Monthly Archives: March 2015

Last Week WFC Co-hosted Film Screening of “The Anonymous People” and Panel Discussion in Westport

Westport Family Counseling Director, Nicholas Strouse speaking on the panel at “The Anonymous People” film screening at Christ & Holy Trinity Church in Westport last Thursday, March 12th. Newport Academy co-hosted the event with Westport Family Counseling and had a large turnout of community members, sparking a dialogue about addiction and recovery issues.



What To Expect When Transitioning Into A Blended Family

Making the transition into a blended family is a challenging one, no matter the circumstances. Especially for the children, coming to terms with a new parent entering the picture is not always going to be easy. Understanding what to expect during this transition period, and the best ways to cope with your new family dynamic, can improve your ability to handle the challenges.


When entering a new family dynamic, such as blending two families into one, the challenges that arise come from unknown expectations. Unfortunately, the variability of these transitions and the subsequent reactions to them cannot be planned for in advance. Acknowledging the hurdles and understanding the need for communication and resolution is vitally important. Westport Family Counseling Director, Nicholas Strouse, suggests factoring in a ‘distress tolerance’ as the transition unfolds. “Feelings will be hurt, and unexpected feelings will come up arbitrarily. Things may appear to be going well, and still there will be feelings that were not planned for.” Understanding that these feelings need to be expressed and addressed in a safe environment is critical to ensuring that each family member feels secure and comfortable.

It’s also important, and rests on the parents, to take time for self-reflection. “Examining your habits and thinking about how you’re feeling ultimately allows you to assess how you’re affecting others,” says Strouse. “And in addition to self-reflection, one must reflect on other members, too… even, and especially, if they are not.” An important word of advice is to look at the bigger picture, and the development of the individuals and collective members of the new family… everyone’s evolution over time. Strouse tells us, “The examination of new boundaries and the needs of family members may not be resolved in the first six months, as many new dynamics are likely to only become apparent over time… It requires this type of ‘active listening,’” to ensure that each family member’s feeling, thoughts, and concerns are recognized and addressed, respectfully.


At all stages of life, each and every situation poses a new challenge. That can be difficult, or demanding, for even the biological parents. It can present a particular challenge for the parents of a blended family, because of the tendency for a biological parent to feel a certain level of protectiveness of their children. Maintaining an open line of communication regarding conflict management and resolution, as well as discipline, can ensure that the couple stands united. By discussing these types of matters, outside of a crisis, partners can reach resolutions that ensure both are on the same page if, and when, something does crop up.

Strouse also offers a few rules of thumb to keep in mind throughout the blending process.


  • Patience is Key – Although the family may “blend” over the course of a move-in day, the process can last much longer. Understanding that there is a “learning curve,” of sorts, for both children and parents alike, can make each family member more amenable when challenges do arise.
  • Be Open with the Children – No matter their age, children deserve an age-appropriate frame of reference from which to view this new family dynamic. Explaining the situation, as well as stressing that open communication is vital, can help to ensure the children feel heard.
  • Listen and validate – The transition may have seemed “seamless,” and the family may appear to be doing well, as a whole. However, keep checking in with each other. Remember that each member can have a different experience.


Ultimately, there is no one method that will make the transition into a blended family a perfectly smooth process. But, understanding what to expect during this period can help both parents and children to manage it in a healthy and productive way. By maintaining open communication and practicing empathy throughout, the transition can be a more pleasant experience for all involved. Being conscientious in these ways may help a blended family get closer, and actually bring a close family even closer together.

Are you encountering challenges navigating the transition into a blended family? Westport Family Counseling can offer insights through family counseling. Contact us to learn more about these services or to schedule an appointment.

Next Thursday 3/12 Join WFC and Newport Academy for a Free Screening and Panel Discussion of “The Anonymous People”


Westport Family Counseling and Newport Academy are proud to present, “The Anonymous People,” a film aimed at encouraging an open dialogue about addiction and recovery. The documentary depicts the road that 23 million Americans travel for long ­term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It showcases the history of recovery, including how the AA is just one of many recovery ­related anonymous experiences available for the individuals who face addiction.

But anonymity is not always what recovering addicts or those around them, need or want. There are social stigmas and discrimination that can arise with the anonymity of meeting quietly and in secret from the rest of the world. Mass media has reinforced stereotypes, rather than explaining that addiction is preventable and treatable. “The Anonymous People” depicts courageous Americans as they emerge from the shadows of anonymity to help elicit a network of strength to defeat addiction.

Above all else, the film inspires us to be a face and voice for change, raising our concerns while unveiling fear and how to triumph over it. Because while addiction is a scary thing, the world remaining silent about it is scarier. Together, we can open eyes and ears to the struggle, which in turn gives those who face addiction and their loved ones a way to feel comfortable reaching out. In turn, we can fight to end the discrimination and criminalization of addiction. The film touches on this issue, discussing potential legislation to prevent jail time for drug offenses linked to addiction.

The film will conclude with a discussion panel. Greg Williams, the film’s producer, will be present alongside Ingrid Gillespie (from Communities 4 Action), Carter Barnhart (from Newport Academy), and our own Nicholas Strouse (Director of Westport Family Counseling). Feel free to bring questions for anyone on the panel.

The first step to finding a sustainable solution is speaking out about the problem. We intend to do just that.

