Preventing Your Teen from Developing an Eating Disorder

on Monday, 24 April 2017.

Preventing Your Teen from Developing an Eating Disorder

As the parent of a teenager, it is important that you are able to recognize the signs of a possible eating disorder and take active steps in preventing its development. Eating disorders are more common with girls but can develop in boys as well. Today, eating disorders are often triggered through exposure to unrealistic, edited media, and they include anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three factors which may lead to unhealthy eating habits. There is a societal pressure to be thin that is emphasized daily by photoshopped models, the portrayal of teens in television, and social media models who are paid to post the perfect shot. Your teen does not need to be overweight to develop an eating disorder. Many healthy teenagers can develop the belief that they are fat and become fixated with losing weight. This could be the result of constant exposure to unrealistic bodies in the media. 

Teens may also face pressure from their hobby or sport. Many elite athletes feel the pressure to stay thin and some develop eating disorders after periods of intense weight gain or loss during the season. 

There may also be personal factors that contribute to your teen’s perception of their body and their relationship with food. Teens with high anxiety or teens who feel pressure to be perfect all the time are at greater risk of developing an eating disorder. 

Pay attention to your teenager’s eating habits. If they often skip meals, go to the bathroom immediately after meals, periodically eat unhealthy foods in large amounts, or are not eating enough, these may be signs of an eating disorder. There may also be warning signs unrelated to diet, including excessive exercise, frequent negative comments about their appearance and depression. 

It is important to talk to your child at an early age about their body. Teach them that food is fuel for their everyday activities. Food is not the enemy. Be careful how you talk about your own body when you are around your child or teenager, never emphasizing your weight or the need to diet. Give your child positive affirmations and tell them they are beautiful, loved and healthy. It is also helpful to provide your child with meals that are both nutritious and delicious, but give them the option to eat unhealthy every once and a while.

Being a newly-single parent

on Monday, 17 April 2017.

Being a newly-single parent

Raising a child alone is always hard, but it can be especially difficult after experiencing the loss of your partner. Whether the loss is due to divorce, separation or death, you will inevitably go through a grieving period as you transition to life as a single parent. 

Many parents do not want their children to see them upset. Communication with your child is essential during this time. If they do see you crying or getting emotional, explain to them that it is not their fault. Tell them you miss your partner or that you are feeling overwhelmed but that everything will be okay. This must be handled differently depending on the age and disposition of your child.

Recognize that your child is also going through the loss of a parent and be there for them. Establish a strong family routine, whether it be meal time, setting aside an hour to assist them with homework or reading them a story at bedtime. The familiarity of routine and the quality time spent with you will bring your child comfort. It may also help to allow your child the opportunity to form a close relationship with another adult. If a relative or close friend lives nearby and has a bond with your child, share some of the childcare responsibilities with them. It will be nice to have someone you trust around to share carpooling duties if you are ever busy or unable. 

It is also imperative to stay in control of the rules you have previously set for your child. As the main source of authority and leadership in your child’s life, be clear in your expectations and firm in enforcing them. As the only parent in your child’s life, you want them to feel close and connected to you, but you also want them to know that you are in charge of their health, safety and discipline. If you are still on good terms with your child’s other parent, keep them involved but make sure you are on the same page with discipline. The last thing you want is for your child to receive mixed signals or have to choose sides.

One of the most essential ways for you to help your child and be a great parent, is to take care of yourself. It is important to build or maintain a close network of friends or co-workers that you can lean on for support and advice. Join a support group for single parents or a club that regularly participates in your favorite hobby or sport. Take time each week to do something just for you. It is nearly impossible to properly care for others if you do not first take care of yourself.

Healthy ways to grieve and deal with loss

on Wednesday, 05 April 2017.

Losing a loved one, whether expected or sudden, can be a painful, confusing and frustrating time. You may be left with regrets or unanswered questions. You may be left feeling alone. But death is a part of everyone’s life, and we all go through it at some point. It is common for people to try to put on a brave face or bury their emotions to avoid feeling pain, but the healthiest way to deal with loss is to face it head on. Be active in the grieving process. 

Everyone’s timeline for grief is different. Don’t rush the process and don’t put a cap on how long you can grieve. You may find initial comfort crying and talking with a friend or family member, and then continue to handle the grieving process very privately for months or even years after the loss. 

You may be uncomfortable talking about your feelings to a family member, friend or professional. There are alternative ways of expression that will allow you to sort through your feelings and come to terms with the loss. 

