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Got a Problem? Ask Dr. Bachmeier

Counseling Session
Read the Complete Questions and Answers
By Family Editorial Board
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You Ask, Dr. Bachmeier Answers
Online Counseling

Thanks to all who submitted their questions for the counseling session by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier. Now you can read the complete questions and answers below. We hope they would be of much help and support.


0#1 anonymous1212 2013-03-06 14:14

Hello :)  I have an addiction problem. It’s not like most addictions; I’m addicted to romance books. I love to read, if I start a book I must finish it that very same day. I do this especially when I’m feeling low or need a break from reality. I know romance books are a waste of time, and they don't have Islamically correct content, but I just love them, and I don’t know how to stop.

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum,

Here is the short version of the formula to changing a habit: Identify what triggers the behavior. Pay attention to what you immediately feel and to the thoughts you think inside your head when you are triggered. What seems to be an automatic response to the trigger is actually a learned behavior, and you can unlearn that behavior and learn a more positive behavior.

Once you have identified the trigger and the feelings and thoughts that follow the trigger, but precede the behavior, identify what need is actually met by engaging in the behavior. You mentioned “escape” from reality. So, that is a need. You need some rest, a mini vacation, and to feel better. But, in “reality” too much “escaping” could also lead to problems, so you will want to develop more tolerance for what is happening in your here and now reality.

With all this, you now have two different skills to work on and a new behavior to develop to replace the behavior that is incompatible with your values. The first of the two skills will be emotional regulation and desensitization to the triggers that lead to your feeling a need to escape. This will reduce your overall frequency to escape.

The second skill will be in problem solving so that you can work trough the issues that trigger a need to escape. For the times when you are stretched to the limit, and need to take a time out, find a replacement behavior..Train yourself to read something uplifting and healthy; or do crossword puzzles, or find an interest that is healthy and get “hooked” on learning everything about that new hobby or interest. Make sure you have these amiable to you so that you will use them. It takes time to develop the ability to tolerate emotional and circumstantially induced discomfort, but if you are proactive and put effort into this, you can do it.

There are many techniques that you can use to achieve emotional regulation, but it always begins with being aware of when you have your first emotional response.  At that very moment, if you take a short walk, or pray, or change up your activity with something that will last five minutes or less such as deep breathing, counting, or listening to an inspirational song, you will be able to tolerate “life” a little better and since you will be present to work through the problems that are causing you stress, you will feel a whole lot better, leaving you less reason to escape. Food for Thought.

Dr. Maryam


0#2 M 2013-03-06 17:01

As-salamu alaikum Why would a man who never has physically hurt his wife threaten her when he is angry or frustrated? I would say that he has a temper but it has calmed down over the past few years. He has become more gentle plus I have become used to it. It was strange in the beginning, but now if he sometimes does give an outburst, I don't really care. For example, he was yelling at his whole family and they were crying and then they asked me why I was calm. I told them that he doesn't really mean what he is saying in anger and later he will tell you he didn't say such things when you mention what he said. There is no point in getting emotional over it. I used to but then I realized if on Sunday he says elephants are blue then you are going to have to agree, and if the next day he says elephants are purple then he will argue it until you agree. He has wonderful qualities, and nobody on earth is perfect, these are just his weaknesses.

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Wa Alaykum Assalam M,

You are on the right track. Your husband has acquired a habit, it is learned behavior, and it helps him to relieve his stress in the heat of the moment when he is upset. He may have grown up hearing the “tape recorder” or words that come out of his mouth, or he learned it somewhere, and when he began to use it himself, he found instant relief. Another immediate “reward” or “consequence” of his behavior is that he gets the attention that he needs. And you seem to be able to understand that what is coming out of his mouth really isn’t what he means, it is a cry for love. He isn’t getting his core need to be understood and his need to have someone care about him met, though, and so he is trapped in a cycle of becoming disappointed and feeling alone and frustrated, to becoming upset about it, to using behaviors that push people away or upset them, instead of eliciting their kind responses and care and nurturing.

