Archive of ‘Priorities’ category

The Benefits of Committing to a Long-Term Relationship with a Therapist

Therapy. Sometimes we get the idea to enter therapy when life is going smooth, but we’d like to tend to our self-growth anyway. More often we get the idea to enter therapy when something traumatic has occurred in our lives or we’ve tried everything else we could think of first (aka we’re desperate).

We want something to change, and we want it to change fast because we’re tired of feeling this way.

We may still be hesitant to hand over our time and money to a therapist, but we bargain with ourselves. “I can commit to this for a few months.” And we do. And things may start to feel a little better. The storm settles. We’ve had some time to process. Things might even feel somewhat normal again.

We did what we said we would do. We stuck it out for a few months.

And all the thoughts start swirling in our heads about why it might be a good time to say goodbye:

We’re feeling better.

Money’s a little tight.

It’s not always fun to show up and be vulnerable.

Do we really need this? Or is it an unnecessary luxury? There are so many other responsibilities to manage.

I say this all from firsthand experience. These were the thoughts I bumped into after seeing my therapist for a few months (yes, therapists see therapists too).

Afterall, they’re valid and convincing thoughts.

And yet, I decided to stick with my therapist anyway. Something told me these reasons to leave were emerging as a convenient way to avoid digging deeper.

Now, six months later, I realize I was on the verge of doing some real work with my therapist. Work that has already and will continue to shift my life in some powerful ways. 

It’s not always comfortable, but I’m glad I’ve stayed.

Here are some reasons I’ve come to believe in the value of committing to a long-term relationship with a therapist:

1. Trust and safety take time

In therapy, the relationship is key. The amount of trust and safety you feel with your therapist determines how authentically and vulnerably you’re able to show up. And trust and safety take time. Think about the people you’re truly yourself with. How long have you known them? I once had a mother of a client I see reach out to me concerned. Her son told her he wasn’t being completely honest with me. I had seen him for five sessions. I told her I probably wouldn’t be honest with me either at this point. Trust in a relationship takes time.

2. Deep-seated patterns don’t change overnight

Oftentimes, when we begin therapy, we become aware of patterns that have been part of our lives for years, maybe even decades. And even if they’re not healthy patterns, they’ve become part of how we operate and even part of our identities. There can be a lot of delicate untangling to do. And after we untangle, we have to learn new ways of being and operating. These kinds of shifts understandably take time.

3. Therapy is continuously empowering

Even if you’re not facing something acutely stressful in your life, there is a lot of beneficial work that can be done in therapy. For fifty minutes, you are turning inward, slowing down, practicing being with yourself and your emotions, expanding your capacity for feeling, and taking responsibility for the state of your life. All of this creates a more mindful approach to living that then ripples out and affects the rest of your week. The decisions you make. The behaviors you choose. You begin to have more say in your life. Even if you’re not in crisis, it is always empowering to slow down and become more aware of how you’re feeling, what you’re needing, and what you’re choosing. 

4. Your mental health matters

In a world where self-care usually falls to the bottom of the barrel in comparison to work and responsibilities, carving out an hour each week in which you choose your mental health is a gift you give yourself that fosters a kinder, gentler relationship with yourself where your feelings matter.

5. You learn how to be with your emotions

Everywhere else in our lives, the people who care about us want to offer solutions. When we tell them what we’re going through, they instinctively want to fix it. Quickly. As a result, we are constantly taken away from simply experiencing our emotions. Therapy may be the only place in your life where you can truly be with your experience. Not only is this healing, but it deepens your ability to be with your feelings. When we don’t know how to be with our feelings, we run away and distract ourselves. We blame others. We act out. As we learn how to be with our feelings in therapy, our worlds start to feel safer. We learn how to allow. We take more deep breaths. We react less and thoughtfully respond more. 

6. You learn how to be honest and how liberating it is

To have a place where you can just. be. yourself. Most of the time, we have to consider the feelings of others. We modify or perform in some manner. In therapy, where it just gets to be about you, not the expectations of others, you begin to speak truth in a way you may never have before. As a result, your life starts to feel more honest.

7. Life is constantly offering us opportunities for growth

Short-term therapy is based on the idea that there’s a problem to be fixed. Fix the problem and you’re good to go. But the thing is, that’s not how life works. Life is a continuous process of growth and change. Once we reach the top of one mountain, another appears. Long-term therapy acknowledges this. It acknowledges that to be human, with all of our unique emotions and fears, challenges us in an ongoing manner. It acknowledges that the whole reason we’re here is to keep stepping into growth and to keep doing the work so our lives continue to feel alive and rewarding. Long-term therapy acknowledges that change is constant and so support should be constant too.

