For kids, Halloween is mostly about dressing up like Iron-Man, a princess or a character from Paw Patrol and acquiring absurd amounts of candy. For parents, the prospect of dressing kids up, taking them around the neighborhood, and keeping them from eating absurd amounts of candy might seem a little daunting. Even so, it’s important to look at Halloween as a way to help children learn important socialization skills.

The Halloween rituals of approaching a house, engaging with unfamiliar people, and interacting according to social guidelines offer teachable moments and opportunities to praise appropriate behaviors.

According to Dr. Aimee Drescher, Director of Psychological Services at Unison Health, “Halloween empowers parents to model and promote healthy social skills and provide education and support to our children.”

Tips to Make Halloween a Treat for Everyone

Dr. Drescher suggests the following tips to help make Halloween a great experience that also provides real chances for personal growth:

Discuss expected and unexpected behavior prior to trick-or-treating. Talk with your child over dinner, while getting their costume on, or even several days prior about how you expect them to behave while trick-or-treating. Repeat this exercise as needed to reinforce expectations. Have your child repeat them back to you — this will help them to internalize these lessons.

Emphasize respectful interactions with adults and other kids. Remind your child to say “trick-or-treat,” “please,” and “thank you” at every house. If your child forgets, gently model for them in the moment by saying “please” and “thank you” on their behalf. Because children develop many of their social skills by watching, eventually they’ll pick up on the behavior themselves. To promote positive social interactions, encourage your child to give two compliments to others about their costumes while trick-or-treating.

Emphasize the importance of good social skills. If your child is naturally shy, he or she might be more likely to hide behind your coat than make eye contact and smile. But the more chances they have to interact, they less nervous they’ll feel. It might take time, but each step forward is a positive step.

Conversely, some children might be more extroverted, and they may be somewhat more aggressive. By reminding your child to wait their turn in line without complaining or pushing other children, you can also demonstrate the importance of patience and sharing. In addition, some children may need to be encouraged to give healthy personal space (i.e., don’t touch people’s costume without permission). Remind your child that if another child is bothering them to use friendly words to handle the situation or to get help from an adult.

Offer feedback to your child during the outing. Praise your child for the positive behaviors that you are seeing; for example, “I really like how you are using your manners with others tonight.” According to Dr. Drescher, parents and caregivers are the most important role models in a child’s life. A parent’s praise is a tremendous motivator, so don’t miss out a chance to recognize the behaviors you want to see happen again.

Unison Health: Dedicated to Children’s Behavioral Health

Sometimes children’s behavioral problems extend beyond trick-or-treat. When a child is experiencing behaviors that require extra help from a professional who understands a child’s needs, Unison Health offers a range of services for children. More information about this program is available on our Integrated Child and Family Services page or by calling 419-214-HOPE.

The first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. To commemorate, Unison Health offers this look at one of the most important issues within the mental health community — stigma.

When it comes to medical conditions, depression and other behavioral disorders are often among the most misunderstood. Although they’re quite common — 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mental illness — nearly 60% of adults who live with these conditions did not receive mental health services in the past year.

In part, that’s because behavioral disorders exist along an incredibly broad continuum of conditions, and they manifest themselves in very different ways among the people who live with them. As such, it can be difficult to gain an in-depth understanding of what is so often a highly personal struggle.

So we rely on the information that’s right in front of us. The media and entertainment industry, for example, often present the mentally ill as either dangerous or dealing with some inner turmoil that can be resolved through a hug and a few kind words.

The result, too often, is something known as stigma.

The Stigma of Depression and Other Behavioral Disorders

Stigma is when a person views someone else negatively because of a condition—in this case, a behavioral disorder. A person may be leery of engaging with someone because they’re concerned for their own well-being. They may also make an effort to engage, but come away feeling discouraged because their best intentions have, too often, too little impact. So it becomes easier for a person to withdraw, even as some they care about is visibly struggling.

What makes depression particularly problematic — especially compared to more conventional diseases — is that the stigma is often internalized by the person coping with the disorder. A person with cancer won’t often say, “I have cancer because I am a bad person,” but that’s all too common among people with depression.

Their brains are lying to them. No one really understands why this happens, but that’s the result. Their brains lie to them and tell them they’re no good. Which makes it hard to hear the good things other people are saying. Which makes people withdraw even further. Which makes for a terrible cycle of dysfunction.

Smashing the Stigma of Depression and Behavioral Disorders

Everyone touched by depression and other behavioral disorders (which, we’re pretty sure, constitutes just about everyone everywhere) can help to eliminate the stigmas that surround these common conditions! The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has put together a few steps you can take.

See the person, not the condition. Even people who live with depression, anxiety and other behavioral disorders have good days and bad days that might not be related to their condition. Consider whether the person is experiencing an episode — or just the same stresses and strains you experience on any given day. And when in doubt, ask (from a place of respect, of course).

