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Are you having difficulty managing your child’s unpredictable or defiant behaviors at home or school?

Are you struggling to see your child in emotional distress without any answers?

Are you at the end of your rope and just want your family to be happy and get along?

Sometimes kids, like adults, can benefit from therapy.  Therapy can help kids develop problem-solving skills and also teach them the value of seeking help.  Therapists can help kids and families cope with stress and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.  Many kids need help dealing with school stress, such as homework, test anxiety, bullying, or peer pressure.  Others need help to discuss their feelings about family issues, particularly if there’s a major transition, such as a divorce, move, death of a loved one or serious illness.

Amy Birchill is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor and has worked with children for over 17 years both in the education and mental health fields.  She has worked with parents and children ages 2-18 years with a variety of behaviors and emotional issues including:

  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Oppositional behaviors
  • Grief and loss
  • Chronic illness (child and family member)
  • Peer social skills difficulties at school/home

and many other life transitions that cause stress for children and their families.

Therapeutic Services

Individual Therapy


Play TherapyPlay is the language of children and through play children are able to communicate their feelings and connect with other children and the adults in their lives. Play provides the means to think creatively and most importantly, manage overwhelming emotions due to trauma or other stressors and coping skills for developing emotional regulation.


When teens are going through a rough time, such as family troubles or problems in school, they might feel more supported if they talk to a therapist. They may be feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by what’s been happening — and need help sorting out their feelings, finding solutions to their problems, or just feeling better. That’s when therapy can help.

Group Therapy

Groups are designed to offer children and teens opportunities to share their experiences and support each other in experiencing positive interactions that lead to improved coping skills and better therapeutic outcomes. Groups are generally comprised of children and teens in similar age ranges and presenting symptoms (grief groups, social skills groups, coping with anxiety, etc.) Groups run 10-12 weeks in length, depending on the content and purpose and offer resources and supports for parents to use with their child to support group participation.

Parent/Child Therapy

Parents are the most important healing factor in their child’s lives. Parents are taught specific skills to build trust and relationship with their child that will increase their child’s positive communication and behaviors and decrease negative behaviors.  The interaction between children’s problems and their families is always complex. Sometimes children develop problems as a way of signaling that there is something wrong in the family. Other times the entire family becomes distressed because the child’s problems are so disruptive. In all cases, children and families heal faster when they work together.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique social system with its own structure and patterns of communication. It tends to view change in terms of the interaction between family members. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health. The therapist will make some decisions about how and when to involve some or all members of the family in the therapy. A family therapist teaches family members about how families function in general and, in particular, how their own functions. Helps the family focus less on the member who has been identified as ill and focus more on the family as a whole and assists in identifying conflicts and anxieties and helps the family develop strategies to resolve them. During therapy sessions, the family’s strengths are used to help them handle their problems. All members take responsibility for problems. Some family members may need to change their behavior more than others.

School Observation/Consultation

When your child is displaying challenging behaviors in a school/day care environment, it is best to observe them in the classroom setting to help assess what triggers may be leading to behaviors and to develop ways to best address the behaviors. It also can help a teacher feel supported in learning how to best help your child succeed.


To help maintain confidentiality of my clients services, I do not accept managed care or insurance reimbursement. All managed care plans involve direct clinical management by the plan’s case managers. If you access therapy though your managed care plan, it makes it necessary for your therapist to disclose anything and everything related to your case to your managed care provider. I will generate a receipt with the adequate information provided if you would like to try to get partial or full reimbursement from you insurance plan with out of network provider privileges.

Payment Policy

Payment is required at the time of services and can be made by cash or check. I do not accept credit cards at this time.

Social Network Safety Highlights Need for Safety at a Deeper Level

An Australian man was charged with murder for allegedly using Facebook to lure an 18-year-old woman to her death.  Christopher Dannevig, 20, posed as a wildlife worker to entice the animal-loving teen, Nona Belomesoff, to the reserve in Sydney.  Dannevig allegedly called himself Jason Green in his fake account on the social networking website, reaching out to Belomesoff and asking her to meet him at the reserve to discuss a job opportunity with an animal welfare group. Belomesoff ‘s family said she was told she would have to join “Green” and another employee on an overnight camping trip to nearby research habitats. (Aol News 5/17/10)  Facebook released a statement in the wake of the death saying, “This case serves as a painful reminder that all Internet users must use extreme caution when contacted over the Internet by people they do not know.”  Police expressed a good point in reaction to this death saying, “For parents, you wouldn’t invite a complete stranger into your homes and have them sit down with your child for hours on end, so don’t let them sit on the internet talking to strangers for hours on end.”

