Summer Camps and Groups Starting for Kids and Adults!

Take a moment out of your summer to work on improving skills, improve self care, obtain support and encouragement, and build a better relationship with your family! Call us for more information and to request group topics for one time educational sessions or on going groups that may be of interest to you, your friends, and in your community. Thank you for making our first ten years a success! We look forward to serving our community for decades to come. 

Summer Camp Groups For Kids

Summer camp groups are designed to help children develop and practice social skills and self-regulation skills in a therapeutic setting. The use of art and play to helps kids express themselves, in an accepting and safe environment. We are utilize art and play to build relationships Friendship, Communication, Self-Regulation, Sensory Integration, Conflict Resolution, Taking Responsibility, & Self-Esteem. Lead by Annai Tavira, LAMFT and Danielle Tidwell, LAMFT. Dates in June and July. Call Annai (770-971-9311 ext. 7) or Danielle (ext. 111) for more information. You can also email or


Support & Encouragement for Moms Open, Ongoing Group

Forming soon! Contact Amy West (ext. 9 or for more information and to get your name on the confidential distribution list for information on start dates and other details.

Parent/Child Relationship Training (AKA Filial Therapy) Group for Parents with Young Children

Contact Cecil Davison II, LAPC, at cecil@mariettacounseling or ext. 116, for more information and to be included on the information list for when this group launches. 


Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’


Marietta Counseling serving ice cream to benefit the Drake House in Roswell. Good job ladies!

Susan Kerley, LPC, NCC speaks on ADHD and teens

Susan was featured in Best Self Atlanta in the September 2015 issue.

Susan article

Article edited Susan

10 Reasons I’m a Better Person Because My Parents Got Divorced

Below is a great article explaining how divorce does not always have to be a disaster for children. Hopefully parents considering, in the process of, or already divorced will seek professional support if necessary to ensure the best possible outcome for their children.

10 reasons I’m a better person because my parents are divorced


logo teenvogue

Whenever I hear the words “broken family,” I get a little pain in my chest. My parents split up when my sister and I were pretty young, and for a long time after, I felt fractured. But the truth is, for all the tough stuff that divorce knitted into the fabric of our family, I’m grateful for the life lessons it left me with, among them the fact that it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you while you’re growing up. Sometimes, there’s even a silver lining — or in my case, 10 of them. Here’s how my parents’ divorce helped me grow, and why I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

1. Divorce made me a better communicator.

Listening to my parents struggle to express themselves was tough. But it also made me realize — yep, even at 13 — how important it is to feel heard, whether you’re talking about friends, romantic partners or family members. Luckily, my folks knew that they didn’t want me to be limited or constricted in emotional conversations in the same way they were with one another, so I spent many an afternoon camped out with a therapist, learning how to talk about and constructively express my feelings (i.e., explaining how I felt without blowing up, getting defensive or breaking down). It’s a skill that has helped me out with friends, boyfriends and colleagues, time and time again, and I’m grateful to have developed that communication tool kit sooner than later in life.

2. Divorce made me fearless about starting fresh.

After the split, my dad moved out and my mom, sister and I remained in our family house for about a year before admitting that it was just too sad to stick around: Every corner held a memory. When my mom told us we were moving, my sister and I were both resistant up until the moment the last box was packed. But once we settled into the new place, a sweet little white two-story across town — where we painted rooms with sunny, feminine colors and added warm, cozy touches and fresh flower boxes — a huge emotional weight lifted (not just for us, but for my dad, too, who was pained by picking us up and dropping us off at the old house). I learned that new and different can be a wonderful thing. And a few years later, I had the courage to pack up and leave for Chicago, Los Angeles, and then New York, all on my own — and without any fear.

3. Divorce gave me the power to walk away from relationships that aren’t working.

Sometimes, love just isn’t enough. You can desperately want to make things work with someone who isn’t right for you, but struggling against it isn’t just energy-depleting: It’s futile. Watching my parents admit that, despite the fact that they loved one another, they were always going to be off-kilter in their relationship — and seeing them own up to their unhappiness as a couple — was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. But it also gave me the strength to understand that, in my own relationships, when something fundamentally isn’t working, it’s actually OK to walk away. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means that even after trying everything, you know your limitations, and that you need to take your own happiness into account.