Engage in regular exercise to clear your head. Start a blog or journal to write out everything you feel and monitor your progress. Spend time outdoors. You may find comfort in prayer or talking to a religious figure. You may also find it effective to remember a person by reminiscing through old photos or clothing that will bring back positive memories of their life. 

Many people become attached to particular item of clothing or jewelry that was worn by the person often. Wear these items daily as a small token of remembrance. That way, the person is always with you and can become a source of strength when you are feeling down. Recognize that one day, you may not feel like it’s necessary to wear these items anymore. That is okay.

Many people find comfort and acceptance in talking to a professional. You may need professional help if your relationships are suffering or you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. Sometimes, you can’t understand where your feelings are coming from and a therapist can help you by asking questions to help you get to the answer.  

Dealing with Children’s Anger

on Thursday, 16 March 2017.

Dealing with Children’s Anger

Mild temper tantrums in young children are a normal part of growing up. They can include screaming, crying, kicking, hitting and whining, and are a way for children to communicate that they are frustrated, scared or upset. As a toddler develops further into childhood, uncontrollable outbursts of anger may become a problem. It is crucial to learn what goes beyond typical frustration and into the realm of anger-management issues. 


The most helpful thing for a child is for the adults in his or her life to realize that feelings of anger are not bad. It is important for children to know that their feelings are valid and should be expressed. It is okay to punish actions of anger, such as hitting or kicking, but recognize where the child is coming from and what might be making them act this way. 


Common reasons for angry outbursts include attempting to avoid feelings of pain or sadness, low self-esteem, situational anxiety or fear. Children with a history of verbal or physical abuse are more likely to lash out themselves. 


Young children have not yet learned how to express their anger in ways that are appropriate. It is up to the adult in their life to provide them with an outlet for expression. Often, physical outlets are a great way to relieve stress, anxiety and feelings of anger in children. Consider entering your child in sports or taking frequent visits to a park or gym. Sometimes, it also helps to ignore bad behavior and positively reinforce good behavior. When your child throws a temper tantrum at the grocery store, instead of simply giving them what they want, ignore the fit and wait for the child to calm down. On a day when the child is behaving at the store, offer to buy them their favorite snack. We want children to learn what type of behavior we expect from them, but don’t provide a reward every time they display good behavior, or they may throw a fit when not rewarded. 


Showing children love and affection is a simple way to control an outburst. A hug can calm the child down and allow them a moment to be still and contained. It can be frustrating and at times embarrassing when dealing with a child who has frequents bouts of screaming or kicking, but understand that most children are able to properly express their feelings over time. 

When anxiety is preventing you from living your best life

on Thursday, 02 March 2017.

When anxiety is preventing you from living your best life


With more than 3 million cases per year, anxiety disorder is one of the most common in the United States. It is normal to feel anxious about something you're uncomfortable with or not used to, but when your anxiety starts preventing you from completing everyday activities, it may be something more severe. Generally, anxiety disorders produce feelings of nervousness or unease and can be accompanied by panic attacks or trouble breathing, sleeping or concentrating.

Everyone’s anxiety is caused by something different. Common sources of anxiety include heavy social pressures, travel, decision making, school and work.

The first step in managing your anxiety is to learn what triggers it. Try to notice when you feel the most anxious or stressed. Attempting to alter your routine in order to avoid what makes you anxious will only reinforce the feelings of dread you associate with the task.

Facing your fears is the best way to overcome them, and a positive experience doing something that usually overwhelms you is an effective way to lower your level of anxiety when faced with the obstacle again.

More than likely, you will not be able to avoid what makes you anxious, so recognizing the sources of your stress will allow you to learn ways to manage it. Some methods include deep breathing, meditation, counting to 10, practicing yoga or exercising regularly. Some people also find it beneficial to keep a journal or vocalize their feelings with a professional or someone they trust.

Sitting with an uncomfortable thought allows it to linger and develop further. Talking with a professional about how we feel could be the first step in allowing us to work through our issues and see these things more clearly.


Preventing Child Abuse

on Wednesday, 04 January 2017.

Millions of children annually are victims of some form of child abuse, and the most staggering part of that statistic is that a great many of these incidents can be prevented. Obviously the vast majority of cases are family related and fall into the following categories: physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect.

The first step is to look at what is happening in the family. Are there issues related to parents, guardians or older siblings that need to be addressed? More often than not, the answer to that question is yes.

Among the many issues that can lead to child abuse are poverty, lack of education, marital problems, family violence, loneliness and social isolation, unemployment, unusually high expectations for the child, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, low self-esteem, pressure at work, having been abused as a child, weak parenting skills and more.

