Dathan Paterno

From Trauma to Success

It is no less than tragic that those who have endured trauma or significant tragedy are viewed as damaged or weak, incapable to do what they once did. It is often as if they have become less human as a result of their challenging experiences. Luckily, research turns this myth on its head by revealing that people who have faced great adversity are surprisingly stronger and better prepared for many life challenges!

Dr. Steve Taylor, Psychology lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and author of Out of the Darkness, explains the phenomenon known as “post traumatic growth” (originally coined by psychologist Richard Tedeschi). This exciting hypothesis suggests that people experience positive life changes and newly discovered strengths after traumatic life experiences, such as serious illness, house fire, combat, and divorce.

The idea focuses on one’s perspective. Do you view yourself as the hero or victim? Are you a survivor or do you see yourself as defeated? Do you continuously ask yourself why this happened to you, or do you focus your mind on overcoming what happened? These questions steer one’s overall view of an experience; if steered in the right direction, the past will no longer determine the future.

Dr. Taylor states that turmoil can often lead one into a transformation and, if one allows it, through suffering one can reach a deeper level of awareness. Suffering can deepen us and help us gain important benefits. These benefits can manifest in keener compassion for others (especially their suffering), newly discovered skills, a greater appreciation and passion for life, and so on.

This growth doesn’t come easy, of course; it requires work to accept what happened and to focus on how experience has made you stronger – not what it took from you. Some people reflexively pivot to this positive state of mind without external influence, and without the help of family and other support systems. Others may need a little help. Park Ridge Psychological services can help meet you where you are and help you get to a place of acceptance, strength and inner peace.

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The Magic of Failure

No one wants to fail; even admitting failure can be painful. What if we stopped looking at failure as necessarily negative? Instead of viewing failure as the barrier, we must see our failures as building blocks, with which you can choose to build your staircase to success.

Ask yourself: how can you possibility be good at something right off the bat? Excellence is almost always gained through experience. Experience comes through practice – you must take time to learn and understand tasks before you proceed to competence. After a while and with enough experience, you can achieve mastery. Even masters make mistakes, from which they gain awareness and insight and, if reflected upon and learned from, then you can finally reach excellence.

Every successful inventor experiences their fair share of trial and error before they created something incredible. With every error, they gain knowledge about their craft. Instead of doubting themselves, they continue trying because you only truly fail if you give up. When failure arrives, it takes a little work to avoid getting caught up in disappointment. This brings attention to the falls that occur while we attempt to build our staircase to success and how to develop the positive perspective about failure (as it occurs).

Dr. Julie Exline, a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, explains that when the falls do happen, we must be graceful. After a failure, what are you going to choose to remember? The lessons learned from failures or how you felt embarrassed and defeated during the occurrence?

There is no down side to failure as long as you learn from it and do not repeat your mistakes. If you do not learn from your mistakes – how can you not keep repeating them? With every lesson, you fail a little less until you reach your goal; that is the process and there is no way of getting around it – no matter what anyone tells you.

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Are you obsessed with blaming someone else for your misery?

Blaming someone else for your unhappiness represents one of the most destructive things you can do to yourself. Blame is an immature choice that pushes a cycle of self-perpetuated victimization. When you ruminate about a person or event that made you angry, eventually that unresolved, built-up anger will devolve to resentment.

Resentment builds bitterness, which can and will overtake your ability to be happy. Unless you change your perspective you will become chronically angry and in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction with your life.

Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, who holds a doctorate in both English and Psychology and authored The Vision of Melville and Conrad and his blog Evolution of Self, enumerated some of the costs associated with an extended stay in Bittertown:

  • Your mental and emotional pain will last longer.
  • The cycle of “getting even” will further isolate you.
  • Dwelling on the past wrongs will keep you from being presents to today’s joys.
  • Thoughts of distrust will become paranoid thinking.
  • Loss of connection with others.
  • Your personal search for purpose will be negatively impacted.
  • Your psychic health will suffer (e.g., insomnia, high blood pressure, stress from chronic anger overload).
  • You become blind to your own wrongdoings.
  • Your sense of wellbeing will become defaced.

The solution: take responsibility for your life. Take responsibility for the life that is a direct result of actions you have made. Even if someone played a destructive or painful role in your life, it’s time to move on and be a part of changing your life for the better. Realize you cannot control the behavior of anyone but yourself.

Making the choice to move forward can come only after honest self-reflection. Understand why you feel resentful towards someone, then view it from a different perspective or angle. And finally forgiveness, of course, is the key to long term happiness. Once you can truly let go and visualize yourself no longer having negative resentful feelings, you will become free and at peace.

For psychic readings, contact this psychic hotline.

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Three signs you are in the wrong relationship!

