Yeah, but is virtual therapy awkward?

To be honest, when I leapt into offering phone and video conference sessions March 15th this was my thought too. I was uncertain how it would go but I felt called to protect some of my more vulnerable clients. What really sealed the deal was finding research that video and phone sessions are equally as effective as in person sessions.

After five weeks, I can say with confidence, it isn’t awkward! Well, that is probably a nerdy therapist over statement… It still has those inevitable awkward moments just like  therapy sessions in real life but instead of it being me choking on my tea or sneezing loudly it is the screen freezing for a moment.

I am not sure if it has been the act of shifting quickly into unknown territory, baking during my lunch breaks or spending more time with my recently adopted dog Minimoo, but there has been something revitalizing about doing therapy this way. I have felt inspired to work lately, like being a new therapist ten years ago all over again.

It has become a passion and I find myself championing in the supermarket and outside my favorite food cart – phone and video therapy works! Now is truly a great time to start!

 

P.S. Minimoo requested a more adorable photo be included in this post:

IMG_9024

The Unique Opportunity We All Have

This morning as I sat down to make a plan for how I’d like the business to operate during this time it occurred to me that these are very unique circumstances.

My mind was drawn back to September 11th, 2001. The last time in my memory that our economy and life was tangibly interrupted. It occurred me that during that event, unless you were a person or family directly affected, the rest of us had to figure out how to make sense of the event and still go about life. I remember my friends being in school, my parents going to work, and through that trying to figure out what it all meant.

We have a unique opportunity with COVID-19. We can choose to draw inward. To spend time with those who live with us, to play with our kids, meditate, watch the snow fall (if you are here in Bend), and press pause on our daily lives in which we often rush about from place to place.

I have found myself surprised by things like:

  • how messy I let my home office get
  • how much of my day is usually centered around getting out the door
  • how much time I usually spend in the car
  • the sheer amount of people I come in contact with on a daily basis
  • the people I miss seeing throughout my day
  • how quiet my house can be at certain points of the day
  • how much my dog desperately wants my attention
  • how many new questions I can think of to ask Michael within this context of pandemic and client care

I could go on. The point being this; I hope everyone takes time to turn inward, turn off the news, connect with your breath, your heart, your soul and the loving beings you share your home with and choose to hear yourself during this time.

Here is a meditation if you could use some guidance with this invitation 🙂

Strength Focused in a Culture Focusing on Weaknesses

In America, highlighting weaknesses in people is a billion dollar industry. If a problem can be created, a solution can be purchased.

The focus on weakness gets perpetuated by the belief that working on weaknesses as a step toward success. This methodology is effective in sports for instance. I tend to be a slow long distance runner, so recently I have been adding intense interval running to my workout schedule. After just a few months I can feel an improvement on my long weekend trail runs.

In mental health however, constantly looking for the problem or sometimes waiting for an “official problem” can keep us from finding the way out. Furthermore, relationships are a key indicator and asset as a human. If one’s relationships are affected by the way one is thinking or perceiving, it can indicate that one’s mental emotional health needs attention.

In this context, often focusing on what is going well for a person, what has worked in the past, and what they desire in the future is an effective way to identify solutions and stop the feedback loop of looking at problems. It can be easy to get focused on the preferred past (what we would have liked to have happen) or past hurt/sadness/anxiety, which just builds the barrier toward identifying the desired future higher.

I used to be shocked by how difficult it was for some to state their wants, needs, and preferences. In other words, how hard it can be to just say what a person does want. After nine years as a practicing psychotherapist, I get it now. The deck is stacked against the practice of focusing on strengths, finding what is good, what has worked well in the past, and cultural norms bring people back to what is wrong.

A starting place for being more strengths based is a simple gratitude practice. Perhaps starting a journal or adding to your planner 3 things in the morning and 3 things in the evening you are grateful for or that went well. From there, finding more about what is going well will get easier and easier.

Curious how this might apply to your situation? Schedule a free 20 minute consultation 541-639-2986

Eight Dates Challenge – Week 4 – Work & Money

Welcome to week four of our progress in the Gottman’s Eight Week Challenge!

In case you were keeping track or read our previous blogs, you might be wondering to yourself “wasn’t week three of the challenge in April ?” Clearly we have not been able to keep up with the eight week challenge as it was laid out. Life presented us many personal and professional obstacles for us to overcome. So just as we teach our clients, it is always ok to come back to things. Let’s dive in!

WEEK FOUR

This chapter on work and money felt like a lot to cram in one chapter since work and money are such large parts of our lives. The chapter broke the subject into a couple of sub-themes such as time management and gender roles which helped. As evidenced in the book, there is a lot of research that when couples talk about money it isn’t just numbers, it is also topics like family of origin, values, and the distribution of household duties that are no longer absorbed by women. I appreciate that they included all these layers.

REFLECTIONS

I appreciated the vignettes the authors provide. Couples some times get so bogged down in the content of their discussion (in the chapter’s example whether or not to save or travel) that they miss the important root of the discussion. Each of us comes to a relationship with values and ideas about money, none of which are stagnant. Our individual interactions with money and meanings about money change with development, maturity, health, children, work, etc. It is no wonder it is one of the top reasons for divorce… we can hardly track our own meanings let alone someone else!

The book suggests that budgeting is one of the top ways to begin to find clarity with one another, along with discussions about family of origin and how time is spent. As a therapist, I can’t agree more. Having one of these pieces without the other seems to create imbalance. It really is all of it together. I hear myself suggesting (to individuals too!) to budget and keep track of your time. These objective measures can tell us a lot about ourselves and our relationships.

