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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Does Your Relationship Needs Urgent Repair?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 @ 10:25 AM

Relationships can be messy. Many couples get in a negative spiral that has taken them so deeply down that they have lost hope. If you are one of these people, keep reading. This post is especially for you.

I've surveyed hundreds of couples and their most common causes for crisis include difficulties with communication, lack of time, fighting, and loss of connection and affectionate in their relationship. On top of these, many couples are afraid of their partner having an affair or have already been impacted by infidelity. In order to move forward you need to be able to get out of crisis mode, heal from pain and, learn better ways of relating.

One of the things that happen when you are full of negativity and in crisis mode is that your brain gets flooded with chemicals that make it impossible to think clearly and to problem solve. It becomes a defeating circle that gets you into depression, anger, and despair.

The first thing you need to learn is how to take responsibility for your own feelings and be able to calm yourself enough for recovering clarity of mind. That's why you need the guidance of someone that know how to guide you out of crisis so that you can plan your next steps.

Over more than 30 years helping couples, I have helped many relationships get out of crisis and back into a happy heart-connected relationship. Because I get many calls from couples in crisis I decided to create a very special intensive half day program I have called: Urgent Relationship Repair Challenge. You can learn all about my program by clicking the button asking for more information.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

6 Tips to Create Strong Family Ties

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 @ 3:09 PM

Family time is a great way to create strong family ties. Frequent family activities forge a shared identity, while togetherness builds closeness and develops relationship maturity. Children actually function better in day-to-day life when they feel connected to their family.

Here are some tips:

  1. Schedule Regular Family Time – Coordinate calendars blocking out time to schedule this valuable experience and be sure to protect it. Carving out the time is the key to making it happen.
  2. Plan the Activity in Advance – Keep a list of fun ideas that each person in the family contributed and allow the children to alternate picking an activity. Decide in advance how to spend this special family time. It is important to be sure to prepare any supplies you will need ahead of time.
  3. Family Time to Play Together – Families that laugh together share many light-hearted moments that encourage acceptance. Playfulness balances the serious sides of life. Encourage your kids to support each other’s activities and endeavors.
  4. Avoid Plugging In – Resist the urge to turn to electronic devices. Instead, come up with creative ideas that encourage creativity, vision, and sharing.
  5. Pray Together – You have heard the quote “A family that prays together stays together.” Sharing a faith, not only builds similar values and a core belief system from which discussion can emerge, but also promotes healthy relationships.
  6. Keep it Simple – The more complex the project or activity the greater the number of variables that can go wrong. Therefore strive for something simple, easy and fun.

Sweet ideas for making family time special are simple but the challenge is to follow through, regardless of the age of your children your family can start now! If you remember to keep family as your priority, it will help to ensure a happy home.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fill Your Marriage Up with Love, Acceptance and Security

Sunday, July 16, 2017 @ 10:52 AM

Last weekend my husband and I went for our “almost” daily walk around the neighborhood. We have a particular route we always follow and on this day our 3 dogs thought it would be beneficial for us to bring them along. My husband had the two smaller dogs which, for the first few blocks, act more like Alaskan sled dogs pulling him down the street as he leans backwards about 40 degrees to keep them from a full run. I had our 70 lbs. well-mannered Weimaraner named Greyson. Since my husband had been nursing an old foot injury, he decided to shorten the regular route and head back to the house. I, of course, had to complete the 1.1-mile route because, if you’ve read my other blogs, I’m OCD and not finishing a task causes me a certain level of anxiety.

He commented to me, as he redirected the 2 little urchins (as we call them) down the alternate path home, that the sky had gotten darker since we left the house and that little bit of thunder you heard could be bringing rain quickly. He suggested that I follow him home via the shorter route. Of course, I didn’t listen.

We parted ways and I began thinking about the clients that I had in store for tomorrow . As I walked down the long back street in our neighborhood, the wind began blowing and the clouds turned into a dark ominous boiling gray mass moving rapidly over me. A few strikes of lightning and claps of thunder later made it evident that my husband was right…again!

