Not Sure About Psychotherapy?

YAY! We completed our Therapy!

Achieving what brought you to therapy is truly cause for celebration.

But how long will that take?

One of the questions I ask new clients in their initial intake paperwork is how long they expect therapy to last. This gives me an idea of how invested they are in the level of change they are willing to create for their lives.

A 2009 Dutch study suggested that a longer duration of treatment may prevent return into mental health care. And, according to Dr. Malcolm Miller, Ph.D. “Brief Therapy” lasts between 10-20 sessions with clear, focused goals and specific assignments for the client between sessions. He stated this in an article in 2004. In my experience, most clients who are new to therapy nowadays expect their treatment (whether we call it “brief” or not) to last 4-5 sessions or less.

I want it now” is so easy to expect nowadays. And why shouldn’t it be? If I can use an app. to find a date who is near me right now, use an app. to call a car to pick me up right now, and then within the seconds it takes for me to open an app, I can tell my friends what I am dong right now, why shouldn’t I expect everything to be just as quick?

The thing is, the challenges that bring people to therapy usually didn’t happen so suddenly.

A couple I recently aided in discernment about their relationship said their problems had been going on for 3 or 4 years. Their relationship was 5 years old. Unfortunately, when couples who have been together longer than that, usually they come to my office saying the problems that brought them have been going on for even longer than a few years.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a client’s duration in therapy need parallel the duration of the problems. Each person is unique and has unique desires for what they get out of their therapy. And the things you do to continue your healing will hopefully still continue after you stop seeing your therapist. If you are coming to therapy with full intentions to make changes, positive growth will happen more quickly than the unintentional fall into problems happened.

However, attending just a few therapy sessions, so I can say, “I tried therapy!” really isn’t giving myself a chance to really reap benefits.

Some tips to getting the most out of every single session:

•tell your therapist what you think is working
If you noticed something in a session that was helpful, let her know.

•tell your therapist if you don’t like something about your sessions
The whole point of that hour is for you to get what you need. This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel good in session or immediately afterwards. But if you don’t think something is right, this is important to bring up because it will contribute to you getting the help you need. A good therapist will work to identify what you need and either provide it directly or connect you with someone who will.

•communicate your expectations about therapy
If you only have the time or money for a few sessions, let your therapist know. A different approach will be used with a client who expects to attend a few sessions. The benefits of longer-term therapy may not be possible in just a few weeks, but with that information, a therapist can make sure you get the most out of the time that you are working together.

•be up front about reasons for ending your work together
Best case scenario, both client and therapist know that the last time they meet will be the last time they meet. It is clinically important for you to have an appropriate termination and for that closure to be processed together. A good therapist will modify your treatment if cost or scheduling keeps you from coming to therapy for as long as you’d like. But only if your therapist knows your limitations.

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How Systems Theory Can Change Your Life

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have saved what I believe to be the best for last.

(scroll down to read preceding articles on models of psychotherapy)

Systems Theory is a way of perceiving a client’s problem through the lens of the system that they are a part. Most commonly, this means the family you grew up with, or your family of origin. But systems-minded therapists also consider current family structure, extended family, as well as other surrounding communities (your workplace, your band mates, your place of worship, etc) because these parts contribute to the behaviors and experiences of the identified patient (you).

Because in Texas, MFTs are the newest kid on the block when it comes to mental health professionals, many Texans misunderstand that a “Marriage and Family Therapist” only works with couples and families. The license title is a bit of a misnomer because it actually describes the way a client’s problems are perceived, as opposed to WHO goes to therapy.

Psychiatrists in California in the 40’s started noticing that the mothers of their schizophrenic patients had similar personalities. This was the start of this wider view of helping to heal a patient- to look not only at the identified patient himself, but also the structures and systems (s)he is a part of, who help him maintain (even if they aren’t intending to maintain) his or her symptoms.

For me, this all gets very exciting since working with the loved ones of those who struggle with addiction and other mental illness is one of my favorite things to do. When a codependent begins to learn how much power they have by re-focusing on his or her own behavior (instead of trying to get their partner/son/mother/etc to change), lives improve in mind-blowing ways.

Now please don’t misunderstand- Systems Theory does NOT state that mothers are the cause of all their children’s’ problems.

Image result for freud mother

 

Systems theory is actually very different from the traditional medical model of: Cause –> Effect.

Systems theory understands that: a virus being present in an organism doesn’t necessarily cause sickness, because there are many other factors at play. What the organism ate, how much they slept, how long they were exposed to the virus, whether they’d been sick previously or recently, and numerous other factors influence the organism’s immune system and impact the effect that a virus may or may not have. Similarly, twins who have been born into same households have had drastically different life paths and very different mental health profiles, proving that there is never ONE cause to create an outcome. It is an entire system. It is the cumulative effect of all factors surrounding a person that contribute to his or her success and struggle.

 

November 2019

 

 

How Person-centered Therapy Can Change Your Life

This one is a good one. Also referred to as client-centered therapy or Rogerian psychotherapy, this theory of psychology isn’t talked about much these days. Carl Rogers got it going in the 40’s and it seems that more active and directive forms of psychotherapy have nudged it out of vogue.

However, if you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who listened and validated the way Rogerian Therapy indicates, you probably identified some solutions for yourself without feeling like you were being guided or directed. You probably felt empowered.

Dr. Rogers’ Person-centered Therapy gets credit for your therapist calling you her “client” instead of her “patient” as Freud and Jung and others had done before him. Rogerian or Person-centered therapy sees client and practitioner as collaborators in therapy. A Person-centered therapist will be authentic and empathic. A Person-centered therapist is intentional about maintaining a positive attitude towards clients, which can be a relief for folks who are wary of feeling judged, misunderstood or talked down to.

Rogers believed that every person is a “potentially competent individual” who could benefit greatly from this therapy.  Roger’s humanistic way of doing therapy aims to increase a person’s feelings of self-worth. He intends to walk with others as they become more of who they ideally would like to be.

Who can argue with that?

November 2019

 

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How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life

In a yoga-centric city like Austin,

I’m not about to claim to know more about mindfulness than the next guy.

What I do know is, all the lovely action-oriented jewels that can be gained from theories like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (see previous articles) can’t even begin to come about if we aren’t present-minded enough to stop our automatic thoughts and use some different techniques.

It may seem obvious when your couples counselor points out that name-calling doesn’t help you be a good partner.
AND, when you are irate the moment your partner does that thing that THEY KNOW drives you over the edge, you have called them a name before you even realize you’ve opened your mouth.

Enter mindfulness.

A regular daily practice of mindfulness exercises (meditation, focused breathing, or guided visualization) teaches your brain to make space for any of these other great psychotherapeutic theories that could potentially change your life. Practicing mindfulness is a key element for any of this previously mentioned stuff to work.

 

Do I have to go to a yoga class in order to develop my mindfulness?

Image result for Caroline McCarter yoga"

 

No you do not.
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere and starts with your decision to consciously focus on one thing and one thing alone.

 

Practicing mindfulness looks like:
instead of listening to a podcast or spotify on your run, choosing to put 100% focus on the sensations and sounds of your feet hitting the pavement.

 

Practicing mindfulness looks like:
instead of re-hashing the day and mentally preparing for tomorrow while you cook dinner, choosing to experience intentionally how everything you are cutting/cooking/seasoning smells.

 

Practicing mindfulness is actively and intentionally choosing present-moment awareness. Experiencing what is happening right here, right now. It is also, and this is very important, kindly choosing to re-direct your attention, each time you notice it has wandered, back to the present focus.
Again, and again, and again.

If you have 100,000 other thoughts, while you are practicing paying 100% attention to the smells in the kitchen, that is 100,000 opportunities to practice (that word again) returning your focus to what scents you are releasing from the food.

If you are practicing being a mindful listener, each time you notice your thoughts drifting away from what your partner is saying, you get another opportunity to practice returning 100% focus to what words are being said, the tone used, the facial expressions, the gestures, etc, etc, etc.

What I hear again and again is that people tell themselves “I can’t meditate” (which can be an intimidating word for practicing mindfulness). People say this simply because their brain did what brains do and created thoughts.

Well, duh. Brains are supposed to come up with thoughts.

The practice of mindfulness improves a brain’s ability to focus. And it gives you power over thoughts. You choose your focus. Thoughts begin to lose their ability to boss you around, insisting that you think what they want when they want. You are empowered to simply notice, “oh hey- there’s a thought that wants my attention! I’ll come back to it later…”

October 2019

 

 

 

How ACT Can Change Your Life

 

I am imagining some of you hard-working readers responding to the title of this post with, “Well of course taking more ACTion will solve my problems!

In a Do More = Have More culture, we as Americans have been conditioned to believe there is nothing we can’t pull ourselves up out of by our bootstraps, if we just work hard enough.

Which, to be fair, is a much more functional mindset than the victim stance of “no matter what I do, nothing will improve.”

But none of this is necessarily what the psychological treatment model Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is about.

My esteemed mentor and supervisor Pat Love used to recite, “Feel the Feeling, Do the Right Thing.” This is the essence of what ACT urges it’s participants to do. Accept the experience of the painful emotion or disorder that’s been plaguing you (for no-matter-how long) AND, commit to following your values in the face of discomfort.

Feel the Feeling, Do the Right Thing

This seems like an ethical way for anyone to live, right? Do what you know to be right, even if you don’t feel like it. It is what we teach our kids- it makes sense that you feel angry that she took your toy. And you need to share your toys, even if you don’t feel like it.

For someone who’s depression has insisted that they remain in bed one more day

or for someone who has felt so terrified that eating a cookie will cause massive weight gain and subsequent rejection from everyone

or for someone whose OCD has convinced them that wiping the counter one more time will keep them from the deadly disease that they are certain will overcome them,

when something has become unmanageable the concepts in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can be game changers.

Related image

ACT has six Core Processes, each important to creating the healing changes needed for living with debilitating challenges like depression and anxiety, as well as workplace stress, test anxiety, social unease, chronic pain, substance abuse, and diabetes. The six core therapeutic processes in ACT are: contacting the present moment, defusion, acceptance, self-as-context, values, and committed action.

My clients who have studied Cognitive Distortions with me have likely heard me say that Emotional Reasoning is my favorite. An example of Emotional Reasoning is when you are feeling rejected and lonely, so even though you’ve been invited to a get-together tonight, the emotions of shame and sadness have convinced you that you aren’t really wanted there. Emotional reasoning is when our emotions tell us things are facts that are not.

So, with an appreciation for this pesky mistake our brains can sometimes make, the ACT Process of Defusion comes in great handy. Defusion asks us to look AT our thoughts, rather than through them (like they are colored glasses).

In our example with the invitation, defusing from negative thoughts, like, “they don’t really want me to come” or “I know they don’t really even like me” will loosen up your emotional grip on that belief that “I am unwanted.” It frees you up to know that “I just had the thought that ‘they don’t really like me.’ That’s interesting. What would I like to do with that thought?”

When we acknowledge that: just because I thought it doesn’t make it fact, we have much, much more room to choose thoughts and behaviors things that are in line with our values. Then, we are living in ways we can be proud of, even if our emotions are tough.

Laura K. Chang, Ph.D., LPC does a fantastic job explaining ACT at her site: www.mindfulnessmuse.com Check her out if you are interested in learning more about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

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October 2019

 

 

 

How CBT Can Change Your Life

 

Not cannabidiol.

Though that can provide life changing effects to sufferers of numerous physical, mental, and emotional complications.

No- this is about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. One of the most empirically validated and most publicized forms of psychotherapy. It is straight-forward and measurable, so journalists like to do stories on it. It has its limitations for sure, but it also has some incredibly helpful benefits.

 

Why you think affects how you feel.

When you feel better, you act better.

The way you behave affects your how you relate to people and what other people think of you.