Parents hear about internet safety all the time.  They are told to obtain their child’s passwords, “friend” their kids so they can see what’s on their pages, and many other monitoring and safekeeping ideas.  The fact of the matter is for the one site their child may be on that they know about, there may be 3 or 4 sites their child actively uses that they don’t know about.  These sites like Facebook, MySpace, Flixster, Bebo, Twitter, etc. are large in number and even the most diligent parent in the world would have difficulty keeping up with them.  In a previous blog I stated “one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is perspective and the skills needed to utilize this gift, include listening, thinking about what is heard, and the ability to respond in a thoughtful, respectful manner, all can be taught through relationship and life experience, including the examples set by the adults in a child’s life.”  This absolutely applies to your child’s safety, be it internet safety or meeting someone on the street or in the halls at school.

Parents assume that their child is smart and knows the right thing to do.  This may be the case in many situations, but you won’t know they have the sense to do the safe thing unless you talk to them about the potential dangers that humans can do to one another and how to avoid them.  The one sure thing that all parents must accept is that the discussion of the threats they may face in the world needs to happen in a preventative and educational way that is appropriate to your child’s maturity.  You can’t protect your child from every threat individually, so spend time talking about how to be safe in the world by looking out for danger and developing the ability to question a person or situation as judge it as safe or suspect.  Help them develop instincts that guide their choices and prevent them from being in a dangerous situation they can’t get out of.

Originally published at:

Talking Sex With Your Teen

What age do I have “the talk?”  “What do I say?”  “Will they hear what I say as permission to have sex?”  These and many other questions cross the minds of most parents when it comes to educating their children about sex.  The answers to these questions vary greatly depending on each family’s value system, faith, life experiences, etc.  The one sure thing that all parents must accept is that the discussion needs to happen in a preventative and educational way that is appropriate to your child’s maturity.  Below is a list for parents to consider when approaching this topic with kids: (from the Children Now website: )

Here are 10 helpful tips for you in talking with children about any difficult topic:

  1. Start early
  2. Initiate conversations with your child
  3. …Even about sex and sexuality
  4. Create an open environment
  5. Communicate your own values
  6. Listen to your child
  7. Try to be honest
  8. Be patient
  9. Use everyday opportunities to talk
  10. Talk about it again. And, again.

Some ideas to get the conversation started:

  • Families can talk about the pressures teens face when it comes to having sex.
  • Is it easy to “just say no?”
  • Aside from pregnancy, what are some of the other consequences that teens face when they choose to engage in sexual activity?
  • What are some of the consequences they face when they choose not to?
  • What messages does the media send about sex and sexual behavior?
  • How do TV shows and movies tend to portray pregnant and/or sexually active teens? Are these portrayals realistic?

Many churches also offer some form of faith-based curriculum to assist parents and kids in this discussion.  The Youth Department and St. Luke’s Center for Counseling and Life Enrichment at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church will be hosting “Sex, God & Me” for 3 weeks starting March 25th, 5:30-7 pm.  For information and/or to register, please call 713-402-5092.

Originally published at:

Resolutions: New Year, New Outlook

As we embark on this New Year and the idea of resolutions, I am reminded of the constant challenge to reach those who need help and to let them know it is okay to ask for help.  The St. Luke’s Center for Counseling and Life Enrichment is committed to promoting two major ideas:

1. We all need help sometimes with challenges in our lives; and
2. It’s okay to ask for that help and to be able to do it without   shame or embarrassment.

What if this year we all resolved to embrace these ideas and promote emotional health and happiness for our children, teens, family members, co-workers, and community at large?  What if our resolutions were to look for ways to help each other within our families?  To listen, to support, to say kind words, or be aware of the hurtful ones we say and the impact they have?  Maybe this is the year you help that family member or friend who is feeling depressed to make that call for help and know that they don’t have to do it alone and won’t be judged for it?

The subject of therapy and mental health in general is one that evokes strong opinions as it is one that is often attached to strong emotions and experiences.  In the same way that not all experiences any professional are not always positive, not all experiences with therapists have been positive ones. Unfortunately when someone goes to a therapist for help, it is because they are vulnerable and in need if the right support and a bad experience can cause great hurt that may take years and many experiences to heal.  Therapists should be aware of this and held to a high standard to ensure the safety of their clients. Licensed therapists (regulated by a state board) are held to these standards and it is important to make sure the therapist you plan to see is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Psychologist or Psychiatrist (PhD, MD). These titles and licensures vary from state to state and it is important for therapeutic clients to know that you can ask about the licensure and training of your therapist.  A good therapist will empower a client to feel ask questions, make informed decisions, and feel safe in counseling.

