The Last Word

One of the hardest things in adulting is learning that I don’t have to have the last word. Whew…seriously, this is hard for me “the therapist”. Society has kind of decided that we professional emotion and mind helpers aren’t supposed to have those kinds of issues, yet – I choke this particular bit of wellness down coughing and gagging at best. But I manage. Here’s how you can, too.

The need to be right is ingrained in me (and most other humans). Freud would call this an ego issue, and I don’t completely disagree. We have an innate desire to be right, particularly when we are.

To quote Fraiser Crane’s character, “I’m passionate and right and passionate about being right!”

For example, a while back someone made a joke about me not pitching in to pay for a party I’d helped organized about a decade ago. Had I not been surrounded by strangers and young children I adore I might have cried or jumped back into my car and left.  The statement was made in front of people who don’t know me well. I felt insulted, embarrassed, hurt, and like I had been called a bad person for not paying. I knew I had paid, though. I knew I was right and the other person was wrong.

All the way home I was silent – fuming. Once at home, I’m logged into an old and now closed bank account I had a decade ago looking for the statements from the month of the party. Indeed – I had paid for the catering and some other related items. I saved the bank statements and attached them to an email.

My cursor blinked on my screen. I sat there staring. I counted to 10, got up, went out for some air, came back in and deleted the draft.

I made a list of questions for myself:

  1. What do I gain from asserting my rightness in this situation?
  2. What will this really change in my future dealings with this person?
  3. How might this impact my family/associated network overall?
  4. Does my asserting my rightness help me in some profound way?
  5. Does asserting my rightness help others?
  6. Is it kind for me to assert my rightness? OR Am I/can I assert my rightness kindly?
  7. Is my rightness 100% factual and concrete?
  8. What feelings does my desire to be correct in this situation arise from?

Ultimately I chose not to declare my correctness in the situation. The only thing I gained was the feeling of vindication. I realized after answering my questions that with this particular person they work overtime at painting me as less-than in most situations and asserting my rightness would only create an alternative route for them to do so. (“See how silly she is looking up decade old bank statements?!”) If not that I don’t pitch in it would ultimately be something else.

It would’ve created additional conflict in the network I share with the person and at no real gain. I can’t change the person or their beliefs about me with some bank statements. Their opinions of me and treatment of me are a reflection of them, not me. Asserting myself as right wouldn’t do anything to help me or others.

I could’ve done it kindly, but again it wouldn’t help. While my being right was totally provable – heck, I had paperwork on it! It just didn’t serve some grander purpose; only my ego. My desire to be right in that situation was derived solely from my desire to be approved of. I can’t control other people’s approval of me or how they treat me.

The assertion that we’re right in a relationship is often the desire to have the last word or close a topic but relationships where this becomes an issue sort of revolve around this type of conflict. No matter how much you hope it will be the last word on an issue, it likely isn’t – and your rightness won’t have an impact on the other person’s behavior.

Being right is a good feeling, but before you go asserting it, check in with yourself using these questions. A basic cost benefit analysis of sorts can help you determine the best course of action and help you separate yourself from the drama that a lot of our relationships often come with.

Ultimately sometimes the best medicine is “killing with kindness” and just allowing people to go on with their behavior. If you notice it, it’s likely that others do too and that’s the best vindication in many situations.

Peace!

Whitney

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Superhuman

As I was doing some research the other day and reflecting on it I came to some conclusions based on that research and the concrete evidence I’m privy to thanks to my work with others in counseling. I posted a short blip on my Facebook page, but the thoughts deserve some fleshing out.

I see and hear lots of commentary about how the past doesn’t matter and your parents don’t matter and what really matters are you and your choices. These types of statements are grotesquely over simplified.

The truth is the past absolutely does matter because it shapes you. Science has long attributed our personality development in part to experience. The experiences we gain shape character and our outlook on life. They’re a place from which we approach all other events, places, people, and relationships. The past and all its contents (parents included) often serve to build our resilience or lack thereof.