The approach you are using is the correct approach. In addition, you can help him to find way to communicate his needs when he is not engaging in those behaviors. You can check in with him and provide the nurturing and care that he craves. At first, this might actually elicit more angry outbursts as he won’t trust this, but if you are consistent, then over time he might actually naturally change as a result of his environment (the people in his life) changing.

Remember, it isn’t about that you and your husband’s loved ones have not been kind, love him, cared about him etc… but he isn’t able to feel it. So, once you find a way to communicate your love and care for him in a way that he can receive it, his behaviors might even change a little bit.

Salaam,

Dr. Maryam


0#3 Unknown 2013-03-06 17:19

There is a brother in the community who drinks. We don't know him too well. How can we practically help him with his problem? Give him books? Recommend some alcohol recovery program? Talk to him? But how?

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum,

One way to help this brother is to make yourself available to him. Develop a rapport with this bother. Let him talk to you and tell you what is bothering him, if anything. It is also important to understand the “stages of change” for positive behaviors if you want to be a healthy and supportive presence for someone who is engaging in destructive behaviors.

Stages of Change Model by Prochaska and DiClemente:

Prochaska and DiClemente have developed a model of stages of change in the 1970s and it is a very good model for understanding how to support people in their change process. There are many websites that describe this mode, but I will give you two that I found to get you started.

The idea is to withhold judgment of the person’s character and to know when and if giving advice is going to be helpful. When your friend is ready to take action, then you can be available to support him with his action.

Until then, you can use what is called “motivational interviewing” in the clinical world, to help your friend consider the value of change. Take things slowly and one day at a time.

Here are the links to some information for you to review: http://addictions.about.com/od/addictiontreatment/ss/The-Stages-Of-Change-Model-In-Addiction-Treatment.htm

http://www.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/topics/training/change.aspx

Salaam,

Dr. Maryam


0#4 worried mother 2013-03-06 20:47

Respected doctor, I have an 11 year old son with symptoms of ADD... I diagnosed it myself by reading the symptoms associated with it and he has got almost all the symptoms...... he isn’t concentrating on his studies, he comes home almost blank from school and I have to give him the concept from scratch..... he has also behavioral problems at school, he is unable to make friends,...his friends complain he teases them a lot, stares at them during the lesson, laughs excessively on silly things..... he also has a habit of chewing tissue paper and pencil shaves.... he is the eldest son, I have two younger twin sons who are outstanding in studies.......his teachers said that he is respectful and intelligent boy but unable to focus in studies....he easily gets bullied by his class fellows due to his weak personality....kindly suggest to me what to do...any surah which is helpful? Many people suggest changing his name, will it work? His name is Mohammad Hannan Owais.

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum Sister,

You mentioned that your son is chewing on tissue paper and pencil shaves, laughing excessively on silly things and possibly exhibiting other odd behavior. Though it is possible that your son has Attention Deficit Disorder, he may also have another disorder on the Autism Spectrum and you want to rule that out. Indeed, I advise you to take your son to a qualified licensed practitioner and have a thorough evaluation completed. If you can identify the clinical condition, then you will be able to access the correct guidance for effective interventions that will help your son.

I don’t have any specific surah in mind for this, but remember to use ones that make you feel positive and give you hope in general and keep your focus on the limitless abundance and profound miracles of Allah.

With that said, time is essential and you do not want to lose a window of opportunity to find help for your son while he is still young, so do research in your area for a good clinician and get a proper diagnosis so you can begin to apply effective interventions and improve the quality of life for your son and for your family.

Salaam,

Dr. Maryam


0#5 Anonymous 2013 2013-03-06 20:54

Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu I feel that me and my wife only married for the sake of love and didn’t put into consideration other factors. Currently I am considering divorce due to the fact that she has left the house without my permission on several occasions to places not fitting for a Muslimah. As well it is a recurrent trend in our relationship that we often have totally opposite views on many practices of Islam. That it has just caused huge debate and problems since the start of our marriage.

