Category: Teens & Tween therapy

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.

Youth with diverse gender identities subject to increased bullying

Young people with diverse gender identities may be bullied and victimized up to three times more often than peers who identify as male or female, a new study of more than 4,464 adolescents in Illinois found. The students were part of a statewide survey of eighth- through 12th-grade youths in Illinois schools.”Transgender youths reported the highest rates of all forms of peer victimization, which were double to nearly triple those of males and up to 2.6 times higher than those of females,” said social work professor Rachel Garthe of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, who led the research. “Slightly more than half of transgender youths reported verbal abuse such as peers calling them names or spreading rumors about them. About one in three of these youths reported cyber victimization, and slightly fewer reported psychological dating violence,” such as a romantic partner denigrating or trying to control them.

Gender-expansive youths — students who don’t identify as male, female or transgender — experienced disproportionately higher rates of all forms of bullying and dating violence.  Among these students, 41% experienced verbal abuse, nearly 32% were cyberbullied and 19% experienced physical violence, according to the study.

Garthe said the findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, are very concerning and underscore the need for supportive policies and practices for students with diverse gender identities who may need help coping with psychological and physical violence from peers and romantic partners. Additionally, she said more programs are needed in schools that prevent these types of violence from being perpetrated.

Equal numbers of male, female, transgender and gender-expansive students were included in the research. The study was novel in that it included a large sample of transgender individuals and the experiences of gender-expansive individuals were explored as a distinct group, Garthe said.

The students in the current study were a subset of the participants in the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey, a biennial survey that gathers data on a variety of social, behavioral and health indicators from youths in schools throughout Illinois. The Center for Prevention Research and Development, a unit within the U. of I. School of Social Work, conducts the survey.

Despite growing numbers of schools implementing anti-bullying policies that include protections based on sexual or gender identity, rates of victimization remain high among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths, research has shown. However, LGBTQ students report feeling safer and more connected at school and experience fewer gender-related negative remarks from peers when resources such as LGBTQ-inclusive curricula are taught, according to the study. When anti-bullying policies with LGBTQ protections are implemented, students are less likely to be forced to use bathrooms that match their assigned sex or wear clothing incongruent with their gender identity or expression, Garthe said.

“To enhance the effectiveness of these policies and further support these students, anti-transphobic education for teachers, administrators and students is needed, along with the use of pronouns that reflect individuals’ gender identity,” Garthe said.

Read this article on Science Daily: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau. “Youths with diverse gender identities bullied up to three times more than peers, study finds.”  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210512132910.htm.


Dr. Holland offers LGBTQIA+ Affirming Therapy and is a psychotherapist 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. She is available for Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support as well as in-person appointment for fully vaccinated clients. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Outbeat Radio Interview with Jenny Holland, PsyD

Join in as co-hosts and wives, Dr. Dianna L. Grayer and Sheridan Gold interview JENNY HOLLAND, ADAM BROWN, and their 3 kids. AMELIA 18 years old, ADDISON 15 years old, and NOAH, 12 years old, all identify with the LGBTQI+ community. Listen in as you learn from the parents and their kids how they navigate the world.

LIVING PROOF – JUNE 20121

“Our family was recently asked to be interviewed for pride week. We have three children. One of them identifies as trans, one of them identifies as somewhere on the LBGTQI A+ spectrum, and the other is uncertain. Our friends, Sheridan and Dianna have noticed our positive parenting and wanted to talk to our family about it on their radio show. Living proof on Outbeat Radio.” ~ Dr. Holland

Patient Comment – June 2021

“Our teen has been meeting with Dr. Jenny Holland for a couple of years. She took time to reach out to us as parents to ensure that we were getting support too as we navigated not just a transitioning child but the emotional ups and downs of a teenager, too. She gave us permission to be strong parents without giving in to our kid. Reach out, it is worth it.”

Offering a Safe and Welcoming Environment

You are safe and welcome here!

Coping with discrimination and oppression, coming out to one’s family and struggling with social expectations and pressures can lead to higher levels of depression, anxiety, substance use, and other mental health concerns. Dr. Holland offers In-Person, Teletherapy and Online Video Counseling Services to meet your needs. 707-479-2946 for appointments or go here for more information.

