Dr. Stein's Psychology Blog
My thoughts on mental health counseling, therapy, neuropsychology, collaborative divorce and more.
Raising children post-divorce can be extra challenging for any parent, sometimes especially men. After divorce, many men tend to spend less time with the children. This distance sometimes can leave the father feeling isolated and disengaged from his kids. A decrease in positive parenting time can also lead to feelings of sadness and depression in a father.
Not only does divorce impact the couple, but also when a child witnesses negative interactions between two people he/she loves, then that can have a detrimental on a child’s emotional, social, educational, and physical health. In the counseling and coaching work that I do with divorcing and divorced fathers, I recommend the following strategies to help father’s stay connected with their children and avoid unintended emotional stress placed on children:
1) Minimize the amount you share regarding finances: Let your children remain children. Resist sharing the financial burdens you may face. Exposing children to financial stress increases their anxiety and misplaces guilt and blame.
2) Be the Good Cop and the Bad Cop: Kids actually respond well to boundaries that parents create. Showing that you have limits regarding what is acceptable shows them that you care about them. Don’t make your ex-wife be the only disciplinarian. Choose to join in the big battles like the importance of making healthy choices, taking academics seriously, and being a good citizen. But, consider leaving your kids some breathing room for screen time, late nights, and junk food.
3) Believe in your Children: Let them know that they can achieve anything they put their mind to and that they have 100% of your support.
4) Stay in Touch: Always be accessible to your children by phone or text outside of your assigned visitation hours. They need to know you are available 24/7/365 in order to be secure and attached.
5) Be positive about your ex-spouse: If you don’t have anything nice to say about your ex, don’t say it to your children. Fifty percent of your child is made up with your former partner’s DNA. Every time you insult your spouse in front of your child, you are attacking your children’s character as well.
It’s not unusual to need some extra, unbiased support during a stressful time like divorce. Feel free to call my Red Bank office for a free, 15 minute consultation at 732-747-8818 to see if I can be of further assistance during this transitional time.
Post-partum depression is a real and potentially serious problem. In my 15 years of private practice in Red Bank, New Jersey it is something that I have seen time and time again. Most guys, and many women, don’t know that it is also one of the most misunderstood mental health issues of our time. Because it is not readily discussed, new parents can be caught off guard by this powerful and overwhelming experience. Typically, prospective parents await their newborn imagining all of the positives, envisioning themselves welling up with positive emotions. They expect to be overjoyed and filled with love when they bring home their sweet baby. However, about 15 percent of women who give birth experience post-partum depression, a problem that extends beyond simply feeling sad or blue. If your loved one experiences post-partum depression, you can take an active role of duty in this endeavor. Here’s how:
1) Secure The Bunk: Make the bed each morning when you wake up. When feeling tired, overwhelmed, and scared, little gestures go a long way. You taking on this little household chore will reassure her that while she and you are taking care of a newborn, she is also being taken care of in a loving way. Also, the baby’s mom may be less tempted to get back into bed if it is already made. A neat bedroom can be conducive to a more relaxed state of mind.
2) Take Charge of Mess Duty: Ask her what baby feeding time is most difficult for her and offer to cover that session regularly. Getting that little extra break can go a long way in lessening the load. When women experience post-partum depression they often feel overwhelmed by the enormity of motherhood and tasks such as feeding can feel monumentally insurmountable.
3) Keep Troop Morale High: Remind her often that you love her and you are a team in this new "project.” With family and friends rushing and gushing to your newborn, a mother with post-partum depression can feel left lonely. Reassuring her that your feelings towards her have not changed goes a long way.
4) Say No To Radio Silence: Text or phone her during the day to show you are still thinking about her. Being in touch even when you are not around keeps her feeling connected. Research demonstrates that the more secure an attachment to others a new mother feels, the quicker she is able to adjust to new demands and recover from depression.
5) Practice Tactical Patience: Tactical patience is giving a situation enough time to develop and unfold before trying to determine meaning. In other words, be patient with yourself, your wife, and your new baby. In non-military-speak, do your best to stay calm, cool, and collected. Stress can be contagious and if you are feeling it, chances are so is the new mother.
6)Move Up The Chain Of Command: In a gentle and reassuring fashion, suggest the possibility of talking to an experienced mental health professional. Offer to make the phone call yourself to set up an appointment, accompany her, or take care of the baby while she takes care of herself.
While post-partum depression can be scary and overwhelming, it can be managed, especially with the help of a licensed clinical psychologist. If you or your loved one is feeling stuck, feel free to call me in Red Bank, NJ at (732) 747-8818 for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening, set up an appointment, or help direct you to the right person.
When most people hear that word they think of heartbreak, tears, arguing, and a big hit to their pocketbook. Divorce, indeed, is an emotionally-charged process that’s full of intense and unpredictable feelings. In fact, divorce is one of the most stressful life changes that a person can undergo. Because of that, it is in your best interest to get a trained mental health professional/divorce coach on your team.
Collaborative divorce is a process in which a married couple, at odds with each other, seek to amicably end their marriage. This process leads to smoother transition to post-divorce life and has a positive impact on the whole family, most notably the children. As with any worthwhile endeavor, splitting up is typically not easy for the husband and wife, even if it’s what they ultimately want. Specially trained and experienced mental health professionals play a key role in assisting the divorcing parties as well as the entire collaborative team to stay focused, work on the problems at hand and deal with the emotional challenges that invariably come up in the course of a successful collaborative divorce.
