Five Ways to Embrace (or Adjust) Your Expectations

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I was talking with a client the other day who wanted to start a blog, but was worried that potential readers would “see right through her” and that her imperfections would be exposed. It occurred to me that some of the most meaningful, life-changing conversations I’ve had with others have been around sharing our imperfections, and then (this is crucial) going on to discuss how we’re overcoming them.

Here are five ways I’ve been imperfect this week. 

1. I had a perfect day on My Fitness Pal. I mean, perfect. A few calories below my goal, and right on for my macros. Until 8pm, when I opened up the container of mixed nuts, and a bottle of wine, and didn’t emerge from basically a fugue state for an hour. How I overcame it: By reminding myself that lapses are not relapses, and making better decisions beginning the very next day.

2. I whined at the gym. I mean, really whined to the point of sad little tears. My personal trainer, I’m convinced, sometimes tries to kill me. I heard things come out of my mouth that I really never wanted to hear (and I’m not talking swear words – those are fine by me). No, I mean really pitiful utterances like “I don’t think I can do this,” and “Why are you doing this to me?” How I overcame it: By looking him in the eye during the last set and making a commitment. I told him I would complete the last set without whining, and I DID IT. Weak, shaky high fives all around.

3. I felt like I couldn’t get a handle on my generalized fear and anxiety. Some days are just like that. How I overcame it: I sought support from people who love me, and allowed them to remind me why everything is more or less okay.

4. My car is a pollen bomb and shamefully cluttered and dirty on the inside too. I’d take it to the car wash, but that means I’d have to figure out how to take off my bike rack, and I know I’d never get it back on securely. How I overcame it: I decided on acceptance – that I’ll be driving a dirty car until I can figure out how to take the rack off and put it back on without endangering the family in the minivan behind me. That’s probably not going to happen during this busy week.

5. I realized I haven’t updated my blog in too long, but didn’t have anything “important” to share. How I overcame it: I shared my imperfections.

When faced with your own imperfections, see if you can adjust your thinking from seeing imperfections as liabilities. Instead, begin to explore them as opportunities for change – even if it just means sharing them. Someone else may need to hear that, like them, you’re imperfect too.

Originally published May 14, 2015

My office is this month's Fresh Practice Design feature!

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Super excited to share this news!

My new office in South Windsor CT was this month's feature on the FreshPractice.Design website - a design inspiration website for therapists by therapists. 

An excerpt from my interview sums up what I was hoping for:

More than anything, I want my clients to feel valued. I work primarily with women and I wanted to provide a space for them that felt like something special – a refuge from the everyday where they could feel both nurtured and respected.

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In the article, I share my process (oh, the deliberation over paint color!) and advice for therapists designing their first offices (this was my 6th, but by far my favorite). 

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I'm really delighted to have the space to offer the little extras. I share this space with two massage therapists and we all share the same feeling - that we want our clients (you!) to feel cared for, safe, and special.

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The article in its entirety can be found at www.freshpractice.design and be sure to check out the other office spaces as well! 

If you're anxious and overwhelmed in South Windsor CT (or if you live anywhere in New York or Connecticut and want to learn more about online therapy), call for your free 15-minute phone consultation or send me an email. I'd love to hear from you.

I Have a Gut Feeling: Five messages your stomach may be sending you.

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“I have a gut feeling…”

How many times have you used that phrase or something like it?

Obviously, check with a doctor if you’re having persistent medical symptoms to rule out any physical cause. But barring a diagnosed medical issue (and many times even in the presence of actual gut illness), our digestive systems often reflect our emotional state in a very “real-time” way. Do any of these thoughts, symptoms, and translations feel familiar to you?

1. I feel like I could throw up.” Is there something you’re not saying? A message you need to share with someone important? Or a feeling that has been unexpressed for far too long? People often feel nauseous when they’re anxious. Anxiety is so often, at least in part, an accumulation of unexpressed feelings such as fear and lack of control. Try expressing your feelings to someone you trust. Therapy can be helpful, or if you’re not ready for that, try writing your feelings down in a journal or letter you may or may not send and see if that helps with the nausea.

2. “My stomach is tied in knots.” You’re likely facing a difficult decision, and don’t know which way to turn. Your stomach is painting a picture of a poorly planned highway system with overpasses and underpasses and cloverleaf patterns that lead to nowhere. Deep breaths and calm are what is called for here to reduce your internal stress. Close your eyes and picture a smooth, peaceful road or path leading to…where? Be open to hearing from your gut – when you imagine exiting the superhighway of confusion and anxiety, where does that road lead?

3. “It burns.” Examine your eating patterns over the past few days. Chances are you’ve been eating emotionally and are experiencing some discomfort related to that. But what your gut may also be telling you is that your heart is hurting (is that why we call it heartburn?). Place your hand over your heart and send yourself some love. Breathe deeply and send a message of love to your gut, and plan to eat carefully and mindfully over the next day or two, as a way of rebalancing your digestive system and loving yourself.

4. “Everything goes right through me.” If you’ve been cleared by a doctor and aren’t physically ill, your persistent diarrhea may be due to a sped-up nervous system. Drink plenty of water to help flush the nasty stuff out of your system, eat healthily, go for a short, gentle walk, and spend some time in reflection about what toxins exist in your life that need to be expelled. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about what changes you might need to make in your life.

