Welcome to counseling services by Jeff VoVillia, MA.

I am a counselor and have been working with Individuals, Couples, Groups & Families in the Northern Colorado area to provide insight and understanding to grow past times of struggle. I am dedicated to helping people gain greater psychological health and well-being by promoting healthy relationships, increasing self awareness, and transforming people’s lives.

Are you ready to feel better? Improve relationships? Get unstuck?

I offer a free 1/2 hour consultation for new clients.

Please E-mail Me for an appointment
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You’re doing the best you can, AND you can do better – a meditation

This little saying is known as a Dialectic – that is two things that seem like opposites being true at the same time. We can explore these little paradoxes for ourselves to see if they are true.

For me this one speaks to the idea that we need to be gentle with ourselves. Many times while sitting quietly in formal meditation I’ll notice myself getting distracted and then get down on myself for not being able to focus. Many guided meditations encourage people to gently  bring their awareness back to the present. Notice how the title of this post can fit that scenario quite well, I am doing the best I can, AND I can do better. I’m being as mindful and present as I can in that moment, and I can continue to improve through focus, practice and patience. This then applies to life off of the cushion where I can be more gentle with not only myself but others as well.

Keep this idea in mind. In this place there is no stagnation. There is an acceptance and a gentle reminder that we are dynamic beings that continue to learn and grow.

I encourage you to be gentle with yourselves, and know that you’re doing the best you can and you can do better.

If you choose to try this as a mindfulness mediation practice, I applaud you! If it is a first time, you may want to start with mediation music, guided mediation or gentle yoga poses. Learning how to meditate is easy – practicing is the hard part. Here’s a short video that explains meditation in 2 short minutes.

Want more? Make an appointment today.

Jeff A. VoVillia, MA
Phone: 303.847.9172
Email: TheLucidCenter@gmail.com
333 W. Drake Rd. Suite #14
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Book Review: 1-2-3 Magic! Effective discipline for ages 2-12


1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12


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When you have a baby you are filled with the joy and possibilities. After a few years, that joy may be covered up by yelling, repetitive lectures and frustration. If you are a single parent this can seem overwhelming. There’s no partner to bounce discipline ideas off of or to simply take a break. Your are on full time. Although there are many parenting styles there doesn’t seem to be one technique to stop unwanted behavior. Well, that’s where 123 Magic! comes in.

I recently finished reading “1-2-3 Magic!” after hearing a grandmother say she was interested in starting this with her defiant grandson.

The author divides behavior into 2 basic categories; “Stop” behaviors (those caregivers want to stop) and “Start” behaviors (when we want the child to do something). For instance, we want them to stop whining but we want them to start picking up their toys. The “1-2-3” part is only for “stop” behaviors.

The basic premise is that a child is “counted” and have 2 chances to stop a particular behavior (except when a violation is too big to provide chances). When the child does not stop, they reach 3 and are thus provided a time-out or rest period (usually 1 minute per age of child). If there is no time for a time-out, or for some other reason it’s not able to be delivered then a time out alternative can be the consequence.

“Start” behaviors, says the author, are more difficult because they require a longer time period of sustained attention and focus. The book provides many struggles and examples of how structure, routine, incentives, praise and similar rewards/consequences can help a parent keep their cool.

What I like about 1-2-3 Magic

At it’s core this program provides a formula for parents to manage unwanted behavior. It’s simple, easy to teach and easy to learn and use. The discipline strategy gives the child multiple chances to correct their behavior. This is similar to “cue” and “actions” words that can help build executive functioning. See ADHD article for more.

It can be applied to schools, sitters or grandparents. With a simple “1”, a child stops pestering, badgering, whining and attacking a rule or boundary their caregiver has set. Another big plus to this book was starting with where the “magic” comes from – parents. Two basic rules dictate that parents do not lecture nor show emotion when triggered.

I’m a bit torn on this because I think it’s important to let our kids see how they affect us sometimes. However, if we’re playing a victim and not in control that can really scare a child. The author uses the metaphor of a child throwing a stone in the water over and over. They like to see the big splash – they like to see their effect on the world around them. So, when parents show emotional reaction, usually anger, the child’s brain gets rewarded – something like, “ooh, I made the parent get upset all by myself!”

Where 1-2-3 falls short

Once the book gets past using this formula for “Stop” behaviors, it becomes scattered with different tools for different situations. Many of which were valuable and I realize that there’s no one manual for parenting. Every situation, child and household is different. However, parents need straight-forward tools that can be used in a variety of situations.

Also, the program does not appear to be trauma-informed. When a child or parent has experienced trauma, they may feel anxiety, have symptoms of PTSD, or are simply easily affected by life stress. The book talked about locking doors to keep a child in time-out or other similar methods that could only increase anxiety and further harm a parent/child relationship.

