Argosy University Blog

Community Mental Health: Then and Now

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The Community Mental Health Movement in America began in the 1960’s as a grass roots effort to meet the different needs of evolving regions. In the Midwest, workshops were provided to lessen the stress of unemployment, manage life adjustment issues, and to beat the ‘holiday blues’. In the Southeast and larger Metropolitan Cities of the East and West Coasts, Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC) focused on diversity issues and teen pregnancy. While in the far Southwest, CMHC worked with Native American Populations on economic oppression and the impact of tribal segregation.

What do all of these have in common? They reflect awareness of society’s effects on every member of a community. They possess a shared perception of clients as whole persons with a range of personal strengths, resources and limitations. CMHC reflect a desire to prevent debilitating problems in schools and communities. They strive to understand unique needs from diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Lastly, CMHC’s strive to empower people and communities in order to become strengthened when counselors’ help clients learn ways to help themselves.

Imagine a snowball, cold and wet and compacted between your hands. Now, imagine that you roll that same snowball down a mountain. As the snowball starts rolling down the mountain, it begins to gather more speed. It also gets much larger, as more snow is packed onto its surface. By the time the snowball reaches the bottom of the mountain, it is no longer small, fluffy, and innocent. Instead, it is quite large and possibly dangerous. That is what has and is happening in communities across America. From political unease, sexism, racism, domestic violence, addiction, and other mental health concerns Community Mental Health Centers have evolved to help communities that are suffering from psychological or social discord.

So how are Community Mental Health Centers meeting this challenge? What does it take to be a community counselor (CC)? Community Counselors must display excellent communication and leadership qualities. These counseling professionals connect with and better understand the problems and causes of problems that some communities may face. Leadership skills are important, because they help community members feel more trusting and willing to follow the advice of community psychologists.

The assumptions of CC’s are that environments nurture or limit the people in them. To nurture a community they must be positive, rich in opportunities to learn, supportive, and offer opportunities to interact in a positive way with each other. Negative environments limit the member’s development and stunt their growth. Therefore, is not enough to counsel individuals; to promote well-being we must influence contexts where they live.

The goals of CC are to facilitate individual and community empowerment in a multifaceted way. This is a NEW VISION à we play multiple roles with multifaceted and culturally sensitive approach; a multifaceted approach is more efficient than any single-service approach can be. This new counseling approach focuses on:

• Group counseling

• Psychoeducational interventions

• Alternative strategies

• Make changes in environment to foster well-being

• Counselor is an architect to structure opportunities (within bounds of culture)

Ultimately, prevention is more efficient that remediation and with the Multicultural nature of development central to planning and delivery of services; today’s Community Mental Health Centers and Counselors are having a direct positive impact on their environment.


Written by Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar

Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar is the Department Chair for the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Science at Argosy University Los Angeles, CA.

She has a Private Practice in Yorba Linda, CA. Dr. Shabandar is dually licensed as a LPCC Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & LADC Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor .

Feel free to contact her at jshabandar@argosy.edu or YLPsychServices@gmail.com

The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of Dr. Joy Guinn Shabandar and do not represent the opinions and ideas of Argosy University.

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How to Survive the Tween Years: Advice for Parenting Tweens

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There’s the summer vacation you dream of: happy children playing games, parents relaxing, cheerful grandparents, smooth roads, short lines and easy-to-schedule outdoor sports and activities for the kids. And then there’s the reality, which more closely resembles “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

The film follows the all-American Griswold’s as they drive the family station wagon cross-country to visit the Walley World theme park.

At one point, Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) faces a mutiny by his “tween” children, who urge an immediate end to the vacation.

The tween ages range from 10 to 14 years old; these individuals are “in between” childhood and adolescence, and can be notorious for mood swings. More than 20 million tweens live in the U.S., according to an estimate by the 2010 U.S. Census. As tweens begin puberty, they face many challenges, including middle school, social issues, homework, and the stress of having responsibilities. At this stage of development brain and body development changes also occur that they may not understand. These changes are very normal. All tweens have mood swings to a certain extent.

Changes in development during these years are present. There are other issues nowadays that tweens deal with that may not have been around when their parents were growing up such as the pressure to achieve. Many parents are preparing their children in middle school, if not earlier, for academic success and admission into a top university or college. This can exacerbate the mood swings stemming from the pressure they are under to achieve, not to mention extra-curricular activities many tweens are engaged in.

At this age, tweens are discovering who they are and where they fit into the world. They are beginning to socialize with the opposite sex and are defining who they are through the clothes they wear and the music they listen to. They are building a self-image and comparing themselves to others their age. Typical tween behavior may include moodiness, pouting, and even tantrums like when they were a toddler. Tweens will sulk and whine as well. Research has shown that this is how tweens communicate their anger, frustration and displeasure with certain situations.

