WFC Blog

How Do We Reach Our Children When They Seem So Hard To Reach


Children sometimes withdraw in the wake of a distressing event, be it the death of a beloved family pet, an adjustment in schedule, or an unexpected argument between family members at home.

It can be difficult for children to articulate what is bothering them. It is important to be attentive to children at these times, as a child’s response (or lack of response) may point to a much deeper issue. Child therapist, Elizabeth Chatel, says, “It is important for parents to take notice of how their child is behaving. If a child begins to refuse compliments, remains unusually silent, or refuses to open up about what’s bothering them, this could signal a coping attempt on the part of the child.”

How do we reach our kids when they seem so hard to reach?

One of the best ways that parents can help their child through a particularly stressful time is with a technique known as psychodrama (best performed under the supervision of a therapist). “Psychodrama allows for children and parents to heal emotional wounds through storytelling, playing, and action,” says Chatel. “Psychodrama is a very safe way to go towards dealing with something very traumatic…. You can not always dive straight into the trauma, especially with children because their brains aren’t fully developed. To just open up and talk about the trauma is often too much for children.”

In a typical psychodrama session, Chatel will work with a child or the family unit to explore a traumatic event and how it may have affected the child. This can include using emoji cards as a way to express feelings, or non-verbal conversations that rely on the use of expressive eye movement, alone, as a means of telling a story.

Other ways of using psychodrama to explore children’s feelings include role reversal, in which a parent steps into the role of the child and the child plays the role of the parent. In cases with much younger children, objects like scarves can be used to represent feelings. Children can point out a scarf that most matches their mood.

“Psychodrama is especially helpful when you see a child shutting down,” says Chatel. Take for example, a common occurrence in families — a parent asking their child what’s wrong. Parents can continue to ask their child what’s bothering them, but when children reply with “I don’t know,” that response may irritate or anger a parent. Or, because we often focus on the words, or sometimes mistakenly believe a child is attuned enough to tell us what’s going on, a parent may simply stop inquiring… even though something still “feels off.”

Chatel points out that children can actually be genuine, even though their answer may seem evasive. Children are simply not able to always elaborate. Children may also not understand what’s happening with their emotions. It’s in these cases that psychodrama and a family therapist can help. “Psychodrama creates a safe place where parents and children can play a role,” says Chatel. Psychodrama often takes families to a much deeper level with one another.


Elizabeth Chatel is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works at Westport Family Counseling. To find out if psychodrama is the right choice for your family or child, contact Elizabeth Chatel at


The Impact of Social Media Use On Happiness


You’re scrolling through your social media newsfeed when suddenly it hits you. In the midst of a double-tap displaying your love for a post, you begin to feel depressed, a looming sense of dread, or a decline in your self-esteem.

Checking your various social media feeds in the morning might be how you choose to begin your day, but based on recent research, you may want to think twice before spending significant portions of your life with virtual friends and followers.

More than 16 million American adults have been diagnosed with depression, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports. The mental health disorder, which can cause a multitude of symptoms, including losing interest in activities or a feeling of intense sadness, can sometimes be worsened by how we use social media.

Numerous recent studies, including research conducted by clinical psychologists at Lancaster University, have pointed to our social media feeds as a potential trigger for worsening depression. The connection between social media and sadness is reportedly a result of social comparison bias, a process which causes others to compare themselves to those they see on social media.

Nicholas Strouse, Director of Westport Family Counseling, is currently writing a book about the psychology of people’s relationships to technology and social media. Informally called,”The Avatar Self,” Mr. Strouse explores a phenomenon of diminishing returns, in which people have the illusion of being in relationship to one another through texting and social media, but fail to recognize that they are, de facto, looking at a screen. “People are relating to a projection of themselves, and reacting to a closed feedback loop. Unfortunately, even with a profile picture to look at, the absence of another’s presence cannot be compensated for by their imagined presence. Therefore, it is common for people to feel a disconnect and maybe feel something is wrong with them (in comparison to others).”