5. “I have a good gut feeling about this.” Fortunately, our stomachs aren’t just there to give us the bad news. If your stomach is settled and your digestive system feels at peace, consider that may be a message from deep inside that you’re on the right track. Place your hand on your stomach and send your digestive system some gratitude.

Our digestive systems have so much to tell us about our physical and emotional health. Are you listening?

Originally published May 4, 2015

For skilled, compassionate, effective stress and anxiety counseling in the South Windsor CT area, call for your free 15-minute consultation.

Your Therapist is Not Your Friend (and 4 other things you need to know about ethically sound counseling)

I read recently about a couple of therapists in the town next to mine who were arrested for insurance fraud for bilking the Medicaid system. They got caught in part because they were bragging that they had found a way to “get paid for work they hadn’t performed,” namely billing for sessions that didn’t occur, and using the licensed provider’s credentials to bill for work that an unlicensed social worker performed. One of the many charges they are facing is “defrauding a public community,” a class-B felony. Since reading about this story, it’s weighed heavily on my mind. You see, as therapists, whether we like it or not, we are held to a much higher standard of behavior in the community than folks working in many other professions. And there are important reasons for that. As professionals who create space for people to share their most closely held, often shameful secrets, we, simply, must be trustworthy. If your therapist (or a therapist you see on the news) is defrauding the system, engaging in inappropriate relationships, lying, cheating, or otherwise behaving badly, how can you trust that person? Some might ask how can anyone trust any therapist? I’ve had two conversations this week that further disturbed me and led me to write this post – one with a person who described a long history of feeling emotionally abused by healthcare providers, and another who quit therapy after finding that her therapist wouldn’t entertain the idea of being friends outside of therapy. It made me wonder what people think ethical therapy is, and if perhaps a little bit of education is in order. Here’s a primer on ethical counseling.

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1. Your therapist is not and cannot be your friend, love interest, exercise buddy, financial advisor, babysitter, travel companion, or, as you might have guessed, anything but your therapist. Any relationship outside of therapy is considered to be a “dual relationship,” and is ethically forbidden. In order for us to do our best work, we have to have some space from your life. It helps us to maintain objectivity. There are also power dynamics in the therapist-client relationship that are all too easily (and too often) exploited. Having very clear boundaries is incredibly important to being able to help you, and to avoid exploiting our clients for our own emotional or financial gain. It doesn’t mean we don’t like you. We do. We just can’t be your friend.

2. You shouldn’t know a whole lot about your therapist. In the same vein, your therapist should be mostly a mystery to you. Small talk happens, of course, and if it seems appropriate or if asked directly, I’ll share my marital status or that I have children, etc. But I try very hard to not use situations in my own life as examples, or as a way to connect with my clients. Therapists need to be somewhat of a blank canvas on which you can try out and expose your hopes, dreams, anxiety, stress, fears, and shame. This is why a good therapist often will, when presented with a personal question, ask you why you want to know, what the answer would mean to you, etc. We’re not being cagey or coy. Essentially it’s more helpful for you to be discussing you than it is to be discussing me. I know sometimes this can feel uncaring, but believe me, we care about you very much and yet are modeling good boundaries. We have to. That’s part of ethical counseling.

3. Your therapist should hold up her end of the bargain in any and every way possible. This means calling you back when she says she will, explaining and acting on her policies, staying awake during sessions (the #1 complaint I hear about ex-therapists is that they fell asleep on the client), and showing up for sessions. This may also mean things like charging you for late cancellations, ending sessions on time, reflecting back to you things that might be uncomfortable to hear, and refusing to meet several times per week, for example. All of this boundary-setting is necessary in order to provide you with the best counseling possible, and to avoid misunderstandings and ethical pitfalls. If you’re ever wondering if your therapist is setting boundaries because she doesn’t like you, ASK. Have a discussion about the therapist’s policies. Good therapists apply the same policies uniformly and don’t play favorites.

4. Your therapist should behave ethically when it comes to money. He shouldn’t bill insurance fraudulently (that’s a given), but also should give you plenty of notice before raising rates, and communicate clearly about money issues, including not allowing you to carry an unmanageable balance on your account, resolving money issues with compassion and clarity, and sending out clear billing statements.

5. Your therapist sometimes can and should refer you to someone else. This can sometimes feel like abandonment, and as a therapist, I typically don’t enjoy the process. But the truth is that I can’t help everyone. It doesn’t mean that the people I refer out are “worse” or “sicker” than others; it simply means that the issues they are bringing to counseling aren’t within the scope of practice that I feel comfortable providing. As a therapist who works with people on reducing stress and anxiety, and improving health and wellness, I will often refer people with issues far outside that scope, and, as my practice is only for individuals, I will always refer couples and families. Sometimes it’s apparent during the first phone consultation that we're not a good fit, but sometimes it takes time (or perhaps your circumstances change) and it’s a parting that occurs after we get to know each other. A good therapist will handle a referral with compassion, and will provide you with information about how to find a new therapist, as well as offering to communicate with your new therapist if that’s helpful.

For skilled, compassionate, effective and ethical counseling in the South Windsor CT area, call for your free 15-minute consultation.

Originally published June 13, 2015