Being a Team Player

As a Marriage and family therapist, I see the need for teamwork all over the place and appreciate the value of working with others. Specifically, I am speaking of family, and this must be broken down to spouses.  If spouses don’t work together, there is likely a disconnect which will then play out within the immediate family, for instance, two parents that are often arguing and not agreeing on how to redirect their kids will likely find a break down when issues arise in the home. Its only common sense that spouses should work together to raise their family. Notice, I did not say they ALWAYS agree on how to raise their children OR for the matter any topic. The reason being and I tell clients this often, a partial compromise can be just as valuable as a total compromise. You may wonder, what could this look like and how might it be achieved? I am happy to explain!

First, healthy communication practices are necessary for two partners to talk respectfully with one another to discuss their thoughts on raising a family. One example being, one partner was raised to go to church every Sunday, while the other was not raised valuing church. The couple would be encouraged to discuss both sides by gaining an understanding of why going to church is important and why not going to church is important for the other partner. Till we participate in deeper conversation to seek the answers we are having a discussion without respecting the other’s viewpoints. Think of it as court, how can a Judge or even a jury find someone innocent or guilty without some evidence? The understanding is the evidence.

Once we begin gaining more understanding, we can then discuss what we are open to and closed off from. The areas of openness can then be used for a partial compromise. In the example above, perhaps spouses agree that they will go to church once every other week and bring the kids along to try out one or more churches to find a level of comfortability. It’s important to know, the process is not about winning or losing! This is where teamwork is found, even though disagreement on a topic, some level of compromise can be found, and healthy communication is the key to getting there. Of course, your area of disagreement may not be around raising kids, you might not have kids, it doesn’t matter the example can still be used the same.

Parenting a Teen

The title alone may have brought on anxiety for you, I know it tends to for me. I have a 13-year-old son that let’s just say some days are good and others, not so good. The annual doctor’s appointment for my teenage son still sticks into my mind as the Pediatrician looked at my wife and I and told us, “Some days will be better than others” as she went on to discuss hormones and other changes that occur naturally. My wife and I glanced at each other, then expressed understanding regarding the changes in mood and body. It’s interesting how you can look at your own flesh and blood, remember how cute they were as younger kids and wonder what happened, ax if as parents we did something wrong to have a shift to someone that at times is a stranger. I don’t want to make it sound as if our eldest son is a nightmare that isn’t the case but sometimes, he is so moody that he is best to stay in his room and handle from a distance for a little bit.

Not long ago, I had a chance to catch-up with one of my friend’s mothers whom I hadn’t spoke with in a while. We discussed having teenagers, she said to me that one of the biggest light bulb moments was when she looked at her sons and they were taller than her. She went on to say that she in these moments realized the need to talk with them as “young adults.” The problem from her perspective and experiences was trying to treat her sons like they were still little kids as this often brought about tension and arguments. However, she found that when treating them as they were versus as a little kid, conversations, disagreements tended to go better. I appreciated this conversation as it was very helpful for me.

One of the balances my wife and I have had to make in terms of parenting three boys, one of whom is a teen, the middle being 12 and the youngest 7 years old, is that of give and take. What I mean is that our eldest son needs to be able to do things that perhaps our youngest could not. We needed to show our eldest son that until he proved unable, to have more responsibility. In our household, this looked like being able to stay home alone for a brief period of time, for instance if he didn’t want to go to church or while we run to the grocery store. It is necessary however, to talk with your kids as we have ours, to NEVER answer the door for a stranger, keep the doors locked and to use the cell phone for emergencies and for when we call to check-in. Also, we talk with our kids about calling 911 for emergencies only! These steps have all been taken in order to prepare and educate our kids on how to handle different situations and remain safe.

Through the ability to do things differently than his younger siblings, our eldest son seems to show appreciation in different ways, your kids maybe different, our son will at times be more willing to do things we ask, practice responsibility in other areas of his life, meaning that if he says he is doing something he will often be doing just that, he as no one it isn’t perfect but it’s getting better. My point to drive home to you is that, change needs to come from us as parents as well as the changes from our young adults. Often times, parents point to the kids as the one’s needing to change but that is a cop-out. If you want to get stuck in a negative pattern of interactions by treating your teen as a little kid and them getting upset then you get upset be my guest, but I can tell you it is worth trying to show them that you see they are growing-up. In some cases, I feel it is fear and loss of our young, cute kids that causes us to try and hold on to the thoughts of how they used to be that brings the tension. We then try and treat them as we did when they were younger which leads to push back. But if we can respect the changes, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them, talk respectfully with these young adults and work through our own emotions, things may just get better and we may feel like we have more control over the situations that arise.

