Episode 51 How Therapists can really help parents of high risk kids with Aaron Huey

Feb 23, 2022

As a parent, do you practice self-care? How does practicing emotional regulation as an adult make you a better parent? What can therapists do to help stressed-out parents who deal with unhappy children?

MEET AARON HUEY

Aaron has been working with children, teens, and parents for over 18 years. After ten years directing camps and empowerment programs around the world, Aaron opened Fire Mountain because he wanted to work with kids and families on a deeper level. Over the first few years of running programs like Teen Rites of Passage, Aaron realized the need to turn his efforts towards teens struggling with drugs, alcohol, and the behaviors and issues related to addiction.

Aaron’s formal educational background is in acting. He graduated from the top acting school in the US, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1990. His skills in comedy and drama make him an influential speaker and presenter, and a favorite among the kids. His confidence, compassion, and humor set the tone for deep healing and fun.

Visit the Fire Mountain website and connect with them on Youtube.

Listen to Aaron’s parenting podcast, Beyond Risk & Back.

Connect with Aaron on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Join the Parenting Teens that Struggle Facebook Group.

IN THIS PODCAST:

  • How unregulated parents negatively impact their children
  • Parents need to learn how to regulate
  • Practice adult relationship care
  • How therapists can help parents of high-risk kids

How unregulated parents negatively impact their children 

Some parents get into the bad habit of taking their anger and frustration out on their children when they are young. As the children age, they learn how to retaliate and treat the parents the same way, which of course upsets the parents even more.

What we do as parents when we feel defensive and attacked is that we escalate, and I see parents escalating the situation as much as I see children escalating. It’s an emotional escalation because … we don’t [always] have emotional intelligence. (Aaron Huey)

When parents are stressed, have not slept well, have not eaten well, are worried about their children, have work issues and so forth, they do not make the best decisions.

If in those moments their children ask something of them or push them too far, parents can often snap and yell unnecessarily at their kids. This behavior is then learned by children as the way to behave in these situations.

If we’re not sleeping, eating [well], or drinking enough water, or if we’re not breathing on purpose and we’re not moving our bodies, we are in survival mode because you cannot accidentally be a good parent when your child is in crisis … your best parenting from survival is not good parenting. (Aaron Huey)

Parents need to learn how to regulate

Somewhere we have anchored that emotions are a pivot point, but [they’re] not. They make it worse. You’re not going to make a good decision from an emotional place … the thing about emotions is that they change, they’re fluid, they’re not static. (Aaron Huey)

Even a good fluid parenting decision in a crisis is a bad one.

Parents must address their self-care. By regulating themselves, parents will be less likely to flip in a crisis and make poor, emotional decisions.

Practice adult relationship care

If both parents or partners are unregulated, have not cared for themselves, and act solely based on their emotions, then it is highly likely that their adult relationship has also suffered.

Have you gone on a date with your spouse? Have you gone to coffee with your [parenting] ex and you’re still trying to make things work with your parenting stuff? Tend to [your] relationship [with them] … and you vent, and after five or ten minutes with them you go, “okay, how are you doing?” (Aaron Huey)

Have emotional conversations with an adult, whether that is your spouse, your co-parenting ex, or another adult that you are friends with to discuss your emotions, have your emotions be heard and reflected, and released.

When the parent then discusses an issue with their child, the parent can remain calm and collected and not release all their tension out upon the child.

It is harmful to the child and unproductive for the situation if the parent – the adult – is having a power struggle with the child.

How therapists can help parents of high-risk kids

Therapists can ask parents with high-risk kids: “what does taking care of yourself look like?”

If those parents do not practice self-care and self-regulation behaviors, therapists need to fully explain to the parents how they are hindering their ability to connect with their children when in a crisis.

Therapists need to get parents to understand that:

1 – Self-care is imperative to good parenting

2 – Tending to their adult relationship is vital to their being able to handle tension with their children

Connect With Me

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Resources Mentioned And Useful Links:

Visit the Fire Mountain website and connect with them on Youtube

Listen to Aaron’s parenting podcast, Beyond Risk & Back

Connect with Aaron on Twitter and LinkedIn

Join the Parenting Teens that Struggle Facebook Group

Try the Beyond Risk & Back Masterclass for $37

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Practice of the Practice Podcast Network

Transcript

[CHRIS McDONALD]

The Holistic Counseling Podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like Behind the Bite, Full of Shift and Impact Driven Leader, go to www.practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Welcome to the Holistic Counseling Podcast, where you discover diverse wellness modalities, advice on growing your integrative practice, and grow confidence in being your unique self. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. I'm so glad you're here for the journey. .

