The Therapeutic Relationship and You

by Shelley Quinones Monday, September 8, 2014

The kids tell me what bugs them about each other, repeatedly. My spouse complains about work. Friends share about their current boyfriend. I listen to it all. But who listens, really listens to me? I try to speak up, but they talk over me, interrupt, or suddenly have to go do something.

What if there was someone who would give me undivided attention, be non-judgmental, and be on my side? Man that only exists in fairy tales.

No. That kind of relationship exists in real life. There are people, gifted people, trained to be therapists and counselors who are happy to come along side you and help you identify solutions to problems.

The therapeutic relationship is special, one based on teamwork where you share valuable memories and situations and the therapist provides wisdom and guidance. The relationship starts slow as you get to know each other then as you learn to trust your teammate, you share deeper and receive deeper insights. Before you know it, you feel better and are making choices to improve your life.

This relationship might seem one sided but you deserve to make an investment in yourself that will lead to an improved sense of value and contentment with your life.

Therapy doesn’t have to be forever. You can use it as a tool to help you over a difficult bump in the road or to spur you on to greatness. You can take the time you need to process your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. It also doesn’t have to be murky and dark. Some therapists infuse lightness and humor to help get through weighty topics while still offering respect and kindness.

Therapy is an important and valuable opportunity to gain healing and define your life in new ways. Your therapist is waiting to hear from you.

Shelley Quinones is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is a Christian Therapist and has been in the helping field for over 23 years and Licensed for 11 of those. She has helped many people sort through depression, anxiety, and traumatic situations to find a renewed sense of peace and joy.

Tags:

Healing | Intimacy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Social Work | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy

Adam and Eve

by Gilbert Bliss Wednesday, September 3, 2014

In my work with couples, I see how outside influences affect their perceptions of each other.  During the initial intense period of romance, these influences do not manifest themselves as they do later.  When couples give each other the permission to share a bed, many former parental admonitions are set aside.  In the freedom found in sexual and romantic expression, there is a delight in mutual personal discovery.

This energy is bound to ease and change over time, although some couples maintain it more readily than others.  Gradually, many couples start to view each other as someone who can help them solve some long-standing problem or maintain a "life position", which can take many forms, such as "You and me against the world", or to be the parent that they wished they had in their family of origin.  Such positions are a toxic recipe for misunderstanding, resentment or hostility, straining the relationship and sometimes breaking it up.  Sometimes there is the decision to have children to solve a problem by providing a different emphasis for the couple's attention.  This is unfair to children brought into such conditions and makes important decisions more difficult.

One of the most important conversations I have with couples is to invite them to think of themselves as Adam and Eve, with the opportunity to define themselves for themselves, without outside influence.  This is especially important as couples grapple with the expectations of family and friends as to what is truly important for their relationship.  Some couples are lucky to survive a wedding that was a showcase for the in-laws and the demands for grandchildren that follow. 

Aside from time coming to know yourself and what you want from life, a loving relationship can be an effective springboard to realize each other's dreams, both individual and mutual.  This can hardly be known if each member of the couple is trying to represent some ideal or expectation that has nothing to do with what they want for themselves and what they truly want for and from each other.  The concept of Adam and Eve applies to all kinds of partnerships, heterosexual or otherwise.

There are important conversations that must be brought forward, with nothing left unspoken.  That is the setting for psychotherapy, which should provide the open, accepting space where the noise from the "outside" is ratcheted down or eliminated.  There is no loneliness more intense than being part of a relationship that has lost its way.  The goal of psychotherapy in this case is clarity, a solid understanding that each member has of the other.  Through this process, a couple can reestablish that warm feeling they used to know when the other is in their presence and take control of their lives.

Gilbert Bliss is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Towson, Maryland.  His experience includes work with individuals, couples and families, and with children in bereavement.  His web site can be found at  www.gblisscounselor.com.    

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Three A's To Thrive

by Gilbert Bliss Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When I talk to clients about their family upbringing, I often get the response, "We had food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes to wear".  There is so much this description leaves out.

Abraham Maslow developed his well known Hierarchy of Needs including food, shelter and safety.  What is left out, is what I call the three A's required to maximize our life experience …

Approval.

