A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

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

How to Change your Life with TV

I am deeply grieved that there is no one in my life who loved me enough to get me something with “Bazinga” emblazoned on it for Christmas. You see, I don’t really like movies all that much. The only thing that can ever lure me into watching one is the salty goodness of movie popcorn paired with a punchbowl-sized movie theater soda.  I am, however, an ardent fan of a handful or TV shows. I’ll watch the same ones over and over again until I have the lines memorized. Currently, my favorite is The Big Bang Theory. So, yeah, the complete absence of any Sheldon Cooper memorabilia under the tree has left me wondering if my family really knows me at all. For shame, sister and brother! As a footnote, in case you ever want a really dorky TV fan story, remind me to tell you the one about how a member of my dissertation panel (a distinguished journal editor) caught me making a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference at my dissertation defense and thought it was cool. I  nerd swooned.

Anyway, the point is that a good piece of fiction–be it large screen, small screen or on the page has the ability to bring up stuff in us we may not have known was there.  If the story is told in a compelling manner, we have a sense of sharing a character’s consciousness and experiencing the world through his or her eyes. It’s the only time in which we become so immersed in another that we forget ourselves in someone else’s mental landscape.

I like to use that kind of thrill to my advantage in therapy. My clients are just as good at writing a neat storyline as any author. So, when clients have a tough time forming goals, I give them this assignment:

Imagine yourself five years in the future. This future is a nice future–one you would choose for yourself if you could. It’s one in which you are more content than you are now and have accomplished many of the things you want to do currently, plus a few things you haven’t dreamed up yet. Write yourself a letter from that future self detailing what is different, how that happened, and offering words of advice.

Usually, that assignment is pretty handy at getting us a few behavioral goals to work on right away. But lately, I have been playing around with having clients get letters not only from their future selves, but from anyone else they can dream up as well, including characters they admire from print, movie or TV. I have been fascinated at the array of people my clients have written helpful letters from so far. If you have ever walked out of a fantasy movie and believed for a moment you could do magic, or looked up from a spy novel and wondered if you should try your hand at espionage, you can do this one.

Choose a character–anybody whose skill set you admire will do– sit down at your laptop or journal, and ask him or her to write you a letter detailing the questions I outlined above. What will you learn about courage, creativity or tenacity? What new perspectives you would like to add to your current emotional repertoire? If you’re going to spend all that time inhabiting someone else’s story, why not make them sing for their suppers?

I wish you the best of luck as this new year dawns and you start to author the story of 2013. I hope it includes faith, hope, challenge and a bit of salty adventure. Why don’t you come on in so that we can discuss just how you’ll start on that journey?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Why I Love Working with College Students

I don’t know if anyone has ever told you guys this, but getting a Ph.D. takes forever. I honestly thought that I would be strolling across that stage flanked by my grandkids, leaning on my walker before I ever finished the darn thing. It wasn’t too bad, because I’m one of those weirdos that loved graduate school. My undergraduate studies, however, were a different story.

I am always excited to see college students in my practice because I keenly remember what it was like to be one. Though I hit my stride in graduate school, I found the rush and confusion of my undergraduate program to be challenging. During my Master’s and Doctoral degrees, I studied psychotherapy or something related to it all day, every day. Life made sense. But, during those first four years, running from Underwater Basket Weaving to Spanish to Women’s Lit all in one day fried my brain. Fortunately, I learned to survive and thrive, managing both my classes and extracurricular activities. Despite the many obstacles to my success (like Algebra and my love for dying my hair purple) I still graduated from my undergraduate program as Editor-in-Chief of my university’s student newspaper. Who knows, if this therapy gig gets old, I might get a press pass and head back into the journalistic fray.

If you or your student is anything like I was back then, and could use some guidance in finding the track to success, a few sessions with me could be just the ticket. Counseling can help students get perspective on many of the common issues facing college students of any age. Here are just a few of the concerns I can help you or your student address:

  • Fears about exams and class performance
  • Difficulty fitting in and making friends
  • Worries about communicating effectively with instructors
  • Troubles with roommates and other peers
  • Finding activities that suit your personality
  • Choosing internships and talking with potential supervisors
  • Changing relationships with parents and old friends
  • Social Anxiety
  • Dating and sexual concerns

As this semester draws to a close, why don’t you come on in so that we can figure out how to make next term the best one yet? I promise there won’t be an exam, and I’ll teach you what I remember of Underwater Basket Weaving.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

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Developing an Alter Ego and other Adventures in Mental Health

Who do you want to be, really? I mean, we all have these people that we walk around as day in and day out, and I think we’re pretty good folks most of us. But doesn’t everyone have a secret interior life? Somewhere in each of us is an unrealized ____ just waiting to come out and experience the world through our eyes. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time each and every one of us just threw down the gauntlet and let that guy/gal off the bench.

The inspiration for this post is my friend, Angela. She’s the person who makes me chicken dip when I’m sick, and knows how to do just about any bizarre and crafty thing you can imagine with a hot glue gun. She’s girly and frilly and in addition to that, she’s a really good therapist. So, just picture her now–resplendent with a careful manicure and a kind, nurturing smile. For god’s sakes, the woman makes bedazzled aprons in her spare time. However, my sweet Angela has an alter ego. A few nights a week and on the weekends, she is Nadia Chance, a hellion on wheels with the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins. As Nadia, she straps on roller skates (and fishnets and neon spandex) and attempts to mercilessly mow down other women that are usually bigger than her. As she powers past them, she hollers things that make me blush and that I can’t repeat here. However, when you come in, I’ll share a few of the saltier ones for your entertainment. (Seriously, I have worked in a prison and I’ve learned stuff from Angela as Nadia.)

What Angela knows that most of us don’t know, other than how to skate backwards, is that a full life is one in which we honor the many facets of our personalities. It’s an existence that pays homage not just to your main gig as a partner, parent, accountant or teacher, but all the side shows you could be playing as well. I spend a lot of time in session encouraging my clients to discover their alter egos. Who is that unsung person who has skills and talents that you may only imagine in your daily walk? What kind of challenging and weird stuff does he or she want to do? How would your life change if you not only indulged your curiosity about your unsung fascinations, but also encouraged it as well?

I think there’s nothing worse than burying parts of yourself because you didn’t have the time, resources or skill to make them a full-time endeavor. Where did we get the idea that part-time awesomeness is worse than no awesomeness at all? Angela finds balance by serving as both a healer in the therapy room and a warrior in the rink. I love that kind of duality. I’m wondering where you can find it in your own life.

Why don’t you give me a call so we can talk about it? I would love to help you nurture your creativity, passion and curiosity. I promise it will improve performance in the rest of your life as well.

Your partner in healing,

 

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

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The Great Questionnaire

As I have noted before, NC, the home of my youth is a weird place. It’s a place I love–the place I belong. But, it’s strange nonetheless. For instance, I have yet to understand the rabid, yet tender romance between NC, hipsters and craft beer. I’m a martini girl myself. And no, I don’t consider a beer that was probably made in someone’s backyard and named after a book that neither you nor I have read as a good substitute. I don’t care if it has notes of pumpkin, bread or (as an earnest,  bespeckled young man told me with much gravitas last week) goat. But to be fair, I have always thought that beer tastes in general like goat. So kudos to him for cornering that market.

A fascinating aspect of my practice here is the tendency for new clients to send me questionnaires as a sort of job interview before getting together for the first time. I think this is, in short, fantastic. I have often railed about the responsibility therapists have for being clear about their own therapeutic orientations. Why shouldn’t our clients want to know with whom they’re dealing before moseying off into the clinical sunset with us? However, answering these lists is getting time-consuming–it’s a bit like writing a college term paper every few clients. So, I got to thinking, what if I wrote a blog about this? What if I just included the answer to most of the questions I get asked (minus the really weird ones) in one place? So, here is my attempt to do just that.

1) What is your education? I have both a Master’s and a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy. I’ve worked as a therapist for more than 10 years in a variety of settings including inpatient, outpatient and private practice.

2) What kind of therapy do you do? I am a client-centered therapist who practices from a solution-focused lens. That means that I will work hard to understand the history and context of your concerns while also helping you get traction on your goals quickly. I have been trained in a number of models including hypnosis, CBT, Narrative, Relational and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and use techniques from each of these methodologies depending on the client’s needs.

3) What kind of work is the bulk of your practice? Roughly 70-80 percent of my practice is couples work or clients who are here alone to work on relationship issues. I also work with clients facing depression, anxiety, trauma and grief. I am a certified hypnotherapist and help clients cope with lots of different kinds of issues using that approach.

