Realistic Serenity Behavioral Health

Offering individual, couples, family and child counseling to the Denver metro area


No, Talking About Suicide Does Not Encourage It

Suicide rates have been on the rise for a while now, which continues to be heartbreaking. However, it is important to consider that the increase in suicides we see, in the media and beyond, has also created an opportunity for us to finally really start talking about it. That, however, begs the question of how we start talking about it, especially with young kids, and how do we offer support if our teen has already expressed suicidality? For parents reading this who may be wondering these same questions, start by not panicking.

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How to Get Your Kids to Listen to You by Using Positive Language

“Stop”, “no”, “don’t” and “can’t” are words that children grow up hearing. Whether it is parents, caregivers, teachers, siblings, friends, or media, negative language is everywhere. Kids often hear what adults do not want them to do, instead of what adults want them to do. This is often the difference between negative language and positive language. Studies have shown that changing how adults talk to children have a positive effect on behavior.

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Teaching Your Child Nonverbal Communication

Simply put: children are not born with the ability to recognize and control their own emotions. It’s something that needs to be learned/taught. This is why it’s easier to tell when a child likes or doesn’t like something — they wear their emotions on their face! Understanding the way other people communicate nonverbally is essential for us to be able to relate and get along with others. This includes children! Click here for some tips to help you help your child understand body language.

Play Therapy Conference

By Christa Grauert


This year, I was lucky enough to attend The Association for Play Therapy Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Having graduated with my Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling only a couple months before, I was anxious to attend. I could feel emotions stir inside my stomach and I began to doubt who I was as a therapist. These feelings of inferiority were quickly squashed the second I stepped foot in the Grand Sheraton, as I was immersed in a sea of other Play Therapists who share the same passion as myself. There were 1,100 therapists there, all eager to learn, and take away new knowledge to better support our clientele.


Being my first conference, I threw myself into as many workshops as I could, but could feel the fatigue set in after day three of 9am to 6pm classes. Nevertheless, there was an energy in each of the workshops that encouraged me to continue showing up and opening my mind and heart to whatever I was about to absorb in those moments. I attended a range of trainings beginning with innovative techniques to support hard to engage kids and teens and ending with a Jungian play therapy approach to sexual abuse victims. Attending this conference, I gained a new perspective of how I can approach my sessions depending on the needs of my clients. I feel that I walked away with more skills and resources in my toolbox that will contribute to the well-rounded, engaging and compassionate play therapist that I want to be. I look forward to attending the 2019 Conference next year!

Having a Growth Mindset

By Danielle Maizel

The term “growth mindset” describes an underlying belief about intelligence in which students believe in their ability to get smarter, so they understand that their effort makes them stronger.  “I can’t” statements are changed to “I can’t, YET” in a growth mindset.

Parents! Here is a great tool for teaching your children how to embrace the Power of Yet by teaching them how to problem solve using a growth mindset.

Are They Too Young?

There are definitely benefits to “letting” transgender children socially transition at a young age. For one, kids just don’t care. It’s true! You want to go by a different name and wear a dress? Ok - let’s go get a snack now. That’s usually pretty close to what I hear from young kids who have not been told otherwise. Preschoolers and elementary age children are typically pretty understanding when their friend tells them they are really a different gender. A lot of people think that we don’t need to talk to kids about this - but we do talk to them about diversity in other realms, right? Why would this be different? A child having support and knowledge about who they are from a young age is so incredibly empowering for them. They can connect with other transgender children so they don’t later feel isolated, and like they are the only ones in the world who feel this way. We have phenomenal resources here in Colorado in the way of support groups and medical/mental health professionals to make transitions easier. There are also very specific laws for schools about basic rights of LGBTQ+ youth. YouthSeen is an organization in our community that can help connect families to some of these resources.

Connecting with other families, knowledgeable professionals and reputable groups can make accessing this information much easier, as well as building a support network for parents who are supporting their child. No child should feel alone in their journey, but no parent should either.