4. Divorce allowed me to see my mom and dad as people, not just parents.

None of this is to say that my parents handled everything the right way — they definitely didn’t (and would be the first to admit it). But looking back, one thing I appreciate about the split is that I got a firsthand look at who my parents are beyond just Mom and Dad. They talked to me honestly about tough things, and I came to understand that they didn’t have all the answers — which ultimately let me in on the little secret that nobody does. We’re all just figuring it out. There is no handbook for adulthood, but the closest thing to it is good intentions, past experiences, and awareness of what’s going on around you. Everyone — everyone — is flawed, and that includes your folks. Knowing that taught me to forgive those flaws (and see my own!) while recognizing that we can’t expect anyone to be perfect, but we can love them anyway.

5. Divorce brought me closer to my sister.

Siblings are the people who hold the history of your childhood, and often understand you better than anyone else. After my folks split up, the only thing that felt normal was my relationship with my sister: She was the constant in an equation where all other factors were in flux. She’s my gut check when I’m overreacting to something on the relationship front that stems from our parents’ breakup, and the only person who “gets it” sometimes. I’m sure we would have found other reasons to feel this way about one another if they had stayed together, but that experience seriously sealed our bond because sometimes while my mom and dad were working through their own grief, we only had each other. In the end, that turned out to be a good thing: She’s my best friend, and I wouldn’t trade our connection for anything.

6. Divorce helped me get comfortable with gray areas.

Divorce comes with a lot of heightened emotions and opposing points of view: the old “he said/she said” string of narratives that leave you wondering who is telling the truth and who is bending it to make themselves look better (or someone else look worse). I remember feeling, for years, like I needed to know who was right, who was more culpable, which one of my parents deserved more blame for disrupting (what at the time had seemed like) an idyllic family vignette. But at some point, I realized that there is no black-and-white answer when feelings are involved, and that nailing down “the truth” is less important than acknowledging that something is painful and complicated, and the best thing to do next is move forward.

7. Divorce gave me insight into what healthy relationships really look like.

I only vaguely remember a time when my parents had a “good” relationship. There are snippets that play like a slideshow in my mind, if I think about it enough, but for the most part what I remember from being a kid was listening to them argue in the kitchen, long after I went to bed and my sister tiptoed into my room. It was fundamentally weird after they both started dating again, but it also gave me insight into something a lot of young people don’t get to see: how to find the right partner. Eventually, my mom and dad ended up with people who provide them with the balance they never could give one another (and whom they, and I, love very, very much). Seeing my parents in the context of the people they have chosen has shown me how your partner really can bring out the best or the worst in you. It’s so tremendously important to find someone who lights up your good qualities instead of your dark and stormy ones, and now I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

8. Divorce taught me to (try to!) accept things I can’t change.

Are there still times that I wish my parents were together? Totally, completely, absolutely (though mostly for convenience’s sake — I hate splitting my time between two places during the holidays!). But that is never going to happen. And I haven’t just gotten used to it; I’ve come to accept it. Knowing that it’s just the way things are frees up so much emotional space in my life, and allows me to appreciate having two whole families instead of a single precarious one.

9. Divorce showed me how to comfort someone — and that sometimes, it means just staying quiet.

There was a Sunday afternoon one fall when my dad was dropping us off at the end of the driveway after a weekend together. He started to cry in the middle of hugging me goodbye. I was surprised, but something kicked in and I just did what my dad had done for me a million times since I stubbed my first toe: snuggled in close, let him be sad, and patted him on the back until the wave passed. It’s hard to watch someone you love break down, and harder still not to know how to help them through it. But I learned that day that when in doubt, be quiet and just be there. It really does help. Sometimes more than anything else ever could.

10. Divorce expanded my definition of family.

I was lucky to have lots of close friends when I was a kid — but because we were young, they didn’t always know how to talk to me about what I was going through (especially the ones with totally intact families). Somehow, though, their parents turned into awesomely amazing resources. My childhood best friend’s mom would get up with me in the morning while her daughter slept in and chat with me over cocoa and coffee; my aunts never missed a swim meet or a play I was performing in (even when I was somewhere in the back of the chorus); and my parents’ close friends, who were around a lot helping them get through things, practically became surrogates.

Today, when I go home, my family is much larger than the two people who brought me into this world: It includes their new spouses, their friends, their siblings, and the people who may not be blood-related but lent a hand to raise me like I was one of their own. And while that definitely arose out of necessity, I’m forever grateful to have such a wide, albeit unconventional, family circle. In the end, it made my heart that much bigger.

This article originally appeared on Teen Vogue.


Children’s Mental Health Day

Mary Stuart Neill participated in Children’s Mental Health Day at the Georgia State Capital with over 200 mental health advocates.  Afterwards she attended a panel discussion titled “The Intersection of Children’s Mental Health & Education”.