If you think someone is having trouble, reach out. Often people who are in the midst of a depression, for example, will isolate themselves. It’s part of their own self-stigmatizing. Don’t be afraid to offer your support, and don’t worry if your words don’t immediately cure the problem. Just providing unconditional support can be incredibly meaningful.

Encourage equality in how people perceive physical illness and mental illness. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg they’d feel better if they got more exercise. And you wouldn’t tell someone with skin cancer that people with liver cancer have it worse. When you just acknowledge that a person going through a depressive episode is suffering, and they really just need to feel heard or seen, you can do amazing things for someone you care about!

Unison Health Can Help When Depression Becomes Too Much

Sometimes, even when we all do our best to help someone, the pull of the behavioral disorder is just too strong. When that happens, Unison Health can help. Unison Health offers a broad array of services for adults, including programming designed to help each individual patient take those critical first steps toward a happier, healthier future For more information about Unison Health’s integrated care for adults, call 419-214-HOPE today!

Clinical depression goes far beyond sadness. It’s a disease that robs people of hope. Depression destroys the ability to find the pleasure in living — and enjoy activities that had once brought joy. When that feeling takes hold, we look for any way to bring a person back, to help them experience vitality once again.

Fortunately, there are now more treatments for depression than ever before, including art therapy, which Unison Health offers as part of its overall commitment to our patients’ mental well-being.

The Unison Health Approach to Art Therapy

Unison Health seeks to create an environment where individuals are empowered to make choices. That begins as soon as a person enters the art therapy studio — a visually exciting place that stands in stark contrast to more clinical settings. The studio is a place that immediately conveys the idea that “something different can happen here.”

As clients interact further with their environment, they are empowered to make even more choices regarding their choice of medium. Each medium has its own personality, from the light, soothing feel of watercolors to the dramatic power of oil paints, and the physical act of engaging with the medium invites different statements and initiates new action. A broad swipe of paint across a canvas parallels the bold movements of breaking out of one’s emotional shell. It’s meaningful, it’s powerful, and it has an immediate resonance with the emerging artist.

Unison Health Art Therapy Helps Adults Battling Depression

Treating depression is about more than managing the symptoms—it’s also about providing tools the patient can use going forward. These tools give the individual the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their mental and emotional processes and ultimately move beyond depressive episodes when they occur. As art therapy works in conjunction with an overall treatment regimen, it also provides a unique set of benefits that give patients new opportunities for hope.

Art Therapy Provides a Visual Voice. Think about how verbal communication works. As you speak, one thought leads into another, creating a narrative that takes the listener from Point A to Point B. Coming to terms with a behavioral disorder, though, is often a far less linear path. As thoughts race and mental images come to mind, the story may fold back on itself, preventing clarity from emerging.

As a patient creates a work of art, though, they are empowered to say the things that have not been said. Through art, the creator is able to face and embrace strong emotions — safely. The works they create reflect their feelings, illuminate previously unseen ideas, and inform both the creator and the viewer.

By creating symbolic representations of their feelings, patients allow for several layers of meaning to emerge, often leading to a heightened level of understanding. 

Art Therapy Encourages Stretch Goals. People with depression can often retreat, pulling themselves out of their day-to-day activities. That’s understandable. When your inner voice is constantly telling you you’re not enough, it’s all too easy to start believing it. Art therapy offers people an opportunity to re-engage with their world.

When we say art therapy encourages “stretch goals,” we are referring to art therapy’s ability to help clients achieve consistent continuous improvement. The therapy is structured in such a way that it provides just enough challenge to set the client up for meaningful growth. As their artistic skills improve, their confidence grows accordingly. They explore new interests and discover a light within themselves that they may not have noticed before.

Art Therapy Transforms Lives. Ultimately, the goal of art therapy is to empower individuals to look into their environment and recognize their right to make choices that are helpful to them. By creating a durable, concrete piece of art, the artist is making a statement that can return to over time and reflect upon its meaning. The work of art holds elements of the creator’s past, it speaks to them in their present, and it provides tools that can help them anticipate their future.

Explore Art Therapy with Unison Health

Art therapy is part of a regimen of treatment available to adults participating in Unison Health’s Spera partial hospitalization program. For more information about Unison Health’s integrated care for adults, visit our web page or call 419-214-HOPE today!

Unison Health: 3 Steps to Substance Abuse Recovery


September is National Recovery Month, designated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to raise awareness of substance abuse issues and behavioral disorders throughout the country. By helping people gain a greater understanding of these very common health concerns—and celebrating the people who have courageously taken steps toward recovery—we can come together as a society to prevent substance abuse from taking hold, as well as remove the stigma that is too often attached to addiction and behavioral health disorders. 


