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Kathy Marshack News

How to Find the Right Support Group

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Joining a support group can feel intimidating. The idea of sharing intimate stories with people you don’t know can make even the most outgoing person anxious. A lot of times, fear of joining can be dispelled by doing your research to see if the group fits you and your needs.
Here are a few thing to keep in mind when searching for a support group:
Join Online
Many support groups have websites that include the members, message boards, and meeting information. Joining online before going to the group in person will give you some time to get to know the members and their personalities. You can also get a clue as to what they are discussing and see if it will suit your needs. Don't feel bad if it is not a fit. Remember, this is about you and it's okay to be picky!
Ask Questions
Contact the group facilitator and ask questions about the group. Think of the questions ahead of time and be specific about what you are looking for. Ask about location, price, meeting format, and confidentiality.  
Avoid Negativity
Look for a support group that is solution-oriented. Having a safe place to “vent” is important but beware of groups that turn into a pity party or a place to constantly spew negative emotions. The goal of a support group is to walk away feeling refreshed. A sign of a healthy group is when there are regular members attending and you see friendships budding. If arguments are a regular feature, then walk away.
I have been facilitating a support group for the last couple of years –  Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD. This group has continued to grow because members realize that in order to cope effectively with their unique situation, they need love and support from others who can completely relate. I have been receiving many messages from our members sharing their feeling about our group. Here are some of the latest comments:
"Thank you for this site and your ongoing support. I have only been a member here for exactly one month, but it has meant more to me than all the counseling I've attempted over a 30-year marriage. I just can't emphasize enough what a relief from profound confusion, invalidation, and loneliness this experience of being heard and guided here has been. I think I'm finally making some real progress in regaining myself."
"In starting this discussion group, you are truly creating something big. Out of your pain and life lessons, you are giving others life through awareness and the chance to express and feel. . .normal again. Further, your continued presence on this site is amazing since you already have a business to run yourself."

Thank you to all who have shown your support to our group. If you are interested in joining, please take the leap! We would love to meet you. Click here for more information about Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

Appreciate the Lighter Side of Asperger Syndrome - Don't Forget to Laugh

Thursday, February 03, 2011

If you have a loved one with Asperger Syndrome, life can be filled with frustration and tension. As easy as it is to focus on the negative, it is not always healthy. So I want remind and encourage you to laugh!

Countless studies have shown that laughter really is the "best medicine." Laughing can reduce your level of stress hormones, change your perspective on a difficult situation, and is also good for your physical health. Such a simple idea!

Aspies are known for their unique perspective on life and with that comes many humorous situations. Do you choose to laugh at those types of situations or do you get frustrated? There can be great value in looking for the positive and humorous side of their personality or situation. By doing this, you will grow to appreciate some of the differences in your loved one and look at the lighter side of things now and then.

If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please join us for our next Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD support group on February 19, 2011. We will be discussing the lighter side of Asperger's by sharing our funny stories. We all need a good laugh and this will be a perfect opportunity to do so! If you are not able to attend, please become a member on our website and join our lively discussion groups. We would still love to hear your funny stories.


Obesity Now Linked to Emotional Problems

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Obesity is known to cause serious health problems, but studies now show that it is also connected to emotional problems. A study performed in Australia targeted middle-aged men and women who were overweight and found that they are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression. For a more complete look at their study, read Being Overweight Tied to Anxiety, Depression.

If you find yourself relating to the situation described, it is vital that you take action to tackle both weight control and anxiety/depression. You may not realize it, but enlisting the help of a mental health care professional is a necessary step to get the help you need. A mental health professional trained in the area of weight control can be helpful in re-educating your habits. They can assist you in getting over the rough spots and redirecting your thinking. They can also help you determine if there may be medical reasons for being overweight.

Do not delay in seeking the help you need. By taking this first step of seeking professional help, you will be on your way to being a happier and healthier you! For more information, visit Weight Control on my website or contact us for an appointment if you live in the Portland/Vancouver area.

