Tag Archives: counseling

Thank You

Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. HDR image

You may have noticed that I haven’t written any new blog posts in quite awhile. I’ve been putting my energy elsewhere in order to re-design my counseling website. The photo above captures the new colors and theme of Liberating Choices.

I will still be writing and coaching you to turn life and relationship challenges into opportunities for growth. Before I begin migrating my blog migration to it’s new site, I want to share my gratitude with you. When I started Liberating Choices in 2010, I had no idea if anyone would read it. Little did I know that people would read my blog from around the world. And I am grateful for your interest in hearing my thoughts over the past 6 years!

My biggest surprise was meeting so many other bloggers along the way. Some of us exchanged guest posts or wrote a collaborative project. While we encouraged each other along the way, it was much more fun doing this with each of you. I wish you each the best on your passionate life journeys whether with blogging or new endeavors and seasons.

So just because I’m moving my blog to a new location, doesn’t mean you will be forgotten. I still want to hear what ideas resonate with you and what topics you wrestle with the most. And I’m even interested in hearing from you if you have a different perspective than I do.

My writing reflects my personal and relationship growth as well as the challenges I have faced. While I enjoy reading blogs like many of you, it’s when we choose to do something with the information that transforms us. Take the time to reflect, listen to your own wisdom, and decide what you want to work on. And know when to work with someone who will coach you step-by-step along the way until you find your own clarity.

If you want to stay in touch, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter. And if you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you will still receive article updates. You won’t miss a thing. I have much more to write about. Just note that Liberating Choices’ articles will eventually be housed at a new location: http://marcipayne.com/blog/.

Married and Lonely: Being Emotionally Intimate

Love-is-tree

Last week we explored what contributes to emotional distance and how to address your own distance to be less lonely in your marriage. Most of you will naturally be more open, positive, and playful with your spouse when you address your own distancing mindsets and behaviors. But others of you will need some help taking down the walls you’ve built up and moving toward your spouse.

Let’s start with an example: You are feeling lonely, so you nudge your spouse: “I wish you listened to me like my friends do. It’s so hard for me to talk to you.”

Spouse responds with, “What are you talking about? I’m listening now.”

“When you stare at me with that blank face, I think you don’t care at all about what I have to say.”

Spouse reacts with, “That’s insulting. Of course I care about you.” Then your spouse storms out of the room.

Has this ever happened in your relationship? You give subtle nudges for more attention and approval. Yet when you try to get closer to your spouse, you end up co-creating more emotional distance!

That’s because our mate’s can sense when we are emotionally pulling and pushing on them, even if it’s subtle. And when we feel pressured or pursued, a natural reaction is to withdraw, shut down, or defend. Thus trying to pull your mate closer can actually bring more distance.

The key to increasing emotional intimacy is to be more intimate yourself, instead of trying to get your spouse to be more intimate first.  We are naturally competitive beings and tend to look for ways to shape up others to meet our needs. Learning to first look at how we are contributing to the things we are upset about will take practice and repetition.

Define Emotional Intimacy

First, let’s define what emotional intimacy means and looks like. Dr. Dan Papero, family therapist and international speaker, said it best when he defined intimacy as:

“…the ability to have a relationship with another human being in which I can be myself. And you can listen without correcting me or backing away. You can stay connected to me, and I can do the same for you.” ~ Dr. Papero, Divorce Video

In this definition, emotional intimacy comes from seeing your spouse as separate from you emotionally while maintaining good personal contact. Emotional intimacy isn’t merely expressing every thought and emotion you have, it’s getting calm enough to keep learning about each other. Often we listen to our assumptions, expectations, and hurt feelings more than keeping ourselves open to learning about each other.

It’s very hard to be open and listen if you are protecting yourself from hurt or assuming harm. On the other hand, when you feel less emotionally responsible or threatened by your spouse’s reactions and emotions, than you can be more open and emotionally available with your spouse.

Openness can be playful, light and easy going or it can be serious, curious, and interested in your spouse. We are open when we are calm and not reacting as if there is a threat. This openness comes and goes, and it can be hard to see our part in the times we feel less open.

3 Steps to Being Emotionally Intimate

Let’s break down how to feel closer without trying to pull your spouse closer, so you can find the choices you never knew you had.

1. Observe & Identify Your Own Distance: 

Instead of blaming your spouse, observe your own emotional distance. Observe what makes you switch from playful and open to closed off and distant. And identify how you switch back to being open again.

I know many of you are tempted to blame your spouse in this step. While your spouse plays a part, it’s important to not get sidetracked and convinced your reaction is completely your spouse’s fault. Read “Married and Lonely: Addressing Emotional Distance” for descriptions of behaviors, mindsets, and triggers to help increase your self-awareness of the part you play.

2. View Your Spouse as Separate Than You:

If you think you spouse’s behavior is a reflection of how he or she feel about you, then you will start getting critical and increase your emotional distance. Instead of assuming your spouse is avoiding you, find a more objective way to think about his or her actions.

