Janice March   LMHC-S RPT-S

Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Registered Play Therapist - Supervisor
Qualified Clinical Supervisor

October 19, 2012

Ritalin and other stimulants have been prescribed for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder since the ‘60s. In 1999 attention was focused (pardon the pun) on patterns of stimulant prescriptions (Ritalin, et al.) for students of different races and socioeconomic groups in public health. A public health study reported that white students and schools in districts with higher SES had double the rate of AD/HD medication. This is interesting in light of a New York Times article earlier this month describing an increase in prescribing stimulant medication for children on Medicaid to “level the playing field” in school achievement. Is this progress?

December 17, 2010

My fascination with Interpersonal Neurobiology continues. IPNB emerged out of the explosion of brain science over the last ten years to study the interdependence of brain, relationships and mind. Have a look at www.mindgains.org or mindsightinstitute.com or brainwisetherapist.com or just Goggle IPNB. Dr. Bonnie Badenoch explains in IPNB-terms the powerful therapeutic processes of Sandplay, Art and Play Therapy in separate chapters of her book Being a Brain-Wise Therapist. These methods stimulate the right-brain limbic processes; healing emerges from the integration of the brain/ mind/ relationships system. She describes Sandplay as “utilizing ‘an elegant language when words fail”, and nondirective Play Therapy and doing art as “an excellent match for what we are learning from neuroscientists about how children’s brains and minds get hurt and heal.” (Badenoch, 2008). Call me if you’re interested in a study group.

November 19, 2010

I’ve admired for years the work of Drs. Allan Schore and Daniel Siegel in developing our understanding of the neurological bases of infant attachment. Now, research has expanded this into the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, which has to be the most exciting development in psychotherapy ever. Recently I’ve come across the Global Association for Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies, founded by Schore and Siegel and by a practicing psychotherapist, Bonnie Badenoch. Dr. Badenoch is the author of Being a Brain-Wise Therapist and will be the featured presenter for the next conference of the Florida Association for Play Therapy in March 2011. I’ve just barely dipped into her book, but I want to share my enthusiasm. As repeated studies have documented, the quality of the relationship between therapist and client is a better predictor of outcomes than any particular theoretical orientation, and now we know how that works. “Right hemisphere to right hemisphere contingent contact is the golden road to neural change.” Exploring what that means, and how we might utilize it in therapy, fascinates me. If you would be interested in a study group on Interpersonal Neurobiology, please contact me.

October 15, 2010

Monday night I heard Stuart Brown, M.D., speak, thanks to Forty Carrots’ annual speaker program. Dr. Brown is the author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. It’s worth a read. How about the notion that play is an old, deep reflex in human brains, right there with fight, flight, and freeze, as suggested by studies of “de-corticated” rats in which playful behavior persists. Or the findings of his “play histories” of over 6000 adults, associating homicide with a history of play deprivation in childhood. Dr. Brown documents that the opposite of Play is not Work, but depression and physical illness. So come play tomorrow night: engage in some “mindless” activity as a preventative measure.

September 18, 2010

Recently I’ve come across discussions of the importance of imaginative or representational play in fields as varied as American History (Howard Chudacoff, Brown University) and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Adele Diamond, University of British Columbia). I was led to both of these following links on Stuart Brown’s website www.stuartbrownmd.com. Dr. Brown will be speaking in Sarasota next month, Monday, October 11, 2010 courtesy of Forty Carrots Family Center (see www.fortycarrots.org). You may have seen his article “Animals at Play” in the 1994 National Geographic with the cover photo of a monkey carrying an enormous snowball.

July 16, 2010

I recently came across an interesting study from Duke University, 2008, documenting the reality of the “digital divide” (homes with/without computers) between racial and socioeconomic groups, then testing the idea that access to home computers with high-speed internet service would result in improved math and reading achievement. On the contrary, they found “introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading scores” (irrespective of race or SES). Hypothesized reasons for this effect, from another study, include “the displacement of social activities and attendant loneliness and depression, exposure to inappropriate violent, sexual or commercial content, and physical problems including increased obesity, and injuries to eyes, back and wrist.” Whoa! See the research article at www.hks.harvard.edu

June 18, 2010

I’ve just returned from the Sandplay Therapists of America national conference in Boulder, Colorado with head and heart filled with the power of Sandplay Therapy with children’s attachment disruption, sexual abuse, extreme separation anxiety or autism, as well as with Alzheimer’s patients and adults seeking inner direction in mid-life or resolution of old wounds. And too, refreshed by the experience of being in the Rockies. Sandplay therapists and trainees attended from South Korea, Brazil, The Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Canada, as well as all over the United States, including Hawaii. Being among them was an experience in itself. And of course I brought back new miniatures to use in the sand.

