Success & Independence

Parents are tasked with the incredible job of raising their children to be healthy, functioning adults who positively contribute to the world. At times that can be difficult, particularly when kids are in pain, hurting themselves or acting out in a way that severely disrupts their lives and the way the family functions. The Center for Success and Independence is a local agency that assists families who need professional help to work through difficult times.

The Center for Success and Independence “transforms adolescents in crisis into productive members of society, helping families turn despair into dreams” and serves youth ages 12-17 who are suffering with substance abuse or behavioral and emotional issues and those struggling to cope with trauma, including abuse, neglect and abandonment. 

The Center was founded in 1999 by Robert Woods and Dr. Marylou Erbland, who (while treating adolescents) recognized the need for an intensive residential mental health and substance abuse treatment center in Houston. To date, The Center, licensed by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services and the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, has served nearly 900 youth and their families. The long-term program is different from hospital-based programs; patients are required to stay 90 days, with most completing treatment in six to nine months. They have daily classroom instruction and 25-30 hours of therapy per week. 

The staff includes three Ph.D. level professionals, therapists, mental health techs, substance abuse counselors and nurses who work together to provide the best care for the patients. Woods, the executive director, has more than 20 years experience in the mental health field, and Erbland, the clinical director, is a psychologist with 20 years of private practice experience. Administrative Director Karl Webster has more than 25 years of counseling and treatment experience.

In addition to individual therapy and substance abuse counseling, The Center uses dialectical behavior therapy, and each student is placed in a dialectical behavior therapy group. 

“In dialectical behavior therapy, kids and families learn specific skills that help them with dealing with stress, regulating their emotions, improving their interpersonal skills and learning how to balance by making decisions and setting goals,” said Erbland. 

Because a high percentage of patients are identified as having experienced trauma, resiliency groups educate them about the  effects of trauma; coping with feelings, triggers and resulting impulses and bouncing back. In psychotherapy groups, kids learn to express themselves more openly and support the fellow members of their group. 

“The therapies fit together to target whatever behaviors or difficulties a client has been having and the treatment is then tailored to what their target behaviors are,” said Erbland. 

Family involvement in treatment is a founding principle of The Center. 

“One of the predictors of success of the kids when they leave is families being involved in their treatment, understanding some of the family dynamics and also being able to support and help their kids when they come home,” said Erbland. 

Each patient is assigned a family therapist and has at least three hours of family therapy per week. Multi-family groups bring kids and parents together to discuss family issues and how they interact with each other. A parent education group is also offered. Through therapy, the family learns the same skills the kids are taught and has a local support group so they can have others to lean on — just as the kids have someone to lean on in treatment. 

Though treatment plans are individual, there are common goals all patients work towards, including learning to work as part of a team, resolving family relationships and learning to deal with stress. Common treatment goals are purposed for patients to determine how to improve their situation, return to their homes and communities and achieve their personal goals. 

The structure of the program teaches patients to connect their behavior to the outcome by rewarding them for appropriate behavior. Through this, Erbland says, they begin to feel motivated to succeed and are able to gradually move back into their family and community. 

Many of the visible changes in patients are ultimately behavioral.

“By the time the kids leave here, they know how to regulate their feelings, know what skills they need to use during a tough time,” said Woods. “Patients learn to respond to anger, stress or pain without acting out aggressively. The kids becomes a little more understanding, more nurturing. They learn how to communicate more openly with their parents and their peers,” Woods added. 

Eighty-six percent of patients successfully complete the treatment program. Care doesn’t end when clients leave The Center. Many stay in touch with their therapists and counselors. To assist in reintegration to home and the community, case managers provide services to the family for 12 months after the patient completes the program. 

For more information about The Center for Success and Independence or additional resources on behavioral and emotional disorders that may be affecting your family, visit or call 713-426-4545.

Just the Assistant

Tis a rags-to-riches story in the making, I tell you! Me:  the envelope stuffer, the errand runner, the sassy assistant who is much more interested in clothes than the mortgage industry (shame my bosses are mortgage bankers and not fashion designers). Me: famous. That’s right, dear readers, famous!  All because the publisher of this fab magazine found my mortgage blog and asked if I’d write for you all here.

“Mortgage blog?” you ask. “But, I thought you care nothing of mortgages!”  And, you are correct.  However, I know there are loads of women out there like my girlfriends – wicked smart, super talented, with little knowledge of mortgages or the home buying process.

So, imagine me in my floral flats perched on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder with a megaphone at my lips, sharing all I can about home loans. To be fair, I warn you that none of my information will come from my own brain. My brain is too full, overflowing even, with make-up tips (like, to get that cat eye look, draw your eyeliner into a checkmark on the upper lid) to have room for boring mortgage information. Hence, any real scoop comes from my bosses.