*As published in OutFront magazine, July 18, 2018

Trauma and Play Therapy

I get asked a lot about Play Therapy:
What is it? 
Is it a for real treatment? 
Aren't you just playing with kids? 
How can that really help? 
Yes, it's a real thing. Yes, there is science backing why it works and what happens in the brain. No, it's not the same as talking to kids while they play with some toys or a game. 
I had the privilege of seeing Paris Goodyear-Brown speak and I own several of her books on trauma in children. If you've ever asked any of the above questions about Play Therapy I urge you to check out this video! 

At Realistic Serenity we wear many hats, and treat adults as well as children and families. But this is why Play Therapy will always have a special place in our hearts. 

They Don't Remember That!

Jennifer Shivey MA, LPC, RPT-S


I’d like to talk about one of my favorite myths of childhood: “Oh, they were so little, they don’t even remember that awful thing that happened,” and “Children don’t remember anything before the age of three.” This is only partially true. There are two kinds of memories that we need to pay attention to.


Explicit Memory

Explicit memories are the concrete memories that we can recall. These are things such as, “I remember going to the amusement park,” or “I remember that I got really sick and had to stay in the hospital.” These are the memories that start to solidify around the age of three. At this age, memories become increasingly more detailed and are easier to recall. This is due to brain development, language development and an overall exposure to different experiences that children are now able to differentiate. But that is not to say that they don’t remember anything prior to this stage of development.

Implicit Memory

Implicit memories are the things that maybe we don’t remember but our bodies remember. For example, maybe we don’t remember that we were involved in a bad car accident at the age of two, but our bodies remember a time that was not safe. Our bodies remember something happened that scared us, made our heart rate increase, maybe we felt alone, etc. These events then have the possibility of becoming triggers in everyday life. We might not understand why we sometimes have panic attacks in the car for no apparent reason, and it can feel very frustrating and confusing not to have a reason for those reactions.

This is where EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy can be helpful. For EMDR, it’s not necessarily important to remember the triggering event. We can use the current responses to current day triggers as a starting place. EMDR will help to unravel the connections that were made to those implicit and explicit memories. It’s not hypnosis - no chance of unknowingly clucking around like a chicken here! Clients are awake and present for the entire process. We still remember those events, it’s just not at the forefront of our minds triggering that fight, flight or freeze response because our mind knows it’s not something that’s happening right now. EMDR looks very different for children than it does for adults, so it’s important to make sure that your clinician has the training to fit your individual needs.

To learn more about if EMDR is right for you or your child, visit our website here!


Back to School: Tips for Sanity

Jennifer Shivey MA, LPC, RPT

Photo by alexandr_1958/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by alexandr_1958/iStock / Getty Images

By now, most kids are back in school. Hooray! This usually brings a mix of emotions for both children and their parents. Here are some things to keep in mind as your student embarks on this year’s school journey:

1.     The days are long! Especially for children entering kindergarten. Even if your child has attended full time preschool, kindergarten is a whole new game. Naps are gone. They are learning more and adjusting to all the new rules and expectations, at the same time that they are taking in everything that their new environment has to offer. Expect some meltdowns and know that this is normal. Which brings us to the next point…

2.     “Why do I hear nothing but rave reviews of my child during the day, yet they lose their s%#! the minute they get home/in the car?” Yeah. I’ve been there. Kids are typically able to keep it together while they are at school. But it takes everything in them to do so. Once they see you, well…you are their safe zone. Their home and family is the one place where they know that no matter what, you will still love and accept them. As such, this is where they can lose it without fear of repercussions. If you find this happening, congratulations! You’ve created a safe environment where they feel ok to show you the not so shiny parts of themselves. Well done! Validate, validate, validate and help them to name their emotions. “It seems like you had a long day. I can tell you’re exhausted. I can see you’re upset – tell me more. It’s ok to feel _____, but I’m not ok with hitting/yelling/throwing/etc.” This will calm down a bit, but don’t take it personally in the meantime.