It is a cycle that is extremely hardy to break. Some studies show that as many as 80 percent of family child abusers were abused themselves.

So what’s the first step to stop this tragic cycle? As is the case with most other issues, the abuser needs to recognize that they need help. It’s rare that happens on its own. Generally other family members or outside sources need to step in to break the cycle. Helping others to question their behavior opens the door to change.

That’s where professional help comes in. For the vast majority of cases, there are underlying issues that need to be examined so the abuser can change behaviors. It’s not easy but it is possible. If you believe someone you know is abusing a child, take the necessary steps to help them begin the process of change.

Holiday Depression and How to Cope With It

on Friday, 09 December 2016.

Holiday Depression and How to Cope With It

It is fairly common to hear about people experiencing depression this time of year while everyone around them is enjoying the holiday festivities.

While depression can come any time of the year, many studies show that stress and anxiety in November and December can be far greater for some people. There are several reasons for this so-called “holiday stress.”

One common reason for this seasonal stress is social isolation. Many people have a relatively small social circle or none at all. And people who feel disconnected from others will avoid social interaction more this time of year. That withdrawal makes any holiday depression that much worse.

Another factor may be the loss of loved ones. While your loved ones may have passed away in the middle of the summer, it is this time of year, when families gather together, that the loss can be felt more intensely.

Yet another cause for depression this time of year has to do with seasonal changes. There are numerous studies that show lack of daylight is a common form of depression. With daylight hours at their shortest during these months, that seasonal depression can be most acute.

While there’s little that can be done about the hours of darkness, some of the other causes of seasonal or holiday depression can be counteracted but it’s not always easy.

If you can, try to take a vacation this time of the year instead of during the traditional summer months. If you can’t get a full vacation, even a brief outing of a day or two or several shorter outings during the month can be helpful. One of the nice things about living in Florida is that with some planning, you can find some very nice days for a trip to the beach or a park.

While we do not suggest isolation, there are times it may be better for you to excuse yourself from a big social function or event if attending is going to make you more miserable. But if you do choose to skip the big party, try to find an alternative to simply sitting at home alone instead.

If you have time, try volunteering. You can feed the hungry, participate in a gift drive, and even help a neighbor with a project.

For some people, shopping is their method to beat the holiday blues. If you use that option, be sure to prepare a budget first and stick to it.


There are plenty of other ways to avoid seasonal or holiday depression. And for some people, despite their best efforts, they may find themselves feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless. That’s when it may be time to get help from a professional. At The ITM Group we regularly see people who may need to talk to someone with experience in order to climb out of that depression. The important thing is to take that first step to ask for help.

Parenting Against the Rape Culture

on Tuesday, 29 November 2016.

Parenting Against the Rape Culture

There may be nothing worse for parents than having to help their children deal with rape. It is sad, but rape and other examples of male dominance and sexual control are so common in our society that people often become immune to it. The recent media coverage of well-known public figures further highlights the prevalence of unwanted sexual assault in our society. We are generally somewhat removed from the circumstances. That is, of course, until it becomes personal.

While, as a society, we often strive to do what we can to make rape and these other examples of male dominance less common and morally unacceptable, there are things parents can do to help children deal with this issue and the so-called rape culture.

Dr. Jennifer Sager, a provider associated with us here at The ITM Group, co-authored an article that appeared in The Washington Post called How to parent against rape culture (for one thing, start young).This informative article gives valuable insights to caregivers and parents on how to cope with this extremely serious issue.

Welcome to ITM

on Tuesday, 15 November 2016.

Welcome to ITM

This is the first in an ongoing and regular series of blogs you will see here from the ITM Group that are designed to let you know about us, our services and the complicated issues involved in life when you need services like those we provide.

It is our hope that these blogs and the rest of the information on this website will be used as educational tools if and when you ever find yourself in the position of needing help from mental-health therapists.

Our more than dozen therapists can help you deal with the challenges of life through individual and group counseling. ITM services include juvenile programs, adult court-related programs, competency restoration and a theft fraud intervention program.

ITM therapists all have advanced degrees and generally more than 10 years of experience in their practice areas. Our therapists typically work with children, adolescents and adults with various challenges, such as depression, anxiety, relationship difficulty, career issues, eating disorders, grief and stress.

Our mission is to provide the highest quality of treatment and care to our friends and neighbors in the North Central Florida area. To learn more about our staff and services, please review this website. 



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