Understanding Domestic Violence

Understanding Domestic Violence

Understanding Domestic Violence

Knowing the warning signs of an abuser and of one being abused could mean the difference between life and death. Understanding and being able to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence can empower you as an advocate and can serve as a red flag for someone just entering into a potentially abusive situation. Armed with the knowledge of the different types of abuse, and where to go for help are the next steps in advocating for a friend, family member or yourself. The inner workings of an abusive relationships are complex and it takes a lot of courage to leave. Understanding the power and control dynamic and the toll it takes on the survivor can help an advocate be more compassionate toward them. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the abusive relationship, survivors need to be supported and empowered to make decisions for themselves, and to reclaim parts of themselves that often become lost in these types of relationship dynamics.

Ridgeview has spent many years developing our women’s program specifically designed with their unique needs in mind. We have created a safe space for women to unpack and renew themselves in a therapeutic environment. Our staff understands the challenges that some women face, and are here to assist them in dealing with issues such as trauma, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, familial, professional and personal stress, grief and loss, and substance use/misuse. Women pursue symptom management through building new strengths and insights to gain and regain command of their lives.

For more information on how to recognize the signs of domestic violence read here.

Solutions for Families Struggling with School Refusal Behavior

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

Families all over Georgia are struggling with the phenomenon of school refusal behavior. Ridgeview has a dedicated adolescent unit at each of our two locations and have seen firsthand the mental health blowback of this often overlooked issue. School refusal describes the disorder of a child who refuses to go to school on a regular basis, or has problems staying in school. Children may avoid school to cope with stress or fear for a vast number of reasons including mental health concerns like anxiety, phobias and/or depression, etc.

What does school refusal look like?

  • Predictable of pleas for non-attendance with some regularity, (i.e., every Sunday night expect a fight with the child about the upcoming school week)
  • Missing entire school days
  • Missing parts of the day (i.e., leaving class or school during the course of a school day)
  • Attending school but only after intense misbehaving at home in the morning
  • Distress that is unusual which inevitably leads to pleas to not attend school in the future

School refusal behavior exists on a continuum that ranges from mild (clear cause & solution) to severe (long in duration [3 or more months] entrenched, student is at risk of dropping out) and can begin with complaints, leaving/skipping class to complete absences from school. This behavior also ranges in how it manifests at home (i.e., clinging to the parent, arguing in the car on the way to school, etc.)

Some common causes of school refusal include:

  • Short term absences (i.e., during summer vacation, or a brief illness)
  • A stressful event like the death of a pet or relative or moving to a new house
  • Challenging classes/undiagnosed learning disability
  • Teacher they don’t get along with
  • Being bullied
  • Mental health issue-diagnosed or undiagnosed

Warning signs to watch for:

  • Frequent unexcused absences
  • Tardiness
  • Going home before the end of the school day
  • Asking to go to the nurse’s office often
  • Skipping classes

Severe and prolonged school refusal jeopardizes the young person’s social, emotional and academic development, and may be associated with mental health problems in the future. When escape and avoidance behavior is reinforced by school refusal behavior that is allowed to continue, it teaches the child that when uncomfortable things happen in life, escaping and avoiding is the way to manage it. When this behavior is reinforced, it becomes a protective factor used at work and in social/love relationships well into adulthood. The future impact is far reaching and can include poverty and a life of crime.

What can parents do to help?

The first step is for parents and students to find out the function the school refusal behavior is serving for the child, and come up with a plan based on alleviating the distressing symptoms of that function. Chris Kearney and others posit that school refusal behavior is typically mediated by two things: avoidance or escape behavior-negative reinforcement (seen in students with anxiety and other mental health concerns like depression and phobias) OR students who are driven by positive reinforcement-they are in pursuit of attention from caregivers or tangible reinforcement outside of school (typically seen in students with conduct disorders but could have its base in anxiety).

