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TPC at the Walk for Hope

This October, TPC friend, Noelle Schofield, clinician, Elizabeth Harrison, and program director, Kelli Walker-Jones (left to right) participated in the 30th Annual Walk for Hope. The Walk for Hope is an event that raises awareness and funding for research and treatment of mental illness. In addition to walking, the TPC Team raised over $800 for the cause. We walk and we give for our amazing clients.

About the Walk for Hope

In the nearly 30 years since it began, our flagship charity event has helped raise millions of dollars towards better understanding—and, eventually, maybe even curing—illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, and anorexia. 100% of the money raised by participants directly funds local mental health research at the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Psychiatry. And, as critically, it helps call attention to the stigma and significance of these often invisible illnesses, which affect as many as 1 in 5 American adults.

Each year, thousands of participants come together at the Angus Barn in Raleigh to show solidarity for family, friends, and community members living with a mental illness. After the walk is over, we celebrate our achievement with a family-friendly afternoon of food, games, music, and prizes.

Every step gives us hope, and hope keeps us moving forward. In 2018, we’ll strive to go further, and do more, than ever before. We’d be so pleased to have you walk beside us.

How to Talk to Your Kids about Racism

The events in Charlottesville and the continued tension in our country around race and racism have a lot of parents wondering how to talk to our children about racism- not to mention a lot of despair as we see the young men and women holding torches and glorifying nazi flags. How do we as adults teach the next generation to love and not hate? Meg Hamilton, LPC recently shared a thorough blog post on the subject, citing the following article about how to talk to kids at various ages and developmental stages. The idea that children are too young to know about racism is false. As Hamilton notes, studies show that children as young as 2 are learning from implicit and societal/systemic messages in their world.

I hope these articles (and the links in each) may help us to find a point to begin this kind of conversation with our little ones.

How to Talk to Kids About Racism

How to Talk to Kids About Racism: An Age by Age Guide

–Elizabeth Harrison, MSW, MDIV, LCSW

A Unifying Principle for Healthy Relationships

The legendary physicist, Albert Einstein, spent the latter part of his career searching for a unifying principle of the universe. Also known as a Theory of Everything, Einstein believed there is a single law underlying the physical forces that make up this world. Alas, he never found this holy grail of physics and the search continues.

Recently I have started wondering if there might be a unifying principle that explains why some relationships can be healed, while other relationships seem destined for disconnection and despair. As unlikely as that sounds, let me explain why I believe it is true.

Sometimes I begin working with a couple that appears to have every reason to heal what ails the relationship. They have common values, they communicate clearly, and their interests are similar. On paper they look like a couple that will absolutely make it. Yet, there are times when these couples break apart anyway.

Then there are couples who seem to have little going for them. Their political and religious views differ. They struggle to communicate with each other. They don’t enjoy many of the same activities. Yet, occasionally a couple I work with that has all of these strikes against them is able to reestablish a healthy, loving connection.

These surprises in terms of which couples make it (or don’t) caused me to to begin looking for a constant principle that shows up in the relationships that experience healing. If it isn’t shared values, good communication, and common interests, what might it be?

The eureka moment came for me one day as I watched with admiration as a wife and husband, who are very different from one another, started to experience healing after some hard work in counseling. How were they were doing it? They were sending signals to each other that the other person’s needs were important to them.

Notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say they were filling or meeting each other’s needs. That’s not always possible in relationships. This couple was simply indicating that the needs of the other person mattered to them. They did this by asking curious questions, showing empathy for the other’s struggle, and wondering if they could partner in some way to deal with the needs each one had.

Observing this couple’s expression of concern for the needs of one another caused me to think back on many other couples I have worked with over the years. In virtually every case where healing took place this principle appeared. Even in relationships where a crisis as serious as infidelity was part of the story, the ability of each person to notice and respond to the other’s needs was a major reason the relationship was repaired.

So, I give you the Unifying Principle for Healthy Relationships: show interest, concern, and compassion for your partner’s needs. If each person does that for the other in the relationship, all manner of hard things can be overcome.

–Jack McKinney

Welcome to Holland, A Metaphor & Reflection

In honor of Autism Awareness Month I thought I would share this essay by Emily Perl Kingsley. I was first given this essay about 15 years ago when my oldest son was about age 4 and had been diagnosed with several disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. The therapist in me recognized immediately the brilliance of the writing; the mother in me wanted to ball it up and throw it across the room. Now, all these years later I can read this and smile. It is a beautiful metaphor for what it has been like for me (the mom) as well. The therapist part of me wonders how many others who have experienced some sort of ambiguous loss may also find the words helpful. My guess is maybe.

By Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

Shared by Shelley T. Kraft


“Butterflies come from what?” we ask as children. “A caterpillar? No way!” Life is full of paradoxes. It’s fun to observe dog owners who proudly show off their obedient pets. I wonder who trained whom. The “owner” pets when the dog sidles up; the “owner” opens the door when the dog whimpers & scratches; the “owner” is usually persuaded by sad eyes to let the pet on the sofa or the bed, even when it is forbidden. Hmm.

