What do you do?
My real title is Option Bringer. Clients that seek counseling often feel that there are little to no options in what they are struggling with. My role is to show them that there are options. I accomplish this by connecting. Connection is the key! My approach emphasizes creating a safe nonjudgmental space that allows clients to process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I enjoy giving clients homework in the form of worksheets that they can utilize to gain insight, knowledge and perspective. These are ?tools? that can provide clients success if they utilize them. All of this can provide hope and a way forward even in the most difficult of circumstances.
How do your life experiences contribute to your counseling style?
Helen Keller once said, ?Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.? My life and all its mountain tops and valleys are a reflection of this quote. Listing my ?credentials? in life doesn?t seem enough. We all have our trials and moments of great stress and grief that shape our life. I have endured and been blessed by my own. From the pain of addiction to the loss of my sister to suicide, those things were not easy to overcome. But God?s grace showed me I can. His strength was what I needed to stand and find my way out of the darkness.
This road of growth and change also wasn?t without error. Mistakes, yes, there were a few. But I learned from them. Through it all, including my years in graduate school and this journey of counseling, I have had a couple of constants that have kept me going. First, is my relation with Jesus Christ. He has guided me through all the twists and turns of my life. He has never left my side or walked away, even when I detoured from Him. Whatever success I have in this field I owe to Him. I can?t do this without His direction and His wisdom. Then there is my wife LeeAnn. She has validated and affirmed me like no one else. She helped me believe that I can go from being pessimistic to optimistic. I am driven to be the best I can be due to her never-ending patient love for me. So game on! I am in this game, an active participant, and I look forward to helping you elevate your game.
What do you specialize?
I work predominantly with adults 18 and up. Within that age group, I work and support clients in the following areas:
Blended Family issues.
Foster Parent issues
Depression and Anxiety
Domestic Violence, both victim and perpetrator
How do you approach therapy?
Everything in the client/counselor relationship starts with rapport. This is a strength I believe I have. As I mentioned earlier, having connection with the client is a cornerstone to success. Being consistent and showing up as myself. Showing up as authentic and fully present is something I strive for in every session. I don?t try to be someone I?m not.
Clients benefit when they see that they can be authentic. They don?t have to pretend they have it all together. They can be themselves around me. As trust increases, clients often start to peal back the different layers of their life. That?s when the real work begins. Lastly, as a Christian, whatever skill sets I have I rely on Him for guidance. So prayer is something that if clients ask for it, I offer it to them. Prayer is vital to what success I have and prayer is an effective weapon against the difficulties that all of us go through.
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“Is choosing to separate the best option for me?” Choosing to separate in a marriage is never an easy decision to make. ?It is my hope that by reading this article you can gain some perspective on the topic of separation. ?A separation is different from a divorce in that you and your spouse will still legally share all parental and financial responsibilities. ?Also separations tend to have many different flavors. Here are the 3 most common types.?
The Working Separation
In a working separation the couple separates in order to spend time improving themselves. ?Maybe a spouse has a mental health issue they are working on, or perhaps one spouse has an addiction they need to focus on. ?Working separations are best when there is an informal agreement between the two partners. This agreement will ideally have an explanation as to what issue needs to be worked on, who will take care of the kids and other responsibilities, what limits or boundaries are placed on communication (we?ll only communicate through text or email, or no communication for 2 months, etc.) and on what grounds will reconciliation take place. Working separations have the highest chance of resulting in reconciliation. If you think this is the type of separation you are looking for please contact a therapist or counselor–like myself--and draw up this contract with their input and guidance.
The Trial Separation
A trial separation is when one or more persons in the marriage express a desire to try what being single feels like. ?The idea is that the person is given time to ?clear their head.? Afterwards they will then decide on whether or not to pursue reconciliation. One person generally will move out, either to another part of the house or to another place all together. ?Trial separations most commonly occur in families without young children.
These separations have a high rate of ending in divorce because most people leave a marriage when the pain and frustration are so high that staying seems impossible. ?Then,when they leave they find that being single has less pain and frustration then being married and make the jump to divorce.
The Legal Separation
This option is pursued most often when a marriage has become stale and anemic; there is little good in the marriage but also little frustration also. ?The couple may stay together for the sake of the children or because they both feel that becoming single is not attractive.
Whatever type of separation you are considering please understand that separation is a matter of last resort. ?Typically, divorce is the result of separation far, far more often than reconciliation. That being said if you separate when your pain and frustration haven?t yet caused you to give up there is a better chance of reconciliation afterward compared to waiting until you have one foot out the door.
