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Does Marriage Counseling Work? Reversing the Stigma of Couples Counseling

If you’ve found yourself here, something’s probably not going as planned. Where did it go wrong? Why can’t he just listen to me? Why can’t she understand? How could he have done that to me? Perhaps these are some of the questions you might be asking yourself.

You’ve opened up your computer or phone and have started searching for answers to these questions. You’re looking to make sense of what’s happened in the last six months or six years.

Let me first say, just by looking for some understanding you’re taking great first steps toward growth in your marriage. Acknowledging the invasion of marital pain and stress shows great potential for you to grow both personally and as a couple.

Often, such as in this very moment, we tend to look for help on the internet – but why is that? Hopefully by reading this article you’ll find some comfort and hope; I desire that for you. However, we can gain so much more from interpersonal interaction.

If you were learning to play the rules of a new game with your partner, such as a sport or board game, would you rather read about it online or get into it and learn through experience? I would guess the latter. Why then, when the stakes are so much higher, do we seek help through the online world?

There’s the obviou...

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How Do Counselors Define Trauma? This Answer May Surprise You

I have lost track of the number of times a client has been surprised to hear the experience they shared with me qualifies as traumatic. Commonly a client will explain to me that they think something they went through is not a trauma because, "It’s not THAT bad."

But, you, like them, may be surprised by the criteria that comprise a trauma. There are at least five different types of traumas: sexual, physical, emotional, neglect, and witnessing a traumatic event.

In my experience, the latter three (emotional, neglect, and witnessing a trauma) are often the easiest for clients to overlook as traumatic. After all, sexual and physical traumas are external, concrete experiences that leave evidence. All traumas, though, are deserving of therapeutic interventions, discussion, and attention. To understand them better, let’s take a look at the difference between these types of traumas.

Two Ways to Define Trauma

‘Capital T’ Traumas

‘Capital T’ traumas are overt, extreme, and fit the common conception of a trauma. Natural disasters, diseases, physical, sexual harm, witnessing death, witnessing abuse, experiencing neglect – these experiences all fall into this category.

All of these ‘capital T’ trauma experiences are valid traumas. Th...

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How to Help Troubled Teens Dealing with Depression

For the last 20 years, I have worked in some capacity with adolescents, particularly troubled teens. When I worked in foster care, I witnessed firsthand the impact of parental choices on children, some good and some not so good. When I worked in law enforcement, I saw how a lack of parenting created long-term problems for both the adolescent and parents. When I transitioned into school counseling, I witnessed how a lack of support in a child’s early years often resulted in a lack of support in a child’s high school years.

But the main thing I have learned in working with troubled teens is how not having a sense of belonging creates space for depression. What does a lack of belonging mean? Belonging means connection. Belonging means knowing that you are accepted as you are. It means security.

Can you imagine a life without security, without belonging anywhere? Think about high school for a minute. We have cliques: the athletic students, the drama/band students, the robotics/engineering students and we have the outliers. The outliers are those students who don’t fit in anywhere. This was the group I specialized in at my high school. These were the students who sat in my office in tears because they felt rejected, angry because they felt different, or isolated because th...

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6 Marriage Counseling Questions To Ask Yourself When Seeing A Counselor

Choosing to see a marriage counselor can be an unnerving proposition. We want our relationship to improve, but then it always begins with our having to be vulnerable with a stranger. The good news is that most counselors are used to this discomfort and skilled at helping new clients through the process. Having said that, we do not have to go in to marriage counseling unprepared.

6 Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Yourself

Below are 6 marriage counseling questions you can answer for yourself as you begin this process to allay some of the mystery.

1. What do I want?

This may seem like a silly question at first. If we have gotten to the point of wanting to see a counselor, there are serious issues that are likely pretty obvious. It will help, however, if we can express what we want without generalities. We can decrease our discomfort with the transition into counseling by having specific, realistic expectations about what is possible and how long it will take. Recovery takes time and we have to be willing to be in it for the long haul.

Here are a few more and less useful examples of answers to this question:

“I want my spouse to stop treating me like the enemy.”

This is a great short-term, specific, and realistic g...

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The Faithful Family: Christian Counseling and Raising Godly Children

As I think about some of the families that I have worked with and even my own family, one thing that has always been consistent is the formation of family rules, values, and norms. Christian families will often use the Bible as a guide for creating their values, which also includes ideas around what it looks like to raise their children.

The Bible talks quite a bit about families. Families in the Bible traveled together (the children of Israel), went through hardships (Noah and his family on the Ark), experienced betrayal (Cain and Abel), and were sometimes completely torn apart by tragedy (remember Job?).

I believe God knew that families would be searching for examples and answers to make it through their own family struggles, so He included many real life stories in the Bible. The Bible gives specific instructions to parents on how they should raise their children in some areas, but other areas seem to be a little less clear.

What does the Bible say, if anything, about counseling? Did anyone receive counsel from wise people? The Bible includes many incidents where someone is gaining wisdom or knowledge from a trusted person, often directly from God through a chosen person (I am reminded of Paul's letters to the church).

I think Christians everywhere would agree that...

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Christian Family Counseling: Blended Families and Parenting

Not all blended families are alike. Some have young children; others, teenagers or young adults. Some are the result of divorce, while others come after the death of a spouse. However, there is one thing every step family has in common: family members have a history that involved at least one other parent and spouse. Memories of the past may be pleasant or painful, but those memories do influence attitudes and emotions.

Challenges for blended families include:

  • Achieving marital intimacy after being hurt
  • Parenting and step-parenting roles and rules
  • Questions of spiritual integrity and church involvement
  • How to integrate the members of a stepfamily over time
  • Dealing with ex-spouses and co-parenting issues
  • Helping children emotionally and spiritually
  • Handling sexual pressures between step-siblings
  • Issues of money management and financial autonomy

Parent – Child Discussion Ideas

Listening to teens is particularly important when rules are changing, or unwanted transitions in the family are taking place. Adolescents need to know they are being heard and that their opinions are being considered. Especially when their thoughts are not changing your mind or...

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What Causes Depression? 5 Main Culprits

In any given year, depending on demographics, about 5-12 percent of the population will experience an episode of major depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Depression, as described as a major depressive episode, can be an overwhelming experience. Over a life span, around 20 percent of the population will experience a mood disorder (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.). This means that many people you know are living with depression, and possibly in silence.

What causes depression?

With so many people affected, it poses the question, "Where does all of this come from?" It’s a question psychologists have been asking for decades. While we have some idea of the answer, it is more complex than straightforward and the answer looks different for each person suffering from depression.

Different Types of Depression

First of all, let’s define our terms here. When we say depression, this can mean a few different things. Did you know that under the classification of Major Depressive Disorder (the hallmark depression diagnosis), there are 14 different codes (sort of more specific diagnoses) that therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists can use? These look at different aspects of depression such as its tendency to cycle (or ...

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