The way people think of you affects all of your social interactions. Which has a huge impact on how you feel.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is empowering. Arguably the most empirically validated method of treating mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, all the diagnoses that are based in depression and anxiety, CBT shows you how actively choosing more effective thoughts has a direct impact on how you feel.

When we examine your Core Beliefs- about yourself, your life, and your future, you get to choose whether or not the way you see things is helping you. Doing this, you gain the power to alter your feelings in any given situation.

Seriously.

You can stop feeling anxious about meeting new people and enjoy it.

You can wake up in the morning and feel eager to get to work.

You can feel empowered to make decisions and be as assertive as you’d like, rather than feeling like a victim of whatever happens to you.

 

 

Pure CBT is a pretty active way of doing therapy.

It doesn’t involve a lot of “how does that make you feel?” and passive listening and head-nodding from your therapist.

Image result for poop emoji Instead, if your therapist is doing purely CBT, you will be focused on what thoughts you are thinking in given situations and choosing the most effective thoughts in those moments so that you can feel the way you want to feel- rather than defaulting to feeling crappy because you are thinking thoughts that feel crappy.

 

As a budding therapist while I was still in grad. school, my first practicum placement was in an elementary school with “at risk” 5th graders. These kids were lower-SES and every one of them that I worked with was smart, and creative, and adorable.

One client, let’s call her Bianca, was 9 years old, had long, wavy brown hair, and was so excited when she saw me on the days that I invited her to eat her lunch in my office for our work together.

Bianca explained how embarrassed she felt, just standing in line at the drinking fountain. Because she said, sometimes people didn’t say anything to her, even people who knew her. She had been telling herself that when her classmates didn’t say anything to her, it must be because they didn’t like her. They must not be talking to her at the water fountain because they thought she was dumb.

I asked her if there was possibly any other reason they might not say something to her.

“Um…” she thought. “Maybe, they didn’t see me…”

“Or maybe sometimes, they were already talking to someone else, so they might have seen me, but that’s why they didn’t say ‘hi.’”

Together, we came up with several other reasons a person might not acknowledge her at the water fountain- maybe they had had just gotten in trouble or taken a really hard test, and they minds were on that thing- not on seeing who was around. There were lots of reasons the kids at the water fountain might not be saying ‘hi.’ And lots of the reasons had nothing to do with whether or not they liked Bianca.

Bianca was relieved with this new way of viewing her problem. Seeing CBT in action with her and with the  other kids at this elementary school seemed magic to me. Imagine seeing these kids’ eyes light up when they realized they weren’t doomed to feeling how terrible they’d yet felt!

Working with someone who is trained in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is one of the  best ways to put it to use and make major changes in how you think, feel, and behave. When you are considering working with a therapist, you can ask if CBT is one modality that they use, and you can ask whether they think that might be useful for what you’d like to gain from therapy.

 

 

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October 2019

 

 

 

 

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@HoneymoonTherapy

 

 

Introducing, Austin’s first body-positive, size-inclusive fitness studio!


What makes Autonomy Movement different?

  • Anti-diet approach
  • No weight loss challenges
  • Emotional and mental safety acknowledged in addition to
    physical safety
  • No mirrors or scales
  • Therapist-led fusion service allows clients to actively engage in psychotherapeutic process while they move with a masters-level therapy clinician
  • Nutrition counseling is only offered by a registered dietitian educated in eating disorders and health at every size perspective

 

What type of classes will Autonomy Movement offer? 

  •   Strength- Barre, Mat Pilates, Resistance Training
  •   Empower- Shadowboxing, HIIT
  •   Synthesis- Cardio Barre, Body Circuit, Cardio Yoga
  •   Presence- Yoga
  •   Restore- Mindfulness and Meditation

 

Here is the craziest part…

                                                  DROP-IN GYM FOR ONLY $5!!!

 

What is the Health at Every Size Movement?

It supports people of all sizes in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors. It is an inclusive movement, recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets, and acknowledges and challenges the structural and systemic forces that impinge on living well.

*An edited excerpt from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD.

ALSO, Guess What?
There is massage, personal training, cosmetology and personal styling and psychotherapy! Autonomy Movement really is your one-stop shop for feeling good in your skin.

 

Do I need to struggle with my body image or disordered eating to come to Autonomy?

Certainly not! Autonomy Movement is for anyone who wants to learn how to connect with their bodies in a more playful and intentional way, without the pressures of diet culture and a weight loss centric focus.

Where: 601 Farley Dr., Austin, TX 78753

 

Opening October 2019

Follow @AutonomyMovement

 

October 2019

 

 

 

 

 

“I want us to communicate better than our parents did.”

A common request in Premarital Therapy.
Even if your parents had a great relationship, why not seek deeper intimacy, stronger communication, and more fulfillment in your own relationship?!
The long-term commitments that are able to last longer than others do so, at least in part, with the use of the following communication techniques.

 

 

Mirroring

Mirroring is a way for the person speaking to hear what they’ve just said, in order to check it for clarity. When my partner mirrors back what I’ve just said, sure it helps confirm he understood it, but it also lets me hear whether or not that is actually what I meant.
“So what you’re saying is….”
Mirroring helps the listener know they heard it right. And, it helps the speaker better understand their own thoughts and feelings, because they’ve been reflected back.

 

Validating

Validating does NOT mean agreeing with what you just heard.
It means you get what they just said, from their perspective.
I have no reason to watch war movies every week, based upon my own level of interest in the genre. And, I can validate someone else telling me how great they find the films. “You relate to the movies because it reminds you of the time you served and that honor you still feel, as a veteran. That makes sense to me!”

 

Empathizing

One of my favorite communication techniques. Empathizing  lets other people know that, not only do you hear the words they are saying, you really GET what the experience was like for them.
When I share something that was very difficult for me, and the response is, “wow- that must’ve been hard because you were already feeling hopeless,” I can tell they really felt my experience, not just heard me tell them what happened.

 

Eye Contact

In some cultures, looking down or away is a sign of respect. Here in The States, where extroversion is applauded, eye contact shows people you are interested in connecting. If “eyes are the windows to one’s soul” then focusing on one’s eyes is a deep and meaningful way to connect.
In fact, one great couples’ meditation is to simply share each others’ gaze for 5 minutes.
Set a timer. Look each other in the eye with out looking away (you can blink) until it goes off.
Discuss what you notice.

 

Touching

Really successful relationships connect physically. This means physical intimacy, which can even extend outside the bedroom. Of the 5 Love Languages, touch means more to some than others. And yet, we all need physical touch. A simple hand on your partner’s leg when you sit down, or on their back when you stand next to one another means so much for sense of connection. And without words, communicates “I care about you.”

 

High-fives & Back-pats 

Unless your couples’ therapist moves in with you, you have got to be your own best cheerleaders. When you navigate a tough conversation well or come to a solution or work through uncomfortable emotions and come out as teammates, celebrate yourselves! High five, dap, and pat each other on the back. Tell your partner what you notice they did well. This uses a little bit of empathy, as you get to know what feelings your partner tends to struggle with more than others. When you see him or her feel the feelings and do the right thing, let ’em know how much you admire that hard work!

 

These are things anyone can learn. Coming to premarital therapy to work on these skills doesn’t mean you aren’t ready for marriage (if you are “already going to counseling“). It means you are committed enough to the relationship that you are willing to improve the ways you interact with each other. This facilitates successful decision-making (“where will we live?” and “should I take this job?”), execution of life tasks (“I hate taking out the trash- can that be your chore?” and “who will pick up the kids this afternoon?”and resolution of disagreements (“I just don’t like spending every holiday with your family” and “I wish we saved more money”).

 

September 2019

 

 

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@HoneymoonTherapy

 

 

Photo by Pexels

 

What Seniors Need to Know About the Potential for Long-Term Care

 

People over the age of 65 have a nearly 70 percent chance of dealing with at least two disabilities that can make activities more challenging without help. With our life expectancy growing and growing (if you live to 65 you have an 80 percent chance of living 20 more years), the chance of needing some form of long-term care in your golden years is a salient reality.

 

Making decisions about long-term care be challenging, and often even intimidating. The nature of our human culture is rooted in immediate gratification, which means we’re often short-sighted about long-term needs. That’s why planning and paying for long-term care is a critical decision for your present and your future.

 

Anticipating Your Long-Term Care Needs

Planning for the potential of long-term care may seem a bit presumptive, but in these situations, it’s better to be prepared than caught unaware. If you never wind up needing to enact your long-term care plan, you can still benefit from putting it in place. Many seniors — 61 percent, in fact — prefer to age in-home, which means you’re probably facing some minor home modifications or light in-home assistance. Preparing for more strenuous long-term care means you are much better able to adapt to these minor changes.

 

Anticipate your long-term care needs by:

 

  • Knowing the likelihood that you might need long-term care. While you don’t have a crystal ball, you can look to the future by examining the past. People with chronic illnesses or injuries, or who have a family history of cognitive disorders like  Alzheimer’s, or live far away from family members have a higher chance of needing a caregiver.

 

  • Making lifestyle changes that could lower your chance of needing long-term care.  Many lifestyle changes aren’t nearly as hard or as complicated as it seems in the beginning. For example, lowering your risk of heart disease can happen with as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day. Start a daily meditation practice to reduce the impact of stress and anxiety, which improves your chance of sidestepping memory issues like dementia. And if you’re smoking — quit. While that one is harder than the others, it makes an enormous impact on your health. Quitting smoking at any age improves circulation and reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer — within minutes.

 

  • Plan for future home modifications. If living your life in your home — not a retirement facility — is important to you, then be sure your long-term care plan includes potential modifications to help you live comfortably, safely and independently. Accessibility modifications are common for seniors living in two-story houses, have a large backyard, or a home with narrow hallways and poor lighting. The average cost of aging-in-place remodeling is $9,000.

 

  • Downsizing. If your home is too large for your needs or too expensive to make accessible, consider moving into a smaller space. Selling your home can also help finance your long-term care needs (homes in Austin have been selling for a median price of $390,000 over the past month).

 

Resources for Covering Long-Term Care Costs

Seniors may think the majority of their healthcare needs will be covered, but it’s important to know that Medicare often won’t cover long-term care. Every state’s Medicare benefits are different, so be sure to research what is available to you, or find a licensed agent and give them a call. Paying for long-term care on a fixed income can be extremely stressful — both to seniors and their families. When looking for ways to cover costs consider:

  • Purchasing long-term care insurance now, as you can lock in lower premiums since you are younger and healthier.

  • Signing up for supplemental insurance like a Medicare Advantage Plan, which helps cover vision, dental and prescriptions, freeing up your finances for long-term care costs.

  • Tapping into your assets like selling a life insurance policy, taking out a reverse mortgage or selling off portions of an estate.

  • Applying for grants that fund the accessibility modifications you might need to age in place.

  • Starting a Health Savings Account (HSA), which allows you to use pre-tax dollars for medical costs and rolls over year after year.

 

The best time to anticipate a plan and payment for long-term care is long before you need it. That kind of peace of mind is priceless — and can help you more fully enjoy your golden years.

September 2019

 

 

No matter how tough a time Sara was having with her anxiety, she just didn’t believe that she deserved to spend the money to see a therapist.

There is a basic level of self-worth required to participate in therapy, simply because doing so requires that you set aside time and money for yourself. As a Systems-Thinker, I know that everyone in your life benefits from you improving yourself through therapeutic intervention. So your therapy is actually NOT just for you!

AND, the reason most people go to therapy is so that they will feel better themselves.

Fundamentally, do you believe you deserve to do what it takes to feel better?

Lots of people think negatively about going to therapy. I have a hard time understanding this since therapy is: one full hour (or 50 minutes) of focus on improving YOUR LIFE.

How do you poo-poo an hour of self-improvment?!

 

 

“But I don’t need help.”