If you or someone you know are going through a situation and you are contemplating separation or divorce, contact me today. I can help you work through your issues and come up with a plan that is best for your unique situation and relationship.
Should I stay, or should I leave?? After an affair, an injured partner?faces this question.? It?s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.
Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful.? It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it.? Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed?about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future.? Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship.? But what if you aren?t yet sure, or want a different outcome?
Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start.? If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.
Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it.? Changes, especially those we didn?t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings.? Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.
There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating.?? Hurt can manifest itself in several ways.? Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.
Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface.? Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it.? Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created.? This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.?
Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question.? To address the loss of trust and friendship, it?s crucial to actively practice being a better friend.? This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.
Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead.? Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration.? This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict.? I?m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.
Consider actions such listening without interruption.? It sounds simple, but isn?t always so easy.? You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren?t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner.? With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security.? This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for?you to rebuild your friendship.
The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship.? The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.
When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards.? This includes houses,?children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them.?? An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?
This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds.? Address this uncertainty?by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as?needed.? Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and?encourage your spouse to do the same.
Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward.? As you?make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future?while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together.?You are mending a friendship.? By consistently addressing the?uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner.? By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being?together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your?friend.
As we have all heard, time heals.?? But while you allow time to work,?this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with?your partner.? Even if you and your partner are managing to get along,?life can manage to shake things up at any time.
Acknowledge Landmines.? Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist?are similar to landmines.? You never know when or where they may be?hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or?even longer.? A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show.?Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity.? These and many more not only can, but?unavoidably will also pop up.
When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong?as the day the affair was discovered.? These experiences are, to say?the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that?talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.
You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them,?but don?t.? As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be,?they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand?the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt?together.? Emphasis on together.
The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily?basis.? Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not?understood, and uncared for.? These feelings will no doubt defeat your?goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance?between you.? Working through these feelings together allows you the?opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone.? It can?prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is?willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.
Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of?patience.? The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and?defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem?impossible to overcome.? Finding ways to reconnect with your partner?can be difficult or at times may not be well received.?
Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner.? Unfortunately?there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your?way back to each other.? At times you may want to speed up the?process, only to find a new bump in the road.?Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and?consistency pay off.? Stick with it, and you can get the results you?are looking for.
If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!
I get asked this question a lot in my counseling sessions. So, I thought I would take some time to address it here.? Most of the time I am asked by one member of a marriage or relationship if their partner is narcissistic.? Usually this is a question that they ask because they are genuinely confused as to why their spouse always seems to control the conversation, belittle or dismiss their opinions, or seem to have a sense of entitlement.
The first thing I check is if anyone else outside of the relationship sees this pattern?? Do other family members, friends, or co-workers see these behaviors or is it just around you that he or she acts this way?? If your spouse is treating other people this way and/or they have a history of doing this in their past, then it?s more likely that are narcissistic.?However, what if you are the only one that they seem to act this way around.? Does that make them a narcissist?? Honestly, it makes it less likely.? If a certain behavior only shows up in one setting, then there is something about that setting that is causing the behavior.? In other words, if you are the only one who thinks your spouse is a narcissist then you might what to consider other possibilities.? One possibility is that your marriage has reached gridlock.
A marriage that is in gridlock tends to look like this:
- There has been a long period of mutual pain, frustration or disappointment.
- It has been a long time since you each genuinely enjoyed being in each other company.
- When you fight neither you nor your spouse view it as productive.
- When you fight neither you nor your spouse feel ?heard?.
Marriages in gridlock get that way because one or both spouses feel hurt.? Because they have been hurt repeatedly by their partner they stop seeking the other partners well-being.? Instead the hurt spouse begins to focus on ?damage control?.? Their goal becomes just getting through each day with their head down and hoping that they don?t piss of the other spouse.
This type of mentality causes a person to mimic many of the signs of narcissism. The person starts to control the conversation instead of listening because they are trying to prevent you from hurting them with your words or tone of voice.? They begin to focus predominantly on their own opinion and will often stop trying to convince you they are right and will just tell you they are right.? This happens because they haven?t felt ?heard? in a long time. And when you don?t feel heard you shout your opinion even louder.
Furthermore, a gridlocked marriage can lead to a spouse developing a sense a sense of entitlement.? This happens because both partners feel as though they have already given up a lot for this marriage and now their partner is asking for more.