Welcome to today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. I'm your host, Chris McDonald. Today's guest is bringing you a really important issue, how therapists can help parents of high risk kids. Aaron Huey is founder of Parenting Teens that Struggle and host of the number one parenting podcast Beyond Risk and Back. I'm so happy to have another podcaster here with us. This is Mental Health News Radio Network's highest rated show internationally. He's also a parent coach for parents of kids at risk, a teen addiction interventionist, facilitates powerful parenting events and is a very happy husband and father of two young adults.

Aaron is an internationally known lecture on arch title, I can't say archetypal, it must be Monday imagery, body language, and martial arts and the founder and president of Fire Mountain programs. Since 2004 has run kids camps, teen camps, and family programming. In 2009 he and his wife, Christine opened a residential mental health and dependency recovery treatment center for teens aged 12 to 17. Welcome to the podcast, Aaron.

[AARON HUEY]

Thank you so much, Chris. Appreciate it. Thanks for bringing me to holler at your crowd.

[CHRIS]

Absolutely. So can you share a little bit more about yourself and your work?

[AARON]

I'd be happy to. I love the sound of my voice.

[CHRIS]

I can tell.

[AARON]

You know what, I'll give it, we'll go to the deep and dark right away. I came to this work primarily through my own tears and wounds and wreckage. I am ---

[CHRIS]

I think most of us are with you there.

[AARON]

I love that as a jump off point because I truly believe, as I know, so many therapists have found in their own work and lives is that the wound is the away. The pain is the path. The tears are the trail, the wreckage is the resume. When you embrace it, you frame it, process it, you can begin to promote it. Then through the promotion of your recovery comes the success that you really get designed for when you're suffering. My suffering began as a child. My biological father was not involved, wanted nothing to do, never reached out, nothing like that.

I was bullied pretty mercilessly. I was diagnosed with ADHD at a very early age. This was in the early seventies and Ritalin was the test drug. So I was young and on Ritalin with learning disabilities, being bullied without a biological father. Let me be clear. I had a great dad, an amazing dad, but no biological father around. That causes a lot of developmental issues. Found cannabis at 12 years old, experimented with it, but then after I left high school and went to California trade school, did acting was sexually assaulted by my best friend who had the exact same name as my biological father. There is my psyche bear ladies and gentlemen.

[CHRIS]

How did that happen?

[AARON]

Isn't that amazing? This is, obviously much before I understood or was emotionally intelligent. But that's where the drugs, cannabis, alcohol and LSD really said, okay, well, we're going to make a home here because you don't want to feel this anymore. I didn't. When I was high, I was happy. When I was sober I was suicidal and I had a lot of wonderful people telling me I should be sober, but they didn't understand. My relationship to drugs ended up with me trading everything for it, my first marriage, relationship with my daughter, my home and my sober moment was spectacular, phenomenal to say the lease and the building back process has been that resume, that way, that trail, that path that came from the tears and the wound and the pain.

I did do 12 steps, but I really got interested in the people who were supporting me and the love they had to give because that was the thing I thought I was missing, but really what we seek is seeking us. It was my first experience of truly letting unconditional love in and that I begin to extend it into my family and then into my community. It was through unconditionally loving my community that it became a resource for families whose teenagers were going through what I had gone through. That ended up with my wife and I starting a teen sober home, which ended up becoming a state licensed, fully fledged residential treatment center. We won Top 50 Healthcare Provider in the US, Top 100 Innovator of Healthcare in the US.

[CHRIS]

Wow. Congratulations.

[AARON]

Then the fires in Estes Park raised my property insurance from 20,000 a year to 470,000 a year and it shut my program down. That happened 42 days ago.

[CHRIS]

I'm so sorry. That's got to be so devastating.

[AARON]

It was, this has been an interesting, to say the least painful, wounding, tearful time, but the path, the way and the trail before me looks pretty clear. So that's the work I'm on now, but yes, I closed down my, we had the highest success rate in the United States for adolescents and ---

[CHRIS]

That's amazing.

[AARON]

It was property insurance. They killed it. So it's been, I've got, yes, I could use some therapy.

[CHRIS]

I was going to say this is traumatic.

[AARON]

It was, it was. Still quite don't know how to just be with it so as as a 52-year-old man ---

[CHRIS]

This is going to take some time to process.

[AARON]

It will. As a 52-year-old man with mortgages and stuff and a 40 acre-property with a lodge and employee housing and trails and horses and everything, I can't just stop and process. I got, I have to keep working too. I need therapy.

[CHRIS]

Yes. I hope you can get it definitely. It sounds like it's re-routing too, like where do you go from here and figuring things out.

