Counseling Corner
Dawn WomackMSW, LCSW, BACS
Child and Adolescent Counseling, LLC
Serving East & West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston & St. James Parishes
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by Dawn Womack on 01/16/16

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Back to the blog!

by Dawn Womack on 01/09/16

Happy New Year! I have decided to bring my blog back and I am very excited about it! I have been wanting to blog, but wasn't having any luck figuring out how to fit blogging into my busy world until I got some great ideas while talking to LaKesha T. about her blog (you should check it out at, so I am going to give it a try.
So, its the new year and I have been thinking about what changes I want to make in my life. I'm not someone who makes resolutions, but I do like to look at my life and reflect on the goals I have met, the ones I am working on, and the ones I am not doing well with. My main goal for the new year is going to be taking care of myself. I have a giving personality and love to give to others, but I often give more than I should and that catches up with me. I know that I can't be my best to help others if I wear myself out, so I have been working on strengthening my boundaries.
Do you have any New Years resolutions that you want to share? Or any questions that you would like me to address in my blog? I am here with the intention of sharing positive thoughts, providing useful information, and connecting people to resources.

Keep on blogging!

by Dawn Womack on 10/28/12

I had every intention to keep my blog updated once I got settled in my practice. I apologize that I haven't been able to make that happen yet. My practice is SO busy!! I am not complaining, just explaining!! I am working to set boundaries where my working hours are concerned to allow me to have time to get to the other things that are important to me, like my blog.  I have tried to accommodate my clients as much as possible, and am finally settling down and seeing what is and isn't reasonable in my work hours. My blog is my next priority! I hope to have a new blog entry each week, depending on the feedback/comments to let me know that others are here with me.

10 Steps to Prevent Suicide

by Dawn Womack on 07/19/12

1. Notice if the person appears quiet and withdrawn, oversleeps, has crying episodes, has loss of appetite and energy, appears dishevelled, the gaze is downward, the voice tone is flat, consistently negative comments, irritability, or says things like, "Life's not worth living," or "I hate my life," etc.

2. Ask: "How would you rate your mood right now on a scale of zero to ten with zero meaning life's not worth living and ten meaning life is great?"

3. If the person rates the mood as 5 or under, ask: "Have you had any thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself?" *

4. If the person indicates yes, go to the next step. If the person says, "I don't know," hear this as a "yes" to the question in #3.

5. Ask: "Have you thought about how you might end your life?" If the person says yes, the risk is increased.

6. Ask: "What have you thought about as how you might do it?" If the plan or method is ineffective or non-lethal, such as cutting wrists, the risk is low. If the method is lethal such as using a gun or jumping from a bridge, etc., the risk is high.

7. Regardless of the method, ask: "Can we agree together that if you have thoughts of killing yourself, you will speak to me personally (not my voice mail) before carrying out a plan to harm yourself?"

8. If the person says "no" or "I don't know," to the question in #7, say: "What I am hearing is that you are in a lot of pain right now and thinking of ending your life, so I am wanting you to go to the emergency room right now and get some help to feel better right away. Will you go? I will make sure you get there safely. Is there a family member or someone I can call to go with you?" Or tell the person you will go with them yourself.

9. Arrange for the suicidal person to be accompanied to the emergency room, and call ahead to tell emergency staff the person is coming.

10. If the person refuses, then ask the person to wait there with someone while you call police in another room to report that the person has threatened suicide with a lethal method. Ask the police to come and accompany the person to the emergency room.

*Note: If the person rates his mood as 6 or over, after feeling consistently depressed, and he now reports life is great and he is smiling, the risk may be increased because he has decided to end his life and has made arrangements.

