Category: research news

Real life support ranked better than social media for improving mental health

Social media may make it easier for people to engage online, but it does not provide certain benefits of real-life human interactions, according to Michigan State University researcher.

“Problematic social media use has been associated with depression, anxiety and social isolation, and having a good social support system helps insulate people from negative mental health,” said Dar Meshi, an assistant professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at MSU. “We wanted to compare the differences between real-life support and support provided over social media to see if the support provided over social media could have beneficial effects.” The research was published online April 29 in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

While social media support did not negatively impact mental health, it did not positively affect it either.

“Only real-life social support was linked to better overall mental health,” Meshi said. “Typical interactions over social media are limited. We theorize that they don’t allow for more substantial connection, which may be needed to provide the type of support that protects against negative mental health.”

Meshi and Morgan Ellithorpe, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware and a co-author on this paper, conducted a survey of 403 university students to identify how problematic their social media use was and their degree of social support in real-life and on social media. The survey also measured depression, anxiety and social isolation, the researchers could see how the students’ social media use and social support related to their mental health.

Problematic social media use is not a recognized addictive disorder, but there are similarities in the symptoms of someone with a substance use disorder and a person displaying excessive social media use. Examples include preoccupation with social media and signs of withdrawal, such as irritability, when prevented from using social media.

“It appears that the more excessive one’s social media use is, the less social support that person gets in real life, which leads to poor mental health,” Ellithorpe said. From these results researchers encourage people who are using too much social media to reach out to people in real life for social support.

Read this article on Science Daily: Michigan State University. “Need to vent? Turn to real-life support, not social media: Research finds social support provided over social media does not improve mental health for excessive social media users.” sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210503104605.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

In-person and Online Video Counseling Services are now available. Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support to meet your needs. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Family well-being at risk during pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning. A study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.

Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being. “Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”

Feinberg added that understanding what can help parents maintain positive parenting practices, such as a positive coparenting relationship, is key for helping protect children during future crises — whether those crises are pandemics, economic shocks or natural disasters. While cross-sectional studies have suggested there has been a negative impact of the pandemic on families, the researchers said this study is one of the first to measure just how much these factors have changed within families before and after the pandemic hit.

According to the researchers, previous research has found that periods of financial stress, such as the Great Depression and the 2008 recession, have led to higher levels of parent stress, mental health problems and interparental conflict, which can all lead to more harsh, and even abusive, parenting. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Feinberg said it led to not only financial stress within families, but also problems related to being isolated together, issues managing work and childcare, and general fear related to the sudden health threat that was poorly understood.

For the study, the researchers used data from 129 families, which included 122 mothers and 84 fathers, with an average of 2.3 children per family. The parents answered an online questionnaire that asked them about their depressive symptoms, anxiety, the quality of their relationship with their coparent, and externalizing and internalizing behavior they observed in their children, among other measures. Because the participants were part of a longer study measuring these factors over prior years, the researchers already had data on these parents and children from before the pandemic.

The researchers found that parents were 2.4 times more likely to report “clinically significant” high levels of depression after the pandemic hit than before. They were also 2.5 times and 4 times more likely to report externalizing and internalizing problems, respectively, in their children at levels high enough that professional help might be needed. Feinberg said that while it makes sense that families would experience these difficulties, he was shocked at the magnitude of the declines in well-being.

“The size of these changes are considered very large in our field and are rarely seen,” Feinberg said. “We saw not just overall shifts, but greater numbers of parents and children who were in the clinical range for depression and behavior problems, which means they were likely struggling with a diagnosable disorder and would benefit from treatment.” Feinberg put the size of the declines in parent and child well-being in perspective by pointing out that the increase in parents’ levels of depressive symptoms in the first months of the pandemic was about twice as large as the average benefit of antidepressants.

