Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Intimate Partner Violence: How YOU Can Break the Cycle of Violence

**Warning: This article contains subject matter pertaining to domestic violence, school shootings, trauma, suicide, as well as language that may be disturbing to some readers**
Photo Source: (Intimate Partner Violence Survey, 2018)

       A woman stands in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal for her family, though they do not have much food. The family’s income has been cut by half due to her partner losing his job, but this does not change the fact that her three children need to eat. She desperately searches the kitchen to find how she can make a meal out of the very few items they have available. She begins preparing food, knowing it will not be enough to fill the bellies of her already starving children, yet she does her best. Suddenly, the front door flies open and the children (twelve, seven and three) scurry to the one back bedroom the family shares. The man towering in the door frame smells of cheap liquor and cigarettes and begins his stumble towards the kitchen. He greets his partner with drunken disapproval, his unsteady motions cause the hot plate on the stove to drop to the kitchen floor. His partner stiffens, knowing what will come next. Her face is met with a painful blow, and her partner screams “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT? HOW FUCKING STUPID CAN YOU BE?!?” The children stay quiet. Watching and listening to their mother taking an excruciating beating, knowing their involvement could result in further harm. The woman is pushed to the ground, as she has been a thousand times before. She takes it, out of knowledge that if she doesn’t let it happen, it may result in him beating and demeaning the children. Tonight, she doesn’t show the fear, she is numb to the physical and emotional pain that she has known for so long and too tired and hungry to fight back. This infuriates the man. Does he no longer have the power he so desperately needs when everything else within his life is spinning out of control? He advances to the hallway closet with fury in his eyes, and determination in his movement. He retrieves his gun, makes his way back to his cowering wife and presses it against the woman’s temple. The children peak through the crack of the door, fearing for their mother’s safety and forcing back tears. The toddler begins to whimper, shifting the attention of the father from his partner to the doorway of the bedroom. The father lunges toward the bedroom door and grabs the toddler by the hair pulling her into the living room where the mother lay in fear. The man in his drunken rage holds a gun with the safety off in one hand and a tiny child’s curly hair in the other. The father sticks the gun to the child’s head and threatens that if anyone says a word, he will “blow her fucking brains out”. The mother nods accepting the terms as silent tears stream down her face. The father releases the child’s locks from his grip and lowers the gun. He ushers the woman into the room to have his way as the children huddle in a corner of the living room around their youngest sibling. They can’t sleep tonight, like most nights, and sit in silence as they await another day.
       Violence within homes does not stay there, it carries into our communities. The combination of circumstances above is a work of fiction; however, every detail is based in the truth that is happening within your community, right now. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV, previously referred to as Domestic Violence) is present not only in marriages and households with children like narrative above, but also crosses lines of sex, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic status and culture. According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, in the United States alone 5 million children witness IPV each year and 40 million adults grew up in households with IPV (2016). With such a prominent number of adults and children facing this issue within our country, why isn’t it talked about more?

Potential Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Communities and Our Society

Photo Source: (Power and Control Wheel, 2018)

      Take the illustration above as an example, the biggest question asked by many is: why doesn’t she just leave? Well it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Often abusive partners will psychologically break down their counterpart slowly by creating distance and isolation from friends and family, utilizing financial abuse and using children as means to make their partner fear leaving. The children who witness IPV within their homes, often meet criteria for Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are six times more likely to commit suicide, 74% more likely to commit violent crimes against others, and three times more likely to repeat the cycle of violence within adulthood (Childhood Domestic Violence Association, 2016). Therefore, IPV is not merely an issue within households, but an issue that affects our communities and ultimately society.
      With the increase we have seen in school shootings in recent news, bringing to light the issue is extremely important as IPV is a major contributing factor. Bullying and school violence can be an indication that children have witnessed IPV and are simply modeling behavior they have seen at home. With early intervention and support from mental health professionals and community members alike, we can decrease these instances of violence and ultimately SAVE LIVES. We often stigmatize seeking help and support from professionals, making survivors less likely to seek outside help. Combine that with the fear of potential consequences from their abusive partner, and the lack of understanding from the community, and the cycle continues.
       Can you remember a time when something said to you stuck and meant something? If one small sentiment can change the way we think or act over time, think of what your contribution of kindness, advocacy and support can do to the many people experiencing IPV every day. You may not think you know anyone experiencing this, but it is extremely likely that you and/or your children know many people experiencing this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (2010). However, IPV is often kept a secret due to the amount of fear and potential consequences of this violence coming to light, as illustrated above. You can do your part by encouraging individuals to seek professional assistance, knowing the signs, and supporting your fellow community members with kindness. You do not have to personally experience this kind of violence, or even understand why it happens, to show support to your community. Together, and only together, we can create a healthier community and break the cycle of violence.
Please share this article and the resources it offers, because you never know who it may benefit. There is a way to end the cycle of violence, and my challenge to you is to BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION. Need more information on how you can be an ally to survivors or resources? Please contact me, and I would be happy to assist. 