 

What would you like to be more fun/rewarding/fulfilling/satisfying/lucrative in your life? By going to therapy, you’ve got someone there for you (who happens to be trained to help people create change) who can help you make whatever it is in your life that you want to be better, BETTER. Even if you don’t need help and you should be able to do it by yourself. (Damn American ideals.)

The sole habit of spending time each week on improving something important to you engages your sense that you are worth focusing on. Having someone who will encourage your strengths, as you are focusing on this life-improvement, will additionally reinforce the truth that YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The above are ways that a regular therapy appointment can improve your self-esteem. But these could also be achieved by spending money on a class to learn a new skill or hobby. Or participating in a group for networking or exploring a hobby.
What if the time and money you spent each week was to a person whose main focus was on noticing and highlighting YOUR personal strengths?

All of us have innate strengths and proclivities.  It’s not a value thing- like it or not, there are things that come easy to you, are rewarding when you do them, and you are natural at. Everyone has strengths. If you aren’t well aware of yours, working with someone who is training to see these things and point them out to you can really help.

September 2019

 

 

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We DID IT!
We went to Couples Therapy!

 

Achieving what brought you to therapy is usually so much more fulfilling than you imagined it would be.

But how long will that take?

One of the questions I ask new clients at the onset of our work together is how long they expect their therapy to last. Some clients who are new to therapy (especially if they don’t want to be there) expect their problems to be solved quickly- sometimes in just a few sessions. Even if they are seeking solutions to problems that have been going on for years.

Dr. Malcolm Miller, Ph.D. explains that “Brief Therapy” lasts between 10-20 sessions with clear, focused goals and specific assignments for the clients between sessions. A 2009 Dutch study suggested that a longer duration of treatment may prevent return to mental health care.

And yet, “NOW” is usually accommodated in most other areas of life.

And why shouldn’t it be? If I can use an app. to find a date who is near me right now, use an app. to call a car to pick me up right now, post what movie I’m seeing right now so that all of my followers know where I am this very second, why shouldn’t I expect my anxiety to go away or my relationship to heal or my hatred of my body to eradicate just as quickly?

And, the challenges that bring people to therapy usually didn’t happen so suddenly.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a client’s duration in therapy need parallel the duration of the problems. Each person is unique and has unique desires for what they get out of their therapy. And the things you do to continue your healing should still continue after you stop seeing your therapist. If you are coming to therapy with full intentions to make changes, positive growth can and will happen more quickly than the unintentional fall into problems.

However, attending just a few therapy sessions, so I can say, “I tried therapy!” isn’t a whole-hearted effort to really reap all that consistent therapy has provided to millions of people since psychotherapy became a titled thing in the mid-1800’s.

Here is how you can get the most out of every single therapy session:

>>>tell your therapist what you think is working
If you noticed something in a session that was helpful, let her know.

>>>tell your therapist if you don’t like something about your sessions
The whole point of that hour is for you to get what you need. This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel good in session, but if you don’t think something is right, this is important to bring up because it will contribute to you getting the help you need.

>>>communicate your expectations about therapy
If you only have the time or money for a few sessions, let your therapist know. A different approach will be used with a client who expects to only be there a few sessions. The benefits of longer-term therapy may not be possible in just a few weeks, but with that information, a therapist can make sure you get the most out of the time you are working together.

>>>be up front about reasons for ending your work together
In the best case scenario, both client and therapist know that the last time they meet will be the last time they meet. It is important to your emotional and relational health for an appropriate termination to occur and for you and your therapist to end your work together collaboratively. A good therapist will modify treatment if cost or scheduling keeps clients from coming to therapy for as long as they’d like. But only if the therapist knows a client’s limitations.

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August 2019

5 Healthy Moves Every College Parent Should Make

Having a child leave for college may be the biggest life transition for a family.

You’ve been preparing him or her to launch for 18 years and now, for better or worse, the time has come for them to leave. Whether you are thrilled to see them off or tearful about the major changes that are happening, there are things you can do to make this transition better for everyone.

Here are a few:

1) Choose your days.  Something I recommend to college kids and their parents is to choose which day of the week when 1) kid will call or facetime the parent and 2) parent(s) will call or facetime their kid. Having these already designated days each week eliminates family members concern about bothering the other, “only calling” when needing something, or feeling alone. Additional calls can be made by anyone during the week, as desired. And, we all know that we will at least check-in on those days each week.
Texting doesn’t count. Start off with calls on your days and downshift, if you’d like, over time.

 

2) Discuss the budget. No matter how financially empowered you’ve raised your child to be, how you and (s)he exchange and spend money now will be different. How will your kid get money for food/gasoline/hygiene? How will your kid get money for clothes/fun/activities? How will your kid get money for books/school supplies/class project materials? Is there a set allowance that you’ll give and your kid is expected to budget all of their needs with it? If not, are you okay with a “call when you need more money” set up?  Is your kid going to work? Is there work study available? Talk about all of these with your kid. The idea is that they are becoming more and more financially independent from you, and able to manage money on their own. This isn’t to say you can’t help out, but choose to do so out of a plan so that everyone is on the same page and can feel more accepting of the transition.

 

3) Talk to your kid about their room. Maybe you’ve been eagerly anticipating turning it into a library/office/TV/crafting room. Still, for the first few visits home, it might be really nice for your kid to have their familiar room to come back to. The other end of that spectrum is that parents may intend to keep the kid’s room as-is indefinitely. Which, after a year or so, could feel regressive to your kid. They want you to be resilient enough for this life change and not like you are just waiting for them to move back home. Talk to your college student about your thoughts and plans for their room and find out what they’d like so you can adjust together, as a family.

 

4) Get a hobby. Your child (young adult) will feel better knowing you are doing well. They will know that, not only because your report is “everything here is fine!” but because you have things you are excited about in your life to share with them when they share things with you that they are excited about in their new life.

 

5) Date! Remember when you didn’t have this other human living in your house? You get to re-visit that now!
Many college parents aren’t partnered with their child’s other parent. Whether you are in a relationship with your kid’s parent, or with their step-parent, do you remember this word?
If you aren’t in a relationship, what would it be like to seek one? Now that your kid doesn’t need you as consistently, you have more time and space to do that!

 

August 2019

 

 

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It’s Not All About You

 

by Angela Copeland

Job searching involves quite a lot of internal reflection. If you’re looking for a job or thinking of looking, you know what I mean. You initially spend a lot of time thinking about yourself. What do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to live? Does your resume look good? Do you have the right suit to wear to interviews?

We very often start off a job search after a difficult set of circumstances. If things were going great, why would you job search? Very often, you might not like your boss at your current job (or they might not like you). You’ve tried to make it work until one day, you think you will collapse if you have to walk back through the front doors of your office again.

Getting ready for a job search, and the interviews that come from it, can be almost like a healing process. You are finally turning over a new leaf. You’re getting yourself together again.

Through this process, we begin to feel that as long as we present our best self, we’ll land a new job. And, we assume that when we don’t win an interview, we must have done something wrong. Because, it was our job to be our best self and we must have failed at that job. Right?

Maybe, but not necessarily. Listen, I don’t want to minimize the importance of getting your best self together. You’ve got to do that. But, there are a lot of reasons you might not get a job that have nothing to do with you.

For example, a company sometimes puts hiring on hold. In fact, they may decide not to hire someone at all. Or, they may already have someone in the role (as a contractor) and they may be doing interviews just to go through the process. Sometimes, companies do interviews to meet a quota. Or, sometimes the future boss will leave the company for another job while interviews are going on, and the company will wait to proceed until they’ve filled the manager’s job.

The company will not tell you any of these things. At no point will they say, “We’re just interviewing you because we have to interview at least five people.” They will also not say, “Our company is doing badly and upper management has put a freeze on hiring.”

I don’t share this to say that you don’t have a shot. You absolutely do. You have to give it your all in every interview, or you definitely won’t find the job of your dreams.

But, when you get rejected, don’t use it as an opportunity to beat yourself down. Don’t tear yourself apart thinking about everything you did wrong. We can all do better. Strive to do your best and then let the rest go. There’s a lot of the hiring process that is beyond your control.

Angela Copeland provides career coaching services to clients at every point in their job search, from wondering what else is out there to needing a new job yesterday. Check out her helpful podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

August 2019

 

 

 

 

How Meditation Will Improve Your Marriage

Mindfulness may be the most important thing you can work on for yourself if you want a better relationship.

How do I become more mindful?

(say it with a woo woo voice)

 

 

To meditate, or to focus your mind for a period of time on one thing, is also a method of relaxation. It is practice at not allowing yourself to be distracted. When you regularly choose to focus on one thing for a period of time you improve your ability to be mindful of, or conscious of, what is happening in that moment. This is really great because the more mindful a person is, the more room they have to decide how to respond to their partner.

When you undertake a meditation practice, you begin to more readily choose how you respond to your spouse, as opposed to unconsciously reacting based on emotion. When you have the opportunity to choose how you answer your spouse or what you say when they do something you wish they hadn’t, you have a chance to choose words and actions that won’t escalate the conversation to a fight.Meditation alters the prefrontal cortex in the brain, allowing us to choose our words and behaviors: how you communicate with someone, how you behave in the midst of conflict, and how able you are to be respectful, even when you are angry.

Couples can learn all the skills in the book about “good communication” and “fighting fair” but if they aren’t able to be present enough to use these skills, what’s the point?

Meditation makes this possible.

 

•Think you aren’t woo woo enough to meditate?

Download a meditation app. like “Calm” or “Stop, Breathe & Think” to guide you.

• “Can’t” meditate because your mind wanders too much?

Well guess what- that’s what is supposed to happen.

Each time your mind wanders is another opportunity to practice bringing your focus back to focus on your breath (or a word, or a sound) every single time you notice your attention wandering.

Expecting our brain not to think is like expecting our heart not to beat.

It is going to. It is supposed to. Practice exerting your ability to decide what it will think about and focus on.

Please forward this to someone you wish were more mindful. 

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August 2019

 

 

Are you complaining too much?


Some would argue that one complaint is one complaint too many.
Sometimes, it feels like you just can’t help but complain.

How do you know when it is too much?

 

1) You feel bad more than you’d like.

If I’m thinking about how amazing it will feel to lay in the sun, next to the pool, occasionally cooling off with a dip, I’m going to relish in a taste of that enlivened relaxation, simply by thinking about it. Meanwhile, if I’m thinking about how terrible the service was when I picked up coffee earlier today, I’m going to keep feeling aggravated and annoyed. And if I’m talking about that terrible service, I am thinking about that terrible service.

Our thoughts create our feelings.

Simply by shifting my thoughts (and therefore my words) away from a complaint, I won’t feel those un-fun feelings so much of the time.
Simple, though not necessarily easy, right? But it totally is do-able. More on that in future articles. Another way you can be alerted that you are complaining too much, is when

2) Things aren’t changing.

When we are focused on solutions, changes happen. Your ability to make something the way you want it to be is 100% based on your ability to see what you want. We can’t get to a destination if we don’t know what it is. Reviewing and reliving what sucked, what was dumb, what didn’t work- only keeps us stuck there.
Let’s figure out what we DO want and how to get there, rather than wasting time on how bad it is now, and keeping it that way.

Finally, another way to know if you are complaining too much is:

3) People tell you “it’s not that bad.”


People say things like this when they are uncomfortable with your discomfort. If someone else is trying to convince you that whatever you’re complaining about isn’t that bad, it is because they have had more than their fill of your complaints about it. 

Do something about it!

Here are your only three options, when you don’t like what is happening:

-change it
-accept it
-leave

These really are your only 3 options ever. Choose one and stop being annoying to everyone else.

Danielle A. Vincent has a step-by-step approach to this: 

http://blog.danielleavincent.com/complaining-3-bitch-rule/

 

 

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July 2019

 

 

 

 

Are you too preoccupied with your body to focus on health?

