Melissa Richardson Collins, LPC-S, LCDC  

Licensed Professional Counselor - Supervisor,  Mediator
Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Play Therapist



Cutting and Self-Harm

Cutting and self-injury has become somewhat “trendy” in the past 10 years, and has managed to send parents affected in a whirlwind. It is difficult to understand why anyone would choose to be maimed or scarred for life, and non-cutters can’t imagine why anyone would choose such a seemingly violent and counterintuitive coping method. Although the vast majority of cutting behaviors are not attempts at suicide, occasionally a person may cut or injure themselves in such a way that it can ultimately become lethal.

There are many reasons why people cut or harm themselves; I may not be touching all the reason, but I will present what I have seen both in my practice and in my experience with rehabilitation facilities and mental health programs.

Coping with Emotional Pain: This reason at one time, was the most common reason why teens would harm themselves, but perhaps because of the “trendiness” of it, it is not always the case. Cutting has been practiced for centuries in various cultures as a method of coping with significant emotional pain. A person cutting for this reason may truly feel that distracting their emotional pain with physical pain is preferred over dealing with the actual emotional duress. A child who is harming themselves for this reason, may have experienced an assault (sexual or physical), be the victim of excessive bullying, or may just lack the knowledge of methods used to cope with emotional distress. They may also cut to deal with feelings of loneliness or perceived or real rejection. They tend to feel excessive guilt or shame and have a strong negative perception of their body and or appearance which is usually exacerbated by the scars that form. In addition, many also have coexisting eating disorders or mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or anxiety disorders. They are most likely to keep their cutting a secret from everyone and do what they can to cover-up their injuries.

Attention Seeking or Manipulation: Since cutting has become a trend, and seems to send adults into a tailspin, some children may use cutting in an attempt to manipulate or control their environment.  If a child, after cutting, then asks for certain privileges, or blames others for their cutting behavior, they are more than likely using some kind of manipulation. (Emotional cutters tend to be extreme in self-loathing and self-blaming and are unlikely to blame others for their cutting). DO NOT ASSUME that your child fits into this description or that they are therefore not experiencing any emotional pain; things happen to our children that we often have no knowledge of, so seek professional assistance before deciding this is the reason. Even if this is the reason for a child cutting, consider that if a child feels the need to go to such great lengths to cut, they may need some help from an experienced counselor.

To Fit Into a Sub-Culture: The Goth culture has been accepting of cutting as a normal part of its identity, however, occasionally you will have a group of boys, or girls, who for some reason decide that it’s the “thing to do”.  The child may feel peer pressure to cut themselves as a way of fitting in or as a way to “one-up” the other. Although it is inappropriate to assume that a child hanging out with another child who cuts will likely follow suit, the likelihood may be higher.

To Feel Something: A child who goes through their daily lives refusing to feel any kind of emotions (whether that thought process is brought on by themselves or influenced by their parents), may have a strong need to just FEEL SOMETHING. They get tired of feeling numb and usually fear strong negative emotions, so cutting can be a way to feel something that is relatively controlled.

There are also other ways that children will self-harm such as: banging their heads or body parts into walls or against hard surfaces; punching hard surfaces; picking at their skin with tacks or sharp objects, or purposely burning themselves with lighters or matches. Some may also choose to get excessive piercings or tattoos. I am not implying that all people who have a large number of tattoos or piercings is experiencing this problem, but it is possible.

I would also pose that some children and adults, also find “socially acceptable” ways of harming themselves such as participating in violent or dangerous sports or being in occupations where the high likelihood of injury is possible.  It’s not the sport or occupation itself, or the lack of fear in being hurt, but the actual desire to get into situations where they will be injured. They welcome the fight and the pain in a way that is often dangerous, and if they don’t experience it for a long period of time, may seek to instigate the scenario to deal with their needs.

The most important thing to do regardless of the reasoning is to seek professional help IMMEDIATELY! Cutting and self-injury can become a compulsion that can easily equal an addiction. Regardless of the reason, it is unlikely to go away on its own and can get profoundly worse if not treated. Someone who initially only cut their arms, may eventually cut their legs, hips, torso, and even face. Since even physical pain is temporary, they may also add to their self-harming by using drugs, alcohol, sex, or any number of addictions to also feel different.

You may feel that you can control what’s happening by controlling your child’s environment by taking away all the knives, or razors, but truthfully, it’s not difficult to find something you can hurt yourself with if you really want to. Don’t do this alone. There are too many people willing to help you if you let them.


Growing Through Adversity

Group therapy program for children of divorce

 Ages 5-8
Ages 9-12


Coping with change
Managing Feelings
Embracing the Future

The divorce rate is climbing and unfortunately, our children are caught in the middle of it all.
Difficult divorces, an absentee parent, or even a perfectly civil divorce can create challenges for
our children that they are ill equipped to face alone.

Sometimes, as parents,  we are so angry with our ex, that despite our best efforts and intentions, we are unable to lend the objective helping hand that they
desparately need. 
This children's divorce group will teach children how to thrive despite the divorce. It will allow
them to identify and manage the feelings they are having, manage the changes that inevitably will occur, let them know that other children are experiencing the same difficulties and teach them that they can still be happy despite the difficulties they are facing.

Please contact me for more details regarding this program.



How To Know If You Need Counseling For Grief

We all grieve at some point in time over various losses we experience in life.  Whether it’s from the loss of someone we loved through death, the loss of a valuable relationship, loss of a sense of security (i.e., from being assaulted or raped), through changes in life circumstances, or even the loss of a job, we all need to allow ourselves the right to grieve.