You might think to yourself, “But, I don’t need a mental health therapist, there’s nothing wrong with my brain,” but divorce coaching and psychotherapy are two different experiences. Collaborative Divorce coaching focuses on the on the immediate challenges and obstacles related to the break-up – parenting, conflict resolution, and working through squabbles about the minutia. As a member of the collaborative divorce team, the divorce coach does not take sides, will not think you are “crazy” and helps prepare the family adjust to the challenges of rebooting a family.
As complex and trying as divorce is, one of the major advances and advantages of collaborative divorce is the inclusion of mental health wellness coaches on the team. The recognition that a healthy divorce goes beyond legal matters represents how collaborative divorce is truly a value-added process that pays attention to the whole person and the whole family. Best of luck to you in the next chapter of your life. Check out this link: Jersey Shore Collaborative Law Group for more information about the work I do with a team of legal and financial specialists.
Fatherhood. Most dads-to-be imagine looking down at their newborn child and envision themselves welling up with positive emotions. They expect to be overjoyed and filled with love when they bring home their bouncing baby. However, after counseling men for over the past 15 years in Red Bank, New Jersey, I have learned that is not always the case. In fact, approximately one out of every 10 men experience symptoms of depression after the birth of a child. The condition is called paternal postpartum depression or PPD, and it’s real.
Are you or someone you know experiencing PPD? Check out the list below to find out.
5 Common Signs of Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPD)
1) Increased Irritability and Anger: Over my years of counseling men this has been by far the most common symptom. Men sometimes report, “I fly-off the handle easily since the baby came,” or “I want to scream at everyone,” or even “I worry I will get so mad that I will hurt my child.”
2) Withdrawing from Friends and Family: Because a dad with PPD is struggling with powerful negative emotions, there is a tendency for him to throw himself into work or other activities as a way of avoiding the family. One new father recently told me that he took a second job doing overnight stock, not because the family needed extra money, but because it allowed him to escape from being at home.
3) Regret: Fathers with PPD will often tearfully relate that having a child was a “big mistake.” These gentlemen mourn the loss of their lifestyle and worry that they won’t have the opportunity for their interests and hobbies. Left unchecked, regret leads to shame and guilt, allowing hopelessness to take over.
4) Emotional Detachment Towards the Baby: Men with PPD can have difficulty bonding with the baby. They want to love the child, but feel that love has not started yet. When this happens not only do they think that they are a bad parent, but also they fear that they are not a good person. When speaking about this men will often describe their relationship with their child as blank or indifferent.
5) Increased Consumption of Alcohol or Drugs: Men in general have higher levels of alcohol and substance over-use than women. This is especially true with dad’s who struggle with PPD. Sometimes the new father has an already existing history of alcohol dependency, which increases or sometimes this becomes “something new that I do to take the edge of when the baby does not stop wailing.”
While PPD can be scary and overwhelming, it can be managed, especially with the help of a licensed clinical psychologist. If you are still feeling stuck, feel free to call me in Red Bank, NJ at (732) 747-8818 for a free 15 minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to hear about what is happening, set up an appointment, or help direct you to the right person. If you are looking for help with postpartum depression or any other men’s related issue, you can read more about how I can help here.
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Men are often on the other side of my office door, pacing in the waiting room, as I prepare for our first session of psychological counseling. Many of my male patients are nervous the first time we meet and have never reached out for mental health therapy before. Some worry that asking for help is a sign of defeat.
Some can’t decide what to talk about in our first session, which can be scary for them. I take a moment to breathe and prepare myself before opening my door for the first time to meet someone new.
As a private practitioner for over 15 years working in Red Bank, NJ with my brethren is my wheelhouse. It’s unusual to find a psychologist who specializes in men and the women who love them. Males comprise of only a third of all counseling clients in the US, but being a male carries a higher risk of suicide completion, alcoholism, attention deficit disorder, and a whole host of other mental health difficulties. Plus, compared to women, men have fewer close relationships, making their struggle an isolated and lonely one. What makes the fact that men shy away from formal mental health treatment extra disturbing is that by and large, men and women have the same wants and needs.
So, what happens in a typical initial visit? As I open the door, we immediately make eye-contact and shake hands. I can often tell my patient is relieved. Before our first meeting, sometimes men imagine me to be wearing an argyle sweater-vest and sounding touchy-feely. They see there is no need to lie down on a couch. My patients learn I am a human, not a mind reader who can peer into dark and hidden thoughts, not a superhero who can instantly interpret a psyche. I am just a person willing to sit down, roll up my sleeves, and get to work with them on what bothers them most.
Often, I learn that the gentleman is in my office because he is “ticked off a lot of the time and is easy to anger.” Most of the time he has tried to take care of the problem by himself, but it has only gotten worse over time. He wants things to get better. We are prepared and all systems are go.Towards the end of our meeting, I spend some time talking about practical strategies that can be used to help the man I am working with become less angry and distant from those who care about him. I use a no-nonsense approach, and there something even more important going on: I listen.Sounds ridiculously obvious, huh? But when men can talk freely and really sense that they are not being judged or attacked; they speak more. They become more specific about the breadth and depth of their struggles. And when men sense that I am really listening to them and they are being heard; they become open to hearing what I have to offer them in therapy. This is where flexibility increases and the need to control decreases. Anger gets left behind in the dust.
The hour moves quickly and at the end I ask the gentleman, whom I know better now, if he feels comfortable working with me, and more importantly, if the goals we chose together seem attainable. He agrees and we schedule our next meeting. When I am alone again in my office, I take a moment and know that if we both work hard, he can reach his goals. I look forward to listening more and the progress to come.
I'm a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist with a private practice in Red Bank, NJ.