Disclaimer: If your son and or daughter, regardless of age have shown an inability and or unwillingness to be trusted and give more responsibility then as the parent, set appropriate boundaries and reinforce them in a responsible and appropriate manner. The example I gave is regarding my son and as noted above, kids are not all the same regardless of age and you probably know your child better. At the very least, allow the post to be food for thought.

Future Anxiety Crisis or Over-reaction?

So, we know about the mask mandates and arguments for and against getting vaccinations, we know about the deaths from COVID-19 and whether any sense of normalcy from the past will ever return, and we know about CDC guidelines and how they can be odd and even confusing at times in regard to staying home due to direct exposure to another sick person. What we don’t know is how all these things will impact people in the future, especially the younger generations. I’ll use my middle son as an example, he wears his mask at school, around his neck and or on his face at home and often expresses anxiety when in public without a mask. These are conditioned responses. As his father and the same with all our sons, my wife and I have done our best to educate our kids on our understanding of COVID-19, mask use and managing stress during these times. My concern is that my son is just one of likely many kids out there experiencing anxiety because they are being trained to make sure they have masks on in social situations. I feel the need to back-up for just a moment and explain that I am not against masks, my wife and I were talking earlier today how we can accept personal choice regarding mask use, at the same time we are for our children wearing them as they are needed, which is at school and when we go to public locations. One step we have taken is to explain when a mask should be worn and when it doesn’t need to be, as well as why. The anxiety I have noticed from my son is typically in his desire to have a mask on when he is in these public locations with some questions coming from him when people are not wearing a mask. In these situations, we explain that some people choose not to wear them in places like the grocery store and that is their choice which we then move on. The anxiety is by no means serious enough to warrant therapy or serious concern at this point. As a therapist perhaps I worry too much and see things for more than they are, but I feel as a parent we need to make sure to continue to educate our children on mandates and the pandemic as a whole, not to fear monger, but to help them understand the best we can what is going on and how we can handle different situations. In addition, my wife and I have an open-door policy in terms of questions so that our boys know they can always come and ask us a question and or raise a concern. These are the same steps I would suggest to anyone in regard to concerns of helping their children understand our current up and down world. Anyone who is a parent knows it’s one of the toughest jobs and these times don’t make it easier but there will always be something to educate our children o sex, drugs, social situations, pandemics and the list can go on and on its just that sometimes there are multiple topics at the same time.

Parents one more thing! Self-care. Yes, we all need to be taking care of ourselves during stressful times, you cannot pour from an empty cup! If you’re not in a good place mentally, physically and or emotionally, it’s tough to be at your best for someone else. Remember, YOUR worth it and so are our children! Stay strong and let’s keep moving forward.

Fear of Failing

Have you ever made plans and internally set a goal? Maybe it was around weight loss or starting your own company. Either way, as the time to begin got closer and closer was there any second guessing? Some people hear a voice in their head telling them they aren’t good enough or ready for attempting whatever plans you have made. Instead of challenging those voices and or thoughts they may just give up and or make excuses as to why the plans were dumb or not feasible. The issue isn’t the thoughts, it’s your unwillingness to step outside of what is comfortable. Tony Robbins said, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.” I agree 100%. Change often is scary, but necessary. Take a minute and think about a time when you made plans and even though you may have been nervous, followed through with the plans and were glad you did. Now, take a minute and think of a time you made plans, ditched them and how did you feel? Any guilt, disappointment or frustration with yourself? My point is not to make you feel bad about yourself, I know no one needs someone else to do that as we tend to be our worst critic. The point is we are our worst critic and the voice we hear telling us to stop is actually trying to keep us safe believe it or not. Safe in the sense of not doing something new. Have you watched the movie, The Croods? Remember the dad, Grug, he would say in the first movie how anything new or different was bad and would likely lead to death. While he was trying to keep his family safe, they eventually ventured outside of the safety of the cave and found new opportunities. You too need to venture outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to new opportunities. I tell clients, if you worry that is a cue to plan, so plan for how you will handle and manage your worries, don’t ditch the plans.

So, what are some things you’d like to do with this newfound freedom that you’ve created? Will you be asking that special someone on a date? Apply for that job you’ve had your eyes on? Prepare for the marathon you’ve contemplated running? Whatever the plans you can do it, just don’t buy into every thought that comes to mind. One way to challenge your thinking is to imagine standing in a courtroom, you are the Judge and there is a jury. In regard to your worries, what evidence is there to make them true? For instance, let’s say you want to ask this person out but your nervous and worry they will laugh at you or just plain shoot you down. What evidence do you have that either will happen? Or if you’re planning to run a marathon and you’re thinking you will never finish, what evidence do you have to this point? Most times, the answer is none. Often times people will make assumptions but not have evidence see there is a big difference. Assumptions are not based in fact whereas evidence is something you can prove. So go on and make plans, they can be whatever you want. The key is to plan and when you worry, plan.

