Emotions Elevator: BrainWise Lesson for Anxious, Angry Kids

Emotions Elevator: BrainWise Lesson for Anxious, Angry Kids

Elevators and Emotions:

Here’s the first thing we need to recognize about elevators: they go up, but they also go back down.

Emotions work exactly the same way. Emotions can get higher and higher, and feel bigger and bigger, but they also can come back down.

In session, I start by drawing a long, vertical rectangle to represent our emotions elevator.

For younger children, around pre-school and kindergarten aged, we draw three circles along the side, at the bottom, middle, and top of the elevator.

For older kids and even teens, we’ll instead label the elevator on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 represents just a little bit of that emotion, and 10 represents all the way at the top.

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Helping Professionals Interview Series - Therapist Angela Adamson at Calm Mind CBT

Helping Professionals Interview Series - Therapist Angela Adamson at Calm Mind CBT

When you’re looking for help with your or your child’s anxiety or OCD, you want a specialist - not just someone who is ok working with it.

That’s why I’m so excited to have interviewed Angela Adamson, a fellow anxiety specialist located here in St. Louis.

“One of the most effective skills for treating anxiety is doing exposures. Exposures are how we test out beliefs. I work with you and your child to develop a step-by-step, achievable plan to test out fears. When we face our fears while using cognitive tools, we can rewire the way our brain processes anxiety. Over time, when people change both their thoughts and behaviors around anxiety, the symptoms of anxiety start to decrease.“

What do you wish people knew about getting treatment for anxiety disorders?

I wish people knew how treatable anxiety disorders are when you have the right skills. It's not easy, but it is absolutely treatable. I also wish more people knew how strong they really are EVEN when they feel anxiety.

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BrainWise Strategies for Kids: Using Our Wizard Brains to Stop and Think

BrainWise Strategies for Kids: Using Our Wizard Brains to Stop and Think

Our brains are in charge of everything we do. We take in information, and we send that information where it needs to go.

Every brain has both a relay center, and amygdala, and a pre-frontal cortex. In BrainWise, we say that your emotional response (the fight/flight/freeze response) is driven by your Lizard Brain. Your pre-frontal cortex, which helps you to stop and think, is your Wizard Brain.

The BrainWise curriculum was designed to help kids build social and emotional control and self-regulation skills. When I previously worked in the Saint Louis Counseling School Partnership Program, I received training in this program, and still use components of it in my practice today. To be clear, I’m not TECHNICALLY providing brainwise as I’m not maintaining really strict fidelity with the model. I have a whole walkthrough on the modules in an earlier post. This week, I want to walk you through how I introduce the model in my individual work with angry and anxious kids.

I strongly encourage parents, teachers or therapists to consider buying the BrainWise curriculum if these seem like helpful tools.

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Summer Program Series: Yoga for Kids with Melissa Dierker, BSW, CYT, CPYT at Complete Harmony STL Yoga for Youth

Offering Trauma Informed Yoga for youth who have experienced trauma, have anxiety, mental health, special needs, and for kids who love yoga!

Melissa Dierker, BSW, CYT, CPYT is the owner and instructor at Complete Harmony STL Yoga for Youth. Complete Harmony STL offers yoga classes for kids throughout the year, including the summer - and as they’re expanding into their new space, they’re looking at offering specific Spring Break and Summer Break yoga classes next year.

What transformation do you see over the course of yoga groups?

One thing I LOVE seeing is the community and relationships that are formed in our classes. A lot of times we have kids who have difficulties making friends, who are to overwhelmed to be in classes, or who have so many friends they don't know how to allow space for others. Watching kids navigate peer relationships, while also tuning into who they are and where they are is wonderful. We also see kids reminding us of shapes, breath work, or activities that they remember from class or tried at home and how those things helped them when they needed it most.

How does your yoga staff jump in to help when a kid starts to melt down?

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Summer Program Series: Radically Open DBT Intensive for Over-Controlled, Shy Teens in St. Louis with Dr. Kirsten Gilbert

Summer Program Series: Radically Open DBT Intensive for Over-Controlled, Shy Teens in St. Louis with Dr. Kirsten Gilbert

DBT Class With Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Kirsten Gilbert

When your teen experiences stress, anxiety, and perfectionism, you want them to find the best options for help. One great resource in the St. Louis area is Kirsten Gilbert, PhD. Kirsten is leading a RO-DBT class this summer, starting June 17th.

What’s the story behind the program, and why do you like the work?

Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO DBT) is an evidenced based adaptation of standard DBT that targets 'over-controlled' personality. Although self-control is valued in our society and is helpful, too much self-control, in the form of over-control, can lead to a variety of problems that easily go unnoticed and are difficult to treat. Over-control is often characterized by inflexibility/rigidity, rule-governed and perfectionistic behaviors and over-controlled individuals are often shy, risk-averse, tend to suppress or hide emotions, don't like making mistakes and often feel socially awkward, anxious, or lonely. Over-control is a personality style that characterizes many disorders, including some forms of depression, anxiety, and anorexia nervosa.

I like this work because we help over-controlled teens relax rigid rules, be open to new situations and feedback, help them learn how to play more and how to socially connect with others.

In society today, teens have so much pressure to always be working harder, longer, and to be perfect, and RO DBT recognizes that some individuals are almost TOO good at this. These teens need to learn how to be flexible, interact socially, and learn how to make mistakes every once in a while.

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