[AARON]

I think it has. Because I really looked at what we did well as a facility, as a treatment facility and I can say, honestly, we did great work with kids, but that wasn't it. A lot of places do great work. A lot of places have amazing staff and amazing therapists. We had a psychiatrist who was like, oh yes, we have to look at meds, but let's also get them supplements and some exercise and let's clear up the diet. We really had the holistic program going, but it was the work we did with parents that set us apart. Our success rate came from putting the whole family in recovery, not just the teenager, who's been smoking too much pot, hasn't been to school and has tried to commit suicide because they were sexually assaulted when they were younger. That was ---

[CHRIS]

That can be the symptom.

[AARON]

Well, and look at how much of that experience is the fruit of the trauma. Right down beneath the roots what we found, obviously with kids was this, that trauma experience itself and having to do the therapeutic process to get through the trauma. But when we turned and look at the parents and we said, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, this whole family's been traumatized, you don't have a child try to kill themselves or OD, or be sexually assaulted or start carving their arms up with a razor blade or using heavy drugs or drinking and stealing your car and wrecking it and you are not traumatized too. If we don't heal the family, the child's healing suddenly becomes the impetus and the pivot point for the family's happiness. That is unacceptable for a family to rely on a child's experience in life.

So we really plunge the whole family into deep therapeutic recovery, not just with family counseling and then parent support groups that we're on a regular basis, but two podcasts, mine and our executive director's. Plus the parent had to go through phase work plus, plus the parents workshops that we made them go through. Plus by the end of it, what we saw is that even if the kids didn't recover, the parents did, and the kids lived struggling sometimes in an environment of recovery at home too. That was where we got our success from. So when we say it solidifies what I'm going to do next, it's working with parents. That's what's next.

[CHRIS]

Yes. I can see the success with that. So how would you, because I know you said you had the most successful rate, how do you, I guess, quantify the success rate with kids in treatment?

[AARON]

We did it, well, a lot of people do it a lot of ways. Most treatment facilities interview the kids after recovery and that's not a reliable source. We interviewed the parents at a three month, six month, one year, like we, "Hey, is your kid still sober? How's your kid doing? How's it?" And our success rate was at 89%. Again, but it's because the parents left with not the tools and that's where the real mistake of parent coaching or parent therapy comes into play; is that it's not about the tools. It's about the context.

It's not. Because parents ask me constantly, do I take my kids' phone away? Do I turn off the internet? I don't care. What matters is how you do these things? Are you doing it out of survival, fury, fatigue, or fear? Because if you're doing it out of the Fs, then it's just going to remain F. You've got to do it from your prefrontal cortex. Your nervous system has to be online before you try to get your kids back online. That's where our success came from; is that parents were saying, "Oh, my kids had med struggles up and down, but they're doing great now." We would say, "What did you do through the struggles?" They're like, "Well, we went back to the family contract, but it was the way we could connect before we correct."

That was our theme, connection before correction, alliance before compliance. Stop trying to get your kids to think that they should be doing things differently and connect with them. This is therapy 101. This is not a new, brilliant thing that Aaron is, amazing, he came up with it. Are you kidding me? All great therapy that I have ever seen the best therapeutic intervention I ever saw was a therapist sitting on the bedroom floor of a girl who had a complete meltdown in Lodis position and just let the girl cry and scream and yell and kick the wall and then turned around and saw the therapist and said, "What are you doing?" It had been like 10 minutes and I was standing outside the door because we knew this girl had a pensions for violent outbursts. So I stood outside. I stayed out of sight. They didn't need to see that there was a bodyguard at the door. Therapist, just, she just sat on the floor and she closed her eyes and she focused on her breathing and she regulated the room.

[CHRIS]

That's powerful. Regulating the room.

[AARON]

The strongest nervous system wins. This therapist in a moment of chaos and this girl screaming, and I hate my parents and the F and F and F and F and kicking the wall and stuff, this therapist just started breathing and focusing on their own presence. The girl went through the process, turned around, said, "What are you doing?" The therapist goes, "I was just waiting. Are you okay?" The girl burst in a tears? "No. Why is my, are my parents ever going to change?" On and on and they were back. They were connected. This girl who could not get past a moment was suddenly back into full therapeutic intervention process willingly because the therapist just stayed present. It was brilliant.

[CHRIS]

I was going to say, that's perfect because I think, and I'm a clinical supervisor too. That's one thing we talk about is it's not even with the content of sessions of tapes I listen to. It's how did you feel as you're helping this client? What went through you? How is your nervous system doing? Because we got to regulate ourselves.

[AARON]

So how do we teach parents that? How do we teach parents that when you hear a noise in the middle of the night and you walk, you hustle out bed and you go into your kid's room just in time to see that foot disappear out the window? And this kids you've been consequences and the consequences don't matter. They've been expelled from school and that doesn't matter. They stole your car last week and totaled it and were high and that doesn't matter. Now the kids sneaking out again. In that moment, what does self-care look like? Not okay, well, I have to do a yoga class tomorrow. In that moment.

[CHRIS]

In the moment, yes.