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Wa Alaykum Assalam,

You have not given me very much information about your marriage and I am reluctant to advise you as to whether or not to divorce based on the information provided. But as a general rule, I usually discourage divorce and I encourage marriage counseling. It is possible that underneath what appears to be a complete disconnection and disagreement about values and Islamic principles may really be a symptom of a disconnection between both of you on a heart level as a result of misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and inability to communicate effectively. Before you give up, consider counseling.

Salaam,

Dr. Maryam


0#6 Star 2013-03-07 03:44

I have had a difficult few years. Lately I've been trying to remember my dreams and I keep a notebook by my bed and write down what I remember as soon as I awaken. I've been told that we can learn about our problems this way, and Allah also "communicates" with us via our dreams in the sense of giving us clues into our lives. I have asked Allah to help me, to let me know my future will be ok, that the loneliness will go away, and the pain from a past episode will also subside. However, I find that my dreams are often full of angst. They are not nightmares, but they don't fill me with optimism or give me clues into how I can approach my life in a fulfilling manner. In fact, I find them discouraging yet I still pray that Allah shows me the tools I need to bring solace into my life (other than the usual tools of prayer, exercise, Vitamins, staying employed, making dua, counseling, etc). Do you believe dreams offer some type of therapeutic-spiritual benefit?

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum Star,

Yes, I definitely believe that dream work is just that; dream work. And dream work is very therapeutic. I encourage you to continue. The angst that you are feeling in your dreams is part of the healing process. It is possible that you are very busy or otherwise occupied during your waking life to feel the pain and grieve properly over that which has hurt your heart. You are working through these emotions in your dreams. You are healing through your dream work. It won’t last forever. A wound doesn’t heal just because you put a bandage over it. It heals from the core, from the deepest part first, then, layer by layer the wound naturally heals itself. Likewise, the angst that you are feeling is likely the core of your own emotional wounding, and the healing will take some time. This is the worst of it, and day by day things will likely get better.

Over time you will get the answers that you are seeking. Clarity will come to you once you have worked through the emotional issues. Don’t be in a hurry; this is a good time for you to become soulful and reflective. Take note of the core issues that are being presented to you in your dreams and then proactively seek ways to heal in your waking hours as well. This might mean learning ways to self nurture, or ways to develop healthy relationships etc… right now, your dreams are telling you what your core issues are, and just as you are healing during your dreams because you are feeling what you need to feel, you are also learning about what is truly bothering you so that you can work through that consciously.


0#7 h 2013-03-07 10:53

What is the best way to provide emotional support to my adult child who has just made a remarkable recovery from anorexia? If the support is rejected, is it best to allow space or can this lead to permanent estrangement? Although the latest scientific research absolves the parents of being responsible for causing the disease, yet ' our deen ' indicates otherwise. How can we bring the two sources of knowledge together to make the recovery 'irreversible’ especially when the child lays the blame for her condition on the parents? Does emotional stability necessarily follow 'weight' gain in anorexia?

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum,

The “blame” does not lie on the parent’s shoulders. If a parent knows that he has done his or her best with the knowledge and understanding that he or she had, then there is no “blame”. Shame/blame does not bring forth solution or healing. You are no more to blame for your adult child’s anorexia than you are to blame if your child contracted a life threatening physical disease that began with a virus. The fact is: human beings often struggle with taking responsibility for their own behaviors and their own lives. Parents often struggle with what their own role is when an adult child is having such difficulties. You cannot predict the outcome of your adult child’s situation, and you do not know if your adult child will choose to take responsibility for his or her own actions, or if he/she will avoid that step in growing up by shifting the blame onto you. But you do not have to accept the blame. The problem with the cycle of the adult child shifting the blame for his or her predicaments onto the parents is that also puts the burden onto the parents and this simply won’t work. For one thing, nature has it that the parents will continue to age, and therefore will not be able to indefinitely provide care for the ‘adult” child. So, the parent needs to take care of him or herself and function properly.