Interested in attending? The event will be held on Thursday March 12, 2015, at Trinity & Holy Church Westport at 75 Church Lane in Westport from 6:30-­ 9 PM.  You can register for your f​ree tickets ​online.  We also encourage you to visit the M​any Faces 1 Voice Project ​to learn more about the film and it’s impact.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, Westport Family Counseling ​is a safe resource for support and guidance.

Good Food, Good Mood


If you are feeling sad or low, you are not alone.  The Center for Disease Control states that in 2009, one in 10 Americans suffered from depression, while a more recent study by the World Health Organization estimated that almost 20{f1cbbec8c52242e0435b0f8ae193f61eb53614017266a91800a694fa5707c0ea} of Americans have experienced an extended period of depression, and that the US has the 2nd highest incidence of the disorder in the world.  The WHO report included both clinical depression and less serious, but still troublesome onset of situational or environmentally induced episodes.

What makes depression so prevalent in one country versus another?  The culprits can be genetics, environment, nutrition, or all of them at once.  Susceptibility to depression is certainly heritable, and the disorder is more common in those with a family history, however, not everyone in a family becomes depressed.  Environment and lifestyle also play a role. Some believe that the higher expectations for a rich and happy life lead to disappointment when dreams are not fulfilled, and this is more likely in a developed country where the more pressing requirements for food and shelter are easily met.  There is also evidence that lifestyle factors such as limited sun exposure lead to reduced Vitamin D levels and Seasonal Affective Disorder.

One of the most overlooked yet critical pieces of the puzzle is nutrition.  Protein is essential for creating mood balancing neurotransmitters, while vitamins, minerals and other food-based compounds keep the neurotransmitter machine running smoothly.  How can we expect our brain to work when it is starved of the mood boosting building blocks that keep it running?


Tryptophan is an amino acid-a building block of protein. It is critical for mood management as it is the natural precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is directly responsible for feelings of happiness. It is also necessary for producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. When sleep is impaired, mood suffers, so tryptophan is doubly important.  It requires B vitamins, and magnesium to produce serotonin and melatonin, so these nutrients should not be overlooked.  Tryptophan is found in protein foods, especially chicken, turkey, tuna, milk, nuts, and seeds, and it is best transported into the brain when a small amount of carbohydrates are eaten at the same time. Have some fiber rich crackers with nut butter, or a half of a turkey sandwich, or small bowl of whole grain cereal and milk to help you sleep and build that serotonin.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for a well-functioning brain, and are most abundant in fatty fish. To a lesser degree, we can get them from green leafy vegetables, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.  Low levels of one type of essential fatty acid in the brain have been linked to depression, irritability and even Alzheimer’s disease.  Incorporate more high Omega 3 foods into the diet, or consider a high quality fish oil supplement.

Vitamin D

Not only a vitamin, but a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin D it is necessary for maintaining levels of serotonin in the brain and can have a profound effect on mood.  It is produced by the body in response to sunlight, and is often depleted in winter months.  Vitamin D is not found in many foods, cod liver oil being one of the best sources. It is a fat soluble vitamin so some fatty fish and high fat dairy products provide a small amount. Those who feel low in the colder months should consider supplementing Vitamin D.

B Vitamins

If you feel unhappy, irritable and have a short fuse, you may be lacking in B vitamins.  This complex of nutrients is necessary for emotional well-being, but gets depleted by poor diet, many medications, caffeine and alcohol. They help get energy to brain cells, reduce inflammation in brain and body, and support normal detoxification.  Many years ago high doses of B complex vitamins were used to treat schizophrenia, but over time medication has replaced these important nutrients in addressing mood disorders.  One B vitamin of particular importance is Folate. Folate is critical for regulating mood, but must be in a specific form, called 5-MTHF, in order to be used by the body.  A genetic mutation that is being discovered in a growing number of individuals interferes with the body’s ability to make this necessary compound, while supplementation with the usable form has reduced depressive symptoms in a significant number of people.  The test for this mutation is easy and readily available.

Food Sensitivities

While eating a healthy and balanced diet is key to good mental health, if you have a food sensitivity, a seemingly healthy food can be a problem for you.  Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is most often implicated in mood disorders, and numerous studies have linked it to schizophrenia, depression, and other mental health issues.  While a trial of a gluten free diet may seem daunting, nowadays there are tremendous resources for implementing this protocol.  Most grocery stores have gluten free sections, and restaurants offer gluten free menu items.  For anyone suffering from depression where gluten is a factor, the benefit of an improved outlook outweighs any inconvenience.

While it is unlikely that someone with depression is suffering from a medication deficiency, it is highly possible that they are nutritionally depleted.  If you are feeling low, consider your pantry before your pharmacy, to replete your body of the key nutrients needed for mental health.  If diet and lifestyle changes do not lift your mood, or depression is severe, see a health care professional for an evaluation, but remember to incorporate good nutrition into any mental health protocol.



Vicki Kobliner MS RD, CD-N is a Registered Dietitian and owner of Holcare Nutrition ( and Westport Family Counseling Staff Registered Dietitian.   Vicki works with infants, children and adults with digestive disorders, food allergies, ADHD, autism and other chronic illness, and provides fertility and prenatal nutrition counseling.  Vicki has extensive experience in using dietary modification, appropriate supplementation and functional lab testing to achieve optimal wellness. She can be reached at 203.834.9949 or