For students whose school refusal is driven by the need to avoid or escape the parents should consider:

  • Psychoeducation for the child and for themselves to understand what is really going on underneath the behavior.
  • Somatic management skills-to teach them to manage unpleasant symptoms (i.e., anxiety symptoms, sleeplessness, etc.) and helping them learning how to soothe themselves
  • Systemic desensitization & exposure
  • Gradual exposure to increasing demands-exposing them to things that make them uncomfortable while teaching them how to manage these situations.
  • Self-reinforcement/self-efficacy focus-the goal of all this is to have them start feeling better about themselves and gaining confidence as they accomplish these systematic goals. Help them to correct the things they have been struggling with in school and helping them to move forward.

For students whose school refusal is driven by the need for caregiver attention or for pursuing tangible reinforcers (rewards) outside of school the parents should consider:

  • Establishing a fixed routine
  • Learning how to negotiate and problem solve as a family
  • Defining behavior problems and designing and implementing child-parent contracts (Contingency contracting-set realistic goals)
  • Setting up positive and negative consequences
  • Communication skills training

Parents will also need to form an alliance with a team at the school to formulate a re-entry plan. Do not attempt to go this alone. The bottom line is therapeutic intervention must begin with education and an understanding of the function that is driving the school refusal behavior. This can be used as a starting point from which to formulate a plan for school re-entry. Find resources in the area and reach out for therapeutic support if the behavior cannot be managed at home. Ridgeview has dedicated adolescent units for both inpatient and outpatient care, with compassionate staff trained in providing the specialized care that adolescents need. Call us or stop by one of our campuses for a no cost assessment to see the best level of care for your child.

How to Create Space for a Mental Health Reset in 2022

Covid has changed our lives. With plenty of alone time, many of us have finally found the time we needed to look within. However, a lot of us are finding things inside ourselves that are unresolved, found parts of ourselves that we have exiled, or parts that are still hurting. Some of us are waking up to the fact that our mental health is struggling. For those of us who do not have access to mental health support, here are a few things you can do to become grounded again and reset/reclaim mental equilibrium.

  • Anchor your day with a morning routine.
  • Reach out to others to stave off isolation.
  • Find low-stress ways to connect from a distance.
  • Take an in-depth relationship inventory.
  • Find fun, creative activities to boost your spirits.
  • Exercise regularly – ideally outdoors.
  • Use mindfulness and meditation to stay present.
  • Try out a mental health app.
  • Make restoring good sleep a priority.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Seek immediate help if you’re endangered.
  • Address substance abuse and relapse.
  • Choose and express gratitude.
  • Remember to be kind to yourself.
  • Look for light and hope at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Above all else, remember to hang in there, things will get better. Be patient with yourself and trust the process.

Read more here:


Celebrate Pride

Mental Health and Men in the LGBTQ+ Community

Celebrate Pride

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson, LCSW

According to the CDC, “…compared to other men, gay and bisexual men have higher chances of having; Major depression, Bipolar disorder, and Generalized anxiety disorder… Gay and bisexual men are more likely than other men to have tried to commit suicide as well as to have succeeded at suicide.” The majority of gay and bisexual men are able to gain and maintain good mental health, but there is a large number of them who are not. There is a double standard for being a gay or bisexual man in American society. They are judged harsher than their female counterpart in part because of the traditional roles that men are prescribed, and toxic masculinity that permeate our culture. Men are often taught to hide or dismiss their emotions, making it even harder for them to reach for help when they need it. The environment of discrimination and hate that some men fall victim to can be confusing to navigate. They are ostracized for keeping their sexuality a secret, and ostracized for coming out.

What it means to be “Out”

While being “out,” or in other words-being open about your sexual orientation, has been linked to better mental wellbeing, for some men, being out does not equal better outcomes. Some are alienated from friends and families due to living in their truth. Others face discrimination or worse, become victims of hate crimes. Family and friends might be at a loss for how to help, and feel out of their depth in supporting a loved one.