Thinking that we have control over our lives is another paradox. Frankly, I like to pretend that I do have some say in my life because when I feel out of control, I feel anxious and I don’t like it. Sometimes I wonder, “Do we choose our parents, or our bodies, or at which social level we are born? Don’t we exist on a tiny planet, in a small solar system, in a gigantic galaxy, in boundless space…? How much control can I realistically have?”

Two famous prayers help me to address the matter of control. The Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr implies three great questions. “How do I live with what I cannot control?” “How do I change what is within my reach?” “How do I know the difference?” As humans, whether we recognize it or not, we reply to these questions every day. Addressing these issues is really the heart of psychotherapy!

The second is the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Taking for granted that hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness and sadness are normal parts of life (“Life isn’t fair?”), the prayer then provides responses: love, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy. It ends with three famous paradoxes: “in giving we receive, in pardoning we are pardoned, and in dying we are born to eternal life.” So, I may be a small creature in a huge universe, but I can be generous to those around me. I can forgive and so refuse to perpetuate anger. One day, I can do my part by dying and leaving things to the next generation. Perhaps I can relax when I realize the world is not my responsibility after all.

–Robert Cooke, D.Min.

The Unexpected

It is often hard to welcome the unexpected. I appreciate routine and predictability
When the unexpected happens, it can jarring and frustrating.
15 years ago, for some unexpected reason, I stopped along the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway and picked up a small, stray dog. Turns out he had tags so I spent 24 hours of my vacation trying to locate the owners and when I did, they did not want him.
Unexpectedly, I had a dog. My husband received an unexpected phone call telling him he had a dog too.
A new pet changed our routine and our two cat’s routine! Change is another thing that can be jarring and unwelcome. Walking, feeding, training, and even though the dog was free…there is no free dog. Just consult my Vet!
As we struggled with this new and unexpected being in our life, we began to fall in love and notice what a gift this dog was to our family. Our preteen girls could agree on loving Gizmo, the dog when they could not agree on anything else. When the entire family was tense, Gizmo’s jubilance at just seeing us could release our anxiety.
This is not an advertisement for adopting a dog although you could do worse!

This is just noticing that” unexpected” and “change” bring lots of different stories with them. The first story is not always the one that becomes the true story.

We all like to be able to predict our days and change is often met with a gasp or a moan. Like a change in leadership, a change in colleagues, a change in life style, but add “unexpected” to the mix and we are often left flat-footed not knowing how to move forward. In those times, I remember the Gizmo story and tell myself to wait…there is more to come. The true story may be trying to emerge.

What stories carry you through those trying times of the unexpected?

—Kelli Walker-Jones, M.Div.

Letters of Thanksgiving

Dr. Lyman Ferrell, once a supervisor of mine, shared a valuable ritual with me many years ago.  It has now become my ritual, and I would like to share it with you.  He told me that he liked to write a letter each November to someone (often someone from his past) who had changed his life for the better.

I loved the idea, and wrote my first letter to a former friend from high school.  She was the most popular girl in our school.  I wasn’t.  She was sunny, friendly and outgoing.  I wasn’t particularly.  She was surrounded by a large circle of close friends and I was not part of that circle.  But when I got mononucleosis and had to be absent for 2 months, she sent me three coral rosebuds and a note, “Get well soon.  I miss you.  Love, Kay.”

Three coral rosebuds.  I have never forgotten how beautiful they were.  Even more beautiful was the feeling that someone I admired had noticed me, valued me, missed me.  I was never quite the same after that, and it felt utterly delicious to surprise her 20 years later with a letter telling how much that one act of kindness had affected me.

This year I am writing a letter to my primary care physician.  He is young enough to be my son, and I inherited him when my beloved doctor of 20+ years moved to Charlotte.  I was prepared not to like him.  But Andy has helped me more than any other doctor to make some much-needed improvements in my health.  He has done this, frankly, by never making me feel even one bit of shame about certain “bad numbers” like A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol.  He only encourages, and it always feels genuine.

I look forward to writing my letter this Thanksgiving.  I hope to write many more letters in time.  Oddly, the ideas for letters don’t run out.  They multiply.  It seems that the process of choosing a recipient only primes the pump for more.  I think that’s how gratitude is.  Once we feel it and share it, it just makes more.

If you were to sit down and write a Thanksgiving letter this year, who would you choose as your recipient, and why?

–Suzanna Luper, M.Div., LPC

TPC in the Community



On Sunday, October 9th, three of TPC’s clinicians participated in the 28th Annual Thad & Alice Eure Walk for Hope.  The event is hosted annually in Raleigh by the Foundation of Hope for Research and Treatment of Mental Illness.  Hollon Benson, Elizabeth Harrison, and Alana Frazier strolled with their toddlers for the 5K walk from Angus Barn through a portion of Umstead Park.  The group was also joined by Hollon’s mother and a close friend of Elizabeth.  The weather turned out beautifully, despite Hurricane Matthew’s presence the previous day.

This year the walk raised $850,000!  One hundred percent of the money raised funds local mental health research at the UNC Neurosciences Hospital in Chapel Hill.  TPC is grateful to participate in such an important and impactful event!