Can you spot a bad relationship – especially when you are in it? That is a difficult task, partly because relationships can blind us to our own reality. There are many reasons we don’t recognize when we are in a relationship that is wrong for us. There are also many reasons we choose to stay in these wrong relationships and justify the wrong characteristics as we carry on. No one wants to accept the fact that one’s partner, who they may or may not love, is bad for them; at least not at first.

Bad relationships wreak havoc on your emotional and mental well-being. They can make you question your self-worth, even destroy your self-esteem. Depression is not uncommon for those who chose to remain in unhealthy relationships, regardless of the rational.

Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University, San Bernardin, and author of What Makes You Tick, identifies three warning signs that are solid evidence that you are in a bad relationship:

You do not have personal freedom. Relationships are not supposed to be controlling. A healthy relationship is a partnership, where both partners have the right to make their own decisions about how they dress, which friends they spend time with, how they occupy their free time, etc. Trust is a key component of any healthy relationship; without trust there cannot be freedom.

Your 80/20 ratio is off: Be careful to notice how your relationship feels overall. A healthy relationship is where you experience positivity about 80% of the time and experience negativity 20% of the time. If the positive and negative ratio in your relationship tips more toward the negative, it’s time to take a closer look at your relationship.

You wish you were home alone: It’s OK to want personal time away from your partner; however, when you consistently wish your partner wasn’t around, it is a definite red flag. If you cannot wait to finally be alone, your relationship may have become a bad one for you.

Do not be bamboozled by the vain hope that something will change; naivety can keep you in the wrong relationship. You deserve better; if you are not happy, nothing will change unless you change it. We all want to be loved, treated equally and given respect. No one should spend their time being miserable and trapped behind bars of a bad relationship.


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The Essentials of Psychotherapy

As most consumers of mental health services know, the number of schools of therapy constantly increase; today we have a dizzying number of unique schools of therapy:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (by far the most common)
  • Behavioral therapy (Part B of CBT)
  • Cognitive therapy (Part A of CBT)
  • Family or Family Systems therapy
  • Client-Centered (or Person-Centered) therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Narrative therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Rational-Emotive therapy (not very common these days)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
  • Existential-Humanistic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Eclectic therapy (an organized mish-mosh of all of the above)

This isn’t even an exhaustive list of reputable therapies, which must appear as something of an overwhelming buffet to the general public. There are also as many types or styles of psychotherapy as there are psychotherapists.

However, a case can be made for some unifying traits of the therapist. Certainly, not all schools of psychotherapy rely on the same personality traits. Some require more erudition than others. Most require some skill with listening, but some require very little transparency or even empathy.

What are the essential traits of helpful psychotherapy and of the helpful psychotherapist? Here is a list of potential traits. In the next blog, I will discuss what I believe are the top five traits that are necessary for successful therapy.

  • Love (compassion)
  • Empathy
  • Hope
  • Trust
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom
  • Confidence
  • Transparency
  • Intelligence
  • Intuition
  • Perceptiveness
  • Listening
  • Clarity



Modern Child Screen Time Horror!

Be honest, how much daily screen time does your child really get, including phones, tablets, and computers? How much per week? Now compare that to how much screen time you enjoyed as a child. Baffling, isn’t it? Now of course we live in different times – but you are still a parent and you have control over what your child is exposed to.

Many electronic devices are amazing. Tablets, if used as educational tools, are admittedly pretty neat; children can learn from them. It seems acceptable to reserve very limited time for technological use. However, focus on the word “limited”. The downfall of having your children spend too much time with technology will horrify you.

Rachael Bedford, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, found that passive viewing of television has been correlated to a decrease in language ability. Dr. Liraz Margalit, a customer experience Psychologist at ClickTale explains that “A number of troubling studies connect delayed cognitive development in kids with extended exposure to electronic media.”

If all that doesn’t frighten you enough, a research team led by Dr. Narvaez in the Department of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame explains that excessive screen time takes away from physical activity, which has multiple consequences, none of them positive. Dr. Narvaez emphasizes that the lack of time designated to physical activity and play are evident in the increase of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems children experience in alarming numbers.

It is time you regain control of the situation. Get your children excited about going outside to play. You must initiate alternative play; they will respond to your enthusiasm and interest, especially if you do not rely on electronic devices during your free time. If you engage with your children through play, they will be better adjusted and healthier adults. Sitting your kids down in front of the T.V. or a tablet is easier, but it isn’t healthy for them at all.

Put the screens away!


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Why Is My Kid Super Sensitive to EVERYTHING?