May 21, 2010

I was introduced to Billy Collins’ poetry earlier this month by Dr. Peter Gorski, in his presentation at Forty Carrots for Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. The poem he read, The Lanyard, was nominally for Mother’s Day, and so poignant, insightful and charming I set out to read more of this poet’s work and found Child Development. I’ve reprinted both for you below. Both poems provide some valuable insight into the area of parent-child relationships, I think. If only more parents were in touch with a child’s sense of fair, or could see themselves as silly as their children!

Child Development

As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.

Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire. You Dumb Goopyhead.
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.

They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.

The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr. Sillypants.

The Lanyard

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary

 where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist

could send one into the past more suddenly —

a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp

by a deep Adirondack lake

learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,

strong legs, bones and teeth,

and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,

and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.

And here, I wish to say to her now,

is a smaller gift — not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,

but the rueful admission that when she took

the two-tone lanyard from my hand,

I was as sure as a boy could be

that this useless, worthless thing I wove

out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Billy Collins

February 19, 2010

I would like to talk about the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V released by the American Psychiatric Association. This is of great interest to psychiatrists, drug manufacturers and insurance companies, and a source of amusement, annoyance or anger for others. Several of the proposed changes affect diagnoses applied to children: Pediatric Bipolar Disorder becomes Temper Dysregulation Disorder; Asperger’s Syndrome becomes a disorder formally on the Autism Spectrum; cutting, formerly just a symptom, becomes Non-suicidal Self-injury Disorder, and more. The number of diagnoses in the DSM over its 50-year history has increased from 106 to 365 discreet mental illnesses. Who does this help? My discomfort with the idea of applying illness labels to children struggling with emotional or neurodevelopmental challenges is sorely aggravated by this event. But, for the first time, the public is invited to comment on the proposed changes to the DSM: you can read about the changes and respond on the website www.dsm5.org.

September 18, 2009

A few weeks ago, Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally was TERRIFIED at the idea of going to kindergarten. But when she came back from the first day she reported ecstatically that they sang songs and painted pictures and listened to stories and colored with crayons and rested and had a snack and played games and “Oh, we had a WONDERFUL time!” School has been in session in Sarasota less than a month, and some kindergarteners I know are already feeling ashamed, disappointed, confused, angry, sad – or bored. Their parents are feeling a similar range of emotions. The teacher’s notes home detail their offenses: “Can’t keep hands to self,” “threw markers,” “talks constantly,” “off task,” “incomplete work” and the most common consequence: “No recess.” It’s not easy getting on a school bus in the dark, adjusting to an artificial schedule (lunch at 10:45), staying in a certain chair with a paper and pencil task, especially if you’ve been deprived of physical exercise, and then going home to do homework… when you’re five years old. But that’s what our kindergarteners are expected to do. By the way, that Peanuts strip was originally published in September 1962.

August 21, 2009

I mentioned last month the myth that children outgrow AD/HD in adulthood. In fact a recent NIMH study found a genetic variation among a small percentage of children with AD/HD which seems to influence development of the cortex. Children with this genetic “risk” had the most severe symptoms of AD/HD when they were younger, but, surprisingly, had the most complete cortical development, with corresponding normalization of executive functioning by the age of 18. Interesting, huh? The small group of children with the most severe, the most obvious symptoms of AD/HD, had the most complete reduction in symptoms, naturally, due to a genetic variation in the dopamine receptors. For them, it’s not a myth: they did outgrow AD/HD. This research leads to the possibility that MRI and genetic testing may soon help determine the best treatment for an individual child. I hope I live long enough to see the diagnosis “formerly known as AD/HD” completed sorted out.

July 17, 2009

A recent case study reported the positive outcome of educating parents of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder about the executive functions of the pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in controlling behaviors summarized as impulsivity, distractibility and hyperactivity. Understanding the brain science meshes with the growing awareness that there are “different AD/HDs” reflecting difficulties in specific mental processes such as working memory, shifting between tasks, initiating goal directed actions, or regulating one’s motivation. The intervention is then focused on helping the child develop external controls for particular executive functions which become life-long habits or coping mechanisms, if you will: the source of the myth that children outgrow AD/HD.