I sat in with R.D.s Kathy Kimbrough and Rachael McLellan on their by monthly Health At Every Size support group this past week.

Many great topics came up as we discussed striving for body acceptance, no matter the size or shape of the body we are living in today.

One challenge that came up was: this is a foreign idea to many people.

The concept of accepting oneself in whatever size body he or she has, though this is the most logical stance to have (I am this way, resisting it doesn’t change it- it only makes me feel bad/struggled/defeated.) it is in many cases in our society, a radical way of life.

A Health At Every Size mentality includes things like:

Respect –Celebrating body diversity and honoring differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, dis/ability, sexual orientation, religion, class, and other human attributes.

Challenging scientific and cultural assumptions.

Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.

Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.

It’s hard not to get behind all of that, right?

For more info. on what HAES is all about, check out https://haescommunity.com/.

Kathy and Rachael are two of the most approachable dietitians I have met (though there are quite a few here in Austin!).

If you are curious about Health At Every Size,

what its like to check out the free, no-commitment, one-hour group that meets monthly,

or anything else about being physically healthy without being obsessed with looking a certain way,

you can shoot either of these friendly, compassionate women an email:

Kathy Kimbrough kathy@kimbroughnutrition.com
Rachael McLellan rachaelpress@gmail.com

Creator:Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHIL
Copyright:EDITORIAL USE APPROVED; ©VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
July 2019

 

 

 

 

Did you take enough ME Time on your last vaca?

 

You are rushing to your gate.
The relaxing couples’ vacation you’ve looked forward to is finally here. You’ve finally got tons of time to spend with each other.

Funny thing is, more and more people are deciding to schedule in Me Time on their vacations.

Is this just a self-centered, individualist- American thing? Might there be some value to taking time to yourself when you’re taking a trip?

 

A few things to consider:

 

 

the things that work well in your life should be happening on vacation too

People probably like conversing with you much more when you’ve brushed your teeth in the morning. Makes sense to keep brushing, even though you’ve gone on vacation, right? Likewise with any of the self-care activities you do in order to feel better when you are at home. Maybe you try a different way of being active, but if you normally workout, do something that your body enjoys on your vacation, too. Maybe you find a new place of worship, but if you  normally connect with a faith community, find time to connect with your faith- either with others or on your own- while you are traveling.

 

consistency & momentum in your recovery/treatment/growth

It can be truly beneficial to one’s recovery to briefly get out of the regular, day-to-day life schedule, in order to gain new perspective. No matter how mindful we may be, exploring a new place, seeing new things, and breathing fresh air gives us no choice but to be even MORE present. If you’ve been working with a therapist, it can be really useful to continue your work while you are on vacation. Having a throughline- especially if you are newly sober from a substance or relationship- can be immensely valuable.

 

couples fight

Asked why he finds it useful to plan on having alone time while on vacation, one 30-year-old man in a relationship said, “A lot of couples get in fights on vacation because duh you are spending 100% of your time together when normally you don’t.” He agreed that keeping scheduled therapy sessions (meeting online or by phone) is a really important way to make vacations as enjoyable as possible.

 

We know that in order to be our best for others, we have to take care of ourselves.

It is okay to do that. In fact, it is PREFERRED that you do that- take care of yourself- whether that means time alone to read or explore where you are visiting on your own, listen to music, or even check in with your therapist. It is preferred that you take care of yourself so that you can be at your best for your loved ones.

 

 

 

 

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June 2019

 

68 percent of those in a recent survey reported negative attitudes about discussing finances with their fiancés.

Believe it or not, 5 percent would even call off the wedding if they discussed finances. 

I can’t think of many people (except my financial advisor colleagues) who actually delight at the idea of discussing money- with anyone. Let alone with that person you are happy to be interested in and happy to have interested in you and WHY WOULD YOU GO AND eF THAT UP BY TALKING ABOUT MONEY?!

That mentality makes total sense to me.

Except money is just paper. Money is just numbers listed in your bank account. Based on that reality, what’s the big deal?

But money is a construct that represents our values and our sense of worth. So, since that is what we are really discussing when we talk about “money,” feelings are certainly stirred.

Financial planners can be helpful in preparing to manage finances with someone else. And, since there is so much more to the idea of money management by the time we reach adulthood: regrets and hopes and certainties and uncertainties… why not have a place to address all of this stuff where

1) neither of you has to be the first to bring it up and

2) you’ve got a trained mental health professional there to help you with communication and potential overwhelm.

Premarital therapy is so so so useful for so many reasons (and fun! *See next article!)- including financial discussions. Finances may already be one of your relationship’s strengths. Why not make it one, if it isn’t already?

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May 2019

 

Schedule a premarital consultation.

 

 

Premarital Counseling

Which reason explains why premarital counseling is Kathryn’s favorite work to do with couples?

A) teaching communication skills to people who are excited and pleasant is really fun, compared to doing it with people who are at each others’ necks

B) proactive planning makes sense for career/health/vacations, so it feels good doing it with the main relationship in a person’s life

C) Kathryn is a romantic, so learning the love stories of couples preparing their lives together delights her more than almost anything else.

It’s a trick question. They are all true.
I love working with couples to strengthen the foundation of their partnership. And I can guarantee you that premarital counseling will be the most memorable part of your wedding planning.

 

Here are three reasons why.

 

Happy Couple
1) You solve the problems that you discover during the rest of your planning.
In my early 20’s, I had a job that became invaluable to my then unknown career as a Marriage and Family Therapist. I worked as a Bridal Consultant, selling wedding gowns and accessories to brides and their wedding parties. Though I hadn’t had much to do with weddings up until that point, I couldn’t have learned more quickly how much conflict occurs during the planning of a wedding.
Mother of the Bride wants a different dress than the bride wants. The bridesmaids all hate the dress the bride has picked out (or, since you let them choose their own style of dress, someone still hates the color). “Why did you choose that date?!” “Why did you choose that location?!” “Why are you serving that at the reception?!” Never are loved ones more opinionated than in the planning of an event focused on one very specific couple that is not them!
For those who sign up for premarital counseling, you have a place not only to come vent about all of that nonsense, you have a place to actually solve the problems that arise.
There is something about the challenges that arise in the planning of a wedding and the required teamwork to navigate it all that preps a couple for teamwork in a life together. Scheduling specific appointments along the way to address what is coming up, and to have at hand a therapist who teaches conflict resolution, effective communication, and family cooperation is invaluable.

2) You learn about YOU.
The Prepare-Enrich program is sort of like a Myers-Briggs for your partnership. If you enjoy reading your horoscope, learning about your enneagram wing, or taking quizzes on social media about which Disney character you are most connected to, you will love doing this premarital work. You get to learn your relationships strengths, growth areas, how each of your families contributes to who you are as a couple and of course, specific ways to best navigate your life together using all of the information gained.

3) You investment in the rest of your life.
Unlike the cake that will be eaten, the flower petals that will be swept up from the aisle, and even the hangover that will subside the morning after that groomsman enjoyed the open bar a little too much, premarital therapy will benefit you for years and years to come.
You will lay a firmer foundation for your partnership that will benefit your mood throughout your day-to-day lives. This firm foundation you create in premarital counseling will benefit any children you have, because as parents, you’ll be on the same team and able to raise your kids with the values you’ve already identified and agreed are important to you both. And everyone you interact with- coworkers, extended family, neighbors, friends- will benefit from your relationship being cooperative, thanks to the focus you put on it in preparation for the wedding.

Who do you know that is engaged, recently married, or talking about a long-term commitment, who might benefit from these ideas?

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May 2019

 

 

 

Are you sure you want to end it?

by Jeff Guenther

Sometimes people end therapy instead of speaking up and asking for what they want in therapy. Your therapist is trying their very best to meet your needs, but sometimes they might be a little off. Maybe you feel like they are focusing on the wrong thing. Or they are spending too much time on your past. Or they don’t really get how you’re feeling. Or you want them to challenge you more. There are tons of things that might not be working for you that your therapist isn’t actually aware of. We therapists like to think that we can figure out what our clients need and want from therapy. But that’s not always the case. So even if your therapist isn’t asking for feedback, you should be more than willing to give it to them. Trust me, we love to get feedback on how counseling is going for you. It helps us become better. So before you think about ending therapy because it’s not quite working how you want it to, first try to ask the therapist for exactly what you want from them. It could change everything.

Do you want a different therapist?

Maybe you have tried to give your therapist feedback and it just didn’t turn out right. Or maybe you don’t feel like continuing to try with your therapist because you feel it’s not a good fit. Before you end therapy completely, you might want to give another therapist a try. Part 1 of this series will help you find a new therapist.

Even if you have worked with a therapist for a while, it may turn out that they are just not the best match for you. There could be many reasons for this. But what you need to realize is that all therapists are different. Therapists don’t practice the same way. We all have different ways of looking at things and treating issues. An amazing therapist for your friend could be a total bore for you. So before you quit for good, test out another therapist that has a different style. You may find what you’re looking for the second (or third) time around.

Maybe you just need a break

As much as I personally love going to therapy, I need a break sometimes. Therapy can be exhausting. A therapist will typically try to make sure that not every session is emotionally overwhelming. Clients would burn out from therapy if they had to do a ton of emotional work every single session. But even if heavy sessions are balanced out with lighter ones, it’s still totally fine to want a break. So check in with yourself and see if you just want to take some time off and go back later. Or tell your therapist that you’re not quite sure if you want to officially end therapy forever and that you might come back in the future.

How do you know it’s time to end therapy?

Some common reasons you might want to end counseling are:

  • You don’t feel like your growing anymore.
  • You’re not feeling challenged by your therapist anymore.
  • You solved the initial problem that brought you in.
  • You’ve met all or most of your goals.
  • It’s just too expensive.
  • There are other things you’d like to do with your time that could bring more value to your life.
  • You feel like you’re not seeing progress or getting better.
  • You want to try a different healer, like an acupuncturist or life coach.
  • You’re emotionally exhausted.
  • It’s summer and you just want to have fun and maybe you feel like avoiding your problems for a bit. (This is a totally legit reason to stop seeing a counselor).

The list can go on and on. You don’t need the best reason in the world to stop seeing your therapist. But I would really encourage you to ask yourself, and maybe discuss with your therapist, if your desire to stop is because you want to avoid your problem. Avoidance is an okay reason to stop. But it’s better to be honest with yourself and your therapist if that is the reason. Because if avoidance is the main reason you don’t want to talk anymore, it might actually be a good idea to try and get through the discomfort instead of running from it.

Read Jeff Guenther’s full article on ending therapy.
https://www.therapyden.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-therapy-part-5-how-to-end-therapy


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May 2019

 

 

 

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by

Everyone’s had an older gentleman in their life, at some point or another, sporting a remarkable crop of whiskers in each nostril. These elders seem ignorant, or possibly just accepting, of their nasal manes, which is kinda dumbfounding: Why would someone ignore the unsightly, easy-to-remove bushes growing from the literal center of their face?

“Most of them are clueless,” says Melanie Mari, owner and trained manscaper at Bare Skin Studio. “Generally, once they’re made aware, they do something about it.” Mari adds that she’s been told several times that men become somewhat blind to their looks — including their stringy nose hairs — as they grow older. It’s a conclusion that’s easy enough to find repeated in various research: Men are simply oblivious to their appearance, unlike women, who have a deep understanding of their every flaw. (One thing’s for sure — Society is much kinder to hairy men than women.)

But considering the number of men actively maintaining elaborate grooming regimens these days, I can’t help thinking this stereotype is getting somewhat out of date. There must, surely, be more to this nose hair dilemma than simply, “men don’t give a fuck about their bodies.” It’s true that some studiessuggest men are slightly less affected by the consequences that come with having a negative body image, but the fact of the matter is, more than 90 percent of men struggle in some way with negative thoughts toward their own bodies. You would have to assume that this includes older men, who would no doubt notice (and probably feel bad about) the unattractive hairs sprouting from their nostrils.