[AARON]

Yes, because that's what we have to train as staff members. Because when you're running a treatment facility, when you're boots on the ground with a child in crisis with a family, who's like, okay, so insurance just said they're not going to pay. We got to go pick up our kid at their intensive outpatient program or the acute unit and they're saying, we need residential, but we got to come get the kid to day. What do we do? It's like, okay, well, right now, what can you do that's going to be at all effective from a place of survival ?nothing. So first let's get you out of survival and then we can make a decision. How fast can you get? How good can you get at that? That's where our staff really excelled; is that the staff could keep their shit together when everybody else was losing theirs.

[CHRIS]

So I guess, is there other common mistakes that parents make when they try to help their at-risk kids?

[AARON]

Yes, and it really is the emotional part. When our kids are little, "What did you do? You go to your room. I am so angry." And the kid, burst into tears. We're like, well, that worked right. Then our kids are teenagers and we're like, what did you do? They're like, "What? I don't care. Don't tack me like that. I hate you." Slam, slam. You're just like, wait, what just, and so what do we do as parents is naturally what we do when we feel defensive and attacked is that we escalate. I see parents escalating the situations as much as I see children escalating. It's an emotional escalation and it's an emotional escalation because we don't have emotional intelligence when we haven't slept as parents.

I say, we, because I have a 25 and a 26 years old. I went through this too. When we haven't slept, when we haven't, when our own eating patterns have been disrupted because we didn't sleep well so we got up and we drank too much coffee so we're not hungrier, our sugar's been jacked up, our caffeine levels are way over the tops so our energies up. Finally we start having a food crash around lunch, during that whole morning process, tell me how good are you at making decisions? We'd like to think that caffeine is helping. It's not. It's a maladaptive coping strategy. We know those words.

So if we're not sleeping, if we're not eating, if we're not drinking enough water, if we're not breathing on purpose and we're not moving our body, we're in survival mode because you cannot accidentally be a good parent when your child is in crisis. And the best parenting that you do from fight, flight, freeze, faint, fornicate, and feed, the six Fs of survival limbic brain, your best parenting from survival is not very good parenting. So we get emotional. Somewhere we have anchored that emotions are a pivot point and it's not. In fact they make it worse. You're not going to make a good decision from an emotional place. You'll make an emotional decision.

The thing about emotions is that they change. They're fluid. They're not static. So even a good fluid parenting decision in a crisis situation is a bad one. So we have to begin to address the self-care piece because the emotions don't make for good parenting. Give me your phone. I'm so sick of this. How many times, what, were you not thinking? Who's not going to be defensive when you are being talked to like that? So to say to a parent, "Hey, have your emotions. Have them with your parenting partners, have them with a support group. Because the first step is self-care. The second step is adult relationship care because through that fatigue, fury and fear your marriage or your parenting partners, that relationship has also been suffering.

Have you tended to that? Have you gone out on a date with your spouse? Have you gone to coffee with your ex? You're still trying to make things work with your parenting stuff and tended to the relationship that you can go, oh my God, I just found a pipe in their room. I am so pissed and your parenting partner goes, oh, I'm so sorry. I just, and I'm sure this happened at the absolute worst time. It did. I can't believe it. And you vent. Then after five, 10 minutes, whatever limit you set, you go, okay, how you doing? No, this sucks. I'm angry. Do we need to make a decision today about what to do? No, I just needed to vent. Okay. Well, I'm glad you called me.

Suddenly I've tended to myself and I've tended to my adult relationships. We talk about parental unity, which is not always necessary. I can address that, but we're attending, we have a support. We have a community where we go, we have a podcast we can listen to, we have something that allows us to tend to our emotions so that when we do go to the kid and say, "Hey, listen the other day when I was searching your room, I did find your pie." "What you search my room?" "Well, it is my house. You know that me searching your room is part of this process. I front loaded that. So there will be some consequences. I'm not sure what they are yet. We'll get to it. I love you. I know this is hard. I know this sucks. I know you're angry."

"You're not supposed to search my room. This is my private space." "That makes sense to me that you would feel that way. I understand that. I hear that. There will be consequences on Thursday. We'll talk about it then. I love you." Now I didn't actually accomplish anything other than connection in that moment. It was the context of my voice that connected us, not the content. I didn't say the right thing. I might have said the wrong thing. They may still be yelling at me, but my nervous system's intact. I tended to my emotional state and now I can deal with crisis.

[CHRIS]

I've never heard of parenting strategies like this, the emotional regulation. I love that.