Resilience is a thing we’re sort of leaving by the wayside. It isn’t as prized as some of our other skills. Really it’s lesser known and even more rarely talked about than juggling or spinning plates.

Instead of encouraging resilience through tough times and experiences we’re seeing a push back at those we feel have wronged us. We’re locking them out and we’re trying to control events – things that science says we simply can’t do. Navigating life and indeed the world without painful experiences and hurt feelings just isn’t possible. We can’t control others or events and what is offensive is subjective enough that no golden rule can be made to protect us from it. Lucky for us, we’re designed to learn from experience how to pick ourselves up, create coping mechanisms, heal, dust off, and redirect. We can’t develop this vital (I daresay lifesaving) skill without experiences in our pasts. So, the past totally still matters.

That said, the past doesn’t get to decide things. Once upon a time the research was “clear” – if you were abused you’d likely remain injured forever or even abuse others yourself; if you were the child of an alcoholic you’d likely marry one or become one yourself. Over time, this research grew thinner. It hasn’t held up as well as it would if it were ultimately and absolutely accurate. The numbers today show that we’re more likely to do life differently than it was dealt to us.

Every day I encounter people committed to exactly that. They are doing life differently than it was dealt them. People survive, cope, and rise from incredible pain every day. This superhuman ability resides within all of us. It involves painful stuff and our willingness not to run but turn and face the past. Some of us have to chip away at it and work with it a little harder than others.

Resilience skills are the ones that set us apart from the crowd. The stories that make “feel good” news, and fill up our social media feeds with people overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles are in fact tales of resilience. We all have the ability to create it.

The truth is that if we can spare some time away from the things we do to cope that are less healthy – our smoking, drinking, drugs, distractions – and sit with our past, create a story with it, hold, accept, and tolerate it and honor what we did to survive our traumas – we are able to move forward. We are able to come into therapy looking forward and think, with the science on our side, “I have a chance at living a better life than the one I began with; I just have to work for it.”

That’s resilience and it makes us super.

Go get it, Superhumans!

Whitney

The “I Don’t Know” Curse

The I Don’t Know Curse

I work with a lot of women and girls who have had rough relationship experiences. They come in, eyes downcast, ashamed of what someone else has done, and embarrassed they tolerated it. They offer excuses for someone I’ll likely never meet. “He had a hard life/his parents acted like that/I could’ve been more understanding.”

They have no vocabulary for their experiences. “He screamed at me/lied to me/cheated on me/insulted me,” they say as shoulders hunch forward and their bodies fold inward in protection.

I use a chart, called The Cycle of Abuse. It’s clutched in shaking hands and sometimes denied, but later it is folded and put into a purse or pocket. Seeing a pattern we participate in on paper is both helpful and jarring.

 

Is this you and your (former/current) significant other? I always hear, “I don’t think of it as abuse – I mean, I wasn’t beaten or starved!”

But many times those who say this were. They were starved of the ability to experience a healthy relationship; starved of genuine care, equality, and affection. They were beaten with low-blow psychological warfare like gas lighting.

I Don’t Know

One of the worst of these tactics an abusive partner (or any manipulative and abusive person) will use is The I Don’t Know.

The I Don’t Know is offered up by abusive people of all types and stripes. Here are some examples:

I don’t know…

Why I cheated

Why I lied

What came over me to cause me to _________

Why I hit you

Why you make me so angry

Why you can’t just believe me

Why you make me _________

Why you don’t trust me

“I don’t know why” is the fallback position of the abuser because it affords them the opportunity to escape accountability. They don’t have to self-reflect or answer with explanation to the people they have hurt. It’s a form of gas lighting that leaves the recipient with no information other than their own self-reflection which will ultimately be, “It’s my fault.”

This unhappy go-round is what causes the downcast eyes and the self-blame masqueraded as excuses for the abuser issued by the abused.

