Tag: counseling

Black Lives Matter

image for blog entry

The disturbing reality is that Black bodies and lives generally do not matter, and they haven’t mattered for centuries in our society. There is a racist and prejudiced system that marginalizes, oppresses, disenfranchises, traumatizes, incarcerates, and kills Black lives, because of a deep-rooted belief that Black skin is not only inferior, but to be feared. We have seen this time and time again. This is not merely an opinion up for debate; it is a fact.

This is not right, nor is it just. At Agape Therapy Institute, we stand in solidarity with Black lives in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. We see the pain, the anguish, the anger, the trauma, the violence, the fear, the injustice that Black lives have had no choice but to endure. To all Black lives we say to you: Your thoughts matter. Your feelings matter. Your pain, your anger, your trauma, your fear, your sadness matter. Your stories matter. Your bodies matter. Your lives matter. You matter. 

As mental health professionals, we know all too well the effects of trauma on individuals, couples, families and communities, on the micro and macro levels. Complex and chronic trauma is especially prominent for Black lives in our society. And yet, we know that Blacks are statistically the least likely of the races to engage in the mental health counseling experience. At Agape Therapy Institute, we understand this is because mental health counseling is largely founded on white philosophies and beliefs, that often alienates people of color. We understand the traditional platform of mental health counseling isn’t designed to fit or support the Black experience. In fact, it often pathologizes and gaslights Black experiences. 

We believe black mental health matters, so we are committed to ensuring this is not the experience at Agape Therapy Institute. Our mission is to provide affordable and accessible mental health counseling to the community, including and especially for Black lives. We will offer a safe, nonjudgmental, accepting space to process trauma, anxiety, depression, fear and anger, to find validation, empathy and support to leverage your strengths, write your story, and achieve your goals. We will also actively object to systemic racism we encounter in our practice, and are committed to racial justice being a part of our milieu therapeutic approach at Agape Therapy Institute.

In Solidarity,

The Agape Therapy Institute Family

#blacklivesmatter #blackmentalhealthmatters #melanatedvoices #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #trauma #systemicracism #antiracism #agape #nonprofit #orlando


  • antiracism
  • black lives matter
  • blm
  • community
  • counseling
  • healing
  • racial justice
  • relationships
  • relationships
  • relationships
  • resilience
  • resilience
  • resilience
  • resilience
  • resilience
  • trauma

Why is my Child Still Having Temper Tantrums?

image for blog entry

Why is my Child Still Having Temper Tantrums?

by Alexis Pardo, LCSW

Temper tantrums are essentially mood swings. Children get stuck in feeling a negative emotion because they do not have the coping skills to handle them. Adults help children learn how to manage their difficult emotions typically by being empathetic. For example, if a 1 year old cries and throws themselves on the floor because their sibling took their toy, we show them empathy and recognize that this hurt them. We also realize that this is a small slight but to them it is not. Through that empathy we validate their feelings as real, which helps them move through negative emotions. What happens though when the child is 9 and for whatever underlying reason (e.g., emotional control issues and anxiety)  experiences the same reaction. It may seem ridiculous and emotionally immature, but how these situations are dealt with are just as important. 

Below you’ll find some quick tips to deal with these changes in mood. It’s important to be attuned to your child so that you can start to notice the minor changes in their mood before it becomes a full fledged tantrum. Usually there are signs. 

Things to do when you first notice the mood change:

Step 1:  Take a deep breath for yourself

Step 2:  Acknowledge the feeling. Have a couple scripted phrases to use as you may also become emotionally reactive and have difficulty thinking on the fly.  

Example: I can see you’re really upset about this. 

Step 3:  Give instructions for the next step 

Example 1:  I think this would be a good time for you to try and sit in the calm down corner/take a shower/us to do some breathing exercises together. 

Example 2:  I can see you’re really disappointed you didn’t get XYZ toy. I want to hear you out. Let’s go the car so you can take some time to breathe and we can talk about this.  

Step 4:  After some cool down time is allowed, ask him if they are ready to talk about their feelings. I call this “sitting in the dark”. Essentially validate feelings and use empathy. Reflect back what he is saying “what I’m hearing you is you were really sad about the possibility of having to go to bed earlier.” Empathy does not mean the behavior is okay. We can be mad/sad/disappointed/fearful but how we express it is our decision. 

Step 5:  Discuss the consequence for their behavior once he has cooled down completely. It’s okay if this is hours later. They are able to remember what happened and likely understand that this behavior is inappropriate. 

Things to avoid:

Always/never statements

Catastrophizing - “You can’t do this when you’re ____.” It’s important to stay with the present moment. We don’t know what he will be like in the future. This is a difficult time for some kids but many of them turn out more than okay. 

Reasoning - “Think about what you just did”. The reason this doesn’t work is because the reasoning part of the brain is shut off during a tantrum. They do not have access to it. 

Problem Solving - Wait until they calm down to do this

Threatening - Don’t threaten what the consequences will be. It’s important to, again, wait until things have calmed down to discuss why their behavior was inappropriate and the real consequences of behaving that way.

Labeling - “You are being bad” or “you don’t care about anyone but yourself” which means “you are selfish”.