I work for the best mortgage bankers in the industry. My two bosses are the kindest, smartest guys anyone can turn to for mortgage related needs, and I am proud to pour their coffee every day.  

I recently picked their brains (which are not full of make-up tips; rather mortgage tips) to find out what’s up with the Houston housing market, what we can expect in the next year and how interest rates tie in.

Thankfully, the bosses gave me good news. Turns out, Houston is a lot like Katie Holmes right now. Despite the oddities surrounding her life, she’s all cute as ever strolling down the street in her slouchy chic outfits and big sunglasses. The chick is going places. (Please Katie, don’t start boozing it up in public before press time because it would totally kill my analogy.)  And Houston, though part of a larger, not-so-glam economy, is strolling down the street in chic outfits too! Our home values are expected to rise in the next year, and everyone will look at us like they do Katie and only wish they could be so hot.  

It’s likely that at this point of reading my article, my bosses have broken down crying at their desks, wondering where they went wrong with me and why can’t I just once talk about mortgages without talking about fashion, as well. Never mind them! On to interest rates.

Rates are still well below historical averages. I can’t put an actual rate here in case one of you leaves your copy of this magazine in a cab and some loon finds it, reads the rate as a quote and sues me. A lawsuit would simply ruin my complexion. 

Anyway, rates are expected to rise in the next year, meaning people who get home loans today will likely pay less interest on that money than the same loan taken out a year from now. In the past few weeks, our office phones have been ringing consistently with clients ready to buy houses. They are taking advantage of the perfect scenario we have in front of us — low rates, a strong local economy and promising future home values.  

If you decide to go house shopping this weekend, call me. We’ll wear big sunglasses over perfectly drawn eyeliner as we wander about the charming homes of this city. Tell Tom we’ll be late for dinner.

Christina Ledbetter is a new columnist for Houston Woman Magazine. She works as an assistant for a local mortgage company. She blogs for her company on issues relating to her job. You can find her delightful and entertaining blog at

Goal Setting

Early this spring, we asked our Facebook friends about goal setting and how important the process was to them. The responses came pouring in. As you’ll read here, all seemed to be in agreement: Goal setting is vital to one’s success!

"Goal setting is absolutely important! Living or running a business with no goal is like going on a road trip with no destination.  There is no way to know how long it will take, how much it will cost or if you will end up out of gas at a dead end in the middle of nowhere!”
Jeanne SimsOwner
Minuteman Press Post Oak

"Setting goals defines a road map of your hopes, dreams, desires and expectations. By setting and achieving goals we find that our work and personal life is more exciting and meaningful. I recently read a motivational piece that expressed, "Most people aim at nothing in life and hit it with amazing accuracy.” If we don’t specify exactly what we want, we have no reason to complain about what we get or where we find ourselves.”
Robin Young-Ellis, CSSC
Owner, Robin Young & Co.

"For me, setting goals has been like a road map to the life I envision. This practice has helped me accomplish things I once thought were impossible.When my husband and I became parents some 27 years ago, our financial condition was not the best and we lived very modestly. Our beautiful little girl motivated us in new and powerful ways, most importantly, to set clearly defined and ambitious goals. We established a savings account for her education from the time she was born. When she was about five years old, we met with a broker from Merrill Lynch and asked how much money it would take for her to be able to attend one of the best colleges in the U.S., and how much we would need to set aside on a monthly or yearly basis to achieve that goal. Year after year, her account grew and so did her confidence — knowing that education was important to us and that she could attend any school she wanted. During her senior year, she applied early admission to Harvard and was accepted. By setting goals, sticking to them and focusing on our potential, instead of our limitations, we were able to achieve the impossible dream"
Irma Diaz-Gonzalez, Owner
Employment & Training Centers

"Goal setting is an absolute must. We have goals for individual projects, such as a game show we had to create and facilitate in three days. We have monthly goals that have to be set to some regard a year in advance by making calls to corporations, schools and other groups and associations. We have ethical goals both for ourselves and as an industry. We have long time projects, such as booking national events like the fund raiser for Festac where we are booking Donell Jones and En Vogue and coordinating all their requirements and facilitating the stage management of them and five African acts. Something like this has to be planned for many months in advance. And there are so many people involved and so many intricate details that each step has to be goal set. We also have a reality TV show pilot that will be shooting soon. This goal is 10  years in the making and detail had to constantly change for it to become a reality. Victoria Barclay, the owner of Best Entertainers, is a great believer in letting her staff imagine big, setting goals and then being flexible in the achievement of those goals."
Louis Allen Epstein
Agent, Best Entertainers