The researchers said that as the risk of future pandemics and natural disasters increases with the effects of climate change, so will the likelihood of families facing stressful conditions again in the future. “Getting ready for these types of crises could include helping families prepare — not just by stocking up on supplies, but also by improving family resiliency and psychological coping resources,” Feinberg said. “In my view, that means providing the kinds of family prevention programs we’ve been developing and testing at the Prevention Research Center for the past 20 years.”

Read this article on ScienceDaily: Penn State. “COVID-19 pandemic may have increased mental health issues within families.”


Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

In-person and Online Video Counseling Services are now available. Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support to meet your needs. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Study examines benefits of social connectedness

New study seeks to understand how much we feel connected to others we have never met and how that predicts people’s sense of selfless concern for the well-being of others.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who recognize the connections they share with others are more likely to wear a mask, follow health guidelines and help people, even at a potential cost to themselves, a new University of Washington study shows. Indeed, an identification with all humanity, as opposed to identification with a geographic area like a country or town, predicts whether someone will engage in “prosocial” behaviors particular to the pandemic, such as donating their own masks to a hospital or coming to the aid of a sick person.

The study, published March 10 in PLOS ONE, is drawn from about 2,500 responses, from more than 80 countries, to an online, international study launched last April. Researchers say the findings could have implications for public health messaging during the pandemic: Appealing to individuals’ deep sense of connectedness to others could, for example, encourage some people to get vaccinated, wear masks or follow other public health guidelines.

“We want to understand to what extent people feel connected with and identify with all humanity, and how that can be used to explain the individual differences in how people respond during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, who co-led the study with postdoctoral researcher Nigini Oliveira at the Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science and Engineering.

In psychology, “identification with all humanity” is a belief that can be measured and utilized in predicting behavior or informing policy or decision-making. Last spring, as governments around the world were imposing pandemic restrictions, a multidisciplinary team of UW researchers came together to study the implications of how people would respond to pandemic-related ethical dilemmas, and how those responses might be associated with various psychological beliefs.

Researchers designed an online study, providing different scenarios based in social psychology and game theory, for participants to consider. The team then made the study available in English and five other languages on the virtual lab LabintheWild, which co-author Katharina Reinecke, an associate professor in the Allen School, created for conducting behavioral studies with people around the world.

The scenarios presented participants with situations that could arise during the pandemic and asked people to what extent they would:

  • Follow the list of World Health Organization health guidelines (which mostly focused on social distancing and hygiene when the study was run between mid-April to mid-June)
  • Donate masks of their family’s to a hospital short on masks
  • Drive a person exhibiting obvious symptoms of COVID-19 to the hospital
  • Go to a grocery store to buy food for a neighboring family
  • Call an ambulance and wait with a sick person for it to arrive

In addition to demographic details and information about their local pandemic restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, participants were asked questions to get at the psychology behind their responses: about their own felt identification with their local community, their nation and humanity, in general. For instance, participants were asked, “How much would you say you care (feel upset, want to help) when bad things happen to people all over the world?”

Researchers found that an identification with “all humanity” significantly predicted answers to the five scenarios, well above identifying with country or community, and after controlling for other variables such as gender, age or education level. Its effect was stronger than any other factor, said Barragan, and popped out as a highly significant predictor of people’s tendency to want to help others.

The authors noted that identifying with one’s country, in fact, came in a distant third, behind identification with humanity in general and one’s local community. Strong feelings toward one’s nation, nationalism, can lead to behavior and policies that favor some groups of people over others.

“There is variability in how people respond to the social aspects of the pandemic. Our research reveals that a crucial aspect of one’s world view — how much people feel connected to others they have never met — predicts people’s cooperation with public health measures and the altruism they feel toward others during the pandemic,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, who is co-director of I-LABS and holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair in psychology.

Since last spring, of course, much has changed. More than 2.5 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19, vaccines are being administered, and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially regarding masks, has evolved. If a new survey was launched today, Barragan said, the research group would like to include scenarios tuned to the current demands of the pandemic and the way it challenges us to care for others even while we maintain physical distancing.