But what does true recovery look like? At Unison Health, we recognize that substance abuse disorders are often closely linked to behavioral health concerns. In order for real recovery to occur, we must develop a holistic approach to wellness. By treating the addiction, addressing underlying mental health concerns and offering necessary primary care, we can help ensure better outcomes for our patients. 


Step 1: Stop the Cycle of Addiction


Substance abuse disorders can strike anyone anywhere, and they can spiral out of control at any time. The good news? There is a way out! 


When it comes to recovery, the first imperative is to eliminate the dependency on drugs and/or alcohol. That may require sub-acute detox, where the patient receives 24-hour, medically monitored care custom-tailored to safely rid the body of opiates such as heroin and OxyContin. By working closely with each patient throughout the detoxification process, we can ease the transition into sobriety in a way that helps prevent relapsing during those crucial first days. 


No matter where you are in life, and no matter what your addiction looks like, we have a path to sobriety that’s right for you. Adults can achieve and maintain your sobriety through we offer group treatment, individual counseling, family counseling and a program of case management that will keep you on track. For adolescents coping with substance abuse disorders, that means working closely with parents, schools and others to address the concerns that are unique to teenagers.


Step 2: Diagnose Behavioral Health Disorders


For many people, substance abuse disorders are a way of self-medicating a larger behavioral health problem such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Unison Health makes it easy to get access to our behavioral health services. 


We offer 24-hour crisis intervention services for current clients, where licensed professionals can help you or someone you love get through the darkest times—and we can provide the diagnostic assessments needed to let the healing take hold. Once we have diagnosed any underlying behavioral health issues, we can offer a treatment regimen that can sustain long-term mental health. 


Step 3: Ensure Wellness Through Primary Care


True recovery is a lifelong process, and that means staying committed to your overall well-being. That’s why Unison Health provides a range of primary care services, including an on-site family practice physician and access to a network of doctors and specialists throughout the community. 


We use the word “recovery” to describe the journey toward wellness, but the goal is really to do more than simply recover. True recovery is an opportunity to reemerge stronger and healthier than you ever were before. True recovery is a renewal of the body, the mind and the spirit. True recovery is the power to face down the underlying emotional problems that often drive a person to addiction in the first place. And Unison Health can help you achieve true recovery, walking alongside you on your journey to a happier, healthier you. 



Is Your Child Emotionally Ready for Preschool?

Remember how you felt on those August days, as the summer was ending and the new school year was fast approaching? Not much has changed!

Most children express some degree of nervousness as they enter a new school setting for the first time. That can be especially true for very young children who are starting preschool and may be away from home for the first time. But for many kids, starting school can be very anxious time—even more so than usual. In addition to the emotional strain that comes with increased anxiety, studies show children who report higher levels of anxiety might also be more likely to struggle in their school work.


Help Your Child Start School Happy and Healthy

The team of Early Childhood Mental Health Consultants at Unison Health have some tips to help your child face the new school year with a healthier, happier outlook.

1. Talk to your child about going to school. For many children, the anxiety about starting preschool is simply a fear of the unknown. While many young kids are excited about the idea of starting school, others might experience separation anxiety. Talk to your child about what they can expect from their teachers, and give them the idea that they’ll be making a lot of new friends. In addition, help them understand that there will be rules they will be expected to follow as well as expectations about how they’ll behave.
2. Take your child to their new school before school starts. This is an opportunity for your child to meet their teacher, see the environment and possibly meet other kids. Letting them see their new surroundings will help them picture it in their minds as the big day approaches—and that can often help them face school with a better attitude.
3. Develop a morning and bedtime routine. Children are more likely to adapt to a new setting if it becomes part of an overall routine. Start by not only establishing a consistent bedtime, but also wake them up at the same time every morning. You can also minimize morning conflict by preparing your child’s clothes and giving him or her their bath (if appropriate) the night before. Also, if you’re not already, be sure to provide your child with nutritional meals and snacks and beverages—this is not just a good idea in general, but it will also help prepare them for the kind of food they’ll be getting at their preschool (hopefully).
4. Review each day of school and prepare them for the next day. By talking to your child about their day, you’ll have a chance to reinforce the new normal in their mind. Listen closely for any opportunity to praise their successes. This gets them looking forward to repeating good behavior the next day. Similarly, be ready to validate any concerns they might have and talk with them about ways they can problem solve on their own.

Unison Health Offers Early Childhood Mental Health Therapy and Intervention

Sometimes a child’s anxiety can go far beyond the standard back-to-school jitters. If your child’s behavior is causing you serious concern—if they cannot be calmed or if their anxiety lasts long into the school year—he or she may need extra help from a professional who understands a child’s behavioral needs. Unison Health offers Early Childhood Mental Health Therapy and Intervention for children ages 0-5 living in Lucas, Sandusky and Seneca counties. More information about this program is available on our Integrated Child and Family Services page or by calling 419.693.0631.