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Empowering Parents and Children to Confront Bullying

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October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. In the recent years, bullying has especially

become an area of great concern for parents, children, educators, and mental health professionals.

And with all the technological advances, cyberbullying has added another dimension to this issue.

Many children and adolescents who are bullied suffer in silence and develop symptoms of anxiety and

depression, while their academic performance declines. And in some more severe cases, some have

become suicidal. Fortunately, there is much information and support available to target and lessen this


In order to help, it is first important to recognize that helping someone who is being bullied is a

collective effort that entails communication and collaboration amongst the child, school professionals,

parents and mental health professionals. It is also important to educate oneself on what constitutes

bullying behaviors and the warning signs indicative that a child is being bullied. Bullying can be defined

as the deliberate, often repeated attempt to intimidate, embarrass, or harm another person. It can take

on the form of physical, social or relational bullying, verbal, and cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying

that takes place over the Internet, texting, and social media websites.

Some common signs children and adolescents may display if being bullied include school avoidance,

inability to concentrate, stomachaches, headaches, low self-esteem, increased anxiety, self-isolation,

and decreased grades. Other physical evidence may include unexplained marks or bruises. You may also

find that they report that some of their possessions are missing or damaged.

So what can one do? REPORT, REPORT, REPORT! Students are encouraged to report bullying to a school

counselor, teacher and administrator. That way immediate investigation and action can be taken to

remedy the situation. Additionally, many schools have bullying policies in place that offer a systematic

response to the issue. If the bullying target needs additional support through the process, referrals

can be made to a mental health professional, who can assist with healing, building self-esteem, and

developing the skills needed for the child to assert themselves.

Bullying is a learned behavior. Youth who engage in this behavior also need assistance and it should be

provided to them as well. The child who utilizes this behavior may also be struggling with an internal

issue and can be assisted with learning more appropriate, healthy ways to manage feelings.

Do not suffer alone! Get involved! For more information on bullying you can visit

or If you or someone you know is being bullied. We can help. Please contact

The Counseling Group at 305-857-0050.

Jennifer Juncosa is a licensed psychotherapist at The Counseling Group and a Middle School Counselor

for Miami-Dade County Public schools.

Choosing a Response

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My ability to respond to a world,

Over which I have no control,

Is a powerful gift.


If I crumble in the face of adversity,

I have chosen to be

Weak and beaten down.


If I soar to the heights of happiness,

I have chosen to fly.


Situations will choose me,

But they will never own me.

How I react to them will always

Be a matter of my choice.


Submitted by: Silvia Almeida Vaquero

Taken from :

The 6 Human Needs: Why We Do What We Do

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Perhaps one of the most timeless questions in the area of psychological sciences or therapeutic medicine is why do human beings do the things they do? Esteemed life coach Anthony Robbins attempts to answer this question in the form of the 6 human needs. While it is true that every individual is unique, he explains that we all share these six common needs that drive our behaviors.

1. Certainty: the need to be assured that you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for adventure and exploration of the unknown; the need for change.
3. Significance: the need to feel uniquely important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: the need to connect with others and feel a sense of closeness with someone or something
5. Growth: the need to broaden one’s capabilities, capacity or understanding
6. Contribution: the need to feel a sense of giving back to others and/or the community; supporting and helping others.

What differs with each individual is the way in which these needs are met. For example, a person striving to meet their need for certainty may adopt a controlling lifestyle where they must be aware of and in charge of every aspect of their life. Others may achieve this need by relinquishing control and adopting a philosophy of faith. The desire for human significance can likewise be met in either constructive or destructive ways: some may achieve significance via healthy competition while others can only attain it by tearing down the people around them. Essentially, all dysfunctional behaviors emerge when one or more of these needs are inconsistently met. In fact, gang violence for example, follows from destructive drives intended to meet each of these needs. An individual that joins a gang is made to feel significant, as if his contribution to the gang is important and he is needed; he lives with the certainty of his place in this newfound family that makes him feel loved and also achieves uncertainty from the violent, variable lifestyle that comes with being in a gang.

With this in mind, it becomes important to understand these needs and consider how you choose to meet them. If you find they are destructive then you can choose to change them to healthier behaviors that will ultimately lead to patterns of lasting fulfillment. Start by asking yourself:

1. Which of these six needs do you focus on and value the most?
2. What are the ways (good and bad) in which you meet these needs?

