25 Feb 2019

BY: Matthew Armstrong

Anxiety / Depression / Habits / How to / Life Coaching / Stress / Uncategorized

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Adjusting Your Nighttime Routine: Tips for Better Sleep and Good Mental Health

For those people who struggle to get a good night?s sleep, have you considered that you might be your own worst enemy? There are some definite ?dos? and ?don?ts? to observe, which include important measures that have a direct effect on your ability to sleep and maintain good mental health. Consistent, restorative sleep is closely tied to mental health ? when you?re tired, your mood suffers, you?re impatient, and you have trouble concentrating. Consequently, your sense of well-being is compromised, and symptoms of depression and anxiety may occur as a result.

What?s more, sleep is especially important for people recovering from drug or alcohol abuse. Sleep has a powerful healing effect on the body and mind, bolstering the immune system and strengthening your metabolism. It also improves your mental outlook, an important factor in recovering from the ravages of addiction.

Consider the following points if a lack of sleep is affecting your mental condition and ability to function on a daily basis.

Observe a Sleep Schedule

Many of us get to bed only when our daily responsibilities have been completed and, as such, fail to get the necessary seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Your body functions best when you follow a regular schedule, and going to bed at the same time and waking up every morning at the same time is the best way to recalibrate your internal clock. Also, stick with your sleep schedule through the weekend and on holidays so as not to disrupt your sleep schedule. Eventually, your body will fall into line and let you know when it?s time for bed.

Winding Down

You can?t expect to climb into bed and fall asleep straight away if you?re experiencing sleep deprivation and insomnia. It?s important to spend an hour or two winding down, so prepare yourself to sleep by observing relaxing habits such as reading a book, taking a hot bath, or engaging in meditation. These activities can calm your thoughts and slow your heart rate, both of which are necessary for you to feel sleepy.

Sleep-Conducive Environment

Insomnia can be a serious problem, leading to both mental and physical complications. If it persists, it might be time to take a close look at your sleep environment. People often make the mistake of leaving a TV or computer screen on at night or keeping a smartphone on the nightstand. These are disruptions that can prevent sleep. What?s needed is a dark and quiet environment, so consider installing blackout shades and using a white noise app or machine to mask any disruptive external sound. Pay close attention to the comfort of your bed ? rough sheets and heavy blankets may drive up your body temperature, making it hard to get to sleep.

Don?t Force It

As a kid, do you remember being told by a parent just to lie in bed until you got tired? It?s a convenient piece of parental advice, but it doesn?t work when you?re an adult with a sleep problem. Whether you?re tossing and turning or just lying in bed thinking about next week?s big client presentation or an argument you had with your spouse, you?re only making the situation worse. Instead, get up and sit quietly in a darkened room, or do some light reading until your eyelids start to get heavy.

Limit Food and Drink at Night

Ingesting caffeine at night is a bad idea if you suffer from insomnia, as is eating a meal too close to bedtime. Your metabolism has to work to process the food, and you won?t feel like sleeping. Some people like to have a few drinks before bed, thinking it?ll help them wind down after a busy day. Unfortunately, alcohol undermines the healing, rejuvenating REM sleep you need to feel good and stay healthy.

Think through your sleep habits if you?re having difficulty at night. You might find that a simple adjustment will make a big difference. A consistent nighttime routine, a restful sleep space, and a little willpower in the evening can restore your mental well-being and leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated during the day.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

01 Dec 2018

BY: Matthew Armstrong

Anxiety / Communication / Couples therapy / Depression / Faith / Marriage / Parenting / Personal Development / philosophy / Relationship / relationship counseling / Sobriety / Therapist / Therapy / Uncategorized

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Q&A with Michael French

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.

Credit: AnExtraordinaryDay.net

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:

Relationship Counseling
Singles Counseling
Blended Family issues.
Foster Parent issues
Career concerns
Depression and Anxiety
PTSD
Christian Counseling
Domestic Violence, both victim and perpetrator
Addictions

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.

 

Contact Michael French today!

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24 Jun 2018

BY: Matthew Armstrong

Anxiety / Depression / Faith / Family / Marriage / Relationship / Therapy / Trauma

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Melody Anderson | Play Therapy | Trauma Specialist | Neurofeedback Provider

I am a therapist because I believe therapy is a tool that God created to heal the broken-hearted. I believe that this is a broken world and sin often leaves trauma in its wake. As a therapist, my goal is to work with families to break the family cycle of trauma. Trauma impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. Too often, I?ve seen people minimize their own trauma or the trauma of others. Minimizing the travesty of trauma does not help the healing process and can lead trauma victims have low self-esteem due to belief that they have little or no worth.Melody Anderson | MSW | Armstrong Family Counseling | Teen and Young Adult Trauma And Depression Expert

I love this quote that I came across on twitter last year, ?Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling yours or anyone else?s traumas just because it wasn?t ?as bad? as someone else?s. This isn?t a competition. We all deserve support & recovery? @jesssxb

My goal as a therapist is to provide support and recovery to victims of trauma so that they can learn to know their own worth and view themselves as worthy of growth, positive change, and a healthy life.