3.     Now is not the time to add extracurricular activities to the schedule. In fact, it might be better to pare those back a bit initially if possible while they are adjusting to school. Again, the days are long and they are nearing max capacity as is. Take this time to establish a routine, and work out any kinks that may need adjustment. See if you can catch the next session of that activity later in the fall.

4.     Let your child know you are genuinely interested in their day at school. If you have a child like mine, the answer to “How was your day?,” will always be, “Great!” That’s it. Nothing else. Also, if you happen to be my kid you will decline to share any of your friends’ names because Mommy won’t share her clients’ names with you. <insert eye roll here> Click here to see some alternative ways to ask your child how their day was.      

Good luck out there, parents! May the odds be ever in your favor.

Water Bombs!

This is a really fun, easy and inexpensive tool that can be used in a ply therapy setting or at home! How I use this the most is to have kids (or teens or adults) use sidewalk chalk to draw or write whatever it is they're struggling with; feelings re the death of a loved one, anger and/or sadness about a divorce or about a loved one's substance abuse, naming feelings - the possibilities are really endless. Then they get the water bombs wet and launch them at the things they've drawn. Maybe they're not ready to let go of some and those stay. But the effect of throwing something at an issue and literally watching it melt away can create a powerful mind/body connection.  

What Do All of Those Letters Mean? How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist can be difficult.  It is a deeply personal experience.  You want someone who is qualified to work with the issues you are concerned about, and you also want to be able to build a lasting and trusting relationship with your therapist.  So, how do you decipher all of the different kinds of therapists out there based on the alphabet soup of letters following their name?  Let's do this!

MA/MS - Master of Arts/Master of Science.  This person has a master's degree in a counseling related field.  Sometimes Community Counseling, Clinical Counseling - the specific names vary, but a master's degree that included a lot of classes about how to provide counseling, a practicum and an internship.  

LPC  - Licensed Professional Counselor, Counselor/Therapist.  In addition to having a master's degree, this type of clinician has also passed a board exam approved by their state, and has met the experience and supervision requirements set forth by their state.  In Colorado, a LPC must complete 2000 hours of counseling work experience and must have received a minimum of 100 hours of supervision.  This cannot be completed in less than 2 years.  A LPC cannot prescribe medication, but will often refer to and work in conjunction with providers who can.  (In Colorado, a LPCC is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate)  

LMFT - Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Counselor/Therapist.  Very similar to the requirements for a LPC. This clinician's master's degree has more of a focus on marriage and family counseling.  A LMFT also cannot prescribe medication, but will often refer to and work in conjunction with providers who can.  

PsyD or PhD - Doctorate of Psychology/Doctorate of Philosophy, Psychologist.  This clinician has completed a doctorate program in the field of psychology and has passed a board exam, in addition to the requirements of a MA/MS degree.  They will have the title of Dr. in front of their name. Psychologists typically have more training in administering evaluations and other testing.  A psychologist cannot prescribe medication.      .

Psychiatrist - Medical Doctor.  A psychiatrist is a clinician that has attended medical school. They definitely have the title of Dr. in front of their name.  If they are practicing psychiatry exclusively, they should be board certified in psychiatry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication as well as offer talk therapy.  

There are many other specialties that therapists can earn that will allow them to have additional titles after their names.  I am a RPT, which stands for Registered Play Therapist.  Another common title is CAC (I, II, III), which is a Certified Addictions Counselor. There are many more. All of these require additional training, verification of experience and supervision.  So there you have it, in a nutshell.  Good luck on your therapist search, and remember that therapists typically know a lot of other therapists - if you're not sure what you need just call one of us.  If we can't help we will direct you to one of our many colleagues that specializes in the type of treatment you are looking for.

1660 S. Albion St., Ste 415 - Denver CO, 80222

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