well as improvements in relationships, the ability to manage stress, and emotion regulation.  These approaches are empowering and help to broaden our perspective, allowing us to see new possibilities for change and growth. 

In a safe and supportive environment, we will learn about:

Ø  Self-compassion: what it is, what its benefits are and how it can specifically help adults with ADHD

Ø  Techniques to increase self-compassion 

Ø  Mindfulness and how it can be a valuable tool to manage ADHD 

Ø  How self-compassion and other strengths-based perspectives can help to expand our options and allow us to come up with better solutions 

**For more information please contact Allison at:    
(917) 859-4153 or allihur@aol.com

<![CDATA[Talking with Children about the Shooting in Newton, Connecticut]]>Sat, 15 Dec 2012 20:31:20 GMThttp://allisonhurwitzcounseling.com/articles--blog/talking-with-children-about-the-shooting-in-newton-connecticut
    In the aftermath of the horrific and tragic school shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT yesterday, one of the most common concerns is how to talk with kids and teens about what happened.  When things like this happen, it is hard to know what we can say or do to help our kids cope with that which was previously unimaginable.  Here are some resources that can help:


    In times of community or world-wide crisis, it's easy to assume that young children don't know what's going on. But one thing's for sure -- children are very sensitive to how their parents feel. They're keenly aware of the expressions on their parents' faces and the tone of their voices. Children can sense when their parents are really worried, whether they're watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a “crisis,” it’s especially scary for children to realize that their parents are scared.

    Some Scary, Confusing Images
    The way that news is presented on television can be quite confusing for a young child. The same video segment may be shown over and over again through the day, as if each showing was a different event. Someone who has died turns up alive and then dies again and again. Children often become very anxious since they don’t understand much about videotape replays, closeups, and camera angles.   Any televised danger seems close to home to them because the tragic scenes are taking place on the TV set in their own livingroom. Children can't tell the difference between what's close and what's far away, what's real and what's pretend, or what's new and what's re-run.

    The younger the children are, the more likely they are to be interested in scenes of close-up faces, particularly if the people are expressing some strong feelings. When there's tragic news, the images on TV are most often much too graphic and disturbing for young children.

    “Who will take care of me?”
    In times of crisis, children want to know, "Who will take care of me?" They're dependent on adults for their survival and security.  They're naturally self-centered. They need to hear very clearly that their parents are doing all they can to take care of them and to keep them safe.  They also need to hear that people in the government and other grownups they don’t eveen know are working hard to keep them safe, too.

    Helping Children Feel More Secure
    Play is one of the important ways young children have of dealing with their concerns.  Of course, playing about violent news can be scary and sometimes unsafe, so adults need to be nearby to help redirect that kind of play into nurturing themes, such as a hospital for the wounded or a pretend meal for emergency workers.

    When children are scared and anxious, they might become more dependent, clingy, and afraid to go to bed at night. Whining, aggressive behavior, or toilet "accidents" may be their way of asking for more comfort from the important adults in their lives. Little by little, as the adults around them become more confident, hopeful and secure, our children probably will, too.

    Turn Off the TV
    When there's something tragic in the news, many parents get concerned about what and how to tell their children. It's even harder than usual if we're struggling with our own powerful feelings about what has happened. Adults are sometimes surprised that their own reactions to a televised crisis are so strong, but great loss and devastation in the news often reawaken our own earlier losses and fears – even some we think we might have "forgotten"

    It's easy to allow ourselves to get drawn into watching televised news of a crisis for hours and hours; however, exposing ourselves to so many tragedies can make us feel hopeless, insecure, and even depressed. We help our children and ourselves if we’re able to limit our own television viewing.  Our children need us to spend time with them – away from the frightening images on the screen. 

    Talking and Listening
    Even if we wanted to, it would be impossible to give our children all the reasons for such things as war, terrorists, abuse, murders, major fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. If they ask questions, our best answer may be to ask them, "What do you think happened?" If the answer is "I don't know," then the simplest reply might be something like, "I'm sad about the news, and I'm worried. But I love you, and I'm here to care for you."

