Michigan Family Institute Newsletter
www.mifamilytherapy.com        248-593-4784
October  2012
In This Issue


Power and Compassion: Working with difficult adolescents  

(Guilford Press 1996)

Jerome A. Price


Take Control of Your Divorce

(Impact Publications 2011)

Margerum J, Price J, and Windell J 

Defusing the High Conflict Divorce 

(Impact Publications 2007)

Gaulier B, Margerum J, Price J, Windell J


The Right to Be the Grownup
A Parent Skills Training     Curriculum 
(Zeig-Tucker Publications 2003)

Price J, Margerum  J 


As a courtesy to the many trusted professionals who refer to us, we offer presentations for staff development and for parents in schools or treatment programs at no charge.
Subjects are many and varied and can be coordinated with your program's needs.

Just call or email us

Let us know which of the following groups would be helpful to you and your clients.

  • TUNE UP YOUR MARRIAGE: It's not that bad but could be better. 
  • THE RIGHT TO BE THE GROWNUP: Helping Parents Be Parents to Their Difficult Teens  

Please call or email us with your preferences or with other subjects you'd like us to speak on or do groups for. We're interested in what will best meet the needs of you and your clients.


Jerome A. Price, MA, LMFT, LMSW

Depression is a word used generically to describe a mood problem characterized by sadness, withdrawal and a variety of negative symptoms. You may have seen commercials or heard from doctors that it's caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This isn't entirely accurate. Much like listening to political campaigns, this definition has been one that some factions prefer, but is in fact a misunderstanding of the facts. They refer to the belief that the change in level of Serotonin in the brain is the cause of the depression.


It's true that when a person is depressed they show a reduction in the level of Serotonin in the brain. However it's unclear whether this chemical change is a cause, an effect or a co-existing symptom with depression. We also know that medications that increase the level of Serotonin in the brain can help reduce symptoms. Unlike in the television commercials, people using these medications rarely experience a transformation into the happy, joyful people you see on television. Antidepressant medications can be very helpful, though, in reducing symptoms so that depressed people can begin to do the daily activities and participate in therapies that can truly help resolve the depression.


About half of depressions, statistically, resolve within six months even if untreated. How do we go about increasing the chances that a particular depressed person will be one of those who improves in a reasonable length of time and gets on with his or her life? Family Therapy theory and treatment methods differ from the mainstream approach regarding depression.


Traditional wisdom, whether with youth or adults, is to reduce the pressure on the person so that they don't get worse because they're suffering from a disorder. In Family Therapy we're more likely to think of depression as the onset of inertia while a person is working something out for themselves. The Law of Inertia in general states that an object in motion will tend to stay in motion and an object at rest will tend to stay at rest - unless it's acted upon by an outside force.


The more withdrawn, inactive and emotionally paralyzed a depressed person becomes, the more an outside force will be needed in order to get him or her back in motion. Therefore, we are proponents of steady healthy pressure on the person to keep her or him maintaining normal functions. This pressure also pushes the person toward known remedies to depression such as aerobic exercise, meditation, yoga, tai chi, changes in eating habits and exposure to humor and positive distractions from one's own thoughts.


The further a person is allowed to withdraw from normal life the longer the journey will be back toward normality. Rather than a mantra of DON'T PUT PRESSURE ON HIM we encourage a mantra of EXPECT NORMALITY. We find that the person's journey back toward feeling normal will be much shorter with this approach.


As a final thought, the Depression Project at the University of Michigan carried out a three year study of responses to treatment for depression. Among their findings was data that showed that depressed adults improved more rapidly in marital therapy than they did in individual therapy. Perhaps that improvement was because the presence of another family member in therapy allows the therapist to choreograph interactions at home that activate the depressed person. The therapist can utilize that other person as the "outside force" to combat the inertia we discussed earlier.






Judith Margerum, Ph.D., L.P. 


There are many reasons that children and teens may get poor grades in school. Learning disabilities, attentional problems, behavioral and emotional difficulties can individually or together play a role in academic struggles. School is a major part of a child's life and poor functioning at school usually impacts relationships at home as well resulting in a sense of failure in these major areas of life. Thus it is important to increase success in both areas.


It is not unusual for parents to bring a teenager to therapy who has done poorly (or below parental expectations) in school for years. Often parents have tried rewarding, punishing, checking up with the school, nagging, lecturing and a combination of all. When they are really monitoring every step sometimes grades improve a bit but come high school these improvements are harder to come by and have taken a toll on parents and child.


Often the participants have "reasons" for the school failure. Parents may attribute it to the child being lazy and oppositional. Teachers attribute the poor grades to lack of effort, lack of attentiveness and not caring. The teenager attributes it to the parents being "controlling" or not caring. But when the problems continue even with therapeutic intervention in the system there may be something that has been missed.


Sometimes learning disabilities are overlooked in children that may be able to communicate well with adults or if behavioral problems overshadow academic difficulty. Children may be distracted if they do not understand what the teacher is saying, they may be frustrated and act out or may stop doing work that they do not feel they can do. These behaviors can become entrenched and go on for years.


If the situation is not improving you may want to take a step back and gather more information. A psychological evaluation may be in order to assess the teenager's intellectual potential, academic functioning and identify possible learning disabilities or even interference of anxiety. It can be a relief to parent and child alike to find that there really is a problem and that expectations are not in line with a teen's ability. Even if no disability is identified it is still important information that might impact a youth who may feel "stupid" after years of struggle. Schools may balk at evaluating a junior or senior in high school but it is never too late to identify a learning disability as it can help in making decisions for the future. There are even support services available in college for young people with diagnosed learning disabilities.






30233 Southfield Road Suite 109
Southfield, Michigan  48076