Longing for Dad: Father Loss and Its Impact

by Dawn Womack on 04/21/12

I've noticed a common theme with some of my adolescent female clients and decided to form a small group to determine if talking with others who share similar experiences/feelings would be beneficial.  The common theme is hidden emotional pain due to their current circumstances regarding their fathers.  Whether a client was very close to her father and he passed away, or a client never knew her father and he passed away, or a client knew her father and suffered physical abuse by him, or a client who knows her father but he chooses not to spend any time with her, the girls all have a lot of emotional pain to work through and learn and grow from.  This common theme caught my attention quickly because I had a poor relationship with my father and I am able to recognize the serious effects this had on me during my adolescent years. I would like to prevent other young girls from making poor choices due to the lasting effects of the emotional pain left behind from their relationships or lack of relationships with their fathers.

I decided to look for some books to use in the group and came across this one: Longing for Dad: Father Loss and Its Impact - by Beth Erickson. I gave the book to the girls and invited them to read it on their own, bring it to the group, or both. I was amazed at how helpful this book has been in the short time we have been reading it.  We had our first small group session recently and the girls were not only able to identify with the author of the book, but with each other using activities and check lists in the book to help link some feelings of self-worth and behaviors to the lack of a relationship with their fathers. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with these issues:

Product description:

Whether you lost your father through death or divorce, or you wished he would have said "I love you" instead of merely being a good provider, you may harbor unresolved hurt in your soul.

When denied meaningful contact with our fathers, either physically or emotionally, a gaping hole or "father hunger" emerges in the child's psyche. If left unfulfilled, this "father hunger" triggers pronounced psychological patterns consigning that child to personal and professional dead-ends as an adult. Father hunger manifests itself in many forms: workaholism, substance abuse, chronic depression, sexual promiscuity, violent behavior, food addiction, and an inability to sustain intimate relationships.

Dr. Beth Erickson shows you how to identify, validate and heal the pain surrounding father loss and explore the spiritual crises that unresolved loss such as this generates. By sharing compelling case studies of men and women, and her own personal struggle to accept her father's death, she guides you through the healing process. After reading the dialogues and completing the exercises, you will fill the hole in your soul and emerge from the journey at peace with yourself and your relationships with your father.



To blog or not to blog...

by Dawn Womack on 04/01/12

I had decided not to continue my blog because I haven't had any feedback on the site, but then I have people who say they were enjoying reading the blog.  I will start again and ask for a "like" or a comment if you're here, just so I know that i'm not talking to myself!!

I have made a decision recently that was a really difficult one to make.  I am leaving my job as a special needs counselor in the school system to pursue my private practice full-time.  I started my private practice in January, 2012, expecting to need to work another year in the school system to build my practice to a place where I could work there full-time.  The response to my new practice has been exciting and positive.  I am getting referrals from every direction and couldn't be happier.  As of March, I have 25 clients and have to make a decision.  I've been working at school from 7:30 am - 2:30 pm, then at my office from 4pm - 8pm, getting home at 9pm.  I can't continue to do both.  I am sad to leave the greatest job I've ever had, but I know that this job helped shape me into who I am.  The kids I've worked with have changed me.  I know that I will take what they've taught me and move into a different chapter in my life.

So, on June 1st, Dawn Lundin Child & Adolescent Counseling will be full-time! I am interested in working with children, adolescents, adults, and families in individual or group settings.  I enjoy working with teenagers and love when I get referrals for them!

So, those are my thoughts to share for today! Leave a comment and let me know what topics you're interested in reading about.  Or just let me know you're here! 



Effective discipline

by Dawn Womack on 01/07/12

In my experience with my own kids as well as the parents of kids I work with, determining effective discipline is often difficult.  I have tried over the years to focus on "making the punishment fit the crime."  I often see parents punishing their kids by taking away their favorite things or even just taking away everything when their child misbehaves or makes a mistake.  I have to ask it working for you?  If it is, then keep on doing what you're doing.  But if it isn't, stop and think about the punishment vs. what the child did wrong in the first place.  How will you teach him the lesson he needs to learn about his behavior so that he will remember the next time he is faced with this decision?