With that said, you can offer encouragement and make yourself available should your adult child want to reach out to you. You cannot control the outcome or make something “irreversible”. You can get some counseling yourself and tend to your own emotions. If you have already built several “bridges” for your adult child, and you have already extended yourself, and offered help etc, and your adult child “burns” those “bridges”, all is not lost. But you will not be emotionally or spiritually available with your hard earned wisdom and nurturing support if you keep spending your energy on building those bridges for your adult child who is not using your kindness and generosity wisely or appropriately. Remind yourself that if you take care of yourself, then you will be in a better condition to be “present” and emotionally available, and to offer wisdom to your adult child if and when your adult child chooses to build a bridge to you. I hope this makes sense. I pray this helps.

Salaam

Dr. Maryam


0#8 mother 2013-03-07 12:44

What is the best way to communicate with an adolescent child? Lives of children are occupied with the social media and family sharing time has become minimal which has led to distance. How can the old values be revived without offence? Also with children leaving home young, for higher education, exposure to the world is faced without family support leading to many problems. Parents are now confused about their roles and how best they can assure that their children remain on the right path.

Answer by Dr. Maryam Bachmeier:

Assalam Alaykum,

The answer to your question is complex and requires much more detailed attention than what I can provide here. Suffice it to say, the core of the issue lies in the collective community and social ecosystems. But on a more personal note, I can give you some quick tips. Since we really are dealing with an “acute” situation, (for most parents anyway) we have to deal with the immediate concerns. It takes a long time and requires a lot of support from family, community and society to create an environment that will facilitate the ideal situation you are alluding to. For now, above all, keep the lines of communication open with you children. Find ways to invite yourself into their life. If you can get them to talk to you and to share, do that. Consider meeting your adolescent children in their own milieu and then engaging with them. Once you develop rapport, you can elicit conversations about values etc. and ask them what their values are, get them thinking. If you are skillful with this, they will likely begin to ask you what your values are. And, remember, they are watching you, so if you model your good values to them, and explain to them why you do what you do, and what you believe, they will take that in. You might not see it right away, but they will likely internalize it and adopt that for themselves later on. Unfortunately, mainstream culture across the globe is “decentralizing authority” in that adult children are being encouraged to find their own way and discouraged from looking to the people in their lives, such as their parents and grandparents who have lived and have wisdom to share, who can, by that wisdom protect them from some very difficult times. Authority in this sense does not mean authoritarian, but rather “expert”; elder; wise one. But if you can establish yourself to be that expert, and wise elder in your children’s lives, then they are more likely to turn to you for guidance.

Salaam,

Dr. Maryam


About Dr. Bachmeier:

Dr. Bachmeier is a Psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a published researcher, former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant to her Muslim community in the areas of mental health, cultural, family and relationship issues, and more.

Dr. Bachmeier currently writes for OnIslam.net and also works for GUAM DMHSA (Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse) as a clinical psychologist providing general clinical services, consultation, and teaching Behavioral Management system wide.

She previously worked at Napa State Hospital which is both a forensic hospital and a hospital for non-forensic patients providing a wide variety of services, assessment, and consultation as a clinical psychologist. Over the years she has provided both individual counseling in the areas of Family Issues, marital counseling, drug addiction, anger management, family consultation to those who have elderly family members, many with Alzheimer’s, end of life counseling to both those making their transition and their family members, and women’s issues.

She previously worked in private and outpatient settings as well as in a woman’s shelter providing counseling to those who were suffering from domestic violence.

Dr. Bachmeier also taught Positive programming for parents and facility program directors of children who have Autism and/or mental retardation as well as in home consultation to the families of such individuals and has provided consultation to a variety of organizations/institutions.

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