Divorce: Surviving the Holidays

This will be our first holiday since the divorce. I feel like our family has been broken. How can I give my kids a good holiday?

Yes, the family you once had is no more. But you DO have a family with your child. While the holidays will be different for you this year, and probably painful at times, this is a golden opportunity to create new traditions that express your love and your values. And celebrating with your child will support both of you as your child goes from having one family to having two.

1. Acknowledge the grief. Holidays are hard for everyone, because we all have a fantasy that the holidays means life will be perfect.  For divorced parents, grief can hit hard. It’s important to be aware of this, and find ways to both let yourself grieve and nurture yourself through this hard time. It’s when we don’t responsibility for taking care ourselves that we end up fighting with our ex or upsetting our child.

2. Expect your child to act out, and if he lashes out in anger or disappointment about something inconsequential, remember that his heart is hurting. Kids of divorced parents are even more prone to grief at the holidays than adults are, because it highlights the difference between their fantasy and their reality. If you can take a deep breath yourself and stay as compassionate as possible, you can help your child to acknowledge the sadness beneath his anger, and make a leap forward in healing.

3. Your child wants to celebrate with both parents, but consider carefully the messages you’re giving if both parents expect to spend Christmas morning, or the first night of Hanuka, in your old family home with the kids.  It’s natural for children to fantasize that this means you’re ready to work things out, which is unfair to your child. To avoid this, be clear with your child that this is time-limited, and that, for instance, “after we all open gifts, Dad will be taking you to Grandma’s for dinner.”  If it doesn’t work for everyone to celebrate together, then split the holiday up.  For example, Christmas Eve and morning with Mom, Christmas day and dinner with Dad.

4. You may be divorced, but your child isn’t.  That means you’re still co-parenting, and you have to find ways to communicate so you can forge a good parenting partnership to do your best for your child.  The holidays will give you lots of opportunity to perfect your peaceful communication, as you work out visitation schedules and presents.  Why talk to your ex about presents?  Because presents symbolize love. You don’t want to overindulge your child out of guilt, or find yourself competing with your ex to give bigger and better presents.

5. Maintain as much continuity as possible.  If there are special traditions that are part of your family holidays, your child will find comfort in them, even if modifications are necessary. Remember that what your child really wants for the holidays is a close relationship with each parent, and be sure that quality connection time is built into your holiday plans.  You might use the opportunity to create one new tradition with each parent, something that wasn’t part of your old family life but that your child can look forward to in future years.

6. What if it isn’t your year to have the kids, and you’ll be on your own?  First, schedule a very special day when your child returns to you to celebrate the holiday together.  Be sure to include a tradition that’s important to you both.  Whatever holiday you celebrate, the spirit lives well beyond that day, and your child needs to celebrate it with you to feel complete.

Second, don’t succumb to self-pity.  Instead, give yourself this unscheduled time as a holiday gift and make plans to do something delicious that you otherwise would never get to do. Ski trip? Spa getaway? All day at your favorite museum or bookstore, or watching your favorite old movies? A quick trip to drink pina coladas where there are palm trees?  Indulge yourself.  It will help you be a more inspired parent the rest of the year.

Dr. Laura Markham

Aha! Parenting

Are You A Complainer? Dr. Laura Markham has important information…

The average person complains 30 times a day.
Would you like to stop?

“Every time you complain,  your irritability — like a virus — is neurologically picked up by every person who hears your voice or sees your face. So by all means, train your brain to be optimistic and positive because (according to 30+ years of longitudinal research conducted by Duke University and the Mayo Clinic), it will literally add years to your life.” — Mark Waldman

Researchers say the average person complains 30 times a day. But there are people who never complain. Their lives, from the outside, aren’t any different than anyone else’s. They didn’t win the lottery. But they rate themselves as happier than other people.  Their relationships are closer. They live longer. And while I haven’t yet seen any research on this, I’d bet they’re happier parents.

What’s wrong with complaining? Research shows that when we listen to complaints of any kind, we get demoralized.  And that includes our own complaints!  Listening to complaints starts our minds on a cycle of negative thinking, which intensifies our “fight or flight” wiring. And when others, including our children, listen to our complaints, it doesn’t help them change. It reinforces those feelings of “I’m not good enough…Life isn’t good enough.”

So why do we complain?  It’s the grown-up version of whining; an expression of powerlessness.

Just to be clear, stating needs is not complaining, as long as you’re not making the other person wrong. Expressing emotion such as sadness is not complaining, as long as you aren’t making your feelings the other person’s fault. We all need to feel seen, heard, and understood.  There’s nothing wrong with sharing our feelings about what’s been hard for us; that helps us let go of them and move on.