The Other Side of I Don’t Know

The other side of “The I Don’t Know” from the abused’s standpoint is the desire to understand behavior or actions so that they can make sense of it. This inherent and human quest for understanding is the root of frustration and the root for continuation of abuse. This desire to understand why an abuser did a horrible thing affords the abuser the opportunity to not know why ______. Their response furthers their hold on the victim by ultimately leaving the victim to believe 1) they weren’t worthy of consideration 2) the victim somehow caused the incident rather than the abuser’s decisions or behavior 3) the victim is “blowing it out of proportion” or overreacting or even worse – the incident is “all in their head”.

Let’s unwrap this further by examining some of the abuser’s common words towards the victim. “You make me…/You should’ve,” being common and sometimes implied when an I Don’t Know is issued.

No one makes anyone do anything. No one is responsible for any behavior that isn’t his or her own. Every person has the ability to decide how to react.

To quote my favorite therapist, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Viktor Frankl)

The abusive person’s weakness is the inability to discover and seize that space in order to select a response. When an abusive person gives their victim responsibility over their actions, they’re showing a hand and it isn’t a good one. They forfeit personal responsibility and accountability. They freely state, “I’m not flying this plane, someone else is.”

Now we’ve come full circle. The abuser seeks to control by forfeiting all personal responsibility and handing it to someone else, and when we accept it, we become abused. This tactic is true for any relationship.

The abusive and manipulative are suave, though. They’re backed by a cultural perspective that typically frowns on personal responsibility. Every TV show and movie out there has a line with, “She made me so mad!” Or something similar. It’s part of our vocabulary and our very human tendency to refuse to accept our space of choice. We may feel angry, but we choose to yell or blame, hit or throw things.

The oppositeend of this spectrum are those of us who are willing to accept blame for someone else’s behavior. We’re taught by people early on that we make them angry, and over the course of time, exposure to this behavior in popular media and personal life, a pattern is set. That pattern makes it easy for people to take advantage of this characteristic.

If this is your pattern, here’s what you can do to help break up this cycle:

  1. Seek the support of a professional counselor, asap. It is always helpful to have an outside third party to help you get things in perspective.
  2. Give yourself the correct vocabulary: you are abused and taken advantage of. Part of it may include being lied to, insulted, etc. – but it is abuse. That word is uncomfortable for those in this situation. Why? Because it relieves the constant blame you experience from the person doling out the abusive actions. If your relationship fits into the chart above, you’re with an abuser. Experiencing the discomfort of this reality is an important step to growing away from it.
  3. Write this down, say it out loud, read it and say it every day, as many times as you can remember to: I am not responsible for other people’s behavior.
  4. Make a plan of action. When the next honeymoon period ends and tension is rising, A) observe free from judgment – you did not cause someone else’s behavior B) free yourself from the desire to understand by repeating the mantra from step 3, C) talk to your counselor or trusted support system D) seek additional help and resources as needed.

Up next on the blog is a follow up on support systems for people in abusive relationships – how to build one and ways you can help if you’re a member of that support system.

Happy healing!

Whitney

10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Mental Fitness NOW

Preventative care is all the rage in medicine these days, and with good reason. It works. There are things you can do to improve your physical well-being and when you do them everything from cholesterol numbers to disease risk can be reduced or prevented. The same is true for prevention in mental health matters. There are adjunct therapist and preventative measures we can take to both support mental health and boost therapeutic efforts like counseling and medication.

That said, I know everyone is after the quick fix these days. It can be hard to give up old habits or create new ones on the promise that someday things will get better. It may seem overwhelming to take on too much at once, especially without seeing results fast.

While these tips won’t work overnight (seriously, does anything?!) if you give them a go for 7 days I promise you’ll see and feel a difference in your mental wellness. If all 10 are too much at once pick a few you feel you can manage or that will target your specific needs and start with those.

