Michigan Family Institute Newsletter
www.mifamilytherapy.com        248-593-4784
June 2012
In This Issue
What Neuroscience Teaches Us About ADD, Behavior Problems and Other Emotional Concerns
The Importance of Resilience in Children

Power and Compassion: Working with difficult adolescents and abused parents
Jerome A. Price

Take Control of Your Divorce
Margerum J, Price J, and Windell J 
Defusing the High Conflict Divorce
Gaulier B, Margerum J, Price J, Windell J

The Right to Be the Grownup
A Parent Skills Training Curriculum

Price J, Margerum  J 


For Parents of Teen and Pre-Teens
Wednesday June 27
from 6pm to 7pm

Please rsvp

Reducing the conflict in your divorce regardless of whether or not the other parent will cooperate   

Wednesday July 25
from 6pm to 7pm
Please rsvp 


Jerome A. Price, MA, LMSW, LMFT

What is PLASTICITY? When a person has a stroke, the portion of the brain that controls a specific bodily function is permanently damaged. For example, a person many have limited ability to speak after the stroke. Despite the damage being permanent, through speech therapy the person often regains a significant portion of their ability to speak. Likewise, physical therapy may help a patient to regain the ability to walk or use a hand. The nerves are permanently damaged yet the person regains functioning. This happens due to plasticity of the brain.

The brain has the miraculous ability to accommodate damage by using other parts of the brain to do what the damaged part can no longer do. It literally builds new neural pathways that take over that function. They accomplish this when the patient is coached to repeat the damaged function repeatedly thereby sending signals to the brain.

The same principal applies to emotional functioning. If a client is suffering from inability to attend and focus, repeated attempts to focus results in the building of new neural pathways for focus. If a person with difficulties with obsessions and worries is led and coached to practice taking control of repetitive thoughts their brain builds the ability to do so.

Likewise, a problem with impulse control will improve when the person is coached or required to force themselves to control impulses. With each attempt to control one's impulses new neural pathways are developed for self-control. We can then apply this same principal to any emotional problem including taking control of one's substance abuse.  

It's unclear whether these abilities are learned neurologically when they are stimulated by medication rather than practice. If the medication leads the person to do the repeated behaviors or thought processes that lead to the development of new neural pathways, then clearly they benefit. However, if they lead the person to not do the work because they experience relief from symptoms, then it's not as clear whether the long-term benefits will be gained. 



The Importance of Resilience in      


 Judith Margerum, Ph.D. 

  According to the National Institute of Mental Health 1/2 of all psychological disorders manifest themselves by the age of 14 and 2/3 by early 20's. Fourteen is also the time for beginning high school where youth are confronted with issues of identity and fitting in. If school has already been a challenge or if kids never had to work to get good grades, high school can be a time of academic crisis that sets the stage for struggles in the next 4 years of life. There is also pressure for young people to think about the future, college and what they want to do with their lives. On top of this they are confronted with economic, political and environmental crises in addition to family stress that is likely to be a result of divorce or financial struggles.

It is important that we prepare kids for these life struggles. We can't get rid of biology, stress or personal struggles but we can increase a child's resilience at any age. Resilience is defined in Webster's Dictionary as: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Since we can't control misfortune we should focus on adjusting and bouncing back from adversity. Some children naturally have many of the factors of resilience but others will require effort to build resilience. The stronger the connections and sense of success in family, school and community the greater resilience one is likely to have.

Let's focus on the family component. It is important that children feel strongly connected to at least one parent/caretaker whom they can depend on to help them negotiate the world. Divorce, financial and other crises can disrupt families but it is especially important that adults make sure to be available to children during these times. Even strong families need to keep this in mind. Spending time individually with children for even short periods of time can help them feel more connected to parents. It is also important that children feel successful and important as a family member. A child that is constantly in trouble is not going to feel good about their status as a family member. They need to feel good as a sibling, son/daughter, grandchild. Having a role in helping the family function and feeling part of the team whether it is walking the dog, opening the door for grandma or reading to little sister gives a sense of purpose and a feeling that they are needed in the family. Having a positive role in the family as the computer expert or animal nurturer gives children a sense of who they are. Children do not need to be happy or having fun all the time because that is not reality. Trying to make sure children are always happy and do not face frustration is often the biggest mistake that parents make when children are young. What kids then learn is that the world revolves around them. Kids need to do the mundane work of chores, the hard work of sticking with a difficult task and the frustration of doing what the other family members want some of the time. The support, warmth and love of the family then help the child manage the frustration that comes before the sense of accomplishment or pride in being a good sister or brother. If the family is not able to provide this experience a relationship with an aunt, grandparent or even close family friend can also provide this important experience/connection for a child. It is never too late.

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