Kids sometimes have a hard time connecting two unassociated experiences.  If the punishment is directly related to the behavior, the child is more likely to remember the punishment the next time. For example, if your child got in trouble for using the phone after hours - take away her phone privileges for a specific period of time.  If your child hit another child, have him apologize and do not allow him to invite friends over to play for a period of time.   If your child's grades are dropping, try to determine the cause (too much time on the phone or computer, extracurricular activities taking too much time, etc.) and set some restrictions in those areas. 

However, I see parents punish a child who is abusing his phone privileges by taking away his nintendo game or not letting the child participate on a sports team, or even taking away all privileges.  When I see this type of discipline, I usually feel that the punishment was given out of anger as opposed to attempting to teach a lesson and to let the child earn back a privilege and try again.

Also, be sure to reward positive behavior.  It's important to let your child know when you notice good behavior.  Praise her and reward her when she does act appropriately.  You may be surprised to see her behavior improve from this alone.

Here is a website I found with these really good tips on effective discipline:

How You Say It Is Key

All parents get tired of yelling and repeating themselves trying to teach their children the same lessons and the appropriate way to behave. When it comes to disciplining your child effectively, how you communicate – what you say and how you say it -- are key. Discipline your child with words that are instructive, not destructive, and that are caring, not callous. If your child feels that you respect him or her, your child is more likely to comply.

How to effectively discipline and guide your child

  • Be calm. Your neutral tone shows your child you are standing your ground. Your calmness is contagious and will help your child calm down.
  • Be confident. If you want your child to have a two-cookie or one-hour TV limit, then establish that those are the rules in your home by enforcing them consistencly and with confidence.
  • Focus on your child. Say his or her name when you give a directive and look directly at the child.
  • Praise good behavior. Use specific praise that reiterates the good thing your child did and what it meant. “Thank you for sitting quietly and reading while I dressed your sister. It made us all happy and able to get things done. You are becoming a good reader.”
  • Gentle reminders. Time these appropriately. As your child leaves the bathroom, remind him or her to hang the towel up.
  • Present choices. Instead of always telling your child not to do something, give your child choices such as, "do you want to put your socks on first or your shirt?" Just make sure you only give choices that if your child chooses, you will be comfortable with.
  • Don't ask, tell.Asking "Are you ready for bed?" leaves the decision up to your child and the likely answer will be "no!" Try "Time for bed!" instead.
  • When…then . Tell your child when he completes an act of good behavior (puts away a toy, finishes homework, brushes teeth), then something desirable for your child will happen (you can have a cookie, watch TV, call your friend on the phone.)
  • Tell your child you will count to ten and explain what needs to happen during the countdown. Kids actually like the 'beat-the-clock' challenge and the countdown also allows you to keep your cool.
  • Invite input. Work out a situation together by asking your child how he or she would solve the problem. Then listen and work together to solve the issue at hand.
  • Say please and thank you . This helps your child use these important terms in his or her own language, but also provides an air of civility and kindness
  • Focus your message and be specific. Direct your child specifically, saying, “Dinner's almost ready. Please turn off the TV, wash your hands, and come to the table.”
  • Brief is best. One or two sentences will work better than a lecture in most cases. “Put your coat on or you'll be late for school.”
  • Use “I” phrases, instead of “you” phrases. Shift your criticism from the child to the child's behavior. Rather than, "You really make me sad when you do not put away your toys" try "I really like it when you put away your toys when you are finished playing."
  • Don't give too many orders at once. As your child completes a task, then direct him or her to the next one to avoid overwhelming your child.


Should my child see a therapist?

by Dawn Womack on 01/04/12

I ran across a really good atricle today that addresses what a lot of parents want to know...should my child see a therapist?