Unfortunately, while men can suffer from body dissatisfaction in many of the same ways that women can, research also shows that they tend to seek treatment, counseling or positive solutions less frequently, due to the shame and embarrassment they feel about it. As with healthcare, it’s not so much men not caring about their flaws, then, as being made to feel it’s unacceptable to ask for help in fixing them.

As for why men aren’t whacking their nose-weeds specifically, a prominent psychologist who specializes in aging theorizes that it may have something to do with age-induced despair. “Getting older requires us to manage many hits to our self-esteem,” they explain, adding that grooming becomes more and more difficult with age. “We’ll never look as good as we did when we were 25, but that’s the image most of us compare ourselves to. Obviously, it’s an unfair standard, but our culture values youth.”

It’s a standard that gets more unrealistic the older you become, and one that can be extremely difficult for some people to handle. “I don’t think people generally care less about their appearance as they get older, but depending on their idea of attractiveness, someone could ‘give up’ because they don’t feel that they meet their internal ideal of what attractive is,” the psychologist tells me. “There are some people who just feel like, ‘Well, why should I try? I’m just gonna die anyway.’”

For these wild-snouted geezers, allowing their nose hairs to run rampant may be one of the many ways they express this particular form of despair. It’s a cry for help — a message that you feel like so far past your prime that your appearance isn’t even worth your time to maintain anymore.

So if you care about that old guy — and his quivering proboscis wool — maybe gently tell him how good he still looks… and hey, if you trimmed those nose hairs, you’d take 10 years off, easy. It’s also worth reminding them that a shower and a shave (nose hair trimming, included) really can make you feel better about yourself.

Finally, if you have any doubts about looking as good as you once did, consider the fact that silver foxes are a very real thing — just sayin’.

*Read the original article by  

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April 2019

 

 

5 Reasons You Should Work with an Online Therapist

How many Austinites does it take to change a lightbulb?

It takes two: one to change the lightbulb, and one to talk about how great the old lightbulb was.

That’s my favorite Austin joke.
Now, I’m not saying it was so much greater then, but when I moved to Austin at the end of ’09, traffic was not even enough to be called “traffic.” At least not for someone from Los Angeles. Sure, there would be slow moving on I-35 at rush hour. But, that was it. Any other time, you could get all the way from Wells Branch (where my first Austin apartment was) to William Cannon (where my first Austin job was) in less than 30 minutes, any time of day.

Now, not so much.

Due to the difficulty getting around in Austin as it continues to overpopulate, I have chosen therapists for myself based upon their office location being on my commute. This wasn’t necessarily the best factor in determining that a therapist would be a good fit for me. Closest proximity does not equate to highest quality. At least not in this instance.

That’s why the first reason you should be working with an online therapist is that, you can work with your therapist with ZERO commute.
Sit on your couch or at your desk, enjoy your hot coffee or cold La Croix, and log on to meet with your online therapist. It couldn’t be more convenient. You don’t have to get gas. You don’t have to factor in drive time. You don’t even have to brush your teeth.
You can also maintain your therapy while you travel. But more on that in future articles…

2.  When I worked with Eating Recovery Center, part of my job was to find outpatient therapists for those in our program. Each patient needed a therapist in their hometown so they could continue recovery after discharging from the Partial Hospitalization Program. Our clients came from all over Texas and some of them from towns where the nearest therapist was 30 miles away. Nevermind whether that therapist was trained to work with eating disorders or not.
Now let’s be clear, no part of recovering from an eating disorder is easy or convenient. And so many people do make long roundtrip drives to see the nearest professional who can hopefully provide needed support. Yet that doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to online therapy, you don’t have to choose the closest therapist. You can be anywhere in Texas and work with the therapist who you fit with, and who is an expert in what you need support in improving, in real time, as long as there is wi-fi.

3.  I’ve worked as on online therapist for about 8 or 9 years now and one of my favorite aspects of it is the way that people are able to express themselves so differently using different modalities. Folks I’d worked with for years found themselves opening up about topics like never before when we were typing our communication. Asked about benefits of online therapy, a 30-year-old male said “there are times when I think I could maybe type something but its very hard to say.” With typing sessions, you use different parts of the brain to type than you do to speak. And even in video sessions, online therapy can bring out things that might not happen in an office. You feel differently in your home than you do in a therapist’s office. Which provides more possibilities for your growth.

4. The next reason that online therapy is indispensable is that since your online therapist likely has online scheduling, you may be able to have a session with your therapist at the last minute, without worrying whether they can fit you in and whether or not you are able to drive to their office that day.

 We all need extra support sometimes. I know there have been times in my life where, even though my regular session had already happened that week, something unexpected happened and I really wished I’d had access to meet with my therapist again. The roadblocks to that happening- a slew of phone calls or emails, finding time to drive to and from the therapy office, not to mention uncertainty about my therapist’s availability- kept me from that much desired session.
I have only heard of one counseling center, though there must be more, who advertises “Drop in appointments available.” With online scheduling, online meetings, and same-day availability, you can nearly “drop in” and work with your therapist in the same day: without phone tag, without untimely emails, and without concern that it would be putting anyone else out.

 

5. It’s 2019. Don’t you want someone who is at least tech savvy enough to use basic online communication helping you with your life?
As a client, I have worked with therapists who certainly knew their craft and had plenty of experience as mental health professionals. And yet, even as someone who’s lived 1/2 of my life pre-email, I still wasn’t sure how much this therapist could

 understand my life, when she 1) didn’t have a website, 2) didn’t use email, and 3) checked voicemail only at her office on her answering machine. 
Certainly, each mental health professional determines the boundaries that make sense for their practice.

An online presence shows an amount of credibility and professionalism. For the clients who come to me, the ability to see me online is not only a convenient benefit, but a necessity. 

 

5 Reasons You Should Work with an Online Therapist

1) ZERO commute
2) access the expert you need 
3) access growth in different ways
4) last minute sessions
5) It’s 2019

 

Curious about online availability for a session? Click the purple box at the top of this page.


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April 2019

The Power of Masculine Spirituality

Image result for masculine spirituality

Billy Lee Myers, Jr. has been a colleague and friend since before I moved to Austin to begin my practice.

As I finished up my Masters work at Pepperdine University in Southern California, I became acquainted with Billy because he also studied in Southern California and practiced in Austin. He’s a caring, invested therapist and one that I respect because he holds high expectations for his own growth and health.

In his interview on the I’m Awake! Now What? podcast he talks about challenges unique to men and how men can become more powerful in less advertised ways. It is worth your time.

The podcast is available for download, or on iTunes. Check it out.

https://imawakenowwhatpodcast.libsyn.com/im-awake-now-what-7


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March 2019

15 Ways to Move More

(without “exercising”)

 

Non-stop sitting increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and back and neck problems. Meanwhile, incorporating more movement into every day can increase your energy and productivity, and put you in a better mood. 
More important to your physical health than the one hour you spend at the gym (or in a class, or on the trail) is what your physiology gets to do all the rest of the hours you are awake.

Certainly, exercise is important: to strengthen our hearts, skeletal muscles and our lungs, to enjoy the activities of whatever the sport or movement is, and to produce all of the valuable neurotransmitters that make our brains function more optimally. But equally or even more important is to use our bodies all day long – letting our muscles move and stretch and our keeping us consciously connected with our physical selves.

Here are 15, incredibly do-able ways to use your body throughout your day:

1. Stand up for phone calls. Walk around while you talk.

2. Take the parking spot in the back. Let the closer spots go to those who really need them.

3. Take a walk on your lunch break. Go outside, if you can.


4. Stretch while you watch TV. No need to shut off connection with your body, just because you are enjoying a show. Or…

5. Trade foot rubs. Something else to do to increase circulation while you watch TV. Could be shoulder rubs, if feet turn you off.

6. Keep a stress ball handy to practice grip strength. And de-stress.

7. Make use of the stairs. They are usually super clean, because they are the least used method of changing floors.

8. Use your legs to move up or down the escalator. Don’t just stand there.

9. Go inside the restaurant. It is often faster than the drive-through.

10. Play catch with your favorite dog, child, or friend.

11. Get face-to-face to interact. Rather email/text/calling.


12. MOVE to the music! Don’t hold back! You don’t need dance lessons to let music move you!

13. Use curb-side pick-up for your groceries only in a time crunch. Otherwise, let your body transport you to pick out your food.

14. Extend dinner dates to a walk after the meal. Carry on the conversation and enjoy the environment.


15. Use time in the car to practice deep breathing. Our breath is one way we can very directly connect with our physical selves. Especially when traffic gets stressful, practice full inhales deep into your belly, then don’t inhale again until you’ve completely exhaled.

 

 

 

 


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January 2019

Interested in a free phone consultation?

 

 

 

What’s more common than a sinus infection?

Can you guess what percentage of us will get a sinus infection this year?

Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population gets diagnosed with sinus infections every year.

Is that less or more than you expected? It is hard to say in Central Texas, where allergies affect most of us all year round.

With only a little more than 1 in 10 of us getting an actual sinus infection every year, it may surprise you to realize that 1 out of every 5 adults here in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year.
Not 1 in 5 of us EVER had mental illness- 20% of us experience mental illness every year.

•16 million of us had one OR MORE major depressive episodes- that is, at least 2 weeks of several symptoms of depression each day.

•More than 18% of us have experienced an anxiety disorder- like Post-Traumatic Stress, a phobia, or social anxiety.

To get more specific about the types of mental illness we are all experiencing, rates of addiction are higher for men, whereas issues like bi-polar, depression, and anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women.

Something that seems obvious, but is worth noting- when your body is chronically sick, depression is often an added bonus. And, when a person has struggled with depression, the immune system is not at its best, so other illness becomes much more likely.

Finally, numbing the pain of mental illness is pretty common. This is especially high in those with schizophrenia.


      Many people have come out publicly about their own depression, anxiety, eating disorder, panic, bipolar, and personality disorders. Like other things that are associated with stigma, the more who talk about their experiences, the more others feel like it is okay to talk about their own experiences. But even though so many of us are talking about mental health, it is still associated with shame.

The following stats are from a 2008 Canadian study. Canadians are known for being more reserved than Americans, so take that into consideration…

  • Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72% who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68% who would talk about a family member having diabetes.
  • 42% of Canadians were unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness.
  • 55% of Canadians said they would be unlikely to enter a spousal relationship with someone who has a mental illness.
  • 46% of Canadians thought people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27% said they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.

Additionally, 40% of respondents to a 2016 survey agreed they have experienced feelings of anxiety or depression but never sought medical help for it.

Now, if these studies don’t make it obvious that we’ve got to get rid of some of these misconceptions, if for no other reason than to allow people to operate in society, we also need to be less embarrassed to talk about mental health because that embarrassment keeps people from getting help.

There are things we can all do to lessen the shame associated with this aspect of health that we all deal with, personally and relationally.

I will continue to share more about what we can do to lessen the shame associated with emotional and mental distress. I hope you might be a little more open to the normalcy of mental illness.


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January 2019

 

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When I was working primarily as a personal trainer and exercise instructor, my colleagues and I eagerly anticipated January, when everyone would sign up for gym memberships, purchase training packages, and optimistically swear to prioritize their physical health.

I can’t say it is incredibly different working in mental health. One difference is that I don’t use the gimmicky pitches that the fitness industry does.

 

Buy 8 training sessions, get 2 FREE

 

First month FREE with new memberships!

 

For a limited time: Sign-up fees waived!

 

Bring a friend and workout for 1/2 price!

 

Do people really believe in the whole New Year: New You
fantasy?

