Lynn R. Schechter, Ph.D., L.L.C. - Licensed Medical Psychologist
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The importance of good nutrition and exercise
Medical Psychology
Back to School
Stop & Smell the Roses
Working Together

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Welcome! I love helping children & families.
Medication
Coping with anniversaries of traumatic events
Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent
Back to School

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anxiety disorders
autism
Child development
dealing with trauma
developmental delays
establishing rapport with children
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language and communication disorders
medication
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play therapy
selective mutism
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The importance of good nutrition and exercise

Something we hear a lot about nowadays is the importance of good nutrition and exercise for good health.  As the number of overweight and obese children and adults skyrockets, we are also seeing an increase in medical problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure and diabetes.  There are myriad factors that contribute to these trends including (and not necessarily limited to): overreliance on fast-foods which are highly processed, nutrition-poor and calorie dense; decrease in exercise; decrease in our willingness to dedicate time and energy to fitness because it's easier to be couch potatoes; higher cost of healthy foods in some areas; and, increased stress in our lives leading to mindless/comfort-seeking eating.  This is the tip of a very unhealthy and possibly dangerous iceberg. 

Increasingly, many physicians and other professionals in medical allied health such as Medical Psychologists, are looking at the problems of our patients' in a holistic way. It is very important to do so in order to prevent overlooking a possible physical or medical etiology of their symptoms. For example, a client with extreme anxiety was found to have abnormal thyroid function, and when that was corrected their mental/emotional symptoms improved.  Another client presenting with depressive symptomatology was found to have extreme vitamin insufficiency and anemia, and corrective supplementation improved their mood symptoms and lethargy. In another case, an individual gave up junk food, started eating their greens and took time to cook whole foods in addition to building exercise into their weekly routine, and gradually their physical and emotional health improved.  

It is too much of an oversimplification and wishful thinking to believe that good nutrition and exercise are cure-alls for mental illness.  However, the health of the body is indeed strongly correlated with the health of the mind!

Medical Psychology

I am proud to be a Medical Psychologist in the state of Louisiana.  Louisiana is one of only 4 states (Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Louisiana) in the USA where psychologists have been granted the right to prescribe psychotropic medication for individuals with mental and behavioral health conditions.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Medical Psychology, I would like to explain what we do. Basically, we can do everything that a psychologist would do such as behavioral interventions, psychotherapeutic interventions with individuals or families, psychological testing and reports, consultations, just as examples.  Where we differ is that we are also permitted to prescribe medications to treat conditions such as but not limited to ADHD, anxiety, depression, and mood dysregulation disorders.  The completion of a postdoctoral masters of science in clinical psychopharmacology and the passing of a national board examination are other precursors to obtaining an MP degree. We are then licensed to prescribe by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy and by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).  We are not permitted to prescribe narcotics.  Medical Psychology is still in its infancy, and it's existence is still somewhat controversial.  I believe that Medical Psychologists, working closely with clients' primary physicians, can make a significant positive difference in the clinical care of patients with mental and behavioral conditions.  We can combine and focus on multi-dimensional treatment of our patients, whereas many psychiatrists focus almost solely on writing prescriptions and no longer do much therapy with patients, often due to time limitations.  I hope that in time other states in the nation will also move forward with medical psychology so that more individuals who are suffering can get access to the help and care that they need.  

Back to School

Why is it that the summer always seems to go by in a flash? At the start of every summer, when the kids have finally finished the year, there is such a sense of relief.  And then, before we know it, it's back to the stress and grind of alarm clocks, homework, busy schedules, and the pressure to succeed.

During this transitional period between the end of summer and the start of a new school year, kids may have lots of questions.  Will my friends be in my class? Will I fit in? Will I be able to pass Algebra? How will I find time to do everything? Will I make the team? Will I get to play the instrument I want to play?  Encourage your child to talk with you about their worries as well as their goals. 

Meanwhile, parents usually feel a mixture of stress (from making sure the kids have all they need to be prepared, like school supplies and uniforms, and dealing with the costs of everything), relief and happiness ( I don't have to hear "I'm bored" anymore from kids who think they don't have anything to do during the summer), with a touch of nostalgia (reminiscing about how fast time is going by -- wow, he or she is in High School already, amazing!).

Wishing all the children (and parents) best of luck in the 2015-2016 school year!!! 



Stop & Smell the Roses

We live incredibly busy lives.  We are always doing something or going somewhere. 

