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EMERGE…a nine-month group for parents in Austin, TX

July 21, 2016

I’ve bee1n working on the content for EMERGE for months now, and I’m so excited to finally launch!

For years and years I’m gotten to know parents like you.  Parents who are struggling to not to drown.  Parents who are trying not to get pulled under by the chaos.  How do you tread water during a tsunami??

What happens when you realize that you can’t do much to change the tsunami from happening?  All you can do is find calm in the midst of the chaos.

Parents tell me that part of them is gone.  The part that holds peace and joy.  Contentment.

You know what?  That part of you isn’t gone.  That part of you still exists.  We can find you.  I promise.

But it’s a lot of work.  This isn’t a blog post I can write or a one-day training I can present.  Or even a weekend retreat.  I could probably TEACH you about it a weekend (or two).  But actually practice and experience it?  Embody the felt sense of turning toward calm and finding yourself again?  That takes patience and time to unfold and nurture.

SO here’s what I’ve come up with.

Nine months.

September 2016 until May 2017.

Every other Wednesday, 12:15 to 2:15pm.  You should have plenty of time to grab your kiddo from school!!

1705 W. Koenig Lane, Austin, TX

We’ll take the week of Spring Break off in March, and maybe another time or two around the holidays.  We’ll decide this together!

I’ve written out all the details about what to expect and what we are actually going to DO (as well as how to register) over on my website

Click here for all that good stuff ————————–> www.gobbelcounseling.com/groups

Does this sound awesome but you aren’t in Austin????

WELL.  I have a super secret (not so secret anymore!) plan to run EMERGE for a year and then turn it into an online group, so parents all over the WORLD can benefit.  Stay tuned and be patient for that!  I know that if I take a year to nourish parents here in Austin, I will be much more equipped to turn it into an online experience.

Head over to my website and then email me if you have questions or are ready to EMERGE.

Sending you peace….

~

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Catch me in November as I experience the amazing honor of providing the Friday Keynote at the Adoption Knowledge Affiliates conference in Austin, TX!

Where there is adoption, there is grief.

July 15, 2016

Grief.  We are just terrified of grief.  “It’s not grief that’s the problem,” a wise colleague noticed.  “It’s everything that gets in the way of the grief getting expressed.”  I see this truth everywhere.

There is so much grief in adoption and we seem obsessed as a culture to avoid spending any time being with grief.  We ignore it, stuff it inside, refuse to speak about it.  It festers and grows, and we stuff it even further.

Why?  What is so scary about grief?

The losses in adoption are overwhelming.

Suffering is the distance between expectation and reality.  Nobody expects adoption.  Adopted children don’t expect adoption.  Birthfamilies don’t expect adoption.  Adoptive families may expect adoption- but there is almost inevitable a huge difference between their expectations for adoptive parenting and their realities.

When there is distance between expectation and reality, there is suffering.  There is grief.

Grief

Grief isn’t well tolerated in our culture even after tragedies where we expect people to grieve, such as death.  But grief with an ambiguous loss like adoption?  No one brings casseroles, sends cards or flowers.  There are no rituals.  In fact, we often try to paint adoption as a win/win/win.  We’ve spent a lot of effort over the past century insisting that adoptive families are the same as biological families.  That the mothers who lose children to adoption move on and forget.  There are still many many adoptive families who never disclose (or attempt to never disclose) to their child that the child is adopted!  Really!  It’s hard to express grief when it’s been made so clear that adoption related grief isn’t acceptable.  It’s not acceptable because there is no problem with adoption.

Except there is.  There are big problems.  Don’t get me wrong- there are lots of great things that happen in adoption as well.  But we cannot take out of the equation the truth that adoption begins with a tragic loss.  And for many adoptive families, the losses just keep growing.  The grief that accompanies raising a child with a special need is profound.  This was not their expectation.

Maybe the grief is so big that you just cannot bear to go there.  That’s ok.  Tell your heart that truth.  That you know the grief is there.  You aren’t ignoring it.  You just can’t do it right now.  Your grief wants to be acknowledge, but it just might understand that you’re doing the best you can.

Maybe you have finally reached a place where you are ready to look at the grief.  I’m holding space for you tonight.  May you find a compassionate person- a therapist, a spouse, a friend- who can hold space for your grief.  Who can offer their presence without judgment.  Please don’t grieve alone.  Allow yourself the experience of feeling that your grief is OK.  It’s OK to express.  That someone is willing to walk with you.  There is someone who isn’t afraid.

