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!

Thank You

To clients past, present and future.

To you, the reader of this blog post.

To those curious about therapy despite the WIDE variety of therapists, counselors, psychologists, social workers, etc.

To those who love deeply enough to leap for change.

To those of you who bare your soul and dare to hope.

I am grateful that I have the pleasure of working with brave people who dare to dream of a better life. I am honored to witness that change that occurs every week at Cascadia Family Therapy.

Thank you.

 

What to do when your marriage is on the rocks:

Problems in your most important and intimate relationship is scary and isolating. It can feel like no one understands and there is no one to talk to.

Here are some triage steps to reducing damage and getting your relationship back on track:

  1. Stop the damage: Is there a topic that sets off the same argument? Is there a predictable negative interaction pattern that you can see? Does the problem appear unsolvable to one or both of you? These are excellent indicators to try doing something different. Try saying to your partner, “I feel like this topic always leads to an argument, can we put it aside until we have help with it?” or “I can see you are getting really upset with me, can we take a 20-30 minute time out to cool off?” Be sure to validate that you are both upset/hurt/angry, DO NOT MINIMIZE or ignore, simply state your desire for change and to not hurt one another more.
  2. Make time for the relationship: It is very common for couples to sense the stress in the relationship and begin to avoid the stress by avoiding one another. Often this leads one or both parties to begin to write a story in their minds about the relationship. These stories often sound like, “maybe I am better off on my own”, “all he does is avoid me”, “she has given up on me and this relationship”, or worse, “he/she did all this on purpose.” These narratives are built from only one side of the relationship and are rarely accurate. Make time to check in with one another and be curious, “what were your intentions?”, “how would you have preferred that argument to go?”, “what did you mean when you said ______?”
  3. Find a therapist or counselor who specializes in couples therapy. Many therapists are trained in their graduate programs to do couples work but that does not make a specialty. A therapist who specializes will work primarily with couples, attend ongoing training in couples therapy, and have confidence about how to approach your particular issue. Many therapists and counselors offer free consultations. At least talk on the phone with the therapist to get a sense of what they have to offer and how often they work with a couple.

The Question for Your Partner

Couples therapy can look different from couple to couple and I have been working on finding the key ingredients. Those components that seem to help every couple at every stage of their relationship.

Meaning making appears to be one of those key ingredients. We all do it from the time we wake up until we go to sleep. As human beings we don’t just take in facts and observations we make meaning from that information. Sometimes this is totally unconscious. For example, this was the first frosty morning here in Bend Oregon. For some people the first frost is a sign that summer is gone. For me it means ski season is closer!

Perhaps the best question to ask your partner when you don’t feel you are seeing eye to eye is, “What does that mean to you?”

Examples:

“I hear there is a lot of change for you at work lately, what does that mean to you?”

“When I got upset yesterday, what did that mean to you?”

“When we couldn’t agree last night and went to bed upset, what did that mean to you?”

Look for ways to understand your partners experience and you will discover no matter how long you have been together there is so much you don’t know.

The Way We Describe Children

Perhaps it is backlash for all of the participation trophies and unfounded praise our culture is accustom to offering children these days but I have never heard children described in terms of their deficits so often.

It seems my work with children and their families commonly begins with uniting all of the deficits from the child. In the past it seemed parents would reflect, “it feels like he isn’t listening to me” but that has morphed to “how do I get my ADHD child to listen to me.”

Maybe the internet has turned us all into diagnosticians or maybe the school system has become the leading authority on your child and their behavior.

Either way, my dream as a family therapist is that parents would return to seeing their children as human beings on a complex journey of maturing and not a list of abilities and deficits.

 

On Communication

The number one problem as defined by couples is typically communication. As a therapist the words “we need help communicating” has come to mean a lot of different things. It can mean everything from we hardly talk about our problems to we don’t have sex enough.

However, there is one tool that can help any and everyone communicate better. Don’t make assumptions. When you feel yourself building a story about an interaction with someone use that as a question to check in with that person. Say something like, “when you said     fill in the blank    I thought you meant     fill in the blank   , is that what you meant?”

A large part of communication is the exchange of information and so often despite communication skills or being as clear as we think we can be, the information is straight up misinterpreted. And when two people are operating from two different understandings of the same information that is the beginning of the communication problem.

So head it off at the pass, nip it in the bud, and quash that argument before it happens. Simply follow up and make sure you are both understanding each other before you get angry, hurt, sad, anxious, or feel your relationship is doomed.

