Baby, You Can Drive My Car: Making Couples and Family Therapy Work

Are you humming that Beatles song yet?


See, here’s the important thing to remember about the state of your union: the relationship between the two partners is the vehicle for change, not the interventions the therapist provides. The therapist is sort of like the gas station attendant who comes out to clean off your windshield so that you can see more clearly. Only, we don’t get to wear the cool shirts with our names on them. Can someone fix that? I need a therapy uniform.


That is both the good and the bad news of couples and family therapy. When you contract with me for this kind of work, you are asking me to be on the side of the relationship—not on either partner’s individual team. That means you must be up to meeting the challenge of working through some scary stuff out loud, even when it doesn’t feel all that great. Therapy should help you sort out the issues that need clarification and help you devise tools together that address those needs. Rather than one-size-fits-all techniques, you will do the hard work of learning to communicate differently about the things that trouble you.  I believe that all of my clients are intelligent individuals who have already tried some common-sense stuff to get the relationship back on track. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing I can give you on a list of ‘to-do’s’ that will make a difference without working intensely on the interaction between the two of you. If it were true that there were certain prescriptions I could simply print out and hand to you, than everyone would be so remarkably fixed by self help books that nobody would need to come to counseling. Somehow, despite the excellent library of do-it-yourself information out there, that doesn’t seem to be the case.


So, it’s the interactional piece—the part where you actually become vulnerable and share the process of your emotional system with others that makes a difference. Wonderfully enough, what most people learn is that they have skills and resiliency they have forgotten to use when the problem is at its worst.


Your Partner in Healing,    Holly


If you would like to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute phone consultation please feel free to call me at 407.913.4988 or email

Free, Free, and Costs You a Little

My mama tells me I didn’t go to a really expensive graduate school to give free services. And, while she’s right, (my husband and son would probably like to continue to live under a roof) I do sometimes give away my therapy and life coaching services. I do this in the form of gift certificate donations to community events that I support. If you are in business for yourself, I really encourage you to do the same. It’s a fantastic way to be charitable that doesn’t require Oprah-type money in your bank account ready to be mailed. Whatever you’re doing, I promise that someone would love to win that for free. I’m especially talking to you house painters, dog walkers, and massage therapists. I need a legion of all three these days! If you need some suggestions about what kind of organizations could use your help, please feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you a few of my favorites. Alternatively, if you would like me to donate a gift certificate to your event, please do let me know that as well.

But, gift certificate raffles are not the only way you can get a good deal here at Lotus Therapy Center. Below are a few ways you can get free or lower-cost services at this practice.

1) “Wine for Whiskers”:The next worthy cause you can support for a chance to win 2 free sessions with me is the SPCA “Wine for Whiskers” event on July 24th, at the Orlando Marriott Downtown. You can check out the details here: Our local SPCA works overtime to help some of Orange County’s finest furry citizens find new homes. Please turn out and show that Central Florida has the biggest collective heart anywhere in the state.

2) Free Pet Loss Support Group: I am in the process of organizing a FREE group for individuals who have suffered the loss of a pet. If you know anyone who may be interested in this, please contact me for further details.

3) Reduced Rates for College Students: I particularly enjoy working with college students of any age. So, I cut my rate in half with proof of current enrollment in any of our fine institutions of higher learning. If you believe that you could use some help with depression, anxiety, or any number of concerns, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring or send me an email.

Your Partner in Healing,    Holly

If you would like to schedule an appointment or a phone consultation please call 407.913.4988 or email me at

Therapy and MacGyver

I know I’m dating myself here, but does anyone but me remember MacGyver? For those of you who are uninitiated in TV of the late 80’s and early 90’s, he was the dude you called in if your butt was in the biggest of slings. MacGyver wasn’t just a hard-core, beat-‘em-up super hero. He was also a scientist, a thinker and an ingeniously creative problem solver. Now that I have given you that introduction, get someone somewhere to help you find the classics for goodness sakes!


The reason that I bring him up (other than to shame you into admitting you remember him) is to point out that we therapists are hired to be the big guns of the psychological world. Clients, in essence, ask us to wave our magic wands, use our greater preponderance of knowledge, and MacGyver out the particularly persnickety problems in their lives. Though this is helpful for our career longevity, I’m sorry to say that it is not entirely practical. Asking someone else to get rid of the parts of yourself that you experience as “other” will not work. Rather, ask him or her how to help you integrate those symptoms into your life in a holistic way. This is not a cue to put up with unpleasant symptoms. Rather, it is an invitation to situate them into a context that demonstrates them to be what they more appropriately are: important communications from inside you that want to be examined, not simply excised.


 Here are a few tips to make the point:


  1. I see dead people: Symptoms (particularly somatic ones like panic attacks) can seem like persistent ghosts intent on jumping out to say “boo” when we least want to see them. Eventually, the ghost doesn’t need to jump out at all; you’re so afraid of being afraid or out of control that you set the necessary physiological context for feeling terrified and panicky all on your own. Bummer. However, the panic attacks most likely started to address a situation in which your body felt you needed to pay extra attention. This may have been because some part of your body or your emotional personhood was, at some point under attack. This can happen through car crashes, rapes or other personal attacks, or even simply through repeated emotional trauma. Though this is a blog for another day, individuals in our society are consistently encouraged to cut off from their bodies and ‘manage’ its weight, looks, health, and sexuality from a one-off stance. This is exacerbated by the tendency for well-meaning health professionals (including we psychotherapists) to prescribe pills in isolation to whip the body-mind connection back into working order. Now doesn’t that sound silly? While psychiatric drugs can be very helpful or even essential to some individuals’ well-being, it must be a dual-pronged approach. The only way to find a way back from the boogie monsters of panic and anxiety is to reintegrate the felt experience with the mind-spirit.
  2. Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean: Let’s talk for a moment about how we get our way in relationships. Usually it’s one of these ways: power, dependency, or sexuality. Of course, there are other creative means to drive your relationships, but this tends to be the triumvirate of favorite methods. Here’s a secret though. You probably don’t see yours. And, most people don’t really want to confront the internal dialog that helps them reduce anxiety by engaging in their favorite method. This is because you’re running on a blueprint that got loaded onto your hard drive a long time ago. It’s auto-pilot and you and I both go looking for folks who have a measure of fit to our own style. This goes awry in therapy when folks want to fix the problems without examining the emotional infrastructures that support their choices. They would prefer to do the work without getting dirty. But, in order to clean up the biggest messes one must sometimes get a hand in the dust. It’s normal, and very brave. When you can not only change the behaviors, but regard yourself with forgiveness and love for doing the best you can with the tools you had at the time, you’re ready for a change. You’re integrating the thoughts and the behavioral responses.
  3. Something’s Always Wrong: What if change in and of itself is not something you feel ready to do? Often, it makes sense to avoid changing behaviors or circumstances if some part of you really believes that this equates to failure or giving up too soon. Many of the battered women with whom I work are not gluttons for punishment. Sometimes, they don’t hate themselves, or even have terribly low self-esteem. Rather, they have a commitment to the principles of marriage or loyalty, and they would rather stay in a relationship that hurts than view themselves as someone who quits when the going gets tough. Far from the stance of helplessness with which most people regard battered women, this is a rather interesting way to represent bravery and commitment. The work in therapy comes from allowing the construction of new definitions of success, loyalty to self, and loving boundaries. What problems in your own life do you complain about and wrestle with but are secretly ambivalent about changing?



Your partner in healing,    Holly


If you would like to schedule an appointment, or a free 15-minute phone consultation please email or call 407.913.4988.