There are 4 typical misconceptions about family therapy:
1. Family therapy takes a long time. Medicating children or teens for their problems is much quicker.
2. Family therapists blame parents for their children's problems.
3. Family therapy means that the whole family will have to be present at every session.
4. Family therapy is ineffective.
Here are facts that will set these misconceptions straight.
Many people, when they hear the word "therapy," get a mental image of a Woody Allen-type character spending countless years on a therapist's couch with little or no improvement in his original problem.
When parents hear "family therapy," they think it will take years to complete. This is the first misconception about family therapy.
From its very beginnings, family therapy has typically been "brief therapy." This is what attracts many therapists to work with families in the first place.
Master family therapist Jay Haley says, “the average number of sessions required to resolve a child's problem is seven.” Family therapy is not traditional individual therapy, which can take a longer amount of time.
Many parents believe that a family therapist is going to blame them for their child's problem. Why else would the therapist want to include parents in their child's therapy? Parents already feel terrible because their child is unhappy or struggling at school. They don't want to feel even worse by having a therapist point the finger at them or label them "dysfunctional." No wonder parents want to head for the hills when they think about calling a family therapist. This is the second misconception about family therapy.
One of the most basic notions in family therapy is the concept of joining. "Joining" means that the therapist respects and listens carefully to each and every member of the family. The therapist may ask parents to change certain aspects of their parenting, such as being consistent about rules and consequences.
We may recommend that parents alter particular aspects of their communication with one another, such as not arguing or yelling in front of their child. We may recommend that they give their child more choices about food, clothing, etc. or limit their child's time on electronic screens. But family therapists are very aware that we must have a good relationship not only with the child in treatment but with the child's parents in order to be effective.
Family therapists work collaboratively with parents as a team.
Most people think that family therapy means having the entire family in the room for every session. The very thought of this would present most parents with a scheduling nightmare. In today's world, it's difficult enough to get the whole family to sit down at the dinner table once a week much less get them all in a therapist's office at the same time. This is the third misconception about family therapy.
Although some early family therapists, like Virginia Satir and Mara Selvini Palazzoli, typically preferred to have the entire family in family therapy sessions, not all therapists usually work that way.
Typically, therapists start out by seeing both parents together with their child in the first session and work with the parents alone after that. Sometimes they work only with the parents and never see the child at all. In the case of a teenager, they might see a mother and daughter, or a father and son, or a teenager with a sibling. When an older child or teenager has a particular kind of struggle such as anxiety, panic attacks, or difficulties with friends, I might see the teen alone for a few sessions.
Family therapists are flexible and work in whatever way makes sense with each individual family to solve the problem quickly and effectively.
Some parents have found in their own experience that therapy is ineffective. Years of talking about their feelings in a therapist's office did not help their depression or their anxiety or panic attacks. They finally started to feel better only after taking anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Since therapy was not effective with their own problems, why would therapy help their child more than medication? This is the fourth misconception about family therapy.
Family therapy is quite different from individual talk therapy. The family therapist works with the awareness that each human being is not merely an individual, but is also a part of many social groups or social systems. A child's behavior is influenced by the people in his social groups: most importantly, his parents and siblings. Other important people in the child's social environment are teachers and friends.
Family therapists do not, of course, deny the importance of a child's temperament. Some kids are more energetic than others from the time they are born. Others are more shy and sensitive. It is just a question of where in the system we focus in order to achieve the fastest change.
Rather than looking for the sources of a problem within the child's individual psyche or in the chemistry of the child's brain (unless there is a true neurological disorder such as epilepsy), the family therapist looks at the child's social context.
A child can be worried and distracted because her father has been laid off from his job. A boy can hit and kick other children because he overhears his parents having loud arguments and he fears that his parents are going to divorce. A girl can be failing at school because her brother is failing in life. To most people, these events may seem disconnected. But to a family therapist, they are interwoven with invisible threads. By making carefully targeted changes in the child's social context, the family therapist can be very effective at resolving a child's troubled feelings or behavior.
Family therapy is effective because it harnesses the power of the family to heal itself.
Is family therapy for you? Contact me today to discuss your options.
One thing that typically comes up when you feel like you have hit the point of no return is the option of marriage counseling. When it comes to keeping your marriage together and you have tried everything else marriage counseling is usually the last step for struggling couples. Getting through a tough time in a relationship can be extremely hard and painful. Marriage counseling can be the one thing that saves your marriage.
If you both are not 100% committed to fixing your problems, you are unlikely to get the results you are looking for. Whether a marriage can be saved or not relies on several factors that the two partners bring to counseling. If you have both motivation and commitment, you can expect the desired results. Unfortunately, most couples have lost one or both, and it can be difficult to find motivation and commitment again.
It is not an easy process. There will be painful things that you will have to hear. One of the most important parts, outside of both of you being motivated and committed, is having the right counselor. It is vital to have a counselor that allows you both to speak and be heard. One that does not take sides but listens equally to both and provides helpful tools for you to work on together. It is an amazing feeling when you can re-connect to your spouse once again and re-ignite the love you once shared that you feared was gone forever.
Factors That Make A Difference
One of the biggest issues that can hinder the desired result from counseling is that couples tend to leave this option until it is the absolute last resort. Quite often there has been a great deal of damage done to a relationship by the time they decide to get professional help. The key to success rates in marriage counseling is approaching the issues as early as possible. This does not mean that it is too late to heal if you seek therapy late. It just means that it may take longer at that point.
Communication breakdown is one of the leading causes for the need of marriage counseling. Sometimes couples have been holding a grudge about previous issues for years. Failing to tell someone how you are feeling about a subject or issue will eventually result in either a massive buildup that turns into a blow-up, or it builds so much that the couple can’t even stand the sight of each other anymore. This sort of lack of communication is one of the main causes of marital affairs and can often simply end in divorce before any of the issues are fixed. Silence is a killer in relationships. Especially if your communication skills are not great, marriage counseling could be the one thing that saves your marriage.
Blow Up Event
It can often take a massive episode that will force the couple into counseling. Unfortunately for some to take relationship problems seriously often takes a serious announcement, like an affair or the threat of separation or divorce. It is usually the last bit of effort before making a marriage counseling appointment. The best advice is to seek counseling when you start having issues from daily bickering to feeling emotionally distant. The sooner you begin, the easier it is to mend.
How Marriage Counseling Helps
Marriage counseling achieves the best results when issues are tended to early. Teaching communication skills is a great way to make a relationship in the early stages of disaster better, but it is not going to be the only solution if you seek help when it already feels too late. It takes both parties in the relationship to want to change. If you are not both in it for a solution, then it may already be too late. The role of a counselor is not to fix the issues of your marriage, it is to bring attention to what your issues are and offer solutions and tools to empower you both to repair the damage. The key factor here though is that you both must be 100% willing to listen, self-reflect, and be dedicated to fixing the issues.
What is involved?
The first step to marriage counseling is to put out any current fires that are burning out of control in the relationship. These immediate issues need to be stabilized to move forward. Then, you can work out the underlying causes of the problems.
Some things the counselor may immediately bring up to assess the situation include whether you and your partner are willing to learn new things about yourself, communication, and relationships. They will need to know if you are able and willing to let go of the need to be right and accept responsibility for the areas where you fall short in the relationship and pass on the blame.
Marriage therapy takes motivation and commitment.
If you and your spouse are ready to revive your marriage and heal from past pain, contact me to schedule an appointment. When it feels like it is too late, do not miss out on your last chance for reconciliation. It is possible.
If you’ve been exploring your options for therapy but prefer the comfort of your home, telecounseling is your best option.
The Basics Of Telecounseling – How It Works
A lot of independent therapists offer telecounseling through Skype and other online video chat platforms. At Pathways to Change, we use a HIPAA compliant video service called Thera-Link to ensure your privacy and confidentiality.
Telecounseling works in the same basic way that therapy works.
You’ll connect with a therapist, and have regular sessions over video chat to discuss your mental health, the struggles you’re experiencing, and anything else you would talk about with a therapist in person.
Is Telecounseling As Helpful As In-Person Therapy? Studying The Benefits
So, is telecounseling as helpful as in-person therapy?
One study showed that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for bulimia nervosa that was done over video chat was just as effective as CBT that was delivered in person.
Another study in 2014 showed that, in teens with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), counseling over the phone was just as effective as in-person counseling. However, the sample size for this study was quite small.
Further, a study done in South Carolina found that veterans suffering from PTSD who received treatment via videoconferencing had similar positive outcomes, compared to those who got treatment in person.
For now, the results seem to indicate that telecounseling can be just as effective as in-person therapy. However, this depends on your mental health, your personal situation, and your preferences for care.
Also, telecounseling is a very good option for anyone who is already seeing a therapist in-person, but cannot make every appointment in-person.
What Should I Think About Before I Choose Telecounseling?
If you are thinking about telecounseling or teletherapy, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you make your decision.
Find a licensed therapist – First and foremost, you will need to make sure that your therapist is fully licensed in your state. Just because you’ll be getting therapy online doesn’t mean that you should settle for anything less than a fully-certified, licensed professional therapist. Consider the qualifications of your therapist while you’re thinking about telecounseling. I provide telecounseling for both Georgia and Indiana.
Consider your health insurance – In-person therapy is almost always covered by health insurance for mental health disorders, substance abuse, and other such mental health conditions. Your insurance will typically pay for most or all of your treatment. In contrast, telecounseling and teletherapy may or may not be covered by insurance companies. You may have to pay the full cost yourself. Where I am a provider, insurance companies are now accepting claims from those who have had online counseling. Double-check with your insurance company to see if they cover telecounseling with your therapist. If not, it could actually be cheaper to see a therapist in-person.
Think about your personal preferences – Do you feel more comfortable opening up and discussing your emotions and your life with a counselor via video chat from the comfort of your home? If so, telecounseling is definitely right for you. But for some, it’s easier to truly open up in person. It may be worth trying both telecounseling and in-person therapy to see which one will be a better fit for your needs.
Just like in-person therapy, it’s very important to choose a therapist who can work with you to address your specific mental health issues and who understands your lived experience. So do your research, and make sure you work with a qualified professional.
Telecounseling Can Work – But It Might Not Be Right For Everyone!
Telecounseling does seem to hold a lot of promise, particularly for patients who have trouble making the time to see a therapist in person. In the future, it’s highly likely that this industry will quickly grow, along with other areas of telemedicine, especially during COVID-19 stay at home orders.
At Pathways to Change, I am ready to provide you with the counseling and therapy you need. Contact me today to schedule a telecounseling or in-office appointment.
Before I get into strategies to quell anxiety surrounding the Coronavirus, let’s first talk about what is happening in the brain and body as you notice anxiety levels rising. Having this information will help you understand how to use the benefits of feeling a little bit anxious and how to help yourself when you feel taken over by anxiety.
Some Anxiety is Normal
First of all, being anxious is normal during periods of the unknown. Right now, we have concerns around the physical health and wellbeing of ourselves, our families, and our communities. With uncertainty, comes some anxiety. Give yourself and your anxious loved ones some grace here.
What’s Happening in the Brain and Body?
In the most basic terms, our amygdala, located in the center of our brain, is responsible for detecting threats and danger. The amygdala is working 24 hours a day, even when we are sleeping, making sure we are safe and monitoring for any signs of danger. Information comes in through the five senses and if the amygdala detects danger, it will immediately (outside of our awareness), send a signal to rest of the brain and body that there is a potential threat.
The autonomic nervous system responds to the amygdala’s perception of danger by sending the brain and the body toward the fight, flight, or freeze response. The body responds by orienting toward the danger, narrowing our focus, releasing mobilizing stress hormones, altering digestion, increasing heart rate, and a myriad of other somatic affects.
All of these effects are imperative for sustaining life when we are under a threat of danger, so we owe much gratitude to our amygdala.
The Benefits of Some Anxiety
As you might imagine, some anxiety is helpful in our current situation. Anxiety mobilizes us to take precautionary measures toward keeping us and our loved ones physically safe. A little extra energy in the nervous system makes sense so we are more alert, more cautious, and have a bit more focus to deal with the new unfolding situation and can take appropriate action to ensure the best possible outcome.
When to Relax
It’s time to relax after you have implemented the necessary health precautions and made the appropriate modifications to your daily schedule. After that, it is time to un-enroll the amygdala and let it go back to its job of being the silent watchdog.
How do I Relax?
As mentioned above, the amygdala is scanning 24 hours a day outside of our conscious awareness to ensure our safety. When it detects danger, it deploys the “big dogs” to prepare the body to protect itself. If there is not an immediate threat, we don’t need the amygdala to tell the rest of the body to prepare for danger.
It’s also important to note that the amygdala is a bit primitive in that it doesn’t know the difference between an internal/external or real/perceived threat of danger. Why is this important to know? Because the amygdala responds to your thoughts and your conversations. If you’re spending a lot of time thinking and talking about the worst case scenario of the Coronavirus, your amygdala won’t get the message that it is safe to chill in this moment of time.