Nicole Daniel
Summer Intern
Forensic Chemistry/Psychology Double Major
Loyola University New Orleans Class of 2017

May is BPD Awareness Month!

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Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious psychiatric illness. But there is hope. There has been considerable progress in the last 25 years both in understanding and treating BPD. Now there are treatments shown to be effective. The most researched and well known is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). 

People with BPD have extreme difficulties regulating their emotions. Common problems include anger, chaotic relationships, impulsivity, unstable sense of self, suicidal attempts and thoughts, self-harm, shame, fears of abandonment, and chronic feelings of emptiness.

People with BPD often have intense and stormy relationships. Attitudes toward family, friends and loved ones may shift suddenly. Relationship problems are common and the behaviors are difficult for loved ones to manage effectively. Additionally, stress in relationships can make for even more challenges.

If you or anyone you know may be living with Borderline Personality Disorder, please call us, our Dialectical Behavior Therapy Team can help (305) 857-0050. 



New Services Offered at TCG!

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Overcoming Test & Performance Anxiety

Generally, we all experience some level of nervousness and tension prior to exams or other important events in our lives. A little nervousness can help motivate us. However, too much of it can be a problem, especially if it interferes with our ability to prepare for and perform on tests. I offer a variety of services that can help you overcome your test and performance anxiety.

Sports Performance Enhancement

High School is a trying time in the student athlete’s career. Maintaining a balance between schoolwork, practice schedules, and games is an important skill for success. Many student athletes have a unique set of needs and struggle with distractions that can impact performance on the field and in the classroom. I offer a variety of services that will enhance and foster the future achievement of the student athlete.

Provider: Sharon Raoli, LMHC

Workshop for Parents of College-Bound Students

Did you walk your child into class on the first day of kindergarten? Were you excited to hear about their first day as a high school freshman? Now they’re going away to college and this time you’re excited, sentimental, apprehensive and maybe a little bit anxious. This 3 hour workshop is designed to help parents understand their college bound son or daughter.

Provider: Lena Sheffield, MSEd, CAP, MAC

Relocation and Immigration

As part of the relocation of your clients or employees and their families, it is important to take into account the issues that arise due to “culture shock.” I can help make this transition seamless on all levels for those involved.

Provider: Miriam Moussatche-Wechsler, LCSW, LMHC 

15 Habits to Cultivate Lasting Happiness

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Happiness is circular. Happy people have happy habits, which in turn, makes them happier. Here’s a list of habits that have a high chance of giving you a happiness boost.

1. Savor the moment: Look around your environment and take note of one thing that you often take for granted. Bring mindful attention and awareness to this. Try to engage all your senses. Notice the positive feelings and associations that go with it. Try to hold onto this awareness for 15-20 seconds or so, to let it really sink in.

2. Practice non-judgmental awareness of yourself and others: Most people, including yourself, are doing the best they can with the resources they have in any particular moment. No one wakes up and says, “I think I’ll screw up my life today.” Give yourself, and others, a break.

3. Cultivate realistic thinking: You don’t have to necessarily be a positive thinker. Sometimes healthy skepticism is appropriate. Try to be balanced in your thinking, though. For example, what is the evidence for (insert worrisome thought or idea)? What are the implications? How likely is it to happen? What coping skills do you have in place if the worst were to happen?

4. Connect with others: We are inherently social and have a fundamental need for belonging. Having social support is a buffer in times of stress. Connecting with others can also help put problems in perspective; others can give you useful feedback.

5. Resolve conflicts proactively: Treat emotional issues as temporary and solvable. Use assertiveness skills. Realize you can be kind without having people walk all over you.

6. Develop good self-care practices: Exercise, eat healthy most of the time, get enough sleep, and be kind to yourself.

7. Share gratitude and love: Express gratitude to those who have made a difference in your life. Send a card. Write a letter. Visit in person.

8. Focus on the good: Write down three good things that happen each day. Take pictures. Journal. Keep scrapbooks (they don’t have to be fancy). This helps reorient our brains to the fact that things are actually going pretty well.

9. Live like you’re on vacation: What makes the time we spend on vacation better than the time we spend at home? We are open to new experiences. We are trying novel things. At home there are plenty of things we could be doing that would be novel and/or fun, but there’s no urgency. Plan a time to be a tourist in your own town.