Sometimes people don’t get the help they need because they don’t know where to turn. When you’re not feeling well, it can be a struggle to take the necessary steps to help yourself get better. This is only made worse by negative attitudes and assumptions that people who receive help are flawed in some way.  Ignoring mental health problems, thinking someone will “snap out of it” or that asking for help is something to be ashamed of can be more devastating that not attending to your emotional distress and can lead to long term unresolved problems and resentments. Sometimes getting help is a matter of changing your mind and letting go of the expectations and misconceptions of others who may not understand.  We all need help at some point in our lives. We do not have to endure the painful emotions we experience during these times alone.  There are trustworthy, competent, safe people who are trained and available to help.  There are many websites such as, designed to help educate people about their rights as consumers of counseling services. State Regulatory Boards also have websites that provide information on licensees and therapist finder resources (Texas can be found at

This year try making a resolution that will enhance the quality of your life by being there for someone you care about when they need you most, or by caring for yourself so much that you get the help you need.  Working towards one’s own happiness and fulfillment is always a good endeavor, as it benefits not only us, but our families and our friendships, which should help us all to have a happy new year.

Originally published 1/4/2010 at:


A friend of mine once shared this joke with me, “after the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the backseat of the car.  His father asked him three times what was wrong.  Finally, the boy replied, ‘That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys.’”

A cute and funny anecdote, but also a great example of the difference in understanding and perspective, and a way to provoke thoughts on raising kids with accepting values and judgment.

Parents want to make sure their children know “right” from “wrong” and make the “right” choices in their lives.  But the truth is: life doesn’t present us with a clear definition of “right” and “wrong.”   What’s “wrong” for you may be “right” for another.  Humans form their concepts of what is “right” for them and what is “wrong” for them based on many factors including the rules their parents provide or don’t provide them, laws, religion, and (more impactfully in many cases) life experiences.  It is in the experiences of everyday life that we learn our lessons and develop our values and our ability to judge others and situations.  We often refer to certain events with children as “teachable moments,” but, adults have them as well.  The difference is that, as adults, we often think we already know the answers and don’t realize we could have learned from that moment, or we reject a differing thought or decision because it doesn’t match with what we have already learned or experienced. What makes life so interesting is the fact that we all do not think the same.  It can be a source of great frustration or a source of joy to be able to learn from someone else. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is perspective and the skills needed to utilize this gift – such as listening, thinking about what is heard, and responding in a thoughtful, respectful manner. All can be taught through relationship and life experience, including the examples set by the adults in a child’s life.  Raising children to know that it is okay for others to believe different things and to make different decisions (clarifying that laws are laws and it is still not okay to hurt others), will help that child grow to be a happier, healthier person and “pay it forward”  in raising their family to be open minded and learners throughout life.

Originally published at:

The Gift of Presence

Have you ever really considered how and why you play with your children?  Do you realize how incredibly meaningful playing with your children is to them emotionally and developmentally?  Play is the natural language of children and it is how children express themselves.  Play is also key in supporting healthy social and emotional development.  Social and emotional development leads to the stability a child needs for learning.  Schools are often limited in time offering opportunities for social and emotional development with increased pressure to have children meeting academic deadlines.  Less and less time is spent creating environments for children to learn to be in the world with others.  Spending a few minutes a day playing with your child can help in the following ways:

•         The child will be emotionally filled up to go out and meet the emotional demands in the world. (When a child is emotionally depleted there can be deterioration in his/her behavior.)

•         The child will have increased coping skills.

•         The child will likely have a higher frustration tolerance.

•         The child will usually display a decrease in sibling rivalry and increase in their ability to wait for parental attention.

It is important for a child, as it is with adults, to have a safe place where she/he will not be judged, but will be accepted for who they are.  As a parent, wouldn’t it feel amazing if your relationship with your child could be this safe place?  For as few as fifteen to thirty minutes each day no phone, no chores, and no distractions.  Just time playing with your child, doing the activities they choose to do. House rules stay the same.  The child is in charge.  This gives the child a safe space where the child is in charge and is able to make decisions.  Try not to ask questions.  Try not to teach anything.  Do not judge the child’s actions, it is play, it is their communication.  Allow your child to express any emotions; positive, negative, or otherwise.  If you judge all of their actions in play you shut down your child’s desire to express their thoughts and feelings with you.  You still teach your child the rules and limits of the world and children know when it is playtime and when it is not.  It is important that you are fully engaged with your child to fill them up emotionally.  It is about being present.  This builds the child’s self esteem and tells the child that he/she is important to you.  It also establishes that your child can come to you and tell you anything and know you’ll listen and be there for them.  Play gives you the relationship that will enable them to come to you as adolescents, teenagers, college students and so on.  If parents can let go of their chore lists, agendas, and all else for a little time each day with their children, it will enable their children to experience the unconditional acceptance and love we all long for.

Originally published at: