Therapy: What’s it Like?

OyMG - Therapy

Some people have no idea what to expect the first time they go to therapy. They know only what they have seen on TV-formal offices, doctors in suits, couches, fancy artwork on the walls. I don’t want to lead you to believe that some offices aren’t like this. And yes, some therapists wear suits. But many of us don’t.  I don’t even own a suit.  The decision to go to therapy is a personal one made for lots and lots of reasons. And, quite frankly, you don’t really need a reason to go to therapy. You can just go and check it out if you feel like it would be helpful for you. There are lots of ways to “check out” a therapist before you even set foot in the person’s office. Ask around for recommendations. Check out the professional’s website, credentials, and place a phone call to get a “quick feel” for the person over the phone. Therapists are happy to be interviewed, if you prefer.  Just know that you may be charged for the hour. Therapists are great at asking questions. We have been trained for years to do so. Think about what you want to know from the therapist before you go in and I recommend bringing in a list of these questions. For example, “What is your style of practice?” is a question I’m commonly asked. People ask me about my hours, what kind of time is involved in the process, and about my experience in the profession.  Any question is a fair question; just know that there are some questions a therapist may not answer. What? You mean the therapist is a going to ask me lots of questions but he/she may not answer mine? Well, yes!  In our profession, we are trained to create boundaries to help you, the client, work through the issues you came to see us help you work through. In order to do this, we need to create a safe space and one that isn’t about “us”, the therapists, but rather about “you” the client. In order to do so, we typically don’t tell you much about our personal lives.  This is for your benefit.  For the same reasons, when we see you in public, we won’t wave you down and draw attention to you. This is for your privacy and for our privacy too. Of course, every therapist works differently and provides you with a different “feel”.  But I hope after you read this the process feels a little less out...

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Off to College, Hard Goodbyes

Mishegas - Diploma

For recent high school graduates, those inevitable goodbyes are quickly approaching. Those long summer days are turning into just several weeks before you will pack up and head off to college, a year in Israel, or wherever life leads you. Whether you are going off to college this fall or not, chances are you have many friends who are and are moving out of town.  This is a time to prepare for goodbyes. And some of us are better at it than others. But what do you even say? How exactly do you say goodbye to that friend you’ve been walking to school with since Kindergarten? That lacrosse buddy you endured endless runs with? Your pal you skipped Sunday School with? The parties, those endless graduation parties, will soon turn into goodbye parties. And I think they may be harder for those of you who are either not leaving, or leaving later. With each passing day of August, more and more friends head off to school, leaving fewer friends to meet up with each day. Figure out when you can say goodbye to each and every friend you wish to say goodbye to, and even prepare what you want to say if that helps. And if you aren’t the type to say what you feel, send a note or message. I remember my first day of college. I woke up at the crack of dawn; I couldn’t sleep. I worked out, to help with my mental health, trust me! My dad insisted we leave extra early to get to our preferred stairwell for move in day. He thought the university would allow us to move in earlier than the time on the form they sent us regarding move in procedures (this of course did not happen but we were ready just in case!) We stood outside in the August heat for hours, with my stuff right by the door to the stairwell, ready to go. And when the dorm finally opened at the allotted time, my family had me moved in in about twenty minutes. I set everything up quickly, as I had beaten my roommates to the room. My dad whispered to me to let my mom make the bed. “I can do it,” I remember telling him. “Just let her do it,” he said. And I did. My mom made my bed. And that was it. They gave me a hug and kiss and they left. In all my anxiety for the goodbye to come, it came and went so quickly. Looking back, I wish they had stayed longer. I know I pushed them to go, but really wanted them to stay. There is no reason to be left with any regrets of this big day. Before you get yourself packed up for the big day, ask yourself these questions: 1. Who do you want to go with you for the move in day? 2. How long do you want your entourage to stay? (would you prefer a quick goodbye or would you prefer them to spend the night somewhere nearby and say goodbye in the morning) 3. Tell your family what you need in advance of making your plans There are many exciting days ahead as you begin your college career! I wish you safety, fun, and a fantastic...

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A Jew in Singapore

OyMG - Singapore Synagogue

I recently had the privilege to travel to the country of Singapore, a land that is the quintessential melting pot. The country is rich with culture influenced by China, India, Great Britain, Australia, and the Middle East. I walked from neighborhood to neighborhood, soaking in the local culture-which of course is so diverse, each block even smells different. There is Little India, Chinatown, colonial sections Clark and Boat Quay, and the endless rows of sky scraper after sky scraper marking this ever evolving land that became an independent country in 1965.  I wondered what is it to be a Jew in a land with such melted culture. I took a cab to Maghain Aboth, the oldest standing synagogue in the Far East, built in the late 1880s. I arrived at a gate, proclaiming, “I’m a nice Jewish girl from the States. May I please see the synagogue?” After a thorough check of my passport, I was allowed into the complex, consisting of the old synagogue and the Jewish welfare building, donated by a wealthy philanthropist in recent years. There is a kosher restaurant, a day camp, a youth group, and much of what you’d see at a shul here in St. Louis. And with a warm smile from the security guard, I was invited back for Shabbat dinner. The synagogue is what you’d expect, though much smaller. The Jewish community in Singapore consists of 1,000 Jews, explained the security guard, and the Jews of Singapore all pray in just the small synagogue I saw, and one other small synagogue built a few miles from this location. Unbelievable! The Jews of Singapore came shortly after Thomas Raffles, father of the Singapore colony, in the early 1800s to find new opportunities in the trading post of Singapore. They came from India and were of Baghdadi decent, the Jewish Welfare Board explains. The original synagogue no longer exists, but Maghain Aboth was built shortly after the arrival Jews to Singapore. Many of the local Jews left after World War II, as many Jews were placed in internment camps by the Japanese during their occupation of Singapore. However, as Singapore’s trade opportunities and wealth have grown in recent decades, the number of Jews living in Singapore has increased. And in true Singaporean style-the synagogue (remember it was built in the 1880s) is built on the same block as a Catholic church, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple. Walking out of the synagogue I was once again reminded of example of tolerance and acceptance that is Singapore. Link of Interest:...

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Those Difficult Conversations

OyMG - Conversation with teenager

It is the dreaded conversation for many parents-the sex talk. Did you know that your children know more about sex than you think they know? These conversations are NOT easy but a necessary part of parenting, and something we all need to become comfortable enough with in order to keep our precious babies safe and well informed.  Many adolescents learn about sex from their peers (Berger, 2010). I ask you to sit with that information for a moment and ponder to yourself. Do you really want your children getting information on sex, which may be incorrect or incomplete, from their peers?!  Parents, who can be quite influential role models when it comes to sexual behavior, are often slow to begin to talk with their children about sex.  . This again may lead to teenagers being ill informed and having incomplete or incorrect information. The obvious answer here is that you, the parent, need to speak to your children about sex and I recommend doing so before your children become sexually active The average American teen becomes sexually active at age sixteen.  And about two thirds of American high school seniors report that they have been sexually active. I frequently tell parents, it is often easiest to have conversations about sex in the car as neither the parent or the child must maintain eye contact. Try to speak to your child when they are not using an electronic device. They may not answer your questions or engage in your conversation BUT the child is LISTENING! No verbal response is needed. Prepare as you must, say what you need to say, and call it a day! Consider these questions as you prepare yourself for that important conversation: What information would you like your child to have? What information do they have? (Remember, they often know more than we think they do!) Consider how to be age appropriate in providing the information. For example, using the word “wee wee” when talking to a twelve year old wouldn’t be age appropriate. Do you have information about your own experience you want your child to know? If so, how do you want to present this information? What do you want your child to know about you and what do you not want to share? Don’t assume that your child will make the same decisions about sexuality as you did. You are, after all, different people with different life experiences and so on. Be respectful of your child’s individuality. Be open to your child’s questions and know that it is OK to tell your child when asked a difficult question that you’d like to think about your answer and get back to him/her tomorrow. And then do get back to your child! Remember how it felt to have your parents talk to you about sex. As uncomfortable as you may feel discussing sexual issues as a parent, your child may feel just as embarrassed if not more so. Don’t assume that your child’s other parent has provided your child with information.  Married or not, discuss these issues with your child’s other parent and be sure you are “on the same page” about issues of sexuality and who will discuss what issues with the child. Or better yet, do it together! I am not going to pretend...