10. Fake it: Studies show that if your face is in a smiling position (such as holding a pen long-ways in your mouth), it sends signals to your brain that you are happy. If you don’t want to put a pen in your mouth, simply focus on turning up the corners of your mouth ever so slightly. Imagine that even your eyes are smiling.

11. Have fun and laugh: Laughter has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce certain stress hormones, defend against respiratory infections, increase memory and learning, improve alertness and increase creativity.

12. Spend money: You can buy happiness, but it helps to spend it on the right things, such as experiences or other people. No one said on his or her death bed, “I wish I’d bought more stuff.”

13. Simplify your life: Too many things, too many activities, too many choices—really too much of anything—can cause stress and decrease happiness. Focus on simplifying.

14. Curtail Comparisons: Remember that we all have joys and sorrows. Too often we’re comparing how we feel on the inside to how someone else looks on the outside.

15. Live an authentic and meaningful life: Be true to yourself and live in line with your values. Ask yourself, what do you want in life? What small steps can you take to move in that direction?

Constantly Inspired and Surprised!

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Constantly Inspired and Surprised!

This morning at the gym, I was working out next to Stephan, who I see almost daily giving it his best . Today, our trainer, Cedric, seemed to be getting him ready for snow skiing. We started talking about it and much to my surprise, Stephan asked, ” Did you see the Olympics last night? I was an Alpine Skiier. When I was a teenager, I was on the Swiss National Team.” He said it in such a matter-of-fact way that I was in shock! He went on to say , ” One day at the age of 17, skiing at 70 mph, I hit the gate, broke 7 ribs, fractured my spine and was in a body cast for 6 months. That was the end of my career, and very difficult” I was in awe! Talk about overcoming obstacles. He is in such great shape, works out hard and is my age! A young 53….

You never know who can surprise you, inspire you, change your life! At my gym, we have “The Golden Girls” a group of ladies in their 60s that go every morning and have a blast! Another woman, also in her 60s, continuously wears her smile. When I asked about her fitness story, she said that she goes on adventure vacations, biking in Europe, South America and Asia! In March, she will be hiking in Utah!

Don’t get me wrong, its not an “old peoples gym” , quite the opposite! Much the opposite!!! We work out with everyone from teens to well, older. And these days, its hard to tell someone’s age when you are in shape and keeping up with the “youngins”. But my point with all this is, yes , I am Star struck when I work out with a National Champion, or a coach who has taken his team to nationals, or a number one world ranked tennis player, but its in the “every day folk” and in their effort that I find inspiration and am continually surprised. Because Julie, whose story I don’t know, wore a scarf last year for a while until she was brave enough to take it off and show her thinning hair. Recently, we all saw her get stronger, saw her smile get wider and yes, saw her with her beautiful hair once again!

Who in your life inspires and surprises you?

Written with joy and appreciation in my heart,

What’s New for 2014? Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – Wellness Counseling!

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“A New Year is upon us! 2014 brings us a freshness and newness in which to grow and transform! We are happy to announce that in the upcoming year, we will be providing

“Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – Wellness Counseling.”

    Is Wellness Counseling for you? Your goals may be to:

become a conscious consumer
reduce stress
reconnect with your body
lose weight
exercise more
change your eating habits  

We will accompany you on your journey, providing structure, support, motivation and goal orientated strategies to ensure your realize your goal of a better state!

What are YOU ready to LET GO of or EMBRACE in 2014???

A better state awaits! Take the first step on your journey to wellness and give me a call (305) 857-0050 or send us an email to !”

Niki Castro, LCSW | Integrative Psychotherapist

5 Secrets to Happier Holidays

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Tis the season to be jolly — and stretched way too thin, what with all the shopping, prepping, and family obligating. So how can we tame the beasts of stuff and conflict, of travel and spending, so that we can get back to comfort and joy? Here’s how, your merriest month awaits!:

1: Simplify your priorities: the holidays brings loads of togetherness, in a more-the-merrier kind of way. But sometimes it can feel like too much of a good thing. To get a handle on the overload, a “values clarification” exercise can help you feel more in control. First, ask yourself what your top priorities are this month, then write them all down. For example, “being with family as much as possible, eggnog, spirituality, an absence of fruit cake, stress-free joy. Now the hard part: Cross them off until you are left with the single value (or two, if you really can’t choose) that is your absolute priority. The point here is to focus on what you care most about. Now you can ask yourself how you can arrange the season to be true to this one value as much as possible. If being with relatives is most important, say, then maybe you have to give up stress-free joy — and that’s okay. The end result of this exercise: you realize that you’re making a choice, and you don’t have to feel resentful about it.