Maybe they feel like they already do spend enough time with the kids, but you want more.
Or maybe they feel that they are already having sex more often they want, but you want more.
Often times their spouse doesn?t seem to appreciate how much they have given up to make this marriage work, so why give more up?
Finally, narcissism and gridlock both look very similar because pain causes all of us to be self-focused and narcissistic.? Have you ever known someone who is sick or in pain to not be narcissistic?? So, if you think your spouse is a narcist get a second opinion.
Maybe you’re right and you are married to an unhealthy individual but what if is just a symptom that your marriage is near the point of no return?? Are you willing to end a marriage without trying everything you could to save it?? Seek a second opinion either from a trusted therapist or read a book on the subject.
For more information about being married to a narcissist I would recommend Shannon Thomas? book ?Healing from Hidden Abuse?.? She outlines what narcissistic personality disorder looks like and how those people tend to behave.
If you are having troubles or unresolved issues in your marriage or relationship, I can help you. Reach out to me today and schedule your initial appointment.
**WARNING** The content in this topic could trigger you. Domestic violence can be a highly emotionally charged issue.
This information is meant to educate those who have experienced this type of abuse and for those who have witnessed loved ones go through this type of toxic relationship?or may still be in the throes of a relationship involving domestic violence. It is not my intention to add my voice the countless others who disparage domestic violence. There is a time and place for that but that is not here.
If you?re in a relationship where domestic violence has or is occurring or if you have watched or are still watching a loved one in a bad relationship and don?t know why they stay, this if for you.
First, it is essential to identify where the abused person is mentally
Here are the 5 different stages people experience with domestic violence:
Stage 1 Stage of Confusion
Stage 2 Stage of Grace
Stage 3 Stage of Acceptance
Stage 4 Stage of Unacceptance
Stage 5 Stage of Action
First is the stage of confusion which is typically the shortest stage. Depending on one?s unique set of circumstances, this stage could last an hour to several weeks. Typically, the confusion occurs after the first incident of domestic abuse. In this stage, you typically ask ?why??; Why did they hit me? What did I do? Or other questions to that effect.
Next comes the stage of grace. In this stage, one has typically asked the ?why? question. They may not actually know why they are being abused and generally, they still believe that their abuser is a good person. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
?He was probably tired? or ?I really pissed her off so of course she took a swing at me?.
In this stage, one honestly believes that the abuse was a one-time event or that the violence will dissipate on its own. Typically, people in this stage do not share that they are being hurt. If they truly believe it will end soon why make trouble?
Eventually they stop believing it will ever change.
At this point, the abused enters stage 3: acceptance. People in this stage may have some understanding that they don?t like what is happening but the abuse makes sense to them. They have been manipulated to believe that their abuse is logical. Typically, people in this stage want to talk to friends or family about the abuse but, when they do bring it up, no one accepts their reasoning as to why the abuse is acceptable. The most common advice they receive from those in whom they have confided is to leave.
However, they generally find this advice unhelpful. Because even at this stage they want to stay in the relationship. They don?t want the abuse, but at the same time, they don?t want to get rid of the abuser. This is a double-edged sword. This lack of understanding causes them to stop talking about it to anyone. People in stage 3 typically do not want someone else to interfere which can be incredibly frustrating if you are a friend or loved one of the abused, because this stage can last for a very long time.
Once the victim finds a supportive yet challenging voice to help them see that they are in fact being abuse and that it won?t change, they will eventually move into stage 4: unacceptance. In this stage they know that at some point the relationship must end.
?But what if there is a kid involved??
?Or they couldn?t financially support themselves at the income level they want??
People in this stage will stay with the abuser until it just becomes so unpleasant that its no longer worth the benefits of staying with the abuser. To help someone in this stage is to give them opportunities to leave. Help them learn about safe houses, resources, support groups (online or in person). Help them to physically get out of the situation. People in this stage are usually willing to rely on people who have earned their trust.
Then comes the last stage: action. A person at this stage recognizes that nothing is going to change unless they leave. They also have decided that the relationship it is no longer worth the price they are paying. This is the final stage.
It?s important that you are aware of these different stages, because if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation you need to understand that it is a process to get help. People don?t typically leave domestic violence in one go.
If you need help, please contact someone you trust or seek the counsel of a professional. We are here for you.
Many times,?I have sat with couples?who have told me that they?ve lost their romantic spark. They say that attraction that drew them together is gone. When I ask them to describe their marriage as it currently is, I often find that one of them?or both?lacks personal friends and hobbies.