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The Joys of Summer

OyMG - Summer Fun

The days are growing longer. Pretty soon the crickets will be chirping late into the evening. I can actually smell the Dining Hall, taste the foil packs, and feel the rocky roads on my tanned feet. I recall the smell of the Lake of the Ozarks on a 105 degree day and it makes me smile. Summer is coming. For me, as a sixteen year veteran of Camp Sabra, the coming summer makes me  dream of those gorgeous, hot days, the sweat dripping off me at Land Sports (my favorite activity as a camper) and my board shorts sticking to my legs after an early morning wake board expedition (a skill I developed as a staff member).  Whatever your summer pleasure is, those long summer days are quickly approaching. You have less than three months of school left! I realize, overnight camp isn’t for everyone but it is time to start thinking about what you plan to do this summer. Summer can mean boredom for some teens.  Boredom can lead to excessive sleep, excessive gaming, fighting with family, and unhappiness. This is the time to make your plan! Talk to your parents about their plans, expectations and budget and work out your next steps. Ideas for Summer 2012: Explore a passion– Always wanted to hike? Summer is the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Wanting to learn to play a musical instrument or speak Mandarin? Take some steps to make it happen. Get a job– And make some money 🙂 Think about your future goals and if there is a summer job that might be a great fit for you. And if it isn’t the “dream” job, remember it is only one short summer. Interested in College? Check a few out this summer. Just remember that college campuses look and feel a bit different in the summer than during the regular school year. If you love one, plan to go back once school is in session. Camp– I cannot think of a better way to spend a summer, but I’m biased in this area. Camps throughout the country accept CITs on a volunteer basis. Some of the programs cost money. Call the Jewish Federation and get a list of local camps. Knock out a few High School courses – Summer School- Yep! It can make your schedule a lot easier during the regular school year so consider it as an option. Knock out a few college courses at a local community college– Students often do this the summer before beginning college. It is a great transition to college course work and can make the first semester or year of school much easier by allowing you to take fewer hours that first year. And, you may find you wind up in class with lots of your old high school buddies. Check out local landmarks– You probably don’t have much time during the school year to see all of the beautiful neighborhoods in St. Louis. See what you’ve been missing… Volunteer– There are hundreds of volunteer opportunities in the St. Louis area. Not sure if a local agency or camp takes volunteers? Call the Director and ask. The worst you hear is “no.” Get in shape– Check out Parkway North’s Strength and Speed Camp (hardest and best workout of my life)...

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Find Your Passion

OyMG - Find Your Passion

You may have heard of the mitzvah, the commandment, “Tikkun Olam,” literally translated as repairing the world. And each spring, most high school juniors take Government and are required to participate in some community service as part of the course. You may have done a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Project or even choose tikkun olam projects for your religious school class. Some of you may dread these experiences, but I think the key to this exercise is finding a service project that best fits your personality and interests.  I want to share some of my personal passion for a project that might be of interest to some of you search for your projects. The project, The Back to School Store, is put on each summer by the National Council of Jewish Women. We literally create a store of brand new clothing, coats, shoes and school supplies for St. Louis area children in need where they come and “shop” for their items for the upcoming school year. The items we provide children allow them to start their school years with the essential items needed to succeed. We serve a thousand children on the day of the store and continue providing needed clothing to children through our Kids Community Closets throughout the school year at local schools and food pantries. Much assistance from volunteers is needed including setting up and cleaning up the store, assisting in running the closets and store itself, hosting drives and fundraisers and more. We are lucky to have much support from community members and organizations including schools, religious schools, camps and more and we really appreciate any assistance we are given! There are literally thousands of projects in the St. Louis area that need your help. It is simply a matter of finding the “right fit” for you. Questions you may ask yourself in choosing your project: What are my interests? What is my passion? What type of setting am I most/least comfortable working in? Would I like to work with people in need or prefer to work behind the scenes? What type of training is needed for my desired job? Will the site/program accept someone my age? How will people benefit from my work? Will I be satisfied with the result of my work? Will the work fulfill the requirements of my school project? In looking for the proper site for you, check out websites like the Jewish Federation (and agencies it supports) https://www.jewishinstlouis.org as well as the United Way website https://www.stl.unitedway.org. You may also want to talk to friends and family about experiences they have had and enjoyed. I hope you’ll email me and let me know about your experiences at jenny@jennyhoffmanlcsw.com so I can include them in future blog...

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