Brighter Pathways ©  2017

Welcome!. Dr. M.. Our Office. Main Services. Follow-up Services. Interventions. Third Pig Book. Self-Help . The Project. School Confusion. Testing/Diagnoses. Gifted & Talented. Learning Disabilities. ADD/ADHD. Behavior/Emotional. Our Therapy Dogs. Dr. M's Messages. Location/Contact Us.

1237 E. Livingston Street, Suite B

Orlando, FL 32803-5401

Ph: 407-895-0540 ~ Fax: (407) 228-9771

Licenses:  SS00305 ~ MH02676 ~ PCE-9

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Notice:  Leave of Absence Closure

Dr. Messenger will be starting  A Leave of Absence as of Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 for an unspecified time.  Assessments and consultation can be scheduled until then.  The website will remain available for educational purposes, until the office is reopened.

In our country, at least one in ten children has a behavioral or emotional problem that requires some kind of counseling intervention. One fear that prevents families from seeking help is believing that psychotherapy is necessarily a long process, requiring regularly-scheduled sessions over a long period of time (in addition, of course, to homework, soccer practice, music lessons, tutoring, karate and gymnastics).


While there are cases where extensive counseling is necessary to “undo the damage” or “unlearn the habit,” Dr. Messenger’s years of experience have led her to believe that many issues can be handled with brief counseling that is solution-focused.


Dr. Messenger’s philosophy is this:  The essence of counseling is change.  Based upon the results of the Intervention Consultation (IC), an individualized plan will be developed which will lead to change in the core issues uncovered.  Emphasis is upon teaching and practicing coping skills, with parents acting as “co-therapists” to reinforce, model, and even expand the workable strategies outside the counseling office.


Parents must understand that there is a big difference between adults and children who go to counseling.  While adults prefer to talk about their problems, children usually prefer to use materials.  A skilled child therapist can help children and teens to gain insight, uncover underlying conflicts, and heal past traumas using materials such as drawing, miniature figurines, sand trays, games, clay, and painting.  Review of research studies supports the effectiveness of play therapy to address treatment for children for issues ranging from divorce to agitated depression to stress disorders.












Using the brief, solution-focused model, focus is on what clients want to achieve during the session(s) rather than on historical problems that made them seek help.  In other words, the past is mainly helpful in understanding old patterns and what has not worked.  








For the most part, Dr. Messenger will be presenting, teaching, and helping practice new skills and coping strategies.

















Let’s look at a potential real-life example, with the understanding that approaches vary considerably based on factors such as a child or teen’s age, motivation, and developmental level.  If Anxiety presents as an area to intervene, a typical session may include some or all of the following activities:



This approach requires parents to take over the “therapeutic reins” when they leave the Brighter Pathways office.  Your job is not to remind your child/teen to use the “calm-down tools.”  Your job is to practice with the child, think up new things to add to the poster or journal, and model, MODEL, M-O-D-E-L that you are using these strategies too.  


We cannot stress enough the importance of HOPE as one of the most important variables in success. Until you and your child/teen believe that things can and will get better, progress may stall or fizzle out.









Different therapists use all types of different therapy ~ from the classic (and stereotyped) “lay here on the couch and tell me about your mother” to strict behavioral conditioning such as “you’ll get an M & M every time you correctly use the potty.”  OK, bit it of levity here … those are rather extreme examples.  


But the reality is that there are over 250 different types of psychotherapy (a shocking statistic!), and NONE stands head and shoulders above the rest.  It amounts to little more than the competition among aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.  All of them relieve pain and work better than no treatment at all.


So, here’s the point:  A comprehensive review of more than 40 years of research found that specific techniques and strategies in therapy accounted for only 15 percent of clients’ improvement, roughly the same proportion ascribable to HOPE.  (Source:  Secrets of the Third Little Pig, page 359.)


This is very consistent with Dr. Messenger’s research for her doctoral dissertation at University of Florida.  After an elaborate study of all the many variables (gender, age, explanations, past experiences, etc.) that may affect a child’s perception of the counseling experience, the most significant one was this: what the child thought of the therapist!


So, if you’re coming into the office for a follow-up solution-focused counseling session,








Usually an IC follow-up session with solution-focused counseling is scheduled for 2 hours.  This gives plenty of time for all the work and play to be integrated and for parents to understand their role.  Often this, in addition to take-home reading material, is all that is needed.  


Some parents like to come back for a “tune-up” or “refresher” after a month or so.  The purpose of that session to see what is working and what else can be implemented.  These sessions are usually scheduled for 1½ hours, so the participants do not feel rushed.  However, if all the time is not taken, the cost of the session will be reduced.




“I can't change the direction of the wind,

but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

                                                                 ~ Jimmy Dean


I don't think of all the misery
but of the beauty that still remains.       
 - Anne Frank

Gestalt Therapy with Figurines

Control your thoughts…”self-talk”        

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Believe, Hope, Trust….