Attachment Issues

Attachment Issues

Attachment issues develop when children are over/under attached to others.  Often, attachment disorders can present by a child lacking the proper attachment to their parents/caregivers.  Conversely, attachment disorders can present when a child lacks boundaries with strangers.  Although attachment issues typically develop before the age of 5, symptoms of them can carry into adulthood if not addressed earlier in life. The two predominant attachment disorders that develop in childhood are Reactive Attachment Disorder and Disinhibited Social Interaction Disorder.  Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder fail to interact with others as a result of negative experiences in their early years.  In Disinhibited Social Interaction Disorder, children are overly friendly with strangers, often allowing themselves to be in dangerous positions because they do not fear unknown people.

Often, attachment issues stem from inconsistent parenting.  When children spend significant time in foster homes, or when a child’s parents are absent/distracted, children can begin to withdraw from others as well.  Children can also begin to develop attachment issues when parents are gone for long periods, such as with hospitalizations.  Children with avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized attachment styles will eventually begin to disengage from adults as well as other children.


If children exhibit symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder or Disinhibited Social Interaction Disorder, it is important for them to have a comprehensive psychological evaluation.  An evaluation can help rule out other conditions with potentially similar symptoms, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Teaching children healthy and productive interpersonal boundaries can lessen the symptoms of attachment issues later in life.  Common symptoms of an attachment disorder in children include failure to trust adults in authority, the need to control or manipulate, and lying.  These children can often display impulsivity and superficial charm.

Though attachment issues are often observed in childhood, adults can also show symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  These symptoms may include difficulty in handling conflict with other adults, controlling/manipulating others, feelings of isolation, and feelings of being blamed.  Attachment issues/disorders are serious and should be addressed by a mental health professional as soon as possible to avoid progression of interpersonal issues.


Both individual and family therapy may be necessary when attachment issues are present. The therapist will focus on understanding the relationships of the client and the family of origin, and strengthening these relationships.  Therapy alone is often not sufficient to relieve symptoms of attachment disorders in children; stable housing and consistent parenting are also required for a child to begin developing healthy attachments. If treatment is not sought for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, they have a much greater chance at developing issues such as borderline, histrionic, antisocial, narcissistic, dependent, or obsessive-compulsive personality disorders later in life.

Repetition compulsion,” the tendency to recreate relationship styles of the past, can be dangerous for adults that suffer from attachment issues that stem from childhood. In these instances, family therapy or couples’ counseling can be beneficial to differentiate between the relationships of the past and current relationships.  Therapy can also help those suffering from attachment issues to process what is healthy in a relationship from what is not healthy in a relationship.

Additional Resources:

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Attachment Disorders

American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy: Adult Attachment Relationships

Institute for Attachment and Child Development

Mayo Clinic: Attachment Disorders

Book: “God Attachment” by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub

Article By: Sarah Warner, MS


Codependency is when a person is in an unhealthy and often one-sided relationship. In a healthy relationship, both partners “meet in the middle” to sustain the relationship. In codependent relationships, however, one partner is always initiating behaviors to keep the relationship alive; paradoxically, they’re primarily dependent on the other person’s dependence on them (Psychology Today: Codependent or Simply Dependent: What’s the Big Difference?). Codependent partners often are looking exclusively to meet all their emotional needs from a single relationship, and engage in unhealthy behaviors to perpetuate a relationship, behaviors which often support irresponsibility, addictive lifestyles, or underachievement in their partners (PsychCentral).

Symptoms of Codependent People

  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Reactivity
  • People Pleasing
  • Caretaking
  • Poor Boundaries
  • Controlling
  • Obsessions
  • Dysfunctional Communication
  • Dependency
  • Denial
  • Problems with Intimacy
  • Painful Emotions

Although codependency is often a mentality that is learned in childhood, it can be treated and those suffering from codependent tendencies can learn to set healthy boundaries and be assertive. Twelve Step programs, such as Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), and individual/family therapy can often provide support and healthy instruction on how to take care of oneself rather than engaging in behaviors that continue to lower self-esteem and perpetuate unhealthy relationships. Healthy habits that are reinforced in psychological counseling for codependency include:

  • Improving Self-Care
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Fixing” vs. “Supporting
  • Helping Others in Productive Ways
  • Learning about Family Patterns

In order to recover emotionally from codependent thought patterns and beliefs, one must develop knowledge of what a healthy relationship looks like, develop a healthy sense of identity, learn self-validation, and learn how to build healthy boundaries. It is important, as Christians, that we know how to gather our validation from our identity in Christ, rather than taking our self-worth from another human being.

