Being Mom To A Middle Schooler Can Be The Toughest Gig Of All

April 5, 2018

Although her oldest child, Ben, is 10 years old, Andrea Scher, 44, feels like a new mom again.

Scher suffered from maternal depression after Ben was born, eventually recovering with the help of antidepressants and psychotherapy. She was understandably relieved that her depression didn’t return after the birth of her second son.

But now she’s struggling again.

Once more, Scher is having anxiety attacks and it’s difficult for her to sleep through the night.

“At 3 a.m., an electric current of fear shoots through my body, because I worry about my kids and how I am doing as a mom. My nervous system is in overdrive. I can’t believe I’m feeling this way all over again,” she says.

Scher is not alone. Many women assume that the first year of motherhood is the most precarious time for their mental health. But a recent study published in Developmental Psychology finds that maternal depression is actually most common among mothers of middle school children as they catapult into the tween years.

“Parenting a tween is harder than mothering an infant,” says Scher, who lives in Berkeley, Calif. “When Ben was a baby, I worried about his sleeping and eating schedules, but those were things I could kind of control. Now, I obsess over how much freedom I should give him when he’s playing Pokémon Go with his friends, and how I can monitor what he’s doing online. In many ways, he’s more on his own now, and I have to trust him to make the right choices.”

The study authors, psychologists Suniya Luthar, a professor at Arizona State University, and Lucia Ciciolla, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, surveyed 2,247 well-educated mothers with children ranging in age from infants into early adulthood. They asked the women about their personal well-being, including their mental health, parenting experiences and perceptions of their children’s behavior.

They discovered that the years surrounding the onset of adolescence are among the most difficult times for mothers. During this period of transition, women can feel lonely, empty and dissatisfied with their mothering roles. The researchers also found that compared to mothers of infants, these women experience the lowest levels of maternal happiness and are even more stressed out than new parents.

Luthar says that tweener moms reported feeling the most unhappy or depressed when their children are in middle school, but that the transition begins when children are 10 years old. Parents of teens are actually happier than parents of middle schoolers.

After the birth of her oldest daughter, Samantha McDonald, 40, experienced postpartum depression and at one point, she even believed that her baby would be better off without her. Things improved when she began taking antidepressants and seeing a therapist. But over the last few years, the stress of raising her daughter, who is now 12, has had a tremendous impact on her emotional health.

“Ever since my daughter was 10 or 11, I’ve found myself feeling sad and irritable because I don’t know how to help her fit in at school or resolve conflicts with her girlfriends,” McDonald, who lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., says. “And even if I did, she doesn’t trust that I know the right thing to do, or that I can comfort her, and that’s heartbreaking. I put my career on hold because I always wanted to be a mom. It used to feel fulfilling, but now I find it unrewarding and stressful.”

It is also a time when kids catapult into puberty. Hormones surge, while affectionate hugs are replaced with eye rolls and dismissive behavior. Most mothers aren’t ready for such a seismic shift in behavior.

And the tweens aren’t the only ones experiencing hormonal fluctuations.

Psychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine says, “In addition to the hormonal swings that accompany our children’s tween years, women’s hormones are shifting as perimenopause begins.”

Brizendine says that for most women, estrogen and progesterone levels start decreasing after age 42. With estrogen depletion, women may feel less nurturing. As a result, they can feel more agitated with themselves, their partners and their children. Additionally, mothering tweens doesn’t offer the hormonal reward — the oxytocin “love rush” — that caring for little children provides.

It’s no wonder that these monumental emotional and physical changes substantially increase a woman’s risk for midlife depression.

Yet while there are many blogs, classes, books and hotlines dedicated to helping new mothers, these resources barely exist for midlife mothers experiencing the feelings that Scher and McDonald describe.

Just as a laboring mother may need a doula to help her cross into the threshold of motherhood, more seasoned mothers need external support, too — from someone who may not be able to take away their sadness, but is present to witness their pain.

Midlife mothers may have lost this foundation when their “mom friends” disbanded as their children grew older. Finding a cohort like the one that guided them during the early years of parenting can help. Luthar says that it’s important to have friends to lean on through this tenuous process because mothers raising tweens still need the same validation they once had when they embarked on their parenting journeys.

Scher is surviving this tumultuous time by opening up to her friends and asking them for support.

