Posts tagged advice
Gratitude without guilt

I have an amazing mother. She is one of the most giving people I know. She's the kind of woman that remembers everyone's birthday (even like, the granddaughter of a co-worker's birthday) and makes sure to send something every single year. She's always given to charity, even when she didn't have all that much. Whenever I see her, she gives me something. She takes me out to lunch, she takes me shopping, or she just hands me some money. I'm her baby and she loves taking care of me. I know that if I'm ever in need, I can turn to her for help. She is the best and I am eternally grateful to her.

But man, do I feel guilty sometimes! I think, "I'm 35, I don't need my mom buying me clothes. I should be buying HER nice things!" When I've actually had to ask her for money, the guilt train really comes barreling in. I feel like I piece of shit when I have to ask for her help and there's no reason for it! She's never made me feel guilty for needing help. Like I said, she's happy to give and the truth is, she's better off than me. I've got graduate school bills to pay and a fledgling business to maintain. A free lunch here, a few bucks there, it's really nice - not to mention the time I get to spend with my awesome mom.

I always thought guilt and gratitude were inseparable. There's a voice in my head that says, "It's ok to accept this, but you'd better feel bad about it." Maybe because it's considered polite to say, "Oh thank you, but you really shouldn't have." Maybe because some people make you feel like you owe them once they give you something. Maybe because I think I don't really deserve it.

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Is that how you REALLY feel?

When it comes to couples, a lot of people talk about "communication". Often we hear "A good relationship is all about communication" from advice givers or "We just didn't communicate" from recently broken hearts. Here's the thing: it's not that you communicate - because we all do, even when we're not speaking - it's how you communicate.

In love relationships, communication gets complicated. Because we've fallen intimately in love with someone, and they with us, we often expect them to know exactly what we need at all times. Why is it that we expect so much? I'm not completely sure why. Much of it has to do with attachment style, which dictates how we interact with others, but the rest seems to defy logic. Many times, we ask our partners to be superhumans - to behave in ways that are only agreeable to us and our wants and needs. If they don't, we get angry or upset and many times our partners have no idea why. Then they react, usually by either fighting back, going silent, or defending themselves in some other way. That's an all-too-familiar pattern that often brings couples to therapy.

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Five ways to get your money's worth from your therapist

I know, therapy is expensive. Like I said: it's helpful to think of it as an investment. You're investing in your self or your relationship or your family. You're giving your life a tune-up. It all costs money. You're putting yourself in the hands of a professional in order to do so. Someone who has been educated and trained for, at the very least, 5 years if he or she is licensed. This person should know their stuff and that can be intimidating. BUT, it doesn't mean your therapist should be telling you what to do and it doesn't mean you can't trust your gut. In fact, your counselor should be encouraging you to trust and depend upon yourself. Here's a short  list of advice on getting your money's worth from therapy:

1. Ask questions, debate points, and give feedback Ask for what you need. If you don't understand something your therapist says, ask. If you disagree with something she says, say so. This doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to her, but when something feels inherently wrong, just way off from who you are, SAY SOMETHING. It doesn't help you at all to stay mute on the subjects that really rile you up. Again, your therapist is not your friend; she is providing you with a service. Having said that, however you must understand that you also have to...

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Congratulations, you've found your therapist! Now what?

It's the 1st session. You're nervous, asking yourself questions like "What will she be like? Will he think we're crazy? What have I gotten myself into?" If you've never been to a therapist before, it's like walking into a small room with a stranger who has agreed to take your money to provide you with a product you know little about. It can be weird and feel awkward. You're taking a big risk entrusting someone else with your problems, with your life. And kudos to you for your courage! I want to try to make it all a little less daunting, so here's a brief guide of what to expect when you walk into a therapist's office for the first time:

When you get there, you will be greeted with the usual pleasantries and a bit of small talk, but eventually you'll have to get serious. Your therapist will soon ask "what brings you here today?" You may have talked about it on the phone prior to your appointment, but some version of this question will be posed to bring the focus to exactly why you're paying to be there. Attempt to be as honest as you comfortably can be. It's natural to feel strange about telling someone you've never met your most hurtful problems. You don't have to say everything, just try to be truthful. This can be extremely difficult when you've come to therapy with a spouse and it's the therapist's responsibility to help you feel as safe as possible in his or her space. This is YOUR time. Use it wisely.

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Finding the right therapist for YOU

I get all sorts of questions about therapists and the counseling process from friends and family. I am thrilled about the decreasing social stigma surrounding therapy, whether for the individual, couple, or family.

Then, I see an article like this - Marriage Counselors: 10 Things They Don't Want You to Know. Now, there is good advice in this article, but it is unfortunately buried in the 2nd or 3rd paragraphs of each topic. The reader is purposefully drawn to the title and topics, which are negative and misleading. I worry that articles like this one are discouraging people from seeking therapy in an age when there are so many well-trained counselors, therapists, psychologists, and coaches offering many opportunities for, and different paths to, true personal growth.

I'm not saying that there are no bad counselors out there. There certainly are, because along with a growing market comes a greater discrepancy in legitimacy. Finding a good therapist can be difficult, but it can also significantly help your relationships and/or you as an individual. I'm going to offer some advice through a series of posts, the first being on the subject of the initial search for a good therapist.

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