As I rounded the corner and headed for home, I still had 3 blocks to go before turning down our street. Four blocks away and across the main road entering our subdivision, I could see a developing blanket of water that began peppering buildings, trees and cars, making them almost obscure under the growing deluge. At this point, there was no rain in our subdivision, only across the main road at the entrance of the subdivision. Do you know that feeling you have when you are trying desperately to reach the open door of a building just before it closes and locks you out? That was my feeling. I was going to get drenched.

What I didn’t know was that my husband had dropped the dogs off at the house and immediately got in his truck and headed out to find me and Greyson. He rounded the corner at our street as the first large drops began slapping the top of my head. By the time he pulled up beside me, my dog was spotted head to tail from the large droplets and I had never been so relieved to see my husband.

He opened the back door of the truck and Greyson jumped in as I hopped into the front seat. As I closed the door, I stared at my husband for a few seconds and said, “I’m so grateful for you, not just for rescuing me from the rain, but for ALL the ways you care for me. “He grinned and said, “That’s what I love to do!”

I relate this little short story not to brag about the fact that I am blessed beyond measure with a great marriage, but to highlight the beauty of spouses that anticipate the needs of their betrothed. Selfless acts relay to the other how much they truly care for them and that their thoughts are constantly filled with that person.

This was not an isolated incident with my husband. He constantly and forever is meeting my needs, even when I don’t think I have a need. He keeps me filled up and never wanting for love, acceptance and security. That’s what I want to convey to my clients – what does it takes to keep a marriage fulfilled to the nth degree? Marriage is an ongoing relationship that needs constant interaction between the spouses to truly fulfill what God intended with this institution. We truly do become one flesh, knowing each other’s thoughts and needs.

Gottman, who has studied relationships extensively, says that we need to always follow what he calls the 5:1 ratio rule. For every single negative interaction, we have with our spouse, it needs to be followed with 5 positive interactions to refill our “love buckets”. Each of us spouses should do a quick check of our marriage from time to time by asking questions like:

  • Are we just like ships in the night passing each other? 
  • Do we have humor, affection and active interest in each other? 
  • Do we feel a real emotional connection to our spouse? 
  • Would you count your spouse as your best friend? 
  • What is our shared meaning together? 
  • How would I feel and react if I lost my spouse? 
  • How are we doing on the “first base goals”: trust, love and respect? 

If you are not happy with your answers, consider seeing someone experienced with couples counseling to give you tools and ideas to bring you closer to your “ideal relationship.”

As a therapist, many clients come to me looking for a solution to their current problems. Some relationship problems are solvable, but as I explain to everyone most problems are unsolvable, you simply need to learn how to manage your problems. And remember, choosing a partner is “choosing a set of problems” (Gottman). In other words, what Gottman is saying is that it is NOT about solving the perpetual problem, but rather it is the affect that surrounds the discussion of the perpetual problem. Learning to accept “problems” as part of any relationship and having the skills to dialogue about them is key to a productive resolution that does not escalate to anger and disconcertion. Something else important to remember is that romantic relationships and marriage often bring out our own “stuff”. This is good provided we take the opportunity to process our “stuff” and learn to heal as individuals. Often our own “stuff” is what is causing the “couple problems.”

I am grateful to be a therapist and I am also thankful to be a “marriage friendly” couples’ therapist and a member the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapist, because I know first-hand that having a great marital relationship offers so many benefits. I am not value neutral when it comes to marriage. I believe that marriage is important for our legacy, our community and our society at large.

Rescuing your spouse from an impending deluge, telling your spouse how much your life is better with them in it, knowing how to anticipate your spouse’s needs and genuinely taking care of every aspect of each other’s lives is essential to maintaining and growing a fantastic marriage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Don't Stand in the Way of Your Own Happiness

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 @ 3:04 PM

Happiness is a difficult concept for most people. Many see it as a point in one’s life where all the pieces come together and fit, just right. Others look for it in material objects. “When I get that next promotion, new car, IT bag…then I’ll be happy.” For others still, it is very elusive and they may even believe that they have no right to be happy. “Oh, I blew it while I was young, guess I’ll be paying for that mistake for the rest of my life” or “Happiness is just for kids, it doesn’t matter for adults.” I firmly believe that happiness is an essential part of a healthy life. The trick is to understand what you are doing that gets in the way of your own happiness.