For COVID-19 and future humanitarian crises, the ethical dilemmas presented in the study can offer insight into what propels people to help, which can, in turn, inform policy and outreach.

“While it is true that many people don’t seem to be exhibiting helpful behaviors during this pandemic, what our study shows is that there are specific characteristics that predict who is especially likely to engage in such behavior,” Barragan said. “Future work could help people to feel a stronger connection to others, and this could promote more helpful behavior during pandemics.”


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Washington. “Helpful behavior during pandemic tied to recognizing common humanity.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210310204202.htm.


Cognitive behavioral therapy shown to improve job opportunities

If depression is making it more difficult for some unemployed people to land a job, one type of therapy may help, research suggests. In a new study, 41% of unemployed or underemployed people undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) found a new job or went from part- to full-time work by the end of the 16-week treatment for depression.Those who had a job but found it difficult to focus on and accomplish work tasks because of depression said the treatment helped to significantly reduce these problems.

“For the most part, researchers have focused on showing that therapy relieves symptoms of depression,” said Daniel Strunk, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University. “But reducing symptoms isn’t the only goal people have when they start CBT. Many are hoping to find a job or improve their productivity at their current job. Here we found that therapy can help people achieve these goals, as well.”

This study involved 126 people who participated in a 16-week course of CBT at the Ohio State Depression Treatment and Research Clinic. CBT teaches coping skills that help patients counteract and modify their negative beliefs, Strunk said. “It works on the idea that people with depression invariably hold these overly negative views of themselves and their futures,” he said. “For example, if an unemployed patient doesn’t get one job they interviewed for, they may think ‘no one is ever going to hire me.'”

In this study, 27 patients were seeking to improve their employment status (land a job or go from part- to full-time) at the beginning of treatment. Eleven of them (41%) had succeeded by the end of the 16 weeks.

“It is hard to say exactly how good this success rate is since we don’t know how many would have gotten jobs without the treatment,” Strunk said. “But the findings were encouraging and suggest that the CBT is having an impact.”

CBT had a clear impact for those who had jobs and reported at the beginning of the treatment that depression was hurting their effectiveness.

“Working patients reported at the end of treatment that they were much more successful at concentrating and accomplishing tasks at their jobs,” he said. Findings showed that one way CBT had this effect was by reducing patients’ “negative cognitive style,” or the extent to which patients view negative events in overly pessimistic ways, according to Strunk.

“CBT helps patients overcome these views by teaching them that the experience of depression is not their fault and that they can take steps to improve their concentration and accomplish work more successfully even when experiencing depressive symptoms,” Strunk said.

Read this article on Science Daily: Ohio State University. “Depressed and out of work? Therapy may help you find a job: Treatment also helps workers be more effective, study finds.” ScienceDaily www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210222164224.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland PsyD

Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

You are entitled to a stress nap!

Napping to relieve stress

Restful sleep helps to boost positive emotions

New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day -- and they don't find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.

"When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day," says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC's department of psychology. "But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don't have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events."

People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.

Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.

"The recommended guideline for a good night's sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don't meet this standard," says Sin. "A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives."

Chronic health conditions -- such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer -- are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.

"We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults," says Sin. "For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep -- compared to one's usual sleep duration -- led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day."

Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.


Story Source: Read this article on Science Daily --> https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200915121310.htm


Dr. Holland specializes in working with individuals with depression and/or anxiety, those who have experienced trauma, chronic illnesses or conditions associated with aging as well as identity issues.

Teletherapy Available - Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support.

Contact Dr. Holland for more information and for help, or call 707-479-2946 to schedule a telehealth video therapy session.

Cancer patient caregivers deal with significant impact to emotional health

Researchers conclude that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group

The number of informal caregivers who look after older adults with cancer is on the rise. Caregivers could be relatives, partners, or even friends who provide assistance to people in order to help them function. Most older people with cancer live at home and are dependent on informal caregivers for support with their cancer treatment, symptom management, and daily activities. Caregiving itself can also take a toll on a caregiver's own physical and emotional well-being, which makes it important to ensure the proper supports are in place.

Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers' emotional health or to their quality of life. Recently, researchers studied a group of adults aged 70 or older who had advanced cancer (as well as other challenges). This study used information from older patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers from local oncology practices enrolled in the "Improving Communication in Older Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers" study conducted through the University of Rochester National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base between October 2014 and April 2017. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Cancer patient caregivers deal with impact to emotional and physical health

The researchers learned that the health problems of older patients with cancer were linked to a poorer quality of life for their caregivers, including poorer emotional health. This fact is confirmed by many other studies, which show that caregivers may even experience more emotional health challenges (such as anxiety, depression, and distress) than the people they care for, the researchers added. What's more, poorer patient health (measured by a geriatric assessment) was also associated with higher levels of caregiver distress.

The average caregiver in the study was 66 years old, though 49 percent of the caregivers were aged 70 or older. The majority of caregivers were female and white (non-Hispanic), and 67 percent were the patient's spouse or partner who lived with them. Close to 40 percent of the caregivers had serious chronic illnesses of their own. Nearly half (43.5 percent) said they experienced moderate to high distress, 19 percent reported having symptoms of depression, and 24 percent were anxious.

Interestingly, older caregiver experienced less anxiety and depression and better mental health, said the researchers. However, they were in poorer physical health. Being female was associated with experiencing less distress. An income of more than $50,000 a year also was linked to having better physical and mental health.

The researchers concluded that caregivers for older patients with advanced cancer are a vulnerable group. Thankfully, there are strategies caregivers can incorporate into their routines to help keep their own health and well-being top-of-mind. Talk with a healthcare provider about your own stress related to caregiving. If you prefer, you can ask to talk privately, without the person you care for present. Your healthcare provider may suggest ways to address the burdens you may experience with caregiving. There are strategies that have been found to help with specific tasks and challenges, decrease caregiver stress, and improve quality of life. You can learn more -- and take a free and private assessment of caregiver health -- at HealthinAging.org.

Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily ---> American Geriatrics Society. "Caring for an older adult with cancer comes with emotional challenges for caregivers, too." ScienceDaily,  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190402124355.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandAccording to the AARP as many as 43.5 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult or child. It's extremely important that caregivers pay attention to and honor their own needs. Without self-care in mind caregivers risk burning out and becoming unable to care for their loved ones. In fact, one of the most reported factors in a family’s decision to move an ailing relative to a long-term care facility is the caregiver’s own failing physical and emotional health.

Long-term caregivers are also vulnerable to something called compassion fatigue. When this occurs caregivers may experience symptoms including; exhaustion, trouble sleep, increased anxiety, frequent headaches and stomach upset. When irritability, numbness, loss of purpose and emotional disconnection sets in the caregiver may also experience problems with their own personal relationships and suffer health issues. Finding a balance between the needs of family and self is key for caregivers to remain healthy in mind and body. It's important for family caregivers to reach out for help when they need it to create a plan for maintaining health, including tending to their own medical concerns and taking respite from their roles.

Dr. Holland works with caregivers suffering from overwhelm, burnout and caregiver fatigue. She helps clients to creatively work with the situation to discover a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, as well as important ways to stay healthy. Dr. Holland will help you learn how to help yourself so you can continue to do the work you love of helping others. Call 707-479-2946 to schedule a free consultation today.

Domestic violence leads to mental health setbacks

Relationship violence created signs of mental illness in both women (depression) and men (anxiety disorders)

Some forms of domestic violence double victims' risk of depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to new research. The study found many victims of intimate partner violence at 21 showed signs of mental illness at the age of 30, with women more likely to develop depression and men varying anxiety disorders. Intimate partner violence classifies physical abuse as pushing, shoving and smacking.

University of Queensland researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the team also found equal levels of abuse by men and women. "The number of men and women who experience intimate partner violence is very similar, leading us to believe couples are more likely to abuse each other," Professor Najman said. "People generally don't end up in the hospital or a shelter, but there is a serious mental burden from this type of abuse."