      If you or someone you know is currently experiencing domestic violence there are resources available to you. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline Support, resources and advice for your safety 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7, 365 days a year. Bilingual advocates on hand. 

     The author, Lauren Reminger, is a domestic violence survivor and an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, AMF95143; Supervised by Naomi Cooper Martin MFC48304. Lauren specializes the treatments of trauma, like those described above, and is currently accepting new clients in Escondido at the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma. Please call (760) 237-8181 for an appointment or questions. Lauren can also assist survivors in building personalized safety plans and providing resources for any stage in the process. You can also view her website LaurenRemingerCounseling.com for additional resources and information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 22). Intimate Partner Violence. 
Retrieved from 
Childhood Domestic Violence Association. (2016, August 22). 10 Startling Statistics about Children of Domestic Violence. Retrieved April 15, 2018, from 
Intimate Partner Violence Survey. (2018, February 02). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from 
Power and Control Wheel. (2018). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

This post was originally posted to The Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma's blog space, see it here. Lauren is currently a member of this team and this was simply reproduced to provide a direct link. Thank you for your time.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New year, new me? Well...

The new year is a great time to set some personal goals, but it can be difficult to stay on track for a number of reasons.

A common goal is to eat healthier and exercise, yet  we often hear jokes about how empty gyms become by February. For the sake of this post, I will use this goal as an example, but these methods of staying on track with your own personal goal can be applicable to almost any goal.

What makes the difference between those who keep their New Years resolutions and those who don’t? This post will discuss some of the most important aspects of sticking to your goals: motivation, planning for failure, support and staying S.M.A.R.T. with goals. 

First, ask yourself: why are you making this change and how important is making this change for you? 

Motivation is your reason behind why achieving your goal or resolution matters to you. Any motivation can be effective, but what really matters is how much importance you personally see in achieving your goal. For example, if your motivation for eating healthier and exercising is to be a positive example for your children and this is something that you place high value on, you are more likely to work harder to achieve your goal. Though, this is just one aspect of successfully achievement of your goal.

An aspect of achieving goals which is often overlooked is: what is your plan for failure?

You cheated on your diet and you didn't make it to the gym today: what now? People who do not plan for failure often feel the "supersize me effect" as I like to call it. Meaning, you've already gotten a Big Mac, so you might as well make it a supersize and just keep it going, because you're already dealing with the effects and emotions that come with not sticking to your plan. But guess what? You are human, and failing in order to be successful in the end is a part of it. What is important is that you have a plan in place for when you do fall short so that you can get back on track. When you have the expectation that failure at times is a part of achieving your goal, you are more likely to keep trying. So instead of giving up completely, be kind to yourself, and try again at the next meal or get to the gym tomorrow and take it day by day. And if it makes you feel better, we all fail all the time, but true success comes to those who are willing to fail and try again to eventually achieve success.

Support is vitally important in achieving goals. Whether it is support from friends, family, a therapist or partner, having someone in your corner when you are working hard to achieve a goal will greatly increase the likelihood of achieving success. I like the term "accountabili-buddy", meaning someone who will hold you accountable for achieving your goal. Someone who will go with you to the gym, eat healthy with you or provide encouragement to you in times when you are struggling (similar to the concept of a sponsor in AA).

And last, but certainly not least, make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T!

S - Specific
      Goals should be specific, meaning that the more general a goal. the less likely it will be achieved. For example, getting healthy is a great goal (in theory) however what does it mean to "get healthy" to you? A more specific form of this goal would be "increasing amount of exercise". If you can pinpoint something rather than having a general goal, you will be better planning for success.

M - Measurable
     Measuring your goal is really asking yourself, how will I know when I am achieving this goal?  Using the "increasing amount of exercise" goal, and making it measurable would mean making it "exercising four times a week for 30 minutes at a time".

A - Attainable/Achievable
      You can always increase your goal, but starting small and celebrating small successes is important. If you haven't been to exercising regularly, perhaps aiming for twice a week rather than five times a week is more attainable. And guess what? If you are able to achieve more, that is fantastic! Small incremental changes are more likely to stick and leave you feeling less disappointment and more encouraged to continue trying.

R - Relevant
     Relevance goes back to motivation discussed above. How much do you care about achieving this goal. If this goal ranks at the bottom of your competing priorities (which let's be honest, most of us have many), you are less likely to guard the time allotted for this goal. So if the goal is not relevant to your current life, maybe some reassessment is needed.