4) If I have hypnotherapy, will you make me quack like a duck? Though that might be fun for both of us, I won’t do that. As a matter of fact, I can’t really “make” you do anything. Hypnotherapy is nothing more than a different state of experiencing the world. It is collaborative, positive and only as depth-oriented as you would like it to be. Sometimes, it takes clients several sessions to develop the right level of trance for them. But, the more often we do hypnosis the easier it will be to access that state. I never do hypnosis the first session. It’s important to me to have a good working therapeutic relationship before we begin trance.

5) Do you work with children? No, I do not work with children. I do enjoy working with adolescents (14 and older) and have many years of experience doing so. If you are bringing your underage child, we will do family therapy as an adjunct to individual sessions with your child.

6) Do you do substance abuse counseling? No, not in a strict sense. The short answer to why I don’t do substance abuse counseling is because I don’t enjoy it. There are many dedicated therapists who do excellent work with drug and alcohol abuse, and I am happy to refer to them. Over the years, I have found that my clinical interests are in other areas. I do work with family members and partners of folks who abuse substances. That hearkens back to my degree in family systems and is something that I like greatly.

7) Can we do sessions by Phone/Skype/Email? Yes, I will be happy to do sessions via these formats. However, in most circumstances I require that the first session be here in my office so that you can sign paperwork and I can appropriately evaluate your needs.

8) Will you tell my spouse I am cheating on him/her: No, I won’t. The things you say in session alone with me are confidential, unless I must legally disclose them. (For instance, to keep you or someone else safe.) However, I will not work long-term with couples in which one partner is actively cheating when there is no intention to share the infidelity. I will be happy to hold that secret with you while we sort out how you feel, what is happening, and how you want to proceed. But, I don’t find it helpful to continue therapy for a lengthy duration while one partner is covertly continuing to be unfaithful.

9) Do you have experience working with clients from cultures other than your own? Yes, I have been blessed with clients from around the world. I do my best to explore how your background impacts your functioning, and with that understanding, to design effective, culturally sensitive interventions.

10) Are you comfortable working with the LGBT community? Yes, I am. I have worked with LGBT clients from the very start of my clinical experience.

11) Do you prescribe medicine? No, you must go to a licensed medical doctor, physicians assistant or nurse practitioner to get medication. However, if that is something we deem necessary, or something you are curious about, I will be happy to refer you to someone I trust.

12) Why do you offer a free consultation? I offer a free consultation so that both you and I can be sure that I am the right therapist to meet your needs. If I discover that your presenting concerns are outside the scope of my practice (for instance, you hope to address your ongoing substance abuse) I want to be able to refer you out to someone who will better suit your challenges without you having incurred a fee to discover that we aren’t a match.

13) Are you Married? Yes, I have been happily married for 10 years and have two quirky, awesome little boys.

14) How do therapists maintain empathy? I think this is different for each clinician. The easiest way for me to maintain empathy is to understand in exquisite nuance the details of my clients’ concerns. When you have a clear snapshot of how clients’ troubles have developed, how they have wrestled with them and the goals they have, it’s difficult not to feel empathetic. Also, I only book myself as many clients as I can see without feeling tired or burned out. That means that I often have a bit of a wait list. However, I think it is vital for therapists to have good, clear boundaries around their personal time. That way, we can re-enter the room with our clients feeling fresh and helpful.

15) Do you have experience working with grief? Yes. As a matter of fact, my dissertation was on grief responses in bereaved pet owners. In my Orlando practice, I led a free pet loss support group.

16) Do you offer group therapy? Yes, I am hoping to start a Woman’s Therapy Group. If you would like more information about this group or have suggestions for other groups let me know.

17) Do you take insurance? No, I do not take insurance. I will, however, be happy to prepare any paperwork your insurance company requires for you to be reimbursed.

18) Will you be my friend on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter etc.? No, I won’t–and it’s not because I don’t like you, respect you or genuinely enjoy your company. I think both therapists and clients have a right to their personal spaces, and that it’s sort of ethically shady for clinicians to involve their clients in their private lives in that manner. Besides, do you really want to see those pictures of me in Vegas anyway? However, I have set up social networking profiles for Lotus Therapy Center and I would love to connect with you there. I particularly adore my Pinterest!

19) Will you come to my location? Yes, I have a limited number of concierge appointments available. Contact me for pricing and further details.

20) Would you choose to be a therapist again? Yes, I can’t imagine doing anything else!

 

Do you have any other questions I haven’t answered here? Why don’t you give me a call so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

 

 

 

 

 

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