Neurodiversity is a relatively new word in the mental health field. It crystallizes an awareness of diversity among the many spheres of perception and functioning that exist in the central nervous system. For example, everyone possesses unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their senses. Our senses exist to take in information from the world around us and make sense of it. Sensory integration and sensory processing are labels to describe how we receive and perceive sensory input through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, movement and balance, body position and muscle control.

Parents often notice subtle excesses or sensitivities in their child; while they are often difficult to describe and can fly under the radar, they often manifest in relation to peers. When there is a problem with developmental milestones, one should take notice. Early intervention is key. The sooner a child can begin to learn and solidify sensory skills, the better adjusted they will be in social and academic settings; this can persist through adulthood.

If ignored, the consequences can become problematic. Interactions with peers and family can devolve, daily functioning can become challenging if not overwhelming, behavioral challenges can become burdensome, and the child’s ability to perceive and regulating emotions can become puzzling and distressing. This can ultimately result in a poor sense of self and huge complications when it comes to learning, particularly in a classroom environment.

It is easy to forget what it was like when you were a kid. Kids can be very mean and can do a lot of damage if gone unnoticed for a long time. Because one’s peers can be a tough crowd, it is important to validate your child’s concerns and feelings. Encourage your child to disclose to you when they feel a concern – especially if the concern is with themselves.

Occupational Therapy is widely use to help assess and treat individuals suffering from Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Sensory Processing Disorders. The main targets of therapy are helping a child regulate sensory input much more effectively, maintaining strong levels of functioning, and establishing any accommodations necessary for insufficiencies experienced.

Park Ridge Psychological Services welcomes Laura O’Brien as our new occupational therapist. She is certified in sensory integration and yoga for children with special needs. If you feel that your child may be struggling with a sensory processing disorder, feel free to contact her at lobrien@prpsych.com with any questions or to make an appointment for a consultation.

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Stay Committed to Your Commitments

We are all busy. There will always be things that need to be done. That does not mean you should neglect your commitments. Commitments are agreements to keep your word and to do what someone is counting on you for. By canceling or failing to go through a commitment, you are letting down—even hurting—the ones who rely on you.

Philippa Perry, psychotherapist and author of How to Stay Sane, states that commitment is at the core of sustaining a strong social network. Having a strong social network is critical because studies demonstrate that people with good social networks enjoy greater longevity.

Perry explains that commitment can be broken down into three areas: Relationships, Place, and Activity. In order to prevent failing on a commitment, you must identify where potential problems may lie for you. Really think about what feeds the urge to back out of your commitments: is it the person to whom you are committed? Is it where you spend your time during commitments? Or could it be the activities that seem to rob you of the motivation to meet your commitments?

Perry further explains that our main dilemma with being able to commit (on any of the three areas) is the notion that there may be better options available that have yet to expose themselves. Western society fosters individualism—sometimes this value becomes exaggerated, so much so that we sometimes forget to think about anyone but ourselves. Yes, sometimes it isn’t enjoyable to sit through a lengthy graduation or boring family event. However, don’t forget that it’s not always about you; you aren’t the only special one in your relationship.

Before you decide to cancel a commitment because it may be inconvenient for you, think about situations where a child spends their birthday alone because no one made it to their party. Is what you had to do instead of attending more important, an emergency, or that much of hassle for you? As human beings, we have a responsibility to each other. Everyone plays a vital role; commitments are bonds that should not be taken for granted.

We are social beings and need each other for support. Virtual support is not enough, even though your busy schedule might seem like a valid excuse. Most importantly, imagine what it would be like if you were all alone on a day that may be special to you.

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Tips on Obtaining Order in a Dysfunctional Relationship

Dysfunctional relationships can happen to anyone. You can have a dysfunctional relationship with a parent who may be struggling with an addiction, a sibling who has some mental health impairment, or an abusive partner with whom you are still emotionally invested. You feel as though boundaries are crossed in these relationships with impunity, more than you can tolerate. Conflicts don’t get resolved with these folks; sometimes, getting your point across seems impossible. In the end, no one wins with your attempts to resolve things, leaving you – once again – feeling hurt, betrayed, ignored, and frustrated.

Although it is best to get yourself away from chronically dysfunctional relationships, realistically, is not always possible. Sometimes we must face the difficulty of untangling yourself away from someone you are responsible for, emotionally attached to, or financially dependent on. Unfortunately, abandoning a harmful relationship is simply not an option for some; this leaves many feeling hopelessly stuck.