  1. I’m positive you’ve heard this a million times before. Exercise boosts feel good neurotransmitters. It relieves stress and acts as a natural antidepressant of sorts. It isn’t necessary to jump around and spend an hour doing it. Yoga has been found to have great effects on mental and physical health. Vinyasa yoga that has constant movement linked with breath is my personal favorite. I’m a fan of both yogavibes.com & gaia.com where you can find a practice that fits your abilities and your schedule from home.
  2. Start taking lunch breaks. This is something we’ve let fall by the wayside but is really important to our work performance and how we approach problems and handle stress at work. Check out this blog on why lunch is uber important.
  3. Journal every night about the nice things you did for others during the day. This may seem cheesy, but doing this at night is a serious self-worth and self-esteem booster. This exercise helps kick self-esteem into a higher gear. You may think you barely do anything that could make this list, but think about it. Opening doors, smiling at strangers, or helping a coworker put away chairs all count and most of us hardly think about these “little things”.
  4. Journal every morning about what you’re grateful for. The saying goes that “an attitude of gratitude promotes happiness.” True! Research in the field of positive psychology shows that people who do this boost their happiness. Happiness lends itself to higher productivity overall.
  5. Perform a daily random act of kindness. Science shows that we get a feel-good buzz from these acts and they help our fellow humans. Bonus: this can go on your list of nice things you did during the day.
  6. Get some sunlight. Many of us spend most of our time indoors. In Texas I find myself outside just long enough to sprint to my car to avoid the heat during summer and that isn’t enough. It’s important to have some sun every day. It helps boost vitamin D, which has been found at lower levels in people with depression. Sun also helps support healthy serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter some research links with depression.
  7. Begin your day with protein. Feeling sluggish in the mornings can put a damper on the whole day. Add to this that often times sugary foods are the ones we reach for as breakfast and a recipe for crash and burn is made. A protein based breakfast can help keep energy levels smooth as your morning kicks off and prevents the sugar crash later in the morning.
  8. Hug someone. Hugging others increases the bonding hormone oxytocin and solidifies our bonds with those we love. Touching is important to connection and connection is what humans are designed for! If you don’t have a person in your vicinity to hug, grab a hug from Fido or FeFe!
  9. Doodle, color, paint, or draw. We’ve all seen and heard the buzz on the adult coloring book craze. There is merit to it. These calming activities help tame stress and anxiety.
  10. Get some sleep. We’re busier than ever and sleeping less and less. Train your body’s clock by getting some sun first thing in the morning. At least an hour before you’d like to be asleep kill the TV, tablet, and phone. Choose reading as a pre-bed activity and avoid all sources of “blue light”. The blue light put out by electronics is a complete zap on the brain’s ability to shut down and allow you a sound snooze.

If you’re in Texas and you find that you need some help getting through life’s tough spots, reach out! I provide in person and online sessions that will definitely fit into your schedule and your budget.

Wishing you wellness,

Whitney

Pet Grief: Losing your non-human family

Within the last few weeks several of my friends have lost their beloved animal best friends. Each loss reminds me of the pain I felt when I’ve lost pets. For many of us, our pets are better friends than our relatives, and losing them after years of their eager unconditional love can truly be a most painful experience.

Nearly every client I’ve sat across from has talked about the pain of losing a loved pet. Most of those clients also tell me about the comments they receive from their friends and family who aren’t pet people: It’s just an animal. For those that experience the great joy of pet ownership and devastation of pet loss, the feelings are very real.

People often apologize in the midst of their pet loss grief and try to explain it to me in session. They don’t believe that others fully understand because of the reactions they’ve had in past or that they’ve seen others experience. Why should someone be sorry that they’re sad at the loss of a member of their family? Death of a family member is painful, whether that family member is human, horse, dog, cat, or any other animal. Expressing that pain is healthy, normal, and expected.