~

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Catch me in November as I experience the amazing honor of providing the Friday Keynote at the Adoption Knowledge Affiliates conference in Austin, TX!

Giving Yourself Compassion….

June 12, 2016

“Ugh, I can’t believe I DID that!”

“Things in my family are a mess…how did this happen?”

“Sometimes I just want to run away.”

“I wish I could STOP losing my temper and stay calm.  What is wrong with me?!?!”

These statements have something really important in common….maybe what they have in common for you is that they are all things you’ve thought.  Maybe even recently.  But even if you haven’t had all of these thoughts…or any of them…one thing they have in common is they all signal a moment of suffering.

Compassion emerges when we can mindfully see suffering.  We don’t minimize or exaggerate, but recognize it mindfully.  We lean into the suffering instead of running away.  When we see someone else’s suffering and then realize that we are familiar with the feeling of suffering…we can relate….compassion naturally emerges.

Self -Compassion Blog

So why does compassion get so difficult when we attempt to turn that toward ourselves?

Maybe you think you don’t deserve compassion.

Maybe you worry compassion will let you off the hook and then you won’t change.

Maybe you think compassion is ‘soft’ or will make you ‘soft.’

Maybe confronting your own suffering with kindness feels too unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

I get it.  I’ve moved through some of these worries myself, and I’ve been with moms and dads who have moved through those worries.

What I’ve been blown-away by is how a practice of self-compassion has improved my overall feelings of calm and contentedness.  It’s an idea I can apply to absolutely everything and I can guarantee that self-compassion hasn’t made me sit back on my laurels and accept the unacceptable…the exact opposite is true.

I’d absolutely love to connect with you more about self-compassion!  I’m hosting my first ever webinar on Tuesday (THIS Tuesday, June 14) and it’s all about self-compassion.  It’s only an hour, and you can watch it live or just receive the recording.  I listen to a lot of webinars on my drive into work (obviously I just listen, I don’t watch them while driving!!!) because I have a loooooong commute and love listening to different ideas during that commute.

If you’d like to check out a little more information about the webinar OR you are ready to register, you can CLICK HERE.

Do you have stories about using self-compassion in your own life?  Or ideas for future webinars?  Leave me a comment!  I’d love to hear from you!

~

 

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

 

{Webiner} Self-Compassion: Helping Connected Parents Connect to Themselves

June 6, 2016

I started studying self-compassion years ago when I could see how difficult it was for my clients to give themselves the grace that they could so easily give to others.  This intrigued me- I was curious.  So down the rabbit hole I went.  What I learned (which I should have expected) was that I, too, needed a good lesson in self-compassion.

You can read more about the webinar and register by clicking here!!

 

self compassion

One of the coolest things about self-compassion (well, according to this brain-geek therapist) is that there is so much SCIENCE behind the importance of self-compassion.  I hear over and over again from the parents I work with that self-care is just a joke.  First, they don’t have time.  Second, they have no one willing to watch their kids.  Third, even if they had time and baby-sitters, taking time away from their kids makes things WORSE and completely negates any type of self-care they were hoping to achieve.  Sometimes the parents I work with have to come to grips with the fact that pedicures, massages, and golf outings are just not a part of their current parenting journey.  But self-care is non-negotiable.  Absolutely non-negotiable.  Children with attachment wounds rely on us to be in a calm and connected place so that they begin to trust the safety of relationship.  I’ve realizing that self-compassion is a profoundly powerful experience that be accessed in a split second, can quickly calm the nervous system and allow us to move into a place that is safe for our children to connect with, AND when practiced repeatedly is actually a much more useful act of self-care than a martini or coffee with your best friend ever could be.  Self-compassion has the power to help you become your own best friend.  A kind, loving, and supportive friend.  Who is always there.

Why would I launch my webinar series with a webinar on self-compassion?  Parents want me to tell them what to do, not be all touchy-feeling about self-compassion.  Right?

I believe the impact of self-compassion can be so profound that I was determined to make it my very first ever webinar.  I’ve seen it happen in my own life, and I’ve seen it happen in the lives of my clients.  I’ve watch years of negative self-talk and the resulting stuck negative behaviors dramatically shift.  It’s as if they are able to see something that’s always been there- something they didn’t know was there but now that they can see it (self-compassion) it is so CLEAR that it has actually always been there.  My job is awesome.

