Happily Parent Conference Free FYI! May 10-14th (Online)


Hi Parents out there in the internet. I happened to stumble upon a free opportunity to hear Daniel Segel speak about helping kids calm themselves using lessons from neuroscience (us chilling so they can chill) and I signed up for a free 5-day workshop called Happily Parent Conference. No Idea if it is any good but thought I’d give it a shout out since lots of parents out there are looking for free therapy at home when their kids are driving them nuts..

Here’s the info:

Free Online Conference: “The Way of the Mindful Parent” hosted by Happily Family. May 10-14th @ https://conference.happilyfamily.com/

Topics Include:

Raising resilient kids, Meltdowns, Reactive parenting and how to stop it, Helping siblings remain good friends through life, Healthy parent and child separation, Mindful parenting

Enjoy! Hope it’s a helpful, no strings attached (I can never be sure without trying it along with you, which I will be…) resource

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Thursday “Throw Away” Thinking: The Should Have’s


I should start this post by telling you that I was going on about “clearings” (see below) and the “laws of attraction” to my husband on a road trip last week and he was like, Madigan, that’s from The Secret and it isn’t real science. And then I was like, grrrrr, and then I tried to explain how positive reinforcement creates compounding positive results over time thereby creating something big out of something once small and he was like…no. So my pseudo-science explanation did not make a believer out of him, but in my practice I see it all the time and it works. Promise. So read below…

A client had a cool image she brought into session. It was of a clearing. She said whatever I spend time thinking about is what I attract into my clearing. So if I think about all the things I failed to do, or all the things I did wrong, I’m attracting all sorts of negative stuff into my clearing. And that’s what it will be filled with if we aren’t careful.

When I apply that to my own thinking, it occurs to me that every time I tell myself I should have done something better, or didn’t do something else enough, I’m really just filling my clearing with disappointments and shame.

So thinking about what we want, what we are grateful for, what we did well at. That begins to bring positive energy into our clearing. And we feel energized and excited to keep going. The should have’s have a strong negative pull and will attract more of the same.

It’s not all that simple, I know. And this is a pastiche that could use some editing. But the clearing image has a way of demonstrating how to be intentional about what we feed ourselves – the thoughts I mean – and how it shapes the mood of the clearing we reside in.

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Wednesday “What Works!” In My Practice: #1 Kicking Lethargy


{These notes will be comments about what clients in my practice have found as effective strategies, resources, and conversations on certain topics. They aren’t a comprehensive list. More like musings of what seems to work for the people that I see.}

Today’s Topic – Lethargy: Defined as a lack of energy and enthusiasm. Symptoms can include sluggishness, inactivity, inaction, slowness, fogginess, and listlessness. Sources can be mental, emotional, or physical.

5 Ways Clients Have Worked Successfully with Lethargy:

1. Creating a structured morning routine starting around 7 a.m.  (Deciding the night before where they will go by 9am (that means leaving the house, even for a brief time to start the day!!). Drinking coffee before they attempt making wardrobe selections. Putting down the phone after the alarm goes off (no dilly dallying falling into reading social media vortex).

2. Going to the gym multiple times a week at the same time each day. (Even if they are the guy/lady sitting on the arm press machine waving to passers by. It’s Social! And if they actually use the machine a little the endorphines start to work magic on those joints and they report more energy and focus throughout the rest of the day.)

3. Mindfulness practice reduces feelings of overwhelm. It helps clients decide what needs to happen first, second, and third, thereby helping determine what is most important for them to accomplish (or relax and not accomplish) at any given moment.

4. Work from home BUT DO IT AWAY from home. Work for yourself? Awesome. Do it somewhere out of your pajamas. Around other human beings. Coffee shops with free-wifi and coffee-refills. Shared work spaces in downtown open concept offices.

5. Create an intention for what a good day would look like and write it down. What features does it have? Clients who are concrete about what success would look like are more likely to actualize their plan.

Reviewing this list I realized that all five points feature routine and ritual as main components. More on that later…

See you next Wednesday!


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Surviving Baby Fussiness, Reflux, and Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) in your Baby

Dealing with reflux, colic and MSPI (Milk Soy Protein Intolerance) is an experience that can break – or nearly break – parents. We have been there three times with our three kids. We thought we were thrown a softball most recently with our third, but when the classic gasping and writhing started after feedings we knew what we were in for.

