Self-love in a Time of Upheaval

More clients have had thoughts of sui­cide this year in my psy­chother­a­py office than in the last five years. I’m not scared for them, but as a fel­low trav­el­er, I grieve for those con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide. One woman comes in and clutch­es a pea­cock pil­low. In the ear­ly Spring a depressed client comes and sips chamomile/ginger tea. I want them to enter the door and curl up in com­fort on a sofa. We talk about their loss­es, grat­i­tude, and per­son­al strengths in a warm den of soft­ness.

Climb Away from Dan­ger

Sui­cide behav­ior is an act of des­per­a­tion.

Fear of the future and hope­less­ness grip our young peo­ple. Many don’t expect to raise chil­dren, many can’t plan the next 10 years. “I would go off of birth con­trol tomor­row, but will my chil­dren end up liv­ing in some kind of dystopia?” Because of cli­mate change, the Earth is becom­ing more and more inhos­pitable and dis­as­ter looms more immi­nent­ly.

I’m remem­ber­ing two grad­u­ate stu­dents who brave­ly came into ther­a­py. They resilient­ly crawled away from the sui­cide precipice. Con­tin­ue read­ing

Marriage Happiness & Weight Gain

Why do women put on weight after they get mar­ried? I have recent­ly had some clients moan about their extra pounds. This can be depress­ing but it’s com­mon.
Marriage Appetite

Mar­riage Appetite

In the first 10 years of mar­riages women in the US hap­pi­ly mar­ried gain an aver­age of 37 lbs., while those unhap­pi­ly mar­ried gain 54 lbs. So choose your food and your mate wise­ly.

Over 6,000 Aus­tralian women were stud­ied by Pro­fes­sor Annette Dob­son. The 10-year weight gain for a mar­ried woman was 15 lbs if she had a part­ner but not a child, and 20 lbs. if she was mar­ried with a baby. Mar­riage is linked to increased BMI (body mass index) for men and women of all eth­nic groups. In North Car­oli­na a study found that mar­ried men and women in their ear­ly 20s gained 6 – 9 more pounds than sin­gle peers. Con­tin­ue read­ing

Working Through Problems, It Takes Work

Solving Problems Together

Solv­ing Prob­lems Togeth­er

How can cou­ples work through their prob­lems?

To make a com­mit­ment to anoth­er per­son is more than a busi­ness con­tract. Whether you are legal­ly mar­ried or involved in a seri­ous rela­tion­ship, it takes atten­tion and work to make deci­sions. Where will you live? How much mon­ey do you need? How do you pay the bills and divide the tasks of liv­ing togeth­er? Will you raise chil­dren togeth­er? What hol­i­days will you cel­e­brate togeth­er? For a cou­ple who is form­ing into mar­riage or liv­ing togeth­er, who will be your fam­i­ly, or your ‘peeps.’ Con­tin­ue read­ing

Does Ray Rice Need Counseling?

As a ther­a­pist, I work with abusers and vic­tims, though not at the same time. Nor does any­one fall into an easy cat­e­go­ry. No one is blame­less. Often vio­lence like an addic­tion breeds on itself. fam siloquetteWe’ve been hear­ing about the NFL and Ray Rice’s blud­geon­ing assault on his wife, Janay (née Palmer). Not only is it shock­ing the Rice punched and kicked his wife uncon­scious, but Rice showed a com­plete lack of care or remorse for her as she’s lying bleed­ing by the ele­va­tor. He also beat her up sev­er­al years ago. They got mar­ried the next day. He did it once with­out seri­ous con­se­quences, are you sur­prised that the mar­i­tal vio­lence con­tin­ued? Con­tin­ue read­ing

Therapy Marathon Aftershock

As a ther­a­pist I some­times ana­lyze what pos­sessed Djhokhar Tsar­naev, now accused of set­ting off the bomb­ings on April 15. I did meet him a few times when he was 16 at the Cam­bridge high school. He came to the US at the age of 9 from Chech­nya; after a
Boston and gay pride

Boston and gay pride

divorce the moth­er left the Tsar­naev broth­ers to live in Rus­sia. His fate is wrapped up with hun­dreds of injured peo­ple. I can­not excuse what he did.

I work with fam­i­lies who come from war-torn coun­tries. Some in my prac­tice are Lati­nos, some are Ethiopi­ans. I have clients who fled from FARC mil­i­tants and fam­i­lies who have applied for asy­lum in the US. Many refugees are escap­ing hor­rif­ic vio­lence from Haiti and Sal­vador and Sudan. When my curi­ous sons entered high school, I real­ized that our cities can be a war zone for teenagers. Many teens are harassed by gangs after school: they are intim­i­dat­ed and par­a­lyzed. An armed police offi­cer was employed at the high school, where some boys were told to leave the school for car­ry­ing knives.

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My Child Always Complains

Have you ever felt teth­ered with a short Leash to a whin­ing child?

Richard Fos­ter informed despair­ing par­ents,Cuban sisters

A dear friend of mine, Lymon James is a radio disc jock­ey. On the radio he’s called “Rhymin’ Lymon.” Lymon has a son, Zachary. One after­noon when Zachary was three years old, Lymon decid­ed to take Zach on an out­ing. They went for some walks and vis­it­ed some shops.