    If we don't let children know it's okay to feel sad and scared, they may think something is wrong with them when they do feel that way. They certainly don't need to hear all the details of what's making us sad or scared, but if we can help them accept their own feelings as natural and normal, their feelings will be much more manageable for them.

    Angry feelings are part of being human, especially when we feel powerless. One of the most important messages we can give our children is, "It's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hurt ourselves or others."  Besides giving children the right to their anger, we can help them find constructive things to do with their feelings. This way, we'll be giving them useful tools that will serve them all their life, and help them to become the worlds' future peacemakers -- the world's future "helpers." 

    Helpful Hints
    • Do your best to keep the television off, or at least limit how much your child sees of any news event.
    • Try to keep yourself calm. Your presence can help your child feel more secure.
    • Give your child extra comfort and physical affection, like hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.
    • Try to keep regular routines as normal as possible. Children and adults count on their familiar pattern of everyday life.
    • Plan something that you and your child enjoy doing together, like taking a walk, going on a picnic, having some quiet time, or doing something silly. It can help to know there are simple things in life that can help us feel better, in good times and in bad.
    • Even if children don't mention what they've seen or heard in the news, it can help to ask what they think has happened. If parents don't bring up the subject, children can be left with their misinterpretations. You may be really surprised at how much your child has heard from others.
    • Focus attention on the helpers, like the police, firemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and volunteers. It's reassuring to know there are many caring people who are doing all they can to help others in this world.
    • Let your child know if you're making a donation, going to a town meeting, writing a letter or e-mail of support, or taking some other action. It can help children to know that adults take many different active roles and that we don't give in to helplessness in times of worldwide crisis.
    This article is excerpted from “The Mister Rogers Parenting Book” the last book Fred Rogers worked on before his death in 2003. In this book he wanted to support parents in their most important work of parenting and to help them better understand their young children. As he wrote in the introduction to the book:
    “.. if we can bring our children understanding, comfort, and hopefulness when they need this kind of support, then they are more likely to grow into adults who can find these resources within themselves later on.”

    ©  The Fred Rogers Company - 2011 - All Rights Reserved


    How to talk to your kids about Connecticut mass shooting

    Experts say it's important to talk to children, as even the youngest will likely hear about the shootings.

    The killings at a Connecticut elementary school left parents struggling to figure out what, if anything, to tell their children.  

    President Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, would tell their daughters that they love them and hug them a little tighter. Experts say that's a good example to follow. Parents also should allow children to talk about their feelings in the coming days while sheltering them from the 24/7 media coverage of the event, they say.

    A man gunned down more than two dozen people Friday, most of them kids at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The shooter was among the 28 people left dead, apparently from a self-inflicted wound.  

    Whitney Finucane wasn't sure how and when she would talk with her son, Nico, about the shooting. She kissed and hugged him when he came out from kindergarten Friday at Dr. Martin Luther King Elementary in Providence, R.I.  "I don't know how to explain insanity and evil to a 5-year-old," she said. "I don't know that he can really grasp it."

    Even the youngest schoolchildren are likely to hear about it, said Glenn Saxe, chairman of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center.

    "It's really important, especially at this time, for parents to check in with their kids, to be attuned to how they're feeling, how they're doing and to answer questions honestly and straightforwardly," he said. "For any other kid in school, this has meaning. Parents need to understand that even in surprising ways, this can affect their kids."

    RELATED: Tips for talking to kids about scary news

    Parents can start by asking their children what they've already heard and what questions they have, said David Schonfeld, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. If they ask why someone would do something like this, it's OK to say you don't know.

    "I wouldn't provide false reassurance or dismiss legitimate concerns," he said. "We don't help children by telling them they shouldn't be afraid of things that are frightening."

    Parents can tell their kids, "What is most important is that you're safe and you're going to be safe," said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

    Above all, parents need to try to help their children feel safe, he said. Helping kids return to or maintain normal routines can help minimize their anxiety, Kraus said.

    Some children may ask the same questions over and over as a way to seek reassurance, and parents shouldn't dismiss them, said Dr. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt.

    "Acknowledge and validate the child's thoughts, feelings and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate," he said.