Having a life outside of your marriage is vital to the health and attractiveness of your marriage. Don?t believe me? Think about this, when you were first dating your spouse, they had a life without you. They had fun, made friends, and spent their time and money without consulting you, yet despite all of that, you still were attracted to them.
How often did you love to hear them talking about one of their cherished memories? Or cheering with them as you watched their favorite sports team together? Remember when they took you to their favorite?and quite personal?spot?
It?s interesting how those same couples who found the other?s strength and independence SO attractive have lost the fire in their relationship. Now the individuals see themselves married to a partner with whom they have shared almost all the same experiences together. They live in the same house, they go to the same shows and restaurants, they attend the same church and hang out with the same people, and then they wonder why the other person seems so dull: familiarity breeds contempt!
Breathing by yourself is okay! Having a life outside your marriage allows you to grow as a person. Spending time with yourself is good for your health. You then take that healthy individual back and share it with your spouse. Then, you get to share new memories and experiences with them that they don?t know about?that makes you attractive. They get to see your skill-sets grow in hobbies from an amateur level to an expert. They get to share your highs and lows; this too makes you more interesting.
Here?s the million-dollar question: what if your spouse doesn?t like your hobby? This can be tricky, but it?s essential to learn to communicate with each other about your interests and the things you don?t like.
What if he doesn?t like to dance?
What if she doesn?t like to play video games?
What if he doesn?t like to drink?
What if she doesn?t like to go to sports games?
It may be beneficial to?seek a counselor?s assistance?to help with communicating with each other.
When it comes to recreation, it is the person who is left out?or at home by choice?that can develop resentment or a poor attitude about ?the hobby.? However, this can often be rectified with improved communication.
Ask yourself, ?why is it an issue that your spouse has a friend/ or a hobby that you can?t participate in?? The answer may involve jealousy?? I don?t get ?me? time, why should you???or it might involve fear/worry??You aren?t spending enough time with the kids or me.? These are valid concerns that are not problems but are opportunities to grow the marriage even stronger.
A couple needs to come in for counseling to help work through their issues when either individual feels frustrated. Frustration is the most common emotion that I have seen expressed in my sessions with couples. Frustration is what you feel after getting angry didn?t fix the problem.
Fixing problems in marriages is like trying to open a jar with a stuck lid. At first, you might assume it?s no big deal that your spouse said or did something hurtful. Then, when you try to resolve the issue, it doesn?t go away. Then you start putting to put in more effort?you talk to friends, read counseling blogs, buy marriage books. When your effort fails to produce change, you start getting angry.
Finally, when anger and tears and yelling don?t work,?you collapse in exhaustion?having not achieved your goal.? That feeling you experience in that moment is frustration (what many couples come into my office feeling).? They?ve tried being nice, they?ve tried compromising, they?ve tried not letting it bother them, they?ve shouted and cried and?nothing changed.
Couples in a healthy marriage feel that?they can influence one another?and they can.? Maybe you can?t change their behavior, but if only you could, at the very least, help them to understand your perspective,?that would bring satisfaction to your soul.
A couple?s frustration often stems from fights that continuously go around and around in circles. Each fight looks and sounds like the previous one and nothing is accomplished?NOTHING CHANGES.? Counselors are trained to help couples not only improve their communication but also?help each person identify why?they are fighting.? Having an expert in the room who understands the dynamics of communication can offer both sides a new perspective and keep emotions from getting out of control.
So, if you have reached a point in your marriage where you don?t feel like you can get the other person to change, you don?t feel understood, or if you are close to giving up,?schedule an appointment with a therapist, you?ll be glad you did.
Depression is tough.?Having a depressed spouse is also hard and can prove to be a difficult and arduous road to travel. That journey can become a balancing act like walking on a tightrope (except it?s your marriage, not a circus act).
Depression can create communication barriers?in that the depressed person may become extremely self-critical and more depressed when their spouse tries to talk about what is frustrating them. On the surface, the depressed person may appear to agree with their partner?s irritation, but rather than channeling their energy towards finding a solution;?they often direct the power of frustration?negative energy?towards themselves which causes even more depression!
I have treated many couples?that have struggled with one of the two being depressed. These couples have become?emotionally drained! Depression in a marriage?or relationship?presents unique problems that the average couple will not experience nor understand.
For instance, a spouse with a history of suicide may have depressive episodes that are scary and, at times, keep their partner in a state of fear and anxiety. It seems unlikely that a person would want to share this type intimate issue with anyone. This type of concern can be a?massive weight to carry.