Food and Mood

I often think to myself, “Self… maybe it is time to go earn a PhD so that you can finally study the connection between food and mood.”

Well, it turns out there is more research than ever on this and I have found a video linking it all together in a neat little 9 minute YouTube video.

Thank goodness!

Psychiatric Medications are not Harmless

I learned of Dr. Peter Breggin’s work in 2014 when Michael and I began researching more about how the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) was written. Dr. Peter Breggin is a psychiatrist who early on in his career realized that psychiatric medications had little science behind them. Dr. Breggin outlines his journey and how he now uses his extensive knowledge to defend people who act out of character when placed on psychiatric medications in his book Medication Madness.

Below is a link to his latest work in defending a young woman in Massachusetts. It’s an ongoing inside look at the effects of psychiatric medications and the media’s ability to shape the publics understanding in an ongoing blog series.

Check it out:

https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/08/michelle-carter-text-boyfriend-death/

Is a diagnosis really validating?

You are sad more days than not.

You no longer take pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.

You feel a sense of dread as your eyes flutter open each morning.

Your psychotherapist listens to these symptoms and others. After an hour the therapist informs you “you have depression” or if they are really precise “you are clinically depressed.”

Does this really validate your experience of these feelings? Does it point to the causes? Does it evoke a sense of autonomy or ability to manage? Does it outline a path toward your healthiest self? Would you think differently if you knew that calling it clinical depression ensured a billable hour for your therapist?

While these labels are not entirely arbitrary and do describe a constellation of symptoms they fail to recognize the true complexity of human experience. It is much easier to call the experience of loosing a loved one, divorce, affairs, betrayal, job loss, change in career, or one of the other ways in which we as humans are forced to endure change “depression” or “anxiety.”

The problem comes as the public embraces these labels and scientists hypothesize about brain chemicals they cannot measure, leading the consumer to believe these labels are a permanent fixed state.

The true injustice of this issue in our society becomes most clear to me when I hear women repeat in the therapy room, “my anxiety…., “my depression…,” “it isn’t my partner, it’s my anxiety.” In those moments I am reminded of all the ways in which women are trained to be peacemakers from a young age. It is easier for some women to accept a permanent life of depression and anxiety than to set a boundary with a loved one.

These labels, “depression,” “anxiety,” “bi-polar,” can be dangerous generalizations of societal problems like racism, sexism, and poverty. They only keep people stuck and keep providers and clients from talking about the real issues like the affair, the death, the loss, and uncertainty. Or more dangerous they prevent conversations about safety in relationships, what leads a person to believing suicide is an option, the feeling of being an inadequate parent, or the fear of loosing a partner or spouse.

Let’s talk about what is really happening.

 

 

3 Ways to be More Mindful

There is a growing awareness of the power of mindfulness in our culture today. It’s a beautiful thing to me, as someone who has practiced yoga for more than a decade. While many want to pretend that mindfulness is a new concept, it is really one of the oldest concepts. Mindfulness, even how it is taught by therapists today, is Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā a Buddhist practice that has been around for ages. The idea is to gain awareness of your breath and emotions while not controlling or judging either one. It is a practice of simply observing what is happening.

As simple as that may sound, I find people can get overwhelmed with making time to practice this and often have a lot of judgements about meditation and mindfulness. Emotions, breath, observing, it can feel so intangible in the beginning.

So here are a few tangible steps to take on the way to developing your mindfulness practice:

  1. Identify your favorite spaces. Where do you feel relaxed? What places either in your home or outdoors do you feel reflect you the most? What if you made just a little bit of time to linger in those places?
  2. What are you eating? The further science progresses, the more it seems to reflect old sayings like, “You are what you eat!” A lot of foods that are commonly consumed serve only as distractions. Spikes of sugar and rushes of caffeine pull our emotions with them. Could you choose to purchase a few more fresh fruits and vegetables and a few less packaged foods? What if you spent just a few minutes longer preparing what you are consuming? Can you just observe what that process is like for you, preparing and eating? What do you experience?
  3. What do you do to prepare for sleep? What are the conversations you have before you go to bed? What is on your mind when you get into bed? What is your routine?

Becoming aware of these every day habits and patterns will help you tune into yourself. Without sitting on a pillow in a yoga position, tuning into these patterns will offer you insight and begin to develop that ability to observe your experience, the key ingredient of mindfulness.