I’m doing my first webinar on self-compassion because I’ve come to believe totally and completely that tools are absolutely useless when parents are in a state of reactivity.  On edge.  Overwhelmed.  Hopeless.  “Just tell me what to do!!!” is like a secret code to me- what I hear is “I am so overwhelmed that even if there was a magic answer (there isn’t) I wouldn’t be able to do it anyway!!!”  Self-compassion.  Self-compassion can help you shift into a state where if I told you what to do, you would actually be able to do it.  But the coolest thing is that once you shift into that open state that emerges from self-compassion, you very rarely even need to be told what to do.  The ‘what to do’ becomes clear.

Self compassion isn’t some sort of cure-all.  It takes practice and repetition.  But I’ve seen it become the gift that just keeps on giving (it’s a lot like glitter).  Something so simple.  Something that can be done in an instant.

I’d be honored if you’d join me! Please click here to read more and register!!

~

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Like what you read here?  To get even more support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

Be calm. Be confident. Be compassionate.

March 21, 2016

I think I finally get it.  Or at least, I’m getting it in a deeper way.  In a whole-body, brain and heart, I can feel it in my bones kind of way.

calm confident compassion.jpg

In the past few weeks, I’ve have the opportunity to experience first-hand some extremely dysregulated behavior in my office.  In two circumstances, I couldn’t do anything except stay calm and wait.  In a third, I could have chosen a different path (the situation was a bit more contained and I had more power than in the other two circumstances, which were much more vulnerable), but didn’t.  I fully embrace the truth that I am not triggered by a dysregulated child in the same way that a parent would be.  I don’t feel as wary.  I don’t have the same level of attachment involved, which always muddies the waters.  But I think it’s because of these very facts that I was able to maintain the clarity that allowed for this profound knowing to take place.

When children with attachment trauma become extremely dysregulated, enter the red zone, have a down-stairs brain tantrum, we are witnessing a pocket of their disorganized attachment.  I can feel this in my body.  Their nervous system becomes so distressed, so dysregulated, so disorganized.  You can hear this in their tone of voice, see it in their eyes.  Knowing I am seeing their disorganized attachment coming through brings me so much calmness.  So much compassion.  So much sadness.  So much clarity about what I need to do.

The very thing a disorganized system expects is to be met with what led to the disorganization in the nervous system.  It expects anger.  Fear.  Threats.  Dysregulation.  When we meet the pocket of disorganized attachment with the EXACT OPPOSITE, change happens.

When your child is throwing a chair, or a rock…screaming at you….spitting at you (all of these have happened to me recently).  When they suddenly behave as though they have to protect themselves from you by allowing their FIGHT response to surge forward, what they need is your calm presence.  Your strong presence.  Your confidence that you can handle this situation with a calm and compassionate stance.  Your commitment to loving even their parts that are hardest to love.  Your knowing that THIS is not who your child really is…this is just a terrified, disorganized pocket.

When you stand calm, confident, and compassionate eventually you invite your child into connection. This is a fact I have known and embodied for many years now.  What I have known for years, but only truly embodied in the past several weeks, is the truth that it is this calm, confident, and compassionate self that is laying one brick in the foundation of your child’s secure attachment.  New research in the field of memory reconsolidation PROVES that when your nervous system is expecting one thing (an angry, frightening, or frightened caregiver) and it is met with the opposite (a calm, confident, and compassionate caregiver) that THIS is the magic key.  This unexpected surprise– a disconfirming experience– actually unlocks and CHANGES a small portion of the disorganization in your child.

This must be done over and over and over again.  I wish that weren’t the truth.  I wish that this only needed to happen once. But your child didn’t have ONE experience that created a disorganized attachment system.  Your child had many.  Hundreds.  Thousands?  So many new experiences are required.  Luckily, they provide us with many opportunities. Our hurting children are so smart to continue to provide opportunities for a disconfirming experience.

Calm.  Confident.  Compassionate.  Not “lacking boundaries” or “giving in to everything your child wants.”  In every episode I can think of in my office, the disorganized behavior erupted after a limit was set.  In every case, we (the child’s parents and I) did not waiver on the limit.  We did stay calm, confident, and compassionate.  We freely and eagerly offered the opportunity to repair because the intensity of the shame that comes forward after an episode of dysregulation is usually powerful.  Because dysregulated individuals need to know that all parts of them are welcomed and loved.  We offered a drink.  Because I know I’m thirsty after releasing so much intense energy.  I promised the child I’d see them the next week and when I saw them again, I welcomed them with such genuine gladness to be reunited…another opportunity for a disconfirming experience.  I hold no residue of the trauma because I do not take it personally (it’s never personal…even when it is).

The infrequent experiences I have with severe dysregulation and disorganization- the level that truly strips me of all potential opportunities to intervene and forces me to just stay calm, confident, and compassionate- cannot compare to the constant dysregulation that you experience in your home.  I get it.  Secure attachment is born of 33% attunement.  33% rupture.  33% repair.  You won’t be able to stay calm, confident, and compassionate in every situation.  You’re going to get triggered.  You’re going to yell or be scary to your child.  This is an opportunity to repair.  Repair is another non-negotiable ingredient in secure attachment, and it is only through rupture that we are provided the opportunity to repair.  I am grateful for ruptures.  I am grateful that I can encourage you to aim for 33% attunement.  33% of the time you can stay calm, confident, and compassionate in the face of dysregulation.  Meet your child’s disorganized attachment with your calm, confident, and compassionate secure attachment.  And lay another brick- knowing that you are truly changing and rebuilding their disorganized attachment system.

~

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Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Join us in Austin on April 29 & 30 for our 3rd annual retreat for struggling parents raising challenging children- EMPOWER, EMBRACE, EMERGE.

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

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March 10, 2016

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Attachment & the Impact of Developmental Trauma

February 26, 2016

{I was reviewing a document I wrote for an academic purpose and I realized that some of this may be helpful for you, your friends, teachers, helpers, and extended family.  It’s definitely not written in my blog style of casual and conversational, but perhaps something in it will be just what you needed today.  The portion I’m printing below has been cut and paste from a longer document I wrote.}

HISTORY OF ATTACHMENT

Attachment theory, born in the 1950s, is one of the most researched and supported fields of psychology.  Attachment is a biological, relational, and regulatory system which means that attachment first ensures survival, and then lays the ground work for the child’s future ability to form and sustain healthy relationships, and well as develop healthy self- regulatory capacities.  Attachment is categorized as either secure or insecure.  Within the category of insecure attachment are three sub-categories, including insecure avoidant, insecure anxious-ambivalent, and insecure disorganized.

Children with secure attachment develop positive mental models about themselves, relationships, and the world- such as “I’m a good kid” or “I can trust others to be available and meet my needs.”  During early attachment research, Mary Ainsworth noted a consistent attachment cycle that existed between parent/child dyads.  The attachment cycle begins with an infant having a need, expressing the need, and then the parent meeting the need and soothing the child. Secure attachment is developed through the attachment cycle playing out hundreds of thousands of times for a child in the first years of their life.    When a parent is able to consistently and repeatedly meet this cycle in an attuned and responsive manner, the foundation is laid for secure attachment.

Secure attachment is highly correlated with positive mental health, self-esteem, relationships, emotional regulation, and even cognitive abilities.  Secure attachment is one of the best resiliency factors that a child can possess when facing Adverse Childhood Experiences. Dr. Daniel Siegel, founder of the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has identified these eight positive outcomes of secure attachment: body regulation, attuned communication, emotional balance, response flexibility, fear modulation, insight, empathy, and morality (Siegel, 2015).

Insecure attachment can develop due to various circumstances.  One can be that the attachment cycle is not adequately met, either with a caregiver who is not attuned to the child’s needs and doesn’t meet them in a timely manner, or a caregiver who meets needs in an unpredictable manner.  Approximately 82% of children who have a caregiver who is abusive or neglectful develop an insecure disorganized attachment (Carlson, et. al., 1989).  Other circumstances which negatively impact attachment include Adverse Childhood Experiences (Felitti, 1998), including loss of a caregiver.

When examining attachment in children, it is important to remember that attachment is specific to relationship, not to the child.   Additionally, it is never accurate to label anyone with one specific attachment style.  All people, children and adults, have pockets of secure and insecure attachment.  Having some pockets of insecure attachment does not suggest that a parent/child dyad is not attached, not does it suggest that the parent is ‘bad’ or doing something wrong.   All parents have areas of strength and opportunities for growth.

IMPACT OF ATTACHMENT & DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA

The National Child Traumatic Stress Task Force defines complex trauma as “multiple traumatic events that occurs within the family and community systems…that are chronic and begin in early childhood.” (Cook, Blaustein, Spinnzaola, and van der Kolk, 2003).  Complex trauma has been shown to have a profound impact across seven domains, including attachment, cognition, biology, affection regulation, behavioral control, dissociation/memory integration, and self-concept.  (Cook, Blaustein, Spinnzaola, and van der Kolk, 2003).  It is clear that complex trauma does not only impact a child’s relationships; it impacts their entire self.  It is crucial that parents and professionals all recognize the importance of supporting secure parent/child relationships as this has been found to be one of the most critical factors for promoting resiliency and mental health (Siegel, 2015).

The Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University has identified six early childhood experiences that increases a child’s risk for developing trauma related symptoms, including prenatal stress (substance exposure or other maternal stress), birth trauma, early medical trauma, abuse, neglect, and other childhood traumas such as loss of a parent, divorce, or natural disaster (Purvis, et. al., 2013).

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) (Felitti, 1998) is a groundbreaking public health research study that demonstrated a clear link between many types of childhood adversity and the onset of adult physical and mental health disorders.   Chronic adversities change the architecture of a child’s brain, altering the expression of genes that control stress hormone output, triggering an overactive inflammatory stress response for life, and predisposing a child to adult diseases.  (Nakazawa, 2015).   The initial ACES investigation included over 17,000 research participants between 1995 and 1997.  Since 1998, the ACE study has published approximately 70 additional research papers.  Some life events considered to be Adverse Childhood Experiences include the loss of a caregiver, being exposed to domestic violence, having a parent who abuses substances, or having a parent go to prison.

Attachment patterns are correlated between children and their parents at approximately 80% (Benoit, 1994).  The best predictor of a child’s attachment is his parent’s attachment state of mind.  Attachment is not genetic- it is developed through the relationship between children and their caregivers.  If we want children to develop secure attachment, we want them to be raised by parents with secure attachment or we want to support their parents in developing earned-secure attachment.

Attachment losses can have a significant and lasting impact on a child’s attachment.  A significant attachment loss shifts a child’s internal working model to things like “Sometimes parents just leave and never come back” or “I cannot trust parents to take care of me.”  These negative inner working model beliefs can have a profound impact on the way a child, who subsequently becomes an adult, navigates relationships, as well as on their sense of self-worth.  Infants, toddlers, and young children who are not yet storing explicit memories (memories that can be recalled later in life) are still storing implicit memories in the form of the inner working models.  Because of the nature of memory processing, implicit memories are very difficult to change and often remain persistent throughout a person’s life (Siegel, 2015).

An important and often over-looked aspect of attachment is how a child’s experience with attachment relationships lays the groundwork for their emotional and physical regulatory cycles.  Children with secure attachment experiences develop the capacity for self-regulation.  They manage stress well and develop positive behavioral and relationship patterns.  Children with insecure attachment experiences develop an impaired regulatory system which has a profound impact on the child’s ability to cope with and manage stress (Schore, 2003).

When children have a history of attachment disruptions or other attachment trauma, providing them with experiences of secure attachment with caregivers who have the capacity to provide secure attachment, is a crucial part of the healing process.  Minimizing future losses and trauma is also critical.

References

Benoit & Parker, (1994), Stability and Transmission of Attachment Across the Generations, Child Development Vol. 65 No. 5, pp. 1444-1456.

Carlson, V., et. al. (1989). Disorganized/disoriented attachment relationships in maltreated infants. Devel. Psychol. 25:525-531.

Cook, A., et. al. (2005). Complex Trauma In Children and Adolescents.  Psychiatric Annals, 35:5; May, 2005.

Felitti, V., et. al. (1998).  Relationships of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.  American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Vol. 14, Issue 4 (245-258).

Gray, D. (2012).  Nurturing Adoptions.  Creating Resilience After Neglect and Trauma.  Jessica Kingsley Publisher.

Nakazawa, D.J. (2015-07-07). Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal. Atria Books.

Purvis, K., et. al. (2013).  Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI): A Systematic Approach to Complex Developmental Trauma.  Child & Youth Services, 34:360-386.

Schore, A. (2003). Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self.  WW Norton & Co.

Siegel, D. (2015). The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. Guilford Press.

~

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Like what you read here?  To get more trauma momma support, click here to sign up for my monthly (or less) newsletter!

Join us in Austin on April 29 & 30 for our 3rd annual retreat for struggling parents raising challenging children- EMPOWER, EMBRACE, EMERGE.

Near Albuquerque??  I’d love to meet you at the New Mexico Adoptive Parents Conference on March 12!  I’ll be presenting a workshop “Check your Engine! Cultivating Self-Regulation with Dysregulated Children” as well as the closing keynote “Embracing Ourselves, Emerging through Compassion”

Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

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