As children, we need to know our right to be on this planet and in the lives of those who raise us is never in question.  Parents have what children perceive as ultimate authority over their lives. The parent who abuses that can put the child in a state of mortal fear, creating a foundation for emotional problems.  Children should hear, "We brought you into this world and welcome you as part of our lives", or, for adoptees, "We chose to make you part of our family, no less than any other child we have or may have in the future".  The extraordinary power parents have needs to be put to use for children, not against them.  This does not mean all behavior is acceptable, but that a child's life has inherent validity.

Affirmation.

This may sound like a synonym for approval, but it goes further.  The idea behind affirmation is that a child's character is never in question.  Mistakes in judgment are not "flaws", but are: mistakes, pure and simple.  Affirmed children and, later, adults, are better able to stand on their own making important decisions and not second guessing themselves with regard to their essential integrity.  Affirmation continues beyond age 18.  Children outgrow their need for approval, but the need for affirmation, be it quiet or loud, continues.  Healthy affirmation outlives us and is an important gift to those we love.

Affection.

The importance of physical affection has been scientifically and anecdotally validated.  Babies physically wither if they are not held and stroked.  The effects of withholding of affection have been demonstrated in children raised in institutions that do not offer healing touch.  Touch creates a bridge between what is spoken by voice and meant by intention. Couples are clear that affection is often as important as sex; in a world where they have given each other permission to share what they would not share with anyone else, the daily small demonstrations of intimate attention carry great meaning, affirmation of their mutual attraction to each other.  This carries a powerful message of safety, as well.

Approval, affirmation, and affection must coexist with each other.  There is little chance of success if one is left out, or one emphasized more than the other, unless there is a particular need to do so.  People can withstand incredibly difficult circumstances and thrive with these elements in place.

Gilbert Bliss is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Towson, Maryland.  His experience includes work with individuals, couples, families and children in bereavement.  His web site is www.gblisscounselor.com.

Tags:

Abuse | Child Abuse | Healing | Intimacy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Social Work | Therapy | Trauma

It’s not about YOU

by Julie Davis Wednesday, August 20, 2014

 

 

You walk up to a guy and say, “Hi.”  He tilts his head back and roars with laughter.  You say, “Hey guy, what’s so funny?”  He looks you up and down, rolls his eyes and says, “You’re an idiot.”

 

What does all that have to say about YOU?

 

Nothing.

 

What does all that say about the guy? 

 

A lot!

 

But, you might have been taught (incorrectly) that thoughts, feelings, and opinions about you ARE YOU.  Someone laughs at you, looks a certain way at you, raises voice around you, does or expresses something hurtful to you and you think it’s about you.  Then you spend a lifetime trying to look and act better when It’s not – never has been – about you.

 

People who are late, hurtful, loud, messy, reckless, avoidant, opinionated, or anxious do not determine who you are.  Their words and actions provide a lot of data about them – important for making wise decisions about who to hang out with; but has nothing to do with the essence of who you are. 

 

This week, consider the words and deeds of others as information about them.  Don’t judge that (it’s not your job).  But use that information to move with/around them wisely while you are repeating to yourself, “It’s not about me,” and enjoying your day.

 

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to:  julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.

Tags:

Anxiety | Healing | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | Primitive Mind | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Shame | Social Work | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy

Update the Messenger

by Julie Davis Friday, August 15, 2014

 

On a cloudless day some guy drives by your house and yells, “Hurry!  Get out!  A hurricane is coming!”  You yell back, “Hey, guy, it’s clear; go home – you are confused,” and he drives away.

 

While shopping at the supermarket some lady whispers in your ear, “Be careful; the watermelons are full of dragons!” You whisper back, “Lady, there are no dragons.”  “Oh,” she says, and quietly walks away.

 

I call this “Updating the Messenger.”  

 

When your mind whispers or shouts, “Danger!  Be careful!  Oh no!” when there is no real, present, life-threatening event in front or behind you, it is confused.  If you believe a confused message from the mind, you will be anxious, fearful, angry, exhausted, and sick – spending your day/life fighting and running from dragons and hurricanes that don’t exist.

 

The mind is a messenger: it’s designed to update you with data to keep you safe.  But when the messenger is confused – giving you outdated (past) or possible but not present (future) life-threatening scenarios, quietly update it – Thank you, but nothing needs to be done by me right now – and it will be on its way.  

 

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to: julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.

