I personally didn’t ever expect myself to marry a military soldier due to being afraid of the possible distance. It is emotionally draining being away from your partner for months or maybe even years. No matter how many times the separation occurs, it seems to be just as intimidating. Here are some helpful hints to get in a positive groove with your military spouse or even a long distance partner.
1. Talk about the upcoming separation
Before it even happens, it’s extremely important to sit together and share what your fears are about the soon-to-be distance. Allow each partner to share without interruption and brainstorm ideas together to make them feel less scary. Throughout the separation continue talking and bringing up new fears and emotions that pop up before they become a bigger problem.
2. Keep active and stay busy
Whether that’s picking up a new hobby, being outside with nature, surrounding yourself with loved ones, or creating a daily routine, do whatever you can to distract yourself so you don’t feel alone at your own home.
3. Discuss how you will stay in touch
Schedule a daily or weekly time to talk on the phone or video sessions. It gives you a positive part of your day to connect and look forward to together. Even talk about the type of communication you would feel closest to.
4. Continue to make plans together
Plan vacations that you will take together once reunited again. Plan smaller activities you took for granted and want to do together again, such as biking, kayaking, or taking the dog on a walk. This really helps with providing reassurance that life will be back to normal again some day.
5. Kicking it back to pen pals
Write letters to each other and send care packages. Share about your day or how much they mean to you or what emotions are coming up for you as you’re writing. Receiving mail from your partner is a way to make anyone smile and think of you.
6. Seek support if needed
This could mean staying at a family’s house or seeing friends over the weekends. This could also mean seeking a therapist for an additional safe space to process.
7. Distance gives you the opportunity for the heart to grow fonder
This is the chance to really test your communication skills and prove yourself as a couple. You will learn how to communicate about aspects that haven’t come up before. This distance is also a reminder of the good times and how thankful you are for them.
8. Be flexible and open-minded
The military will control your partner’s schedule and it will be frustrating when you just want to see or talk to them. If you don’t already know, ask and understand why your partner is in the military and how it benefits both of you.
9. Have shared experiences together
Read the same book or listen to the same music playlists and compare notes and opinions. Use technology to watch movies or shows together or even play games online at the same time. This provides some type of normalcy of being together even if it’s through a screen.
10. Acknowledge this is not easy
This is an experience not everyone goes through and is extremely hard. The best way to get through this time is to work together as a couple. Establish mutual trust, honesty, respect, and remember you are both going through a challenging time. Remind your partner that you love them.
“I failed the test again. I’m never going to get any better at this.”
“They cancelled plans – they must not like me.”
“Everything I say sounds so unintelligent. I’m such an idiot.”
Any of these statements sound familiar? These statements are examples of negative self-talk. Self-talk is your subconscious inner dialogue that you engage with everyday. The average person has about 6,000 thoughts per day (Murdock, 2020). What do you notice about how you talk to yourself? How do these thoughts make you feel? If the answer is sad, unmotivated, upset, angry, or anything similar to these feelings – chances are you are being mean to yourself.
Why are we mean to ourselves?
Our inner dialogue is shaped in childhood by the way we internalize how we are spoken to by people around us – caregivers, parents, peers, teachers, relatives. Maybe you had a teacher who said you just weren’t a good writer after failing one too many writing assignments. Maybe your parents dismissed your feelings a lot. All this to say – even though we may have internalized negative thoughts about ourselves for years, we can change these thoughts to positive self-talk statements:
1. Start with awareness.
As with any change we take on in our life – we first need to be aware that there is something that just isn’t working for us anymore. The purpose of explaining the “why” above is to create space to use curiosity (not judgement!) to discover where your inner critic comes from.
2. List evidence against your negative belief about yourself.
You may notice that you say, “I’m such a burden,” a lot. What is evidence in your life that shows that you are not a burden? Maybe you have friends that initiate plans with you. Maybe you have a partner that always asks and genuinely wants to hear about your day.
3. Create a new, positive self-talk statement based on the evidence you listed.
With the example above, the evidence shows that “I am loved”.
4. Review the list of evidence often.
Keep a running list of evidence against your negative belief on your phone so that you always have access to it. Look at the list even when you are not being mean to yourself.
5. Practice self-compassion.
It takes time for these evidences to replace your long standing negative self belief – it’s like teaching yourself an entirely new language! Be kind to yourself as you navigate this process by using positive self-talk statements: “I’m doing the best I can.” “I can do this.” “I believe in myself.”
Practice using curiosity to identify your self-talk and how the statements make you feel. Therapy can support this process by providing a safe space to explore where your inner critic comes from and work on creating positive self-talk statements to replace negative ones. Wishing you healing on your journey to self-kindness!