It’s common to feel envious when viewing the photos of a friend frolicking on the beach while you are possibly at work behind a desk, but, it becomes a significant problem when you are feeling depressed due to what you see online. If you’re compulsively updating your feed or feel the need to impress others with an online persona, this could be cause for concern.

As Harvard Business Review has pointed out, others often use their social media as a source to post their best moments, and often don’t portray when things aren’t going their way or they are having a bad day. Due to the nature of how we use social media, it is likely that extended viewing of posts can cause psychological distress, and leave those looking at their screens with a feeling of FOMO or fear of missing out.

The implications of social media on our emotional well-being isn’t all bad news though. Researchers admit that studies regarding how we use the Internet and its impact on our happiness have shown mixed results. And studies show that those using social media for extended period of time each day are most likely to be affected by negative feelings.

Psychology Today  recommends using social media as it was originally intended, and not to worry about the “likes.” Instead of making that status update about the great day you just had, send a message to a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in awhile.

Don’t allow social media to control your emotions or to perpetuate feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Instead, limit how often you log on or consider connecting with friends in real life, as opposed to from behind a screen. If you find yourself feeling really depressed, isolated, or unwell due to social media, then find a trusted medical professional you can speak with.

The Tidal Wave of Emotions During Graduation Season


As summertime quickly approaches, families with children will soon begin welcoming their loved ones home for summer vacation. The period of transitioning from daily school routines to fun in the sun is enough of a change for some households, and in some cases, parents must also contend with another major adjustment — their child’s graduation.

Experts have frequently considered how the emotions of “post-graduation” can impact students, but what about the possible impact of the milestone on guardians? What emotional or mental effects can parents expect to feel as they watch their child prepare for this new chapter? Before you help your graduate toss their cap in the air, here are some ways in which this momentous occasion could potentially affect you.

Whether your child is graduating from kindergarten, middle school, high school, college or even just changing grades, it is common for guardians to feel sentimental. As evident by posts from parents on The Huffington Post and The Miami Herald, adults can feel a variety of emotions during their student’s big day. In an essay from Susan Bonifant for The Washington Post, she described how her child’s graduation from college signaled a change in her role as a parent.

According to The Huffington Post, one of the easiest ways to contend with a child’s upcoming graduation is to savor the moments you have with them. Use the time you have with your child to make memories together. You could even use their graduation day as a way to pass on something important, like a photo album or a personal letter.

Be prepared to welcome this change with your child, and recognize that it is likely that you will feel a mixture of sadness, pride, and joy. Psychology Today suggests that guardians welcome and let out whatever emotions they are feeling regarding the occasion. Some ideas for dealing with the change include: writing down your feelings in a private journal, talking a walk, enjoying a bath, or just making some time for you.

Regardless of how you choose to deal with the expected emotions of your child’s success, it’s important to find a method that makes you feel better. Don’t forget to savor this moment with your child, and be prepared to help them navigate the transition as well.

WFC Launches A Weekly Psychotherapeutic Bereavement Group

Westport Family Counseling now offers a Psychotherapeutic Bereavement Group for those grieving a loss.

The group is lead by WFC Psychotherapist, Betsi Mufson, LMSW and meets every Tuesday from 6-7pm at our offices in Westport.  It is an open group, so new clients are welcome to join at any time.

For more information or to register for the group, please contact Betsi Mufson at or (203) 227-4555 ext 5.

WFC Hosts Guest Speaker, Bill Donaldson for Lecture on Money Coaching on 7/26


Westport Family Counseling hosted a Networking Breakfast and Professional Lecture on Money Coaching on Wednesday July 26th, 2017. WFC was pleased to welcome Bill Donaldson of Donaldson Financial Wellness Network LLC as our Guest Speaker. BILL DONALDSON, CFP, is the founder of Donaldson Financial Wellness Network, LLC. located in Westport, CT. In addition to the Certified Financial Planner designation, Mr. Donaldson is also a Certified Money Coach.

