Archive of ‘Engagement Sessions’ category

Premarital Counseling: How to Prepare for a Marriage

Premarital counseling is a great start on preparing for a successful marriage. In today’s culture an engaged couple usually spends 8 months or more planning a wedding. I’ve often wondered that if an engaged couple could spend 8 months preparing for a marriage, what kind of difference it could make in the success of a marriage. With the right guidance and tools, a couple could increase their success of marriage by upwards of 30%. Taking the time to build understanding and to create tools with your partner is necessary to prepare for a marriage. Below are some resources to consider before you get married.

Finding the right premarital counselor

Finding the right fit of a premarital counselor is essential for any engaged couple. This could be the start of a relationship with a counselor for your marriage. Make sure they are the best fit for your relationship, not for one partner in particular. Make sure during premarital counseling that all the tough topics are talked through such as: Finances, Parenting, Division of Chores, Spirituality, and any trauma from previous relationships or family of origin. A premarital counselor can be found through your local church, therapist in town, or through workshops for couples.

Recommended Books for Engaged Couples

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Chapman’s book talked through how a person can feel loved through 5 different language. This book helps open a person’s mind in to how they can best love their partner.

Attached. By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Lavine’s and Heller’s’ book talks through the different attachment styles a person develops as they grow up and how it affects their romantic relationships. This book helps a person understand why they and their partner might respond certain ways to some situations.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman PhD and Nan Silver

Gottman and Silver talk through seven different principles that their research over the past 20 years has revealed in making a marriage work. Talking through these seven principles with your partner will start lifelong conversation that will help you continue to work on your marriage.

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson Ed.D.

Nelson talks through how the structure of discipline as grown and changed over the past 50 years. She talks through concepts of how to be kind and firm in parenting and redefines what being a successful parent looks like.

Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-Associate
Under the Supervision of Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Reel Therapy

What’s your favorite movie? I’ll give you a few seconds here … Got it? Great! Okay, now WHY is it your favorite movie? Your answer may be that you loved the story, or the acting, or it shifted your perspective, or it taught you something important, or one (or several!) of many other reasons. Here’s the thing: Regardless of your reasons, I’m wiling to bet it’s because of how those things impacted you emotionally. Movies are an incredibly powerful art form ultimately because of how the story, or the acting, or the perspective shift, etc, makes us feel. The most memorable and impactful movies go beyond engaging just our thinking brains (aka the prefrontal cortex). What makes a particular film stick with us is largely due to how it impacts us emotionally, reflecting involvement of a more primitive part of the brain called the limbic system.

Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Therapists sometimes recommend that their clients watch a particular film in an effort to achieve some level of therapeutic gain, a practice commonly known as cinematherapy. There are lots of ways that viewing films can be beneficial in a therapeutic context, but like stated above, one of the most impactful is through the emotional experience of a film. The emotional journey one takes watching a film can be healing just in and of itself. It’s been said that emotion is a bridge between a problem and a solution, and if you are able to fully go on that emotional journey, whether in a film audience or in life, when that particular emotion naturally subsides, you will typically find yourself in a new and better place. Additionally, films sometimes gives us permission to feel things we may otherwise suppress, and sometimes just being able to talk with co-workers or friends about a particular film can provide deeper social connections and consequently a feeling of inclusion, or being “in the club,” (also very true with so many popular TV shows nowadays, like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Scandal, etc).

We’re about to enter into Oscar contender season. The span between early October and Christmas affords us a huge number of high-quality, limbic-smashing films. Below is a brief list of films I’m personally most looking forward to seeing, with a few non-spoiling words describing each. Once I see some of these, my hope is to get back on here, and offer a bit of a movie review, with an emphasis on psychotherapy and issues of social justice. In the meantime, enjoy!:

  • The Imitation Game – Based on the life of British codebreaker Alan Turing, whose story (the little bit of it that I know) is incredibly inspirational, and ultimately devastating. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and people who’ve seen it are saying to just go ahead hand him the Oscar now.
  • Birdman – Michael Keaton’s comeback, and looks to be amazing. Deals with issues of fame and identity, and is already generating all kinds of Oscar buzz.
  • The Theory of Everything – Stephen Hawking’s love story, starring Eddie Redmayne, who is just ridiculously talented (you may remember him as Marius in the Les Mis film).
  • Unbroken – Another true story, adapted from the book of the same name, “a story of survival, resilience and redemption.” Directed by Angelina Jolie.
  • Wild – Adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about her 1,100 mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail. All kinds of inspirational. Starring Reese Witherspoon.
  • Foxcatcher – Again, based on a true story, starring an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell. Described as a psychological thriller, involving what sounds like a very unhealthy (and ultimately tragic) relationship between two Olympic wrestlers and their wealthy benefactor.

Gratitude: A Practice

Having a gratitude practice or keeping a gratitude journal is somewhat trendy right now. You may notice friends on Facebook or other social media platforms listing their daily thanksgivings. Therapists, including myself, may even assign clients the task of keeping a gratitude journal at home. And, while I certainly speak gratitude to those I love and care about, I have never actually kept a gratitude journal or had a daily ritual specifically practicing gratitude. But here is why I am going to start, and why I would encourage you to, also.

Robert Emmons, one of the leading scientific experts and researchers on gratitude, has found that practicing gratitude can transform people’s lives in several ways. First, he says that because our emotional systems like novelty and positive emotions quickly wane, gratitude allows us to celebrate the present while highlighting positive feelings. And by noticing the positive, we are more able to show up and participate and are receiving even more from our good experiences and interactions.

Second, he found that gratitude reduces and even eliminates negative or toxic emotions. He also identified that grateful people are more stress resistant and generally have a higher sense of self-worth.

In his research, Emmons discovered that people who practice gratitude tend to have a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, are more likely to exercise and take better care of their health, sleep better, enjoy more positive emotions, feel more alert and alive, report more joy, optimism, and happiness, tend to be more forgiving, outgoing, helpful, generous and compassionate, and feel less lonely and isolated.

Shame author and researcher Brené Brown writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.” If you find yourself longing for more joy, connection, and peace, if you are feeling like contentment is just out of reach, or if you would just like to be healthier and happier, you might consider one of the following suggestions from Emmons to begin your gratitude practice.

  • Keep a gratitude journal, recording three to five things each week for which you are grateful
  • Write a gratitude letter to an important person in your life who you have never thanked
  • Practice being present and grateful in the moment when good things are happening.
  • When receiving a gift or something positive in your life, consider the effort made by someone to bring that goodness into your life.
  • Practice recognizing the positive by listing three good things that happened each day
  • Start a gratitude practice with your family

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