Monthly Archives: September 2015

Community Presentation on Tuesday October 6th on “Redefining Family: Understanding and Supporting the Modern Family”


Westport Family Counseling is hosting a Free Presentation for the Community on Tuesday October 6th at 8:30am.  Stephanie Schacher, PsyD will be presenting on “Redefining Family: Understanding and Supporting the Modern Family”

8:30-9am Complimentary Breakfast

9-10am – Presentation by Stephanie Schacher


This presentation will address the social and clinical issues relevant to families headed by gay dads, single mothers by choice, and families formed using fertility treatment including third party reproduction. With the increase in the use of fertility treatments, issues pertaining to older parents will also be addressed. The talk will address both commonalities and differences in these groups, and how to provide treatment and support that are sensitive to these parent groups’ needs.


About our Guest Presenter:

Stephanie Schacher, PsyD  is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Fairfield and Branford Connecticut. One of her main areas of interest is in clinical work surrounding family building with groups such as gay dads, single moms, and heterosexual couples utilizing fertility treatments. She has conducted original research and published on gay dads, exploring their pathways to and experiences with fatherhood. Prior to establishing her practice in Connecticut, she worked for New York Presbyterian/Columbia university medical center where she provided psychological services to Hospital and University employees, and was involved in a grant funded program treating individuals impacted by 9/11. Other trauma-related work has centered around developing curriculum and providing trainings to educators, nurses, and mental health clinicians on childhood trauma in the Gulf Coast following hurricane Katrina in 2005. In her private practice she also does trauma work, working with women with childhood histories of abuse.

If you are interested in attending or have questions please email, call (203) 227-4555 or you can sign up online:

20 Local Professionals and Parents Attended WFC’s September Networking Breakfast and Presentation by Alison Bevan, Certified Sleep Consultant

Westport Family Counseling hosted an audience of 20 parents and professionals last Wednesday morning 9/16 for our September Networking Breakfast and Presentation by Alison Bevan, Certified Sleep Consultant.  The event was a great success and we had a great turnout of Fairfield County professionals and parents!

Adjusting to being an Empty Nester

The day has finally arrived. Your youngest child has been dropped off and is now a college student, which makes you… an Empty Nester. Marriage therapists see the gamut of reactions – from “Yippee” to “Oy vay.” If you fall into this latter category and are entering this new life phase with trepidation (or even dread), you are not alone.  “We help a lot of couples normalize the transition to becoming Empty Nester’s,” says Nicholas Strouse, Director of Westport Family Counseling. Couples have a lot of expectations and stereotypes. We help them reality-test, and avoid some of the possible pitfalls. We show them how to listen to each other and to themselves… and return to being a team… but, a different type of team… not as parents, but rather, as partners…like they once were, or maybe only now are having a chance to discover.”

Strouse starts with these basic recommendations to help Empty Nester’s acclimate and be supportive one another’s needs.

Give yourself time – The past 20+ years have been filled with activity, distractions, and all manner of challenges. Give yourself time to adjust to your new normal, which includes a quieter home, and fewer familial demands. There is no “map” for what to do. Settling into what is best for you and your spouse will include some trial and error and exploration.

Give yourself permission – Some needs may be transitional, while others may be ongoing. Allow for whatever needs arise. Your first impulse may be to create “time for yourself.” Yoga may be at the top of your list… reading… cooking more gourmet meals, and taking the time to do so. However, you may adjust to different priorities, as you settle into your new life as Empty Nester’s. It may take a period of time before you recognize your long-term goals, or you may know right away. You may be surprised to learn that some are still related to the family, such as thinking about downsizing and moving to another area that is more affordable, and close to where you expect your children to settle down… or, you may want to do some Estate Planning. On the other hand, you may not be surprised that you have some typical long-term goals, such as travelling with your spouse.

Give yourself space – While it’s great to look forward to being surrounded by people, it’s also important to give yourself, your children, and your spouse individual space. Everyone needs to find a balance between shared time and alone time, without giving up what is important to him or her.

Make some concrete plans – It helps to have short-term goals on the calendar. This can include a visit your child’s college, visiting old friends who have moved away, a vacation for the two of you, or for your family during a school break. Closer to home, it can be a big family gathering around Thanksgiving or the holidays. Once again, do not be surprised if your “Empty Nester plans” still include family. Remember, your sense of self and the coupleship may have changed… that does not mean your love for your family and desire to be with them will go out the window.

