Thursday, February 24, 2011


All of us seem to know when our personal boundaries are being violated -- we may not always be so sure as to when we are violating the boundaries of others. Oh, sure, we know about not getting into another's personal physical space....we know when we are standing closer than we should to someone, etc. BUT, what about violating another's psychological boundaries. For example -- when we ask someone to do something for us that we know that they do not want to do, but we exert some sort of pressure to get our way. "Yeah, I know that you had plans to do some gardening this afternoon, but is that really so important that you can't watch my kid for just a half-hour while I run to the store?" -- and, of course, the mother of the dear-little-one is gone for over two hours. That's a boundary violation! One has violated the "friendship" boundary.

Boundaries are what keep the world in balance. They define one country from another...they define one state from city from home from another....and, they set the line between one person and another. When one country violates the boundary of another country (enters without permission), countries go to war (just think about Iraq invading Kuwait back in the 1990's -- see where that took us). When our interpersonal boundaries are violated, we engage in some sort of "war" (even if that war is within ourselves, and not stated). Therefore, it is important that we learn the skills needed to allow each of us to set and maintain the appropriate personal boundaries that we need so that we don't feel put-upon, angry or hurt. As we first start to set interpersonal boundaries, we will probably feel quite uncomfortable ("He won't like me anymore....She may abandon me!"). Learning to say "No" when that word is appropriate takes practice. We don't have to be angry to set appropriate boundaries. We do need to know our bottom lines. Stay "tuned" for more on how to set appropriate interpersonal boundaries.

Sandy Fournier, M.A., LMFT

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recognizing and Dealing with Burnout

Does this picture feel familiar? Ever feel like you have gotten to the point where you no longer care, are exhausted and overwhelmed? You might be dealing with burnout. Burnout is the state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity. Anyone can experience burnout, whether you are someone who works in an office, a stay-at- home mother, or a student.

Some possible signs that you are experiencing burnout are that every day seems bad or hopeless; you are exhausted and wiped out; you spend your day doing nothing, focused on boring or overwhelming tasks; feel that regardless of what you do it will not make a difference; and when it comes to trying to make changes you wonder what is the point.

Some of the symptoms/effects of being burned out are:
1- decreased productivity
2- decreased energy
3- increased feelings of hopelessness
4- increased feelings of helplessness
5- feeling detached
6- lack of motivation and energy
7- apathy
8- lowered immunity
9- feelings of failure
10- use of food, alcohol or drugs to cope
11 - isolating
12 - procrastinating

There are three factors that tend to lead to burnout: personality; lifestyle; work/school/home environment. Some personality factors that can lead to burnout are being pessimistic, always in need of control, and being a perfectionist. Lifestyle factors that can cause burnout are things like all work and no play, lack of proper sleeping and eating habits, lack of a support network, and taking on too many responsibilities, trying to be too many things to too many people. The workplace/school/home environments have many factors that can lead to burnout, such as: working in a high pressured work environment; working in a dysfunctional situation; having unchallenging or boring work; lack of recognition for one's work, over expectations of work responsibilities; having different values; and having little or no control over your work.

Now that we know the effects/symptoms and factors that lead to burnout, let's talk about how to prevent them. One of the main things you can do for your overall health, physical, mental and emotional health, is to have a positive support network. Having a positive support network to turn to, can help to relieve some of the feelings of being overwhelmed. Try to re-focus your attitude, instead of looking at the things that did not happen, look at what did. Work on improving your problem-solving skills, evaluate your options and get creative with possible solutions. Work on managing the stressors that led to the burnout, and establishing healthy boundaries. In other words, if school was the primary source of your burnout, maybe take less classes, get a tutor, form a study group or re-organize. Be sure to get the proper amount of sleep, eat properly and exercise routinely (check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program). And finally, unplug. Give yourself time to get away from your computer, phone and television. I know a lot of my clients tell me that they use their television to unwind, but the truth is that it simply postpones reality. Go for a walk, swim, or read a good book.

If you are feeling burned out, counseling can be one way to help you manage your feelings and get back on your feet. If we can help, please give us a call.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

To Sext Or Not To Sext?

Does your teen have a cell phone? According to, seventy-three percent of teens do. So how up to date are you about their texting habits? Did you know that teens who text send an average of 118 texts per day? Are any of the texts your teens are sending sexts? Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit pictures or messages by the use of cell phone.

Sexting is a growing habit amongst teens. Check out the following statistics:
20% of teens sext
22% of teen girls sext
18% of teen boys sext
11% of teen girls between the ages of 13-16 sext
23% of teens think sexting is okay
48% of teens think that adults over-react to sexting
86% of teens who sext are not caught.

The problem with sexting is that there is NO way to control it once it occurs. Once the images or texts are out there, the person receiving them has the power/control to do whatever they wants with those images/statements. There was a case in Cincinnati in July of 2008, where a teen girl sent her boyfriend a nude photograph, and it was circulated around her high school. She ended up committing suicide after the ensuing embarrassment and harassment from fellow classmates. In addition to the control factor, in some states teens caught with sexting pictures on their phones can be charged with possession of child pornography or felony obscenity.

So as parents what do we need to know? First off here are some key texts that parents should be aware of:
PAW - parents are watching
PIR - parents in room
POS - parent over shoulder
PAL - parents are listening
P911 - parent alert
CD9 - parents around
Code9 - parents around
These are just some of the abbreviations that teens are using to alert the people on the other end about parents are around. If you google "sexting abbreviations" you can find out what some of the other abbreviations mean (not listed here due to graphic content).

It is important to educate your teens about the consequences of sexting. Let them know that in some states they could face criminal charges, including possession of child pornography/distribution of child pornography, and the possibility of having to register as a sex offender. Make sure that they know that once they send those images out, there is no way to control where they go, or who sees them. The number one thing that you can do to help your teens is to talk with them. Have open dialogues with them and don't be afraid to have difficult discussions with them. It is better to have open discussions with them before something happen versus trying to make things better after the fact.

If you would like more information about sexting and what you can do check out

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Importance of Support

Who do you turn to during times of need? Who do you celebrate important events with? Who do you call when you are stressed out? And lastly, who do you call when you simply just want to talk? Regardless of your answer to each question, the answer is the same....the person that you call or turn to is part of your support network. A support network is an informal group of people we assemble during our lives, whom we participate in a reciprocal relationship with, sharing information, support, advice, guidance, good news, and celebrations. A support group is different from a support network in that it is typically a formal group of people, with a leader (either the group leader or a mental health therapist), that meet at a specific day and time, for the purpose of discussing a specific issue.

Support networks are beneficial to our overall mental and emotional health. By having a positive support network, studies have shown that it can help improve our self-esteem. Our support networks can improve our sense of belonging, self-worth, and feeling of security, knowing we have people that we can turn to. There are many places you can look, if you are trying to build or strengthen your current support network. Listed below are just a few:

-Family - try to focus on family members who can reciprocate a positive and healthy relationship
-Volunteer - volunteering is a great way to meet people who share similar interests as you
-Join a league or group - bowling and softball leagues are popular ways to meet new people

However you assemble your support network, the key is that you must be sure to cultivate your relationships. Remember your support network is not only there for times of need, but also in daily life and times of celebration. Stay in touch with your support network, call someone, go out to dinner or coffee. Make sure that you return the support to the people in your network, do not only contact them during your times of need, be there for them, and be a good listener. And finally, be sure to let the people in your support network know how much you care for and appreciate them. A sincere thank you goes a long way. By building and maintaining your positive healthy support network, you will also be strengthening and building your mental and emotional health.