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Category: counseling

I’m Not That Kind of Christian

I’m Not That Kind of Christian

I’m frequently asked by prospective clients for my counseling practice if I am a Christian counselor. I’m sad to say that it’s not always easy to answer this simple question anymore. Not because my faith has changed, but because American culture has changed. Very often those who ask are looking for a very particular kind of Christian to be their therapist. And so, to answer their question, I often need to figure out just what kind of Christian therapy they…

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What is Structural Family Therapy?

What is Structural Family Therapy?

I’m grateful to Sal Minuchin for helping us as family therapists understand, conceptualize and maneuver within the dynamic structures of families: the way that the emotional and legal connections of parents to their children over generations create fluid as well as fixed patterns of hierarchies, loyalties, rules, subsystems, coalitions and boundaries. While we may know these experiences instinctively, his theory gives us a vocabulary, structure and system of talking and thinking about these automatic family features. I’m particularly glad for…

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Sometimes it IS About You

Sometimes it IS About You

As a family therapist and systems thinker, I view the conflicts and discussions in my therapy office as shared events and problems. We are all connected; what I do effects my spouse, my children and other close relationships, just as what they do effects me. But there are times when one person’s habits, behaviors, attitudes, or choices are the source of a system’s pain. A problem frequently has a source. And it just might be you. One of the most…

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Healing Traumatic Memory

Healing Traumatic Memory

If only life was one long, beautiful, inspirational journey. But it’s not. Some of us know that life can include experiences of such fear, helplessness and pain that we wonder how we survived. Over time, and with support, most of us get back to what we would call our normal. Yet others of us discover no matter what, we just can’t. We call these experiences psychological trauma, the kind of experiences that steal our mental equilibrium. Many traumas have their…

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Core Long-Term Marriage Skills

Core Long-Term Marriage Skills

One of my couple clients asked me to create a summary of our work together. I know these skills apply to nearly every long-term marriage, so I share them here. 1. Assume positive intent from your spouse. Trust him/her. Build positive interactions. Look for the good. Notice it, appreciate it. Stop trying to control the outcome of every interaction so that you feel less vulnerable. Protect yourself less, be open to one another more. 2. Self-focus: always pay more attention to…

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Direct vs. Indirect Communication

Direct vs. Indirect Communication

Nearly every time I meet with a new couple, one or both of the partners will tell me they think that their main problem is “communication.” When I ask them to tell me more about what they mean, they will often talk about repeated and escalating conflicts, days of avoiding contact, in-house separation, lack of eye contact and physical touch, and constant critical vocal tones. And more. What I hear in that sad list of problems is a relationship that…

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Racism and Trauma

Racism and Trauma

For decades, family therapists and other mental health professionals and researchers have believed that trauma in one generation can be expressed in the genetic code and passed as psychological suffering and vulnerability in following generations. This fact has been demonstrated in animal studies for years, but few human trials have followed. A research team at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, studying the DNA and mental health of survivors of World War II Nazi atrocities and their children, have newly…

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In The Therapist’s Office (now)

In The Therapist’s Office (now)

Every so often patterns seem to emerge from the diverse clients I see. Here’s what I’m noticing now: 1. Couples in my area are coming to counseling at higher distress levels. In our initial conversations, they easily say their problems go back years, not months. This often translates into one or both of the couple completely emotionally “finished,” and only coming to counseling out of a sense of obligation or the expectation that the divorce process in their county will…

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When To Get Marriage Therapy

When To Get Marriage Therapy

Most couples come to therapy when they have completely run out of steam. While there is a great deal that MFTs can do to help, it’s not a time in the family when people feel resilient, optimistic or energized. In order to create permanent change, one needs a good deal of hope and energy. And so does one’s partner. I’ve observed that for many couples (especially those who have had a less-than smooth relationship history, full of stops and re-starts,…

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Getting the Love You Want: Review

Getting the Love You Want: Review

Getting the Love You Want : A Guide for Couples by Harville HendrixMy rating: 3 of 5 stars 3.5 stars Hendrix and I have preaching and church ministry as a young adult in common. I love this about him. What I don’t love is that his psychology model is born of psychoanalytic and Freudian models. He believes that we marry unconsciously to heal the wounds that our early lives have inflicted upon us, and that good marriages heal those wounds….

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