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Kathy Marshack News

Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD Find Support Online

Friday, December 03, 2010


Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD now has 216 members from around the world. Since our meetings are currently held in Portland, Beaverton, and Lake Oswego, Oregon, many of our members are not able to physically attend. In spite of this, our message boards have become a Meetup location in itself.

Our message board currently contain 8 different discussion forums. Out of these forums, literally hundreds of discussions have been formed with thousands of posts. Issues such as sleep problems, sex, parenting, co-dependency, grieving, medication, and much more are being discussed. Some of the most popular discussions: Christian and Asperger's, Alexithymia, Humorous Differences, Why God Made Aspergers, and How To Leave and Grieve. I have been impressed with the prolific writers in the group and I encourage you to keep writing! Something you write may touch the life of someone else.

Please come and join our group. No matter where you are in the world, you can chat with others, gain insight, and support. If you live in the Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA area, we would love to meet you in person at one of our Meetups. We will be meeting December 4, 2010 in Westside Portland to discuss, Asperger's and Other Co-Occurring Disorders- Does My Loved One Have Any? On December 11, 2010 in Portland, we will discuss Sensory Overload, Holiday Meltdowns and How to Survive. Click here for more information about the upcoming meetings.

We look forward to seeing you there or meeting you online! Thank you to all who continue to give support.

How to Support a Loved One Whose Depressed

Monday, November 29, 2010


Depression is an illness that affects millions of Americans every year. Most likely you know someone who is dealing with depression. It can be very difficult to support your depressed loved one and  it can even take a toll on your emotional state.

If you have a loved one who is depressed, here are a few things that you can do:

Educate Yourself - Like any type of illness, it is important to educate yourself about it. Knowledge is very powerful. Once you have learned about what they are dealing with, you will be more equipped to support them. Be alert to symptoms and any changes in their behavior.

Know Your Role - You must acknowledge that depression is an illness and you can't cure it! Do not be the hero and strive to fix the problem or even sound like you are the authority on the matter. Your role is to be supportive and sincere. You want to gain their trust not turn them away.

Don't Withdraw - As humans, we have the tendency to remove ourselves from people who are depressed because they are trying to withdraw or isolate themselves from us. As hard as it may be to stick around, it is exactly what they need. They may tell you that they don't need anyone, but they do. This is going to take a lot of persistence on your part, but isolation is detrimental to a depressed person. Remember that this behavior is not personal, it is the illness speaking.

Listen - Let your loved one talk. They may share things that are disturbing like self-injury or suicide, but it is better for you to know these feeling so you can use that information to protect them. Also, ask questions to draw them out.

Be Proactive - Don't say, "If there is anything I can do, let me know." Guess what...they won't. Take a proactive approach. Think of something specific that you can do for them and offer that instead. If you find that they are in serious danger, do something. You may have to push them to the doctor or even go to the hospital. They may be angry at you, but that is not an excuse to let them do something dangerous. You may have to get other people involved to help you.

Take Care of Yourself - As a caregiver, it is vital that you take care of yourself. You can't help your loved one if you are tapped out. Be balanced with yourself!

Helping someone overcome depression will not be an easy journey, but it is well worth your while. Be patient. In time your loved one will appreciate all your love and consideration in their behalf. For more information, visit Overcoming Depression. If you need help to overcome your own depression or support a family member with their situation and live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office.

Parenting with an Asperger Spouse in Real Life vs. Hollywood

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


With as many as 1.5 million Americans having some form of autism, including milder variants, autism is a hot topic.  In 2009, the movie “Adam" highlighted the difficulties of falling in love with someone who has Asperger Syndrome and currently NBC’s “Parenthood” has a character with Asperger Syndrome. When I talk to couples in these difficult relationships, they’re not that interested in Hollywood, they’re looking for real life solutions.

With so much emphasis being placed on Asperger Syndrome, many are left wondering, how can someone co-parent with an Aspie partner? What about the children of an Asperger parent? How can a child thrive when his or her parent has so little empathy?