    Parents of young children should keep their kids from hearing reports on TV, radio and social media and closely monitor exposure to media for all children, several experts said. Children who show persistent signs of anxiety and stress, including recurring nightmares or sleep problems and fears about leaving home, should see their pediatrician or a mental health expert, Kraus said.

    While parents might feel the need to teach their children what do in such an emergency, the next few days is not the time to develop or bring up your family's disaster preparedness or to teach your young children to dial 911, Saxe said.

    "Right now, kids' sense of safety and security is shattered," Saxe said. "It's very good parenting practice, in general, to have a kid know what to do in times of emergency, but it undermines the immediate message that you're trying to convey."

    Schonfeld said if children bring it up themselves, you can talk about what's being done to keep them safe.

    As students head back to their classrooms Monday, parents and children should know that school shootings are rare and schools still are among the safest places, said William Lassiter of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence. Parents can ask their principal or parent-teacher group for a copy of their school crisis plan.

    Notice whether schools stick to their own security plans, he said. Do people have to check in at the door and sign in at the front office, for example?

    "A lot of times, the parents are the ones who need to remind the school," he said.

    Schools should have an emergency plan that is available to parents that explains what the school will do in various emergencies, such as a fire, hazardous materials spill, lockdown or evacuation. It should also say how the school will communicate with the parents: for example on its Twitter feed, Facebook page, website, or by email or automated phone call, said Kitty Porterfield, a spokeswoman for the American Association of School Administrators.

    From the moment a child starts school, they are learning safety procedures such as lining up and following the teacher, she said. School districts in most major metropolitan areas also hold drills in which teachers and administrators practice what to do in a shooting or similar emergency. Most don't involve children so that they aren't upset, but some do, she said.

    It's natural for parents at a time like this to want to react to Friday's shooting with action, Schonfeld said, but giving a young child a cellphone or keeping them out of school probably will not help.

    "I know we really want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe," he said. "You could put GPS tracking on them, bullet-proof vests. There's a limit to what you can do."

    Associated Press writers Erika Niedowski and Lindsey Tanner contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE OVERCOME CHALLENGES]]>Sun, 09 Dec 2012 17:09:47 GMThttp://allisonhurwitzcounseling.com/articles--blog/famous-people-who-have-overcome-challenges















HELEN KELLER                                 








-Had Dyslexia;
-Didn’t speak until age 4;
-Got in a lot of trouble at school;
-Was told by teachers he “would not amount to anything”!

-Had Attention Deficit Disorder;               
-Got fired from his 1st job because his boss said that he had “no imagination”!    

-Attacked by a shark at age 13, resulting in the loss of her left arm.               


-Impaired hearing which led to social and academic challenges;
-Struggled with school work and was told by one teacher that he was “too stupid to learn anything”;
-Had Attention Deficit Disorder & Dyslexia.

-Became blind shortly after birth.

-Became deaf and blind at 19 months old;

-Has dyslexia;                     
-Bullied at school;
-Her father was killed in a car accident when she was 10 years old.         

-Born without a right hand.

-Struggled with depression.
-Lived in relative poverty until she finished writing the first Harry Potter book.
-Was jobless while raising her young daughter.
-Had her initial manuscript for Harry Potter series rejected by twelve different publishers before finally being accepted by Bloomsbury.

-Most famous scientist of the 20th century;
-Won many important prizes and awards;
-Was considered to have been a genius by many, many people.

-Created Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy & many more original characters that are loved world-wide;
-Started Walt Disney Studios and made many famous movies like Snow White, Bambi, Mary Poppins and Pinnochio;
-Came up with the ideas for Disneyland, Disneyworld and Epcot Center.

-Started surfing again one month after her shark attack and losing her arm;
-Went on to win prizes in other surfing competitions and turning professional at age 17;
-Wrote about her life in the book “Soul Surfer” which was made into a movie.

-One of the world’s greatest inventors whose inventions like the light bulb, motion picture camera, phonograph (record player), alkaline batteries & many others are still used today!