If you or your spouse is currently battling depression,?seek professional help immediately!?Contact an expert depression therapist or?licensed professional counselor in your area who has a proven track record of treating mental afflictions and solving marital issues.
Here are four tips for those suffering or those who have a partner suffering from depression:
- Ask for help.?You cannot (and should not) healthily carry this on your own. Without the proper approach, you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy trying to ?cure? it in the wrong way. A person who struggles with depression will only fight their depression so many times before they give up and lose hope.
- Acknowledge that depression is there.?Don?t call it something else, don?t say, ?It?s just who (s)he is.? No one wins by pretending.
- Understand who/what the real culprit is?beliefs in your (or your partner?s) mind.?It?s not something you did, or they did. Depression is a combination of many things. Don?t feel guilty and don?t make your partner feel guilty; it?s not your fault, and it?s not their fault.
- If your spouse does not go to counseling, then you should seek help for yourself.**Original article was written on October 27th, 2017
Early on in my career as a?marriage counselor, I noticed that in a majority of couples I saw, there was mental illness present in one or both parties.? I also noticed that in those marriages, progress was incredibly difficult if the illness was not?addressed and treated.? I learned to shift focus to the illness temporarily.? I would offer that person to come and?see me individually?for treatment or I would make an appropriate referral.? I have continued that practice to this day, and I have had tremendous success in marriage counseling, particularly when the mental illness is treated, and the couple is able to move beyond it.? Below, I will highlight one common mental illness:?Major Depressive Disorder, and I will discuss its implications in marriage.
Having?Major Depressive Disorder?does not mean that one is depressed all day every day.? The person is usually depressed for certain periods of time called major depressive episodes.? They last anywhere from two weeks up to several months, or even years in rare cases.? During the episode, people typically have a?depressed mood?for most of the day and most days of the episode.? They often experience feelings of?hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness.? They typically?lose interest?in activities that normally bring them pleasure.? They may?sleep much more or much less?than usual.? Their?appetite may increase or decrease, causing their weight to fluctuate.? They may also become much?more irritable and want to be alone.? They often?lose energy, and their movements become very slow.? They may even feel?completely worthless?and have?desires to end their life.
In light of the description above, it is easy to see how depression can complicate marriage.? It can be fairly easy in the beginning of an episode for the partner to be supportive, but it doesn?t take long for them to feel?resentful?once their?needs are no longer being met, and to make matters worse, the depressed person often outright?rejects their partner.? It makes little difference whether the rejection is intentional or unintentional because?rejection always hurts.? Also, the negative mood of depression tends to?drag the mood of everyone else down, especially that of their partner.? Over time, the resentment their partner feels can begin to?harden them, and if that continues, the partner can?lose the ability to feel anymore, having been?rejected one too many times.
It is important to understand that?no one chooses to be depressed, and when they are,?they don?t like it, and?they don?t want to stay that way.? Their attitude may suggest otherwise, but that is merely one of the symptoms.??We shouldn?t blame the person for being depressed.? Instead, we should?offer support and encourage them to get help.??Depression is treatable. ?When depression is successfully treated, the marriage is relieved of a large burden that can provide new hope.
When the burden of depression is lifted,?the marriage is free to progress.? The entire?landscape is changed.? The couple is then free to?connect in ways never before possible.? This happens because the partner is no longer experiencing a high level of rejection, and the natural defense mechanisms of the brains aren?t being engaged so often.? This allows for?emotional safety, which can lead to?vulnerability, which leads to?intimacy.? If you or your partner are experiencing depression, please reach out to a?trusted counselor.? It can help you get your life back.? It can save your marriage.
I assume that both people are good at heart
This is an important assumption because it allows for?each person to feel loved and valued.??No one wants to be the problem, and it does no good to anyone if one person is singled out. Even in cases where all signs appear to point to just one person, marriage is never that simple, and many problems only appear to weigh more than others, when in reality, they don?t. There is simply no way to accurately keep score in this way, nor would it do any good for the marriage. ?It is much better to assume that each person is good at heart and wants the best for the other and for the marriage. ?This assumption makes people feel good, and it lays the?foundation for an environment of growth.
I?distinguish between what can and cannot change
There is nothing more disheartening than to be rejected for who we are deep inside, and there is nothing more satisfying than to be truly accepted and loved for who we really are. ?For this reason, I assess for personality type?early on in counseling.