I’ve been moved to investigate these sensitive and unique issues especially after writing “Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? Practical Steps to Saving You and Your Relationship." As many of you know, I am currently writing a new book entitled, “Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

I have found that when you live with Aspies it’s the ordinary things of life that cease to function properly – like getting enough sleep, or asking your spouse to pick up a child from soccer practice. When co-parenting with an Aspie these ordinary things become strained and turn into not-so-ordinary moments leaving the Neuro-typical (NT) partner feeling drained, unnerved, and tense. In fact many NT spouses/partners report a variety of psycho-somatic and immunodeficiency illnesses such as migraines, arthritis, gastric reflux and fibromyalgia.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. There are answers to this dilemma and I will continue to write about those answers. I encourage you to download a FREE
sample chapter of Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.” I will continue to keep you updated on any news about the book and when it will be available. 

Pay Attention to Signals and You Can Problem Solve Before the Crisis Hits

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When it comes to problem solving, recognizing and interpreting the signals that others give us is crucial. For some of us, that does not come naturally, but if you take a little bit of time, you will be able to improve your skills. If you do, you will be able to minimize crises before they materialize.

One common error is to mistake signals for the problem.

 

When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Just what they are signals of remains to be discovered. The key is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves.

For example, one husband was beside himself because his wife could not keep the house clean. The couple ran the a business from their home. Although the husband was out all day with customers, the wife was at home taking care of the four small children, answering business calls, and running the company office. The couple had already problem solved somewhat and come up with occasional day care and even a once a month house cleaner, but still the house was a mess.

The problem was they were focusing on the messy house instead of what it represented. In this case, it represented that the wife was torn about her goals. She wanted to be part of the business, but she also wanted to parent her children. Making more time for her to clean the house, a chore she really didn't like anyway, wasn't the solution. What worked, however, was to set up a system where she could participate in both worlds without them overlapping so much.

Whenever confronted with a dilemma (Is it a signal or a problem?), ask yourself, "How does this behavior make sense to the person engaging in the behavior?" Don't ask, "How does it make sense to me?"

If the behavior belongs to someone else, chances are it makes sense in their model of reality, which may look very different than yours. In the case of the couple with the messy house, what made sense according to the wife's model of reality is that the wife wanted to have a neat house but she wanted something else more. In order to get a clean house, it was necessary to help her accomplish what was more important first.

While some solutions are easy and superficial, many problems require deeper probing. While a band-aid may suffice for a while, it will save a lot of wasted energy and questioning if surgery is done immediately. So, when you see a signal, probe, dig, and most important, don't ignore it. If you can’t figure out what the signals mean it might be time to ask a therapist for help.

If you’re an entrepreneur visit Entrepreneurial Life for more information.

Autism and Anger - What is the Connection?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Behavioral problems, anxiety, and anger have all been linked with autism. These emotions stem back to the basic characteristics of autism which makes life much more challenging. When a child with autism can't understand or confront the challenge, they get frustrated and then act out their frustration by displaying anger. This is a vicious cycle that can be physically and emotionally taxing for them and also for their loved ones.

As a parent, it’s vital that you take action to help your autistic child work through the anger they may be experiencing. Methods for coping with frustration and anger include:

Identifying Triggers
Try to identify what triggers the anger. What frustrates them? When does it turn from frustration to anger? By identifying the cause, you can work to either eliminate it or work to overcome it. You may want to keep an accurate record of the events and reactions to help you identify what the triggers are.

Teaching Them How to Communicate
After identifying the triggers, you can begin teaching and training your child to work through their frustration. Explain to them what they should do when they begin to feel that way. Come up with a system or a way for them to communicate to you that they are feeling that way and need help. This takes time and persistence on the part of the parent. Ask your therapist for suggestions on how to do this effectively.

Getting the Right Kind of Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been the most effective type of therapy when dealing with autism. CBT addresses the way you think and how to change faulty irrationally thinking into more constructive, solution-oriented thinking. Click here for more information on CBT. Please contact my office if you live in the Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington area and are looking for a therapist to help you parent your autistic child.

