Let me tell you, lots of people are undecided about it. Maybe you don't know what therapy has to offer--or maybe you're concerned that once it begins, will it ever end? Maybe it just doesn’t make sense, what do you even do in therapy, isn’t it just talking?
Let me just quell a few of these concerns...
1. Therapy ends when you decide therapy ends.
You should never be afraid to end therapy...when you're feeling that it's time. In fact, it is very exciting for me when someone tells me they are ready to end therapy. It means I have done my job successfully. Set up a check-in every month to see how the process is going. If you feel that you aren’t moving forward anymore, then let’s figure it out. You are the decider of when therapy begins and when it ends. And the door's always open if you feel the need to come back.
2. So what does therapy have to offer?
I can offer a number of considerations, always depending upon what you are looking for:
- I’m an impartial listener. I will hear your story without bias. I LISTEN. How many people in your life just listen? I’m not listening with the intention of giving you my opinion. I just listen and together we hear what you are saying.
- I offer some life skills to help you deal with emotions when they feel overwhelming--like how to manage depression or anxiety or even just anger and sadness when they enter the story.
- I offer art therapy as a creative outlet and a different way to explore what's going on.
- We can explore mindfulness and what that means in your life.
- I also just get to be a support so you are not alone. That’s right. You do not have to do it alone.
3. The plain truth is that therapy is what you make it.
I am here to serve your needs. As an impartial listener, I get to hear the words you say and develop a thicker story and meaning with you. Together, we find the deeper voice and the resolution you are looking for. You have the answers. I just get to be a witness to your authentic truth.
Therapy is a place to explore your story. Yes, we talk. Unlike the movies, I do more than just ask “and how did that make you feel?”
It is a place to just be you. How many places in the world do you get to do that?
In my practice, you get to choose if we do traditional talk therapy or if we explore more creative avenues. The best thing to do is just give me a call and we can figure out if you’d like to come see me.
"Take a quick break! Take a breath!" I tell myself. It feels like it's already been a long day that will never end. I feel totally drained. "I'll just check Facebook really fast," I think. All of a sudden, thirty minutes is gone. Guess what? I don't feel any better and I'm not rested. I'm still just as drained as I was thirty minutes before! Oh, and by the way, I'm still scrolling through Facebook!
The biggest time wasters--Facebook, Netflix or whatever it may be--drain my motivation to do almost anything. I don't feel better having scrolled through page after page of, well, nothing. Yet, somehow, I go back to it all the time. Like so many others around me, I'm staring at a hand-held technology trap, moving my thumbs at blinding speed across a digital screen. Why?
This last week, I decided to change this pattern. Instead of turning to Facebook for my breaks, I turned to my practice of mindfulness. Granted, I did not totally cut out Facebook, but instead of instantly turning there, I paused, caught myself, and practiced mindfulness. Facebook will always be there.
Buzzfeed created this really cool blog post with all these visual animations designed to help practice focusing on your breath! It can be challenging to just breath and count. At first, I found it difficult to hone in on an abstract thing, like breath, and not let my mind wander! These animations make it easier. It is fun to watch the ball wander up as I inhale and down as I exhale. Eventually, I could just imagine the ball as I practice. Then, it became even easier to focus without the animations! Before I knew it, I could practice mindful breath no matter where I was. It's as if I'd turned the table on digital brain traps!
I love keeping this blog post somewhere always accessible (like on my phone), which also really helps with mindfulness. I recommend giving it a try for a few minutes a day. And see if you can try practicing mindful breath for 30 seconds to a minute every day for 30 days! Let me know how it goes!
Are you ready to say good-bye to therapy? How do you know? When is it time for therapy to end?
As a therapist, I always want to help my client achieve their goals. When I was in therapy, before I became a therapist, I always felt awkward trying to say good bye to my therapist. Sometimes, it just felt easier to ghost my therapist. Believe it or not, that is not the best way to go.
Staying in therapy is not about how much time you have been there. Some people stay in therapy for years, while others find therapy is only needed for a few months. There is no correct time to be in therapy.
Let’s start with what brought you to therapy to begin with? Look at the goals you created for yourself. Who were you when you began therapy? Are you living in the preferred version of your life? How have you changed?
Talk with your therapist. It is ok to check in regularly about your goals and intentions for therapy. If there is something that is in the preferred version of your life that you are not living, tell your therapist! In fact, set a regular time frame to check in with your therapist on your goals. Goals change as does the preferred version of your life. Perhaps set a plan to audit your work together every 3 months.
