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Dec 17

The Extended Victims of the Horrific School Massacre in CT

By Dr. Jack Singer | Children and Family , Counseling , General

By Jack Singer, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

bt ctWhile we all try to make sense out of latest horrendous school shooting that has befallen this country, our focus often ignores the plight of the other “victims”…the families of the victims, the friends of the victims, the children who survived this devastating event and other children and families around the world, who viewed this horror through the media.

We usually use the term, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for people fighting in wars, rape and crime victims, or those battling natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or Sandy.  PTSD can present itself in many forms.

These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating and panic
  • Bad dreams
  • Frightening thoughts.

Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

2. Avoidance symptoms:

  • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
  • Having trouble remembering the dangerous event.

Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms.

3. Hyper-arousal symptoms:

  • Being easily startled
  • Feeling tense or “on edge”
  • Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.

Hyper-arousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed, constantly worried about danger and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

In the Sandy Hook disaster, we have families, whose lives took a sudden and dramatic change right before the celebration of Christmas, so for these people every Christmas from now on has the potential of pulling those families back to these horrific memories.

Once Sandy Hook Elementary re-opens, the PTSD could re-visit survivors upon entering the school, passing by the areas where shootings took place, etc.

Parents all over the world could now face children suffering with fear, who cannot express those fears.  Parents need to be vigilant to signs or symptoms of PTSD and take action immediately.

What Do Parents Need to Do, Now? 

Parents need to speak to their children now, rather than waiting for the child to discuss what happened.  Gently help your children identify their feelings, rather than sitting them down and lecturing them.  First, identify the feelings, let them know that crying and fear are normal reactions, reflect back what you hear them say (empathizing with them and validating those feelings and fears) be sensitive to them, and ask what questions they may have.

The bottom line is that children need to feel safe and secure.  It’s ok to tell them that there are bad people in the world who do bad things, but there are millions and millions of children their age who never have bad things happen to them and their will most likely never experience anything like this.

Be prepared to have ongoing conversations with your children, because just because they are acting normally now, does not mean that they are not still processing what happened and fears can arise any time.

Young children who saw the horror on TV or heard about it may also worry about their own teachers and administrators not being able to protect them, because they couldn’t protect the victims at Sandy Hook. These are all issues that need to be addressed, rather than avoided.

Be sensitive to fear and insecurity coming out in children who live in disruptive homes, where the parents may be battling each other, for example.  Such children may be feeling even more insecure now, with the fear of impending divorce, etc.

For parents of classmates and siblings of the victims, be aware of feelings of survivor guilt (“Why didn’t I die?” Or “I was fighting with my brother before he went to school and I said to myself, ‘I hate him, I wish I didn’t have a brother’).  These young people need to be counseled about this tragedy certainly not being their fault and that having angry thoughts about a sibling never leads to a tragedy like this.  Parents who provide a faith base to their children should consult with their religious mentors about a discussion about G-d’s plan, here. Families often find comfort and healing in their faith and discussions with those in their religious community.

Certainly, if parents feel overwhelmed or helpless in dealing with their youngsters, seek out professional help.

Let this unspeakable tragedy become a beacon to families around the world to bond closer to your children, assure them that they are safe and look at the world through their eyes before making decisions that can dramatically affect them.

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

About the Author:

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and psychologist. He has been speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s and elite athletes for 34 years.  Among the association conventions which Dr. Jack has keynoted are those which serve financial planners.

Dr. Jack is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada.  He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and some for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence and esteem. To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit and or call him in the U.S. at (800) 497-9880.

Jul 18

Help! My Husband and I Fight All the Time [Video]

By Dr. Jack Singer | Counseling

You and your husband have been fighting non-stop lately. It seems like everything he does or says gets on your last nerve, and you just want it to stop. How can you get both of your points across without arguing? It seems like an impossible feat.

In this video, clincal and sports psychologist and YourTango Expert Dr. Jack Singer says that this issue is a very common problem among married couples because it gets at one of the fundamental skills needed for a healthy relationship: communication. He says, “You and your husband need to learn how to communicate without defensively getting in a position of anger and hostility and trying to prove whose more powerful or whose point makes the most sense.” Try actively listening to your partner by putting yourself on an equal plane with your partner.