Comparing - “_______ would never do this”

Maintain anger rules:

No destroying property
No hurting others
No hurting yourself

Calm down corner:

Bean bag (aggression can be taken out on it)
Weighted blanket
Anything else you would consider calming or soothing

But this is really hard!

Yes, this is really, really hard and it might feel impossible. Usually parents have spent years trying to deal with their child’s tantrums, so every time they happen they have difficulty not becoming emotionally reactive themselves. After all, they have been dealing with this for a long time and have had many moments that were sometimes equal parts scary and embarrassing, but I know this works! It won’t work immediately because it is not a pill, but over time it will get better. You will know that you’ve strengthened your empathy while simultaneously helping your child strengthen theirs. Your child will also learn to not be ashamed of themselves for having feelings. This helps prevent the “I’m bad for having these feelings” thoughts. Lastly, you will not contribute to lowering their self esteem. Social media does a good job at that already. 


Alexis Pardo, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Agape Therapy Institute in Downtown Orlando.  She specializes in working with individuals, couples and families across a range of issues. To learn more about Alexis or to request an appointment with her, click here.

Blog image photo: @pixabay


  • communication
  • counseling
  • family therapy
  • mental health
  • parenting
  • stress
  • stress

Codependency (Part Two): Personal Boundaries

image for blog entry

Codependency (Part Two): Personal Boundaries

by Alexis Pardo, LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Agape Therapy Institute in Downtown Orlando

In codependent relationships personal boundaries can be blurred and the people in the relationships often feel like they are always doing so much for the other person with little return. 

I frequently hear my clients say “I’m ALWAYS doing EVERYTHING for them and they do NOTHING.” With some probing, I frequently hear my clients say that they don’t speak up because they don’t want to make the other person feel bad. In the meantime my client is left feeling taken advantage of because they continue to do things that they don’t want to do but never communicate that with the other person clearly. 

It’s important to remember that it is our job to recognize how much we are willing to do for someone without feeling over extended. It is also our job to communicate what we expect in return. Without doing this, we are engaging in a cognitive distortion called Mind Reading where we expect the other person to inherently know what we think, feel, want and need. 

In these relationships there are often a lot of unsaid expectations, which can result in resentment. My client’s describe this resentment like feeling chronically angry. 

What are personal boundaries?

Boundaries are what we use to set the stage for how we expect to be treated. 

The scariest part about boundaries is that it requires us to be confident enough to walk away or provide consequences if our boundaries are not respected. Boundaries without consequences are just suggestions. 

People with healthy boundaries feel comfortable saying “no” without having to explain themselves. They understand that “No.” is a complete sentence.

Tips for setting boundaries

Practice and plan ahead what you are going to say. This gives us time to rehearse something, especially if it is a new skill you’re developing. It can also make it easier to say out loud when the time comes.

Use ownership language by using the word “I” and not using the word “You”.  For example, “I wont be able to go to the party because of my schedule” vs “You scheduled the party too early, so I can’t make it.”  Blaming others for having to set boundaries is not helpful and can damage your relationship. 

It’s important to think about why setting this boundary is important to you. How does it connect with your values? How are your honoring yourself when you set this boundary?

Be respectful of the other person by avoiding yelling or putting the other person down. Use confident body language but remember that confidence is not the same as aggressive. 

3 Examples:

  1. Respecting Privacy
    Your coworker asks for more details about why you called out sick from work but you don’t want to share every detail about how sick you were. You can say something like “I really appreciate your concern, but I don’t want to talk about it.
  2. Doing things you don’t want to do
    You are invited or asked to do something that you don’t want to do. I have client’s that say yes before they even think about it. In these cases you should practice saying, “Let me think about it,” “Let me check my schedule first” or simply “Maybe.”  This will give you some time and space to really consider if you are able to fit this in and whether or not you actually want to do it. It also gives you the opportunity to figure out if you will need to add any conditions like needing to be done by a certain time. 
  3. Friend asks you for money
    In this situation, I encourage you to remind yourself that “No” is a complete sentence. It is your money and you have no obligation to give it away.  After all, you worked for it. If you are inclined to let someone borrow money, you can clearly state what you expect in return and that the consequence will be no borrowing money in the future. 

Warning: Shameless Plug!

Obviously, I am going to recommend that you seek the help of a therapist. Can you learn to do this on your own? Absolutely, but you got here through years and possibly decades of learned behavior. You will not be able to undo everything you have learned in one day and that goes for therapy as well. 

This is a process of learning how to care for yourself, finding confidence, challenging your limiting beliefs, and learning how to communicate clearly. I do think that you can learn how to set boundaries on your own, but where most people get stuck is on untangling how they got there in the first place. I believe that this is where a therapist can help. Once you learn why you do something, you will be able to make changes from a deeper understanding of yourself. 


Below are a few books that can help you on your journey to building healthier boundaries: 

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
The Codependency Recovery Plan by Krystal Mazzola, M.Ed, LMFT
Where to Draw the Line by Anne Katherine


Alexis Pardo, LCSW is a therapist at Agape Therapy Institute, a not-for-profit outpatient mental health counseling center in Downtown Orlando.  To learn more about Alexis and to book an appointment with her, visit her page on our website by clicking here

Cover photo credit:  Tatiana


  • codependency
  • communication
  • counseling
  • couples therapy
  • healing
  • mental health
  • mindfulness
  • psychotherapy
  • self-care