If you’re stuck in anxiety or panic, your amygdala may need a little help and encouragement to “stand down,” if you will. It needs you to focus on something else besides danger so that it can get the message that you are actually safe right now, in this moment.
A rested amygdala is actually better prepared to take appropriate action when it’s under immediate threat.
With intentional and focused attention (also known as mindfulness), your amygdala is pretty darn obedient. With mindfulness or observing awareness, we engage our prefrontal cortex (PFC), which releases calming peptides to settle the amygdala, all of which sends the signal to the brain and the body, that we are safe. With focused attention, orienting your attention away from danger and toward something that is neutral or positive, it will help to calm your system.
Without further ado, I present strategies to cope with COVID-19 anxiety.
10 Tips to Settle Coronavirus Anxiety
1. Limit Exposure to Media
Being informed is important. It allows you to make important decisions to keep you and your family safe. Pick two reliable sources of information and check them no more than once per day. Make appropriate adjustments to your daily schedule and then leave it alone. As mentioned above, it is not helpful to your nervous system to stay plugged into the media about the Coronavirus all day; everyday.
2. Be Intentional with Thoughts and Words
After you’ve gotten the update for the day, made decisions accordingly, and taken appropriate action, be intentional about how much time you spend thinking about the virus and talking about it with others. As mentioned, your amygdala is responding to what you think and talk about.
3. Engage the Five Senses
If your amygdala is driving the bus, you will need to recruit the help of your prefrontal cortex through focused attention. One sure fire way to do this is to bring awareness to your five senses. Notice what is happening in your immediate environment. Notice colors, sights, sounds, scents, and temperature.
4. Be Here Now
If you’re stuck in a negative feedback loop of anxious thoughts, emotions, and body sensations, you’re likely experiencing a little amygdala hijacking. The tendency from this place is to ruminate about the worst case scenario. With focused attention on the present moment and grounding, you can orient your brain back to the safety that is to be had in this moment. You can ask yourself reframing questions such as, “What is safe right now?” or “What is ok right now?”
5. Distract yourself
There are many ways to distract yourself. As mentioned above, your amygdala responds to what you are focused on. Watch a movie that elicits positive feeling states, like a comedy, or a hallmark movie; read a feel good book, pet the dog, or call a friend (and talk about something other than the virus).
6. Thank the Amygdala
We can all appreciate the intention behind the amygdala’s hyper-vigilance. It’s just trying to keep you and everyone else safe. If you notice the amygdala has taken you on a runaway train, put one hand on your heart and say, “I’ve already taken necessary precautions today. Thank you for having my best interest at heart. I am going to focus on something else now.”
7. Be Kind to Yourself
Your first reaction to your struggle is your own internal reaction. If that is one of kindness and compassion, it just makes everything else easier. If you judge yourself or your anxiety, it adds another layer of suffering. If you find that you’ve spun up and feel anxious, say something kind, “This is tough. It’s difficult to worry about all of this.” Commit to continued self-kindness through this situation.
8. Be Kind to Others
If you know someone that is quarantined, reach out to them and extend emotional support. Call, FaceTime, email, or text them. Let them know that you are thinking of them. Continue to stay connected and nurture your support system.
There is another benefit to being kind to others. When you think of other people, it actually engages a part of your brain that calms the amygdala. When you call someone and say, “What is going on with you?” your nervous system stops orienting to danger and starts being connected to and concerned for others.
9. Excavate for your Resilience
What emotional, mental, or physical mountains have you climbed in the past? What have you been faced with and then made it through? If you’ve made it this far in your life, you’ve had to overcome some obstacles to get here today. Know that the same grit and strength that got you through that will get you through this.
One of the silver-linings of a community-wide adversity is the experience of unity and support that got us through it.
10. Seek Help from a Professional
If you’ve noticed that your anxiety has skyrocketed, and you just can’t seem to bring it down, seek the support of a trusted professional to help you get settled. If you’re concerned about leaving your home, request a video session. Most mental health professionals, myself included, are offering telehealth options during this time.
Contact me to schedule an appointment for anxiety. Let's bring peace back into your life.
Michelangelo’s angel was hidden inside a piece of marble, but without his vision and ability the angel would have remained concealed and unable to be liberated from the constraints of the marble.
The angel was there all along but could not be freed without help. Thus, the angel is now not only a form of beauty, but also carries the capacity to enrich all of those who come in contact with it. In other words, originally it was just a piece of marble but now it is something far more valuable and meaningful.
Many people feel as if they are trapped inside of anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, a difficult relationship, etc. They have felt for a long time that they were powerless to be set free from the pain, suffering, shame, low self-esteem, and fears that go along with these issues.
The good news is that help is available. Counselors and/or psychotherapists are the “carvers” that see the real person hidden behind these distressing concerns. With compassion, skill, and unconditional positive regard the therapist begins the work of freeing the “angel” so that eventually she/he will emerge out of the “marble” no longer bound by it.
To make this “carving” successful there needs to be a relationship between the “angels” and the “carver”. This means that in order to allow the therapist to begin the process of revelation there has to be an atmosphere of safety and trust.
Furthermore, it means looking beyond surface behavior into the heart of each person to understand what has maintained their hidden alarms and distresses. As these are discovered and dealt with growth, integration, and wholeness result which, in turn reveal that beautiful “angel”.
Written by Dorice Neir, M.Ed., M.A., L.P.C.
Pathways to Change LLC
Send Dorice a Message: click here
Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
It has been recognized that there are many contenders that create distressed relationships. To summarize one could say it is a production of disconnected emotions and needs of attachment that have not been met.
It can be created slowly and quietly as the years go by until one day you realize that the one person you counted on the most seems to be abandoning you. Or, you find yourselves arguing frequently becoming more and more frustrated and helpless to stop it.
If infidelity has intruded into your relationship it often can be traced back to these issues.
What to do?
What if you could learn what is preventing you from maintaining a closeness and availability for support and protection? What if you could learn now to share the task of dealing with life’s uncertainties in an open and safe way ? What if you discovered how you impact each other with the automatic responses you give from a place of fear and anxiety and that this new realization would be the foundation of effectively reaching for each other rather than pushing each other away?
A major step in couple therapy is to learn how to join together to limit your negative dance and the insecurity it causes. You become aware of each other’s emotional needs and fears which helps you to de-escalate the cycle of reactive responses. From that point you can restructure your communications to an enlightened level of understanding and authenticity.
Couple counseling is a courageous endeavor—it means recognizing you need help and daring to open up to someone you have never met before. It is also a conjoint effort—through commitment and rapport I work together with you to bring about the appropriate change for you. And it is a change effect—you are renewed and brought to a more integrated relationship.
The courage to seek couples counseling is an admirable first step to reaching the harmony you desire in your relationship. In a safe and confidential environment, I offer counseling services to provide the tools you need as a couple for success. Contact me to schedule an appointment.
Life is full of choices. That means we are not machines that respond to a stimulus that has treated us in a certain way to obtain fixed results. We are able to choose how we live our lives. Interestingly enough, though, we can find ourselves automatically and uncomfortably responding to certain words or treatments that come our way.
In other words, our range of choices has become limited without even knowing it. Eventually, we are likely to feel “stuck” and/or off-track. We often are left with anxiety, depression, and/or stress as well.
This brings us to a valuable purpose of therapy which is twofold. The first is to increase your array of choices and, secondly, to encourage and enable you to effectively deal with the expanded range of choices.
How does this work?
If we look for what is beyond the surface of behavior we learn what has “programmed” us to respond in certain ways. Thus, we can realize we have the power to choose to respond in ways that are more valuing and empowering. A very special part of this is to find our “real selves” not what has been created by the narrow extent of choices we have been using. It results in becoming aware of our innate strengths and potential that can be utilized to handle the choices we make day by day.
An example of choices:
Two mice fell into a bucket of cream. Immediately, each began to struggle frantically in an effort to get out. Around and around they went, but without success. Growing tired, one mouse had had enough. Believing that the situation was hopeless, she ceased to struggle and eventually drowned. The other mouse, determined to get out of the bucket, kept swimming and swimming against all odds. This mouse would not give in to her fate. So, on and on she went, though deep down inside she had every reason to believe that she was wasting her time. What happened next came as a complete shock to the little mouse. With each stroke, the cream began to stiffen, and shortly thereafter turned into butter. Then mouse then climbed on top of the butter and out of the bucket to safety.
The courage to seek help is an admirable first step to reaching the harmony you desire in your life and in your relationships. In a safe and confidential environment, I offer counseling and therapy services to guide you to the best path for a harmonious life. Contact me to schedule an appointment.