[AARON]

It's amazing, because as we, in the 20 years of working with children in crisis and 12 years of running a treatment facility of kids in deep crisis, I haven't found anything else. It worked as consistently, as a kid kicks a hole in my wall and they're like, "Aaron, I kicked a hole in the wall. I was so pissed off at my mom." I'm like, "Wow, well, I don't know how I feel about it right now. We'll deal with that later. I'm sorry you had such a bad session with your." And then what? What is to be resolved in that moment, other than letting the kid know you've affected me, you exist and you have feelings and we're in this together now and so we'll figure it out together?

Am I mad? I'm furious. Do you know how many penises I have had to erase off of walls and window sills and doorways in a treatment facility with teenagers over the last 12 years? They're still there. I'm still finding them. It's ridiculous. But being mad at a child, having a power struggle with a child, if I'm a mental healthcare professional or a parent, and I'm power-struggling with a client who is mentally struggling, or I am a parent who is power-struggling with a child who is struggling, we really have to refocus on which struggle we need to deal with because it's the professional or the parent that is struggling with a client or a child. That's the first nervous system that needs to be tended to.

[CHRIS]

This is something that you taught the parents that you worked with in your facility, the self-care and emotional regulation piece?

[AARON]

Yes, they would come to parents' weekend and we do these four day events. They would give up their work and we would literally spend two days getting them to understand why people make decisions the way they do. Oh, but why does my kid make bad choices? They're not bad. They're resourceful and they're risky. We would go through the basics of like psychology 101, the laymans, the dummies version of psychology. Because two days in the parents are like, are you going to teach us tools? We're like, now we are. Because now you're actually ready to handle tools. Now, when your kid smokes pot and gets busted at school, your brain doesn't go to, "Goddamn. What the f, I am so sick." It goes to, "What need are they trying to meet?"

It doesn't matter if you get the need right or not. What matters is you're not in survival. You're actually not coming at this from a reactive, behaviorally-based, an automatic, behaviorally based conditioned response that is going to dig this whole deeper and only setup that your happiness is predicated on the expectations of others. That is the way a lizard lives its life. Automatic reaction that's behaviorally-based, that is conditioned and its conditioning. It digs the whole deeper, which means it strengthens the neural pathway that is being created by this reaction that you are repeating habitually.

Your only way out is them changing their behavior. You can't find happiness there anyway. So we regulate the nervous system. We teach parents how to sit in that space, how to take a break, how to make a pause, how to use it, different use the toddler voice. Oh, that's the old love and logic one. Oh, that's so sad. You gamify the experience of parenting a child who is struggling with staying alive. That sounds terrible but the game pretty soon becomes the habit. Then you're in skill-based. You're not patronizing by saying, oh, well there's going to be consequences because that's just what create defensiveness

[CHRIS]

Escalating, yes.

[AARON]

But to say, I'm sorry, this sucks. Being a teen sucks. You've been really struggling this year. I'm so sorry you're going through this. We'll talk about consequences later. Are you okay? No, I'm not. I hate my life. I know this is hard. I'm so sorry, honey. I'm not ---

[CHRIS]

It's like all the validation skills.

[AARON]

Yes. It's MVE in a thousand ways. That's what I want to tell parents and professionals, that there are a thousand ways to handle it. You will only find one if you knee-jerk. So you've got to take a second until that second is a millisecond, because you've practiced that second 99 times. Because the 1% that you really needed, you will do what you practiced. So you got to practice that regulated parenting, that non-emotional parenting. That sounds worse than it really is. Everybody has emotions. Just use them as leverage. So practice that. Then in those moments when it's really crappy, you're going to preach what you've been practicing.

[CHRIS]

Yes, because if you don't, if you lead by emotion, that's going to cause more disconnection from your teen and that disrupts the relationship and you get in that vicious cycle of always acting that way, like you said.

[AARON]

The escalation of emotions will very rarely be one by an adult when you're in battle with a teen. They can go places you didn't even know existed. They'll use words you didn't know existed. You'll be on urban dictionary going, "What does it mean?"

[CHRIS]

What is that?

[CHRIS]

That's great. So what about therapists? Since this podcast is geared towards therapists, what are some of the best ways that you found that therapists can best help parents of high risk teens?

[AARON]

So the first and foremost, what I want to say to therapists is that, wow, my ADHD brain just flooded with everything that I want to tell therapists that you got to do first. And it's always the list for the ADHD. It starts with number one, then pretty soon I'm on the alphabet. Then I'm in subcategories of some alphabet. It's nuts up here. It's like ---

[CHRIS]

Write it in.

[AARON]

It's heavy metal, Flamingo dancing, screen therapy going on up in my head here. Here's what I want therapists to consistently say to parents of teens at risk. And you already know it. You already say it. What does taking care of yourself look like? If they're not practicing self-care, convincing them that they will not be able to accomplish what they desire is imperative because at best, at absolute best, they'll do something well accidentally. That's not something you can replicate. Accidents are moments in times of collision. It is a very neutral experience. So you've got to get them in a space where they can actually track and evaluate what they've done differently. That comes through self-care and the basics of self-care again, because not every parent in the moment has a yoga class or a pool they can go to or, but they can breathe on purpose.

They can drink a glass of water, they can eat healthy, they can move their body. Through those things, you begin to regulate your sleep. That's really important; is that getting parents to understand A, number one, I'll just put them both together, self-care. The second one is then once you're in a place of, okay, what does self-care look like in this moment, you tend to an adult relationship, you get connection and corrected from another adult. Maybe that's your therapist. Maybe that's a parenting coach. Maybe it's an online support group that you're a member of. Maybe it's by downloading a podcast real quick and just listening.

Who cares what it's about as long as it's about you and your experience, feeling emotion and you're connecting with another adult voice. It doesn't have to be in person. But then, and only then can you go towards the kids. That's when I say when a parent says, well, what do I do about, I say, we're not there yet. First we're going to figure out what to do about the way you said, what do I do about that because that's not healthy 'what do I do about that?' A healthy 'what do I do about it' sounds like, okay, what could I do about this? But you got to get there first.

[CHRIS]

That takes some time and practice with these self-care strategies.

[AARON]

And a lot of support, like much support from professionals, from coaches, from ...

[CHRIS]

What about you? So what do you do for self-care?

[AARON]

I am the martial arts, the exercise, the gym, the hiking, my wife and I have what we call jesturing out where we act like jesters. We get into our camper van and we go right or left? Left. Okay, we go left and we just find out where we end up. Jesturing out for me means how's my sleep? How's my eating? How's my body movement? How's my drinking water? How's my breathing on purpose? That movement and breathing on purpose has come from a life. I started learning martial arts when I was 12. I was recently hired by the martial arts hall of fame to create a course for teaching children who have been traumatized. It's an instructor's certification course. So this martial arts thing is a ready go-to in my life of the, and even if you only have time for one, one's enough, because if you're doing it on purpose, your prefrontal cortex is engaged.

My first one is movement. Because I'm ADHD I always have to be moving but the breath follows on its heals directly. So many Americans, and I certainly believe I am one of them, so many Americans struggle with the nutrition versus dieting. I find myself really at this age, 52, embracing nutrition versus embracing a diet. What do I need to do to feel like I've put nutrition in my body today? Drinking water is always a piece of that. The sleep thing, I've just learned not to panic. Last night was a crappy night of sleep and I didn't panic. So I have a pretty intense self-care regimen, so much so that now that my children are 25, 26, I see their self-care regimen. That is what was modeled, because at the end, it won't matter what I've said to my children. Trust me.

You all have heard me talk. I sound like a preacher and as far as my kids are concerned, I was. I was one of those dad preachers, but they don't remember what I've said. They do what I've done or they do for themselves, what I didn't do for them. That lesson is clear as day. So it's going to be the modeling and that's why the focus has to be on self-care. If your child is struggling, the compound interest investment strategy is self-care. If you're taking care of yourself, if you go into recovery, your kid has to follow. So that's my regimen; is I exercise.

[CHRIS]

You said, you mentioned before we hit record about axe throwing can you share how that ties into self-care?

[AARON]

Every new client, that is my go-to strategy. I create an environment of instant struggle, education and celebration through body movement. I have found that axe throwing, especially for children, because I work with a lot of adult clients, a lot of parents. In fact, I do not work with teenagers or tweens without working with their families. I insist. I know where success comes from. It comes from the system, not from the individual. The system has to be repaired, not the child whose behavior is the language of a faulty system, but the system itself has to be addressed.

We're going to address it through the children because they're going to first make the inspiring steps and with axes. Never, not once in 20 years of working with axes and teaching children, how to throw axes, never not once within the first 20 minutes of doing it, does a kid not stick an axe. Because it's a very simple physics first of all. The ax is sharp and the wood is soft and the child is the right distance. It's going to stick. When they do, you hoop and you holler.

Then you start the therapeutic process as a therapist or a coaching process like myself as a coach of watching how this child deals with success, with failure, with celebration, with repetition of success, with repetition of failure. Then they find their groove and it is full. As a body language expert, watching someone throw axes, I can tell you everything that's going on. And if you're doing well and you're just like, I'm not getting much out of this, all I got to say, when you're at mid-throw is tell me about your parents. That ax goes off the side of the thing. Because there's tension somewhere and it interrupted your success strategy. The moment I can show the kid, where, what and how something interrupts their success strategy, they can start to say, oh, that happens at school. Oh, that happens.