Complaining is when we blame others, or life, instead of accepting the situation and taking responsibility to make things better. It can become a habit; the story we tell about our lives.“You won’t believe how awful my day (week, year, life) has been.”

The goal is not to become a doormat, but a person of integrity, willing to take back our power and take responsibility for changes that need to happen. (Sometimes those changes are in the outside world. Sometimes they’re inside us.)

As we head into the season of gratitude, it’s a terrific time to support yourself to transform this habit. Ready to stop complaining?

1. Notice any time you start to complain, and bite your tongue. Take a deep breath. Give up the gratification of reviewing why you’re right and commit to being a positive force in the situation. Even if you can only make a small difference, that difference can lead to bigger changes.

2. Are you complaining out of habit? (“You kids have been driving me crazy the whole trip!”) If so, remind yourself that your child believes everything you tell him about himself and unconsciously tries to live up to it. Why not focus on the positive?

3. Are you complaining from feeling powerless? (“Nobody around here ever does any work except me!”) Reaffirm to yourself that you’re in charge, so if you really want to, you can change anything going on in your house.

4. Are you complaining from frustration? (“This kid never does his homework, no matter how much I yell. I give up!”)  If you’re frustrated, maybe it’s time to try a new strategy. (For instance, kids learn best when we give them the structure to learn good habits, such as sitting with them while they do their homework, until they master the skill of sitting down to tackle something unpleasant and learn to monitor their own work.)

5. Regardless of why you’re complaining, consider what action you could take to change the situation. Find better ways to entertain your children on family trips? Orchestrate a family clean-up for fifteen minutes every evening? Eliminate TV on weeknights? Make a plan to support yourself and your family to change. Make it happen, one step at a time.

6. Challenge your family to live this week complaint-free. Put a jar on your counter. Every time anyone complains, that person has to put a coin in the jar, and express gratitude in place of the complaint. “Not chicken again!” might become “I am so grateful we get to have a healthy dinner and that Dad cooked it for us!”

“I hate picking up the things you kids leave strewn around the house” might become “Dinner will be ready in ten minutes.  I’m so glad that you kids will have all your things picked up first so I can feel peaceful as I  serve everyone dinner…Let’s all get busy! I love that everyone in this family is learning to clean up our own messes.”

“Can’t you ever comb your hair?” might become “What a handsome son I have!”

“My boss did it again!”  might become “I am grateful to have a job and a paycheck to feed my family.”

At the end of the week, donate your coins to charity. You’ll be amazed how much money you raise for your favorite charity as you re-train yourself. (Children who are too young to get an allowance can put an appreciation in the jar, that they dictate to you.)

7. Remind yourself of all of your blessings, including that you’re lucky to be entrusted as the guardian and guide for your child, so you want to offer support, rather than criticism, any chance you get.

Soon, you’ll be able to restate every complaint into an intention of change for the better — or even an expression of gratitude. We’ll talk more about gratitude in our next post!

“The opposite of complaining is gratitude. We should talk about things we are thankful for rather than things we are unhappy about. Our minds are like steering wheels, they take us in the direction we point them. If we focus on positive things, we move in the direction of greater happiness and more success.” –

Choose love!
Dr. Laura


What an honor to pose with Gary Landreth, the guru of Child Centered Play Therapy! Child Therapists at Marietta Counseling have extensive knowledge of and training in play therapy and diligently pursue continuing education to provide excellence in service to precious children.

Kids and Texting

Texting and Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Texting among children has increased dramatically and has become such an important part of children’s social lives that parents are concerned. Parents frequently know little about the content of the texts and with whom the child is texting. As a result many parents feel extraneous and that texting undermines their influence.

There are some positives to text messaging. Texting can contribute to a child’s feeling of belonging. Being able to text can help shy children become more outgoing. Texting is a concise and easy way to keep in contact with friends, as well as to check in with parents. In an emergency, texting can be extremely important.

Parental apprehension occurs when children become seemingly addicted to texting and less involved in face-to-face communication. Also, excessive texting may lead to poor spelling habits, inability to concentrate, and incomplete school work. Children report that once they send a text message, they expect to receive a response right away, and if they do not, they often become anxious. Others report that they feel abandoned and unable to give attention elsewhere when they are not “connected.” Texting can also create misunderstandings since the receiver cannot view the sender’s facial expressions, body language, or hear the tone of his or her voice.