Coping with the grief from losing your loved pet can feel confusing and lonely. Try these tips for helping yourself out:

  • Accept the grief and give yourself permission to express it
  • Talk with supportive friends who are pet people
  • Write about your loss
  • Create a memory book where you and family members write down the funny stories you remember about your pet
  • Contact local veterinary clinics to find out about pet loss support groups in your area
  • Volunteer at your local Humane Society or other animal shelter
  • Give yourself time to grieve before adopting another pet
  • Donate your pet’s toys or items to a local pet charity if the idea that they may bring another pet happiness is soothing
  • Frame a picture of your pet to keep to help you remember their presence in your family – just as you would with a human relative who passed away

Remember that grief has no timeline or boundaries. Each person will grieve differently for their pet. Seek support from friends or a professional when you need it.

Blessings of Healing,

Whitney

 

*If you’re looking for a counselor to help you sort out feelings of grief after the loss of your pet and you’re in Texas, visit my contact page for online and in person services options.

10 Reasons You Really Should Take a Lunch Break

Fewer American workers are taking lunch breaks. About 1 in 5 American workers are stepping away from work to enjoy a midday meal or break. Most of us are eating at our desks, hunched over our work with some confused ideas circling our minds about why doing so is actually a good thing. It isn’t. (Interesting side note: it is mostly white collar and salaried workers who have given up lunches or are expected to work through them.)

1. Changing your environment can help you boost your creativity. The longer you’re in one spot, the lower your creativity dips. Creativity isn’t just for artists or designers, either. The way you approach problems of any kind is helped by a creative mind that constructs solutions.

2. Fresh approaches to work come from getting away from the work. Just like creativity, the “aha” moment that you’re needing to catch an error in a report, or adjust some project at the office is more likely to happen when you’re not sitting in the same spot for hours on end. A stroll to the local park may have you diving back in with new pizazz on your return.

3. Lunch breaks feed your brain. By making an exit and grabbing a lunch, your brain gets food, oxygen, and water, which lead to better work in the afternoon.

4. Breaks increase your productivity. Research has shown that if you take small breaks throughout the day, even if it isn’t a lunch, to do something creative or fun (think: coloring or a walk outside) you’re more productive.

5. Eating at your desk equals stress eating over time. We associate places with activities and no matter where you work, you likely experience stress in your work environment. Once your brain and body realize that eating at the desk is acceptable behavior, you’re likely to keep it up and do it more often. Snacking at your desk during high stress tides while your body is producing more cortisol can lead to a whole new issue: weight gain.

6. Taking a lunch sets a positive example and can establish a healthy habit in your workplace. Even if you work somewhere that taking a lunch break isn’t the norm and people typically gather around the conference table or sit at their desks while eating, you can help change things up. Peer pressure works in both directions! Instead of following along, invite some people to eat with you. The more of you that leave work behind to eat or take a walk during lunch, the more of you are likely to join in.

7. Breaks boost your concentration. Taking a lunch break that is even 15 to 20 minutes long can help improve your concentration! You’re more likely to catch mistakes, stay on task, and have focus when you return from a healthy lunch break.

8. Lunch is a great time to practice mindfulness. Enhance your mindfulness, which improves literally every aspect of your life. By eating during your lunch break and just eating you can be mindful of what you’re eating and use the time to tap into the mindful practice we all claim we haven’t got enough time for. Sitting quietly and focusing on your food and your changed environment is a small act of mindfulness that can go a long way.

9. Taking a lunch nap can rejuvenate your body and mind. Even if eating isn’t your “thing” and the idea of walking at lunch curls your toenails, there is always napping. Napping is Chuck E. Cheese for adults, and during the work day it can be a real boost to your mood, concentration, and productivity. Research shows that we’re designed to have a second short sleep during the second half of the day. To avoid sleep inertia (when you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over and don’t know who you are) don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes. One of the most pleasant people I ever worked with told me she took naps at lunch. I gave up loading my dishwasher and tidying my house on my lunch hour and took up the power nap and it was miraculous.

10. Lunch is a great time to get some “me” time. At work you’re with coworkers, clients or patrons, etc. all day. You go home in the evening to do the dishes and make dinner while everyone in your home talks about their day and your cat or kids are begging for attention. Use lunch to be you and have some alone time with yourself!

I worked in an office that very much frowned on lunches out unless they were for meetings or parties. When they were out it was typically a place that serves grease as a side dish, and I’m a picky eater to begin with. I survived over a year of “I never take lunches”, side glances, and even nasty comments (from mental health pros who should know better!) about my lunch habits.

Thing is, I don’t think I’d have made it in that environment for as long as I did if I hadn’t guarded my midday lunch time as both precious and MINE. Any day where I was working out of the office, I made sure to take at least a 20 minute break to run home, check my mail, walk around, or go power nap. It made all the difference!

Now you have a list of all the reasons that lunch breaks, at any time of day, are a good thing for you and the work your employer needs from you – and from a mental health pro to boot! Use them! Change your day and your work by taking lunch breaks daily for a week and monitoring the results!

Happy lunching!

Whitney

If you’re in Texas and looking for a counselor or a little bit of pro help check out my contact me page! Online & in person services 🙂

Does Counseling Work?

A few years ago following an injury to my back I was face down on my chiropractor’s table with him adjusting me back into normalcy when he began talking to me about my profession. The standard, what do you do and where questions. I proudly replied, “I’m a professional counselor.”

He made some sort of rumbling noise and offered, “A few years ago my church sponsored a nonprofit counseling center, but we stopped because it was a bit of a money drain and there’s really no research to show that it works. It’s just talking.”

Had I not been pinned to the table being popped and prodded I would’ve bounced right up to tackle this argument toe to toe and eye to eye. I replied, “And you’re just making miniscule adjustments, like cracking knuckles, but here it is, working.”

Counseling does indeed have a wealth of research support. As a profession we struggle to be heard over the drone of much louder and better-funded medical research. So when you’re thinking about counseling or your friends or family say, “You could just talk to me!” – here’s some information to support you choice to seek out some professional guidance through life’s ups and downs.

1. Counseling is research supported to treat many mental health problems including but not limited to depression disorders, anxiety disorders, grief and bereavement, PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

2. Specific approaches like DBT or dialectical behavior therapy are clinically proven to help alleviate suicidality, borderline personality disorder, and self-injury. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is also clinically supported for treatment with an array of issues.

3. Therapeutic alliance is the number one factor in successful therapy outcomes. This means that finding the counselor you “click” with best is vital in a successful outcome in treatment.

4. Counseling has been shown to help people wishing to cease the anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

5. Counseling can work with medication and when clients wish, without it. Counseling is an effective alternative to medication and an effective adjunct therapy that works with medication. In fact, a recent study shows that CBT is just as effective as medication.

6. Counseling isn’t just talking! It’s true, you can “just talk” to friends. Friends and family may have a stake in your life and your decisions, and so there may be things you feel you can’t tell them, or they may give advice that benefits them, even if unintentionally so. Counseling will challenge you in good ways, and the interventions therapists use are often innovative and creative and don’t just include couch-sitting until your buns are numb!

Read all about finding the right counselor on my ACA blog here.

For my research lovers, check out a couple of my favorite studies (but this isn’t by any means ALL of what is there to support many forms of counseling):

Butler, A., Chapman, J., Forman, E., & Beck, A. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses [Electronic version]. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 17-31. doi:doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.07.003

Westra, H. A., Constantino, M. J., Arkowitz, H., & Dozois, D. A. (2011). Therapist differences in cognitive–behavioral psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot study.Psychotherapy, 48(3), 283-292. doi:10.1037/a0022011

Driessen, E., Hollon, S., (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy for mood disorders: Efficacy, moderators, and mediators. DOI 10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005

Halverson, J.L., Bienenfeld, D., Leonard, R.C., & Riemann, B.C. (2014). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression. Medscape.