 

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Animal Instinct

by Julie Davis Friday, July 25, 2014

When a monkey sees another monkey messing with his monkey he gets angry, rushes forward, bites the other monkey and makes him stop.  Two seconds later, monkey is eating a banana.  When Luis Suarez saw some guy messing with his soccer ball (Uruguay vs. Italy – World Cup June 24th), his mind activated the same primitive system to make the guy stop messing with his soccer ball:  Anger.  Blood rushed upward into Suarez’s hands, feet and jaw setting him up to fight – which is what anger is designed to do - and he bit Giorgio Chiellini.  Two seconds later he’s calm and repositioned for play.  

 

Two hours later video of the bite is all over the internet.  Protests are launched as players and fans alike express outrage at the aggressive behavior and Suarez is banned from future tournaments. We expect aggression in sports, yet are shocked when we see the results of the primitive mind doing its job to remove a threat.  What makes Suarez an expert soccer player is the very thing that got him kicked out of soccer: his ability to access and operate out of primitive mind – and, sometimes, oops, bite people.

 

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to: julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.

Tags:

Anger | Animal Instinct | Mental Health | Primitive Mind | Self-Awareness | Social Work

The Story Behind The Story

by Julie Davis Monday, July 14, 2014

 

Consider this week that everything coming at you - anger, fear, judgment, criticism, avoidance - isn't personal; that it has a story behind it: 


-Spouse's anger might really be fear about his job.

-Child's resistance might actually be a natural development towards individuation.

-Boss's criticism might be rooted in his fear of being criticized by his boss. 

-Neighbor's avoidance of your "dog poop" letter might be he's busy taking care of sick grandma.

 

The only way to know is to ask.  This week - instead of getting defensive, offended, scared, angry - ask for the story behind the story.

 

Julie Davis uncovers and clears up deeply embedded beliefs and unresolved emotions that keep people stuck (www.rapidresolutiontherapy.com).  She also coaches people how to stay clear, calm and strategic in everyday life with healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving (www.juliedavismft.com).  Get free weekly insight and guidance by joining Julie’s Tuesday Email service.  Send “subscribe” in subject line to: julie@juliedavismft.com.  Julie is a Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (North Carolina, California; New York – pending), Board Certified Hypnotherapist, and New Life Network Christian Counselor (www.newlife.com).  704-807-1101.

Tags:

Anxiety | Couples | Healing | Intimacy | marriage | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | relationships, friendships | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Social Work | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy

Healing After Sexual Trauma

by Gilbert Bliss Friday, July 4, 2014

I have had the privilege of working with patients who have had sexual trauma early in their lives, either as children or young adults.  As a result of this opportunity, I have come to believe that it can be important for some who have experienced such a terrible experience, either once or over time, to work with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser.  While I do not, in any way, believe that anyone should seek the advice of a therapist with whom they would experience immediate discomfort, I am of the deep conviction that a healing relationship with a therapist of the same gender as the abuser could help to lift the limitations a patient might feel with regard to letting themselves be available for a meaningful relationship with another person.

Such a venture is a very tender process, involving time and an openness of expression that could help a patient be liberated of old fears while becoming wise about how to best take care of themselves in situations that, after working through the trauma, might otherwise make them too anxious to allow involvement.  This is the process of moving from the position of victim to permission to thrive, perhaps on an even higher level than even the patient might have allowed themselves to consider.

As with any patient I see, my approach is collaborative.  If a patient is too uncomfortable with the work we are doing, I change my approach to take their feelings into account.  If the work just feels like it is "too much", we take a break.  No one should feel like a prisoner to the therapeutic endeavor.

I invite people who have had such difficult experiences to consider what, to some of my colleagues, seems a radical approach.  I would hope that the discovery would be that there is nothing to lose but some time.

Gil Bliss is a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) with a private psychotherapy practice in Towson, Maryland.  Gil has worked with a wide variety of patients, including individuals, couples and families, along with grief work with children.  His web site is www.gblisscounselor.com.

Tags:

Abuse | Anxiety | Couples | Healing | Intimacy | marriage | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | relationships, friendships | Sexual | Sexual Trauma | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Trauma | Treatment Modalities

How to "Shop" for Your Therapist

by Jake Jacobsen Monday, June 16, 2014

How can I "shop" for a therapist and what are the essential qualities of a good therapeutic relationship?

