Hand over water | symbol of freedom 06 Sep 2018
Freedom From the Past?

Living With the Past?and Freedom From It?

Our past is host to many memories and stories.? Past moments of our lives can bring about a plethora of thoughts and feelings.? Some of my most favorite memories are of the many adventures my wife and me have done together.? Although I’m grateful that I have a lot of fond memories from my past, I have?other memories that are difficult to look at.? These memories serve as reminders of my bad choices, disappointments, my sin, and failure.? I’m sure that if you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you too have struggled with past moments and situations in your life.?

A guy with sunglasses on smiling?People put on a front and cover up those less than pleasing things when interacting with others.? I see these personas when I am at church or out eating and in front of others.? We put on our best clothes and our biggest smiles acting like we have it all together.?? Sometimes we overcompensate by being overly joyful or talking too much.? Most people can see right through it, yet we continue the charade of keeping the mask on that tells the world that everything is ok in our life.

I see it when I meet with clients.? But a few sessions in, that?s when the mask starts to drop and they begin to reveal that on the inside, they don?t have it all together.? Most of their feelings of insecurity, sadness, guilt or shame were rooted in the past.? Past behavior, past hurts, and pain.? They struggle to live in the present because they are stuck, living in the history of their life.? It could be about anything.? Perhaps they were fired from a job for making a mistake.? Maybe they hid a family secret or even a secret of their own like an addiction or bad relationship.

person holding a sad face sign over their face

I recall when I was in college; I attended a support group called Adult Children of Alcoholics.? There were people in attendance that were 60 years or older.? For the first time in their life, they were dealing with things that impacted them from 30-40 years before.? ?Some of them had been carrying their past on their backs like a heavy bag of boulders that represented their most painful and difficult memories.? They became prisoners of those things that preceded their present.? There was no freedom to live in the here and now and look forward to the future as long as they were shackled to their heavy load.? I had my own heavy bag of memories but when I observed the struggle those people went through, I knew I had to let go of that heavy bag before it became heavier or buried me under the weight.? The chains had to drop and I had to find my freedom.

The question then becomes how?? How do we let it go?? Sometimes we don?t even know what bothers us.? Often, the answer is buried under years of repressing and concealment. ??All we know is that ?something? is causing us pain or emotional insanity.? We get to the point of being sick and tired of what we are going through.? That might lead us in seeking out extra help like a counselor or a support group. ??Counseling often stirs things up and one of the consequences of that is that we may feel pain.? That?s difficult for most of us.? We don?t like to feel pain.

However, it is through the pain that we begin to find a way out.? Finding that freedom from our past comes from 2 essential building blocks: Acceptance and forgiveness.? We?ll tackle these one at a time.acceptance displayed through 2 girls laughing together

Acceptance

One the biggest stumbling blocks to moving forward are denial.? We deny the reality to what occurred.? We make excuses or we self-medicate to avoid acknowledging the truth.? Once we can find acceptance, then there is a measure of peace that gives us strength in saying, ?this happened.? Or ?I did this.? There can be no moving forward without this.? I have worked with clients that struggled with addiction, PTSD, and were perpetrators to abuse or were victims of someone else?s violence.?? The first step to their healing began with bravely confronting the past and saying, ?I will face this, no matter what!? ?What things in your past do you need courage to face?

Michael J. Fox is best known for his role as Alex Keaton on the ?80s sitcom ?Family Ties? and the Back to The Future trilogy however in his personal life, he has battled with Parkinson?s disease.? He was diagnosed in 1991 and he had to face that his life would never be the same.?? He had this great thought on acceptance.? ?Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.?? For many of us, after acceptance, the way through to finding freedom from the past points to forgiveness.

Forgiveness:

There are two kinds of forgiveness:?Self-forgiveness and forgiving others.?? In acceptance, we face reality and what happened.? In self-forgiveness, we own the responsibility of what the flaw or mistake was that we committed.? I was fired from my first counseling job because I made a mistake.? After about 6 weeks of struggling with guilt, self-condemnation and?the shame over my actions, I was at my lowest.? I had to be broken.? In my brokenness, I found some scripture that allowed to me work through that difficult time.? They gave me hope for the future.? God wasn?t done with me.? Perhaps they can help you.

