Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Couples counseling requires a balancing act in order to work well. If one person feels slighted or picked upon, the overall work is compromised. You don’t want to feel that the person who is supposed to be helping you is siding with your partner.
Typically, the subject that your partner and you disagree on feels crucial. Both people are bringing strong emotions to the discussion. For example, if you’re arguing about the frequency of sexual intimacy, one partner may feel very strongly that sex isn’t important enough to the other partner. This partner may feel rejected and undesirable as a result. The partner who looks like he/she is avoiding sex might be experiencing increased stress in daily life and may feel overwhelmed generally. The emotions this partner holds on a day-to-day basis can be debilitating. Is one person “right” and the other person “wrong”? No.
Both people are affected negatively by this disconnect in the relationship. The counselor might want them to talk to each other in the counseling session about their feelings on the topic, to explore the significance of sex, perhaps to even try some problem-solving around this subject. The counselor might help the couple build upon their knowledge of each other and their friendship. The relationship may exhibit other issues that could lead the counselor to work with the couple in building specific skills to improve the relationship. Additionally, do other factors exist that affect the sexual aspect of their relationship—medical problems, substance abuse, depression? These factors would need to be addressed as well.
In most cases, there is no “right” or “wrong” person. Counselors can look at the process of how the couple relates. Counselors can help couples focus on resolvable issues, rather than perpetual issues. Counselors can help couples learn new skills and improve upon existing skills.
Counselors that help couples transform how they relate to each other, stand a great chance of helping couples gain the knowledge to improve their relationship and love fully.
Anita M. O’Donnell, M.Ed., LPCMH, NCC provides individual and couples counseling in Wilmington, Delaware through her company SuccessWorks Unlimited, Inc. She also offers telephonic and face-to-face coaching. Ms. O’Donnell earned her M.Ed. from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1991. You can follow her at www.facebook.com/YourBestLifeToday and through her website www.successworksunltd.com.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
When someone says, “She (or he) is just a friend,” this generally means the relationship is not romantic, not sexual and not too intimate. It is also understood to mean, “You need not take this too seriously.”
On the other hand we sometimes hear someone say in a reverent way about a spouse, or a partner, “He (or she) is my best friend.” This is saying, “Yes, lots of people are married, lots of people have sex and live together, but what we share is a special trust, support and a rich love.”
What does it take to have this rich enviable friendship? For a start it takes risking being open about one’s feelings, being gently honest about what one thinks and does, being able to deal with disagreements in a relatively calm manner and being able to negotiate differences.
Unfortunately these skills are rarely taught in childhood. Instead many of us learned not to trust because we found caregivers not safe, not trustworthy and it was not smart to trust. Suspicion and fear are often survival skills in childhood but as an adult they can impede love. To learn how to be a true friend and how to choose someone trustworthy may take relearning in a safe environment.
In effective relationship therapy you may learn techniques, like how to let another person know that you heard what they said by repeating what you think you heard back to them and checking to see if you are correct. You may learn certain "no-no's" like telling someone they "should" do or be a different way. That is a sure way to create distance in a relationship very quickly, almost as fast as by telling someone they are stupid. These things certainly do not gain intimacy.
But most effective may be observing the therapist's style and emotional tone. Or you may notice that the therapist may see things very differently from the way you have seen them and wonder what he sees that you don't. You may explore why your partner's comments are so upsetting to you. What does it remind you of in your history? It can be very helpful to have a wise and experienced guide to do this and feel safe.
Gil Shepard is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Walnut Creek, California
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
A wave of awe comes over me as Mary describes how she’s caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s and her 6 year old granddaughter, all while dealing with her own ulcerative colitis and depression. Do I care about her and getting her beyond the depression that’s keeping her from sleeping, eating and enjoying the sweeter moments of her life? Yes, I do. As do most therapists. It is why we enter the profession.
Do I care about her differently than her husband, her mother or her daughter? Of course. The way I care about her and hear her is entirely different from the way her loved ones do. She and I are relating for her and about her. I am committed to seeing her through to our intended outcome – free of symptoms, contented and lighthearted again.
Your therapist will come to know you in ways your loved ones do not. He or she will come to understand you in each of the roles you play – wife/ husband, mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, sister/brother – and as an individual.
For our 45 minute session, Mary’s needs, thoughts and feelings will have my complete attention and the benefit of my skills. For this, Mary and her insurance company will pay me a fee. But that fee doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care about Mary, or my other clients.
Understanding your therapist’s level of care for you is about understanding the nature of your relationship. It is not a relationship based on family or friendship. It is centered on you and is not reciprocal. You enter into a payment agreement with your therapist to care about you in a unique way – in a way that is responsive, useful and not particularly complicated.
I will see Mary beyond this depression to enjoying life again. At that time, we will wish each other well and say good-bye. Someone else will occupy her chair and I will hear his story and his needs. I will listen, I will care and I will help.
Michele Gustafson, LMSW, DCSW practices in Grand Blanc and Fenton, Michigan. She has over 25 years experience doing therapy, having received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Michigan where she has taught psychology and social work. www.michelegustafson.com
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Most professionals in the helping profession chose their job purposefully. We enjoy helping, listening, and problem solving. I found an online quiz that supposedly determines if one would make a good therapist. It asked questions about one’s understanding, ability to help others control emotions, make decisions, give feedback and read social cues. These are definitely telling questions, but is there more to it? Do therapists ever think of their clients as more than a job? Do clients feel that they are genuinely liked? I’ve written previously about the chemistry one must have with their therapist. That chemistry can go both ways.
Are there clients I particularly enjoy seeing? Yes. Is it because they are nice? Sure, they are nice. But it is more their motivation to work during our sessions. As a therapist, I am easy to please: Show up for our scheduled appointments, call if you can’t or are running late, and then use your time well. However, that doesn’t mean I “like” you any less if you don’t do these things. I care about my clients. I like them too. Some I can say I really like, especially after having known them for many years. But let’s be honest. It is a one-sided relationship. They may leave a session feeling better than ever, and I am fulfilled knowing together we worked hard, but while they may ponder our work well after the session is over, I am completely focused on my next client.
Many clients come into our session with a list of topics they want to discuss and work on. But what is he or she feeling when they leave? Some of my clients probably feel that I am proud of them based on our talk and the progress they have made, and that feeling may transfer to feeling like they pleased me and that they did well. They leave with a smiling “thank you so much” and will sometimes tell me they repeated some of our conversation with their loved ones. Feeling liked is part of that along with feeling accepted and cared for. I have never been asked the question during therapy “do you like me”, but I confidently believe my clients would all say that I genuinely do.
Sometimes a client’s issue might be insecurities and that will transfer over to our relationship as well. A client may leave wondering if he or she pleased me and answered “correctly” instead of processing situations through their own glasses (as opposed to mine). Once confidence is built, it is my hope that their habit of changing behaviors to please me will become pleasing to themselves.
Some therapists say it is too draining to think about work when not working. I can’t help but brainstorm and process throughout my days. Is it draining? Possibly. But again, doing a good job is fulfilling. I think 100% of my clients would tell you that not only do I like them, but that I like them best. And for that 45-50 minute session, I do.
Lynn R. Zakeri is a licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Northfield and Skolie, Illinois. For more information view Lynn's website at www.lynnzakeri.com.