I cater my approach to individual client needs. I find that depending on the therapy approach that is most appropriate to the client, there are often pre-existing exercises/worksheets that are evidence based. I naturally have a DBT therapy style, but am eager to continue to grow in the use of models which come less naturally to me as no therapy approach fits every client?s needs. I have had training in Motivational Interviewing which is based in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Motivational interviewing is incredibly helpful for helping individuals make difficult changes and stick with those changes.

As an adolescent I struggled with a lot of insecurity and depression. I was raised in a legalistic Christian home where I learned all about God?s wrath, and nothing about his mercy and love. I felt trapped in my own imperfection and was certain that perfection was the only acceptable lifestyle due to my family culture. This caused a lot of feelings of worthlessness and led to deep depression. I was blessed to be part of a great youth group at my church where I had a mentor and healthy mother figure who poured a lot of prayer, time, and love into me. God used her in my life to show me that the perfection I was striving toward was crippling me and keeping me from genuine growth.

As I began to believe that I have value and worth, I found myself wanting to empower other women to break free from their own insecurity and low self-esteem. When I was working toward my bachelor of social work degree, I worked in a restaurant. I recommended to a coworker that she should go home after work and write down ten things she likes about herself because she I observed that she had little to no sense of self-worth. I learned years later that she actually did so and it began her own journey of increasing her self-esteem. I have met very few women that do not experience shame/guilt for not meeting societal expectations. I have also seen the ripple effect that occurs when women empower other women to improve their core beliefs about themselves and the world.

Contact me today and let’s start the journey towards becoming who you were created to become!

 

Girl at peace around flowers

Girl at peace around flowers 21 Apr 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Depression / Emotional Intelligence / Life Coaching / Personal Development / Uncategorized

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The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Self-Care

Saying the mind and body are connected is nothing new. The Ancient Greeks attempted to understand the mental phenomena of emotions and their complex connections to physiological order. That fascination continued through the Roman era, the Renaissance, and on throughout history — and that?s just Western European culture. Physicians and philosophers all over the globe have explored the mind and body connection since the beginning of time and even recent science backs up the claim that they are intrinsically connected.

If you are not taking care of your physical self, your mental health is likely not where you want it to be. For instance, one of the main symptoms of depression is poor personal hygiene. Addicts are another good illustration of this problem. Addicts turn to self-harm in the form of drug or alcohol abuse as a way to cope with their own mental health issues. While environmental and genetic components also contribute to the disease, the mind/body link plays its part.

Taking the time to take care of the physical self can have a helpful impact on your mental health and addiction recovery. In addition to seeking help and supervision through a physician, try incorporating the following self-care rituals into your routine.

Establish a Solid Sleep Routine

Sleep is awesome, so why do so many of us get so little of it? According to the American Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million American adults have some sort of sleep disorder, insomnia being the most common one. Sleep problems are common in addicts, as well. Drug and alcohol abuse disrupt the body?s natural rhythm along with the neurochemicals and hormones that help control rest. After a while, the body forgets how to rest properly.

Thankfully, you can retrain your body by establishing a sleep routine and following it religiously. It?s not just about going to sleep and waking up at the same times every day — although those two things are key. Practicing good sleep hygiene has a lot to do with how you spend the hours before bedtime.

  • Limit stimulants including nicotine and caffeine.
  • Invest in some soothing herbal teas you can drink leading up to bedtime to help brain and body relax.
  • The glow of your television, computer and smartphone screens keep the brain alert. Turn them off and put them away an hour before bed.
  • Turn your bedroom into a sanctum of rest. Buy yourself nice linens, keep the room temperature cool, and use a white noise machine or essential oils to create ambience.
  • Read a chapter of a book before you fall asleep to help your mind wind down. If you are still not sleepy, read another chapter until you are.

Exercise Regularly

You may think exercise is just something you have to do if you want to lose weight, but it?s essential to the addiction recovery process. Drugs and alcohol trick your body to think it needs them by triggering the brain?s reward system. When you give up those substances, you can help beat cravings with exercise. Physical activity also stimulates that part of the brain while also releasing neurochemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which relieve pain and promote a positive mindset. You don?t have to train for a marathon to get these benefits, either. Just walking an extra half hour a day provides significant benefits.