It's like doing wilderness therapy. There's very little, I have to do other than narrate their experience with an axe. They don't see what I see when they throw an axe but by God, when I show up to a kid's house, I got this young kid that I just started with last week and his dad came home and his kid got out of the car and the kid's looking at me, he shakes my hand. 12 years old and he was like, so what are we going to do? Are we just going to talk? I said, yes, we're going to talk while we're throwing axes. His eyes became ---

[CHRIS]

Can imagine,

[AARON]

Dad had kept this from him. Dad knew I was coming to throw axes. So then the kid has to help me haul this 300 pound axe box out of the back of my truck. Then I toss all these axes, used a new Toma Hawks and regular hatchet from Home Depot and there's a healthy risk that's taking place. Good therapy is healthy risk. There's an edginess, there's a yoga in nature to good therapy and good coaching where you're not in just the safe environment where you're talking about how you feel and your body's not reconciling the traumatic experience that you're regurgitating. You're a amygdala and anxiety. The evidence is there that the body movement and physical exercise heal anxiety. So we got to put the body movement back in. I have a client come in here in a half hour and we're going to hit the gym for 30 minutes and then we're going to do the sit and talk.

[CHRIS]

I was so impressed with you when you said that too. I told you that I'm a registered yoga teacher and I use yoga with clients and it's such an amazing transformation to see using movement before talking or breathwork before talking.

[AARON]

Here's the thing. I believe this about yoga, first of all, with all due respect, I can't stand yoga because I suck at it. But I'm so ADHD. I can't hold still for that long, but put me in a Tai Chi practice and I can do it all day long because I have, my balance is about moving. But that stillness process for me, or for anybody is a therapeutic practice. There's function, flow and there's glow and flow is an artistic expansion of the body of the presence. Can you be with this body that's uncomfortable in downward dog, [inaudible 00:36:10] and stay totally present with that discomfort and expand into it and stretch it? Because if you can do that physically, you can do it emotionally. That's what therapy is. Therapy is beyond the function. Therapy is when we're saying, are you ready to talk about that thing that you have done everything to avoid considering again? And it's a yoga practice to ---

[CHRIS]

It is. But it sounds like a lot of what you're teaching is yoga practice too, like with the breath work. I mean the movement because I mean a lot of the yoga I teach is not "traditional" or power yoga. It's more calming the nervous system is what we focus on. It's more slow, mindful movements. I incorporate some chingong practices, which is like Tai Chi. So that slow movement is what really helps with the regulation and teaching those skills that they can practice. I will tell you those that do it regularly they see tremendous reduction in anxiety.

[AARON]

You might as well have just described therapy and not yoga. You know what I mean? But because that's the process. Is that, can you take them out of ---

[CHRIS]

Oh yes.

[AARON]

If they've been sitting all day in front of a computer and then they come to a therapeutic support intervention and they sit. So much trauma is caused by the brain, not being able to reconcile something the body went through or the body not being able to reconcile something the brain went through. And to get to reconcile both you've got to engage both. That's why EMDR is so successful. It's because now the body's involved. Gestalt therapy, my experience with gestalt therapy, I was like, oh baby, I'm home. I get to scream at a chair like a biological father who I've never met. I got some crap to tell you, but my body was engaged. Then the somatic counseling era that began where we were just like, it's all about the body.

[CHRIS]

Yes, the counseling is move it a lot in that direction.

[AARON]

It really is. The holistic nature moving away from the idea of it being woo woo and the truth of it being, "Hey, we're talking about your whole body going through a process here." This is why yoga is imperative. This is why Tai Chi, throwing axes, going for a walk. You know how I have broken the ice with my older teen clients. I'm talking like my failure to tell my nineteens and plus we go out to eat. We go to an Ethiopian restaurant where you got to eat with your hands.

[CHRIS]

Oh wow.

[AARON]

These teens, these 19 year old will sit down and be like, yes, whatever. That sounds great. They give one word answers. The moment they are eating with their hands, they're like blah, blah, blah. I was addicted to this and I did. It is like bomb drop session one because the body's being engaged and we're anchored into a joyful experience.

[CHRIS]

That's true too.

[AARON]

So that's the yoga practice of therapy. If the therapists would listen to you, Chris, knowing that you are also a yoga instructor, this is what I want them to understand. The success I have had with kids has not come from therapeutic interventions. I'm not a therapist. It's come through children moving their bodies when they're talking about their feelings and watching and showing to the children themselves how the two things are completely aligned; if you stretch one, the other stretches as long as you're doing them both. That's what I think yoga does so well. You stretch those hamstrings and pretty soon your ability to move, breathe, think, and feel expands. I think that's why people think that yoga's a spiritual practice; is because it expands your vessel.

[CHRIS]

Yes and always. Mind, body, spirit, for sure. So Aaron, what's a takeaway you could share today that could help listeners that might just be starting their holistic journey?