MSPI, or Milk Soy Protein Intolerance, is a stomach condition that interferes with infant’s ability to digest certain elements in the mother’s milk until it is outgrown around one year of age. The resulting inflammation can cause blood in the stool, respiratory symptoms, bloating, pain and gas. As a parent you might observe that your baby’s head looks like it’s going to pop off from the pressure of all of the screaming, gasping, rattling, twisting, writhing and inconsolable distress.

The good news is they grown out of it. Solid food helped my kids tremendously. Even by six months many babies start to improve.

The challenge is how to keep yourself, your baby, and your marriage in tact while you live through MSPI or colic. I have gone the formula route with the first two kids (EleCare hydrolized formula) and the elminination diet with the third (cutting out Dairy & Soy and in our case also Wheat, Nuts and Sesame). Both were extremely stressful.

Here are a few tips that I learned through trial and error that helped us after a lot of trial and error:

1. These are the people you need on your team: Lactation Consultant, Pediatrician, Gastroenterologist, Nutritionist, Babysitter, Support Group, and Counselor

2. Respite babysitting is necessary 3x or more a week for at least 3 hours so you can have guaranteed sleep

3. Pediatricians should know about Reflux and infant food intolerances and if they don’t seek guidance from a Gastroenterologist

4. Monitoring baby weight is the best way to track if your interventions are working

5. Join a weekly baby group and talk about the color of your baby’s poop, why they cry, how to feed them to reduce reflux, etc etc

6. Go to Google and type in “MSPI” to find online support, chatrooms, recipes, and stories

7. Find a gym that has childcare and workout or sit and read/work during the workweek

8. Expect eye rolling when you tell people with “normal” “sleeping” babies that your baby has something wrong with their tummy. They may think you are exaggerating. You are not exaggerating. You are not crazy.

9. Take shifts with your partner. Use earplugs for the hours you are “off duty”. Make sure you can’t hear the baby crying when it’s your time to rest.

10. Infant probiotics can aid with infant MSPI so worth a conversation with your Pediatrician

11. Well, maybe you are a little crazy. It’s because colic and complicated infant feeding, and failed attempts at “fixing” your baby’s pain are crazy making. You try and follow the signs and they are always changing. Nothing works more than two days at a time.  Days and months of this can just wear you down.

12. Eliminating foods from your diet means you will need to be hawkish about getting your nutrients. You need Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish oil, Fish, Veggies, etc). You need fat and calories. You need MSPI friendly snacks in your car and in your bag. Apples, Bananas, Sunflower Seeds, Rice Cakes, Dates, Prunes, Popcorn with coconut oil. In the fridge stock a pot of rice and a pot of oatmeal to scoop out and microwave. Keep pre-cooked chicken sausages and BoarsHead deli meat (they are soy and dairy free) in the fridge for fast meals when you bonk. Cheerios with honey are sweet and Rice Milk from Trader Joes tastes almost like milk (well…) in your coffee. Look online for MSPI recipes!

13. If you feel like your going crazy it’s ok, you probably are a little bit. Being screamed at for endless hours a day tends to crazify people. Depression can set in when your baby screams all the time. If you don’t feel like yourself you should go for individual counseling immediately. Bring the baby if you need to. Couples counseling too. Load up!

If any of this has been helpful then I’m glad. Going through Colic, Reflux, MSPI with our three kids has been harrowing. But now I can help others navigate through it. If you are my area of Oak Park, IL (outside of Chicago) then don’t be shy about reaching out. If you are interested in individual or couples counseling to help you through this journey then I’m here to help. If you are looking for local resources then great I know some.

My kids now are happy and healthy. They can eat everything. They don’t appear traumatized by all the pain in their first months of life. It’s much, much better these days. Good Luck!!