Want to learn more? Watch the video.

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

Sep 28

When Your Therapist Is Only a Click Away

By Dr. Jack Singer | Blog , Counseling

Excerpted from New York Times

Skype Counseling For Depression, Anxiety, Anger Management, Divorce Recovery, Infidelity/Affair, Athletic Performance with Dr. Jack Singer.Mary Smith headed outside to her friend’s pool. Settling into a lounge chair, she tapped the Skype application on her phone. Hundreds of miles away, her face popped up on her therapist’s computer monitor; he smiled back on her phone’s screen.

She took a sip of her cocktail. The session began.

Ms. Smith, a 33-year-old high school teacher, used to be in treatment the conventional way — with face-to-face office appointments. Now, with her new doctor, she said: “I can have a Skype therapy session with my morning coffee or before a night on the town with the girls. I can take a break from shopping for a session. I took my doctor with me through three states this summer!”

And, she added, “I even e-mailed him that I was panicked about a first date, and he wrote back and said we could do a 20-minute mini-session.”

Since telepsychiatry was introduced decades ago, video conferencing has been an increasingly accepted way to reach patients in hospitals, prisons, veterans’ health care facilities and rural clinics — all supervised sites.

But today Skype has made online private practice accessible for a broader swath of patients, including those who shun office treatment or who simply like the convenience of therapy on the fly.

“In three years, this will take off like a rocket,” said Eric A. Harris, a lawyer and psychologist who consults with the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust. “Everyone will have real-time audiovisual availability. There will be a group of true believers who will think that being in a room with a client is special and you can’t replicate that by remote involvement. But a lot of people, especially younger clinicians, will feel there is no basis for thinking this. Still, appropriate professional standards will have to be followed.”

The pragmatic benefits are obvious. “No parking necessary!” touts one online therapist. Some therapists charge less for sessions since they, too, can do it from home, saving on gas and office rent. Blizzards, broken legs and business trips no longer cancel appointments. The anxiety of shrink-less August could be, dare one say … curable?

Ms. Smith came to the approach through geographical necessity. When her therapist moved, she was apprehensive about transferring to the other psychologist in her small town,  who would certainly know her prominent ex-boyfriend. So her therapist referred her to another doctor, whose practice was a day’s drive away. But he was willing to use Skype with long-distance patients. She was game.

Now she prefers these sessions to the old-fashioned kind.

But does knowing that your therapist is just a phone tap or mouse click away create a 21st-century version of shrink-neediness?

“There’s that comfort of carrying your doctor around with you like a security blanket,” Ms. Smith acknowledged. “But,” she added, “because he’s more accessible, I feel like I need him less.”

The technology does have its speed bumps. Online treatment upends a basic element of therapeutic connection: eye contact.

Patient and therapist typically look at each other’s faces on a computer screen. But in many setups, the camera is perched atop a monitor. Their gazes are then off-kilter.

“So patients can think you’re not looking them in the eye,” said Lynn Bufka, a staff psychologist with the American Psychological Association. “You need to acknowledge that upfront to the patient, or the provider has to be trained to look at the camera instead of the screen.”

The quirkiness of Internet connections can also be an impediment. “You have to prepare vulnerable people for the possibility that just when they are saying something that’s difficult, the screen can go blank,” said DeeAnna Merz Nagel, a psychotherapist licensed in New Jersey and New York. “So I always say, ‘I will never disconnect from you online on purpose.’ You make arrangements ahead of time to call each other if that happens.”

Research on the effectiveness of on-line therapy shows the same effects, essentially, as in person therapy, so the practicality of on-line therapy outweighs the few negative issues, such as not sitting in front of the client and seeing his/her body language, eye contact, etc.  In addition, I am able to Skype with clients who are on vacation in other locals, and with athletes, who are out of town performing in major events and want to touch base with me before or after their events.  In short, I have found using Skype has grown my practice and dramatically increased my access to clients.

Dr. Jack Singer offers Skype Therapy with clients all over California.  For more information, contact Dr. Jack at (800) 497-9880.

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer