You're The Expert!

I've become aware of the fact that it makes me intensely uncomfortable when clients (or others) say "Well, you're the expert!" with any sincerity (joking is always appreciated.) I'm never quite sure how to respond to that. Especially since there are some days I feel like the expert of NADA!

In part it is the truth- I'm "the expert" on mental health, psychology etc... (assuming there's no one more qualified in the room, then they're the expert! :) ). On the other hand, there's something very important that I'm not the expert on: you.

Television and movies like to portray the mental health field in one of two ways: either a bumbling idiot who commits ethical and legal violations galore, or as the consumate expert on everything and everyone. I'm not sure which is worse honestly. While the first can be excused for dramatic license (I suppose), the second sets up false expectations for therapy. I also think that false expectation of "The Omnipotent Expert" scares a lot of people away from the field, who would benefit greatly.

The reality is this, I'm a therapist, not psychic!  I do not posses magic pills, nor wands. In a perfect world, I would- but unfortunately I'm still waiting on that... What I do posses is experience, knowledge, expertise... but without your input- they may as well be useless. I can only help so far as you are willing to meet me.

As much as it might be fun, I don't socialize at parties "knowing" everything about everyone in seconds of meeting them. Likewise I don't have "The Answer" to your problem within the first hour of meeting you. Like all human relationships, there is a learning curve. And (sadly) I can only apply expertise to what is available to me. Meaning: if you hide something, I can't help you there.

I say this because part of what is important to me, is to demystify the counseling process. Like anything else in life, counseling is a relationship. It takes time to learn one another. It takes time to establish trust. It takes time to learn clients' stories and feelings. And then it takes time for the client to internalize the changes. And maybe that's not magic enough for some, but for me- it feels magical.  To be trusted on this most important issue: a person's very life, is a great honor. It's much less about "expert" and much more about partnership.


Different Types Of Therapy: A Primer

"What do therapists DO?"

This is sadly one of the hardest questions for me to answer. Because the answer depends entirely on why you're seeing them. That's also one of the reasons I have the most interesting job on earth: no two days are alike. My day can begin with a client who has a debilitating phobia, include a married couple on the brink of divorce, and end with a combat veteran struggling with PTSD. How could anyone get bored?!

In my personal opinion, the needs of a client should greatly influece WHICH form of therapy you utilize. After all, will a person with a phobia have the same needs as the married couple for therapy? Will their goals look the same? Likely not.

But enough about me, I decided that I wanted to create a sort of "primer" on different types of therapy- because in my mind an educated consumer is a better consumer... And knowledge is power.... And several other cliches. What I'm trying to say is: I hope you can use this list to begin to educate yourself about therapy, and what methods most closely align with your personal belief system. I also hope you can use it to find a therapist who is a good match for you. (I personally utitilize all these philosophies in my therapy with clients).

So without further fuss, here is my "Ridiculously OverSimplified List Of Popular Therapy Methods"*

Cognitive- The belief that if you change your thoughts, you change your life. Focus is on ending destructive thought patterns and employing healthy ones.

Behavioral- The belief that our behavior is shaped by reward and punishment. Focus is on ending destructive behaviors and begining healthy ones.

Attachment Oriented- The belief that our attachments (both bad and good) to primary caretakers as a child, now influences our current relationships (for bad and good). Focus is on relearning healthy attachment.

Multigenerational- The belief that our relationships and behavior are influenced by what we learned from our own family growing up. Focus is on increasing awareness of what we learned, and relearning healthy forms of relating.

Experiential- The belief that change takes place in the here and now, and emotional expression and awareness is the vehicle. Focus is on active therapy, employing the use of the client's immediate emotions and experience.

Psychoanalytic- Freud is most famous here: the belief that unconcious thoughts and motivations cause mental illness. Focus is on making the unconcious, concious.

Psychodynamic- The belief that our past emotional experiences shape our current interactions with people. Focus is on self-awareness, employing the use of emotions and communication.

Structural- The belief that relationship trouble is caused when we become rigid and repetitive and lose adaptability. Focus is on identifying areas of rigidity and making them flexible.

Strategic- The belief that all behavior (both healthy and not) is motivated by power and control. Focus is on restructuring the power balance in a relationship.