“Whenever I need reassurance, I force myself to reach out,” she says. “I encourage my sons to speak up when they need help, and I must advocate for myself in this way, too.”

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.

This Psychotherapist Has Patients Lace up to Help Them Get Back on Their Feet

March 29, 2018, from Runner’s World,

Friday, January 12, 2018, 8:56 am

By moving from the couch to the roads, she’s able to reach her patients in a new way.

Nine years ago, Sepideh Saremi barely recognized herself. As the primary caregiver for a family member battling cancer, she was dealing with depression and anxiety.In search of healing, Los Angeles-based Saremi started therapy and running. Session by session and mile by mile, she built herself back up.

Together these were catalysts for a big change: Saremi quit her content development job at a startup to go back to school to be a therapist.At the University of California, Los Angeles, she studied links between exercise and mental health, and had an epiphany: Why not combine therapy and running to amplify their benefits?After joining a private practice in 2014, Saremi tested her “running therapy” theory. She held al-fresco, on-the-go sessions that allowed patients to get outside and move, but more important, helped them to open up.

“Running is nonthreatening and comfortable for people,” says Saremi, who is also an RRCA-certified running coach. “It’s much easier to do than sitting on a sofa with somebody that you just met.”

Today, the 33-year-old has her own practice—Run Walk Talk—in Redondo Beach, and about 25 percent of her patients are therapy runners. Sessions include a 10-minute warmup, 30 to 40 minutes of running, and a 10-minute cooldown.

There’s no hard science that says running therapy is more effective than the couch; still, Saremi suspects neurochemicals released during exercise play a factor. “Endorphins can help you tolerate physical pain—and it may be a similar effect with emotional pain as well,” Saremi says.

And she isn’t the only therapist seeing results with the unconventional treatment. Other California-based practices have implemented similar methods, and see the act of running as a metaphor for emotional progress.

“We’re literally moving forward,” says Emma Bennett, a California-based therapist who provides running therapy to mothers. “We’re engaging in motion that feels productive and powerful.”

Moving forward is important to Saremi, too. With her practice off the ground, she hopes to develop a certification process for running therapists and implement it across the country.

“There are people who would never in a million years sit on a therapist’s couch,” she says, ”but they would consider running therapy.”

After a stroke, her decades of severe depression vanished

March 11,2018 —

My mother suffered from severe recurring depression for 30 years, episodes that floored her to the point of near-catatonic inertia. She was lost to us in a mire of desolation. This happened often — once a year, sometimes more. The worst episodes hung around for months and months. She endured hospital stays, electroconvulsive therapy, countless appointments with shrinks, dozens of varying prescriptions, some akin to snake oil, none a silver bullet.

Then, 2½ years ago, she had a stroke. It stole her ability to read, her ability to remember names, her right-sided vision. It also stole her depression.

Until the moment she had her stroke — a massive brain trauma to her left occipital lobe — Mum had been in a major depressive episode that had endured for two years, the longest stretch ever. Yet in the post-stroke rehab ward, I find her engaging with other patients in a way she has not done for years. She is animated — her speech, unlike her reading, quite unaffected by her brain injury — the antithesis of the lethargy that hamstrung her for so long.

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Psychology Finally Has an Explanation for Why False Stories Spread Like Fire on Twitter

Published on: Mar 9, 2018

If the past year or two has reaffirmed anything for us, it’s that you can’t believe everything you read, particularly on social media. Now experts say they’ve pinned down just how bad false stories are on Twitter, digging deep into the psychological elements fueling their rapid spread.

Research led by Soroush Vosoughi and published in the journal Science used six independent fact-checking organizations (e.g., Snopes, Politifact) to look at the spread of roughly 126,000 stories verified as either false or true between 2006 and 2017. When they analyzed the Twitter archive for mentions of the verified stories, tracing the way the information spread, they found that true news was lucky if it spread to more than 1,000 people. False stories, on the other hand, spread to as many as 100,000. It wasn’t just politics that had a problem, either. False stories spread faster than truth in every information category.

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How to (Finally) Stop Taking Things So Personally, According to a Psychotherapist

“It’s not personal. It’s just business.” How many times have you heard those words when you were smarting over a job you didn’t get or a pitch that got rejected, or a professional setback or slight? And how often have you found them unhelpful? Maybe it wasn’t meant personally but it feels very personal to you.

