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Posts Tagged ‘good therapy’

So, if my postings have been a bit sporadic the past few months, it’s with good reason. Much to our surprise, after 8 years of unsuccessfully trying to add child #4 to our family, I seem to be very much pregnant (due in March if you’re curious).

What’s the connection between that and a flutter of anxiety? Imagine my surprise when, instead of feeling overjoyed with the discovery, I instead promptly had a massive panic attack.

Dr. Heitler, my office-mate (and yes, my mother) has a very helpful technique for figuring out what was going on that triggered that anxiety — and where my husband and I needed a pow-wow to get on with being excited about this new development.

Dr. Heitler posted a blog this week at PsychologyToday with a very nice description of the process I found so very helpful. The one sentence summary — trace back to find the “butterfly” thought that in some sub-conscious way, triggered the anxiety.

Curious what my “butterfly” was?    Seeing our camping gear ready for a weekend’s adventure “butterflied” me to concerns that a new baby would mean we would no longer be able to do this kind of family adventure. The solution — lots of fun ideas for how to tote a baby along on family outdoor adventures — and plans for leaving baby-to-be with the Grandparents as well!

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I had a wonderful session with a couple today where we talked about the hallmark of truly first rate listening. Here’s what we arrived at.

First rate listening transforms THE LISTENER.

Yes, it’s wonderful to be listened to and listening is a gift to do for anyone you care about.

And, the real halmark of great listening is that every time you really do it well — that is listen to learn from your spouse — it’s a chance to become a more open, more understanding and more educated you.

So, next time you’re listening, notice if it’s changing YOU.

Want more on how to do this kind of listening? Watch a video of me teaching about listening here.

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I just got back from a conference.  The conference was pretty unremarkable.  The article in Southwest airline’s inflight magazine however, was first-rate.  Find the article here.

Camp Do It Yourself.  Here’s the idea.  Find a first-rate, energetic, spunky high school or college student.  Find a handful of kids your kids like.  Put sitter and kids together for a summer of low-key, creativity, informal sports, art theater and lots of relaxed create-your-own-fun.

As I was feeling the pressure to add this camp and that activity to the plate for our kids for this summer, I found this article so refreshing.    Let summer be summer.  A time to move at a slower pace.  A time to learn how to entertain oneself instead of to be entertained.  A time to lie in a hammock curled up with a book and nowhere to race off too.

Now that is a true summer gift for any child.  And for us adults too!

The article also got me thinking about how easy it is to assume that a professional is the best person when you need help for your kids.  Actually, often DIY therapy, tutoring etc also works great.  Here’s the basic idea.

Therapy/Tutoring Do It Yourself

1.  You, the parent find a professional to coach you and your wonderful high school or college student “coach” about how to work with your kid.  Schedule a first meeting with the three of you to create a plan for what your “coach” will do with your child.

2.  You watch out of the corner of your eye while your kid and “coach” work together.  Take notes to review with your professional.

3.  You and the “coach” follow-up with the professional.

4.  Repeat as many times as need :)!

You save money.  Your child gets more services from someone who is likely to be more on their level and way more fun.  Your “coach” gets a fabulous learning experience.  Everyone wins.

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Ok, this one might seem like a stretch – – –  hang in there with me.

My husband forwarded me this article about teaching math — http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/a-better-way-to-teach-math/.

As a former math teacher I found it interesting. As Power of Two Head Coach I found it fascinating!

Here’s my take on math and marriage.

  1. Both are based on solid skills knowledge.
  2. Both take lots of practice to make those skills come naturally.
  3. Most folks have great intuition about how to do both. It’s when there’s any pressure or challenge to the situation that this basic good sense gets totally chucked.
  4. Nearly everyone can learn to be first rate at both with some bite-sized, incremental learning.

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It is easy to lose focus in therapy.   Therapy can become a meandering journey, a bit of a boat adrift in the sea of life struggles — tossed and turned with each new week.

Or therapy can set a clear destination – a goal, a distant shore towards which each session in it’s own way is heading you closer.

There are several ways I like to help my clients (and me!) make sure we all know where the boat is headed and that the course we are charting will take us towards that destination.

1.  Early in treatment articulate a clear goal.  Sometimes this will be a vision of what “better” might look like.  For other people a laundry list of concerns that will be resolved.  In other situations it may be relief from symptoms like depression, anxiety or marital tension.  Every so often is a new skill set– parenting skills, marriage skills, boss-management skills.

2.  I review this goal before each session to make sure that the course I am charting is heading us towards our destination.

3.  I often encourage clients to pursue treatment in blocks of about 5 sessions.  Move towards the goal for a handful (or handful plus) of sessions, then re-group.  Sometimes the re-group is a pause in treatment.  Sometimes it is just a few moments in a session to look at where we’ve been and where we are going.

I find being clear about the destination to be particularly important to keep right at the fore when working with people who come to therapy with a broad range of things that just aren’t working in their lives and/or longstanding history of depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges.  There can be so many directions to explore, so many different ports that one might go calling in.  However, by visiting them all, one risks losing momentum.  Better, I think to pick a destination, sail to it, savor it.

And then one can always pick a new port to go calling next!

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As someone who has done quite a bit of work with both children and with parents, I often find myself trying to decide which is the more optimal point to intervene — with parents or with their children.

For example, when a teen is struggling in school,  in part because things are tense at home where is the best starting point?

Certainly getting direct help for the teen is important.  Providing academic support, an open ear, and tools for problem solving about how to keep one’s own life stable and healthy is of the essence.

At the same time, help as close to the source of the problem tends to be quite effective.  That would suggest working with the parents.  Likewise, any professional help is going to have some limited time-frame.  Parents are forever.  Thus, helping parents to get to a place they can provide the kind of help their child needs might have more longevity.

Every time I start to ponder this question, I realize the answer is the chicken AND the egg come first.  Yes, get kids direct help.  And, yes, get parents better resources too.

In the end, I think the right question is  not parent or child, but what for the parents and what for the children.  If all of us working with parents made sure to always ask “what am I also doing for the child?”  And, if all of us working with children made sure to always ask “what am I doing the parents?” maybe we’d have less cracked eggs and more healthy chickens in this world.

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I’m not a big fan of homework for kids.  Actually, I’m a big anti-fan of homework for kids.  School is long enough.  When kids finally come home it’s time to play sports, read, draw, talk with friends and just chill on the couch.

Homework after a therapy session, however, is a completely different matter.  In some ways, this is the most important part of the whole project.

Why is giving and doing homework between sessions so different from homework from school?  Here’s my list.

  1. School lasts 7 hours or so a day.  Therapy is 1 hour a week (or so).  That’s not enough time to learn, practice and do.  Thus, practice and do homework.
  2. The goal of school, in many ways, is to learn to do school well.   However, the goal of therapy is to learn to do LIFE well.  So, bringing therapy home is key.
  3. Changing habits is hard.  It takes a lot of practice to do one’s life differently.  Therapy homework is a way to structure this practice.
  4. Therapy is expensive.  Homework is a way to get the most out of each session so you can use the least sessions possible!

What makes for good therapy homework?  Good therapy homework is decided on as a team with both therapist and  client(s) deciding what the assignment will be.   Good homework feels do-able so that it’s a way to succeed.

And, perhaps most of all, good therapy homework, all-in-all makes time instead of taking time.  It makes time by fostering healthier, happier ways of doing this project called life.  Because, it’s not just our kids who deserve a break at the end of the day!

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