The research showed defacto couples and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to be involved in these types of abusive relationships. Emotional abuse involves comments that make the person feel worthless. Then there is harassment -- a constant and distressing nagging that may have long-term consequences for those on the receiving end.

"It also raises the question, to what extent is this type of violent behavior not just a characteristic of the relationship the couple has with each other, but with other people around them and possibly their children," Professor Najman said. "There is a range of treatment and counseling programs available for couples and families to try and improve the way they relate to one another."

Story provided by Science Daily: University of Queensland. "Unhealthy and unhappy: Mental toll of troubled relationships." ScienceDaily 29 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200129091511.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandDomestic violence can take the form of either physical or psychological abuse, or both, and it can affect anyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, economic status or education. Domestic violence can manifest in behaviors meant to scare, physically harm or dominate a partner. This type of violence typically involves an unequal power dynamic where one partner tries to assert control over the other in a variety of ways. Narcissism can also be considered a form of domestic violence.

Women are most often the battered party in a violent relationship according to statistics which report that more than 38 million American women have been victims of domestic violence. Men can be victimized as well, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Therapy in domestic violence situations often focuses on the client's inevitable loss of self-worth, feelings of anxiety and bouts of depression. Most victims of domestic violence need time and counseling to overcome the overall sense of helplessness that can be the hallmark of abuse.

To make an appointment, or to schedule a free consultation call 707-479-2946 or visit the contact page to send an email now.

Therapy dog study results: students reported feeling more supported, less stressed

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students proving beneficial for mental health

Therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students are an increasingly popular offering at North American universities. Now, new research from the University of British Columbia confirms that some doggy one-on-one time really can do the trick of boosting student wellness. "Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students," said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study's lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology. "Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity."

In research published today in Stress and Health, researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later. The researchers found that participants reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session, compared to a control group of students who did not spend time at a therapy dog session. While feelings of happiness and life satisfaction did not appear to last, some effects did.

"The results were remarkable," said Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC. "We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session."

While previous research suggested that female students benefit from therapy dog sessions more than male students, the researchers found the benefits were equally distributed across both genders in this study. Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.

"These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods," said Frances Chen, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC. "Even having therapy dogs around while students are working on their out-of-class assignments could be helpful."

The therapy dog sessions were organized in partnership with UBC's Alma Mater Society and Vancouver ecoVillage, a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic services, including therapy dog sessions, and mental health wellness services.


Story Source: Article provided by Science Daily & University of British Columbia. "Sit, stay, heal: Study finds therapy dogs help stressed university students." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180312085045.htm.


Dr. Holland offers Canine Assisted Therapy

Dr. Jenny HollandConnecting with a dog can be powerfully healing and comforting for individuals of all ages and walks of life. In some cases, it can help an otherwise “stuck” patient overcome hurdles in treatment and begin making progress again. The friendly, accepting nature of these beautiful animals makes them ideal “co-therapists”. Canine-assisted therapy has been around for several decades, and will continue to be used for years to come due to its many benefits. The use of dogs as part of therapy and other forms of treatment can be beneficial for a wide range of disorders, issues, and conditions.


About Tallulah – Canine Assisted Therapy

Tallulah is a highly trained service dog who works with Dr. Holland to provide assistance to clients in a variety of ways. She is warm, friendly, and very intuitive. This Labrador Retriever provides a connection that goes beyond words and straight to the heart.  Depending on your needs, Tallulah can be merely a quiet presence in the room or be actively involved in therapy.

