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Four Myths About Counseling

Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

People have varying feelings regarding counseling. For some, counseling is an essential part of life. For others, even thinking about therapy is uncomfortable. There are different perceptions about what it means to go to counseling, and society and culture definitely play a role in this. Depending on your viewpoint, counseling may be looked at as a legitimate way to deal with problems. Or it may be something that only "crazy people" do.


Here are a few myths about counseling and the reality checks that go with them.


If I go to counseling it means I'm weak. I should be able to handle my problems on my own, without help. The reality is that some problems are too big, messy, or painful to handle alone. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to reach out to someone outside your friends and family for an unbiased perspective. A counselor can provide that perspective for you, pointing out things you may not have considered before, asking questions that get you thinking, and helping you identify choices and options you didn't realize you have.


Everyone will know my business. The reality is that everyone will NOT know your business. A counselor has an ethical obligation to keep client information confidential. There are certain exceptions to this, such as a client expressing the desire to hurt herself or someone else, or a report of child abuse, but these exceptions primarily involve people's personal safety, and not the issues many clients bring to counseling. 


Counseling doesn't work. The reality is that counseling won't work if you go into it with that attitude and a closed mind. If you refuse to share, open up, and deal with your issues, you will not get very far with counseling. However, if you believe counseling can help you, and you go in with an open mind, counseling can make a positive difference in your life.


Only crazy people go to counseling. The reality is that counseling is for people who want to make a change in their lives. Asking for help with this doesn't make you crazy. It makes you smart, and it means you are ready for things to get better. It means you are tired of being stuck in a rut and you're looking for something to change. Yes, there are people who have very serious mental disorders, but I don't see many of them in my office for counseling. If someone has a considerable amount of mental disturbance they are more likely to be on strong psychotropic medications, and may not be able to sit in a counseling office to discuss their issues.


These are only some of many myths about counseling, and everyone has their own fears and worries about sharing their issues and inner thoughts with a stranger, but going to counseling doesn't mean you are weak or crazy, or that everyone will know your business. And if you want it to be a good experience, start with a positive attitude and the idea that counseling can help.

Three Ways to Master Sensitivity

Posted on March 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As promised, continued from last time. So, how do you deal with sensitivity? Here are three things that can help.


Become aware that you are a sensitive person, and tell yourself it is okay to be that way. There is nothing wrong with sensitivity. However, when you approach certain situations, think about how they might trigger you so that you can be ready to deal with them. You often know how being around specific people will affect you. Prepare for this. Know what to expect going in. If your sister is critical of you every time you get together, remind yourself that she has not changed since last time. She will continue to be critical this time. Don't be surprised when she tells you she doesn't like your outfit, your kids aren't as smart as hers, or she doesn't understand how you can be a working mom. This is typical of her. You get to choose how you react. You can change the subject, confront her critical behavior, or let her get to you once again. What will you pick?

 


Along the same lines, don't take things personally. Remember, the way people act is almost always about them. Certainly, if you have made a mistake, own it and take care of it, but don't take on problems that aren't yours. Don't accept blame for something you aren't responsible for. When someone cuts you off on the highway, that is not about you. That is about them. Maybe they had a bad day or a run-in with the boss. When the checker at the grocery store plunks down your produce and it gets bruised, that is about her. Maybe she just got dumped or had a fight with her mom. When your family member (spouse, sibling, parent, etc) yells at you for no reason, that is about them. Maybe they had a hard day at school or work, or had a fight with a friend. Are you getting the idea? Now, please understand, just because someone is having a bad day does not mean it's okay for her to take it out on you or someone else. It's not okay. But, it's also not your fault. You get to refuse to feel guilty about the exchange. You get to tell the person not to take their anger (or other feelings) out on you. You get to choose not to take it personally.

 


Finally, put yourself first sometimes. If you are the sensitive type, you probably end up putting yourself last most of the time, if you even make the list. Don't do this to yourself. You deserve to be treated well, just as you treat others. Make sure to set aside time for yourself. Get a massage or a pedicure. Go shopping or window shopping. But a new pair of shoes or a fab dress. Get together with friends. Go to therapy. Heat your socks or bath towels in the dryer before using them. Go out to lunch. Trade babysitting with a friend and go on a date with your spouse. Trade babysitting with a friend and stay home with your spouse (sans kids). Take a dance class or learn a new language. The possibilities are endless. You figure out what you need to stay sane and to not feel resentful of those in your life you put first. Do those things. It's important to fill your cup so that you can give and do for others out of the overflow. Do not neglect yourself.

 


The Sensitive Personality

Posted on February 27, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Chances are, you probably know someone who is sensitive. Or maybe it's you who is sensitive. Many of my clients are "the sensitive type." They tell me others have encouraged or commanded them to "suck it up," or "just stop being so sensitive." They wish they could, too, because it might make life a little easier for them, but they don't know how to go about it. If this describes you, you may be a more sensitive person. If this makes you think of someone you know and love, maybe it will give you some insight into what life is like for her.


Sensitive people relate stories of friends or siblings who experienced a similar situation to theirs, but reacted in a different way, such as laughing off the incident, confronting the offender, or forgetting about it. But, someone who is sensitive is a strong feeler. This person has trouble just letting something go. This person has a tendency to take things personally, or to perceive a personal attack where one doesn't exist. She may overanalyze a situation or repeatedly replay it in her mind, considering what she said and did and what she should have done instead. She also may be inclined to cry easily when others don't. Sad or poignant stories affect her deeply, and she has difficulty putting them out of her mind. This person may also experience sensitivity in other ways. She may have sensitive skin, or a sensitive stomach. She may tend to react more intensely to medication or to get sick more often. She may have more allergies. She may tire faster than others.


Sensitivity doesn't have to be a bad thing. We need all types of people in the world. The sensitive type tends to be perceptive and intuitive. This person often can tell when someone is having a hard time or a bad day, and is likely to be empathetic. She tends to be tuned in to others. She is more aware of her surroundings. She is extremely considerate, usually putting others before herself, sometimes to a fault. She may say that she feels disrespected or like people walk all over her.


So, how do you deal with sensitivity? How do you let things just roll off your back? Check out my next blog to find out.



Resolution Check In

Posted on February 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

As we approach the last week of February, it's a good time to check in on how your New Years Resolutions are going. Pull out your list, whether it's on paper, on your phone, or in your head, and review your resolutions.


As you look over the list, is there anything you forgot about? Anything you've changed your mind about? It's okay to review and edit resolutions. Maybe you realize that exercising every day was too much, but you could have success with a goal of exercise 3-4 times a week. Perhaps you intended to be more social by contacting a friend a few times a month, but now that you are getting into the habit, you find you can contact someone a few times a week, or add more social events to your calendar.


The idea is to set yourself up for success. It's no fun to feel like a failure all the time. "I just never have a week where I make it to the gym every day." If that was your goal and you miss one day out of seven, you didn't meet your goal. Never mind that you went six days of the week, or five, or four, or even one, but you don't get credit for that. Word your goals in such a way as to increase your probability of success. "I will exercise four times a week" would actually allow for missing days, and would still give you credit for your accomplishments. You can apply this idea to other resolutions, too. "I will contact a friend/attend a social gathering three times a month" means that you aren't limited to a specific day or week to accomplish this goal. Maybe your resolution was "I will stop smoking," but you are still lighting up as much as before. If you want to keep this as a goal, make it more specific. For instance, reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, or force yourself to wait longer between smoke breaks.


There is no need to feel ashamed of goals not met. Reevaluate them and decide if they are still working for you, if they need to be revised, or if they should be tossed out altogether. It's really okay.