Not so long ago, I made plans to start my own private practice. I’d be lying if I said this has been easy. For many years I worked in community mental health with plenty of clients and work to do. Suddenly, I had to figure much of it out on my own. Here I am a year later in private practice. Many times, I thought about going back to what I had done. The problem is that was not safe nor comfortable. The discomfort was greater than the comfort. There are still times I need to look at the evidence and show myself that I’m not failing and to challenge assumptions and or expectations. Because I am the one who created those, and I need to be the one to challenge and move beyond them if I am going to do the things that give me and my life meaning.

Co-Regulation and Couples

Have you ever noticed your partner getting upset? Do you know what are some ways he or she calms down? Well if you answered yes to these then good news, your in a pretty normal relationship. But I wonder, do you and or your partner share this information with one another? Or better yet, do you to lean on one another at times to manage your emotions? If you’re not sure that is fine. You should know that co-regulation is a fantastic way to grow and strengthen your emotional bond. 

Recently while working with a couple, the wife stated she notices when her husband is getting upset, he often will get quiet, and become verbally short with everyone at home until he emotionally explodes. The wife went on to mention she feels he really isn’t with her in the house at this point when he gets overwhelmed and while she will encourage him to go and sit down or relax this does not typically happen. The more I spoke with the couple I had a hunch the husband was experiencing flooding. Flooding is when our bodies literally becomes overwhelmed by stress and our ability to manage stressors is reduced. Typically 30 minutes at minimum is needed in order for us to be back at a base-line and not be overwhelmed. However, as I discussed with the couple, knowing the initial signs of being flooded is an important step in reducing these experiences. Luckily in this case, the wife was very insightful and knew some of the signs when her husband was flooded. I encouraged the two to have a conversation about the signs and for the husband to practice being mindful of these and any other signs he noticed to better manage these experiences.

The same couple have been working on tapping which is a form of self-care. You don’t need to know what tapping is but understand they are working together to manage emotions. Couple’s can co-regulate and or manage emotions together by sitting down and talking about the good and bad, going for walks, hugging, holding hands, participating in yoga together as just a few examples. It is true that we cannot ALWAYS depend on our partners for assisting us in managing our emotions. Our partners are likely not by our side 24/7. However, it is important to talk with your partner and get to a place where the two of you are having conversations about self-care and how you can work together to better support one another and build that emotional intimacy!

Parenting around the Internet

As a parent I am just blown away by all the terrible things online. To be fair, there are beneficial items online for educational purposes. No lie, I love jamming to music on applications as much as the next person. But recently, my wife pointed out songs our eldest son has been listening to that were disturbing! He told us one of his friends at school got him into listening to the music and that he doesn’t focus on the words. I get this idea as there are multiple artists I’ve done the same with in the past. However, my wife and I spoke and decided a boundary needed to be set with our kids not just around the crap this particular group was putting forth but in general. All I can say is “Thank you google!”. So our wifi gives us the opportunity to turn off the connection for our kids when they should be in bed. Anyone else have kids that have snuck online when they should be asleep?! I mean all this equals to is an angry and tired kids in the morning that makes getting them out the door for school all the more challenging. So check your wifi and see what options you have for this is you have kids and similar struggles.

I also want to address the boundary set with our eldest son. I came to him respectfully and told him he has a voice to express his point but this group on YouTube was no longer going to be watched nor listened to in any capacity. He agreed. I told him a lot of what this group puts out is vulgar and not acceptable. My wife and I encourage him to listen to music but nothing that is just wrong with some of the ideas it puts out there. I know its not always easy to approach our kids with concerns, but if they have a voice in the discussion it can be helpful instead of simply saying, “It is what it is.” Their voice matters and not just to them but it should to you as well. If we allow our kids to practice healthy social skills now they can carry the skills moving forward.

As a parent when the boundaries are set STICK TO THEM. It is easy for us to be laxed and give in because its easier for us but this is not teaching our kids anything positive. Remember we are the parents and the internet is not a healthy substitute.

Online Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy I’ve found can bring about different reactions. Some people view hypnotherapy as mind control. Others can see it’s an intervention for treating several areas such as, smoking cessation, pain management, relaxation, weight loss, regression work (current and past life) and many more areas. If you are one of the people seeing the many benefits and uses of hypnotherapy then that is fantastic.