-Singer and songwriter who plays  several different  musical instruments;
-Signed with Motown records at age 11;  
 -Received 22 grammy awards, the most ever given to a male solo artist;
-Ranked #5 of the “Hot 100 All-time Top Artists” by Billboard Magazine in 2008.

-Became the first deaf and blind person to graduate from college (Radcliffe College, 1904);
-Learned to "hear" people's speech by reading their lips with her hands;
-Learned to read using Braille;
-Learned to speak, and spent much of her life giving speeches and lectures.

-Teen actress, singer, model and dancer;   
-Plays ‘CeCe Jones’ on the Disney series Shake It Up!
-Coped with dyslexia by reading everything she could find, including the cereal boxes.
-Major league baseball pitcher for the California Angels, the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, and the Milwaukee Brewers.   


-Novelist, screenwriter and film producer best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series.-The books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies.
-The Harry Potter series also became the best-selling book series in history and became the basis for the movie franchise which became the second highest-grossing film series in history.

<![CDATA[First Post! ]]>Sun, 03 Jun 2012 22:50:02 GMThttp://allisonhurwitzcounseling.com/articles--blog/first-postIf you’re mad and you know it:  Helping children to understand and cope with feelings                              
By Allison D. Hurwitz, LPC, LSW, MSW, MA,ATR
Helping children to understand and cope with their feelings can be confusing and frustrating for parents.   In my work with children and families, one of the first messages that I try to convey is that all feelings are okay but it’s HOW we express our feelings can make a big difference.  I believe it is important for children to understand that everyone has many different kinds of feelings--sadness, happiness, anger, loneliness, disappointment, fear, worry, guilt, jealousy, etc.—and that all of these feelings are perfectly normal and natural.   

In children, difficulties in understanding and coping with feelings are expressed in a variety of ways.  While some kids express their anger through physical aggression and yelling, other kids have trouble expressing angry feelings directly, which can result in frequent stomach aches, nausea, and/or headaches.  Some kids worry so much that it interferes with school, recreational activities, friendships and even basic life activities.  As a result of worrying a lot, kids may feel dizzy and light-headed or develop aches and pains.  Other kids act as if they are angry when they are feeling sad, lonely, afraid or embarrassed because being angry feels powerful while these other emotions make them feel “weak”.  Some kids will only cry in private because they don’t feel comfortable sharing feelings of sadness or vulnerability.  Still other kids will blame themselves when bad things happen because this is less scary than feeling powerless in the face of things that are outside of their control such as illness, going to a new school, death, or divorce.

There are a number of things that parents can do to help their children understand and cope with different feelings.  These include:

·      Acknowledging and validating your child’s feelings

·      Separating feelings from behavior

·      Sharing your own feelings

·      Identifying strategies to help cope with different feelings

·      Modeling the use of positive coping strategies.

Acknowledgement and validation of Feelings:
‘Acknowledgement’ involves giving a name to what your child seems to be feeling.  For example, if your child says, “We played basketball in gym today and I couldn’t even make one basket,” a way to acknowledge her feelings might be, “That sounds really frustrating.”  Acknowledging children’s feelings on a regular basis teaches them to identify feelings for themselves.  This is important because before children can develop strategies to cope with feelings, they need to be able to identify how they are feeling.

‘Validation’ of feelings involves letting your child know that it is o.k. to feel as he does and that you understand why he might be feeling this way.  An example of validation is, “I understand that it made you feel angry when your sister knocked over your block tower.  You worked hard on it and now it’s broken.”  As a result of having their feelings acknowledged and validated by their parents, children feel understood and relieved; this frees them up to find more adaptive ways of coping with their feelings and to find solutions to problems.

Separating feelings from behavior:
Parents sometimes feel uncomfortable validating certain feelings, such as anger, because they are afraid that their child will interpret this as a free pass to behave however they want.  But accepting your child’s feelings does not necessarily mean that you accept their behavior.  It is important to distinguish between supporting your child’s feelings and supporting how they choose to express those feelings.  To continue with the example of a younger sibling destroying an older sibling’s block tower, a parent might say, “I know it must be really frustrating when your sister breaks something that you’ve worked hard on.  I’d be angry and upset too.  But in this house, we do not hit.  When you’re angry, it’s okay to hit a pillow, pound clay or draw a picture but it’s not okay to hit your sister.”  