 

Keep Active This Winter for Your Mental and Physical Health

Friday, November 12, 2010


Need another reason to stay physically active? A new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that staying physically active is a great way to prevent catching a cold this winter. People who are physically active actually get sick less and if they do get sick, the cold is not as severe. What great news! The problem for many is that  it’s harder to stay physically active in the winter months. Especially in the Pacific Northwest with cold weather, less sunshine and a lot more rain, getting out and moving can be a real challenge.

Here are some suggestions to help you get moving this winter: 

Brave the outdoors. I know many people enjoy exercising outside regardless of the weather. If that is the case for you, invest in the proper gear. Select shoes with good traction and choose clothing with synthetic material which will keep you warmer than cotton. Winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and snowboarding are also great options for exercise that’s fun.

Take a look at inside exercise options.
Join a gym or invest in some exercise equipment for your home. You can also purchase workout DVD's. The range and variety of exercise routines are endless. Find something that you will enjoy. If you enjoy it, you will do it!

Stick to a reasonable schedule and reasonable goals. If it’s too ambitious you probably won’t stick to it so start off slow.

Stay hydrated. Sometimes it harder to drink water when it is cold, but keeping hydrated is a must. It will help you when you are exercising as well as help you ward off those colds.

Find a workout partner
. Enlist a friend to be your workout buddy or better yet, make it a family affair.
 
It may be a challenge to keep an active lifestyle, but the benefits are well worth the effort. You will feel better physically, mentally and emotionally. For information on exercise and weight-loss, visit Mind and Body - Weight Control on my website.

Anxiety - Harmful or Healthy?

Sunday, November 07, 2010


Anxiety is a very normal part of life and can actually be a good thing. Anxiety is also known as the "fight or flight" response. If you are in a dangerous or a stressful situation, your adrenaline kicks in and helps you to cope with the situation. This type of anxiety can be a real protection. Unfortunately, anxiety has become a danger to human society. Millions of Americans suffer from severe anxiety disorders. Instead of feeling a normal, healthy dose anxiety for a brief period of time, anxiety becomes controlling, debilitating, and inescapable.

Which type of anxiety are you dealing with – healthy or harmful?

 

Ask yourself:

 

  • Have I experienced excessive anxiety and worry about daily activities, such as work or school performance?
  • Does my anxiety or worry interfere with my normal routine, job performance, social activities, or relationships?
  • Are my worries accompanied with physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, hot flashes, lightheadedness, breathlessness, nausea, and frequent trips to the bathroom?

 

If you find yourself answering "yes" to the questions in the above paragraph, you may be dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. It's chronic and filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. Even though the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint. Simply the thought of getting through the day can provoke anxiety.

Do not get discouraged if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder such as GAD. There are many treatment options available such as medication and a variety of psychotherapy options, but be sure to seek help immediately. Visit Coping with Anxiety Disorders for more in-depth information. 

 

Neuro-typicals Ask – Am I Really That Different?

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Am I really that different? Am I really that hard to understand or identify with? Am I really unlovable? When you are married or in a relationship with someone with Asperger Syndrome, you have probably asked yourself that question before. For some reason we have a hard time shaking the belief that we are different, difficult to understand, or even not very likeable.

Obviously there are reasons for this . . . such as the fact that living with someone who has a deficit in the area of empathy and reciprocity can contribute to misconceptions about ourselves. We may lose sight of our own reality and collapse into agonizing despair and sadly we begin to believe that those misconceptions are true.

This type of mental and emotional confusion needs powerful therapy to break through the faulty reasoning that is a result of using NT (neurotypical) logic to make sense of the Asperger world. Often times therapy is directed towards the Asperger spouse, but in order for the relationship to heal and progress, therapy is necessary for both partners. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office for more information regarding effective therapy options.

You are also invited to join our upcoming Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD support group. We will be discussing the theme: Are we really that different? on November 13, 2010.