Look for Similarities When Searching for a Romantic Partner

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We often hear that opposites attract, but the truth is that you are more likely to have a lasting relationship with someone who is similar to you. We are often attracted to our opposite, especially when we are young or when we are unsure of ourselves. The reason is that at some unconscious level we are trying to find in another person the skills we lack. It is as if we love that person, they will somehow fill in the missing gaps in our personalities or our maturity. The problem is that you cannot grow by osmosis. You can’t just absorb what the other person has taken several years to develop or what they may have been blessed with by genetics. So relationships between opposites generally fizzle out shortly, or at the worst linger for decades providing a boring, or even hostile relationship for the couple. Think about it, if you are opposites, what can you talk about?

It is actually much more work to look for a sweetheart that is a lot like yourself. This requires that you use introspection, that you go on a journey of self-exploration. Knowing yourself first makes it much easier for you to find a partner who shares your ideals and interests. To begin this process of self-exploration take out a sheet of paper and one side list your strengths and on the other list your weaknesses. Cover everything from physical to mental to spiritual.

Once you know yourself a little better, the next step is be honest and clean up those traits that are unfinished or undesirable. If you want a match that is lasting, you will want a partner who has worked on his or her own personal development and who has cleaned up her or his bad habits too. For example, if you love art and music and historical novels, and you are healthy, vibrant and spiritually alive, you will find this same type of person attracted to you. So take the time to get to know and develop yourself before embarking on finding a sweetheart.

If you take the time to get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and if you take the time to improve yourself and to become the person you have always wanted to be, you will be more attractive to this same kind of person. Remember that personal growth is a lifelong process and to keep love alive, two people need to be engaged in this process forever. If you get stuck along the way, use your common sense and seek out the counsel of a psychologist who specializes in relationship development and personal growth.

For more information, visit Advice for Singles Only.

Keeping Secrets Creates a Tangled Web

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keeping secrets is rarely a good idea, yet they are commonplace in society. The major reasons for keeping secrets are (1) to avoid disagreement and confrontation, (2) to protect someone from hurt feelings or even physical distress, (3) fear of punishment or embarrassment for a wrong doing.

Consider a few common excuses for keeping a secret and why you should think otherwise:

"What they don't know won't hurt them."

Why are secrets so bad if they don't hurt anyone? This is usually a rationalization. If you have to keep a secret, then it obviously affects other people. The content of the secret may or may not affect the other person adversely, but the question is, will keeping the secret affect the other person adversely?

"But he or she will get mad at me if I tell them the truth!"

No one likes an argument but it is foolish to think that you can go through life without having disagreements is unrealistic. Therefore it is useful to develop conflict resolution skills, rather than avoid the anger. The excuse that the other person will get mad if you level with him or her is a poor one. First, you never know if he or she will get mad. Second, even if he or she does get mad, the discussion doesn't have to end. Be brave and venture into conflict resolution. Third, the person may have every right to be upset that you withheld information (or lied) that affects his or her life. Think about it. How do you feel when a secret is kept from you, especially if your decisions depend upon the hidden information?

"It would be mean to be honest."

The problem with this excuse is that you have no right to assume responsibility for the other person's life or life decisions. When you keep a secret that affects the life of another, you are robbing them of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own destiny. Essentially it can be disrespectful to keep secrets. You are treating the other person as if they are incompetent to handle the truth. What makes you better able to handle the truth than the other person? Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it is embarrassing. Sometimes the truth is a powerful leveler without which you would never know you are in over your head.

There may be short-term gain in keeping secrets, but the long-term outcome is usually not worth the risk. Openness in all things is the answer, even if it is embarrassing, anger-provoking, or hurtful. Don't keep secrets, but if you already have, break them. Admit your failure, apologize to those you have lied to and make a promise you can live with. That is, promise to be responsible for your own actions, and allow others access to their own destiny through the truth.

Parents - Be Alert to Signs of Bullying

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bullying has become a major problem for American youths. You’ve probably heard stories in the media recently of young ones taking their lives because of bullying. If you are a parent, no doubt you are concerned about your children and what they are dealing with at school. You may not be able to completely stop bullying, but there are things that you can do to protect your children and help them cope with bullies. The key is for you to be alert to the symptoms and then take proactive measures.