Long-term therapy provides a safe and empowering shelter where you continue to grow, heal, and nurture the relationship you have with yourself and life. A therapist is a wonderful resource to support you on your journey. 

Written By: Jamie Alger, LPC-Associate Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S


Building a Strong Long-Distance Military Relationship

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.

Written By: Sumayah Downey, MA, LPC-Associate, NCC Supervised by Cristy Ragland, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S


Adversity is a Great Teacher

As I am sitting here writing this blog, it is hard to believe that we are already in 2021!  I am sure many people will agree with me that 2020 has been quite a challenging year to remember.  It was a year filled with sorrow, laughter, anger, hope, frustration, surprises, despair, love, just to name a few.  Can you believe we have survived all that?  We always hear people saying that life is full of ups and downs – to say that for year 2020 is just an understatement.  For me, personally, I have learned how to accept the ups and downs, embrace emotions (both positive and negative), and adapt to the environment with intention and meaning.  I have learned not to be afraid of challenges but instead acknowledge them, take care of them and ask ourselves how we can turn these experiences into valuable life lessons.  I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned in 2020:

Accepting the Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  There is never a time, even before the pandemic, when we can have any certainty of what is going to happen in the next minute.  The only thing certain is the present moment and our actual experience of the moment.  As Eckhart Tolle puts it: “People don’t realize that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”  It is only natural to feel stress in the face of uncertainty. Staying in the moment and be present has helped me face and accept uncertainty, and manage the stress of uncertainty.  Do not be afraid of uncertainty, learn to accept and face uncertainty with resilience and ease.  Together, let’s find peace in uncertain times.

Power of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has helped me turn my attention to the present moment.  We should not dwell on the past or worry about the future, instead, we should focus on the present moment.  Practicing breathing exercises and meditation throughout the day have helped me tremendously in the past year, these practices truly taught me how to be present with a non-reactive mind.  I am also discovering how to incorporate mindfulness in daily living – mindful eating, mindful parenting, and mindful exercising.  If we practice focusing on the present moment, it empowers us to be with it, and we start to find ease of living.  I invite you to try these practices, even for just 2-minutes a time, you will see a difference!

The Importance of Connection

Separation is definitely one of the most challenging things we had to face in year 2020.  The pandemic has kept us all physically distanced from one another.  Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found new meaning and connection with each other.  We have learned to make connection with each other in many different ways — saying hi to our neighbors from a distance underneath a mask, having “zoom” holiday meals with our friends and relatives, sending kisses to our elderly relatives at a nursing home through the windows, seeing clients via telehealth, etc.  As human beings, we instinctively need to connect with others, but to be able to build solid human connection, you have to first connect with yourself.  Doing mindful check-ins throughout the day to get in touch with my own feelings where I pause, take a deep breath, acknowledge how I am feeling right here and right now and how I would like to proceed with this moment have really helped.  Make space for self-reflection each day, it can bring clarity to the moment.

Practice Positive Mindset

Every cloud has its silver lining, but whether you see it or not is a choice you make. Focus on what you control, do not stress over things you cannot control. The year 2020 can be a difficult year to love, but if we just look on the positive side of things, I promise you can find something you are grateful for.  Just as importantly, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. 

It Is Okay to Reach Out for Help

Believe this, we are all in this together.  You are not the only one suffering, you don’t have to do this alone.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you trust, or seek therapy if you need to.  Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Take care of your whole body, inside and out.

Create Your Own Happiness

Take responsibility of your own happiness, never count on someone or something to make you happy.  You don’t find happiness, you create it.  Many people think that only if the pandemic is over then things will get back to normal and they will be happy.  No.  If you think that way, you will never be happy.  Happiness can be created, under any circumstances, by you.  If you take charge, you will find your own happiness.

Resilience

You are more resilient than you think.  We went through a lot in 2020 – the pandemic, economic crisis, lockdowns, the politically polarized election, the racial justice movement, RBG death, just to name a few. We all have the strengths inside us to overcome life challenges.  “It is worth remembering that the time of greatest gain in terms of wisdom and inner strength is often that of greatest difficulty.” – Dalai Lama

Make Self-Care a Priority

We are always busy helping and taking care of others that we often forget to take care of ourselves.  Get to know yourself, be truthful to yourself and find out what your true needs are.  Only when you take care of yourself you can then have the capacity to take care of others and be able to get through tough times.

Thank you, 2020, for all you have taught me!  Hello, 2021, I am ready to take on challenges that you are sending my way this year!  I look forward to learning and growing to be a better person one moment at a time.  “No one has ever lived in the past or the future, only the now.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Life can be challenging at times, but it can also be amazing!

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra

What have you learned in 2020, and how you are going to move forward in 2021?

Written by: Catherine Mok, M.A., LMSW Supervised by Melissa Haney, LCSW-S

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