"As a young professional, goal setting is vital in keeping my life on track. Goal setting is what gets you through school, finds you that perfect guy and buys you that new pair of shoes. While specific goals may not always get you the outcome you expected, keeping goals for a certain quality of life and an abundance of happiness simplify my life and keep me always looking to a bright future."
Julianna Watkins
Marketing Manager, Compucycle

"I believe the power in goal setting is the declaration of an intention. Once that is done, the necessary tasks make themselves known organically. The challenge is to develop the awareness and exercise the discretion to stay the course. By doing so you prevent getting distracted by tasks that are not on the critical path to reaching your goal."
Stephen Dynako

"It is imperative to know what you want, and where you want to go; but without a goal/plan, how will you get there? I believe it is also important your goals include your professional, personal and family, as well. Your family needs to be as much of a priority as your business; when they know they are included, they are happy to support the goals."
Sharon Hart, Realtor

"When I have encouraged goal-making to others, I have always used the analogy of taking a trip. The goal is the destination, and once that is established, you can then determine the direction you will take, the mode of transportation, what to pack, how to prepare and how long it should take. Knowing where you want to go gives you the ability to gauge progress. Keeping your eye on the goal, the destination, gives you the perspective that helps you get through the tough spots along the way, because you keep your eye on the long term and are not discouraged by the current problem of the day. When we do not have goals, we expend the same amount of energy and time, but without direction. We do not enjoy the satisfaction of “arriving,” and we end up discouraged by the little obstacles that life sends us."
Kathleen Vossler, Attorney

"In our work with groups and individuals on career planning, we stress that the basis of any plan is goals. I have always been goal-driven, and when I was young I created a handful of “By The Time I Am 30” goals. When I was 29, I realized I had not met one of the goals - a salary metric. I set my mind to it, and before my birthday I had accomplished the goal. Accomplishing the goal was easy once I set my mind to it. The hard part was setting my next set of long-term goals. When you are young, 10 years seems so far away, and it is easy to create lofty goals and reach for the stars. As you get older, goals become harder to create because experience guides you to be cautious. But, if you don’t push yourself, you’ll never achieve those crazy things that seem so far out of reach."
Danielle Forget, President
825 Basics, LLCHouston

"I’ve been goal setting for 10 years. Sometimes, everything goes as planned. Sometimes, things don’t work out. Even in a recession, written goals give me a compass to keep me focused. I’m a professional speaker; I teach people how to set goals. I  believe it is extremely important."
Angela Huffmon, Speaker
Pearland, TX

"I also think setting daily goals is what moves you towards the long-term ones. My main daily goal is to be grateful, try to stay positive and do the best I can. Sometimes in life things just don't work out the way we want them to but, at least, you can look back and say hey, I tried my best, which is what really counts!"
Carly Norausky 
Marketing Manager, TMC

Glassell Art Sale

For 22 straight years, the art sale and exhibition at the Glassell School has attracted hundreds of art-savvy Houstonians who  come to browse and buy work by students of the school.

This year the much-anticipated, annual Studio School Art Sale and Exhibition at the MFAH Glassell School of Art, 5101 Montrose Blvd., will take place over Memorial Day weekend. 

The annual, juried exhibition, located on the first floor of the Glassell School, features a showcase of the best Studio School student works from the 2010-2011 school year. 

This year’s show honors Suzanne Manns, the long-time Glassell School faculty chair who is retiring. A variety of artworks from the diverse student body, including pieces by students featured in the exhibition, will be on sale upstairs in a fast-moving, “sample sale” environment.  

The exhibition and sale opens to the public Friday evening, May 27, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. and continues throughout the day on Saturday, May 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MFAH Art Crowd members have the first opportunity to buy works of art at a private party on Thursday, May 26, from 7 to 9 p.m.

 “The Studio Art Sale at the Glassell School provides a wonderful opportunity for people to buy high quality artwork at affordable prices. We hope young professionals and other burgeoning collectors will explore the sale,” said Joseph Havel, director of the Glassell School of Art. “The public is also invited to view the finest examples of Studio school work on view in the annual exhibition, which this year honors Suzanne Manns and the great impact she has had on the school.” 

More than 1,000 works of art in two- and three-dimensional media are typically for sale, ranging from $5 to $500. Sale items include ceramics, jewelry, prints, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculpture. A generous 75 percent of the proceeds go directly to the artists, while the other 25 percent funds future Glassell School of Art scholarships.  

