Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Conversation with Deborah Serani, author of 'Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers'

Dr. Deborah Serani is a go-to media expert on a variety of psychological issues. Her interviews can be found in ABC News, Newsday, Womens Health & Fitness, The Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, and affiliate radio station programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. She is a ShareCare Expert for Dr. Oz, writes for Psychology Today, helms the “Ask the Therapist” column for Esperanza Magazine and has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A licensed psychologist in practice over twenty years, Serani is also an adjunct professor at Adelphi University teaching courses in clinical disorders and treatment and is the author of the award-winning book “Living with Depression.”

Her latest book is Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers.

Visit her website at

About the Book:

Seeing your child suffer in any way is a harrowing experience for any parent. Mental illness in children can be particularly draining due to the mystery surrounding it, and the issue of diagnosis at such a tender age. Depression and Your Child gives parents and caregivers a uniquely textured understanding of pediatric depression, its causes, its symptoms, and its treatments. Author Deborah Serani weaves her own personal experiences of being a depressed child along with her clinical experiences as a psychologist treating depressed children.

Current research, treatments and trends are presented in easy to understand language and tough subjects like self-harm, suicide and recovery plans are addressed with supportive direction. Parents will learn tips on how to discipline a depressed child, what to expect from traditional treatments like psychotherapy and medication, how to use holistic methods to address depression, how to avoid caregiver burnout, and how to move through the trauma of diagnosis and plan for the future.
Real life cases highlight the issues addressed in each chapter and resources and a glossary help to further understanding for those seeking additional information. Parents and caregivers are sure to find here a reassuring approach to childhood depression that highlights the needs of the child even while it emphasizes the need for caregivers to care for themselves and other family members as well.

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Well, I’m a psychologist in practice 20 years, specializing in the treatment of depression. I’m also a professor at Adelphi University, write for “Psychology Today” and “Esperanza Magazine” and work as a go-to media expert for psychological issues. My work and my writing keep me very busy, sometimes taking me out of town, out of state or out of the country. So when I’m not writing, I love to spend time at home with my husband and daughter. I also enjoy reading, cooking and painting. At my core, I’m an introvert, so wild and exciting things usually don’t find their way into my life. I prefer quiet, simple moments, and luxuriate in them when they happen.

When did you start writing?

 Like a lot of writers, I can’t think of a time in my life that I haven’t written! My parents saved just about everything I created in my primary and secondary school years... poems, short stories, songs, even comic books. I used to write entire episodes of television shows I’d like to see as a teenager, and wrote a children’s book when I was in college. But I didn’t start getting published as an author until I was in my thirties. I began with academic research and journal articles on mental health and found that experience extremely meaningful. As I got older, though, I wanted to share more about my personal and professional experiences with depression and crossed over to mainstream publishing. I love to write and create, and always will. It’s a process that allows me to learn and grow, reach and teach, and create and conceive like no other art form. 

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

I’d have to say it was receiving the 2012 Foreword Reviews Silver Medal Book of the Year Award in Psychology for my first book “Living with Depression.” For me, being a published author was my ultimate goal– but for my work to be recognized as award winning was something I never imagined. The award has kicked my “brand” up a notch and has opened doors I might only have been able to just knock on.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Oh, I love this question. All I need to write is a quiet place, so how about a villa on Lake Como, Italy. With its majestic landscapes, indigo water, good food, wine and weather, I think I’d never get writer’s block.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Oh, wow, I’d probably take advantage of the extra time by catnapping or being totally lazy.

How was your book published?

I shopped it around to major and independent publishers. And though I had several offers, I decided to go with Rowman & Littlefield. They are the largest independent publishers in the US and made me feel that they’d really support my work as an author. And they have.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Besides the university libraries to scope out data, no. Though I can say that my travels to the pantry and the refrigerator made for some excellent writing breaks. 

Why was writing “Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers” so important to you?

I grew up as a depressed child, but never knew it.  As is the case with pediatric depression, my own depression didn’t hit with lightening like speed. It was more of a slow burn, taking its toll in gnaws and bites before hollowing me out completely.  After a suicide attempt as a college sophomore, I found help that finally reduced my depression. Until then, I accepted the sadness, despair and overwhelming fatigue “as the way my life just was.” I never realized, nor did my parents or any other adults, that I had a clinical disorder. I was so moved by my treatment, that I studied psychology and became a clinician that specializes in the very illness I struggled with. I like to think that I’ve turned the wounds from my childhood into wisdom and believe that sharing the textures of my experiences will help parents realize what their own depressed child is going through. More than anything else, I want this book to offer hope. As a clinician, proper diagnosis and treatment can be life-changing and life saving. As a person living with depression, I have found successful ways to lead a full and meaningful life. I want parents and children who struggle with depression to feel this hope too – and in my book, that’s what you’ll find.

Is the book always better than the movie?

In a word, yes. Always, ALWAYS better than the movie!

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

For me, the best ideas come when I’m in bed falling asleep. I think I’m just so relaxed and my mind is so free and clear before I fade away, that these wonderful images or beautiful passages of prose bubble to the surface. The trick, though, is remembering them the next morning, which is why I keep a pen and pad handy on my night table.

Any final words?

I’d want readers here at I’m Shelf-ish to know that there’s no shame living with mental illness. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, there is hope in healing.


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