Jeremiah 8:4: ?Jeremiah, say this to the people of Judah: This is what the Lord says: You know if a man falls down, he gets up again. And if a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.?

Philippians 3:13-14:??Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead, I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.?

Self-forgiveness and accepting Gods forgiveness didn?t take away the action or the consequence.? But it allowed me to live with what happened.? Now when I look back, it is merely an event in my life.? I no longer have feelings of guilt and failure.? I?ve learned and moved on from it.? It no longer holds me as a prisoner.

Johnny Cash once said this about our failures of the past:? ?You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.?

We have talked about self-forgiveness but what about forgiving others.? When someone has wronged us, forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things we do.? For some, it seems impossible and creates a paralysis in even thinking about it and for others; they have tasted a freedom and release of bitterness and hate.

Carolyn Holderread Heggen wrote the book Sexual Abuse: in Christian Homes and Churches.? While the book focuses on abuse in the church and home, you can apply her words to your own journey of forgiving others.?? She writes that offering the offenders forgiveness is not forgetting and it’s not about letting them off the hook.? She said that ?while extending forgiveness is a profoundly spiritual act and can bring spiritual growth, it is not a way of avoiding the pain. It is not done quickly or flippantly to avoid the terror of woundedness.”

So if you’re struggling to come to the point of forgiveness, there is no timetable when such a thing should occur.? Talking to a counselor can help to begin this.?? The author notes that forgiveness “is a process that allows the victim to let go of the intense emotional pain associated with the abuse/offense and replace it with inner resolution and peace.”? She indicates that sometimes the abuser may not be repentant and then forgiveness becomes the process of letting go of the pain and bitterness to God?s care.

We must choose forgiveness–either live with it as it begins to burn bitterness and resentment onto our heart or be willing to give our burden over to a higher power. That requires actively exercising our faith by asking God to help us to work through that struggle to forgive.??? Al-Anon has a saying, “Let go and let God.”? When we let go of this burden and place it into Gods care, the transformation begins and like spring bringing new life to the land, so too does God brings us a new life and peace to our heart.

If you are struggling to find freedom and relief from where you are currently at in life or from your past, I can help.? Perhaps you are struggling to forgive or maybe you have been in denial on certain things.? Contact Armstrong Family Counseling and let us help you begin the road to recovery and independence.

Photo of Michael French M.A., PLPC | Armstrong Family Counseling
Michael French M.A., PLPC
24 Jun 2018
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

Butterfly | Angela Lake | Armstrong Family Counseling 24 Jun 2018
Angela Lake’s Philosophy

A personal philosophy I have is the butterfly in the cocoon. The caterpillar typically has spun a cocoon around themselves, and are struggling and fighting to change (fighting their existence of being a caterpillar, fighting the environment, fighting the metamorphosis itself). If someone tears open the cocoon the butterfly will die. The caterpillar must do the work to change and become the beauty the lies within. They may not understand who they are as a caterpillar, they may not know how to change, they may not have an environment that is safe for them to change, they may fear or not believe they can become a butterfly.

As a therapist I want to assist in understanding of self, to define desires or goals, to encourage and support change and work toward goals, to give tools and interventions, to provide information and education, and to celebrate the butterfly.

Contact me today to start your journey towards, healing, hope, and joy!

Unhappy couple on bench 16 May 2018
How To Handle Infidelity

Marriage is a time when vows are taken.? Vows become a covenant.? Covenant is a word you may not hear a lot of unless you read a spiritual book like the Bible.? It is sacred word. Nowadays, there are people who don?t view marriage as sacred. When people in a relationship commit to each other and exchange vows, ideally, that event should be set apart.? What happens when that commitment is not looked after? If a marriage is left unattended or neglected by either spouse, then ugly will occur. What happens to the marriage if the husband or wife decides to seek comfort in the arms of another?

Infidelity, like adultery, is an ugly word.? Yet when spouses engage in an affair, ugly is the last thing they think about.? It?s a time of excitement and adventure for them.? The nagging guilt of breaking vows is often pushed back. Like an addict, the adulterer is very good at rationalizing their behavior.? It?s only when the person is caught or decides to finally come clean that the repercussions and consequences begin to unfold.? For the person being betrayed?? Other emotions are displayed.? Anger, hurt, betrayal, and sadness come screaming to the forefront.? Overnight, trust is shattered.? They ask questions and no answer seems good enough.

What happens next?? For some, infidelity is a deal breaker and to them there is no option but divorce. Lives are irrevocably changed.? Families are broken up and kids are left to wonder, “what happens now?”? There are a plethora of reasons why the Bible speaks so forcibly on the subject of adultery.? ?Do not commit adultery? is one of the 10 Commandments. God has warned us of the devastation that infidelity can bring.? It doesn?t get much plainer than those 4 words.? It?s Gods way of putting up flashing neon lights, road blocks, and danger signs just to get our attention.? Yet the sexual revolution has made it easier to go around these warnings signs and plow right into the ugly and pain.

There are some couples that fight for their marriage.? It is a difficult and emotionally draining time for both spouses. ?Offending spouses should come to a point of brokenness, not because they got caught, but because it is in that space of brokenness that remorsefulness is authentic that spouses can own up to their trespass. If the repentance is genuine, is there a chance for forgiveness and reconciliation?? For those that seek reconciliation, counseling can be a place where healing begins to take place.? My goal is that when clients meet with me or any therapist at Armstrong Family Counseling that they enter into a safe space that?s nonjudgmental and a place that fosters hope.

Both spouses have to face certain truths about the state of their relationship.? They will have to individually and together decide if their marriage is worth fighting for.? They will have to be willing to listen to each other. They should come to a point where they are willing to walk through the many different emotions and actions that a counseling session might bring up.?

Perhaps for the first time they will learn to be on the same page.? But as I am sure you know, nothing worth while ever comes easy.? Rebuilding a marriage will take time.? There are no easy fixes. ?If you are spiritual, then God or your higher power can play a giant role in bringing about new life to the marriage.? With honest hard work from both spouses, and lots of prayer, there is hope for a new beginning.? One woman wrote on the website The Unveiled Wife about her experience and what occurred when she trusted God to rebuild her marriage into something better.

?There is a reason for EVERYTHING ? every tear, every heartache, and every lonely night. Our marriage is already significantly more intimate, physically AND spiritually, than it ever was in the previous five years. Our God can heal? Our God can renew? It is all possible with our God. Believe!?

If you need help moving forward, I am a relationship expert. I can help you. Don’t wait, contact me today!happy couple

Man smiling | black and white 13 Feb 2018
Defined By My Past

What does it mean to be defined by your past?? The answer lies in the brain. The brain?s primary function is to keep you alive and safe, and that function will override any and all other functions when it perceives that you are in danger.? When I use the word perceive, I mean that over the course of your life, your brain has learned what is dangerous, physically and emotionally, so whenever a situation presents itself, your brain immediately recalls whether any danger has been associated with this type of situation in your past experiences or learning.? If so, your brain will react protectively.

?Learning in the Brain

Your brain learns every time you encounter a dangerous situation.? For example, the first time you were burned with fire, your brain learned that fire was hot, painful, and dangerous.? This programming is deep and long lasting.? For the rest of your life, you will always have some level of fear around being burned by fire.? The same type of learning happens with emotional danger, particularly when shame is involved.? Brain imaging suggests that when a person is overwhelmed with shame, it acts protectively in that same way it would if you were dying.? This suggests that the brain does not distinguish between shame and death.? This further suggests that we learn to defend against anything that the brain perceives as shameful.? This may include performance, looks, perceived competence, social behavior, status, and more.