June 19, 2009

I brought back several new miniatures from the play therapy conference last month and I have ordered some new Playmobil toys. What is it with play therapists and their toys anyway? Are they just big kids? Dr. Gary Landreth, an influential figure in play therapy, has said “Play is the child’s language, and toys are their words.” For that reason, the selection of toys available can encourage or limit a child’s expression in play therapy; provide or prevent healing. Licensed toys, from television or a movie, may not encourage children to express their own feelings, instead promoting imitation, not imagination. When young children either cannot or will not put their feelings into words, therapeutic play may help them to express and work through painful or conflicted emotions. This kind of play is a right brain, non-verbal activity that springs from their deepest thoughts and feelings. Children engaged in imaginary play may be intensely focused, in the same state of “flow” as with any creative process, and this in itself may be healing. The right toys and materials can promote a therapeutic experience.

April 17, 2009

This month’s big news is to announce the completion of The Bike Map, a project of the Alliance for Responsible Transportation, a completely volunteer organization. As a member, I offer a discount for each session in which clients arrive on foot or by bicycle or bus. Of course there are bike racks available at Towles Court. The Bike Map shows Good, Fair and Use Extreme Caution! routes for navigating Sarasota on a bicycle. You can see the current version, and support the effort, at www.bikewalklive.org. 10,000 Bike Maps will be printed and distributed for free, starting with a Map Release Party on Saturday, May 2, 2009 at noon in Arlington Park, 2650 Waldemere Street, off South Tuttle. Arlington Park is a mere 2 miles south of my office. Biking: think of it. Getting where you want to go with zero pollution and simultaneously getting that exercise you never have time for — and having fun besides. Can you make it work for your family?

March 20, 2009

The Vernal Equinox
The mockingbirds are starting to sing, the fragrance of orange blossoms is in the air, the gulf temperature is almost 75° and it’s light until 7:30. The sun comes up, the clouds drift by, the sun sets over the Gulf, the stars come out. Life is good. And these natural things are a wonderful antidote to the generalized anxiety of economic hard times, for grown-ups and for the children who respond to the emotional states of the adults around them. Kids are watching us, of course, but they’re also often acutely aware of the feelings of their parents, and can easily assume that they are somehow responsible. So take a walk; watch the mocker’s nest-building; go to the beach and test the water. We’ll all feel better.

February 20, 2009

My approach to treating a young child whose parents fear early emergence of a major psychiatric disorder would be to consider alternative explanations first. Explore the basics: get the child a thorough physical examination; promote healthy patterns of sleep, nutrition and exercise; rule out sensory processing difficulties and learning disabilities. And look to the relationships between parents and child: consider family therapy or mother and child relationship work. I’d be happy to help. There is wisdom is the wise crack “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy.”

January 16, 2009

Sometimes parents bring their young child to the therapist convinced the child “is bipolar.” Some behavior or other has triggered a deep fear that the child is carrying a flawed gene because someone in the family has had a bipolar diagnosis. “Uncle Will was hospitalized – everybody said he was bipolar.” “My cousin is bipolar.” Or “His father is bipolar.” First off, the emergence of bipolar disorder before the age of ten is considered questionable. Further, the chance of “inheriting” bipolar disorder varies with the number of affected individuals in the family and the degree of relatedness. If a first cousin has bipolar disorder, the risk is the same as in the general population: 2 to 3%. If a grandparent has a bipolar diagnosis, the risk of developing bipolar disorder is 5%. If a parent has a bipolar diagnosis their child’s risk is 15%. Even if both parents have bipolar disorder, the risk a child will develop bipolar disorder is still only 50%, and there is no evidence this might influence earlier onset. So before diagnosing bipolar disorder in a young child, many other issues must be considered.

December 19, 2008

Dr. Dorothy G. Singer, play researcher at Yale and primary editor of the book I mentioned last month, Play = Learning, has suggested an RDA (recommended daily allowance) of play “to aid a child’s school readiness and elementary school success.” Similarly, in the field of children’s therapy, research has documented the positive effects on a child’s behavior and on the child-parent relationship of a special form of play, which is set up at home once a week by the parent. Known as filial therapy, this work has been found effective with a wide variety of presenting problems. The role of the therapist is to model for the parent a special way in which to observe the child’s play, and then to coach the parent to assume the practice at home, one half hour per week. Sometimes the home sessions are videotaped for review with the therapist — sometimes a group of parents share their experiences with the method and coach each other. Reports are consistently positive.

November 21, 2008

I’ve recently come across a book entitled Play = Learning, a collection of research on the value of “make believe” or representational play in all areas of development: from cognition to social-emotional growth. It includes a study on the value of play in the treatment of autism, an intervention that is often overlooked when the focus is on modifying specific behaviors. And most interesting, a study on the role of play in the development of self-regulation. What’s interesting about that? More than half of the young children brought for mental health treatment end up with a diagnosis of AD/HD, that is, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. This brain-based behavior, with various causes, is better understood as a problem regulating cognitive processing and behavior. So it’s great to have this research on the value of play as one component of an effective treatment for such a common difficulty.