The Studio School exhibition is juried by Suzanne Manns with Glassell instructors Charlotte Cosgrove and Ken Mazzu. This year’s exhibition honors Manns, who has been the Glassell School faculty chair for the last decade and who is retiring from the position to return to the faculty and focus on her teaching and artistic practice. Manns has been instrumental in developing the St. Thomas program (in which St Thomas undergraduate students can earn college credits at the Glassell School), including developing the curriculum for the BFA degree. She also strengthened the broader Glassell Studio school curriculum by adding an innovative summer workshop program. Manns will next head the works on paper department of the Glassell School of Art. 

MFAH Art Crowd members receive free admission; guests may enter for $25 per person. The entry fee includes admission, drinks and light bites. 

To RSVP as an Art Crowd member, become an Art Crowd member or purchase a guest ticket, call 713- 639-7551. Advance tickets and reservations to this event are strongly recommended.

Avoiding Mommy Trap

Jack and Jill met at work and fell in love. They both were earning mid-five-figure salaries and on a fast track to advance with the company. Jill married Jack. The following year Jill got pregnant, and within two years they had two children. Jack agreed with Jill that she should stay at home and raise their children. Three years later Jack left Jill. Jack and Jill no longer went up the hill together. Jill became a single mother with no savings, no child support and no career and her life came tumbling down.

I call this the Jack and Jill Syndrome. More than five million divorced, single-mother families live in the U.S. today according to the Census Bureau’s 2010 Popu-lation Survey. Over half of these mothers receive no child support. Although greater than three-quarters of single-mothers work, they and millions of children, as well, are living at or below the poverty level. A single-mother’s money woes are actually a double whammy because she has to support herself and her children. This profoundly impacts our children, who are among the most vulnerable.The Jills of the world, regardless of whether they are educated and formerly held good jobs or are high school drop-outs, all suffer from society’s prevailing view that raising children is not a valued occupation that carries with it an economic benefit. So, what’s a Jill to do?

As a lawyer who has handled matrimonial matters (not by choice but as an accommodation to corporate clients) and prepared prenuptial agreements, it dawned on me women could benefit from the protection afforded by an agreement signed before marriage that was devised to avert the Jack and Jill outcome.

A little background might be helpful here to put prenuptial agreements in context. Historically, marriages were arranged by families who wanted to protect their inherited property that was handed down from generation to generation to the first son. The romantic notion of marriage is a relatively contemporary phenomenon which has interjected a seemingly disparate ingredient (love) that complicates the ability to reach an agreement. It is no wonder that women try to avoid any discussion of an arrangement that involves love, children, money and property concurrently. But, that is exactly what they must do if they want to preserve their well-being and that of their future children.

I believe a newly fashioned “family-prenup” that includes compensating mothers who raise the couple’s children and take care of the home and apportions the cost of providing for their children until they are 18 would produce an equitable solution.  

Three primary subjects need to be settled and documented to start the ball rolling:

Discuss money, property and children. Mothers need to encourage their daughters to initiate a serious discussion with their future husbands prior to the marriage and urge them to resolve all of the important money, property and child rearing issues — culminating in a signed agreement — before they walk down the aisle. Once the romance fades all of a bride’s leverage evaporates.

Thrash out every “what if” about raising children. A young couple just starting out is inclined to discount the importance of talking about “what ifs” involving children that they may have someday in the future. This, more times than not, is a fatal mistake, evidenced by the staggering number of single mothers who are the sole providers for their children. The future bride and groom should make a list of all the “child issues” and reach an agreement as to how the costs and household duties should be shared.

Advance the concept of “One Financial Pot” with shared money management. Money matters are one of the thorniest topics for couples to discuss, but it is much easier to talk about finances when you are young, in lust, have few assets and are both working. This is the only time this discussion has a possibility of leading to a satisfactory arrangement. After marriage, especially when you are pregnant and planning to be a stay-at-home mother, it’s too late! So, open up a conversation about sharing everything and putting it in a collective pot. If you are good at handling money, as many women are, suggest you be the partner to pay the bills. If not, work out an understanding where you share money management responsibilities.

So, what happens if your  intended refuses to talk about these matters? Here comes the moment of truth. Knowing what you already know about the large percentage of divorced, single-mothers who are living at or below poverty level, will you back down and leave these matters unsettled just to avoid an argument? If your answer is “yes,” you are likely to end up as one more Jill, who tumbled down the hill and became a new casualty of the Jack and Jill Syndrome.

Susan T. Spencer is the author of “Briefcase Essentials: Discover Your 12 Natural Talents for Achieving Success in a Male-Dominated Workplace.” She is the only woman who was general manager of an NFL team and an entrepreneur who successfully navigated the male-dominated world of meat processing.

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