[AARON]

This idea of mind hacking. This is just coming to me now. That's not a question I was thinking of answering. So this is coming to me now. This idea of mind hacking has validity to it, but you get to control the process. You get to decide. For me, mind hacking is when I'm working out at the gym, I'm listening to my headphones with metal music going on and I've recorded my voice over the metal music in garage band. Saying things like every day and every way my body gets healthier and healthier. I do my positive affirmations constantly. I have a noisy brain. If I don't tend to those noises, it will look for noise. So I give it noise, but I control the noise I give it.

Some people are using essential oils to hack their brain. Some people are using EMDR to hack the brain. Some people are using yoga to hack it. The therapeutic process is something that the client gets fully in total control, but skills and pills have to go together. Holistic means all of it. My dad ran a hospital in Longmont, Colorado, little town, about 40 minutes outside of Denver. He created a program called the green tree program where they started prescribing yoga. This is a very small community. He's prescribing yoga, all the furniture in the room turn into beds so that family can stay over. Everybody gets a meal pass and punch cards so that everybody can eat together. The treating family thing became important to my dad.

His process attracted the attention of Dr. Patch Adams and Dr. Patch Adams came to visit the hospital and then did a talk. I listened to Dr. Patch Adams say your grandmother doesn't have Alzheimer's. Your family has it. What patch Adams did, how he engaged his body, how he made us put on a clown nose and go out and pump gas or buy our groceries and do nothing different except where the clown knows and create that connection, using your body to create connection with someone who's suffering with someone who's struggling, that's holistic. It's the whole body experience that is required in a holistic program. So don't cut it short. Don't cheapen it. Don't go back to the easy, sit down and talk about your feelings even if you're on Zoom.

As I'm doing this podcast here, I'm standing up because I have to keep my body engaged. If I'm going to maintain the idea that I'm God's caffeine buzz, then I have to keep this energy flowing, because the moment it stops, my back hurts. And I know my back is about support and I know support was something I lacked as a child and maybe moving is me trying to avoid the stillness of having to deal with not having a father, but I got to keep moving to get through this life, to get through this day, to get through being me, which is a very ADHD adult, which means I'm not you. This has worked for me and I've always had therapists and coaches who've honored my process through it and have just guided me to those extra tools, like record your voice over the metal music you listen to when you're working out and ---

[CHRIS]

That's a great tip. I never heard of that.

[AARON]

Oh, I love doing that.

[CHRIS]

That's it. Keep it sacred. Keep the whole body involved in the process. Leave nothing out.

[CHRIS]

Okay. Wow, that's a great segue to end this episode. Aaron, I love how entertaining you are and engaging. It's like you just suck people in. So it's wonderful.

[AARON]

Thank you. I'm glad I suck.

[CHRIS]

And you got a sense of humor. This is awesome. So what's the best way for listeners to find you and learn more you?

[AARON]

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about how to find me. First place is free and that is Parenting Teens that Struggle. It is an online support group that I have on Facebook. It's coming up on 2000 members and it's parents who are really going through it. Not "my toddler is throwing chicken sticks on the floor and won't wear shoes." This is "my kids ODed now three times. What do I do?" It's a great community and parents are really looking out for each other there. Second place is also free. It's my podcast, Beyond Risk and Back. It's for parents of teens that struggle. This is where I interview the experts about their tools, tricks, tactics, and techniques for families. The third is a paid one, albeit it's extremely affordable. It's everything. I have a parenting master class and it's 20 years of everything I've ever taught parents in 57 sessions. It's $37. It's online at bra [B-R-A-B] for Beyond Risk and Back, brabapp.com. And I just want parents to have access and recourse and resource.

[CHRIS]

I will put that in the show notes as well so you can access so everybody doesn't have to remember that. Because I know I always forget stuff. Thank you so much, Aaron, for coming on the Holistic Counseling Podcast.

[AARON]

My pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity. Appreciate it.

[CHRIS]

Thank you so much to my listeners for tuning in today. Are you looking for a supportive, engaging holistic community? Come join my Facebook group, The Holistic Counseling and Self-Care Group, where you can gain support, connection and more resources on adding holistic practices personally and professionally.

Remember to tap the plus button to subscribe to this podcast. Be sure to rate and review wherever you get your podcast. This is Chris McDonald, sending each one of you much light and love. Till next time, take care.

Thank you for listening and supporting the Holistic Counseling Podcast. If you are loving this podcast, please share with your colleagues so we can continue to grow our holistic community. Also, are you ready to take the next step to create an integrative counseling practice? I invite you to sign up for my free nine-part email course, Becoming a Holistic Counselor. In this course, you'll explore different holistic strategies, how to develop your skills as a holistic counselor and how to manifest your dream practice. Go to www.holisticcounselingpodcast.com, scroll down and enter your name and email address today.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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Self-Care for the Counselor - a holistic guide for helping professionals by Christine McDonald , MS,NCC,LPCS