These questions go hand in hand, although they are different in content. First, ask yourself: Do you feel more comfortable talking with a male or female therapist? Is it important to you if the therapist is heterosexual or openly gay or lesbian? Do you need individual therapy, couples, family, or group therapy? Are you looking for a structured therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy where you are expected to do homework addressing your problems or do you want a therapy that uses a more relational method?

You should be clear about all of these questions when shopping for a therapist. If, however, you are not clear about what you need, that’s OK too. Start the ball rolling by going to a therapist that has some of what you want. For example someone might choose to work with an openly lesbian therapist that specializes in substance abuse. Once in therapy, the therapist can further assess if the client needs additional help, such as, weekly AA meetings or harm reduction as the main treatment method in the therapy. 

During the first session with a therapist, you will experience first hand how the therapist forms a good therapeutic relationship (or not) by how they interact with you. In that initial session, you can start by asking what the letters after their name signify, and what their training was in psychology. For example: an LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker that was trained in psychology, and psychotherapy techniques. An ATR is a registered art therapist that was trained in the psychology of imagery, psychotherapy, and the creative art process to help people express their emotions. If the therapist isn’t forth coming answering these questions or if the interactions feel too awkward or it just doesn’t feel like a good fit, then that therapist is probably not right for you. I often suggest clients initially come for three sessions to assess the fit. Usually, people know within the first or second session if it feels like a good fit. People are often anxious in the first session so it can be difficult to make an accurate assessment then.

The essential qualities for a good therapeutic relationship are a therapist’s compassionate warmth, professionalism, and transparency with how they are working with you. You want a therapist to be someone with whom you feel you can say whatever is on your mind without feeling judged or pathologized for expressing what you think and feel. A therapist is someone with whom you can feel heard, validated, and challenged by in a compassionately thoughtful way.

Jake H Jacobsen, ATR, LCSW works in Portland, Oregon specializing in working with the LGBTQ community, and people living with HIV/AIDS. Jake uses both online (Skype) therapy, and in-office therapy.  For more information visit http://jakehjacobsen.wix.com/therapyinportland

              

Tags:

Anxiety | Intimacy | Marriage and Family Therapy | Mental Health | Mood | Mood Booster | Self-Awareness | Self-Care | Social Work | Stress | Therapeutic Relationship | Therapy | Treatment Modalities

Finding a Therapist For You! Part 2

by Brian Moynihan Monday, May 12, 2014

Choosing a therapist can be daunting and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  In part 1 we talked about important factors and how to contact therapists to ask to talk either by phone or in person to determine “fit”. This week we “talk” about the interview process and what to ask the therapist.

In interviewing a therapist, pay attention not only to the content of the conversation, what they tell you about themselves and their approach to therapy, but also to how they interact with you.  Do they take time to ask you for your ideas, theories, opinions?  Do they listen and understand you?  Does the interaction feel comfortable, respectful, caring?  Consider what factors are important to you in your decision, and ask questions. 

You may want to know more about the therapists’ education and training, background and experience, or their ideas about how to approach specific problems or issues.  You may also have questions of a more personal nature about the therapist – a prospective therapist's age, whether the therapist has personal and life experiences with similar problems, is married, or has children. You might wonder if it is OK to ask these questions?  Ethical codes and rules guide therapists around when self-disclosure of personal information is appropriate and can vary depending on a therapist's clinical orientation and philosophy. It is the therapist's job, however, to set these boundaries, so you should feel free to ask and they will tell you if they cannot answer! 

Once again, even if the therapist cannot give you specific information, the way they respond will help you get a feel for their style and whether they might be a good fit.  If, through this process, you get the sense this is not a good fit or not right for you, thank them for their time, move on, and remind yourself this was time well spent, saving you from moving forward with a therapist that wouldn't have been right.

In the end, if despite your efforts, you find yourself in therapy that is not a good match, or you do not feel heard or understood, take action sooner rather than later.  While it is difficult to give feedback, particularly negative feedback, most therapists are in the profession to help, and without feedback cannot change how they work with you, or help you find a better fit therapist.  This process may be beneficial in itself – some research shows better therapy outcomes when there is a minor problem or rupture in the therapy relationship that is repaired than when there are no ruptures at all!  In the end however, if you are not getting your needs met, or do not find your therapist responsive to your concerns, it is important to recognize that and find a different therapist to meet your needs.

Brian Moynihan, LCPC, is a therapist working with teens and adults in Bangor, Maine.  For more information and resources, go to http://BrianMoynihanLCPC.weebly.com.

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