Where can men in the LGBTQ+ community go for support

There is help out there. There are safe spaces created for men who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Resources in local churches and communities as well as some online resources like the Trevor Project can be very beneficial. Pride is another space where people in the LGBTQ+ community can connect with others who may be having similar life experiences. Pride teaches men that they are not alone, they do have a space where they belong. Pride helps to validate feelings of being loved and supported.

It is ok to ask for help, it is ok to get the support you need.

Additional Resources & Reads:





Professional Spotlight: Kirsten Moore

Kirsten Moore, Psy.D.

Meet Kirsten Moore, Psy.D. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who has specialized training providing assessment testing and psychotherapy. She is intensively-trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which she provides to children, adults, and families. Dr. Moore also teaches DBT classes and Coping Skills classes to adults, adolescents, and children. DBT is particularly effective in treating anxiety and depression, eliminating suicidality and self-harming behaviors, improving interpersonal difficulties, treating trauma and abuse, and living a Life Worth Living. Dr. Moore uses DBT and mindfulness skills in her everyday life and has found these skills can be useful to anyone.

Dr. Moore is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who earned her Bachelor’s degree at North Carolina State University and her Doctorate from Georgia School of Professional Psychology / Argosy University in Atlanta. Her training includes work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish-Rite, community mental health centers, private practice settings, and numerous schools in Atlanta and Los Angeles. She specialized in Child and Family Clinical Psychology and is well-versed in assessment testing and the creation of IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Dr. Moore is the founder and Clinical Director of Balance & Potential Inc. in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Ridgeview is very excited to have Dr. Moore join our list of presenters this year for a virtual offering of DBT essentials. This session will be a great compliment to the roll out of our new programs as DBT is slated to be a big part of them.

Real Men Do Cry

Real Men Do Cry

Real Men Do Cry

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

“Be a man and take care of it… Real men don’t cry… You’re real sensitive for a guy.” These comments and others like these are often told to men when they try to be open about their emotions. Most men in the United States are raised in a culture that frowns upon their emotional expression. Men are taught at an early age that it is not manly to cry, or to speak about the emotions they are feeling. When left unexpressed, these emotions do not go anywhere-they remain in the system, stuffed down and ignored until they become a full blown mental health crisis.

While society would have us believe that women are far more emotional than men, and that women face more mental health crisis than their counterpart; the numbers support the contrary. Research shows that men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women. It is hard to ignore this alarming number and even harder to deny the fact that something is inherently wrong with the way society treats male emotional expression. Ignoring their emotions and pretending that stress and mental strain does not affect them is not working. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly 1 in 10 men experience depression and anxiety: According to a poll of 21,000 American men by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), nearly one in ten men reported experiencing some form of depression or anxiety, but less than half sought treatment.

What these numbers tell us is that men are suffering in silence. They are not being supported and are resorting to drastic measures such as addiction and self-harm to alleviate their emotional anguish. According to MindWise, “Men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women: Not only do men binge drink more often than women, men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations. Men are also more likely to have used alcohol before dying by suicide.” How can we become an ally? We start by admitting that the problem exists. We stop perpetuating the negative stereotype that says men are soft if they are emotional. We let them know that it is ok; it is normal to feel and express emotions. We then create safe spaces where the men in our lives feel supported and comfortable enough to open up about the way they are feeling.

Ridgeview Institute understands how hard that can be. This is why we are committed to providing support for the men in our community who are suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. We have men’s programs at each of our two locations specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the male population. Our doors are open 24/7 to support you and your loved ones. We offer no cost assessments to help begin the journey to wellness. If you or someone in your life is struggling and needs support due to deteriorating mental health; you cannot afford to wait-seek help today!

Effective Tools For Best Outcome

Professional Spotlight: Luca Valentine

Effective Tools For Best Outcome

Meet Luca Valentine (aka Lucia Caltabiano) (they/them). They have over eight years’ experience in mental health, with five years post masters. They have most of their experience in substance use and eating disorders, and have been working almost exclusively within their community for two years providing individual, group, and family therapy. Luca received their Bachelors of Psychology at GC&SU and their MSW at UGA.