Baby Fussiness, Colic, Milk Soy Protein Intolerance, MSPI, Acid Reflux, Elimination Diet, Motherhood, Isolation, Postpartum Depression, Perinatal Depression

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5 Reasons for Counseling Before You Fly The Nest

Health insurance is one way many Americans are able to afford counseling. Many young adults are still eligible to be covered under their family’s health insurance plans, that is until they turn 27, at which point they need to find health insurance on their own. Here are five reasons why therapy is a good choice before adulthood, whether you are struggling or even thriving in your twenties:

1. Finding a career that fits you

Good therapy helps you to play well with others so you can be a successful hire. It develops internal cues that guide decision making. It increases your internal locus of control, which just means you learn that the ball is in your court and you can do as little or as much with your life as you chose. And it teaches you to not override your nervous system, so you can maintain high quality work without getting depressed, overwhelmed, drinking too much, or burning out before you hit 40. All of this will help lead you to a sustainable, fulfilling, and flexible approach to work that can boost your career trajectory and earning power for the future.

2. Finding a relationship that makes you happy is awesome.

As a young adult, what kind of attachment style do you have? Secure, Anxious, Avoidant? Do you recharge by using your partner as a sounding board, or by going in your room with a book and closing the door.  Are you comfortable turning to your partner in times of stress and pain? Or do you attack or move away to manage your internal distress? Finding a skilled therapist in attachment

3. Individuating from Parents

Young adults can learn to respectfully separate from their parents without blowing up their relationship. Often 20-somethings move into the city or away from their community and begin to shape their own views of the world. And this can lead to conflict in families. Supportive therapy can help ease this transition by working with boundaries and facilitating a strong sense of this is me/that is them so that healthy new family dynamics can emerge.

4. Treating Depression & Anxiety

If you have been struggling with depression, anxiety, eating imbalances, OCD, ADD, chronic pain, or anger management, then getting counseling on your parents insurance is the best way to keep these issues from gathering steam in your thirties. Settling your nervous system and rebalancing yourself will help tremendously with job performance, and with finding a good partner.

5. Substance Use

If partying in your teens and early twenties has turned into problem drinking or drug use, it’s a good time to start talking about it. Effective substance use counseling can range from abstenance to moderation to increasing other areas of functioning (exercise, diet, increased social life). There are now medications that reduce drinking urges that can kill the cravings so that you can find other ways of relating socially and managing stress.

Bonus Reason!

6. Traumatic Experiences

Trauma left unaddressed can wreak havoc for years. It can continue to manifest in difficulty functioning and a sense of not really being present in your own skin. Why live like this when it can be treated? Somatic Experiencing (SE) and other trauma treatment modalities use touch/body awareness to decrease traumatic sensations in the body. Clients report marked reductions in destress after just a few sessions. Somatic Experiencing (SE) specialists often only accept high quality insurance due to their extensive training. If you can take advantage of good insurance, especially BCBSPPO, you can get excellent life changing treatment at little or no out of pocket cost.

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The Guest House by Rumi

Rumi’s poem The Guest House is a favorite of mine. I love the part where he writes, “he may be clearing you out for some new delight.” As a therapist I invite clients to join me in creating a safe, protective, and containing space in which we can manageably explore feelings. The safe container, the slow pendulation between safe and unsafe feelings, and the intentional focus of the two of us exploring together are what allow for painful experiences to unwind and transform into something less threatening and more play-withable than before. From this place of loosening and flexibility we have more capacity to allow for what wants to happen next, and next, and next. And then, hooray!, something new and more congruent with one’s spirit begins to show up underneath and within the pain. And the safe space allows for this newness to be tried on for size, safely and slowly, so as not to be jarring and overwhelming. And the guest, the fear, the burden that initially walked through the door becomes something new, here unto unavailable, delight.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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Deprivation SUCKS but Sacrifice RULES

When your trying to make a positive change in your life it likely involves getting rid of long-lived bad habits. Things like shoveling cake into your mouth after a stressful day, or guzzling a bottle of wine, or soothing your boredom by spending money you don’t have…or just about a thousand other things that make you wake up in the morning and chastise yourself for doing it – AGAIN. Week after week, year after year.

So, we try and change! We look at ourselves in the mirror and come to terms with ourselves and our habits. I’m fed up, sick and tired of being sick and tired, sick of this pile of debt that creeps into my thoughts as I lay awake at night. I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.

And then we try. We try really really hard to change.

And some of us succeed. So what is the secret?