But the fact is, we all have to learn not to take things personally if we’re going to be successful in work and in life. And the more we can let disappointments and disparagement roll off our backs rather than letting them pierce us to the heart, the happier and more resilient we’ll be.

How do you get there? In a wise post on the Psychology Today website, psychotherapist Ilene Strauss Cohen offers some great insights into why we take things personally and how to stop. You’ll have to read the full piece to get all her great advice, but here are my favorites among her tips:

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The public role of psychoanalysts in the Trump era: ‘We live in ominous times’

In our highly politicized times, how can psychoanalysts contribute to the national discourse in ways that are both ethical and effective?

Prominent practitioners recently addressed this question and the implications of commenting on public figures — most notably President Trump — at the American Psychoanalytic Association’s (APsaA) 2018 national meeting. Their open-ended discussion last week encouraged psychoanalysts and their organizations to take an active role in contemporary political matters.

“How do we get psychoanalysts to have an impact on society in a way beyond the day-to-day work with patients and help the public understand a range of psychological phenomena, not just the behavior and psychology of a president, but of those who support him?” Kerry J. Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, told Yahoo News. “I think mental health professionals certainly have something to contribute.”

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Not your great-grandfather’s psychoanalysis

By Amy Novotney

December 2017, Vol 48, No. 11,

Psychologists have modernized the approach to better serve patients and have conducted more research that validates its success

At age 7, Pratyusha Tummala-Narra emigrated from India to the United States with her family, leaving behind a country rife with political tensions. Her struggles to adjust to life as a racial and ethnic minority led her to pursue a PhD in psychology from Michigan State University. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a clinician, integrating psychoanalytic, multicultural and feminist perspectives into her practice, which focuses on helping immigrant and ethnic-minority clients deal with acculturation, discrimination and trauma. Her work draws on the ideas of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, to explore how her clients’ thoughts and feelings that may lie outside awareness affect their social, cultural and political experiences.

As controversial as Freud may be, people often forget that he and his colleagues opened free clinics throughout Europe so that people of any class could have access to psychotherapy, says Tummala-Narra, who is also a professor of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College.

“When psychoanalysis came to the United States in the early 1900s, it developed into a form of treatment that seemed to only be accessible to the middle and upper-middle classes, which was never Freud’s intention,” she says. “He viewed psychodynamic therapy as a universal treatment for all people.”

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Testimonials from our 2017 Annual Conference

“It was a truly wonderful conference. Dr. Ahktar was fantastic. I learned so much and it has already expanded how I understand my patients. I look forward to future events from ACAP.”

Stella Jang


“Dr. Bratt, it seems only right, after speaking about gratitude, that I express thanks to you and the conference committee for an amazing weekend of learning and growth. I am honored to have been part of the conference program. So many intellectual and emotional experiences in such a brief amount of time — it’s quite amazing and deeply satisfying. Thank you for bringing Dr. Akhtar to lead this experience.”

Nancy Gerber


Good Stuff: Generosity, Courage, Gratitude, Forgiveness
A weekend with Salman Akhtar. M.D

Saturday, June 10- Sunday, June 11, 2017, at  Caldwell University, Caldwell, NJ

Join us for all or part of BGSP-NJ and ACAP’s two days with the remarkable Salman Akhtar, MD. Innovative ideas, intervention strategies, exploring unconscious motives, earn CE hours, connect, experience diverse therapeutic models, 20 workshops to choose from…just some of what pulls people to return to the BGSP-NJ/ACAP summer conferences.

(Earn up to 18 CE hours)

Choose from 20 Workshops,
Five sessions with Salman Akhtar –

including the Saturday evening discussion: 

The Immigrant Experience – as an immigrant clinician and as an immigrant patient

followed by a delicious and fun dinner together!


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Helping Your Child To Know Herself

Please join us tonight! –  March 10, 2017, 7-10pm at ACAP

Our children, whether they are 2 or 72, push thoughts and feelings out of consciousness all the time.  When they lose self-awareness, they don’t perform to their potential, they act surly and mean, they frustrate us with seemingly lazy or unproductive behavior and amaze us with poor choices. In this workshop, you will learn how to identify three different levels of unconscious activity, and which words work best for each level to help your child become more self-aware.

Presenter: Dr. Claudia Sheftel-Luiz, Ed.M

To register all 973-629-1002 or email