When you are ready, ask your therapist to meet every other week. On your week off, experience what it is like to not have therapy. Then, do a once a month check-in or consultation.
Leaving your therapist on a good note helps you practice saying good bye and also leaves the door open to return to that therapist if you need consultation in the future.
Remember, therapy is your time to get what you need. You decide when it begins and when it ends.
As I sit here recovering from the last argument with my husband, I'm reminded that fights are inevitable. I love my husband dearly and sometimes we just can't agree. That's ok! Before we got married we worked through The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver to "divorce-proof" our relationship.
Their work, in something they call "the marriage lab," discusses "four horsemen" that lead to the demise of relationships. They do not come in any particular order and just because these exist in your relationship right now does not mean that you will break up. The point is to become aware of their existence and shift the power of each horseman.
1. Criticism - Do you know the difference between a complaint and a criticism? How do you voice what you need from your partner? A complaint addresses a singular event or action with which you have a problem, as in "I'm really upset you didn't use a coaster because now there is a ring on our wood table." A criticism, however, attacks the core being of another person, even in something that may seem trivial and suddenly gains more significance than it deserves, as in "I'm really upset that you did not use a coaster. You are always so lazy! Now we have a ring on the wood table forever. Why don't you care? You never care about my things! We can never get nice things?"
2. Contempt - Contempt includes sarcasm, name calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humor, and cynicism. Contempt does not include repairs. Repairs occur in the middle of an argument when one partner tries to make the other laugh to relieve some of the stress of the situation. Contempt, on the other hand, tells your partner that you are disgusted with him or her, ultimately leading to more conflict rather than the possibility of resolution.
3. Defensiveness - Defensiveness usually arrives in response to an attacking partner. However, it does not achieve the desired effect since it unintentionally blames the partner for the problem--it doesn't end the conflict, it only increases it.
4. Stonewalling - When the listener tunes out and shuts down when the speaker is talking. In any conversation, the listener gives the cues on whether they were listening or paying attention. Usually, this horseman arrives after the other three become too overwhelming. When the listener starts stonewalling, not listening and not interested, leading to more conflict. Ultimately, it leads to more conflict.
When identifying the horsemen in your relationship, make it a game rather than an accusatory experience. Helping yourself notice these moments as much as you help your partner. Make a chart that helps both partners in the relationship identify when each of you let the horseman take over. Make sure you allow each partner to identify their own moments and honor them for making this acknowledgement.
I thoroughly recommend reading this book as it has helpful tips to promote and strengthen any relationship.
After getting married, I had a ton of thank you cards to send out! It really made me think about what "thank you" and "gratitude" mean to me. Sitting there writing "Thank you" notes, thinking of all the times I heard from my parents "Make sure you say 'thank you' or 'Did you write a thank you note yet?'" It's become part of my own process of gaining a new understanding of gratitude. What does it really mean to give thanks to someone else? When do I make time to thank myself for what I do? When do I feel appreciation for my life?
According to positive psychology research, engaging with gratitude will promote a healthier and happier life. Who knew those “thank you's" were more than just social niceties! Here are some activities to try out to increase the influence of gratitude in your life:
1. Gratitude Journal - Make it a part of your morning ritual. I know every morning is a rush to get out of the house. Take time for yourself! For one minute every morning for 30 days, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. If your list makes it longer than 3-5 things, awesome! Take notes of how you feel at the end of the 30 days.
2. Gratitude Letter - Is there someone in your life who deserves thanks and appreciation, maybe even someone from your past? Write them a letter thanking them for their support, influence or whatever it may be. Make it heart-felt, genuine and honest. Here’s the hard part: set up a time to meet with this person - maybe over coffee - and read it out loud to them. Notice what it is like for you after you finish reading the letter to them.
3. Gratitude Walk - Take a walk. Notice what is around you. Use your five senses. What does it smell like? What does the air feel like? What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? Any time a thought comes to your mind, acknowledge that it is a thought and return to noticing what is around you. As an art therapist, one thing I’ve done is to take one picture of something that symbolizes that walk. At the end of the month, I collect all these pictures together and create a gratitude collage of what I've especially appreciated from my walks. "Picturing gratitude" really helps me recall what happened during that last month and helps me strengthen my appreciation.
The post-wedding time really left space for me to remind myself to build this as a habit. It may take time to build gratitude as a habit. Leave a note at your door or set an alarm on your phone that reminds you it is a gratitude moment time.
Thank you…and have some good walks!
A blog about art therapy, EMDR, mindfulness, couples relationship, and anything else that might be an interesting thing to share.
Sara Hulan, MA, Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Associate IMF #97806,