My book Life with a Partner or Spouse with Asperger Syndrome: Going over the Edge? is also available for purchase. 

Give Your Autistic Child Positive Reinforcement

Sunday, October 31, 2010


In a recent blog, I wrote about the value of learning the early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders. The benefit of early recognition is that specific training can begin immediately. One type of training is to instill positive reinforcement when working with your child. When you reinforce their good behavior, it will help them to understand what is the right way to act.

This actually works whether or not your child has ASD. However, as parents it’s so easy to fall into only commenting on bad behavior. In order to give positive reinforcement, you have to be looking for the good behavior and good qualities that they are exhibiting and be quick to commend them. When giving commendation, be specific. Explain what they did that you liked and why you liked it. Did they do a good job making eye contact? Did they use the right language? Even a little thing can be a good thing to reinforce.

Another way to do this is to offer rewards when they have done something positive. Make sure that the reward fits the child otherwise it will not mean anything to them. The reward can be verbal or something tangible. The goal is to help them to make the connection that their good behavior equals positive reinforcement.

Each child is different, so different things work for different children. So be patient and focus on the positive. For more information on positive reinforcement, read Being Proactive in Therapy and Research.

If you are parenting with a spouse with Asperger Syndrome, download a free sample chapter from my newest project Parenting with a Spouse or Partner with Asperger Syndrome: Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

 

 

How to Accurately Assess Your Management Style in a Family Firm

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Being the owner-manager of a family firm requires juggling many roles not just with family members but with employees as well. The way marital and family obligations are handled affects management style with employees and vice versa.

 

For example, in family firms where spouses work together, management style must be assessed in three arenas: 1) marital, 2) parenting, and 3) business management. Furthermore, the integration of these three styles must be assessed.

What is your marital style? Are you both leaders? Is one the leader and the other the support person? Does the style change depending on context? Are you a team? Or are you both separate and dedicated to your own spheres? Does your marital style differ greatly from your parenting style or your management style? Whatever your marital style - know it. Don't assume that it is irrelevant in your family firm. If it is incompatible with the business, then you will have many problems. Employees sense the discrepancies. They know when there has been a marital fight.

What kind of a parent are you? If a couple has children, whether they work in the business or not, be aware of parenting style too. Parenting style is affected by business-management style and vice versa. Those lessons are translated to the work place. Are you an authoritarian parent? Are you permissive? Are you authoritative? Parenting style is obviously related to marital style. If two marital partners do not think alike about parenting, there will be a disorganized, and possibly, very depressed family. Equally so, it is important that parent/owners determine if they are treating employees the way they treat their children.

What about your management style? Management styles can be categorized as one of the four styles: 1) telling, 2) selling, 3) participative, 4) delegating. Which are you? Are you apt to tell employees what to do? Or do you build a good case for what they should do? Or do you include employees or other managers in the process of developing new business? Finally, are you inclined to run the show yourself but delegate tasks to team members?

After honestly assessing these three arenas, keep these four important points in mind:

1. Accept who you are. Whatever your style, it is probably the most comfortable way for you to be. This doesn't mean there is no room for improvement. But it's best to start with who you are and then to build marital, parental, and management styles around your personality.

2. Accept your spouse's style, too. She or he has developed a certain personality that is unlikely to change. Rather, you two are looking for ways for both of you to realize your full potential.

3. When considering a parenting style, not only do your consider your partner's style, but you must also include the personalities and needs of your children. Most parents are astounded at how wildly different each one of their children are.

4. Remember that your management style at work is more related to your marital and parenting styles than you realize. It is in the family that we first learn to relate to others. How you treat employees and how you want them to treat you is dependent upon your understanding and utilization of these early lessons.

Understanding your unique management style in the workplace and how you have integrated past and present family lessons into a family business will help you to be flexible and to adapt to whatever may come. I work with family businesses in the Portland/Vancouver area to help them balance family issues with business issues – click here for more about my work with Entrepreneurial Couples.

My book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home is also available for purchase.



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