2: Manage relatives’ expectations: Alas, the conflict — between the desire to be home and the pressure to visit — is as widespread as tinsel. If being home is your most cherished value (see #1) — more than, say, avoiding conflict — then you have no choice but to come clean. Some recommendations include, “I think think year we’re going to try something different.” If relatives complain, tell them: “Children should wake up in their own home on Christmas.” Offer an eve instead or a different occasion altogether to spread out the warm holiday feelings.

3: Take the focus off gift giving: From gag mugs to random electronics, a get-together can feel more like a tag sale gone awry than a gathering of loved ones — to say nothing of the mall whirlwhind that came before and the bills that come after. You can tone down the craziness with these less consuming ways to celebrate:

– Establish a one-person/one-gift tradition: start at Thanksgiving by putting everyone’s name in a hat, matching kids with kids and adults with adults.
– Whip up giftable treats that can be enjoyed, then (phew) gone.
– Give a single gift for the group to a enjoy: a board game, say, or a puzzle.
– Ask relatives about their favorite tradition and then commit to doing it with them (to shift away from things). You might be surprised, it may be something simple and special like caroling or watching a silly movie.

4: Tame toy lust: One the one hand, we worry that we’re spoiling our kids with more than they need, more than we can afford, more than our house can hold; on the other, we want our kids to get what their little hearts desire. What’s the happy medium? Try one of these approaches:

-Lose the list: instead of encouraging your child to spool out an endless tally of wanted items, ask her about the one or two things she might most like to receive.
-Start stuff-less traditions: The Hanukkah menorah and Christmas tree do this already, of course, but consider adding household favorites: a night spent in sleeping bags under the tree or eggnog with breakfast. It’s nice to be able to indulge the kids over the course of the season with a focus on experiences rather than things.

5: Defuse drama: Large yuletide gatherings and family tensions go together like figgy and pudding. Luckily, kids don’t know that stressful family dinners are a cliche. And, ideally, yours will be too awash in seasonal cheer to notice that drama is sucking all the air out of the room. But what if they do? You need to put your own oxygen mask on first, at least emotionally. Depending on the situation, you might need to take some deep breaths, or go for a walk, or take your child off for some one-on-one play time if she’s distressed. Also give kids a heads-up. “People can get stressed around the holidays or when they’re with relatives,” you can say. “But we spend time together because they’re important to us, and we love them, even though they’re not perfect.” Luckily, nobody is.

Modified from: Scholastic Parent & Child (Newmann, JAN 2014)

Holiday Hump by Integrative Psychotherapist Niki Castro

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The week after Thanksgiving marks the 6 week point until the New Year. These next weeks are filled with an excess in most areas….increased social commitments, increased interaction with family and friends, increased food and alcohol, increased spending…and the list can go on. Unfortunately all this good cheer can leave you zapped of energy, both physical and emotional.   Here are some tips to incorporate daily which will build in some DE-stressing into your day.  These tips will help you manage and minimize stress, making this season a truly Happy one!

-Prioritize: Instead of feeling obliged to accept EVERY invitation and attempting to do EVERYTHING on your “To Do” List…Choose THREE daily tasks…things that MUST get done and do them…focus on three a day…everyday!

-Make Exercise one of your daily THREE…but maximize your time by condensing your workout WHILE increasing intensity…exercise naturally raises endorphin levels (a feel-good chemical), but also is a positive outlet to release stress.

-Slow down and ENJOY the moment…watch a Holiday movie, preferably a comedy (laughing is PROVEN to decrease stress and increase immune function!)

-BREATHE!!! When feeling overwhelmed or stressed….BREATHE!!!  Inhale through your nose (with your mouth closed) for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7, exhale through your mouth for a count of 8; repeat for a total of four cycles.

-AND ABOVE ALL…stay present in the moment…shift your perspective….rather than be annoyed that you have to attend yet ANOTHER reunion or visit yet ANOTHER family member, gives thanks that you are blessed with family and people who enjoy spending time with you. Use this period to begin working on a daily Gratitude Practice.  ENJOY!