But it was one of those days, when noth­ing seems to go right. Zachary was fuss­ing and fum­ing. Lymon tried every­thing. He tried to dis­ci­pline him, and that didn’t work. He tried to bribe him: he gave him can­dy, and that didn’t work. He did some­saults in the park, and that def­i­nite­ly didn’t work. Lymon was a renowned radio genius, but the 3 year old was win­ning the bat­tle. Lymon felt deflat­ed. The boy wouldn’t be dis­tract­ed and kept whin­ing and snif­fling for no obvi­ous rea­son.

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Therapy Soothes and Challenges

I love my work, and I know this work delves deep into who I am. When I first start­ed to do coun­sel­ing with cou­ples, I stud­ied com­pli­cat­ed tech­niques like Mil­ton Ericson’s hyp­no­sis, and Vir­ginia Satir’s work on anx­i­ety that bur­rows inside your body. I watched in amaze­ment 15 years ago as trau­ma was elim­i­nat­ed with EMDR (Eye Move­ment Repro­cess­ing by Shapiro). I then stud­ied with Judith Her­man who wrote “the Book” onSueSerena heal­ing after acute trau­ma. One nev­er gets bored with the study of fam­i­ly ther­a­py. Con­sid­er these requests by par­ents:
  • Can you cure chil­dren suf­fer­ing from enure­sis?”
  • What hap­pens when my part­ner uses spy­ware on my com­put­er?”
  • When I sus­pect Janelle’s using drugs and she denies it, should I surep­tious­ly read her jour­nal?”

It is my plea­sure to help fam­i­lies, but I don’t take cred­it for cur­ing the prob­lem. Ther­a­py can help make crush­ing sched­ules more bear­able; realign the merid­i­ans of pow­er among par­ents and chil­dren; get par­ents pad­dling in synch instead of row­ing against each oth­er. The stress lev­el and com­pli­cat­ed after school activ­i­ties packs in too many expec­ta­tions. Headaches and stom­achaches can give cues as to whether stress is high. In ther­a­py I deal with the irri­tat­ing peb­ble in the shoe, and the chaos of flash­backs. Plus I now know how much the work is help­ing myself. The old adage says, “You teach the sub­ject that you most need to learn.”

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A Sad, Dark Knight

Jessi­ca, John, Gor­don, Alex, Rebec­ca, Matt, Jon, Veron­i­ca, AJ, Micay­la, Jesse fell to vio­lent killing in Auro­ra CO.This is a sto­ry of sor­row. These peo­ple have left us. Farewell, adieu, to God. It is a time to cra­dle our love and wish them safe jour­neys to the next world. We are griev­ing and we don’t want this type of gun­ning down to hap­pen again.

With your close ones, share your feel­ings and reac­tions to the Auro­ra killings. Chil­dren 8 and over have heard about it, and par­ents will want to ini­ti­ate a con­ver­sa­tion to assure chil­dren they are safe. We need to admit what hap­pened (no need to empha­size gory details). All fam­i­ly sys­tems need a pro­tec­tor, because kids know they are vul­ner­a­ble. Your role, along with fam­i­ly coun­sel­ing, is to keep them safe. Be con­fi­dent in this.

I’m sor­ry per­son­al guns are used this cen­tu­ry more against humans than for hunt­ing. I grew up on a farm, and guns were for deer and geese, nev­er to be used in self-defense. Killing was linked to the food you eat, not to get revenge or atten­tion.

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I can’t visit my child.”

Oné of the worst imag­in­able things is to be sep­a­rat­ed from those you love. Some par­ents are in prison, oth­ers lose their right to see their chil­dren for years. They were not grant­ed vis­i­ta­tion rights by a judge. In abuse cas­es, one par­ent may ask that the abuser refrain indef­i­nite­ly from see­ing their child.

Clients enter fam­i­ly coun­sel­ing, mourn­ing this con­tact. Of course they miss see­ing their chil­dren grow up. Still they can main­tain and grow in their iden­ti­ty as a moth­er or father. A wise friend of mine, mis­car­ried a child and nev­er was able to have anoth­er child. But in those months of car­ry­ing a child, she became a moth­er. Her ten­der­ness and her out­look towards oth­ers changed for­ev­er, even though she nev­er had phys­i­cal con­tact (well, con­tact out­side) with her child. Still, she iden­ti­fies as a moth­er.

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It takes courage to go to ther­a­py. Who adores wrestling with prob­lems? But ther­a­py could be a crit­i­cal turn­ing point for you. In Span­ish (I speak Span­ish), there’s an expres­sion, vale la pena. It means the pain is worth it.

I enjoy chal­lenges. I’m good at work­ing with those who are anx­ious or depressed or who have fam­i­ly prob­lems. Some of us are in deep grief, or have unre­solved pain from the past. I enjoy putting puz­zles togeth­er; some cou­ples feel that their spouse is too con­trol­ling. Some want to change old pat­terns of yelling or speak­ing. Some want help as they adjust to get­ting old­er or change in med­ica­tion.

As an inde­pen­dent fam­i­ly coun­selor I work well with angry kids and frus­trat­ed par­ents. I have often worked with abu­sive chil­dren, those who self-abuse and those who’ve bul­lied. Fam­i­lies grow, no mat­ter how bleak the present dilem­ma. My mod­el includes cre­ativ­i­ty and com­pas­sion. I include music and art in my prac­tice.