Their passion and love for their community led them to pursue a career helping transgendered individuals and their families through transition. Ridgeview is proud to have them train staff and others in the mental health field who serve the transgendered population on how to best support them.

They discuss 3 Objectives during this virtual event:

  1. Walk through the 5 stages of grief that parents/caregivers often identify after a child comes out and how to process that grief with their own provider and not with the adolescent in transition.
  2. Learn three common examples of transphobic language and provide three exercises for parents to practice affirming language as well as practice validation even when they cannot understand the transgender experience.
  3. Cover three psychodynamic theories that can help facilitate empathy within parents/caregivers for child’s experience: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Minority Stress Model, and Polyvagal Theory.

According to Luca, family therapy is an exceptionally complex undertaking and different modalities approach this type of care from different angles. The need of immediate family of a transgender child or adolescent are unique and informed by both the coming out/transition process and culture within the home. They designed this continuing education course to cover the finer points of what to, and not to ask during the assessment period, within treatment, and how to help inform a safer space for the youth in transition.

Thanks to providers and educators like Luca, we are closer to bridging the gap of understanding between transgendered individuals and their families. Join us Friday, 6/3/22 for this dynamic learning event.

Register here:

Building Self-esteem by Harnessing the Power of Thoughts

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson

Self-esteem is so much more than thinking positively about yourself. It is wrapped in the way you feel about yourself at your core. It is the confidence you have in your own worth, your value, your abilities, and the respect you have for yourself. It shapes the way we show up in the world and the regard we have for ourselves and others. Self-esteem directly influences the choices and decisions that we make.

There are three major types of self-esteem: Low self-esteem, Inflated self-esteem, and High self-esteem. People with low self-esteem tend to look down on themselves and think they are below average. Some effects of low-esteem can include poor relationships, depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental health concerns. On the other end of this spectrum is inflated self-esteem. These people tend to think they are better than, and look down on others. This can also lead to relationship issues as they are often not capable of meaningful relationships partly because of their lack of attention to the needs of others. People with high self-esteem tend to have a better balance and fall in the middle of the two. They believe in themselves and their abilities. They are often very confident which allows them to be themselves without the fear of being judged. These people are typically team players as they recognize the value that they and others bring to a team.

The shift from inflated or low self-esteem to high esteem can be achieved through the power of your thoughts. You have the ability to harness your thoughts and beliefs in order to become the person you intend to be. Here are a few steps you can take to shift your mindset:

  • Become Mindful of your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others: Ask yourself if these beliefs are true and if you would say them to someone you care about. If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t say them to yourself either.
  • Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking: Don’t be afraid to challenge long seated beliefs if you know they are negative.
  • Pay attention to thought patterns that eat away at your self-esteem: Examples include converting a positive to a negative, jumping to negative conclusions, negative self-talk, etc.
  • Adjust your thoughts and beliefs: Use hopeful statements, avoid “should” and “must” statements, encourage yourself, forgive yourself.
  • Practice Self-Compassion: Accept yourself as a work in progress.

The bottom line is; you get to choose how you show up in the world. We all have things on our past, both negative and positive, that shape the people we are. It is up to us to decide if we will grow from these life events, or let it keep us in a negative place. The road to true self-acceptance is not an easy one, but the reward of high self-esteem that comes with it is priceless.

The Kids Are Not Alright

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

Our kids are in trouble. While the rates of drug and alcohol use and teen pregnancy are down, the rate of mental health issues have grown exponentially among adolescents in the past few decades. Kids are reporting and are being diagnosed with mental health disorders at an alarming rate. Diagnoses like depression, anxiety and ADHD are now common place among teens. The suicide and self-harm rates continue to rise in all demographics. What is causing this uptick and alarming trend in our kids? There are a few hypotheses, but many are nuanced.