*My disclaimer: Psychology Students- do NOT use this to study for exams, it is but one person's opinion (and you can be certain that I have missed important points!) Fellow health professionals- I beg in advance for your forgiveness if you feel I butchered or left out your modality of choice,  see above. Thank you :)

Self-Portrait Is A Bad Idea

So it occurs to me recently that I might want a more professional image (than the current photo of me picking apples with my son) on my blog and website. And (in a flash of brilliance) I thought, "what better way to show people the 'real me' than to take a self-portrait?"

I mean: its sunny, I have a camera, its my day off and my son is sleeping. Conditions are perfect, right? Well.... let's just say the experience taught me one thing: I need to pay a portrait photographer to do this. And I will, one of these days.

In the meantime might I unveil:

This one was an accident, I didn't realize the camera was zoomed in.
For some reason, it is my favorite.

I like to call this one "Oops"

Okay, so at least this one is visible. But I'm not feeling it represents me very well.

And perhaps with this one, we should just call it a day.

Like I said, lesson learned: Leave this job to the professionals. But hey, at least you now know what I look like (kind of).

Technology Fasting

I don't generally share personal things, for obvious reasons (first, to protect my personal life from my professional one. Second, because who wants to hear it anyway? ha!) And this may shock you, given the tone of my previous posts. But today I want to talk about something so important, I feel like I should come out of the closet:

I am a technological junkie.

There, I said it. Whew! I feel better. You might have read that sentence with images in your mind of someone with the latest and greatest technology. A Steve Jobs follower who buys tickets to stand in line for the thrill of buying the newest Apple creation. But nope, that's not even where I'm going with this.

Instead, what I mean is- technology has infiltrated every aspect of my life- to the point that it is impacting my personal relationships. Judge me if you must, but first ask yourself if this has ever happened to you:

Hubby: (walks in the door)
Me: (on the phone dealing with customer service, while facebooking on my laptop)
Hubby: (kisses my cheek and says hi)
Me: (barely registers the cheek kiss, and quickly returns it)
Hubby: (goes to change clothes)
Me: (Now surfing for a new recipe, while chatting with two friends, and updating my blog)
Hubby: (Returns to room and attempts to tell me a story from his day)
Me: (Realizes he's talking about halfway through his story and now must make awkward decision of whether or not to admit I don't know what he's talking about...)

Okay, so what did you notice here? The fact that I was completely not present? The fact that I missed various opportunities to connect? The fact that I quite possibly made my husband feel unimportant? Or how about the fact that this "scene" had .... NO DIALOGUE...?

.... Oops......

So what to do? Well perhaps a true junkie ought to go cold turkey. But I can "handle" moderation. Right? So now I'm on a tech fast (self-imposed). I can use the computer for work (which means expect a lot more blog updates- ha! :) ) And I'm free to watch the tv during the day (as if I have time for that). But when 5 pm rolls around... computer and tv are OFF.
And like a true junkie, the mere idea of this gives me chills. Whereas my evenings once seemed too full, they now span in front of me, looming large. What will we do with all that time? The answer so far: walk, exercise, sit outside, talk, read, clean, play... in a nutshell: live life.

Huh, so that's what this is about....

tags:counseling, counselor, depression, emotions, facebook, healthy attachment, ideas, love, marital counseling, marriage, motherhood, myspace, parenting, personal growth, pace of life, priorities, relationship counseling, relationships, self-help, technology and mental health, television, therapist, therapy, twitter

A Day for Lovers

Unless you lived under a rock, you know that we just passed valentine's day. I always find the holiday especially interesting, because the reaction to Valentine's is so widely varying. While one might decorate their home in anticipation, others make it a personal mission to let everyone know just how "stupid" a holiday it is.

Of course, being in the business of loving personal relationships- I take the opportunity to observe all the funny behavior that happens around this holiday. Over the years I've collected random stories, but my favorite fact is now this:

On Valentine's Day our website received seven times the average number of hits for a Sunday.

When I first realized this, I had to chuckle to myself as I imagined angry wives plunking "marriage counseling" on their keyboards Feb 14th (the most popular keyword search). Or perhaps it was a frantic and placating man saying "Fine! We'll get counseling!" I realize these are stereotypes, but I'm being honest- it was what ran through my head as I laughed.

Whatever the case, it appears that love (and the celebration of love) is not quite a Hallmark commercial. Duh. And a part of my heart is warmed that people are reaching out for support when they face marital turmoil, instead of suffering silently as they did in years past.

But after the chuckling, laughing, and heart-warming... I am struck by one final thought:

The average number of phone calls... did not raise at all.

And that is sobering to me.