McHugh, R.K., Whitton, S.W., Peckham, A.S., Welge, J.A., & Otto, M.W. (2013). Patient preference for psychological vs pharmacologic treatment of psychiatric disorders: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2013

Safran, J.D., Muran, J.C., and Proskurov, B. (2009) Alliance, negotiation, and rupture resolution, in Handbook of Evidence Based Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (eds R. Levy and S.J. Ablon), Humana Press, New York, pp. 201-5.

Ackerman, S. and Hilsenroth, M (2003) A review of therapist characteristics and techniques positively impacting the therapeutic alliance. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1-33.

Ardito, R. B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic Alliance and Outcome of Psychotherapy: Historical Excursus, Measurements, and Prospects for Research. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 270. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270

Dorsey, S., Briggs, E. C., & Woods, B. A. (2011). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20(2), 255–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2011.01.006

*If you’re counselor shopping in Texas contact me! I offer both online and in person services 🙂

Benefits of Private Pay Over Insurance

There are lots of benefits to not using your insurance for counseling services. You read that right!

Insurance companies often don’t pay for the entire cost of your session, which leaves you still footing a sizable cash bill even though you used it.

When you use your insurance company they have access to certain things you may rather keep private like what you’re being seen for, what your diagnosis is – in fact, most insurance companies require a counselor to provide a diagnosis to justify your treatment. This means that even if you don’t merit a “diagnosis” you may land one.

Your insurance company will dictate how many sessions you’re entitled to and what modality of treatment you receive, as well as who you receive it from. It doesn’t make a lot of sense considering that the counselor in front of you knows best what methods will fit with you and you and your counselor should work together to decide how frequently and for how long you’ll go to counseling.

All the research shows that your outcome is best predicted not by method or length of treatment but by your relationship with the counselor. Your insurance may cover a counselor or two, but are they the right counselor for you? Counseling is both science and art – the art lies in the personal connection and if you don’t click with someone on your insurance you aren’t likely to get the results you’re after.

Lastly, most counselors will work with you on rates, depending on the area you’re in. You won’t know if you don’t ask! So, when you find a counselor whose picture, Psychology Today profile, or website clicks with you for some reason, go ahead and call them – even if they aren’t on your insurance.

Consider what’s most important in successful counseling outcomes:

1. The “click” or connection, which we call the “therapeutic alliance” (Read about finding the right counselor on my ACA blog here!)
2. Your privacy (or at least I hope you care about it!)
3. Getting treatment that will work
4. Determining how often and what type of counseling treatment you receive – having a say in how you’re treated

Happy counselor-shopping!

Whitney

*If you’re counselor shopping in Texas contact me! I offer both online and in person services 🙂

Smack-Talking Yourself: What to do with Negative Self-Talk


It’s happened to everyone. A bad day at work, a mistake in paperwork, and then the aftermath of talking to yourself:

I can’t ever do anything right. I’m such an idiot. No wonder I haven’t gotten a promotion. Of course this happened, because I don’t ever do well enough. I’m worthless.

These thoughts then prompt feelings of self-hate, disappointment, and sadness. Suddenly the bad day at work is becoming a bad life.

So, if talking this way to ourselves causes and promotes feelings we find uncomfortable, why don’t we just stop it?

We use super critical or harsh self-talk to try to motivate ourselves to do better, to avoid doing things that frighten us, and to try to control situations. Think about the last time you did something or attempted to do something that pushed you toward the edge of your comfort zone.
What things did you tell yourself in preparation? Did you completely talk yourself out of applying for an awesome position because you thought “I’m not good enough for that job,”? Did you sit on a bench while your spouse zip lined through the trees because you told yourself how stupid you’d look in the harness or screaming?

We avoid fear of public rejection or ridicule by internally rejecting ourselves through negative self-talk, which has us avoiding the possibility of public rejection altogether – we end up waiting on the sidelines of life.

Negative self-talk is often rooted in the voices we internalize. A fearful or controlling caregiver that minimizes the things we attempt to do or criticizes efforts we make early on can become our own inner voice.

