Realistic Serenity

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


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.

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