For instance, if your spouse is being quiet when you talk, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He may be concentrating hard, preoccupied with his own stress, or nervous about how to respond. When you think of your spouse as emotionally separate than you, then his or her behavior doesn’t define your self-worth. In this way, you don’t need to protect yourself and are more open to learning about your spouse.

3. Move Toward Your Spouse:

Most people will ebb and flow between how much time you want to spend with yourself and how much time you want in solitude. If you are wanting to be closer to your spouse, then move toward your spouse. Reach out without pressuring your mate to respond.

Join them in their activity or join them in the same room with your own activity/task. Instead of waiting on your spouse to move toward you, move toward him or her. And definitely move toward your spouse instead of complaining about what your spouse doesn’t do anymore.

How can you be more emotionally intimate with your spouse?

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To work on your own emotional intimacy in your marriage, individuals and married couples can schedule a counseling appointment with Marci, or Missouri residents can also consult with her online via Talkspace.

Photo Credit: “Love is being stupid together” by Nattu

8 Ways to Make the Most of Counseling

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” ~ Paul Romer

You’ve taken the step to schedule your first appointment with a psychotherapist or a counselor. However, you are nervous and worried you may not know what to do when you get there.

You have all these thoughts running through your head, like”Will they judge me? Will it really help?” You consider cancelling the appointment, but you’re in a crisis or trying to prevent a crisis. In the end, you decide you are going even though you are nervous.

Each counselor has a little different approach and personality. So once you find a counselor that is a good match for you, I know you want to get the most out of your investment in time and money. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of the counseling experience once you get started.

Tip #1: Be Honest

You have nothing to lose by being honest. The counselor works under strict client-therapist confidentiality laws to keep everything you discuss completely private (unless you are a danger to yourself or others). Tell them about yourself and be as open as you can about your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Most therapists aren’t in this business to judge you, but to lend a hand by guiding and coaching you to greater clarity and mastery of your goals.

Tip #2: Identify Counseling Goals

Know what goals you’d like to work on in counseling. While counselors’ specialties vary, your goals can include the following areas: emotional, relational, behavioral, health, career, or work. Identifying your goals will help you focus what you most want to talk about in your sessions, and it will help you talk about progress toward your goals as you move forward.

Tip #3: Keep a Counseling Journal

Often counselors ask questions in session that you may not have the answer to, but you want to reflect on it later. Decide if you want to use a password-protected file on your phone or a paper journal to record your counseling goals, reflections, attempts, and progress. It’s just as important to focus on problems as it is progress. Keeping a personal record of your emotional and relational goals and reflections will help increase your focus, motivation, and self-awareness.

Tip #4: Prepare for Sessions

Get your journal or notebook out before your session and reflect on what you’ve been working on, thinking about, or stuck on. Write down any questions you have or any topics you want to focus on in the next session, so you can start the session focused on what’s most important to you. Thinking space can be challenging to carve out these days with the demands of every day life, but it will help you make the most of your time in session.

Tip #5: Speak Up Before End

Speak up if you are ever thinking about ending counseling, whether it’s due to making progress, financial challenges, or personality clashes. Let the counselor know that you are done for now, so you can have time to summarize and celebrate all your hard work. Or if the counseling isn’t going well for you and you feel stuck, speak up about this too. Even if you are confused or hurt by something that was said in session, it’s good practice for being open about difficult topics. If the counselor-client isn’t a good match, this gives the therapist an opportunity to offer other options.

Tip #6: Own Your Progress

In a crisis, we often want relief as soon as possible and feel like we’ve run out of options. When a person feels really uncomfortable, they may put pressure on a helping or medical professional to fix them. Pressuring the therapist to fix you will leave you feeling more hopeless and frustrated. And getting advice can rob you of the opportunity to find your own solutions and develop more confidence when faced with challenges. Instead of pressuring the therapist, own your problem and your progress, and collaborate with your helping professional.

Tip #7: Keep Counseling Private

Establish boundaries around your therapy sessions. Wait to share what you are working on in counseling until you are starting to make progress. Also resist the urge to use the therapist’s expert opinion to speak up to loved ones. Instead work on defining yourself to your loved ones, not leaning on your therapist to speak for you. It’s very different to say what you are going to do vs what your therapist thinks you should do. Letting the expert prop you up blocks confidence, empowerment, and intimacy from growing.

Tip #8: Try Mental Health Prevention

Lastly, you don’t have to wait until there is a crisis to come to counseling. While a crisis is motivating and a time where patterns are more easily observed, you can also attend counseling before your marriage or emotions are at a crisis point. Many people come to counseling to receive coaching on personal or relationship growth goals. Others continue counseling on an as needed basis to help maintain changes they’ve made. Counselors don’t just offer diagnoses and treatment plans, it’s a place to gather clarity, stay motivated, receive encouragement and a new perspective.

“A crisis is like a low tide at the ocean. When the ocean recedes you can walk far out of the sand and see all manner of debris littering the ocean floor; but you also spot the occasional treasure – a pristine, glimmering shell buried in the sand.” ~Lynn Grodzki

What questions do you have for me about how you can make counseling work for you?

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Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers individual, marriage and family counseling in Independence MO (near Kansas City MO). Schedule a free 15 minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you and/or your family.