Although I could discuss the stages of grief all people experience, I prefer instead to focus on how to know when you might need counseling for grief. There are many ways people choose to grieve; I will discuss the three most common that I have seen: Immersion, Avoidance, and Pioneering.

People who immerse themselves in grief, allow themselves to feel the grief in its entirety and will allow themselves to feel any pain associated with the loss exactly when they are experiencing it. Because of the outward display, this person is likely to appear most affected by the loss. They are likely to stay in bed for several days, have difficulty sleeping in spite of being in bed all the time, have difficulty eating, neglect personal hygiene, and spend a great deal of time crying. This can be a perfectly normal reaction to grief; however, if days turn into weeks, and the person is unable to attend to some level of daily functioning, the need for outside assistance is necessary. This person may need some medication for depression, may need counseling, or mostly likely, a combination of both.

People who choose to avoid their feelings, generally appear to be handling the grief with ease, but are likely to have been just as affected by the loss as the person who is immersing themselves in it. In small doses, avoidance can be a useful tool for someone who does not have the option of staying in bed all the time. Someone who must work, or attend to children, may not be able to immerse themselves in their grief for days or weeks at a time. This person will use some outside source of comfort to make them feel better and/or to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with their loss. They are most likely to abuse alcohol or drugs (and yes, I’m including prescription drugs in this scenario), over-immerse themselves in work, or place themselves in chaotic situations that require an immense amount of attention (i.e., bad relationships).

Problems arise when a person attempts to avoid their grief entirely. Eventually, the coping mechanism of choice is no longer effective, and the pain will begin to arise despite the amount of effort that is used to avoid it. Alcohol, drug use, and chaotic situations can make life significantly worse and compound the grief immensely. Diving yourself into work, although practical, can eventually create difficulties at work. As the grief will not be denied, it will begin to decrease ones effectiveness and will ultimately reduce work performance.

Pioneering is a generally a healthy way to handle ones grief.  The pioneers are the ones who’ve created Susan G. Komen, MADD, Amber Alerts, and many, many other organizations and self-help groups.  Some of the greatest advocates have managed to turn their pain into methods of helping others through similar experiences. This cannot be done by all people in all situations, but sometimes giving back can have an immensely healing effect for someone trying to manage their grief.

A word of caution to all pioneers however; at some point, life should be about something other than quite possibly the worst experience in your life. As noble as a pursuit as it is to help others, if you have lost your focus and have helped others to the detriment of your own mental health, it is likely that you may need some assistance from an objective counselor.

Grief is a necessary part of life and is meant to be experienced, and occasionally, we just need a little help to guide us through it.

There are many things that can be discussed on this subject. If you have questions, please call at 214-883-7073 or email at



Talking to young children about sexual abuse

First of all, when speaking with a child below the age of 8, using the term sexual abuse is far too abstract of a concept for a child to understand. When talking with young children, all terms need to be simple and concrete. All metaphors about the “birds and bees” or “blossoming flowers” will likely be met with a great deal of confusion and possibly and unnatural curiosity of bees.

There are some theories of belief that insist that it is vital to use the “correct” terms (i.e., penis and vagina) when talking to a child about their genitals; however, I am of the theory of belief that would prefer my children not share new and interesting vocabulary words with their classmate that could incur the wrath of associated parents. So for our purposes, I will refer to their genital areas simply as private parts.

Using a simple drawing of children wearing bathing suits or using Barbie dolls, will generally suffice for instruction. I discuss how the private parts will include the back and front of a person’s body and the top portion of a girl’s or woman’s body, and I point to those parts on the doll or drawing as I’m doing this. Towards the end of the discussion, I will ask them to point to those private parts on the doll or picture and then on themselves to be certain they understand.

I then begin to explain that private parts are, in fact private, and are not to be touched by other adults or children. I explain how sometimes while bathing, they may be very briefly touched to clean and/or dry them, but no one should rub or touch for a long period of time. I then tell them that if anyone touches their private parts or tries to get them to touch their private parts, they should tell me or another trusted adult.

Just for clarification, a conversation may go something like this:

Me: Kids do you know where you’re private parts are? Those are the parts of our body that are covered by a bathing suit. (Show on doll or drawing to avoid using awkward terms). For boys and girls it’s the back and front below the belly button and on a girl it’s also the top.

Private parts are called private because they are not for touching by other people: not for mommy, not for daddy, grandpa, grandma, not Uncle Jim or anybody (I will throw in names of people they are familiar with as well). Now when I give you a bath, I might touch your privates really quick to clean or dry them, but no one should rub them, or touch them for a long time. Not with their hands, not with their mouths, not with anything. Also, no one should try to get you to touch their private parts with your hands or mouth or anything.

If anyone touches your private parts, you make sure and tell Mommy or Daddy or an adult that you trust and know (like….). If they tell you they are going to hurt your Mommy or Daddy, or your brother or sister, you tell your Mommy or Daddy anyway after you get away from them. Don’t worry about me, I will make sure nothing bad happens to me or you again.

Kids: Can we have some ice cream now?

Me: Yes, but first I need you to tell me what we just talked about. (Ask for clarification when needed).

All joking aside, sexual abuse is an extremely serious issue which can cause a great deal of physical and emotional harm for many years to come. You should continue to discuss this topic with your children and should also consider discussing what to do if someone they don’t know tries to take them (Tell them to scream mainly, and if you can handle it, consider having them practice a scream).

They are many other things about this subject that can be discussed, feel free to email me or call me with questions for follow-up.

Website Builder