The simple truth is that many of us waste valuable time, energy, and mental space on two things: past behaviors that don’t matter anymore and stuff we have no control over. For example, I have worked with a client who carried bitter feelings about his junior high school classmates for over fifty years. This person has convinced himself that everyone else was ‘perfect’ and that since he had acne, he could not make any friends. I am sure that if he were to run into any of his former classmates, he would find more similarities rather than differences. However, he assumes that they all are having ‘perfect’ lives in contrast to him, and he becomes frustrated and angry about his current situation. First of all, whatever happened in junior high school is long gone, and needs to be put to rest. Secondly, there is nothing he can do about the past. He cannot change who he was back then or anyone else’s actions toward him.

So, what is a person to do when they have memories of being hurt or disappointed by others? What if you are the one who caused the hurt and you can’t forget about it? The first step is forgiveness. It’s an old idea, I know, but one that is more needed than ever today. I see many people who let opportunities for happiness slip through their fingers because they are unwillingly to forgive others or believe that they do not deserve forgiveness. It is clear that many of us don’t understand what forgiveness is really about. Recently, I heard a wonderful explanation of how important forgiveness is: having an unforgiving spirit is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. When we hold on to things that damage our very souls, we are only hurting ourselves more. The solution is to learn to let go, rather than continuing to carry the burden of our hurt feelings and disappointments. Letting go is essential, because too many of us are being weighed down by the garbage that we try to stuff down, such as resentment, anger, and sadness. That is like drinking the poison, again and again. It only hurts you. It takes strength to release the pain, not letting it take root in our hearts and souls.

Some people mistakenly think that they won’t or can’t forgive until the offending party makes some effort. That sounds reasonable, but what if they never say “I’m sorry”? What if the person you hurt you is no longer living? You don’t need to carry that burden any longer. But, you have to be willing to let it go. I teach my clients that forgiveness is for their own benefit, the other person need not be involved. Forgive for you, not for them.

Now, if you are having trouble forgiving yourself for something you have done, think on this: are you putting yourself above Almighty GOD? If He is willing to forgive you, who are you to say “No, I don’t deserve it”? When we look at life from this perspective, it takes a lot of the burden off you and me. Don’t let bitterness and a lack of forgiveness stand in the way of your own happiness. Practice letting go of whatever has been weighing you down. Pour out forgiveness on others and yourself, and you will be closer to finding the secret of happiness in your own life.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

How to get Fast and Effective Results in Counseling

Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 2:54 PM

Get the most out of the fewest appointments—for faster and cost-effective results!Would you like to get faster (and better) results for your issues?Would you like to spend less money? There’s an easy, often overlooked way to get faster results. This approach is also more cost-effective, because you will need fewer sessions. It’s a win-win!

Motivation and consistent counseling helps you get the most out of the fewest appointments. And delaying appointments only delays the time before you get the results you want. Clients who are less motivated and prolong treatment by setting excessively long gaps between appointments usually end up needing more appointments overall than they would have needed.

Spreading out treatment with several weeks in between appointments can appear to be cheaper (paying less on a per-month basis). But that only makes it harder to get progress because session time is used on new issues, rather than addressing the root problem. A client who uses such an approach needs more sessions over time, and waits longer before getting the results they want.

Understanding what Counseling Actually IS

To get the most out of counseling, it’s absolutely essential to understand what counseling actually IS. Put simply, counseling is effective GUIDANCE to help you SET AND REACH (realistic) GOALS.

The real therapy is what happens BETWEEN sessions, when you apply what you’ve learned in counseling to your life; making better choices, changing your behavior, and improving your relationships.

Making these changes can be challenging, and “backsliding” (returning to your standard, less helpful behaviors) is more likely the longer you wait between sessions.