I see people grow and change in my office all the time – there is no question that when someone decides they’d like improvement, that it is certainly possible to make whatever changes are desired. But I haven’t seen that have anything to do with what is happening on the calendar. 

But you know, if a couple of months of indulging more than usual is what it takes for someone to decide to prioritize his or her health, well so be it! If #NewYearNewYou is the motivation needed to change up your morning routine, or sign up for a class, or schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider, then so be it! Whatever gets a person headed in the right direction is worth it.

And please recognize that you can prioritize your health on February 1st, too.

And on March 17th.
And on April 14th.
And on November 8th.

Good on you for deciding to take care of yourself better than you did before.

And don’t worry if you don’t do it exactly the way you think you should in January.

Gyms are open all year ’round.

 

 

 

December 2018

 

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Not going home for the holidays may be an appropriate choice for anyone,

especially if you are newly sober.

Whether or not going home may trigger drinking or using, it is wise to use every possible opportunity to practice intentional decision-making. This is how people learn to stay healthy (and sober, if that is what health looks like for you). Gaining the courage to set limits on other people is as big a part of healing as (and possibly more important than) abstaining from a numbing substance or behavior.

Certainly there may be triggering elements at home or around family, but that is only a fraction of what is so relevant about learning to set boundaries.

 

Learning to set boundaries is important to recovery because:

 

1) Not being around triggers helps protect sobriety,

 

AND

 

2) being only in environments where I can take care of myself protects my sanity.

 

When newly sober, stressful environments are harder to be in, period. A person is learning coping skills. There is so much more going on than just learning how to abstain from alcohol.

If you have determined that “My health is now more important than pleasing [my parents, by siblings, my grandparents, my childhood friends, etc.], so I will do whatever I need to do to prioritize my health. Even if it isn’t what they expect/would prefer/demand” you can determine where and how you will best spend your holidays.

November 2018

 

 

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A Beginners Guide to Therapy.

what to expect in the first few sessions

 

Jeff Guenther, MS, LPC

Alright, let’s say you found a handful of therapists that could be a good match for you. You’ve had consultations with them. And now you’ve chosen a therapist. It’s time for your first official therapy session. Congratulations! You are entering what could be a life-changing relationship with your therapist. Very exciting. However, excitement isn’t the feeling you’re probably experiencing. It’s totally normal to be feeling anxious. Maybe even very anxious. You’re about to start spilling your guts to a stranger that you barely know and probably randomly found on the internet. That’s kind of a scary thing to do. You may even be thinking about not going in after all. I get it. I’m a therapist myself, but I’ve been to my fair share of therapists in the past. And even though I’m not a newbie to the counseling process, I still get anxious before the first meeting and kind of want to bail. I hope you don’t decide to do that. You should know that every therapist understands the nerves your feeling and they’ll try their best to soothe you and make you feel comfortable. And if all you want to talk about during that first session is how nervous you are or how much you don’t want to be there, then that’s totally fine.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may be super excited about having your first session. Maybe you feel like you’ve been waiting for something like this forever. Hurray! I’m really happy you’re totally into it.

Whether you’re full of nerves or can’t wait to start blabbing away on that couch, your new therapist will be ready for you and perfectly able to meet you where you’re at.

It’s really hard to write this article.

Every therapy session and every client and every therapist is different. So there is no formulaic way that early counseling sessions unfold. It depends on so many different things. Are you going for individual therapy or relationship counseling? What about family therapy or child therapy? Do you want to be there or are you being forced to be there? Is your problem about your fear of flying or because you can’t seem to maintain friendships? What kind of therapist do you have? Is your therapist strictly psychoanalytic, where you lay on a couch and they sit behind you and barely say a word? Or is your therapist sitting right across from you and asking a ton of questions? I could go on about all the possible variations. Suffice it to say, I would have to write separate articles for all the different types of situations that are possible. For now, this article is going to focus on one of the more popular circumstances for therapy. Which is individual therapy. Individual therapy is where an adult, most commonly, makes an appointment with a therapist to address a specific issue. And we are going to suppose that they willingly want to be there. Even if your situation is different, I urge you to keep reading because many of the things I mention in this article will still apply.

Everything you say is kept confidential. Well…almost everything.

The one thing that will be the same no matter what therapist you visit is that your counselor will go over confidentiality with you. You’ll need to sign a form that outlines what is kept secret and never leaves the office and when a therapist must make a report to the authorities. Be sure to ask as many questions about confidentiality as you want. It’s very important that you understand the laws around when a therapist must break confidentially. The intent around the conversation about confidentially is to make sure you feel safe knowing that you can talk about anything that’s on your mind, while also letting you know that there are specific times, especially when it comes to you or someone else being in physical danger, that it is the therapist’s duty and legal responsibility to communicate with law enforcement to keep everyone safe.

What exactly are you experiencing?

Therapists don’t judge. They conceptualize. Whether you’re cheating on your partner, failing out of school or getting into fights with your mom, we won’t criticize you or make you feel bad about it. We just want to understand your emotional experience. It’s important, especially in the first few sessions, that the therapist really try to understand what you’re going through.

For example, if you’re married and having an affair with a co-worker, it’s important to know how you’re feeling about it. Do you feel guilty, happy, truly alive, embarrassed, scared or all of the above? Do you feel justified in your actions and want to continue the secret relationship guilt free? Or do you feel completely horrible and want to end the relationship as soon as possible? Do you want to tell your partner or would you rather keep it from them? No matter the answer, a therapist will not judge your behavior or emotional experience. But if a therapist doesn’t know exactly how you feel about it, then it can be difficult to treat the issue.

Many times a client doesn’t really know how they feel about a situation. Especially with a topic as complicated as infidelity. There could be a ton of opposite and conflicting emotions happening at the same time and it takes a bit of work to sort it all out. The first sessions concentrate on digging in and really figuring out all the emotions that are on the surface and buried underneath. The therapist is like an archaeologist digging around and looking at all the findings with a compassionate, unbiased and scientific perspective.

Question time.

In order for the therapist to really get an idea of what’s going on and how you’re feeling, they may ask some common questions. These could include:

  • How long have you been experiencing the problem or issue?
  • What have you tried to cope with it?
  • What do you think the cause of it could be?
  • How often are you suffering from it?
  • What was your life like before this issue or problem was present?

There are many other questions that a therapist will ask once you start talking about your presenting problem. They’ll start out pretty general and get more detailed as the sessions move forward. You’ll be asked to really think about what’s going on and how you’re experiencing it. Some of it will feel really personal. A therapist needs to try and get to the bottom of certain issues in order to figure out how they can help. If you ever feel like you don’t want to answer a question quite yet, speak up and say so.

Often, a therapist will ask you what your goal is for therapy. It’s helpful to figure that out upfront. However it’s also okay if you don’t have a specific goal. There won’t be any pressure to try and define it early on.

Gathering history.

While the presenting issue that is bringing you in is often the focus for the first few sessions, there are times when it is set aside so the therapist can collect your full history. What this means is that a therapist will ask you a bunch of questions about your past, which could include your family, relationships, education, social life and employment history. This assessment could also focus on your past and current behaviors, thoughts and feelings. A therapist really wants to understand your personality and how your past has shaped you as a person. They want to know what messages and narratives you picked up along the way as you grew into who you are today. This will provide the therapist with important context regarding the issue you’d like to address in counseling. It will also provide the therapist with clues as to where the issue is rooted and how it formed.

Keep in mind that a therapist isn’t trying to blame your past for your current issues. For example, a therapist would never try to convince you to resent your parents for creating a current problem in your life. While your parents and how you were raised can be a topic of discussion, and may have contributed to your current issues, a counselor will engage in curiosity with you only to explore possibilities of how your issue first developed. A therapist isn’t looking to judge your parents or make you turn against them.

Process work.

You may want to enter into therapy just to process things that come up during the week. You may not have a specific issue in mind when you enter into therapy. You might just want an ally in your life who cares about you and compassionately challenges you to grow. In these cases there may not be a predictive script as to how the first few sessions start out. Many times these sessions are natural and organic and non-directive in nature.

You can guide it.

The first few sessions are super important and create a foundation for the therapeutic relationship. The therapist is trying to make sure that the client starts feeling comfortable and safe talking to the therapist as quickly as possible. Because of this, the therapist is trying their best to read your verbal and non-verbal signals. As the client, if you want to start sessions with something specific, then you should be encouraged to speak up. If you don’t want to talk about something because it feels too awkward or vulnerable, then you can change the subject and ask to table things. You, the client, can be the guide. Feel free to speak up about how you’d like sessions to go. It’s also 100% fine to ask the therapist to guide the sessions. If you don’t know what to talk about or where to start, then the therapist is perfectly capable and fully trained to take the lead.

Want some advice? Too bad.

It’s a common misconception that you can go to a therapist for professional advice. Therapists, however, are not advice givers. We are specifically trained not to give advice. Sorry for the let down. But I promise you’ll understand. Therapists want to help you figure out what you truly want to do about a situation and then encourage and empower you to do it. We would be of no real help if we just gave you advice and told you exactly what you should do. Plus, if we did give you advice and then our advice turned out to be horribly wrong, we would be on the hook for it.

Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

During the first few sessions, as you’re digging into emotions that you may not even know you have, you might feel worse than before. You should know this is a completely normal experience. A therapist will often help you identify and bump up against strong emotions with a goal of teaching you how not to get hijacked by them. A therapist will try to make sure you’re not completely overwhelmed by your feelings. You should know, however, that feeling difficult emotions is a good sign that you’re accessing important information. As you continue to talk to your therapist, you’ll eventually start feeling relief. And you’ll be happy to know that, with time and work, those difficult feelings might not pop up as often or manifest themselves in other unhealthy ways.

After a few sessions…

After a few sessions, you’ll have a much better idea of what to expect from a session and if the therapist is a good match for you. And hopefully you’ll be settling into a trusting relationship that will help you grow and find more peace. But how can you tell if therapy is really working? Next week we’ll explore that very question.


Jeff Guenther is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Portland, OR.

https://www.therapyden.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-therapy-part-3-what-to-expect-in-the-first-few-sessions

November 2018

 

 

How Can You Tell if Therapy is Working?

Jeff Guenther, MS, LPC

We’ll define what “working” means in just a bit. What you need to know first is that it may take awhile for therapy to start having it’s intended effect. Hopefully you’ll start seeing some traction after just a few sessions. But that’s often not the case. I like to look back at a client’s progress after the 3 month, 6 month and one year marks. When you’re active in therapy for that long, you can look back on your time and really start to see some of the changes that have occurred. Sometimes you’ll get “aha moments” and experience revelations in session. But what’s more common is that you’ll experience a slow, subtle, steady change over the course of therapy.

But what does it mean that therapy is “working?” There are all different types of therapists that could give different answers about how therapy is supposed to work. So keep in mind that I am just one therapist giving my opinion on how a client can tell if therapy is working for them.

I’ll just be focusing on individual therapy for this series. But if you’re going to therapy for something else (like marriage or family therapy), I urge you to keep reading because many of the things I mention in this article will still apply.

All the different ways you can tell therapy is working

A client may experience one or all of the following outcomes of therapy. They may even experience an outcome that I haven’t listed here.

You feel symptom relief

I think most people going into therapy are looking for relief from their presenting issue or problem. If the issue is straightforward, such as a fear of spiders or feelings of sadness, then symptom relief is likely something you can track pretty easily. At the start of therapy, most therapists will take note of how intense and obtrusive your symptoms are and they’ll probably keep a sharp eye on it moving forward. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a therapist to help you rank how painful your symptoms are on a scale of 1 to 10 and then revisit that scale periodically.

Something to note is that relief from your presenting symptoms may be up and down for a bit as you start therapy. You may feel a real sense of relief and optimism after you finally talk to someone for the first time. But then the hard work of figuring out ways to cope with the symptom or treat the symptoms might be a battle for a little while. You should eventually start feeling better at a steady pace as you get further away from the first session. And of course, as the cliche goes, it might get worse before it gets better. So keep that in mind. Also, going to therapy doesn’t mean that the symptom goes away for ever.

