A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

Success in Family Counseling

teenIf there are two groups of people that don’t want to be in the same room at the same time when the same argument is happening for the 5,009th time, it’s parents and teens. Young adults manage to conjure up rather remarkable dark, withering stares that leave me chilly from across the room. And, they often continue that voodoo side eye the entire first session. However,  I can hardly blame them–I wouldn’t trust me at first either. Why would it make sense to make yourself vulnerable to someone you can only assume is aligned with your parents?

The job of a good family counselor is to find a way to communicate with everyone in the family, surly teens included. So how can parents help family therapy meet with success?

1) Do your research–Participating in family counseling requires you to trust the therapist enough to allow that person to speak with your kids alone, and to keep some things confidential about those conversations. Of course, if I hear anything that leads me to believe your child is in danger or may be hurting him or herself, you will be advised of the situation. Otherwise, sessions between counselors and kids are somewhat private. Knowing this, you should interview several therapists and choose one you believe shares your goals and values.

2) Do your homework–Therapy is like a rest stop on the road of family life. It’s a place to get a cool drink, gather your thoughts, and stretch for a moment. But, the real stuff is happening outside of my therapy room. If I assign homework, it’s because I want to bridge the learning between sessions and encourage consistent change throughout the week. When you participate outside of therapy as well as inside the meetings, you will teach your children that family is important and that growth is everyone’s responsibility.

3) Ask Questions–Now is the time to ask your kids how they’re feeling and what they make out of challenges facing the family. Families who succed in therapy do so because they have learned to break out of old ruts and speak to one another in a process-oriented way. When you enlist your kids to help solve problems (including the ones they create) they will feel valued and give you a taste of their love and creativity.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see how I can help you achieve your goals, please call me at (407) 913.4988 or email holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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Follow Me on Twitter!

twitter logoThose of you who know me in any regard will remember that I have been fervently against capitulating to twitter juggernaut. Oh sure, everybody and their mamas are letting the world have a blow-by-blow of each and every waking moment. But I haven’t been sure that I want to participate in something like this simply because of the fact that I think producing a “tweet” sounds undignified. For some reason, it strikes me as a noise I would have been forbidden to make at the dinner table growing up.

But, after much pressure from friends and clients alike I am finally making the leap. If you would like to follow me, my twitter ID is HollyCoxLMFT. I’ll do my best to create some original content that will lead legions of followers to know more about good mental health, life balance, and healthy relationships. That, or you’ll know what I had for breakfast.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to discuss how I can be helpful to you, please call me at (407) 913-4988 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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Infidelity Wired: A Counselor's Perspective on Online Affairs

onlinepicThis morning a reporter from Channel 6 called to ask me my opinion about a website that has gotten quite a bit of press lately, www.ashleymadison.com. I almost hesitate to even put the link here because I would be loathe to think that I actually helped anyone find this site and consider using it. However, after a busy morning, I might have been too late  in returning that reporter’s message to make it on the air.  Just in case they run the story without me, here are my thoughts on the topic.

For the uninitiated, this website is the newest form of online matchmaker. Think eHarmony or match.com fueled by a liberal dose of predatory immorality. The sole purpose of this  site to help married people hook up with others (married or not) for  affairs. Think I’m exaggerating? The catchphrase is “Life is short. Have an affair.”

Now, I’m no prude. I’ve worked with clients who have a variety of sexual lifestyles, and it’s not ordinarily my place to judge them. But this is not about lifestyle choices between consenting adults. It’s designed to keep one partner in the dark about the sexual activities of the other, and apparently helps thousands of people abandon all notion of working out differences in an explicit way. Furthermore, the maker of the site, Noel Biderman, uses the negative press generated by the discussion of his website to exemplify the old adage about any publicity being good publicity. I’ve seen interviews with this guy and I think he’s absolutely ghoulish–dancing on the graves of destroyed families for personal profit. Biderman seems blissfully unclear why  broken homes and children who must suffer through the divorces of their parents should be any deterrent to making some quick cash. If there is such a thing as karma, we all better stand back. This guy is in for a real whammy!

The internet has changed the face of marriage because it allows for emotional affairs via email, chat, and webcam that can quickly become real-life encounters with people that you might never meet in your everyday experiences. The Ashely Madison site is a sterling example of how someone recognized this new frontier and decided to make money off of it. Going online brings up issues that didn’t exist in the past when there was simply one family phone in the house and written mail came to the door. How do we negotiate the amount of privacy we want for our email inboxes, the sites we visit, or the content we view? To what degree do our spouses have “right” to know what we’re up to when that mouse is in our hands?

In the past, affairs were largely opportunistic, started with someone a person knew from work, circle of friends, or religious institution. But that also came with a certain amount of risk.  People might start to notice, and word might eventually get out to one’s partner. Now, sites like Ashley Madison inject another layer of privacy into the endeavor of infidelity and play to the consumerism  that Americans fall prey to so easily. It’s like a fast food affair: place your order, browse the menu on the site, and indulge in whatever flavors you think aren’t available at home.