Explore Healthy Stress Release

Finding some way to release stress and anxiety in a healthy manner is essential for addiction recovery. Meditation, yoga and hobbies like knitting help people tune out those thoughts and criticisms without having to use drugs or alcohol. Think of them like exercise for your brain. During these mindful exercises, you will experience negative thoughts. However, by recognizing those thoughts, dismissing them and returning your attention to your activity, you are training your brain to dismiss them on its own. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and your brain learns to automatically pass over self-criticisms in your day-to-day life so you can stay focused.

***

Since the mind and body are connected, your physical health has a significant impact on your mental health and vice-versa. When you struggle with a mental health issue like addiction, incorporating a solid sleep routine, exercise, and healthy coping mechanisms for stress all contribute to recovery. Incorporate daily physical self-care routines in your efforts to heal yourself holistically.

**Visit Brad’s website and learn more about becoming the best you here

Content Woman Holding Light 22 Feb 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Depression

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Woman smiling at herself in the mirror 29 Jan 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Anxiety / Depression / Emotional Intelligence / Life Coaching / Personal Development / Relationship / Uncategorized

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How To Improve Your Positive Self-Talk With 4 Easy Steps

What is intrapersonal communication?

Intrapersonal communication is the process of talking to oneself, which is related to your constant internal dialogues, either consciously or subconsciously. Our intrapersonal communication helps to determine our self-image and self-awareness, which is the most basic level of communication, and helps us to understand who we are and what we think of ourselves.

Why is it important?

A couple intimately holding on to each other

We can easily determine our self-esteem and self-perception through our internal communications, or intrapersonal communications. Obviously, in order to have a successful interpersonal relationship–communicating with others–we must first learn how to communicate with ourselves, understand who we are, and what we think of ourselves, and eventually, it will lead us to have a greater success in life. But how?

Follow these 4 steps to Improve your Intrapersonal Communication

Step 1

Man giving the thumbs up

Your internal conversations have a huge impact on you and your personal well-being. Try to listen to your self-talk and be aware of your internal dialogue and whether it is positive or negative. Remember that negative self-talk can drain your energy or motivation while your positive dialogues can empower you with higher self-esteem and eventually improve your self-perception, which is going to help you to have a better feeling about yourself.

Step 2

Have you ever tried to monitor your thought on your ongoing basis? In general, it is easier to let our thoughts run randomly through our mind, but if we try to recognize our negative thoughts and immediately replace them with positive ones, we will be amazed by the result on our day-to-day life activities and relational communications.

Step 3

Stop sign

Try to eliminate your unwanted thoughts from intruding by saying or thinking about some words like ?STOP? or ?ENOUGH?, ?CLEAR?, QUIT?. You can also improve your positive self-talk through prayer, meditation, affirmations, and focusing on your enjoyable moments.

Step 4

Try to recognize the differences that your positive self-talk makes in your day-to-day life activities or communications. Pay attention to those changes like feeling calmer and more peaceful, which are going to help you connect with what is peaceful and good around you and you’ll become less concerned with trivial matters. After a while, you will achieve a more positive outlook on life and have more confidence in your abilities.

If you are struggling with your self-esteem, self-worth, having relationship or communication issues, or just need some insight into life, please contact me today.?

10 Jan 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Couples therapy / Depression / Relationship / Trauma / Uncategorized

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What Happens Next? | Domestic Violence

**WARNING** The content in this topic could trigger you. Domestic violence can be a highly emotionally charged issue.domestic violence stats

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

Domestic Violence and Abuse as a Abstract

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.

silence kills zipped lips

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.

woman with a black eye motioning silence | domestic a buse

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.

happy couple 09 Jan 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Couples therapy / Depression / Marriage

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My Spouse Is Depressed

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).

walking on a tightrope

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.

suicide

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. If your spouse does not go to counseling, then you should seek help for yourself.happy couple **Original article was written on October 27th, 2017
Young Happy Couple on a Motorcycle 09 Jan 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Couples therapy / Depression / Marriage

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Depression & Marriage

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.

Depressed boy
Major Depressive Disorder

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.

Sad woman not looking upset husband
Depression Complicates Marriage

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.

Young Happy Couple on a Motorcycle
Treating Depression Can Save a Marriage

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.

**Original article published October 3rd, 2017

 

 

 

Smiling couple reconciling at therapy session 03 Jan 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Couples therapy / Depression / Marriage / Trauma

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My Approach To Marriage Counseling

 

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.

Smiling couple reconciling at therapy session

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.

Gentleman helping his girlfriend with the chair

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.

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