Empathy and closeness enhanced in siblings of children with disabilities

Siblings of children with intellectual disabilities score high on empathy and closeness

New study reveals that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities can be incredibly positive

The sibling relationship is the longest most people will enjoy in their lifetimes and is central to the everyday lives of children. A new Tel Aviv University and University of Haifa study finds that relationships between children and their siblings with intellectual disabilities are more positive than those between typically developing siblings. The research examines the relationships of typically developing children with siblings with and without intellectual disabilities through artwork and questionnaires. It was conducted by Prof. Anat Zaidman-Zait of the Department of School Counseling and Special Education at TAU's Constantiner School of Education and Dr. Dafna Regev and Miri Yechezkiely of the University of Haifa's Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies. The study was recently published in Research in Developmental Disabilities.

"Having a child with a disability in a family places unique demands on all family members, including typically developing siblings," Prof. Zaidman-Zait explains. "Although challenges exist, they are often accompanied by both short- and long-term positive contributions. Through our research, we found that relationships among children with siblings with intellectual disabilities were even more supportive than those among typically developed siblings. Specifically, we found that children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored higher on empathy, teaching and closeness and scored lower on conflict and rivalry than those with typically developing siblings."

Until now, research on how having a sibling with a developmental disability affects children's social-emotional and behavioral outcomes generated mixed findings. At times, the findings suggested that having a sibling with developmental disabilities led to greater variability in typically developing children's behavior and adjustment.

"But these studies did little to tap into the inner worlds of children, which really can only be accessed through self-expression in the form of art or self-reporting, independent of parental intervention, which is the route we took in our study," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says. The scientists assessed some 60 children aged 8-11, half with typically developing siblings, half with intellectually disabled siblings, through drawings and a questionnaire about their relationships with their siblings. Mothers of both sets of siblings were also asked to answer a questionnaire about their children's sibling relationship quality.

"We drew on the basic assumption that artistic creation allows internal content to be expressed visually and that children's self-reports have special added value in studies measuring sibling relationship qualities, especially in areas where parents might have less insight," Prof. Zaidman-Zait says.

Both sets of typically developing children, with and without siblings with intellectual disabilities, were asked to draw themselves and their siblings. Licensed art therapists then used several set criteria to "score" the illustrations: the physical distance between the figures; the presence or absence of a parent in the illustration; the amount of detail invested in either the self-portrait or the sibling representation; and the amount of support given to a sibling in the picture. The children were then asked to complete the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, which assessed the feelings of closeness, dominance, conflict and rivalry they felt for their siblings.

Reviewing the children's illustrations and questionnaires, as well as the questionnaires completed by the children's mothers, the researchers found that the children with siblings with intellectual disabilities scored significantly higher on empathy, teaching and closeness in their sibling relationship and scored lower on conflict and rivalry in the relationships than those with typically developing siblings.

"Our study makes a valuable contribution to the literature by using an art-based data gathering task to shed new light on the unique aspects of the relationships of children with siblings with intellectual disabilities that are not revealed in verbal reports," Prof. Zaidman-Zait concludes. "We can argue that having a family member with a disability makes the rest of the family, including typically developing children, more attentive to the needs of others." The researchers hope their study, supported by The Shalem Foundation in Israel, will serve as a basis for further research into art-based tools that elicit and document the subjective experience of children.

Story Source: ScienceDaily, 14 January 2020. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200114123525.htm.


Dr. Jenny Holland"As a physically disabled person and a parent of a disabled child, I have a unique perspective on parenting children with disabilities. I am offering two new support groups beginning in January that are geared toward helping both parents of children with disabilities and teens & young adults with disabilities to gain a sense of empowerment and control. We will offer coping and practical skills as well. The goal of the groups is to give participants a chance to talk openly and honestly about feelings, share stories and gain support through the process."

More about upcoming support groups:

Parent Support Group

Support group for teens with disabilities

Dr. Holland also offers counseling services for people with disabilities on a on-going basis. To learn more visit Living with Disabilities or call 707-479-2946.

