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Emotional dysregulation is defined as an emotional response that is poorly regulated and does not fall within the traditionally accepted range of emotional reaction. In other words, we can experience emotions that seem bigger than the situation. Emotional dysregulation is not just something that young children encounter but can be evident in adolescents and adults. When a person experiences emotional dysregulation, it is physiologically impossible to access the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that supports problem solving, rational thinking and creativity. When a person is dysregulated, they are unable to engage in effective communication and problem solving until they are back in a regulated state. Self-soothing is a helpful way to return to a regulated state and provide access to the prefrontal cortex. Below you will find resources that you can have in your home in order to help your child or teen (or yourself) regulate in a safe and effective way.

Fidget toys are a helpful resource as they are most often small and can be placed in bookbags, purses and cars for quick access to a sensory tool. Fidget toys can be purchased at any local store or online. Click here for examples online.

A weighted stuffed animal can provide increased support. The weighted feeling of a stuffed animal or blanket is thought to simulate deep pressure touch which calms the nervous system. You can find these plushies and blankets at department stores or online. Be sure to use an online search feature to assess the appropriate weight of the blanket or plushie based on your child’s size. You can also purchase weighted supports with scents like lavender which activates the olfactory component of self-soothing.

To create supports in your home, consider a sensory swing.These are often used in classrooms and occupational therapy for support. The smooth back and forth motion can help calm the child with a focus on the vestibular system. A sensory swing can be found online.

Another component of self-regulation and sensory support includes a proactive approach. When your child is in a calm, regulated state, work to give them language to express feeling. Consider purchasing games to help with emotion identification or using a developmentally appropriate feelings wheel to engage conversation about emotions. Once children learn to identify their emotions, they are able to appropriately implement helpful coping skills to regulate.

Games to help with emotion identification can be found online and in some speciality education stores.

If you would like to learn more about sensory techniques to assist with emotional regulation, please do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services at We offer complimentary free, 15-minute consultations.

Laura Waller, MS, NCC

Licensed Resident in Counseling

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Group therapy typically involves one or two clinicians with a small group of clients ranging anywhere from five to ten participants. Most groups meet once or twice a week for one to two hours each session. The therapeutic goals for groups can vary greatly from improving social skills to processing grief and loss. Each clinician leading a group should screen the clients through an individual intake process to ensure that the group is a good therapeutic fit for the client’s needs.

Group structure and format can vary greatly depending upon the goal of the group. Psychoeducation groups are generally focused on understanding a specific topic such as adolescent depression or parenting skills. Process groups provide space for clients with similar goals to receive support, encouragement, and feedback from various perspectives in a safe environment.

Regardless of the structure and format, a client joining a group can expect to find a sense of universality and normalization. In a group setting, clients are able to see that they are not alone in their process. Clients are then able to support each other as they are at various points on their therapeutic journey providing opportunity for leadership, increased motivation, and increased hope.

Clients choosing to engage in group therapy can expect to feel some anxiety about starting the process. It is completely normal and expected to feel increased anxiety in a vulnerable setting. The clinician leading the group will work to decrease anxiety by helping all group members understand the setting, the goals, and the group process.

If you are interested in group therapy but feel anxious about the process, feel free to reach out to the clinician leading the group and ask specific questions about format and expectations. Clinicians are more than happy to help you feel prepared and comfortable going into your first group session.

If you are interested in joining a group, please check out the KS Services website for upcoming group opportunities such as Project Connect, a teen girl therapy group focused on self-compassion and connection through the use of movement, art, and narrative work.

Laura Waller, MS, NCC

Licensed Resident in Counseling

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As a clinician working alongside adolescents, repetitive themes emerge in session including feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. It is my job to protect confidentiality, and therefore, it is impossible and unethical for me to say what I’m often thinking, which is, “you have no idea how many students from your very high school are telling me the exact same thing during the week.” Sitting in session, I am able to understand the power that connection and universality would provide in the healing process if this particular teenager knew that they were in fact not alone in their concerns. According to Stanford’s David Yalom, MD, “hearing from peers may be more helpful than receiving guidance from a therapist since peers can identify with one another. Those peer interactions appear to translate to real-world gains.” Teenagers are, by nature, social beings, therefore, group settings often offer therapeutic work in a setting that is most comfortable for them.

Here are a few reasons why group therapy works:

  1. Group therapy provides a sense of normalization. Being in a group setting offers an opportunity for teens to see that what they are experiencing and feeling is actually quite normal. As the comfort level in the group increases, teens offer positive support to one another and provide a sense of comfort knowing that they are not alone in their experiences and struggles.

  2. Groups are often comprised of teens at various stages in their recovery and healing process. Seeing teens that have implemented skills and experienced therapeutic success serve as a source of hope for those who are just beginning their journey. Seeing peers reach goals provides motivation for increased therapeutic engagement.

  3. Group therapy provides an opportunity for the therapist to see teens in a natural social setting. A trained clinician will observe interactions and use these to set treatment goals and provide effective coping skills for particular “real-life” situations.

  4. Teens in group therapy learn new social skills and effective ways to communicate their feelings and experiences. The therapists guiding the group will help model increased emotion identification and expression.

  5. Teens often feel a sense of empowerment as they support their peers. When teens reflect on the group content and provide feedback to the group, they are able to internalize their own messages and use them for personal growth.

If you are interested in group therapy for your teen, please check the KS Services website for our upcoming group therapy event registration for Project CONNECT. Project CONNECT is a group designed to help girls focus on self-compassion and connection through the use of movement, art, and narrative work. Girls will meet for six weeks on Saturday mornings from 9:30-11:00 am. The first Saturday will be September 10th, and it will run through October 15th.

Parents and caregivers of the teens will commit to meeting three times for a thirty-minute group that will focus on psychoeducation regarding mental health concerns in teens. The parent sessions will occur on September 17th, October 1st, and October 8th immediately following the teen group session.

If you are curious if a group is a good fit for your adolescent, please reach out to for a free consultation.

Laura Waller, MS, NCC

Licensed Resident in Counseling

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