Reclaim your identity  – One of the most common issues Couples Counselors encounter is a parent getting too wrapped up in their children and losing their own identity. Instead of seeing being an Empty Nester as a “void,” see it as an opportunity to reclaim who you are – your passions, your interests, confidence in your skills. Some of these may relate to child rearing, but some may be interests that have had to take a back seat… or, they may be new experiences you’ve yearned for. This is the time to explore and find out what resonates most with YOU.

Engage in open communication – One of the tenets of couples counseling is open and honest communication. Talk with your spouse about where you are at… and, where you’d like to “be” over the first few months… as well as,  over the longer term.

Counseling may be an option – There are plenty of positives about being able to refocus on yourself and your partner. However, this may also be a time for pulling back the curtain on marital issues. Problems that were avoided, while being distracted by children, can come to the fore when you are Empty Nesters. Couples can find circumstantial, and situational therapy very useful to navigate their new life together, and help resolve long simmering issues.


Having your children go off to college is an exciting and anxious time for your children, and also for you. Being mindful during this new phase, and also being open to outside help, can help turn this time into a fulfilling adventure.

Taking The Stress Out Of Back To School

If only it was as easy as it looks in the Staples commercials – breezing through the aisles with visions of your kids happily heading back to school.  For many kids and parents, alike, back-to-school is filled with anxiety. Whether it is a kindergartner, just entering school, a middle-schooler in the throes of adolescence, or a high school junior facing what could be their toughest year… back-to-school is chock full of uncertainty about academic expectations, social interactions, and time management. Here are some steps that parents can take to lower back-to-school anxiety.

Start early – Begin prepping a couple of weeks before school to keep tensions down. Nicholas Strouse, Director of Westport Family Counseling, recommends, “Give yourself enough time to plan… it’s unpleasant to feel like you are cramming to get everything done, last minute… parent’s anxiety effects kids, and visa versa.” It’s unnecessary to be so stressed out, before school even begins. So, “Give yourself plenty of time,” says Strouse. Plan to buy clothes, and supplies, and look at your schedules, in advance.

  • Know the exact start date of school, classroom, and teachers. So much stress is due to the “unknown.” Simply having the key facts can make a big difference.
  • Consult your schools’ websites for forms or notifications you may have missed. Especially with the cut back in mailings, the website is a vital resource. Check it now… and, make checking the website a part of your weekly routine, throughout the school year.

Build in fun – Make shopping an adventure rather than a chore. Try to pick a time in advance of the first day of school to get some supplies out of the way. Same goes for clothes; get some shopping out of the way early, but leave time a few weeks into September to fill out the wardrobe.  Of course, food and shopping go together, so build in a lunch or light dinner break… or, consider post-shopping decompression, at the yogurt or ice cream shop.

Use visual cues – We all love electronics, however…Did you know that big, bold and highly visible handwritten calendar notes and bulletin board alerts work wonders for keeping families organized. Therapy studies are filled with proof: more organized = less stress. Use white boards, cork boards, blackboards (or, blackboard paint) to create an area for posting important dates and appointments… as well as, “Do not forget” notes. (These boards are also terrific for all kinds of messages: “Congratulations!”, “Good luck!”, “You’re a Star!”)

Involve both parents – One of the most common mistakes family therapists see is a lapse in communication between parents. Whether both parents work, or one stays at home, everyone needs to be involved. Both parents need to have key dates on their calendars – orientation, first day, back to-school night, games, plays, concerts, et al. Even if a parent can’t attend, proactively (rather than re-actively) acknowledge what is occurring in your child’s life. This can instill a sense of caring, which can reduce a child’s stress level.

Planning – The first 2 weeks of school are crucial. So, plan a little flexibility as everyone settles into the new routine. Keep your calendar a little freer, during this important “settling in” period.  Then you can see more clearly how and when your child will need you throughout the quarter or semester, and plan your days…and nights accordingly.

Your home may not bounce to the soundtrack of the Target back-to-school ads, but there can definitely be a more upbeat tone set for everyone, as your family starts the school year.