For most of us, our lives are also so fast-paced that we barely get to complete an activity and enjoy it before we are moving on to the next activity. 

We are plugged in constantly to social media websites like Facebook or Instagram, or Googling information that we want to know, or we're watching our favorite TV or movies.  It's almost impossible to keep up with the quick pace of the news.  And do we really want to, when the news media is constantly bombarding us with horrific stories of violence or salacious gossip about the lives of a handful of famous people. 

It's so easy for us to lose meaning in our lives if we get caught up and swept away by all of our doings, all of our wants, and comparing ourselves with others.  

Stay focused on each moment that you have with your children.  Appreciate their uniqueness and watch them growing and changing with a sense of awe and respect for their differences.  Family time is so important, even just sitting together not doing "anything" is actually "doing" so much in terms of giving children a sense of security, feelings that they are loved just for being born, and can create feelings of warmth and closeness which can be treasured by everyone as time goes on.  

 

Working Together

I say this every time I start working with a new child or teenage patient:  In order for me to help your child the most, I will also be working together with you.  Most parents know their children so well, yet they may doubt in their ability to figure out how to solve the child's problem or how to "fix it."

Be it depression, being bullied at school, worrying about exams, trouble making friends or navigating peer pressure, or even more existential worries about life and death, I really consider parents/caregivers to be a tremendous resource when I work with the child.  

my youngest, at 2...he loved his binky so!A collaborative effort is important in so many ways, and I respect the contributions of caregivers greatly.  Asking questions, providing examples of behaviors that are of concern from the past or present (even if it is something that seemed inconsequential at the time, such as 'she fell off a chair and bumped her head badly at age 2'), sharing past experiences with other professionals (whether positive or negative)...all these things can and will enhance my ability to understand your child.  And of course, the better I understand, the better I can provide strategies for coping and to help to improve symptoms.  


Taking Care of Yourself as a Parent



Being a parent is extremely rewarding, and, at times, extremely stressful.  Whether we are stay-at-home parents, or those who work outside of the home, or some combination thereof, the demands on our time are intense.......Like, tonight, Johnny has a test to study for, Jenny has a soccer match after school and a doctor's appointment, Jimmy is home sick with the flu...Dad is out of town trying to help make ends meet, and Mom is left to do most of the parenting.  This type of scenario is stressful enough with "typical" children, but can be magnified 10-100 times for the parent of a child with a mental illness, developmental disability, behavioral problem, or such.  Then, factor in the challenges that the parent of a special needs child has with trying to identify competent and compassionate professionals to help their child, and reduce that group by the number of professionals who are financially in reach, finding appropriate educational settings and services, and the stress mounts even further for that family.

We all have stress in our lives just by the nature of living in today's high-tech and fast-paced times, where information about world disasters and worries is incessant and constantly bombarding us via television or internet with "bad news."  There is also social pressure for children and for parents. Financial stress may be significant also, because, sadly, our country continues to have a terrible problem with children living in poverty.  Even basic needs such as adequate rest and sleep, nutrition from wholesome foods,  and family time and play time may be scarce commodities for some of us.  

I'm highlighting these stresses because I think it is very important for every parent to stop a moment and take stock of what pressures are affecting them.  Identify the stressors in your life.  One by one, try to figure out how to reduce them, if possible.  For example, if you are sleep deprived, schedule naps or extra rest-time.  If you only eat fast-food, make a commitment to preparing at least one healthy, natural meal every week.  If things are hectic at home because of busy schedules and parents and kids don't spend quality time together, figure out a plan to fix it -- start small! -- by dedicating one night a week to "family night" to watch a movie, or to create family rituals like sharing with each other stuff like "something good that happened during your day" and "something that you might need help with." Schedule family exercise time, like going for a walk around the block after dinner, or going to a nearby pond or lake for some quiet and peaceful time in each other's company. If you are a parent who works too many hours, grab one or two per week of "you-time" for a coffee, a walk, a drive, lunch with a friend, a jog, to read a favorite book, or listen to music -- whatever it is that you know can help you to recharge your own personal emotional batteries.   

These are just some ideas of things that each one of us can do as parents to take care of ourselves and to make our lives more peaceful and emotionally more fulfilling. When we are calmer, more peaceful parents, we help to create a family environment for our children that mirrors our calmness and encourages more positive interactions among all family members.  
 

