How Relationship Therapy Can Improve Your Life and Those Around You

When I work with clients, one of the first things I often show them is a diagram called “The Social Ecology of the Family.” Basically, it consists of a series of concentric circles that have various labels. About halfway towards the middle, I’ll label a circle “you”, then the next out is family, then friends, then city, county, culture.

Then I will return to the “you” circle, then go inward with psychology, organs, cells, and finally molecules in the middle. I’ll then draw a line through all of these circles representing an event. This diagram is meant to show that we exist in a much broader context than just our individual selves.

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist. When people hear this, they often think that means that I work only with couples and families, however, this is not the case, as the majority of my clients are individuals. Marriage and Family Therapy may better be called “Systems Therapy,” as that I what I believe I really work with.

Each of the circles I mentioned above really represents a system that contains all the circles below it and is part of a larger system above it. It follows, then, that to work with any individual, couple, or family is to work with them in the context of their system.

Family systems often become much mor...

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Common Signs of Codependency: What Should You Look For?

Typically, the first sign that indicates a need for me to investigate possible codependency with a client, is when they introduce themselves to me and describe themselves as “a people pleaser.”

As we continue, I tend to find out that these people have very poor boundaries within their interpersonal relationships.

One of the most prominent researchers into codependency, Melody Beattie, describes codependency like this:

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
Codependent No More, 1992 ed.

Have I lost you with that definition? Stick around and we will elaborate on it later within this article.

Another well known researcher in the area of codependency, Pia Mellody, states that codependents have difficulty in the following areas:

  • Experiencing inappropriate levels of self-esteem
  • Setting functional boundaries
  • Owning and expressing their own reality
  • Taking care of their adult needs and wants
  • Experiencing and expressing their reality moderately

Concerning number one above, Mellody goes on to say that “if codependents have any kind...

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How to Speak the Truth in Love Within Your Marriage

Learning how to speak the truth in love isn’t always easy. I can think of many times I’ve sold out truth for the sake “love,” or the other way around. That is, I’ve spoken the truth, but not in a very loving way. They needed to hear it after all, and I’m not afraid to speak the truth. Someone has to do it.

So I tell my wife what I think about how she’s handling the stress of getting ready for having people over. I tell her how to fix it. "Just stop worrying, trust Jesus." It’s the truth! It’s a solution to a problem! And it makes things worse. I remembered to speak the “truth,” but I forgot to be loving.

Or, maybe I see something that is true – I see my spouse struggling and it looks like I may have a solution, or a way of helping. But it didn’t go well the last time I tried to jump in and say something. So instead of taking a risk, I don’t say anything.

Maybe it works out okay. Maybe tension mounts inside of me, until I say it in an unloving way. Or maybe I just believe that you don’t upset the people you love, so I just keep it to myself. I take, for the moment, the easy path.

It is easy to sell out being truthful for the sake of being “loving.” It is also easy to sell out being loving for the sake of telling someone a trut...

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How Can Christian Counseling Help My Relationship with God?

Have you ever had a friend who seemed to know you better than you know yourself? Someone who could see right through you when you said, “I’m okay. Everything is fine”? Did that friendship enable you to feel vulnerable and safe in a way that few others have? That type of friendship brings healing to our souls.

Now, I want you to imagine taking that level of familiarity up a notch better yet, take it up 1,000 notches. Now we are talking about someone who does know you better than you know yourself. Now, we are talking about not only One who is familiar with you because of time spent together and years gone by now we are talking about the One who planted the very dreams you hold close to your heart, the One who knows the number of hairs upon your head (even after you’ve washed it and brushed it out).

Now we are speaking of the One who created you designed you purposefully with intention and great attention to detail. Do you think such a friend would be able to understand you, encourage you, correct you, listen to you, weep with you as you weep and mourn with you as you mourn? This may sound far-fetched, but if you have a relationship with God, you likely know this to be the truth about your life.

As a Christian who happens to be a counselor, I can tell you firsthand...

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Dealing with the Teenage Problems of Today

I recently saw the movie 8th Grade, wherein we follow the journey of 13 year old Kayla as she navigates the social landscape of 8th grade. It chronicles in a very realistically and honestly R-rated fashion the struggles that girls (and boys) are going through today.

Watching this movie, I was struck by how much I connected with it and some of the feelings that I experienced as a 13-year-old boy.

Sometimes a movie like this teleports you in time to a period that you thought was long resolved in your life, and then you begin to realize many of those thoughts, emotions, and experiences we moved on from were really put on pause until we have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it later in life.

I remember in my own 8th grade experience my English teacher telling my class at the beginning of the year that 8th grade would “be the nadir of our lives.” Now she was an English teacher and used a word I had never heard of and many people haven’t who I have related this story to, so let me define it for you:

“Nadir, noun: the lowest point in the fortunes of a person or organization”

8th grade. Our lowest point. Not the joyful, happy ending of middle school we hoped for, but rather the year of ...

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Can Counseling for Kids Improve Their Behavior? Does It Last?

Raising children can feel like a full-time job. My mother once referred to the process as “the civilization of little savages,” which isn’t far from the truth.

We start out all id and ego, needing, wanting, taking, and it is largely due to the intervention of our primary caregivers – who provide the much-needed correction and moral framework – that we are ever fit for society. When our best efforts aren’t enough, when our children persist in unacceptable behavior and all the carrots and sticks have failed, sometimes it’s necessary to get help from a professional.

How We Are Formed

Arguments have raged for centuries over the question of whether we are most formed by nature (our biology) or nurture (our environment). The fact is brain chemistry is something we are born with, but brain chemistry can be altered. Parents can do everything right and still have a child who has discipline problems.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. A child with a predisposition toward aggression may learn to control it or end up in an institution of one form or another. It is a terrifying thought for any loving parent, which is why we need to remain hopeful and keep looking for solutions when confronted by issues regarding our children.

Diagnosis is Often a P...

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Types of Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

The term “bipolar” is sometimes used colloquially to describe shifting or volatile emotions. It is fairly common for someone to say, “You’re being so bipolar right now,” or “I’ve been feeling bipolar lately” as they allude to the typical ups and downs of the human emotional experience.

However, this informal use of “bipolar” is problematic for a number of reasons. One reason is because using the term incorrectly perpetuates an incomplete and inaccurate understanding and undermines the very real and distressing experiences of people with bipolar disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Rather than an adjective used to casually describe emotions, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that encompasses a number of specific diagnoses outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Types of Bipolar Disorder can include: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder, and several disorders that describe symptoms that do not meet criteria for the disorders above (these include Substance/Medication-Induced Bipolar And Related Disorder, Bipolar And Related Disorder Due To Another Medical Condition, Other Specified Bipolar And Related Disorder, and Unspecified Bipolar And Related Disorder).


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