Talking smack at ourselves is a learned behavior that becomes a habit, and just like any other habit, we have the power to change it.

What Lies Beneath
To start your journey toward dismantling the negative self-talk habit, start with exploring what is underneath that talk. Step back from the situation that generated the less than helpful talk and ask yourself, what you’re afraid of in that situation. Become a detective and dive into the fear that underlies much of that negative talk with questions about where it comes from. When you’re able to see what’s really there the self-talk that masks it diminishes.

Learn
Relearning what to say to yourself in moments of discomfort that prompt negative self-talk is another powerful tool. When self-talk is rooted in controlling outcomes, like preventing rejection, taking the opportunity to be realistic about things can be helpful in creating new responses to these situations. So what is the most likely reality of whatever situation you’re facing? That you’ve been in hard places before, that they aren’t avoidable, and that kindness can help you survive. Pause your negative self-talk with a phrase like that to return to reality that is more balanced as opposed to more negative-leaning.

Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is an important component of both of the practices above. Get in the habit of noticing when you’re speaking poorly to yourself and politely remind yourself to stop it. Follow this with your more realistic statement or something compassionate like, “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Self-talk is an underlying cause of many uncomfortable emotions, chances not taken, and “bad” days, weeks, or months. Working toward curbing it using these three steps is guaranteed to help you on a journey toward a happier and more compassionate life. Like anything worthwhile, this takes practice and time. Counseling can provide additional support in uncovering your self-talk and its roots, too.

Whitney

*If you’re in Texas & looking to find a pro help you conquer negative self-talk, check out my contact me page!

When Someone You Love Won’t Change (or listen)

Someone posed an interesting question to me the other day. 

It went something like this: If someone you love does things that hurt you over and over despite you telling the them repeatedly how you feel about things, what do you do? 

That’s a good question and there is no easy answer. For some people change is difficult or they simply don’t get it. Some may not truly care enough to make the effort. 

The most important thing to realize beyond the basics (which you can find here) is that another person’s behavior doesn’t say anything about you – it speaks only about them. 

If someone treats you badly, it simply says that they treat people badly. It absolutely does not indicate that you’re unworthy of being treated well (an extrapolation that will leave you blaming yourself for someone else’s behavior, which you can’t fix & leads to hopelessness). It says that maybe your loved one has some underlying issues, poor priorities, bad attitude, or is inconsiderate. It doesn’t say that you are bad, unworthy, not enough, or unimportant.

As tough as it may be, not taking this sort of situation personally is the best ticket to not being pulled down into a pool of self doubt and pain. It isn’t personal, because it isn’t your behavior, it is theirs. It’s about them. 

Once you’ve done all you can with words, look at your boundaries. For example, if the issue is a friend who cancels plans a lot, stop making plans with them. If it’s someone who doesn’t communicate their desire to spend time with you but does expect you to make time for them short notice, stop complying. It is hard to say no to people we love, but allowing a pattern of hurtful behavior to continue may hurt worse. Setting and sticking to some boundaries may be a more effective means of communicating with this person than simply telling them something – and then continuing to go along with the behavior. 

Yes, all of this will still leave you with hurt feelings and the pain of someone you care for ignoring your feelings or wishes. There is no magic cure to help that. 

Nurse those feelings by accepting the relationship for what it is: difficult. Determine what’s ok with you and what isn’t and stick to it. Remind yourself, “This person’s behavior isn’t because of me. I don’t have control of their actions and they don’t have control of mine.” Repeat it each time you feel the pang of pain or guilt about the boundaries you’ve set, etc. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and do care and listen! Delve into your own *thang* – spend time on finding out what you enjoy or doing what you enjoy, caring for yourself, planting flowers, sprucing up your home, rooting for your favorite athletes or sports teams, taking day trips, anything that is for you. This helps reinforce your own self worth and boost your happiness – two things totally in your control! 

Happy healing! 

Whitney