We need to know which parts of our spouse we should accept and embrace and which parts we can expect to change over time. ?Until we see our spouse for who they are deep down, it is a near impossible task to distinguish between the two.
I cannot count the number of?powerful and life changing sessions?that have come from assessing personality type, sessions in which two people look at each other for the first time with?wonder and understanding, the kind of understanding that brings both?forgiveness and hope. ?The forgiveness because of the realization that so much heartache over the years has simply come from not?truly understanding each other,?the hope because of being on new terrain where wonderful growth and intimacy are now possible.
I educate people about the other gender
Yes, men and women are?actually?different. ?What men and women?need?in a relationship is also different. ?In fact, the most important needs of one gender are almost never the same for the other.
When we assume that what we need is the same as what our spouse needs, we often focus on giving the wrong things, and we can become disillusioned when those things don?t seem to invoke much emotion. ?We then often begin to assume that something is wrong with our spouse and our marriage, when what is needed is to learn spouse?s needs and fulfill those needs, which are almost always completely different from our own.
Since we do not receive an instruction manual when we say, ?I do,? this is something we simply need to learn. ?I also have each person give an honest assessment of how the other is meeting their needs. ?This is very important because we need that information to make the needed changes.
I look for signs of trauma
Recognizing trauma when it is present in a marriage is vital.??Even the most experienced marriage counselors struggle to help couples in distress when there is trauma present.? Many counselors fail to identify trauma, and very few take steps to see that it is treated.
The essential feature of trauma is a system (body and mind) that is in a?continuous state of arousal,?prepared to defend?against any threat.? This is very effective for keeping one safe, but it also makes it?very difficult to be in healthy, intimate relationships.
Many incidents that occur in every day married life can be incorrectly identified by the traumatized system as?potential threats.? When this occurs regularly, the marriage is in continual chaos.? Whenever I recognize that trauma is present, I explain what I see and make appropriate treatment recommendations.? As the trauma begins to heal, the marriage improves in ways that would never be possible without the trauma treatment.
I get to the root of the issues
Most couples new to counseling first report their main problem being lack of communication. ?This is a reasonable way to conceptualize the issues because most couples don?t understand the root of their own complaints, much less the root of their partner?s. ?For this reason, it just feels like a lack of communication.
I move couples quickly beyond seeing the issues as simply communication issues and help them to see them for what they are. ?This is a tremendous help to couples because they gain the correct language to discuss the real issues and the ability to change what is truly ailing them.
I foster an environment of intimacy
I am not cupid. ?I cannot create love. ?I can only foster an environment where love can grow. ?The majority of couples that come into my office already have deep love that has developed, even if it is buried under a mountain of hurt and anger.
For love to develop, or for forgotten love to return, there must be intimacy. ?For intimacy, there must be vulnerability. ?For vulnerability, there must be trust. ?When trust has been broken, I help couples regain it. ?Where trust has never fully been achieved, I help them achieve it. ?Once trust is felt, couples begin to relax; vulnerability begins to set in, and in time, intimacy is gained. ?This must be done delicately, and this is one reason marriage counseling is so important.
I trust my gut and my skill
It is a true statement that nearly anyone can DO marriage counseling. ?That is to say that nearly anyone can learn the techniques and perform them. ?In the same way, nearly anyone can learn to shoot a basketball, give a massage, or design an office space. ?This doesn?t mean they have the talent to play professional basketball, the special touch to give healing massages, or the creative eye to design an office space with character.
In the same way, marriage counseling requires true?talent and instinct.??I know that?I have it, and I rely on it.?I can?t begin to plan for every possible scenario in marriage counseling, nor would I try to. ?Because of that, I often find myself in situations where I have no plan and nothing in my notes or research articles telling me what to do. ?I don?t worry when this happens; I trust my gut and my skill. ?This is when the true?magic in counseling?happens, when I have no idea what I?m about to do or say, and then after a long and very successful session, I look back on it and I think,?Did I really just do that?
I?m sure other professionals often feel the same way, the basketball player who marvels at how they just made an incredible shot, the massage therapist who just sensed what was ailing their client and sent them away dramatically better than how they came in, the interior designer who just designed an office space that magically transformed the office space into a haven of peace and productivity, none of these professionals having seen the outcome ahead of time, all of them amazed at what they somehow just accomplished. ?The talent and instinct of the marriage counselor is paramount. There are libraries of books filled with great marriage advice; it takes a great marriage counselor to?transform a marriage in need.