October 17, 2008

Have you read The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv? I see so many children whose emotional balance suffers from a limited and often antagonistic relationship to the natural world; not to mention the impact on children’s health from lack of exercise and constant exposure to “conditioned” indoor air. Children who know the birds and animals and trees and plants with which they share the neighborhood, who learn the stars and the cycles of the seasons from experience instead of from a school book, may experience fewer fears and phobias and develop a sense of connection and belonging, a sense of their place in the universe, that is a component of self confidence. For these reasons, you will find rocks and shells and sand and water available for therapeutic encounters in my small office — a slim tie to the natural world for those deprived of the richer experience of The Great Outdoors.

September 19, 2008

I also work with mothers and children from birth to three to assess and treat difficulties in that most important early relationship. This is a resource for mothers who feel “there’s something wrong” between them and their young children. Mothers may say “This one’s different” or “He treats me just like his father used to” or “Even during the pregnancy she was a pain” — words reflecting a relationship issue best addressed with dyadic work: with mother and child together in the session. Sometimes in this type of work the need for referrals for evaluation by developmental therapists is identified: a cause of behavior problems often overlooked in pediatric practice.

August 15, 2008

What brings a young child to therapy? Behavior problems after adoption. Aggression in preschool or at home. Withdrawal or anger over a divorce. Experiencing abuse. Under-performance in school. Difficulty making friends. Oppositional behavior at home. Self-esteem issues associated with differences or disabilities. Fears or anxieties. Toileting issues. Parental separation or loss. A new baby in the family. Witnessing domestic violence. Many things can make children feel mad, sad or afraid beyond their ability to cope effectively. Children are resilient, but the number and intensity of various stressors occurring at one time may be overwhelming. That’s when I can help.

July 18, 2008

In June I completed the year-long Infant Mental Health training from the Harris Center at FSU, and I’d love to tell you about that. As you may know, my private practice is primarily working with children, usually, but not always, with a parent or primary caregiver, to address circumstances as diverse as divorce, separation from military family members, abuse or problems secondary to developmental delays. I believe that children can experience the same range of social and emotional upsets as adults; that they don’t “get over it” but live through it, as we do, with more — or less — scarring, depending upon the support and understanding they are given at the time. I also work with mothers and children from birth to three to assess and treat difficulties in that most important early relationship.

June 20, 2008

Last month I took the train (yes!) to Savannah to the Sandplay Therapists of America annual conference and came home with some wonderful new miniatures for clients’ use. Adults who are interested in Jungian Sandplay Therapy are invited to call and discuss their interest and my qualifications in this powerful form of deep work.

February 15, 2008

Thank you all for your interest and support in my new endeavor! My private practice is up and running at my new office in Towles Court, 1945 A Morrill Street, Sarasota FL 34236.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the area, Towles Court is a designated “artist’s colony” zoned for residential and retail, just two blocks south of Main Street. It is a collection of colorfully painted 1920s houses under old oaks, with pathways between. It is not all artists anymore: there are two restaurants, consultants of various stripes, a dentist, and now a play therapist! The website, www.towlescourt.com, has pictures, if you want to get an impression of what it’s like.

I chose this spot for several reasons, not the least of which is the good energy left in the space by its former tenants: Kathleen Horne and Victoria Domenicello-Anderson’s Inner Visions Gallery. They have added two partners, Tamara Knapp and Elizabeth Bornstein, moved down the path, and transformed into Expressive Arts Florida

I give discounts for each session in which clients arrive on foot or by bicycle or bus. It’s better for everybody. Towles Court is situated between three bus routes: the #4, the #11 and the #17. You can check out the routes and schedules for the bus at www.scat.scgov.net. Of course there are bike racks available at Towles Court and off-street parking just a few steps from my office.

I hope, too, that my clients may find the informal paths, quaint houses and shaded gardens refreshing before they even get to their appointments. Those of you who know how I work will understand my desire for the therapy experience to be a pleasure especially for the youngest ones and their caregivers: a time of discovery, joy and healing. I hope this setting will encourage such an experience.

January 18, 2008

A New Year! I wish for you a year of peace, happiness and personal fulfillment. This is a special time for me, thanks to the support and encouragement of so many of you. A dream I have had for many years is coming true: I have opened a private practice in play therapy.

Janice March  LMHC RPT-S

Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Registered Play Therapist


Mother/Child, Young Children, Adult Psychotherapy
Play Therapy Supervisor & Qualified Clinical Supervisor

1945 A Morrill Street in Towles Court ∗ Sarasota ∗ Florida 34236

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