Parental coaching can help kids navigate peer rejection, bullying and conflict

Parents can offer support and advice to youth as they navigate social challenges

During early adolescence, especially the transition to middle school, kids face a number of challenges both socially and academically. Peer rejection, bullying, and conflict with friends are common social stressors. These challenges can affect adolescents' ability to form positive peer relationships, a key developmental task for this age group. Parents can act as social "coaches," offering support and advice to youth as they navigate these challenges by offering specific suggestions for facing challenges head-on or by encouraging kids' autonomy, to "figure it out" on their own. University of Illinois researchers are finding that not all kids benefit from the same types of parental coaching because kids respond to stress differently.

In a recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, researchers report on the connection between how mothers advise their children to respond to specific peer stress scenarios and youth stress responses during conversations about real peer experiences. They also identify what mothers do or say that is particularly helpful in facilitating youth adjustment and well-being in the face of these stressors. "As we're thinking about the transition to middle school, we're looking at the extent to which mothers are encouraging their child to use active, engaged coping strategies, such as problem solving, help-seeking, or reframing or thinking about the situation in less threatening or negative ways," says Kelly Tu, assistant professor of human development and family studies at U of I.

The study also looks at how mothers may recognize that their children are transitioning into adolescence and looking for more autonomy and independence. "We wanted to examine the extent to which mothers are taking a step back, saying, 'I'm going to let you handle this in your own way -- what you think is best or what works for you,'" Tu says. Mothers and youth in the study participated during the transition from fifth grade to sixth grade. Mothers were given hypothetical peer stress scenarios such as peer exclusion, peer victimization or bullying, and anxiety about meeting new peers, as well as a variety of coping suggestions. Mothers were asked to report on how they would typically advise their child to respond.

Researchers also observed conversations between youth and their mothers about real peer stress situations. Common topics that were discussed included being around kids who are rude, having problems with a friend, and being bullied, teased, or hassled by other kids. During the conversations, researchers measured skin conductance level -- the electrical activity happening in the skin as part of the physiological "fight or flight" stress response system -- from youth's hands. "We assessed youths' physiological arousal during these problem-solving discussions to examine how the different levels of reactivity may indicate different needs of the adolescent," Tu explains.

For instance, greater reactivity during the conversations may reflect youths' higher levels of physiological arousal or anxiety in recalling that stressful experience and talking it through with the mother. Whereas less reactivity during the problem-solving conversation might serve as an indicator of youths' insensitivity to the stressful experience. And these different response patterns may require different parenting approaches. "We found that mothers' active, engaged coping suggestions were more beneficial for low reactive youth. Low reactive youth may not be attending to cues in these conversations about stressful or challenging peer experiences, and so they may behave in ways that are unexpected, non-normative, or inappropriate. But when parents give them specific advice for how to manage challenging peer situations, this appears to be helpful," Tu says. However, the same active, engaged approached predicted worse adjustment for kids exhibiting higher arousal. "Instead, self-reliant suggestions actually predicted better adjustment for these kids," Tu explains.

"These findings are interesting because this suggests that a multi-step process might work best for kids who are exhibiting high physiological arousal related to peer problems. If you're anxious or stressed, and your parent is telling you to face the problem head on, that might actually create more anxiety. But when a parent gives a highly aroused youth more autonomy about how to cope with the peer stressor, this seems to be more beneficial because parents are giving them more space and time to work through the situation in their own way," Tu says. Thus, parents may want to consider the match of their coping suggestions with adolescents' stress reactivity.


This article provided by Science Daily: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "Parental coaching adolescents through peer stress."ScienceDaily, 18 December 2019. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191218153402.htm.


Dr. Jenny HollandThere are situations that arise for every child - spanning infancy to adolescence, that benefit from a parents’ ability to acknowledge the worthiness of the child's feelings. To be the loving, compassionate and unflappable parent requires the ability to manage your own feelings and frustrations. Over the years studies have pointed out that the best-adjusted children are nurtured by parents who find a way to combine warmth and sensitivity with clear behavioral expectations.

Dr. Holland has been in private practice for more than 17 years, helping patients to reach new levels of self-understanding and emotional well-being.  Dr. Holland will customize treatment to meet your specific needs. Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment, or call 707-479-2946.