Trauma?

man being pulled down by a ball and chain

Trauma is any event or sequence of events, physical or emotional, that has permanently raised the brain?s and body?s awareness and preparedness for danger beyond normal levels.? After a traumatic event, there are often permanent changes.? A person?s heart rate may permanently increase or decrease, they may become hyperaware of any potential danger, have an increased startle response, have unexplained anxiety, have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and perhaps most troubling of all, they may have a difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.? In this way, our past is defined by trauma, holding us back like a ball and chain shackled to our ankle.

Getting your Life Back?

group of friends having a picnic with a dog

To restore the person you were, or perhaps discover the person you never had the chance to become, the brain needs to learn that you are now safe, and it needs to learn how to lower its defenses when they are not necessary.? The brain will not let its defenses go lightly as its primary function is to keep you alive and safe.? It takes time, and it usually requires professional help.? As the brain?s defenses begin to lighten up, you are freed to find yourself.? This happens naturally since your faculties are no longer bogged down by the need to be constantly on guard.? People who recover from trauma find that they feel new peace and enjoyment in life, greatly improved relationships, and perhaps most of all, they feel that they are no longer defined by their past.

If you feel like you are defined by your past, if you are having trouble moving forward, or if you just need to get a few things off of your chest?please contact our office today. We have a team of experts who are ready and eager to help you move forward.?We will help you recover from your mental trauma.

Invictus Maneo | Woman With Her Hands Up | Champion 10 Jan 2018
Survivor’s Guilt

Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and has lived to tell the tale is a survivor. This includes those who are currently in such a relationship and either working their way out or making preparations to do so. One large obstacle to ending and healing from an abusive relationship is guilt. This guilt comes from pity for the abuser, which is born of compassion, which the abuser has learned to twist like a knife in the survivor?s gut.

Compassion

Compassionate Hands

Most people are moved with compassion when they see others in pain. Examples include an elderly person having trouble breathing, a parent grieving over the sudden loss of a child, a crippled person struggling to walk, or an infant painfully and weakly crying. Such examples, which move the vast majority of human beings, generally do not move abusive people, because they often lack the ability or desire to feel compassion. Instead, they view such circumstances as tools they can use when the time is right. Can you imagine someone storing the memory of a parent grieving over the loss of child, and later using it to twist and manipulate that person? Not only do people like that actually exist, but there are far more of them in the world than most people realize.

Pity

couple showing pity

Pity differs from compassion in that pity often functions similar to compassion but without boundaries. It can be endless reservoir of power and control. Abusers learn to manipulate survivors into feeling pity for them. They do this by closely observing the survivor and learning what moves them to compassion. They then create intentional scenarios which turn that compassion towards the abuser and simultaneously infuse the survivor with intense guilt. Over time, the survivor is left feeling helpless, stuck between staying in an abusive relationship and living with the horrible guilt of abandoning someone who needs them. The tragic irony is that the abuser cares nothing for them and would feel no emotional loss, only the loss of someone to control and manipulate.

A Way Forward

Leaving an abusive relationship and finding healing is no small task. It is critical for a survivor to continue to have compassion without falling into the trap of pity and guilt. We must see abusers for who they are and not throw away valuable compassion that can be twisted. If we must feel sorry for their eventual fate, it can only be done from a safe distance, well after the relationship has ended and proper boundaries are in place as safeguards. The survivor must also learn to recognize when their compassion is being used against them and learn to keep a proper distance from abusive people. One temptation can be to leave all compassion behind as a precaution against abusers, but this is also a mistake because it leaves the survivor stripped of what once made them human, and the abuser ultimately holding the victory. Instead the survivor must learn to hold on to all them makes them good and regain all that had been taken. The ultimate victory of the survivor over the abuser is the complete restoration of their soul, sending a strong message that they remain unconquered.

Invictus Maneo

?I Remain Unvanquished?

10 Jan 2018
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.

Smiling couple reconciling at therapy session 03 Jan 2018
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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