Be Alert to the Symptoms

Your child may be reluctant to tell you that they are being bullied, so you must be alert to symptoms that could indicate that they are being bullied. Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

- physical trauma like bruises and scratches,
- declining grades,
- fear of attending school or regularly feeling sick before going to school,
- change in appetite,
- and a refusal to talk.

Be Proactive

If you suspect that your child may be bullied, you must be proactive and work with your child to handle the situation. By proactive by…

- Asking questions. Work to create an open dialog with your child about what they are going through. Be patient, it may take some time to get your child to open up to you. Try a variety of different questioning methods. You can try being direct, but if that doesn't work, you may have to question them in a more shrewd, roundabout way.

- Having practice sessions. Work with your child by teaching them ways that they can cope with the bully. Teach them that fighting back is never the answer. Practice how to assertively speak to a bully. If that doesn't work, then encourage them to walk away from the situation and tell an adult afterward. Create different scenarios and role play.

- Setting a good example. Your children watch you constantly. If you want to raise a strong and confident child, show them how to do it. Do not be a bully yourself.

- Speaking to the school. Don’t assume that teachers know what’s going on at school. Make sure you voice any concerns immediately so you can come up with a prevention plan.

For more proactive tips, visit the article - How can parents help to prevent bullying at their child's school?


At times, professional help from a mental health care professional may be necessary. If you live in the Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA area, please contact our office for more information.

Happiness Is Up To YOU!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happiness is something that all humans desire, but some find it hard to find. New research is now showing that the level of your happiness is largely dependent on you and your choices. Researcher Bruce Headey of Melbourne University, in Australia, and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences state, "Life goals and choices have as much or more impact on life satisfaction than variables routinely described as important in previous research, including extroversion and being married or partnered."

The study also highlights that those who place high priority on family life are also happier than if they place priority on their work or money. For more on this study, read the article, "Key To Happiness Lies in Choices You Make." If you are looking for happiness in your personal life, what are you going to do? Honestly evaluate your life and what you choose to prioritize. If you see that you need an adjustment, then diligently work to make the necessary changes. The outcome will be worth the work!

If you continue to struggle with personal problems, you may need to seek professional help and that’s okay. For more information, visit When to Seek Professional Help for Personal Problems.

How to Manage Work Related Stress

Monday, January 03, 2011

What is a major complaint for most working Americans? Stress! Work related stress can leave you exhausted, frustrated, and angry. It will affect your overall sense of well- being, your physical health, and your productivity.

If it feels like your life is spinning out of control then it’s time to call a psychologist or other mental health professional. However, most of the time there are a few simple things that you can do to manage your work stress:

Get sufficient rest.
Sleep is non-negotiable. In order for you mind and body to function properly, you must rest. If you are not getting enough sleep, whatever negative thoughts you have will only be aggravated. The average adult should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

Establish a healthy lifestyle.
General health and stress resistance can be enhanced by a regular exercise, a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and by avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.

Keep perspective and look for the positive.
Work to reverse negative ideas and learn to focus on the positive. For example, in today's economy, even having a job is a blessing. Even if you find that the positives are few and far between, make a conscious choice to focus on them.

Be balanced with yourself and your workload.
You are not perfect. You will make mistakes. You cannot do everything. Are you the one actually putting too much pressure on yourself to perform in a certain manner? Can you delegate some of the work to someone else? Set clear boundaries with yourself and your work. Establish what your job requirements are and if it is reasonable, then stick to it.

Have a sense of humor.
Keeping a sense of humor is a common recommendation. Laughing releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps you keep perspective. Research has shown that humor is a very effective mechanism for coping with stress.

Express your feelings.
If you are having problems with someone at work and that’s the cause of your stress, talk to them about it. The goal of the conversation should not be to attack the person, but to come together and create a solution. Holding on to negative feelings will progressively get worse and many times the problem grows out of proportion.

These are just a few steps to take to help ease your work stress level. If problems persists, you may need professional help. Click here for more information on Managing Stress.

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.

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.


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