“At this stage, patience and understanding are important,” says Dr. Toby Spiegel, assistant professor of forensic psychology at Argosy University, Orange County. Confidence is the key for teens to deal with their emotions effectively. “Keep the lines of communication open. Empathize with their struggles and do not make light of them or laugh because it does not seem catastrophic to you. To a tween, everything is a life-shattering issue.”

"Pay attention to your tween’s mood and recognize signs of depression. Watch for changes in grades, changes in friends, as well as eating and sleeping habits. Changes beyond moodiness can be signs of something else. If you feel your tween is beyond simple moodiness, consult a mental health professional such as a psychologist or speak with the school counselor,” adds Spiegel.

It’s also important to take the time to listen and respect what they are going through. Praise them, making su re that the praise is meaningful and descriptive. Help them build their self-esteem. -1.15pt">Teach your tween to solve problems by brainstorming with them. Generally your tween should grow out of the moodiness by the time they turn 16.

“Staying connected to your child at this time is extremely important,” says Spiegel. “Knowing who their friends are and what they do in school will give you insight into who your child is becoming.”

Some parenting tips include: volunteering at the school, offering to chaperone school events, and attending parent-teacher conferences and other school functions. At the beginning of the school year obtain the email addresses for your child’s teacher. Send her an email introducing yourself and tell her that you are “hands-on” and appreciate being contacted to partner in your child’s education.

“Believe it or not, teachers like to know they can count on the parents regarding meeting their child’s academic needs,” adds Spiegel.

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How to Raise Kids with an Attitude of Gratitude during the Holidays

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Are kids naturally greedy? Or is there something about the holidays that brings it out? How seriously should we as parents take this attitude?

The holiday season represents a special and unique time of the year for adults and children alike. For many adults, the holidays can bring about feelings of pressure and stress when too much focus is placed on the numerous tasks which must be accomplished in order to have a successful holiday. For these adults, a conscious shift in perspective that refuels an attitude of gratitude can help tremendously in bringing back the joyous feelings of the holidays. The same goes for our children. It is quite easy, as a child, to become encapsulated by the material nature of our holidays as depicted by the numerous presents under the tree, or the gift-based classroom celebrations occurring before the holiday break. The enjoyment experienced when receiving and opening a gift is a very reinforcing feeling for both adults and children. This feeling is natural. An attitude of gratitude is a higher-order emotion that is learned behavior. Teaching kids to be grateful is an important lesson that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

· What (if anything!) can parents do to prevent greediness popping up in kids around the holidays?

The most important thing parents can do to prevent ungrateful children around the holidays is to model appreciation and provide children with the opportunities to experience this emotion first hand. Provide children with opportunities to learn what it means to be thankful, thoughtful, and giving in ways that they will relate to such as taking toys and baked cookies to homeless shelters that house families. Another idea is to host family nights that center around themes of generosity by watching inspirational movies that teach gratitude (i.e. Pay It Forward, The Blind Side, The Ultimate Gift, Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, etc.).

· If you've got a Veruca Salt on your hands who is asking for more, more, more, is it too late? What can you do to tamp down the gimme gimmes? How do you deal with an ungrateful child?

It is never too late to teach your children about gratitude. Tampering down the gimme gimmes requires helping children shift their perspectives to become more aware of what they have, possibly in relation to others less fortunate, or in relation to what it took to receive what they currently have. This requires us, as parents, to also be mindful of our response to the holiday season. When we start becoming overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of to-do lists, we can remind ourselves of the same lessons we are teaching our children.

· What about kids who wait to show this ugly side until the gift opening has begun? Any tips for parents when their kids display jealousy over siblings' or friends' gifts?

This too, is not uncommon. The event of gift-opening can be the epitome of materialistic encapsulation for a child. Shifting that hyper-focus from materialism to gratitude can be done through gentle reminders of what was learned during recent gratitude events (such as family movie night, baking cookies for the homeless, taking toys to children, etc.), by talking about the history or story behind the holiday (such as “The Story of Christmas”), or teaching gift etiquette. One way to do this is to focus gift-opening on giving rather than on receiving and allow each gift-giver a moment to tell each gift-receiver how special he or she is and share gratitude for him or her prior to presenting a gift.


Written by Dr. Andria Hernandez

Dr. Andria Chatfield-Hernandez is the Director of Clinical Training for the College of Counseling, Psychology and Social Science at Argosy University Los Angeles, California.

Dr. Chatfield-Hernandez is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a Private Practice in Yorba Linda, California.

Feel free to contact her at ashernandez@argosy.edu or YLPsychServices@gmail.com

The information and opinions expressed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of Dr. Andria Chatfield-Hernandez and do not represent the opinions and ideas of Argosy University.

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