The Ashely Madison commercials suggest that we have a  ‘right to be happy’ in a way that is individually determined,  and that happens in a vacuum from the people that we love. However, unless you grew up alone in the wilderness, you know this is not possible. We have to make choices in our lives between the types of happiness that we want. Some are mutually exclusive despite what marketers would have you believe.

My clients know that I believe in absolute transparency with online activities. I think that partners in established, commited relationships do have a right to know what the other person is looking at, with whom they are talking, and about what. That inevitably makes me unpopular with some people in my therapy room. No, I do not believe you have a sovereign right to have your ex-girlfriend or boyfriend on your Facebook friends list if your husband or wife doesn’t like it. Nope, I don’t think that chatting online (or texting) with that cute guy from work after hours is OK. I think that at the bottom of it all, human beings are incredibly complex and gorgeously emotional. If we want to stay married (or committed) we have to respect that temptations exist not because we’re bad, but because we’re curious, sexual, vibrant beings. If we don’t create boundaries for ourselves and our families, problems will crop up quickly, and vultures  like Noel Biderman will be waiting to seduce us with the promise of a quick thrill.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation to see if I might be a good fit for your concerns and goals please contact me at 407.913.4988 or holly@lotustherapycenter.com.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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Tales of Anxiety and Advertising

anxietyIn general, I don’t expect people to come through my door and tell me stories of happiness and satisfaction. (At least in the early stages of therapy anyway.) But lately I have noticed a trend in my clients that is more than a little disturbing. They come to counseling rife with complaints that must be completely annihilated before happiness can ensue. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for a big ol’ dose of the smiles. But, I don’t believe that we should all wait until our lives are tidy piles of organized bliss to take ownership of contentment or satisfaction. I’m reminded of a song lyric that goes something like,”life’s a journey, not a destination.”

For most of us to feel better we must get away from the idea that we must be anxiety-free. There is no such thing, and whoever told you there is needs to have his or her hands spanked. We are wired to be alert to our surroundings and to respond appropriately when in danger. That requires the tightening of muscles and cascade of bodily chemicals we all try to meditate, exercise, and generally voodoo ourselves out of feeling. This begs the question of how we moderate our stress and balance our lives without expectations of perfection that make us crazy. I am not suggesting that we all sit tight and bite the bullet when we feel anxious. But, I am curious how we can start to view mental health as integrative rather than an all-or-nothing affair.

Of course, everything in moderation, right? That’s right–even feeling crumby sometimes. Authors John Forsyth and Georg Eifert point out that we live in a “culture of feel-goodism” that robs us of our ability to take anything in stride. Media outlets everywhere keen to market their products tell us that we should feel, look, and be better and better all the time. Why, if we aren’t totally satisfied at any given moment we must seize that moment and dress it up with food, stuff, or experiences.  Poppycock! ( And boy, do I know of what I speak. I’m fighting off a commercial-induced Dairy Queen craving right now.)

I encourage you to take a look at what thoughts prevent you from living right here, right now. If you have a commitment to some far off goal of delirious joy that must be achieved before you can savor the moment, please slow down a bit. The way anxiety (and depression and a host of other maladies) rob us of our joy is by making us believe that where and who we are are not good enough. Isn’t it funny how popular advertising mimics mental illness?

The individuals that I know who are truly happy are not problem-free. Rather, they are free from the burdens of believing that they must never feel overwhelmed again to be happy. That is the perfectionistic demon of anxiety talking, and it has a loud voice.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation, please contact me at 407.913.4988 or holly@nova.edu.

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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Lessons from a Long Weekend

fireworksI hope everyone had a nice 4th of July! We spent ours eating too many hot dogs and frying ourselves in the sun. What better way is there to commemorate any holiday?

I don’t know about y’all, but that long weekend couldn’t come too soon. Though I used to be a total workaholic, I can’t hang like I used to years ago. Now, I am reasonably selective about the hours that I keep at my practice. I love what I do and I want to keep it that way. However, last week I decided to pinch hit for a friend and facilitate challenging, court-madated groups in his practice. Of course, that was along with managing my regular clients at Lotus. Whew,  was I tired by the end!

That experience got me thinking about self-care and how we integrate it into our lives.  Finding an oasis for ‘me time” as you run after dogs, kids, coworkers, and partners can seem nearly impossible. But, research from a variety of different disciplines points out that we are unable to function at out best if we don’t recharge and refuel. I don’t need to go to the lives of my clients to find out that many of us don’t do that–I struggle with it myself. I have discovered  that those of us in caring professions are the absolute worst at taking time for ourselves. I have had the pleasure to work with a good number of other helpers in my practice and have noticed that counselors and nurses seem to be the worst at saying ‘yes’ to themselves. There appears to be something about self-nurturing  that feels like self-indulgence for them. They are usually the clients that I worry most about when they leave because they burn the candle at both ends at home and at work.

So, as the summer continues to march along, let’s remember to fill up our own tanks so that we can continue to interact with others in the caring manner to which we are accostomed.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

If you would like a FREE 30-minute consultation, please feel free to contact me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com or 407.913.4988

www.lotustherapycenter.com

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