If you are suffering from a codependent relationship or are experiencing an abusive relationship, do not hesitate to call today and set up a diagnostic intake at (757) 827-7707.

Good Therapy: Treatment for Codependency
How Codependency Resembles a Relationship Addiction
Psych Central: Codependency
Psychology Today: Codependent or Simply Dependent: What’s the Big Difference?

Article by: Sarah Warner, MS

Thank Therapy … A Habit for a Healthy & Successful Life

This season is one of my favorites as we slow down and put intentional focus on a mindset that often eludes us … gratitude.  Our culture and our own ambitions often drive us to want more – not only for ourselves but for our families, friends, co-workers, etc.  As an employee for Procter & Gamble for 30+ years, I’ve learned how important it is to create products that are irresistibly superior and then advertise them in a way that causes people to go out and buy them.  This drive for more and better can be a positive force in our lives and society but it can easily lead to discontentment, frustration, and if we are honest envy.

There are moments in life when we are reminded how much we have to be thankful.  I had one of these a week ago when I spent a few days on the island of Puerto Rico.  The island was devastated by Hurricane Maria and progress is slow.  Seeing the circumstances people are living in gave me a fresh awareness of how easily I take for granted the availability of fresh water, a roof over my head, electricity and yes, even the internet.  Despite all the hardships, it was so encouraging to hear stories of people coming together to support and care for each other.  It is times like these that remind us how blessed we are not by the conveniences or things we have but by the core, essential things such as God’s love, family and friendships.

Paul challenges us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to always have joy, to always pray and to always give thanks regardless of our circumstances.  In the Greek, the words grace, gratitude and joy all have the same root, char.  Char is a word that has to do with health and well-being.  God wants the best for us and commands us to embrace grace, gratitude and joy in all things because He knows what we often forget … these are good for us!  Notice that we are told to be give thanks IN our circumstances not FOR our circumstances.  Thankfulness transcends the challenging times we may find ourselves.

This Thanksgiving let’s start the habit of practicing “Thank Therapy“.  Create a list of the “Twenty Reasons Why I’m Thankful.”  Encourage others to do the same and share them with each other.  When you find yourself starting to complain and grumble go back to your list.  Building a habit of “Thank Therapy” might be the best gift you can give yourself and those you love and work with this holiday season.

Article By: Steve Greer

Chief Operating Officer, Genesis Counseling Center

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy, facilitated by a trained Art Therapist, that combines the creative process of art making with the theories of psychology. Creating art can, in-and-of itself, be a form of self-expression and healing. But it can also be used as a tool to facilitate verbal communication and to help achieve therapeutic goals. A general goal in art therapy is to improve or restore an individual or family’s functioning as well as their sense of personal well-being. During art therapy, the focus is on the process as well as the metaphors and symbols within the finished product. Art therapy is about self-exploration and healing and not about making “good” art; therefore, prior experience is not necessary.

Why Art Therapy?
Some of us find it difficult to verbalize our thoughts, feelings and emotions. For example, we are too embarrassed; or we lack adequate language or cognitive skills; or we have been exposed to trauma that constricts our freedom to express ourselves verbally. Art therapy is an intervention that provides the opportunity for nonverbal expression and communication.

The art therapy environment provides a supportive venue in which to safely express and explore strong, sensitive or destructive feelings. Discussion about your artwork and the art making process can help both of us gain insight into your inner world. By visually expressing your feelings, even if you can’t identify or label your emotions, we will have a starting point from which to address your issues.

Who Would Benefit From Art Therapy?
Like other forms of psychotherapy, art therapy is for people of all ages who may be struggling with issues including, but not limited to: low self-esteem, anger, depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, chronic illness, cognitive impairment, or developmental disabilities/delays. Art therapy is also for couples and families struggling with issues including, but not limited to: poor communication, difficulty with relationships, family stress, and trauma. Art therapy sessions can occur simultaneously with traditional therapy, for a limited time, or as a primary means of therapy.

Art therapy sessions are 45 minutes in length and are provided in our Williamsburg (757.564.3100) and Yorktown (757.598.2244) offices.  Williamsburg Art Therapy is provided by Danica Henrich, ATR-BC, LPC, LMFT.  Yorktown Art Therapy is provided by Megan Alford, LPC, ATR-BC.

Genesis Therapist Spotlight


Genesis Chesapeake, located at 2005 Old Greenbrier Road, is currently taking new clients, including (and especially!) children. Call (757) 965-5886 today for more information or to schedule an initial intake! 

Lynn Parker

Lynn Parker is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing out of the Genesis Chesapeake location.  She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC and her graduate degree from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia, majoring in Community/Clinical Psychology.  Lynn worked as an adjunct professor in the School of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies Departments for nine years. Lynn also worked at Angelos Bible College as an adjunct professor teaching in the field of psychology.

Lynn has more than 20 years experience working with children and families from a social and clinical perspective and has worked with various populations and cultures. Lynn’s specialties with children and families consists of anxiety, depression, ADHD, High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), trauma histories (sexual, physical, emotional abuse), grief and loss, and mood dysregulation.  She also specializes in anger and impulse control difficulties, learning difficulties, adoption and attachment related concerns, marriage and family counseling, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, stress, adjustment disorders, reactive attachment disorders (RAD), personalities disorders, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Lynn focuses on issues by using TF-CBT, Faith Based Counseling and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Lynn also has specialized training in Prepare-Enrich Facilitator ( )

Dr. Brenna Grant Squires

Genesis Counseling Center proudly welcomes Dr. Brenna Grant Squires, Psy.D., LCP onto the team!  Dr. Squires is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who works with children, adolescents, and adults.  Dr. Squires has experience providing individual and group therapy, conducting psychological assessments, and consulting with educational personnel. Dr. Squires has also facilitated individual and group trainings on behavioral modification, effective communication, cognitive training, anger management, attention and focus, relaxation, and management of extreme behaviors (e.g., suicidal and self-harm behaviors). She has worked in a variety of settings including community mental health, university clinics, and private practice.

Dr. Brenna Grant Squires graduated with her Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Squires completed her post-doctoral residency at Families Forward in Augusta, Georgia and her internship at South Florida Consortium Internship Program with Nova Southeastern University. She has specialized experience working with Anxiety, Depression, psychological assessment, and suicidality.


Megan Alford

Genesis Counseling Center is proud to introduce Megan Alford, LPC, as a new clinician. Megan is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Art Therapist who works with adults, adolescents, and children, with a special focus on adolescents and children. Megan has worked with a wide range of clients that present with various mood and behavioral issues, including, but not limited to, substance addiction, trauma, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, ADHD, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, PTSD, social skills, loss and grief, and life stressors and adjustments. She has a passion for incorporating creativity, art processes, play therapy techniques, bibliotherapy, CBT, and “homework” assignments into therapy sessions.


Danita Morales-Ramos

Genesis Counseling Center welcomes Danita Morales Ramos, LPC, onto the team! Danita is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for empowering her clients to overcome depression and other mood disorders. She uses techniques centered around cognitive-behavioral and brief solution-focused principles. She believes that everyone who seeks treatment can be successful at meeting their goals with the proper facilitation and encouragement. Danita has experience working with individuals who suffer from mood disorders, substance abuse problems, and marital and familial conflict. She works with children, adolescents, and adults.


Run Your Race

I have grown to love running!  It’s certainly been a journey filled with soreness and injuries, funny colored toe nails and severe chaffing (body glide is a close friend now), breaking the budget on new running shoes, dehydration, and lying sprawled out on the tile floor in the kitchen with ice packs on my head and neck to cool down after being over heated from a summer run!  I still love it!  I love the cleared head space, the beauty of nature, and the challenge of pushing myself harder.  The health benefits are not all that bad either since my wife seems to notice and enjoy my leaner frame!

During my first 10K race, I let adrenaline get the best of me.  I was so amped that I attempted to keep up with a group of much faster runners in front of me.  Instead of running my normal pace of 9 minutes per mile, I ran the first two miles in 8 minutes or less and as a result almost gave up before the race was finished.  By the fourth mile, being hit by oncoming traffic didn’t seem quite so bad!

This brings to mind a valuable spiritual lesson: we each have a race that God calls us to run.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus to focus on other runners, we will not run the race as well as the Lord intends.  What’s worse, if our eyes are on other runners, we may be tempted to give up before we complete our race of faith.  With our eyes on others we may grow bitter and discontented with the Father’s good and perfect gifts, while being jealous of what others have.

The Bible has something to say about running our race in Hebrews 12:1-2 which states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Italics added for emphasis, ESV).

The race set before us has true glory in God and is much more of a marathon than a mad dash.  With our eyes on Christ, we can enjoy the journey and learn to appreciate each day as one gifted by a loving and gracious Father.  Here’s a quick question for a heart check:  Do you live for the weekend or do you treasure every day as one to behold, live, and to be thankful to receive?  With our sights fixed on Christ, we will delight in God and find true satisfaction in Him because He has already given us His very best.

I want to conclude with a story that I heard recently that rocked my world!  There was an African tribe that was given a TV to watch.  For the first week, these amazing people were completely enthralled by the shows on the TV and watched it continually throughout the day.  After the first week, they turned it off.  When asked, “Why?” they replied, “The TV has lots of stories and programs, but we wanted to go back to our tribe’s story teller, because He knows our story, He knows us

Will you go back to the One who knows you and fix your eyes on Him?  Jesus has your story securely written by the quill of the Father’s love and He has called you by name to produce eternal results.  For further encouragement, read Psalm 139 with special emphasis on verses 1-18.

Grace and peace to you!

Article by: Cameron Ashworth, M.A.  

Post by: Sarah Warner, M.S.

How to Make the Most of a School Day

For most children, school just started again. Although there is a great deal of excitement surrounding a new school year, there is also a great deal of stress.  There are steps you can take to help your child get the most out of their day.

Eat Breakfast! Breakfast is often overlooked on busy mornings, but it’s the most important meal of the day! Studies show that eating a healthy breakfast can help give children a more nutritionally complete diet, higher in vitamins and minerals.  Eating breakfast has also shown improved concentration and performance in the classroom.  Even if it’s something quick and easy, eating breakfast can help kids start their day the right way before school.

Teach your children organization. Having a family calendar will help your child learn that organization can make their lives easier and less stressful. Add important projects that they will do at school to this calendar, it will help tasks seem less daunting to have them organized and to set a dedicated amount of time to each project per week.

Eat dinner consistently and as a family.  Teaching kids to eat at the same time consistently can prevent obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes (Time).  Eating dinner together also helps children decompress from the stresses of school, and gives you a chance to bond as a family.

Go to bed at the same time every night. Consistency in sleep schedules can help children feel energized and ready to take on the day.  Regular sleep patterns are almost as important as getting enough sleep. Getting proper sleep will help children focus throughout the day and keep their circadian rhythms optimal.

For more back to school suggestions, check out 101 Back to School tips for kids and parents.

Article by: Sarah Warner MS

Body Image Issues

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance.  In America, roughly 1 to 2 percent of the general population has Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  That’s nearly 5 million people in the United States alone (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  Although there is no known cause of body image issues, there is supposition that traumatic events during childhood and current media portrayal of beauty may play a part.  Although Body Dysmorphic Disorder is far more common in women, men can also suffer from it.

People with body image issues also have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer co-occurring feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss than their counterparts not affected by body image issues.  It is important to recognize negative body image issues and get proper medical care and mental health treatment in order to begin healing.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by constant compulsive behaviors to attempt to alleviate the anxiety the person is suffering from due to poor body image. These compulsive behaviors often include:

  • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
  • comparing body part to others’ appearance
  • seeking surgery
  • checking in a mirror
  • avoiding mirrors
  • skin picking
  • excessive grooming
  • excessive exercise
  • changing clothes excessively


Body Dysmorphic Disorder is often treated with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on replacing negative thoughts/thought cycles with positive ones.  Anti-depressant medication has also been shown to give significant relief to those suffering from BDD. As with any mental illness, it is important that those suffering from BPD know that they are not alone. There are also support groups available for people who struggle with feeding or self-image.

If you or someone you love is struggling with negative body image, call Genesis today at (757) 827-7707 for more information or to set up an initial appointment!


Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Feeling Good About the Way You Look: A Program for Overcoming Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Sabine Wilhelm, PhD (Guilford Press, 2006)

Understanding Body Dysmorphic Disorder, by Katharine Phillips, MD (Oxford University Press, 2009)


Article by Sarah Warner, M.S.

Childhood Sexual Abuse

Case Study

Tim is a 24 year old male. He recently completed his Bachelor’s degree, and has engulfed himself in studies until graduation, then entered an emotional tailspin.  Tim reported being very depressed for several months, including thoughts of suicide.  He had a recent psychiatric hospital stay for 3 days, after which he entered therapy immediately.  Tim was sexually abused from ages 5 to 7 by a distant male relative.  Symptoms that Tim presented were depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance (both insomnia and nightmares), feeling “psychologically fragile,” and intrusive/disturbing thoughts of earlier sexual abuse.  Tim had repressed abuse memories until recently, when he has been experiencing self-disgust and shame related to unwanted feelings of “anger toward God” and sexual identity confusion, along with anguish.

While in therapy, Tim’s goals included dealing with past demons, experiencing true peace and redemption in the Biblical sense, and symptom reduction (such as never being hospitalized again.)  In a case like Tim’s, self-discovery and anger needed to be addressed.  Tim felt that guilt feelings related to abuse were preventing him from pursuing his earlier goal of becoming an ordained minister. “The abuse has robbed me of my calling, and I’ve been held emotionally and spiritually hostage for years” were his feelings. Anger toward his great uncle, grandmother, mother, and ultimately God had to be addressed for Tim to heal.

For Tim’s goal of forgiveness, the 5 Step Forgiveness Intervention pioneered by Everett Worthington, Jr.  (e.g., Worthington, 2006) was utilized.  REACH includes:

  • Recalling the hurt
  • Empathizing with the one who hurt you
  • Offering the altruistic gift of forgiveness
  • Committing to forgive
  • Holding on to the forgiveness

Bibliotherapy, such as reading “Hind’s Feet on High Places,” a book focused on growing from spiritual battle to peace can prove to be very helpful in treating trauma.  Utilizing Trauma Narrative can also be vastly beneficial.  Tim ended his narrative with a redemptive theme, stating, “What happened in my past, only drives me closer to God.” After one year of therapy, Tim reported that he was holding on to forgiveness.  He also experienced no panic attacks or depression, and began attending seminary.  He also began dating a young woman, whom he later married.

In a case like Tim’s, it is important to develop an understanding of needs of victims of trauma, understand signs/symptoms of trauma, understand what factors help a person recover, and know how to help the victim with intervention and ongoing recovery.

Supporting A Victim of Childhood Sexual Trauma

First, it is important to understand the immediate needs of a trauma victim.  Safety is of utmost importance, as is being believed.  It is necessary to convey to the client that being abused was not their fault, and help them regain a sense of control.  Victims of sexual trauma may also need medical treatment.  To help a victim of trauma, it is important to know the stages of the healing process: shock/disarray, denial, blaming, and pain/anguish.  The victim then moves on to anger, and finally integration/acceptance. Although symptoms differ slightly between children and adult victims of sexual trauma, there are some similarities.


Children Adults
Generalized fears Intrusive thoughts
Avoidance Distress
Sleep Disturbance Detachment
Preoccupation with certain symbols Loss of pleasure
Post-traumatic play Sleep disturbance
Loss of developmental skills Irritability
Increased startle response

In addition to emotional symptoms, there are also neurobiological post-traumatic stress symptoms that manifest themselves in victims of sexual trauma.  These include alterations in emotional regulation, attention/consciousness, self-perception, and relationships with others.  Somatization of emotions and medical issues may also present themselves, along with alterations in systems of meaning (Eric Scalise, 2014; Christine Courtois, 2009).

When treating child survivors, typically one of three modalities of treatment is used. Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Expressive Therapies (Play Therapy), and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) are the most common therapies used to help children that are victims of sexual trauma. Research indicates that post traumatic growth may involve improved relationships, positive changes, a greater appreciation for life, and a greater sense of spiritual development (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004).

Alarming Statistics

  • 1 in 3 females experience sexual abuse before the age of 18
  • 1 in 4 females experience rape
  • Only 4% of victims report rape
  • 50% of rape victims eventually seek care
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are sexually abused prior to age 18 by someone they are supposed to trust; many of these abuses are chronic.
  • For child sexual abuse, 1/3 of offenders are parents and ½ are relatives (Courtois, 2010)

If you or someone you know is suffering from emotions due to childhood sexual abuse, please call our office today at (757) 827-7707 to set up an appointment and begin the healing process.  There is hope and healing available for you!

Article Adapted from a Presentation by: Dr. Trina Young, Psy.D

Edited 2017 by: Sarah Warner, M.S.


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Genesis Counseling Center at Nurturing Student Achievement Training

Genesis Counseling Center recently attended Healthy Choices for Youth’s “Nurturing Student Achievement” training for Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Ramsey Goshert, MA, LPC, presented on the rising levels of anxiety and how students are impacted in school.  The presentation focused on how anxiety disorders can impact student success as well as tips and tools to help public school employees assist students with managing life with an anxiety disorder.

Ramsey Goshert, MA, LPC

Dr. Cynthia Kokoris, Psy. D, LCP, presented on grief and trauma.  From local, national, and world events, many schools need to adapt to meet the needs of students and families. Nine out of 10 children will experience the death of a family member or close friend, and one in 20 will lose a parent.  Dr. Kokoris provided information on tips and strategies to assist school counselors with grief counseling.

Dr. Cynthia Kokoris, Psy. D., LCP

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. ~ C.S. Lewis