Money Coaching is an entirely new field and paradigm developed by Deborah Price, author and founder of The Money Coaching Institute. People often have unconscious patterns, beliefs and behaviors around money that prevent them from fully experiencing their true potential. Money Coaching assists individuals in identifying and moving beyond these restrictions.

For more information on Money Coaching and the Eight Money Types as well as The Money Type Quiz.

WFC Launches Maternal Mental Health Program


Westport Family Counseling has just launched a Maternal Mental Health Program to support the needs of women in the Fairfield County area.  WFC is pleased to offer this new service and area of specialty.

Westport Family Counseling supports women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and counsels women and couples grieving perinatal loss, or experiencing infertility struggles. Maternal Mental Health refers to the lifespan of reproductive joys and challenges.  We are here to walk alongside your reproductive journey moving towards healing, wellness, and the search for meaning.

Westport Family Counseling’s Maternal Health Therapist, Carolyn Yates LMFT trained intensively at the Seleni Institute in New York, NY and specializes in diagnosing and treating Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, as well as working with women and couples.

For more information about our services, please visit our newly launched webpages:

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Miscarriage, Child Loss and Infertility

WFC Presented at New Canaan Networking for Youth Luncheon on Tuesday 10/25

Carolyn Yates, LMFT of Westport Family Counseling presented at New Canaan High School this past Tuesday 10/25 as part of the triannual Networking for Youth meeting.

Carolyn Yates, LMFT presented on the topic of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). There were 30 attendees present including several school counseling staff members from various schools in New Canaan.

Networking for Youth is an opportunity for youth & family service providers within our community to collaborate for the purpose of systemic growth. The triannual meetings provide a platform for sharing ideas, programs and initiatives, as well as obstacles and solutions.

We strengthen the foundation of our community with the support that we provide together. Networking for Youth is an opportunity to engage with other professionals from various agencies and share visions regarding community growth and positive youth development, as well as learn something new.

WFC Co-Hosted Professional Development Conference last Friday 10/14 in Darien

Westport Family Counseling teamed up with Acadia Healthcare to co-host a Professional Development Conference at the Darien Community Association last Friday 10/14.  Dr. Antoinette Giedzinska-Simons and Yudit Maros, LMFT C.Ht presented on “Progressive Treatment Approaches for the 21st Century.”  The event was a great success and 40 mental health professionals attended and received Continuing Education Credits.


WFC Hosted Cultural Competency Training on Tuesday 10/4/16

Ivette Betancourt, LMFT and Sukriti Kushwaha, LMFT, Ph.D., of TLCCT (Training and Learning for Clinicians) facilitated a Cultural Competency on-site training at Westport Family Counseling on Tuesday October 4th, 2016.  The training was well attended by 13 clinicians who received CEUs and met the new state licensing requirements for Cultural Competency CEUs.  It was a vibrant group of clinicians and sparked thoughtful dialogue about cultural awareness in a clinical setting.


For anyone interested in the training, you can contact TLCCT at:

(860) 716-1790;

433 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, CT, 06109



Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, ‘EMDR’

Nicholas Strouse talks with “One Hour at a Time,” hosted by Mary Woods and Jonathan Routhier about EMDR.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a method by which clinicians are able to interrupt and modify certain types of emotional reactions and thoughts that repeat with the same characteristics and qualities of the original reactions and thoughts. The process involves using bilateral brain activation through eye movement, or auditory or tactile stimulation. During the time the brain is bilaterally activated, the therapist targets the earliest known incidents of the disturbance, and works chronologically forward to “clear” the disturbance and relevant experiences and associations. Bilateral brain stimulation is a naturally occurring process, and research has shown that EMDR is safe and effective in treating a wide range of conditions. EMDR is used for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorders, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

Read more about Nicholas Strouse.

The Participant Observer is a WFC GROUP production. It was recorded at the WFC Group studios, in Westport CT. Post-production is by Justin Gibbs, at the Rayhound Production Company studio.


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