It often surprises me when someone will ask if I am going to make them think they are a chicken or if I am going to control their minds. Truth time. I CANNOT CONTROL YOUR MIND. The reality is that there are two kinds of hypnosis; Stage and clinical. Hypnotherapy is clinical hypnosis and is used to treat several areas as mentioned prior. Stage hypnosis is all about putting on a show. I encourage you to go online and search out stage hypnosis and then clinical hypnosis and you will likely see there is a big difference in the two.

Hypnotherapy MYTHS vs. REALITY

1. MYTH: You can get stuck in hypnosis.

REALITY: Your in complete control, go ahead and open your eyes whenever you want, its your choice.

2.MYTH: Hypnosis is sleep.

REALITY: You are aware of everything while in hypnosis.

3. MYTH: Hypnosis is not a natural state.

REALITY: Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of mind.

I Can’t be Hypnotized

You’ve been in a state of hypnosis. When you first wake-up your in a state of hypnosis. Also, there is a term called highway hypnosis. No your not taken to the nearest highway for treatment. Instead, the term means that as someone is driving they tend to focus on what they are doing which is safe and appropriate. However, this is when someone naturally goes into a hypnotic state. Other examples of when someone tends to go into hypnosis is while reading, listening to music and watching movies and or tv shows.

Online Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy through my private practice is online. I am a Certified Hypnotherapist through the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). While I will go into more detail about treatment during a consultation, the process is the same whether in-person or online. Since I’ve worked with folks in-person and online I can honestly say there is no difference is the process nor what I do. Both are equally beneficial. So I encourage you to contact me today by email/phone or schedule a consultation. Go ahead!

Online Individual Therapy

There are many similarities in terms of benefits between individual and couples therapy online. The first idea that is a benefit of online individual therapy is the privacy aspect. You can literally go into a room at home, close the door, put ear buds or a headset on and we can process whatever issues bring you into therapy. This like any other online therapy is able to be done from the comfort of your own home. No going out and driving to an office or having to leave in general, its a great option.

I will ask about the address you are located during session, a phone number to reach you and an emergency contact in case we lose connection because that can happen with the internet at times. I ask clients as well if they have had any history of self-harm, for a therapist it is a fairly common question to ask. However, since we are not physically going to be in the same room I want us both to be up front with one another and make sure we are on the same page so sessions can flow more smoothly. Just as with any other therapy, online therapy is conducted via Simple Practice teleheath (video-conferencing). You literally will click a button and be in session… super easy.

So it does not matter where in Pennsylvania you are: Scranton, Wellsboro, Mansfield, Muncy, Williamsport, Coudersport, Erie,  Pittsburgh, Wexford, Allentown, or Bloomsburg. Anywhere in the state we can connect, and these are just a few benefits. So schedule today and let’s get you where you want to be in life.

Online Therapy and Couples

Online therapy is a great way for working with couples. Obviously being in the comfort of your own home is an excellent advantage due convenience and accessibility.  It is also great because this may be one of the first opportunities the couple had to sit down and process relationship struggles.

Making Time to Talk

Couples will often tell me they don’t have time to talk. If you don’t have time to talk then how are you going to connect? How are you going to build a bond? Both good questions and the answer is that if you don’t make time to connect, then you likely won’t, a it’s difficult to build a healthy bond without making time to focus on it. Yes, individualized time is important, but so is time together.

Online therapy allows for privacy to build a healthy bond and work on relationship struggles.  A big perk is that your home area may not have a Couples therapist nearby. Online therapy brings us together and allows for the quality treatment you and your partner deserve.

Schedule a consultation to see if online couples therapy is a good fit for you and your partner!

Mutual Self-Soothing

There are several facets of relationships which are important, but none are more important than one’s ability to self-soothe.  When one partner is feeling emotionally vulnerable, it is important for them to be able to temporarily regulate their emotions.  The reason is that at times, your partner may not be available, perhaps because they are working or because they are not responsive in the moment due to their own struggles with self-regulation. Either way the ability to self-soothe is a must in healthy relationships. Yes, even in healthy relationships partners maybe unresponsive at times.  This does not mean a partner repeatedly being unresponsive is a sign of a healthy relationship. We all have our moments of struggling to be available, but we all must be able and willing to self-soothe so that we can then be there for our partners and with our partners.

Some partners have grown up in unhealthy homes- whether they experienced trauma or a lack of nurturing. Individuals who grew up in these conditions may depend on their partners even more than usual to feel secure and validated. We all want to feel like we matter to those most important to us such as a husband and or wife. In many cases, survivors of trauma and or neglect will struggle with self-regulation and instead are filled with anxiety and or shame.

In sessions, I work with both partners on the ability to self-soothe.  It is crucial in order to build a healthy relationship. The same is true regarding being able to soothe your partner.  Once both partners can regulate their own emotions they can lean on one another more in order to help reduce the anxieties and fears which can come from the outside world and create  feelings of security.