Outcomes for autistic people improved by teaching social acceptance

Efforts to improve the social success of autistic adolescents and adults have often focused on teaching them ways to think and behave more like their non-autistic peers and to hide the characteristics that define them as autistic. Psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, have been focusing on another approach: promoting understanding and acceptance of autism among non-autistic people.

The researchers published their findings online Jan. 20 in the journal Autism. The study showed that familiarizing non-autistic people with the challenges and strengths of autistic people helped to reduce stigma and misconceptions about autism, but implicit biases about autism were harder to overcome.

Desiree Jones, a psychology doctoral student in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), is the corresponding author of the paper, and Dr. Noah Sasson, associate professor of psychology, is the senior author.

Autism is characterized by differences in thinking, sensing, and communicating that can make interaction and connection with non-autistic people difficult. Some autistic people are nonspeaking and need a lot of support in their everyday lives, while some are highly verbal and need less support. Jones’ work focuses specifically on the experiences of autistic adults without intellectual disability.

“Previous work in our lab has shown that autistic people are often stereotyped as awkward and less likeable,” Jones said. “Some might think that autistic people don’t want friends or don’t want to interact with people. We want to combat those ideas.”

Promoting autism knowledge among non-autistic adults represents a shift in philosophy about how to improve the social experiences of autistic people. Jones explained that this tactic borrows from research on race and ethnicity.

“Targeting autistic behavior places the burden of social exclusion on autistic people, when we should really be challenging the attitudes that lead others to stigmatize autistic behaviors,” she said. “Research on race suggests that people who have racial biases tend to view that race as a monolith, assigning every member the same features. By exposing them to different people from the group, you can challenge those stereotypes. We believe the same principle applies to autism.”

The study participants — 238 non-autistic adults — were split into three groups. One group viewed an autism acceptance video originally developed as a PowerPoint presentation by researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in collaboration with autistic adults. Jones updated it and had narration added. The second group watched a general mental health training presentation that didn’t mention autism, and the third received no training at all. Participants then were tested on their explicit and implicit biases about autism.

“The autism video presents autism facts and promotes acceptance. It gives tips on how to befriend an autistic person and talk to them about their interests,” Jones said. “It also discusses things to avoid, such as sensory overload and pressuring them into engaging.”

Subsequent testing of explicit biases included capturing first impressions of autistic adults in video clips, measuring participants’ autism knowledge and stigma, and gauging their beliefs about autistic functional abilities. Implicit biases also were examined, gauging whether participants unconsciously associate autism with negative personal attributes.

As anticipated, the autism acceptance training group demonstrated greater understanding and acceptance of autism on the explicit measures, including expressing more social interest in autistic adults and resulting in more positive first impressions. However, participants continued to implicitly associate autism with unpleasant personal attributes regardless of which training they experienced.

“Explicit biases are consciously held, evolve quickly and are constrained by social desirability,” Sasson explained. “Implicit biases reflect more durable underlying beliefs — associations reinforced over time that are more resistant to change.”

Many of the stubborn stereotypes about autism are reinforced by portrayals in the media, whether from TV shows like “The Good Doctor” or movies like “Rain Man.”

“A common trope exists of the white male autistic person with savant abilities,” Jones said. “They are really smart but very socially awkward. They can be portrayed as flat or without emotion or passion. These beliefs can be harmful and do not reflect how variable these characteristics are among autistic people. They belie the range of unique difficulties and skills that autistic people can have.

“There’s a saying that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. The community varies so much in individual needs, strengths and difficulties that there’s not a very useful prototype. So getting to know actual people and getting away from preconceptions can hopefully help us improve social outcomes for the autistic community.”

Jones said that autistic individuals themselves are integral in plotting the path forward.

“Autistic people often feel that they simply aren’t listened to, that they are dismissed or not cared about,” she said. “A big part of being welcoming is simply acknowledging actual autistic people telling us what they like and what they want research to be. In our lab, we have several autistic master’s and undergraduate students who play a big role in our research, and they’ve taught me a lot.”