Back to School

It’s that time of year when, for some, the transition to school begins.  Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or last year of high school, change can be hard.  It can also be new, fun, and exciting.  There is a mixture of laughter and tears, excitement and nerves, even anticipation and fear.  I often talk with others about the dichotomy between experiencing a change that is considered “positive” or “exciting” and subsequent experiences of stress, feeling drained, and overwhelmed.  We might expect these emotional responses when we undergo difficult transitions, but they can sneak up on us during other times.  Change and transition are a part of all of our narratives and some appear struggle more than others.  As a parent who sent one child to her first year of preschool and another child to Kindergarten this week, I feel immersed in a sea of transition.  I am working to be kind and patient with myself, cry when I need to, and remember how much we can grow when we are stretched outside of our comfort zone.  For those of you experiencing your own change and transition, I hope that you’ll join me in showing yourself grace as you journey forward.

–Alana Frazier, MSW, LCSW

Girls and Sex

Talking to teenagers is hard work – especially for parents. But being a teenager is perhaps even more difficult.

I have a theory that we often respond to our teenagers out of our own fear and regret. Looking back with the hindsight of lessons learned the hard way, we speak to them as if speaking to our younger selves: “don’t make the same mistakes I made…you should not worry about that…make wiser choices.” This, I would argue, comes from a place of love and a desire to protect our precious children from danger, and more directly, from pain. And yet, we miss them entirely in the process. This dynamic is perhaps no more evident than when talking (or not talking) to our teenagers about sex.

In her most recent book, Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, Peggy Orenstein addresses this issue with compelling research and testimonies from young women as they reflect on their adolescent sexual experiences. What we discover is an impossibly complicated world of social media and instant access, in which young women are told to be “hot but not sexy,” “pure but not prude,” and perhaps most devastating, feel pressure to please but not to expect or experience their own pleasure. Self-objectification, or “the pressure on young women to reduce their worth to their bodies and to see those bodies as a collection of parts that exist for others’ pleasure” is associated with an array of negative mental health outcomes, including “depression, lower GPA, distorted body image, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and reduced sexual pleasure.”  All of this is perpetuated by a world in which virginity is lauded but not explained, shame and stigma follow a girl and her “number” and sexual assault, coercion and excessive alcohol and substance use are rampant in high schools and college campuses. In the absence of trusted adults to listen and explain this complicated landscape, there is the Internet and the $97 Billion global porn industry, accessible by just a click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger on an iPhone.

A public health issue: 

All together, the federal government has spent $1.7 billion plus on abstinence-only programs since 1982. Orenstein writes, “that money might just as well have been set on fire.” Research shows that while “pledgers” (teens who publicly commit to remain a virgin till marriage) delayed intercourse for only a few months longer than their non-pledging peers, when they did become sexually active, they were less likely to protect themselves or their partners against pregnancy or disease. They also do not have fewer sexual partners than control groups and are as much as 60% more likely to become unintentionally pregnant.  The opposite also is not true: there is no evidence to suggest that providing accurate information makes teens more likely to engage in sexual behavior. Studies from the Netherlands actually found that teens who were knowledgeable about sex abstained longer, had fewer sexual partners, were less likely to have STDs and unwanted pregnancy and were more likely to describe sexual experiences as reciprocal and respectful.

“But they don’t want to hear about that from me” 

Though comprehensive sexual education is finally becoming the standard, we cannot rely solely on our schools to provide these conversations. What we need are more conversations- though they be awkward and uncomfortable- with our children about sex, intimacy, and healthy relationships. In a 2012 survey, most participants said they wish they’d had more information, especially from Mom or Dad, before their first sexual experiences. “They particularly wanted to know more from us about relationships and the emotional side of sex.” So yes, they DO want to hear it from YOU. Our children are looking to us, as they always have, for cues about how to feel and how to navigate their world.  Not discussing sex increases shame, which ensures that it stays hidden and secret, which contributes to inaccurate knowledge about safety and prevention.  And if you, as a parent, truly feel unable to have such conversations, I hope you will consider trusting their therapist to do so in a respectful, nonjudgmental and professional manner.

In her conclusion, Orenstein writes, “I want girls to revel in their body’s sensuality without being reduced to it. I want them to be safe from disease, unwanted pregnancy, cruelty, dehumanization and violence…I want to raise a generation of girls who have a voice; who expect equal treatment in the classroom, the workplace and in the bedroom.“ As a therapist, I agree. I want girls to have a safe place where sex is not shamed. Where it can be talked about openly, honestly and comprehensively.  My hope for our daughters, and my clients, is that they feel cared about, heard, understood and above all, safe. And I hope they know how wonderful, worthy and deserving they are, and seek out relationships with people who reflect that truth.

–Elizabeth Harrison, MDIV MSW LCSW

Note: The focus of this blog is on how we address young women, as that is the focus of the book in reference. However, it should not go without saying that we must be having these conversations with our sons as well if we are truly going to make meaningful change for future generations. 

*All quotes, studies and factual information referenced in this blog post are cited in Peggy Orenstein’s book, Girls and Sex. For brevity, exact footnotes are not included.