In situations where you cannot distance yourself from the dysfunctional relationship, Robert Taibbi offers some helpful suggestions. A licensed Clinical Social Worker for over 40 years, author of 300 articles and ten books including Fixing Families: Tools for Walking the Intergenerational Tightrope, Taibbi shares tips on managing your life while remaining embedded in a dysfunctional relationship:

  • Don’t feed the dragon: When emotions are high, do not continue engaging or explaining your perspective. Wait until the environment is calmer. Do not get lost in the need for the other person to understand you (when you are in an argument) because your point will be lost or rejected and you will only become more frustrated.
  • Don’t enable: When your dysfunctional relationship is with a person who struggles with addiction, Taibbi explains that “by your enabling you ultimately keep them from seeing the consequences of their behaviors and the power of their affliction”. This means that you should not take part in covering up for someone who is addicted when their addiction gets in the way of their responsibilities. No matter how painful it may be, do not protect someone that you care about from the consequences of their behaviors.
  • Don’t engage in magical thinking: Magical thinking is when you create a correlation between two unrelated things that happened at the same time to explain an event. As appealing as it may be for you to make sense of things in your dysfunctional relationship, it is not good to do this. It’s understandable for you to justify or rationalize what is happening to you; we are programmed to make connections. Even though magical thinking tends to lower our anxiety for a moment, these irrational conclusions do not benefit you; you are creating false explanation for coincidences instead of focusing on what actually occurred and why.
  • Don’t emphasize emotions, but behaviors: Of course you should have compassion for what someone may be struggling with or going through. That does not mean, however, that you should excuse people’s behavior. Empathize with the difficultly someone is feeling; nevertheless, do not make excuses for someone’s behaviors, especially if it is abusive behavior towards you.
  • Don’t be a victim: Do let a person brainwash you into believing hurtful things they say to obtain something from you. Do not let guilt from imagined responsibility set in too deep to the point that you won’t seek help if things get too dangerous. Remember that you are important and when a relationship gets to a point that you are no longer willing to tolerate – do not be scared to leave and seek help. Sometimes, survival mode is exactly what a person needs.

Being in a dysfunctional relationship is not easy. Leaving a dysfunctional relationship is not always an option for people. Conversely, losing yourself to someone who is trying to tear you down should not be a choice. Stay in control, do what you need to do, but stay focused on your own wellbeing.

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To Test or Not To Test…

By Dr. Dathan Paterno

Many times, people are asked about whether they or their child should be tested; sometimes it is referred to as “undergoing psychological evaluation” or some other similar phrase. Other times, a therapist will suggest that their client be tested (aka, evaluated). Quite often, this elicits a strong anxiety response, partly because many people don’t understand what psychological testing is for—and, conversely, what it is not for.

I evaluate children, adolescents, and adults for a number of reasons. Here are a few common examples:

  1. To understand someone’s strengths and weaknesses—what he/she is good at and not so good at—and comprehend how these might be getting in the way of some area of functioning, like relationships, work, or academics. Usually this involves guiding the treatment modalities that might be most helpful for an individual.
  2. To determine whether someone meets the criteria for a disorder so that that person can receive appropriate, individualized accommodations at work or at school. A good example is discovering whether someone struggles with a learning disorder or ADHD.
  3. On rare occasion, someone will ask me to determine whether they fit the criteria for a certain mental disorder, such as Bipolar Disorder, Attachment Disorder, or something else. Sometimes, this can be helpful in normalizing or validating a person’s experience and suffering.

As the reader can see, psychological testing answers questions. It is a bit like an x-ray: “Does the patient have a broken bone and where?” This helps the attending physician guide treatment. If there is no question to be answered, then psychological testing makes no sense.

Psychological testing can be quite complex. It involves gathering data from as many sources as possible, building hypotheses, then critically examining which hypotheses make the most sense and which are not supported by data.

Many psychologists focus their work on finding the “right” diagnosis. I do not. Because I am highly skeptical of the diagnostic manual (the DSM-5) and the validity of many of the current diagnostic categories, finding the right label for people is meaningless, except when that label helps someone secure services and help that otherwise would not be available to them.

Here are some other things that psychological testing is not:

  • Hunting for a diagnosis. I don’t care what label someone fits. The exercise of categorizing people is out of control in our culture and it is hurtful more often than helpful. People aren’t labels; they are humans who suffer. I want to understand a person’s suffering to help them, period.
  • Getting someone a “crutch” so they can get out of work (or school work). That is not the purpose of learning disability or ADHD evaluations.
  • Minimizing someone’s suffering by labeling it. People aren’t “depression” or “Bipolar”; to determine which category into which a person’s suffering falls can sometimes be helpful, but it must be balanced with the possibility of stigma and self-defeating behaviors and hopelessness, all of which are quite possible with a mental health diagnosis. This is why I avoid labels except when necessary and when the client can benefit from it and desires it.

If you are considering psychological testing and/or your therapist suggests it, feel free to ask your therapist questions about the purpose of testing and the confidentiality of the process/results. Alternatively, you may e-mail me with questions and concerns about whether you or your child would benefit from psychological testing.