You feel more equipped to handle what life throws at you

If you enter therapy in order to treat your regularly occurring panic attacks a therapist might take a couple different approaches. They’ll probably want to get to the root of the panic. For example, they’ll want to know why exactly are you experiencing the panic, how you developed the panic and what triggers it. And just as important, they’ll want to equip you with tools and techniques to handle the panic attacks when they arise. Getting the panic to never come back is preferable, but is not always realistic. So the next best thing is to create a tool belt of your favorite coping skills that you can metaphorically carry with you just in case panic starts to bubble up and attempts to hijack your brain. Personally, I like to make sure that my clients have at least 5 different coping mechanisms that they can count on in any situation. Everything from breathing techniques to self talk to distraction methods is on the table. There are dozens and dozens of ways to cope with intense emotions. Your therapist wants to help you find the ones that work for you consistently.

Once a client has a strong grasp on coping skills, it often creates a feeling of confidence and strength. If feelings of panic start to rise, they won’t get to extreme levels because the confidence the client feels in handling it provides relief.

You feel at peace

You might have been compelled to start therapy because of a traumatic or big emotional event. Whether it’s losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, a bad break-up, an assault, or facing persecution for who you are, you could be emotionally activated and completely overwhelmed when you start therapy. While many things will be talked about and explored in session, one outcome that will hopefully be achieved is a sense of peace. A sense of peace with the world and a sense of peace with yourself. While becoming totally enlightened and at peace with everything forever isn’t a realistic goal, it wouldn’t be surprising if you felt more peace more often in your life as a result of therapy.

Sometimes a feeling of peace can be achieved when an unwanted thing, circumstance or person is more accepted. If that thing or person is accepted in your life and you let go of negative emotions around it, you’ll often feel more peace. Peace can also come from a place of forgiveness. A more general sense of peace can make a person more resilient and is a topic that is often explored in counseling.

The unconscious becomes conscious

One of Freud’s favorite outcomes of therapy was making the unconscious conscious. The unconscious mind houses all of our memories and past experiences. Our conscious mind doesn’t have everyday access to all of that information. It’s just too much to keep track of. But much of our behavior, thoughts, feelings and ideas have been created and influenced by our unconscious mind. So if you were to explore and get access to the unconscious stuff that makes you who you are, then you’d be able to make more deliberate decisions about who you want to be or how you want to experience the world. A therapist can help you get in touch with these unconscious influences. You two could work together to bring unseen influences to the surface so that you can be more intentional about who you want to be and what motivations you want to use in order to behave or think differently.

You are more mindful, aware and in tune with your thoughts and emotions

Even if you don’t specifically go to a mindfulness-based therapist, you’ll probably naturally start becoming more mindful and aware of how you feel and think. It’s just inevitable that improved awareness will develop as you start regularly talking about your internal experience. As you get to know your therapist and see what questions they ask and how they analyze you, you’ll start doing that on your own when you’re outside of their office.

Your improved awareness of how you feel and think will help you become more deliberate in what you want to think and feel. You’ll feel a better sense of balance and more grounded. You might not feel as reactive or quick to jump to conclusions. All of these things can be super handy as you grow and develop. Practicing the skill of observing and witnessing your feelings instead of automatically being overtaken by them can create a lot of liberation and freedom.

You feel less defensive

As we get older, we often feel defensive and protective as we experience life. It’s common to want to protect yourself if you’ve gotten hurt, been taken advantage of or simply don’t feel safe. At times, those defenses can build and build to the point where you don’t trust some people anymore. That can really get in the way when you’re developing new relationships. Especially new romantic relationships. A therapist can help figure out where those defenses have come from and which ones, if any, you want to hold on to. Or maybe which ones you want to make adjustments to, possibly replacing them with more healthy alternatives. Making an intentional choice about how you want to protect and defend yourself can be really important. It’s often important to be less defensive and closed off in order to more fully experience what life has to offer.

Your relationships improve

The most common issue to seek therapy for is relationship issues. I know this because I run TherapyDen’s therapist directory and I get to see what issues are being selected by clients looking for a therapist. With relationships being a major focus in therapy, it’s no wonder relationships tend to improve while talking to a therapist. Relationships improving can happen for a host of reasons. Therapy may be making you a better communicator. Or it could be working on figuring out how you want to act in a relationship. Counseling often focuses on the client’s intimacy issues so that they can be closer with people they care about. How a client has been loved and how they want to love others is a popular topic in therapy. Getting insight into all of these things will undoubtedly have an effect on important relationships in your life.

Something to note is that through counseling a client may figure out that they want to end unhealthy relationships in their lives. Ending these toxic relationships could be a sign that therapy is working.

You feel more like you

It’s hard to explain, but sometimes you know therapy is having a positive effect on you because you start to feel more like yourself again. You may have gone, or are currently going, through a tough time in your life. If that is the case, you may have become a bit withdrawn or avoidant. You may have regressed into some old behavior in order to cope with the stress. It’s understandable to behave, feel and think differently after going through a trauma or a big adjustment in life. If that’s the case, then talking to a therapist can be a very healing experience. You’ll know that healing is taking place when you feel like you’re acting like your old self again. You’ll feel a sense of freedom and liberation from patterns that have kept you from fully engaging with life.

You may also have the experience of feeling like a totally new person. You could go through an important transformation that allows you to feel and think things that you’ve never before been able to. Therapy could help you move on to the next developmental stage of your life with the proper care and treatment.

You really trust your therapist

Sometimes you know therapy is working simply because you’ve developed a close and trusting relationship with your therapist. Having a strong relationship with a therapist is usually the key to any successful counseling experience. If you regularly look forward to seeing your therapist and talking about your week, then there is probably something good going on. Your therapist being someone you feel comfortable saying absolutely anything to, and you knowing that you won’t be judged or criticized, means you are experiencing an important healing relationship. Developing a trusting and healing relationship with a therapist usually means you can do the same thing with someone outside of the therapy office. Which will set you up to create healthy and honest relationships in life.

I never said you’d be happier

I made sure not to say that you’d know therapy is working if you feel happier. While happiness is sometimes a wonderful side effect of therapy, it’s not always the goal. Therapy is meant to provide insight and analyzation. A therapist will care about you and show you compassion when you need it. A therapist will help you dig into your past, think about your future and help you be at peace in the moment. Therapy is great for feeling relief from symptoms and liberation from old defense mechanisms. Therapy will challenge you to be more honest in relationships and live as a more authentic human being. It will provide you with the support that you may have missed out on as a child. All of these wonderful things can take hard work in therapy. Counseling will challenge you to be honest with yourself and practice discipline when it comes to making big changes. It’s a therapists job to challenge you and encourage you to grow. Not to make you happy. As a therapist, I truly want all my clients to be happy. I’m happier when I see smiles on their faces. But I would rather ask you hard questions instead of tossing you happiness soft balls. You’re paying me to compassionately push you to grow and be honest with yourself. Not to make sure you walk out of every session smiling. I wouldn’t be a good therapist if that was my priority.

October 2018

 

Have you ever wondered if it might be helpful to “go talk to someone”?

Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.

 

“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”

There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.

 

Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things

 

Interested in a free phone consultation?

 

When you were getting to know your partner at the beginning of your relationship, you loved that they could do the things you weren’t as good at doing. 

Whether or not a relationship develops could depend on the level of similarity the two individuals share from the beginning of their meeting.He automatically jotted down the amount for the tip when the bill came, something you always disliked having to calculate.

She was natural at making plans for you both with your friends- which was great because scheduling wasn’t your favorite.

Thing is:

You’d always been perfectly competent to check and calculate the bill. Throughout adulthood, you’d done it, before meeting him.

You had enjoyed your social life, met up with friends regularly, and gotten yourself to appointments successfully. For years, in fact!

But now that you’ve been together for awhile, you notice that you’ve been telling yourself you can’t do some of the things your partner is so good at. Because “he’s the ___ one.”

This happens sometimes with siblings. Well-meaning parents can label their kids- even in positive terms:

“Andrea is the pretty one.”

“Nicole is the smart one.”

Great for parents to know these attributes of their kids. And great that parents tell their kids, and others, about how wonderful their kids are in these specific ways.
Hearing it enough times, Andrea naturally translates that she is NOT smart. Nicole gets the message that she is NOT pretty.
Image result for smart sister pretty sister
I see couples who are great matches and who, as individuals, limit themselves in this same way.

“Megan is the active one! She runs a bootcamp and is always the one walking our dog. She takes the kids to the park all the time- fitness is like, her thing.”
It is no surprise that Megan’s partner is struggling to be more active. Megan’s partner wants to exercise more and be “less of a bum.” 
This perspective of oneself as “a bum” is aggravated by deeming Megan “the active one.” So therefore, I am NOT active.

Does one person’s excellence cancel out another’s proficiency?

I have a friend who took piano lessons since she was 5 years old. Kara grew up playing piano and singing in choirs- at church, at school- anyone would look at Kara as a musician. Or at least, someone you’d associate with music more so than most people. The thing is, Kara’s husband plays guitar at a major metropolitan church. He has performed in other countries, is in a doctoral program for composition, and it known worldwide for his musical expertise.

Though I’ve known Kara for a couple of years, I didn’t even know she played piano until recently. When she told me, I asked why it almost seemed like a secret she was keeping. She pointed to her husband and said she doesn’t see fit to talk about her musical experience since it pales in comparison to his.

In what ways would you describe your partner?

Are you describing him/her this way because it is something you DON’T see in yourself? Do you describe him/her this way because it is something you wish you were better at?
Could it be possible that you are good at something your partner is great at?

All characters, though based upon attributes of previous clients, have had details changed. 

 

September 2018

 

 

Now that it is officially fall, and pumpkin spice/smell/flavor is popping up, it is only a matter of time until pumpkin pies/cookies/cakes will, too. So, what better time to examine the binge/restrict cycle so common in American culture? Those fall flavors are going to carry us right into Thanksgiving before you know it, so let’s think about our relationship with food before we even get there.

“How come everytime I try to lose a few pounds, I lose control and eat exactly how I don’t want to eat?!”

Though according to the National Eating Disorder Association, only 10 million American women suffer from eating disorders, it is rare to find a girl over the age of 13 who hasn’t “watched what she ate” in attempts to change her size or shape.
For many, this insistence on restricting certain foods or on eating less than usual creates 1) a sense of control and 2) the likelihood that over-eating– especially on the restricted foods- is soon to happen.


I’m looking at you, too men! Though less advertised, men struggle with body image issues, obsessions with food and exercise, and feeling out-of-control when they eat.

Which of these can you relate to…

I eat differently when I’m alone than when I’m eating with other people.

Sometimes, I feel guilty when I eat.

Sometimes, I feel so guilty for what I ate, I do something to make up for it.

If I don’t eat the way I planned, it really messes with me.

Other people have expressed concern about my relationship with food/eating.

I wish I thought about food less often.

If you can relate to any of the above statements, your relationship with food is more complicated than it has to be. 


Believe it or not, many people who used to feel this way are now able to:


eat what they want and need to eat
when they want and need to eat it
and not think about it unless they want to think about it!

Obsessing about food is a waste of your brain space. Feeling guilty about food is a waste of your energy. And these problems are totally solvable.

There are lots of professionals in Central Texas who know how to help!
https://gatestherapy.com/about-psychotherapist-kathryn-gates/
https://cteds.org/austin-eating-disorders-specialists/

 

Statistics from: https://www.mirasol.net/learning-center/eating-disorder-statistics.php

September 2018

 

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It’s time to get over the stigma against mental health.

Did you know there is an entire organization devoted to supporting mental health and reducing the stigma against it? 