Some highlights from the website that interested me:

Signs that a child may benefit from seeing a psychologist or licensed therapist include:

  • developmental delay in speech, language, or toilet training
  • learning or attention problems (such as ADHD)
  • behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
  • a significant drop in grades, particularly if your child normally maintains high grades
  • episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
  • social withdrawal or isolation
  • being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
  • decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
  • sudden changes in appetite (particularly in adolescents)
  • insomnia or increased sleepiness
  • excessive school absenteeism or tardiness
  • mood swings (e.g., happy one minute, upset the next)
  • development of or an increase in physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
  • management of a serious, acute, or chronic illness
  • signs of alcohol, drug, or other substance use (such as solvents or prescription drug abuse)
  • problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
  • bereavement issues
  • custody evaluations
  • therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events

And the different strategies that therapists use is a helpful section. My most common is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy is often helpful with kids and teens who are depressed, anxious, or having problems coping with stress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy restructures negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking. It can include work on stress management strategies, relaxation training, practicing coping skills, and other forms of treatment.

There is lots of good information about finding the right therapist for your child in this article. 

Test Yourself

by Dawn Womack on 01/03/12

There are lots of cool tests you can take on Psychology Today's website...check them out!

Happy New Year!!! Bring on 2012!!!

by Dawn Womack on 01/01/12

Happy New Year!!! I am so excited that 2012 is here and all that it will bring with it!  I received my LCSW license on 11/28/11 and spent the month of December getting things set up to start a private practice in the afternoons/evenings working mostly with children and adolescents. I have no intentions of leaving my day job because I love my job and the kids I work with, but want to try my hand at private practice.  I am in my 5th year as a school counselor working mostly in a middle school in an impoverished community and the students there have a hold on my heart, so no thoughts of leaving my  job...just adding something else! 

It has been a long time coming for this day to finally get here that I can "hang my shingle" and start my own practice.  There are several reasons I enjoy working with kids who have problems, but the main one is that I was a kid who had problems.  After a series of poor decisions, I dropped out of school at 16, earned a GED at 19, started college at 24, and graduated college at 39.  I started working on my master's degree right after earning my bachelor's degree and finished at 41 years old in 2007.  In order to have a private practice, I had to work over 5,000 hours to be eligible to sit for the LCSW exam with more than 3,000 of those hours being supervised by an LCSW. Here I am, 4 1/2 years later, and i'm finally there!

It's difficult to find high school drop-outs or GED recipients with master's degrees, but i'm living proof that it can be done.  I strive to push the kids I work with to stay in school, no matter how old they are, because they can make it through, no matter what obstacles in their lives are trying to hold them back. While dropping out seems to be the answer for a lot of teenagers, it really only increases the problems they are having, and then adds additional ones.  Once you have to work, raise kids, pay bills, etc., finding the time, money, and energy for school is sometimes impossible.

I am officially beginning my practice on January 2nd and already have 2 clients scheduled for my first week! With 2 more waiting to schedule appointments. This is such an exciting time for me and I just wanted to share my excitement with my readers! I would also like to say thank you to all of my family and friends who have supported me in multiple ways throughout my life and especially over the last few years.  I couldn't have done it without any of you, and especially couldn't have done it without my wonderful husband, Walter.  I surely couldn't have and wouldn't have gone down this path without the experiences gained from my students at school who have taught me a whole lot more than I have taught them over the last 5 years.

I never set goals for myself as a teenager/young adult and that is because I never believed that I could reach them.  Now, I know that I can and I push myself to set new goals and push the kids I work with to do the same.  Sometimes it is just a daily goal - what are you going to accomplish today?? In my office at school, I have a bulletin board with my students' behavior goal for the month listed on it.  It keeps them focused on what they are trying to change or accomplish for themselves. We update it each month...sometimes it needs to stay the same because the goal hasn't been reached, and sometimes they are ready for the next goal, once the current one has been accomplished. Sometimes it is a longer-term goal, but it's incredible to help kids see that they can reach their goals.  Can you imagine asking a teenager what they want to be when they grow up, and then find out nobody has ever asked them that before? And they've never thought about it before? That is my favorite part about working with my students and clients -seeing them figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Without goals, you really have no reason to try. 

So here we are in a new year, 2012! Set your goals and strive to meet them! Leave a comment and tell us what your goals are!!

Happy New Year!!!