One of the many questions I get from the parents of my teen clients and my adult clients is: what is the difference between therapy and life coaching, and which one do I (or my child/loved one) need? It’s a great question, and my honest answer is… it depends! Good therapy and life coaching will undoubtedly overlap, as they are both very similar in many ways while also being distinctly different. Clear as mud… right?! And let’s be honest… teasing the two professions apart can start to become a little fuzzy and confusing. The more research you do, the more confusing it gets. In this blog, I will highlight the three biggest differences between mental health therapy and life coaching, including a few important factors that one should consider before making a final decision.
License to Practice
This is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to deciding between a therapist and a life coach. The biggest difference between the two professions boils down to having a license to practice. I often use the example of your primary care provider. Would you prefer to work with:
Doctor #1: they have graduated from medical school, received proper clinical training, and works under a board who holds them accountable.
Doctor #2: they did not graduate from medical school, they do not have a license to practice, but they’ve obtained medical knowledge based on their own independent research and personal experience.
If you prefer Doctor #1, then I would point you in the direction of a licensed mental health therapist. If you prefer Doctor #2, then I would inquire more about what the focus of your work will be, as this will make a difference in which professional is better suited for you.
The Mental Health Therapist is licensed by the state in which they reside to legally provide mental health treatment and services. There is a state and national board that holds therapists accountable for their actions, treatment, and services. If a therapist breaks a state law or violates the Code of Ethics, then that therapist can have their license revoked. In order to keep their license, therapists must obtain a certain amount of CEUs (continuing education units) in order to stay up to date with the latest research and therapeutic modalities. If the therapist fails to meet the CEU requirements, they can have their license revoked. It takes effort to obtain and hold an active license! One cannot label themselves as a mental health therapist without having successfully completed all of the education requirements, clinical training, and ongoing education units.
At this time, There is currently no license required for Life Coaching. Life coaches have the option to obtain a certificate in life coaching, however, this certificate is optional and not required. That being said, anyone can technically label themselves as a life coach and provide services, including those who have not received any educational training. Unfortunately, this has led to the life coaching field becoming largely unregulated. However, if having a license is not important to you, then I would recommend being very picky with choosing a life coach. It would be worth it to spend some time ensuring that you work with someone who, at the very least, has gone through a life coaching certification program.
Different Education Paths
Another important factor to consider when deciding between therapy and life coaching is to look at the difference in the educational paths of both professions. Mental health counselors have obtained a Bachelor’s degree, a Masters degree in mental health counseling, and must accumulate 3,000 clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed supervisor for a minimum of 18 months. In addition, there are a few national and state exams scattered throughout this process which the counselor must successfully pass before becoming licensed by the state to provide mental health services. It’s a very intense process, as it should be!
The field of life coaching has an optional certification program and little to no educational requirements. Don’t get me wrong, there are programs out there that offer education and training for life coaching, and again, these programs are optional. For this reason, life coaches are unable to provide treatment for mental health, as training to provide such services requires one to take a long educational journey through graduate school.
The Focus of the Work
What are you looking to accomplish during your time with a professional? What is the presenting concern that is bringing you to a life coach or therapist? If your concern(s) involves mental health symptoms that are causing distress in your life (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, eating disorders, trauma, etc.), then it would be most appropriate to work with a licensed mental health therapist before beginning life coaching. Life coaches cannot diagnose or provide treatment for mental health concerns, as one must obtain a license to do so.
In short, therapy focuses on emotional healing and mental health; life coaching focuses on setting and achieving goals. Therapy sessions can be structured or unstructured depending on the therapeutic approach; life coaching sessions are structured in order to facilitate progress. Therapists are going to help you heal and assist you in getting to a place where you are ready to make changes and reach goals; life coaches are going to help you make moves to achieve those goals. If you’re in a good place with your mental health and you’re wanting to chase your dreams, longing for change, and want to embrace personal empowerment, then reaching out to a [certified] life coach might be helpful. If you have found a therapist who you love working with, then it could be worthwhile to ask your therapist if they are licensed in life coaching, if they have any life coach referrals, or if they can assist you with these goals.
There is beauty in both of these professions and both compliment each other quite well. Regardless of the type of professional you choose, the best thing that you can do is ensure that you work with someone who you have a connection with and you look forward to seeing every week. Once you find that person, do a little bit of research on them to make sure that they have some education in the area in which they are assisting you with. Be picky, be particular, and always trust your instincts… because you are worth it and you know what is best for yourself and/or your loved ones!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out The Coach’s Circle Podcast – brought to you by Life Coach Path, an online resource for anyone who is curious about the field of coaching and would like to learn more about turning their passion for helping others into a career as a coach. Their blog is full of valuable information on topics like certification, becoming an entrepreneur, and real-world interviews with coaches who are making it happen every day. You can check out their latest blog post here.
I had the privilege of having a great conversation with the host of Life Coach Path, Brandon Baker, regarding therapy for teens, sandtray therapy, and much more! Check it out here.
If you and your family are in the Austin, TX area or you are a resident of Texas, I highly recommend checking out Barb Steinberg’s website. Barb is a LMSW, tween/teen girl expert, parent coach, and speaker. Click here for Barb’s detailed description of the differences between life coaching and therapy.