Optimal Treatment Plan

In most cases, it is recommended to begin with weekly sessions because this gives the client enough time to start implementing guidance from the session, and less time to backslide. Making positive changes gets the client ready for the next challenge. When a client is busy growing and adjusting to the therapist’s guidance, not only can they avoid backsliding, they can also minimize the risk of developing additional issues.

Example of Why Consistency Matters

Like counseling, health treatments also require consistency. They’re only cured when a patient follows their doctor’s recommendations—as referenced in this example:

If you’ve taken antibiotics, your doctor (hopefully) made a point to tell you to be consistent in taking your medication until you have completed the treatment. Many doctors report It’s common for patients to stop medication as soon as they start feeling better—but the strongest bad bacteria (the stuff you really want to get rid of) is hanging on, and comes back with a vengeance; this makes the patient sick all over again. (Referenced information: https://blog.oup.com/2011/11/antibiotics/)

In reality, counseling works in a very similar way. It is common for a client (or couple) to come for a session or two, feel better, and stop counseling, only to return a few months later—realizing that they stopped before working on or resolving the root of their issues. When deep, meaningful change has not taken place, the same issue or an issue that arises from the unaddressed root problem appears.

It might seem that the original problem was fixed, but the client (or couple) had only learned to avoid, or tiptoe around that problem. It alleviated the symptom, but not the “disease”.

Change (or more precisely, worrying about making a change) can make change seem painful. This is why it takes time—AND CONSISTENCY—to make a positive, permanent change. This pain often causes clients to cancel or unnecessarily appointments.

As mentioned, delaying appointments only delays the time before you get the results you want. It also allows additional time to develop unhelpful behavioral patterns which can create problems. Like the example with antibiotics—you could end up wiping out only the easiest problems first…but without learning to properly develop healthy behaviors and coping skills, you’re unable to tackle the remaining problems.

So, in short—
Get Motivated!
Get consistent treatment!
Get faster results for the positive, permanent change you need!

People with OCD are Often Misunderstood

Thursday, July 06, 2017 @ 1:10 PM

I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Some days are better than others and some days are terrible. This is not something I share lightly or even share with pride. It is debilitating and very real. On a day-to-day basis, it interrupts my life. I lose time. I lose sleep. I can perseverate on specific fears. It can result in depression and loss of relationships. It is not easily described, understood or tolerated.

I have fears and anxieties that compel me to act compulsively. These compulsions, I know do not fix any of my anxieties, nor do they take away my fear. On the contrary, they create a more vicious cycle. An internal cycle of obsession fed by compulsion. How would I begin to share this with anyone? How do I describe the symptoms of OCD with not being laughed at or worse yet, believed?

What OCD Is

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. OCD is a disorder that it is clinically diagnosed when specific criteria is met; when anxiety reaches levels that causes significant deficits in a persons’ life. Usually at the root of OCD is a fear/s that may be connected to real life trauma. The person obsesses on the fear to the point that it causes anxiety and in severe cases panic attacks. From this point, the person creates ways to decrease their anxiety from the fear by creating a ritual/habit/compulsion. Initially, this compulsion seems to bring relief from the anxiety, but it is temporary. The anxiety usually returns, but much stronger and the person needs to engage in the compulsive ritualistic behavior at a much higher frequency. There are some similarities here with drug addiction. The first time someone gets high, they don’t need that much. The longer they do it, the body gets accustomed to the substances, the more they will inevitably need to do to get that same first high.

What OCD is Not

OCD is not something to be proud of. I have heard people talk about how they like cleanliness and things to be organized and they say things like, “I’m pretty sure I have OCD.” And they will say that with a smile on their face, as if living with this disorder is some kind of secret virtue. OCD is not stubbornness and it is not simply wanting things to be a certain way, due to selfishness.

That being said, I frequently am meditating on Romans 12:2, 1 Thess 5:18, 1 Peter 5:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:13

Questions that constantly flow through my head each and every day are:

  • Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. How do I not be transformed by this world?
  • 1 Thess 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. How do I give thanks in all my circumstances?
  • 1 Peter 5:7 cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. How do I cast all my anxieties on the Lord and what does that look like?
  • 1 Corinth 10:13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. How do I trust God to lead me through temptation?