 




Happy holidays!!!

Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season!!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions that you may have.  


Medication

One of the toughest decisions that parents have to make is whether to use medication to help treat their child's behavior/attention/emotional problem(s).  It is very understandable for parents to be concerned. Unfortunately, many of the medications that are used to treat childhood mental health disorders have not been studied extensively in children.  Also, every medication has possible side effects, most of which are certainly unwanted.  

Medication certainly has its place with respect to the treatment of children.  I have seen many youngsters over the years whose lives were transformed in a positive way by the identification and use of appropriate medication(s).   I also believe that in the majority of cases, supportive cognitive-behavioral therapy is extremely helpful to enable youngsters to learn new strategies for coping with stress and to learn strategies to address whatever problems they may facing. Parent education/training sessions and/or family therapy is also important so that the family can learn how to approach problems from a different perspective that helps everyone to feel more successful and less frustrated. 

So, to sum up, my opinion is that medication can be a useful tool, but it is not a magic bullet, not by a long shot (no pun intended). It can help children to reach their targets (their goals), but it needs to be part of a holistic approach to treatment. 
 

What is play therapy?

my youngest, at play!

A question that I have often been asked by parents over the years is, what is the point of playing or playing games during therapy sessions with children?  

I have been asked by more than one person, "Do you do ever do anything besides play games?"  



Mommy, I have a truck on my head!







As a psychologist, the opportunity to watch children play and to engage with them while playing serves many purposes.  First of all, for many young children in particular and even older school age children, playing games is a way of establishing trust, rapport, and feeling safe. 

One pair of Dr. Schechter's favorite eyeglasses Playing is also an important tool for emotional and behavioral expression in the context of therapy.  The material that emerges during most play sessions is rich with clinical information and ripe for interpretation.  For example, what are the themes that emerge during the child's play?  Aggression? Loss? Attachment? Frustrations about school or home?  Is their play organized? Chaotic? Violent? Is it developmentally age appropriate?  Can they follow directions?  How do they feel about following the rules of the game?  How do they handle success and failure? How do they relate to another person (e.g., me) if they believe they are losing or winning? Do they ask for help when needed?  Do they give up easily? There is so much information that can be gleaned by the process of being a participant observer of the child. 

For youngsters with special needs, who are more nonverbal or highly anxious, or who may have other conditions which prevent them from communicating verbally such as language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, general developmental delays, or selective mutism, the opportunity to play may literally help the child to build a critical bridge towards being more socially engaged and connected to the world around them.  On some occasions, for example, I have simply made comments to children while watching them play which were descriptive and reassuring, like, "I see you are building a tower, that's good," or, "you really like to let the stuffed animals fight each other, maybe they are mad/sad, etc.," and that sparks an interest in the child being just a bit more interactive the next session, and so on.  This approach is informed by the important work of Greenspan's Floortime."www.stanleygreenspan.com

Coping with anniversaries of traumatic events

Tomorrow is September 11th, 2014.  It's so hard to believe that thirteen years have passed since the Twin Towers were attacked in New York City by terrorists.  It would seem that our society has changed so dramatically since that awful event.  Those of us, like myself, who were actually in New York, and actually witnessed a part or a portion of the event or its aftermath, have obviously been changed forever. 

I have written about my experiences providing crisis intervention to individuals who were directly affected by the attacks.  You may find a link to an article which I wrote and that was published in the journal "Traumatology" on the Home page of this website, for those of you who would like to read in greater detail about the events of that day and its impact upon me as a professional.

None of us as human beings are immune to the effects of trauma.  For many children and adults, memories associated with traumatic events resurface on the anniversary of those events.  Such events might include a number of different things, ranging from death of a grandparent or parent,  to divorce, to illness/injury, witnessing domestic violence, to becoming homeless, or the suicide of a classmate.  Strong emotions may come up for you or your child many years after the event; this is common.  Emotional and behavioral disturbances that are pronounced and severe long after the event has passed, on the other hand, is not typical, and may indicate signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  In these instances, professional mental health treatment is necessary.  I have treated many youngsters who have had at least one significant trauma or multiple traumas. 

I would like to conclude this posting with a prayer to remember all the souls who were lost on that terrible day, 9/11/01, including all the brave emergency personnel (firemen, policemen, etc.) who lost their lives trying to save others.  May they all rest in peace, and may we all eventually come to know a world without such tragedies. 


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