The mission of NAMI Austin—the Austin affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness—is to improve the lives of all persons affected by serious mental illness by providing support, education, and advocacy throughout the Metropolitan area of Austin, Texas to individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Why might this matter to you?

NAMI provides 100s of FREE groups and trainings to folks recovering from diagnosable mental health disorders AND THEIR LOVED ONES!
Not sure how to be around your partner/daughter/son/sister/brother, especially now that they have a diagnosis? NAMI CAN HELP!

Founded in 1984, NAMI Austin is dedicated to supporting the inclusion of individuals with mental illness throughout the organization. We will provide guidance, coordination and resources to promote communication and education in Central Texas by:

  • Combating stigma through education and raising public awareness that mental illnesses affect everyone and treatment works;
  • Joining all partners of the mental health system toward the common goal of a comprehensive, recovery-based model that meets the needs of all persons with serious mental illnesses in the community;
  • Empowering interested community stakeholders to become informed participants at the national, state, county and local level.

http://www.namiaustin.org/

 August 2018

 

Interested in a free phone consultation?

 

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Dr. Gary Chapman narrowed down the different ways we show love to specifics:

~giving gifts~
~acts of service~
~words of affirmation~
~quality time~
~physical touch~

Knowing what you naturally do when you want to show your affection is useful in understanding yourself in relationships. Possibly more helpful, is understanding how your partner naturally shows affection. He or she may be showering you with love without you even realizing it!

Additionally, if you know your partner’s style, you can try things that may be outside of your wheel house, which will affect your partner in ways they most readily feel the love you want to show.

Find out your style on the 5 Love Languages site.

 

August 2018

 

When being The Good One hurts everyone involved

One of my favorite topics in the work that I do, because its function is continually fascinating to me, is codependence.

Because this word is so readily assumed to refer to relationships involving alcohol and drugs, the word may not be the best way of referring to the nature of what I mean when I say “codependence.”

My own history of codependent behaviors proves how unnecessary drugs or alcohol are for  codependence to exist. To this day, I can count on one hand how many times either of my parents has had a drink, that I know of. I didn’t grow up in “an alcoholic household,” and I’m not an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. So why in the world would I do all the things listed in Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More in my early relationships?

It was thanks to eventually dating an alcoholic/addict that I pursued my own recovery. Thanks to my “qualifier” giving me the excuse to attend AlAnon because of his drinking/drugging, I was finally able to see that I was doing the same needy/martyred/controlling things with him as I had done with my previous teetotaling boyfriend. My behaviors did not have anything to do with alcohol. They had to do with ME.

This idea that part of the problem in an addictive relationship is created by the person who ISN’T USING may come as a shock. It can come as a shock to the user who, in recovery, comes to accept their culpability in the problems in their life. And it can come as a shock to “the good one” in the relationship, who has been motivated in large part, by the fact that they get to identify with being “the good one.”

 

July 2018

Interested in a free phone consultation?

 

What to Expect When Everything is Unexpected


4 Keys to Manage Big and Sudden Life Changes

A friend got pregnant at 41 with her husband who’d had a vasectomy. They already had 2 boys, 9 and 11, and were about a year and a half into the long adoption process for a child from another country.

It is generally seen as a positive scenario when a pregnancy happens to a committed couple with the resources to support the new life. This friend was definitely in that scenario. But it was not what she and her family, at that point, had imagined would be happening.

They had not intended to get pregnant. And yet, here they were.

Have you encountered sudden life changes that you didn’t expect?

Viewed initially as a negative or positive change (my friend has definitely come to view her new son as a positive!) the unexpectedness of a change can wreack havoc to feeling empowered in our own lives. It may have taken tons of work to begin to feel a sense of control with our schedule, in our relationship with a child or a partner, or with our bodies. And then along comes a major life change, out of the blue, just when we thought we’d gotten it all figured out.

So now what can I do?

As with all changes, in time we learn how to manage. And often, we are able to see the positives of what we may have initially only looked “bad.” In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep you operating as your best self during the adjustment.


1. Keep what works.


Maintaining the things that do bring comfort, or if not comfort- regularity, can ease a transition.
If your morning routine is normally to get up, make your coffee, brush your teeth, then let the dog out, continue to do exactly that, if you can. If you normally do some stretching before bed, don’t let that fall by the wayside.
X, Y, Z can be unexpected and crazy, but you will know that you can still count on your morning cup of coffee. Or your evening meditation. Or your weekly walk with a friend. Or whatever you may have already in place that you count on to happen regularly. Regularity provides comfort.


2. Phone a friend.

Or text. Or just prioritize your social networks. “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is so 5 minutes ago- we now know that depending on each other is the way we were intended to operate. And the way that we truly flourish. And really, there is no doing anything completely on one’s own, unless you are literally stranded on an island. We exist in community, so don’t underestimate how sustainable the friends and neighbors around you make your existence.

 

3. Embody your strength.                  

And by that, lets remember that we are living inside a BODY. This doesn’t mean find time to embark on a new exercise endeavor. It means connect with your physical self. Breathe into your belly and feel what your lungs do against the back of your chair. Stretch your legs (see No. 1 re: stretch before bed) and notice what sensations there are when you do. If exercise is your jam, do that as much as you are able during this time of transition- now is NOT the time to let physical activity fall by the wayside. There is empowerment in feeling connection to our bodies, in knowing the vehicle we are driving.

 

4. Allow reliance on faith.

It can be very lonely, even terrifying, to think that I alone have to will something to happen. To think that I alone have to ensure my own or my loved ones’ well-being – how could little ME possibly assure that? Believing in the possibilities of all that is greater than ourselves can be such a relief when we get wrapped up in the mindset that I am the biggest, baddest entity in my own world. Other people do things that contribute to your success. Weather conditions affect the happenings in your day. Traffic allows you to be one place or another at any given time of day- or not. YOU alone have only a small part to play in how your life is affected. You can choose to place your faith in the goodness of all that is greater than you (it is okay to call this “God,” if that isn’t too scary) that allows you to focus exclusively on what you have control over. And therefore do your very best at that.

With major change, the last thing we usually want is more things we have to DO. Think of the above as 4 Key Focuses, during this time of change in your life. When we choose what is most helpful to stay focused on, the resulting actions end up getting us where we are focused on going.

June 2018
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One of the top topics in my psychotherapy practice is WORK.

Looking at the Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees and the Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job, it is no surprise to me as a relationship therapist, people want help with their workplace!

Top 5 Reasons for Happy Employees                                 Top 5 Reasons for Leaving a Job

1. Relationship with co-workers

2. Contribution of work to organization’s business goals

3. Meaningfulness of the job

4. Opportunities to use skills/abilities

5. Relationship with immediate supervisor

1. Minimal wage growth

2. Lack of opportunity to advance

3. Excessive overtime hours

4. A work environment that does not encourage teamwork

5. A boss that doesn’t allow you to work flexibly

What do you see that these have in common?

 

All of these fall into categories of Meaning, Purpose, and Relationships.

Interestingly, each of these categories also contributes greatly to a person’s level of life satisfaction.

Think over how you feel about different periods of your life. You are most fulfilled when

1)there is meaning in the things you do,

2)when you know you have a purpose, and

3)when you are an active participant in rewarding relationships.

No surprise that these things make or break your work life!

Which of these have you been most fulfilled by?

Which have most bothered you about your current position?

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/workplace-wellness#Top%205

May 18, 2018

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Therapy made my life do-able.

This is what I hear consistently from my own clients and from friends. My own life has been made so much more fulfilling and comfortable than I imagined it could be- thanks to the therapists I’ve seen over the years. So it comes as no surprise when I hear it from others. Though I’m continually delighted to hear it!
I can’t be loud enough about how meaningful and relevant AND NOT JUST FOR PSYCHOTIC PEOPLE psychotherapy is.
The demand that we get rid of the stigma against psychotherapy is tremendous. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that the editor and creative director of Print magazine, Debbie Millman also proclaims that

“the best investment I’ve ever made was in psychotherapy.”

In Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors, Debbie says therapy “changed and then saved my life in every imaginable way.”
She offers some suggestions to consider, when embarking on psychotherapy:

Therapy takes time. It takes dedication, stamina, resilience, persistence, and courage. It’s not a quick fix, but it saved my life.

Tell your therapist everything. If you edit who you are or pretend to be something you are not, or project who or how you want to be seen, it will take that much longer. Just be yourself. If you are afraid your therapist will judge you, tell them. All of these things are important to talk about.

There is no shame in feeling shame. Almost everyone does, and psychotherapy will help you understand it. There is nothing like understanding your motivations and insecurities to help you integrate those feelings into your psyche in the most healthy and authentic way.

Yes, it will be expensive. But what is more valuable than better understanding who you are? Breaking intrinsic bad habits? Getting over much of your shit (or at least understanding why you do it in the first place), and generally living a happier, more contented, more peaceful life?

Have you experienced the changes available from psychotherapy with the right clinician for you? What tips do you have for others who are on the fence about getting started, or who are embarking on that journey?
*Did you know you can do things BEFORE you get to your therapist’s couch? Things that might make getting started with him or her more efficient?

Do NOT See a Therapist Until You’ve Done These 5 Things

May 12, 2018

 

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Interested in a free phone consultation?

So you feel like you need a getaway.

What is it you want most from a vacation?

Fresh air?
Downtime?
Seeing new things?
Yummy food?

What is it that drives you to yearn for a vacation? This is a clue into what will allow you to function better day-to-day.

I have a client, let’s call her Lana. Lana talks about begging her husband to go on a road trip ASAP. As we explore her desire for in a road trip, she describes how glorious sunshine would feel. She says she’d love being in nature.

It is no irony that Lana recently started a new office job where she has no window nearby.  She does not leave work for lunch. And she starts her workday before the sun rises.

Lana has come up with some things she can try immediately. She is using this cue that she needs more connection to the outdoors- not just for a weekend, but regularly. Lana will step outside for just a moment each time she takes a bathroom break. There isn’t time to leave work for lunch. But there is a place outside where she can take her food. She’d like to try doing that a few times each week.

Hopefully, she and her husband will soon be on the road to Enchanted Rock, Port Aransas, or Big Bend. In the meantime, she can get the Vitamin D, fresh air, and a few moments to clear her mind and refocus that we all need as living creatures.

Studies have shown that taking breaks improves productivity. More is accomplished when we take breaks in our workday than if we had pushed through without stopping.

If we can take notice of what we crave most in a getaway, when we are craving a getaway, we can take better care of ourselves in everyday life. So that the getaway serves as icing on the cake instead of a way of keeping your head above water.

Other simple examples of applying your vaca craving to daily life:

Wish you were on a trip so you could justify doing nothing?

What help can you recruit in order to DO NOTHING in the comfort of your own town?

Family? Friends? A local hire? You can figure out how to get some of your tasks off of your plate without leaving town.

Wish you could leave town so you could break out of your norm and see and do something new?

There is no way you have seen all there is to see in Austin. I am a huge proponent of getting out of the bubble of one’s hometown. And when that isn’t immediately possible, find a new shop, park, museum, performance venue, or restaurant. There are so many right here in the 787 to check out.

Maybe even, venture north/south of the river!

Since day-to-day life happens more often than vacations, we might as well figure out how to use them wisely.

April 2018

 

 

Have you ever wondered if it might be helpful to “go talk to someone”?

Investing in psychotherapy involves time, money, and a desire to make changes with the help of a qualified clinician. Everyone has considered counseling in response to a life transition, a break-up, a death, or feeling like they have less control than they’d like.

“But can’t I get better on my own? Do I have to go to psychotherapy?”

 

There are, at the very least, things you can do which will move you along from where you are now. And if you so choose, will prepare you for work with a therapist and possibly make it even more quickly effective.

Do NOT See A Therapist: until you’ve done these 5 things