This is what I think: Deprivation SUCKS but Sacrifice RULES.

The definition of deprivation is the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity. In Somatic Experiencing terms, you are all the sudden taking away something that your body has considered essential and comforting for a very long time, even if it’s unhealthy or dangerous.

So if you are Tarzan, you are swinging from vine to vine and all of the sudden you’ve cut some of the vines out of your life and you have nothing left to hang on to. You are stuck! That is deprivation. You have denied yourself the lifeline that has kept you afloat for so long. Sure it may be unhealthy and even damaging. But you have nothing new to replace it with.

The definition of sacrifice, on the other hand, is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. So here the focus is on the future, on something greater to come. The act of sacrifice is powerful when you know exactly were you want to go and you can visualize it. Your body fills up with purpose and pays much less attention to the ache of what is missing.

The way we chose to change has a big impact on whether we succeed. If we focus on what we have lost, we feel deprived and unhappy. But if we focus on our goal, we feel fulfilled, even as we sacrifice. The feeling of fullness, after all, is what we seek. So by focusing on what makes your sacrifice worthy, and really filling up BEFORE we actually get rid of our bad habit, we have envisioned a vine that we can grab.

I’ll plan to write additional articles of preparing for and undergoing big change. For now, I just encourage you to reflect on what kind of felt experience you have as you imagine letting go of your “bad” habit. Do you feel deprived (sinking or bracing feeling)? Or do you feel full (satisified, excited, empowered) with the vision of what you are working to achieve? Or is it hard to sense the difference?

Here’s an exercise:
Start by wondering where you would like to see yourself a month or a year from now. Visualize that person as they look at a positive bank balance for the first time. Really feel the excitement of that future moment. Stamp the feeling on your forehead or post the image on your mirror or write it down or tell your spouse. REALLY FEEL IT. IF YOU DON’T FEEL THE BURN, stop and take a break. You aren’t excited yet. Poke around for some ways to get pumped about your new project. WHEN YOU FINALLY GET EXCITED ABOUT YOUR GOAL, AND ONLY THEN, START TO WORK BACKWARDS. What do I need to sacrifice to get there. What are the ten steps you need to achieve to get there? Is the finish-line visible and achievable in a reasonable amount of time – a few months, three years? How will you celebrate mini-successes? Who will cheer you on? When will you know you are successful? Etc, etc. The key is finding your excitement FIRST. Then you can sacrifice and let go of your old vine.

My individual and couples practice is part-time in Oak Park, IL. I don’t write often but am thinking about doing it more as I continue to develop my skills in trauma healing Somatic Experiencing (SE) and Emotionally Focused therapy for Couples (EFT). I can be reached at 872-225-2150 or at my website www.madiganoakparkcounseling.com

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Moved to Oak Park, IL


Hi Everyone, I’m afraid I’ve said goodbye to Lakeview in favor of practicing closer to home in Oak Park, IL. My work continues with individuals, couples and new parents. I’ve set aside offering childcare for now but will consider reintroducing it in the future. Here’s a photo of my new office.

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Swinging Your Family Into Relaxation


Swinging offers children vestibular stimulation and sensory integration on the playground, helping them to feel balanced and internally calm. When its winter in Chicago, and we are cloistered indoors for days at a time, things can spin quickly out of control. The flow that comes from rhythmic movement on the playground is stymied and kids and parents alike can become stressed and anxious.

I wondered if my kids would stop throwing Christmas ornaments and chasing the dog if I integrated some playground equipment into our home. So, we got a swing, drilled some holes, and the experiment commenced.

My daughter and I have since spent countless days swinging. I sit on the floor with our son in my lap. He is transfixed by the rhythmic rocking. My daughter’s whole body seems to relax into the motion, she smiles widely, and sinks deeper into the flow of the swing.

The experiment was a success. Swinging helped reintroduce flow back into our wintertime home and I wanted to share this as a resource for others.

Photo courtesy of Playaway Toy Company, Inc.

If your interested in swinging, here’s the kit we tried:

Playaway Toy Company, Inc.

Playaway Toys Rainy Day Kit on Amazon

Additional sensorimotor integration resources for parents:

25 Sensorimotor Activities for Hyperactive Kids

OT Mom Learning Activities




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