Possible reasons for the increase in mental health issues include the rise in awareness. Thanks to more public acceptance and acknowledgement of mental health concerns in kids and adults, people are becoming more sensitive to the existence of mental health signs and triggers in ourselves and others. Another reason could be the increase in social media participation and online influences that kids today are submerged in. What are the kids watching? Who are their influences? It is almost impossible for parents to shield their children from all the information readily available to them.

One factor could be the fact that kids have been reaching maturity younger over the last century. The age of puberty onset has dropped markedly for girls, to 12 years old today from 14 years old in 1990; the age of onset for boys has followed a similar path. With puberty having an earlier onset, the body is going through hormonal changes and the brain becomes hypersensitive to social and hierarchical information. Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University reports that the falling age of puberty has created a “widening gap” between incoming stimulation and what the young brain can process: “They’re being exposed to this deluge at a much earlier age.”

The isolation from Covid also triggered feelings of sadness and loneliness in kids who are at an age where social interaction is a crucial component of healthy development. On the playground is where they learn boundaries, social cues, and begin to explore who they are and mirror who they want to become. This is where they learn how to be a team player and make friends. This is where many learn emotional regulation and conflict resolution. Humans are naturally social creatures and without these interactions we are left with a sense of lack.

Most schools are planning to have kids return to the classroom for the next school year. This can be both a positive and negative thing. On one hand, the kids will be in the company of their peers, and one other hand, with school comes anxiety and stress. Our kids need the tools to succeed at school, and in all their environments. It is not too late for them to turn the tide. The brain is amazing, and with new coping skills, kids can build new, more adaptive neuropathways. This will make them more equipped to face the upcoming challenges of the new school year and beyond.

At Ridgeview, we have seen an increase in hospitalizations among kids struggling with depression, anxiety and self-harm. Many of these kids express feelings of sadness and loneliness. Some report having suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. We have to help our kids now. With this in mind Ridgeview has designed a specialized summer series for the kids in our outpatient programs to meet their unique needs. “Summer G.A.M.E.S” was designed to address the most common school triggers adolescents face today. Our treatment programs will enable students to learn how to balance their mental health and academics & prepare them for a positive school year ahead.

This cannot wait. Contact Ridgeview at 770-434-4567 for our Smyrna location or 678-635-3507 for our Monroe location to see how we can help your family through this trying time. Remember, it takes a village.

Read More About the Mental Health Crisis Among U.S. Teens Here:

Professional Spotlight: Dr. Mary Gay

Meet Dr. Mary Gay, a Licensed Professional Counselor of GA, Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor, and consultant who has been in private clinical practice since 1995, where her specialties include developmental trauma and substance use disorders. She has presented at numerous conferences and workshops on a variety of topics including attachment and trauma, workaholism, understanding addiction as an attachment disorder, countertransference, supervising “wounded healers,” and the ethics of treating trauma. She recently co-founded the Southeastern Counselor Training Institute to present and host quality continuing education workshops on the practice of counseling and psychotherapy. In her spare time, she is the Evening IOP Coordinator for The Summit Wellness Group, a drug and alcohol treatment program in Roswell, GA. She is a member of the American Counseling Association, the Licensed Professional Counselor’s Association of GA, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, and the Georgia Addiction Counselors Association.

We are proud to have Dr. Gay presenting an upcoming CE offered to mental health professionals on Healing Broken Bonds, where they will be learning how Healing Developmental Trauma Through an Attachment Lens can have a profound effect on client outcome. This workshop will consist of an overview of Bowlby’s attachment theory and the current neurobiological research (just the basics!) on the impact of developmental trauma on attachment processes. Participants will learn how to identify attachment disruption and trauma symptomology in adult clients. An introduction to research-based interventions from an attachment-informed theoretical model will be reviewed. This workshop has an experiential component that will stimulate the counselor to reflect on his/her own attachment experiences.

At Ridgeview, we are committed to providing the education necessary to promote positive outcomes for the community and people we serve. Join us on May 20th at 9am via zoom for this informative CE and earn 5 core hours.

Click here to register