I share this with the hopes that it may be helpful for those with OCD and for those who do not suffer from this disorder. There is still a responsibility from everyone that is in the midst of suffering to respond in a worshipful way Jesus. For me that looks like regular reading of the Bible so I can understand who God is, what He promises and who he has called me to be. It means going to church to worship Christ. For at least one day a week, I get to take the focus off myself and place it on the one who gave me hope. Finally, I must be in community. In community, there is hope for life, change and love. In my isolation, there is only loneliness and misery and no freedom from OCD.

If you feel this piece would be helpful for others, please pass it on.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

How Heart Centered Hypnotherapy Can Help to Heal Deep Wounds

Saturday, July 01, 2017 @ 6:51 PM

“Talking gives you great insight, but experiencing gives you great healing.” These words came to me as I prepared to experience Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy for the first time as a client.

Over the past few years as a therapist, I have longed to go deeper with my clients. I have longed to help them heal their deepest wounds and inner self, yet while I have received excellent results from EMDR and other therapies, I felt there might be something else that would get them to a deeper understanding of their authentic self.

But before I go farther, I need to admit something to my readers…I was scared when it came time for my own sessions. I was asking myself, “What will I learn about my sub-conscious?” “How much healing do I still need in spite of years of my own talk therapy?” “Do I really want to know more about myself?” “What if I feel worse afterwards?” After all, I feel healthy and happy just the way I am. But then, a peace came over me and I felt God gently tell me that I can’t ask my clients to do something I was not willing to do myself. That’s when, I went for it, throwing myself on the couch, feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

But before I tell you about my own experience, let me lay to rest a few myths about clinical hypnotherapy. Clinical Hypnotherapy is NOT like stage hypnosis. The myth that someone can control your mind is erroneous. The people chosen for stage hypnosis and asked to “cluck like a chicken” are simply folks that will go along with simple suggestions. They are not doing anything against their will.

The type of hypnotherapy I practice in my office would best be described as intense healing therapy performed while the client is in a subconscious relaxed state of mind. Our feelings and emotions, along with intuition lie in the subconscious part of the brain. The conscious brain only makes up about 10% of our mind and the other 90% is the subconscious. Previously, my clients and I talked through an issue repeatedly, which often led to great insight, but did not necessarily result in healing the inner wounded part.

In spite of all of my research and excitement about this therapy, I still had a few of my colleagues that tried to discourage me by explaining that there is something “dark” about hypnosis. I’m sorry, but that is just not correct about clinical hypnotherapy. The truth is that all of us spend time in a subconscious state every day. An example of this is praying or meditating. Another example is fixating on the road while driving or just focusing our attention on something and not listening to what someone is saying to us. Sound familiar? None of these things are scary or have anything negative associated with them. It is important to note, at anytime you are receiving clinical hypnotherapy, you are able to snap back or “unrelax” yourself at any given moment. Any “suggestions” that might be given to you in a relaxed state can easily be rejected; besides, in clinical hypnotherapy, if suggestions are given, they are client driven.

So, back to my personal clinical hypnotherapy—First, the short version is…I received healing. Secondly, “experiencing the emotions” and not just talking about them, drove the healing process. Finally, the most important aspect is the “heart centered” approach of the therapy.

Without the heart-centered approach to hypnotherapy, you risk opening up your emotions and feelings, being left raw and re-traumatized. This is where therapy gets derailed. A client experiences what we therapists call an “abreaction” which is a fancy way of saying that you feel the same emotions as if the old trauma is happening again. The sad part is, often the client is sent home in this raw emotional state left to sort things out for themselves and feeling abandoned once again.

The gift of Heart Centered Hypnotherapy is that the risk of re-traumatization is mitigated by addressing the abreaction and teaching the client how to be the nurturing person (in that moment) that they so needed at the time of their old trauma.

During my experience, I have witnessed people that have been through severe trauma and after receiving Heart-Centered Hypnotherapy emerge with insight, restoration and unconditional love. While the process is much more detailed than can be explained in a blog, I can tell you one thing; this therapy is life changing for many people, including me.