The questionnaires provided in the book, the research to back it up and the wide variety of meaning about money outlined in the examples make this an excellent guide for any couple to discuss meaning. When couples shift their focus from the numbers to meanings and experiences, it becomes much easier to set goals and work together as a team.

Let us know if you have done this date and what you thought in the comments below or in an email on our Contact Us page!

Eight Dates Challenge

At Cascadia Family Therapy, when we begin to work with a couple, an essential task we ask couples to engage in during the course of therapy is date night. Not only are dates an important part of a healthy relationship, they also become time set aside with intention to discuss therapy.

It is exciting that the Gottmans have now written a book on this topic. Dr. John Gottman is an incredible researcher who has the ability to take the softer topics of therapy and put it together with hard science.

Check out their new book or try out their Eight Date Challenge!

Gottman’s Eight Date Challenge

Michael and I will be trying it out and blogging along the way!

Updates and Expansion

Wow! We have so much to share!

As many of you already know, Michael and I both taught at Bastyr University this summer in their Graduate Counseling Program. It was an awesome summer spending time with amazing students, spending more time with friends and family, and enjoying “one of the driest summers in western Washington history!”

It was refreshing learning new skills, taking a break from having clients, and reorganizing Cascadia Family Therapy (so much more to come on that soon!). We have landed back in Bend right in time for a beautiful fall and we are anxiously awaiting a larger office space to accommodate our shift to mostly co-couples therapy. I cannot wait to share photos of the new space!!!

We are starting to schedule free 20 minute consultations which is the first step in working with us.

Stay tuned and/or schedule your consultation to begin couples therapy!

Repairing a Relationship

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have sat down to reflect and write in this space. Michael and I have been spending most of our time providing therapy to some incredible couples over the past few months. Time flies when we are working together… it is such a privilege to do this work.

Something we keep running into time and time again is the myth that when couples enter therapy the past wounds will be covered with immediate action like homework. Clients are eager to ask for the next task but the work is a little harder to spot and it certainly cannot be checked off a to do list.

The work lies often in holding both realities. The reality that the relationship is being worked on and will improve and the reality of the damage that has been done. Part of repair then is being able to sit with your partner in those tense moments when one or both of you lacks confidence in the relationship. Having compassion for one another and being able to see that the past hurt is just as real as the new future you are creating together.

The magic ingredient is not letting those moments set you back. Instead have confidence that this uncomfortable space of rehashing isn’t the past argument, it is a new conversation because it now exists in the context of working on the relationship. Rehashing for couples before therapy often happens in the context of “will we stay together” or “is this relationship healthy for me/us.”

Can you hold both the past hurt and the desired future just long enough to start to see it change?

Remember, change in humans is the same as a growing plant. It is hard to detect until you look for it.

 

Self-Care and Restoration

I used to think self-care was quiet time or that I could feel restored after a long night of interrupted sleep.

As a new therapist you are encouraged to “practice self-care” as it can be a shock to the system to begin this work. So my first several years as a therapist were spent seeking quiet solitude, watching movies, or attempting to ensure 9 hours of sleep as often as possible.

However, as I enter into 2018 I have drawn a new conclusion about what practicing self-care looks like… at least for myself.

  • Self-care is actually found in adventure.
  • Restoration is found in sleepless nights in the wilderness and bumpy flights to foreign lands.
  • Caring for myself means shaking off the limits that seem to settle on me like dust on trail runs and ski slopes.
  • A restorative night can be found staying up late connecting and catching up with loved ones.
  • Self care can be found in everyday chores or a commute when I am with my partner or listening to a good podcast.

It seems there is a message that self-care means being alone or disengaging with life. I have found the opposite to be true. Self-care and that feeling of being fresh and restored actually comes from truly living and engaging with life. Try it out 🙂

Resolve

I still love New Year Resolutions. I love that there is a time of year that people feel some sense of inspiration about their future. There is a magic in the air as one year closes out and a new one begins. A magic that seems to help some people give themselves a chance to dream or reimagine themselves.

The problem comes when they wake up two weeks later in a culture that doesn’t support change and growth. We live in a time when it is easier than ever to keep the status quo, avoid personal responsibility, and busy ourselves into oblivion.

Still, I believe in people. I have the honor of seeing people change their lives all the time… not just in January. I also know that sometimes people need a few false starts. Sometimes the journey is trying out new ways of being and discarding what doesn’t work. I don’t blame people for quitting gyms after two weeks. Have you been to most gyms during January? The place is packed and its cold and flu season… gross. Maybe it will lead you to finding the right gym, the right workout community, or the right sport that keeps you fit. Sometimes we make progress in quitting.

But I digress.

I promised myself this wouldn’t be a blog of “Joella’s new year opinions.” Rather, I wanted to talk about Cascadia Family Therapy’s resolve to provide the highest quality couple and family therapy we possibly can. We are more committed than ever in 2018 to creating massive change in the lives of our clients and in our industry.

It is time for the old way of therapy (you know the once a week, bill your insurance, only to get a bill months later, all the while wondering what your therapist is trying to accomplish with you kind) to get out of your way. It is time for a new way of therapy. Therapy that is transparent, empowering, and collaborative. Therapy that trusts the clients to do the work and believes in people’s resilience and possibility. 

We are here to do that work. When a couple or family is ready for change, we are here to work, support, encourage, provide skills, whatever it takes.

We believe in YOU to build the life you want. Make your resolution stick!