Sasson described the results as promising and indicative of the promise of well-done training, although the staying power of such effects remains unclear.

“This half-hour presentation was engaging and entertaining and included a lot of compelling first-person narratives,” he said. “The fact that non-autistic people experiencing the training were more interested in social interaction with autistic people, had fewer misconceptions about autism, and reported more accurate understanding of autistic abilities after completing it is a success story of sorts.

“Whether the effects persist over time is another question. It could very well be that the benefits are transient, which would significantly limit the promise of training programs like this.”

In future work, Jones and Sasson hope to establish a connection between inclusion and acceptance and the mental health and well-being of autistic people, who experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicide than the general population.

“It’s not easy to be autistic in a predominantly non-autistic world, and making the social world a bit more accommodating and welcoming to autistic differences could go a long way toward improving personal and professional outcomes for autistic people,” Sasson said.

Read this article on ScienceDaily: University of Texas at Dallas. “Reducing biases about autism may increase social inclusion, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210208085441.htm.


Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule an appointment or call 707-479-2946.

Young adults benefit from strong social support systems

New study confirms that social support improves mental health among young adults

A team of McGill University researchers has found that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support reported fewer mental health problems.

In a study published today in JAMA Network Open, the team led by Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology at McGill, reassessed the impact of the presence and awareness of social support, such as family and friends, as a safeguard against mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Their results indicate that young adults who perceived higher levels of social support -- the feeling that there is someone who they can depend on for help should they need it -- at the age of 19, showed lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms one year later.

"Our study shows that even in cases where people previously experienced mental health problems, social support was beneficial for mental health later on," says Prof. Geoffroy, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Youth Suicide Prevention. "We discovered potential benefits of promoting and leveraging social support as a means to protect the mental health of young adults, even in individuals who experienced mental health problems at an earlier developmental stage in life. That social support is not only beneficial for depression, but for other salient mental health outcomes as well."

The power of perception

The team used data from over 1,000 participants of a representative birth cohort of individuals born in the province of Quebec. Following participants since their birth in 1997 and 1998, the researchers looked at their levels of perceived social support at the onset of adulthood. The researchers found that people who experienced greater levels of social support experienced 47% less severe depression and 22% less anxiety than those with less social support. The team also found that those who reported higher levels of perceived social support were at a 40% decreased risk of experiencing suicidal ideation and attempts.

"Our study was conducted before the current COVID-19 pandemic, so we do not know whether our results will apply in the current context," adds Sara Scardera, a master's student in McGill's School/Applied Child Psychology program under the supervision of Prof. Geoffroy and co-author of the study. "However, in a 'normal' context, youth who perceived that they had someone to rely on reported better mental health outcomes. We believe that is beneficial to offer help to those in need, and to make sure your friends know that they can count on you."

The data collection is ongoing, therefore new mental health data will be available when participants turn 23 years old over the course of the 2021 winter season. The researchers will verify whether the same patterns of association have been present during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future lines of research will examine whether certain types of social support -- for example, parents vs. friends -- is more beneficial to the mental health of young adults.

Read this article on Science Daily: "Strong social support decreases mental health problems in young adults: Awareness and presence of social support may guard against mental health problems." 11 December 2020. sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201211115455.htm.


Therapy for tweens, teens and their parents

Every child responds differently to life changes. Some events that may impact a child or teen’s mental health include:

  • The birth of a sibling
  • The death of a loved one, such as a family member or a pet
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Poverty or homelessness
  • Natural disaster
  • Domestic violence
  • Moving to a new place or attending a new school
  • Being bullied
  • Taking on more responsibility than is age-appropriate
  • Parental divorce or separation

Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services

Therapy is a place for you to connect and process your thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Dr. Holland can help you develop effective tools to cope with what is going on. However bad you think it is right now, we can face it together.  I believe that forming a strong personal identity is an important aspect of your growth and development, leading to a brighter future.

Contact Dr. Holland to learn more and to schedule a teletherapy appointment or call 707-479-2946.

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.