What can parents do to balance the use of cell phones and texting with their goal of raising responsible, well-adjusted children?

  1. Model limited use of technology. Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote, “Children have always competed for their parents’ attention, but this generation has experienced something new. Previously, children had to deal with parents being off with work, friends, or each other. Today, children contend with parents who are physically close, tantalizingly so, yet mentally elsewhere.” 1 If parents want to influence their child’s behavior and future success, they need to take time to listen and give undivided attention.
  2. Be aware of the variety of devices available.
  3. Decide which type of cell phone, if any, is appropriate for the age of your child.
  4. Control usage by purchasing plans with limited minutes for calling and texting, or by monitoring your child’s access.
  5. Consider linking the privilege of phone usage with responsibilities like completing homework, chores, etc.
  6. Discuss the necessity of using caution when texting or sending photos since they are not private and may be shared with people your child does not know.
  7. Instill an awareness that sending hurtful or untrue messages can have serious consequences for both the sender and the child or children who are being discussed.
  8. Take time to express interest in your child’s friends and in the messages he or she sends.
  9. Limit times and places where your child can use electronic devices since maintaining open parent-child communication is essential. Insist that your child refrain from texting during short car trips, during family dinners, when adults are speaking directly to him or her, etc.
  10. Encourage your child’s interest and participation in various activities: athletics, drama, photography, art, crafts, sewing, playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, reading, volunteering, etc.
  11. Provide quality family interaction time by eating together, taking walks, playing games, etc.
  12. Foster “technology free” times when your child can reflect on his or her life, feelings, friends, and identity.

Advancing technology can make it difficult to guide and raise children today, but with much listening, patience, love and a willingness to provide limits, children can grow into empathic, responsible, healthy adults.

1Sherry Turkle, Alone Together, Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, A Member of the Perseus Books Group, 2011), 267.

Related articles that may be of interest: Is Family Mealtime Important?; The ABC’s of Parenting; Ten Ways to Raise Children to USE Drugs; Adult Guide to Increasing Self-Worth in Children (.pdf);Effective Communication; Educator’s Guide to Active Listening.

For a resource that enhances parent-child communication and bonding see the Kelly Bear Feelings book.


Three Things To Never Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder

Three Things to NEVER Say to Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder

by: Johanna Wendell, LAPC

1.”Just eat.” If it was as simple as that, they would! To someone with an eating disorder, this statement is extremely invalidating and frustrating and conveys that you do not understand the severity and nature of eating disorders. Someone with an eating disorder is struggling with far more than a difficulty eating-oftentimes they are struggling with severe anxiety, depression, negative body image, low self-esteem, perfectionism, trauma, etc, all of which makes it incredibly difficult to eat. If they were able to simply eat, they would not be struggling so much. Oftentimes, people with eating disorders feel misunderstood, alone, and different from everyone else, so it is extremely important to convey a sense of acceptance, understanding, and compassion. It is much more effective and helpful to say, “It seems like you are struggling; How can I help?”

2.”You look good.” While you may be simply giving your friend or loved one a compliment, which you assume he/she would appreciate, the person with an eating disorder hears “You look healthy” which equals “You look like you have gained weight.” Individuals with eating disorders tend to be extremely sensitive, self-critical, and terrified of gaining weight, so any statement that could be interpreted as they have gained weight, should be avoided. To be safe, it really is best to not comment on their weight or overall appearance at all. It may be safe to comment on their hair, nails, outfit, or something not related to their overall shape, weight, or size, but avoid any comments such as, “You look so much better,” “You look so much healthier,” or “You look great.” Again, someone with an eating disorder hears, “You look heavier” or “You look fat.”

3.”You don’t look sick.” The majority of the time, you cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at him/her. The majority of people with eating disorders are actually at a healthy weight or are overweight. Someone with an eating disorder who is at a healthy body weight or is overweight can be much more critically ill than someone who visually looks like he/she is extremely underweight. Eating disorders, like any other serious illness such as cancer, a drug addiction, Diabetes, congestive heart failure, etc cannot be depicted by just looking at someone. Looks can be incredibly deceiving. Someone can look incredibly healthy and drop dead from an eating disorder the next day, while someone who looks severely malnourished may be relatively healthy. Saying “You don’t look sick” is a naïve statement that conveys a lack of understanding and comes across as very invalidating and triggering. Someone with an eating disorder hears, “You aren’t skinny enough to truly have a problem or to warrant concern,” which can motivate those with eating disorders to want to become sicker and thinner. Again, people with eating disorders are incredibly sensitive, so it is extremely important to choose your words wisely.