Once your child has calmed down, you can offer to help him rebuild his tower or create something new together--- and perhaps move either your younger child or the construction site out of harm’s way.  It is also important to have children apologize to one another, as this promotes empathy and taking responsibility for one’s actions.  If one of the children involved is too young to speak, you might need to ‘speak’ to your older child on that child’s behalf saying something like, “I think that when your sister saw the cool tower that you were building, she got curious and came over to see what you were doing.  I don’t think that she knocked over the blocks on purpose but because she’s only one, she doesn’t realize that when she grabs one block the whole tower will fall over.

Sharing your own feelings:
One of the best ways that parents can help children to understand and cope with their feelings is to share their own feelings with them in an age appropriate way.  Typically, children are more comfortable sharing feelings when they know that they are not the only ones who feel this way.  Hearing that mom and dad also feel sad, jealous, angry and worried helps children to better accept these feelings in themselves.  

To facilitate the sharing of emotions, it can be helpful to focus on one emotion at a time and have parents and children take turns sharing what situations make each of them feel this way.  It doesn’t matter which emotion you begin with but it is important to try and address a variety of emotions at different times.  Sometimes it is easiest to start by talking about what makes each of you happy as happiness is the feeling that people typically feel most comfortable discussing.  Besides being one of the more pleasurable emotions, happiness is important because it lets us know what we enjoy and what feels good to us.  In addition, thinking about things that make us happy or remembering happy memories can be used to cope with more painful or difficult feelings.   

You might start the conversation by letting your child know that you’d like to talk about things that make each of you happy.  A fun way to do this is to pass a favorite stuffed animal back and forth between you and whoever is holding the stuffed animal will share something that makes him or her happy.   When you are finished sharing, you can each draw pictures of yourselves doing something that makes you happy as well as pictures showing what you look like when you feel happy.  This approach can be used to explore other feelings as well.

Another helpful way to explore feelings with your child is reading a book about feelings together.  Some good ones include:  The Way I Feel by Janan Cain, The Feelings Book by Todd Parr, When I’m Angry by Jane Aaron, Today I Feel Silly: and Other Moods That Make My Dayby Jamie Lee Curtis, and When I’m Sad by Jane Aaron.  As you go along or after you finish the book, you can ask your child questions that relate to the story.  For example, you can ask your child if he or she ever feel like the characters in the story.  It is also helpful to tell your child about times in your own life when you felt the way that the characters in the story felt and what you did to cope with these feelings.

Identifying coping strategies:
Another important step in teaching children to cope with feelings is identifying different strategies to help deal with feelings.  Some coping strategies, such as drawing a picture or jumping rope, might help kids deal with a variety of feelings while other strategies will be most appropriate to a specific situation.   Since different strategies work for different people, it is helpful to brainstorm with your child and write down different things that can help her when she is feeling angry, sad, etc.  Some suggestions include:

·      Drawing a picture of your feelings

·      Tearing up old newspaper

·      Walking or running fast

·      Listening to music

·      Talking to someone about how you feel

·      Throwing a stuffed animal against the wall

·      Punching a pillow

·      Writing down how you feel

·      Popping bubble wrap

·      Coming up with ideas to change the situation that caused the feeling, such as building  with blocks on a table that is too high for a younger sibling to reach 

Modeling the use of positive coping strategies:
One of the main ways that children learn is through observation and parents are the ones whom they observe most closely.  Modeling positive ways to cope with different feelings does not require parents to respond perfectly in every situation.  Rather, it means that parents can use their own behavior and coping strategies as examples of both positive and not-so-positive ways to deal with emotions.  Sharing our mistakes with our children communicates that it is okay to make mistakes and that making mistakes can be a great way to learn for people of all ages.   While it definitely requires effort to help children understand and cope with their feelings, it can improve and enrich both of your lives in the long run. 


--This article appeared on the Princetonkids.org website in July 2007 and February 2008.