Final Thoughts

The program has been around for some time so you should be able to check it out at your local library. There was mention of a DVD as well. It doesn’t hurt to check it out and talk with your partner about whether the “1-2-3” method is right for your child and family. It may just save you from some unpleasant public breakdowns!

However, if your child has experienced any traumatic event in their life that may be underlying their behavior, it may be better to explore more trauma-informed methods like Dan Siegel’s The Whole Brain Child.

Want more support? If you’re in the northern Colorado area take a moment to schedule a free consultation and we can talk about ongoing family therapy to support you, your child and your family.

Jeff A. VoVillia, MA
Phone: 303.847.9172
Email: TheLucidCenter@gmail.com
333 W. Drake Rd. Suite #14
Fort Collins, CO 80526

The Focus Clinic Experiment – helping kids with ADD, ADHD

I have been running a group for kids who have ADHD. It is called the “Focus Clinic” Although there is no ‘cure’ to ADHD – there’s evidence that suggests that the best treatments include:

  1. Medication Referral/Management
  2. Behavioral Interventions

There’s also a bit of research into this idea of executive functioning. Since I am in a community mental health setting and we have quite a few kids who have ADHD symptoms the organization decided a group would be good. My personal scales show this works with individual therapy as well – as long as parents are involved. The group consists of about 10 6-12 year olds who have been diagnosed with ADHD. Parents will also be involved in the group. It will go for about 8 weeks – that’s 8 different lessons broken down into 4 modules. The entire thing is based on the book Simon Says Pay Attention: Help for Children with ADHD by Daniel Yeager LCSW. 


Simon Says Pay Attention: Help for Children with ADHD (Spiral-bound)


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The modules are as follows;

  1. Working Memory
  2. Behavioral Inhibition
  3. Shifting Focus
  4. Goal Orientation

Each group is organized as follows;

  1. Settle-in/Check-in
  2. Warm-up game (with tokens as rewards that earn prizes)
  3. Lesson (usually in the form of a game or story)
  4. Cool-down game
  5. Clean-up & prizes

In support of the idea of executive functioning – parents will be asked to participate during the group – as a kind of coach to keep their child on task. At the end of the lesson parents separate into another group room to debrief, discuss & get additional materials to be used between sessions in the home. Also, adults will be completing a Vanderbilt ADHD assessment scale every other week to determine success.

adhd

Add symptoms or ADHD symptoms decreasing as the group progresses

At the end parents get a graph that shows progress for their child (or parent perceptions!).

What a satisfying feeling to know that in only 8 short weeks, symptoms can decrease significantly!

This young person’s graph shows huge improvements in attention while hyperactivity and opposition disappear completely!

*Again, with many mental disorders and especially with add/adhd, management is key. This child and family must keep practicing their skills in order to manage symptoms.

If you’re hoping to get help with your child with autism, autism spectrum disorder, add/adhd or opposition, please make the call today!

Jeff A. VoVillia, MA
Phone: 303.847.9172
Email: TheLucidCenter@gmail.com
333 W. Drake Rd. Suite #14
Fort Collins, CO 80526

 

Is my teen moody or depressed? Simple depression test

Raising teens is difficult. My mother used to have a quote from Bill Cosby,

When it comes to kids health, it’s important to make sure they get what they need. Too often as kids become teenager’s, you have to give them more space and yet still find those times when you need to support them…without smothering them. It’s a daily balance and difficult for both teens and parents.

There are so many different diagnoses out there – and when reading them they often sound like most teenagers.

  • Sleep trouble
  • Poor appetite or over-eating
  • Little interest in things you once enjoyed

Psychological Disorders are complicated and one symptom might indicate depression, schizophrenia, anxiety or simply stress. Just attempting to research these things can cause anxiety symptoms!

You could jump right to your primary care doctor or a psychiatrist that may offer some suggestions or a medical solution but what if it’s not that bad? What if you just want to be supportive without taking the medical, chemical route?

That’s where an assessment can help. A simple to use questionnaire is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). You can download it by clicking here. Now, this is a self-report questionnaire and if you’re not feeling close to your teen they may not reveal their true answers. However, if they’re really needing help, they may answer very honestly in the hopes of getting support.

*The scores do not determine any diagnosis and results should be discussed with a mental health professional.

I like to think of the results of this test as a little window into your teen. From here you can discuss whether they want to seek counseling, music therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or cognitive behavioral therapy.

As a diverse clinician that prefers working with teens, I find an approach that is strengths-based, using their own interests to help them. This is often music, quotes on depression, popular media or anything else. Psychology is an art in connecting and helping people find their innate strength and wisdom. This is true for you and for your teen.

Make an appointment today!

Want to learn more about what’s normal for teenage development? Check out Dan Siegel’s Brainstorm!