T - Time Sensitive 
      Time sensitive goals are more likely to be successful due to the fact that those everyday competing priorities may get in the way of long term goals. Believe me, the overflowing laundry may be the reason you cant make it to exercising today, and tomorrow it may be a sick child, so making goals time sensitive is a way to increase the likelihood of achieving your goals over time. Taking our original goal example it may look like: exercising four times a week for 30 minutes at a time, by February 15th. Which gives you several weeks to achieve the goal, and then once achieved or time is reached, you can increase the goal or re-evaluate to see if maybe starting smaller is more attainable.

There are many reasons that are also very individualized, which is why individual therapy can be a great place to explore your goals and how to go about achieving them. If you would like some assistance in this area, please feel free to contact me as I am accepting new clients in both offices (Escondido and Carlsbad) as well as via teletherapy.

Thank you for reading,
Lauren Reminger, MA
Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (AMF95143)
Supervised by Dr. Alisa Dulcos-Robinson, PSY20363 & Naomi Cooper-Martin, MFC48304

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How did we get here?

My name is Lauren Reminger, I am a practicing mental health therapist in North County San Diego but I am also a learner, leader, adventurer, artist, carrier of hope and now blogger. 

After working in various settings and gaining experience by conducting therapy in group homes, schools, hospitals, residential facilities, emergency shelters, outpatient clinics and out in the community, I am moving my practice. 

Starting in December 2017, I will be conducting individual, couples, family and group therapy at two amazing locations in Carlsbad Village (ADR Wellness) and Escondido (Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma) and providing teletherapy through phone and video chat to clients within California (my state of license registration).

My next posts will describe these two organizations in more detail, but please feel free to explore the websites(links above), and my personal website for more information in the mean time.

Right now, I want to share a little bit of background in regards to why I have made the choice to move out of the non-profit sector of mental health (something that is near and dear to me and has also had a monumental impact on my education and training in the field). 

I got into the field of mental health with a mission to help people, and to give back with little expectation of receiving anything in return. However, I quickly learned that I can not do the best I can being a therapist without taking care of myself. I also learned, I wasn't the only one affected, and neglecting my own self care.

Having worked at several of the largest and well known non-profits in San Diego County, I feel that its safe to say no matter what agency or organization it is, it looks the same. The employees are tired, doing their best, still working hard, and yet still not able to maintain a balanced life and support their families. 

I have not only been a part non-profit agencies, but also held management positions and upheld the values of some of the largest non-profits in our community. One thing I have undeniably learned from that experience in all settings is this: the people whom work in non-profit mental heath are some of the most admirable, kind, and giving people of them all. 

They are the type of people who not only go above and beyond for their clients, but for their peers, and really any person they cross paths with.

Any client I've ever served, peer or employee could tell you, I go above and beyond because I am extremely passionate about what I do. I do this, from a sincere place of love and respect for all people.

Unfortunately, like many of those working in systems, I faced constraints in the non-profit sector. In this case, on my ability to meet the needs and demands expected of me while also providing the highest quality client care I could. And ultimately, I decided providing quality client care is more important than quantity. 

When my journey in counseling began, I had a much different mindset than I do now. I thought that the way that I could help people the best, would be to help as many people as I could. I took on every client I was given (which I later found out was way more than anyone else at my experience level was expected to have).

This worked out okay for a little bit, but eventually, it started to impact my health and well being, causing me to at times miss work and live in a perpetual state of stress and WAY too much coffee.

Needless to say, stressed-out-tired-zombie Lauren is not the best version of me. This is not the version I want to sit with my clients as we discuss and work through some of the toughest issues they've faced. So this is when I learned that I need to take care of myself, in order to be the best version of me, and to be able to give that as a therapist.

What does this look like in action? It means: taking time off when I need it, surrounding myself with positive and supportive people, being able to say no, and not stretching myself too thin. 

I tried to implement this lifestyle into my work in the non-profit sector, but ultimately after much effort, there were many system issues which were immovable. I could write for days on how the structural issues within non-profit mental health are not conducive to a balanced lifestyle in employees (which inevitably leads to diminished client care), but we will save that for another day.

I am an advocate, and I will never stop seeking for improved treatment of clients, employees and all people. Sometimes, this means I can not support certain systems which I feel neglect the needs of any party, and this is how I got here.

I have moved into practice with two amazing counseling private practices, because the structures in place in these settings allow for the highest quality care of clients I can provide. These practices allow me to see less clients, and allows for more intensive focus and attention for each individual, couple, group or family I serve. 

Working at ADR Wellness and Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma allow me to not only provide service, but to provide the highest quality service.

I hope to explain this more in depth in future posts. 

I am excited to begin this adventure, and I am looking forward to the ups, downs, and everything in between. Feel free to join me, and subscribe to come along for the ride.

Lauren Reminger is a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (IMF95143; supervised by Dr. Alisa Dulcos-Robinson, PSY20363 & Naomi Cooper-Martin, MFC48304).Please note that all information provided is not intended to be utilized as mental health treatment. It is recommended that readers consult with a mental health professional regrading their individual needs.