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Category: family therapy

Dividing Family Loyalties When You Marry

Dividing Family Loyalties When You Marry

There is nothing like bringing home a close friend or partner to shine a spotlight on the unspoken rules by which every family, your family, lived and lives. Every family that lives with one another for some time develops a set of patterns for emotional engagement that soon feels like the “family rules.” These expectations for behavior may start within a marriage and strengthen their grip as children are brought into the home. Once the children catch on to these patterns, they begin…

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Loneliness Increases with Digital Workforce

Loneliness Increases with Digital Workforce

Before the advent of the Internet, people worked mostly in the presence of others. Whether they were in the fields of a farm, the sea of typists in an office, the floor of a factory or behind the counter of a retail store, other people and relationships with them were the stuff of every day life. Millions of stay-at-home mothers, who may have been alone with their babies most of the day, nonetheless had that child to hold and other…

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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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Netflix’s “The Crown” & Joy in Marriage

Netflix’s “The Crown” & Joy in Marriage

Netflix’s major release of the second season of “The Crown,” a lavish and brilliantly acted biography of England’s Queen Elizabeth II in her very first years of her reign, is worth every moment of your time. Writer Peter Morgan is creating a masterpiece of historical drama. At it’s core are the conflicts that face a young woman whose father dies relatively young and has the British monarchy thrust upon her at 25. We’re witness to the parallel sacrifices of her…

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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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When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

When Severe Mental Illness Strikes a Loved One

Book Review: “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” by Xavier Amador, PhD.  (Vida Press, 2012) For the last 20 or so years, brain research has helped doctors and therapists understand that the serious mental illnesses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are diseases of brain function. During the century before the “Decade of the Brain (the 1990’s)”, these rare and frightening mental diseases were blamed on bad or inadequate mothering (the “schizophrenogenic mother”), thanks to the early theories of…

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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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What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

Nobody likes to hear someone close to them be critical, blaming or shaming. It feels bad. And sometimes scary. It turns out that when women talk like that to their husbands, contrary to popular opinion, most men feel this intense criticism very strongly in their bodies. And because male bodies “rev up” faster than women’s in stress (heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, tunnel vision), in order to protect themselves and their relationships from too much emotion, men frequently, readily,…

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