This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stress Reduction, 3

If you tend to see the glass as half full, you may enjoy increased longevity.

 Fill your glass up if it's half empty.  One study found that optimistic people lived an average of 8 years longer than those who are generally pessimistic.

It is interesting to observe yourself.  When, for example, you are discussing a possible outcome of a situation with someone else, do you take the view that it is not likely to come out well?  Do you usually point out the pitfalls?  Are you the one who says, "Yes, but, this bad thing could happen or, such and so could go wrong." ?  You might think you are protecting yourself this way but, read the 1st paragraph again...

Also, notice others.  Do you know anyone who almost always looks on the bright side?  What do you think of them; do you think that they are unrealistic? 

If you find that your usual habit is to be a 'doubting Thomas', skeptical, or expecting the worst, ---this is something you can change.   When you see yourself do it, stop yourself, try reversing it in your mind.  Gradually, you can develop a new habit, a healthy habit of being optimistic!

(This is the completion of a series of 3 posts on the topic.  Stress Reduction, Stress Reduction, 2 this Stress Reduction, 3.  Hope you enjoyed and found them useful) 

An earlier post on the subject of stress:  Stressed Out!!! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Search Keywords/It Takes Two to Tango

A seeker who made me think
 "Taking care of your therapist" is the phrase that appeared on the search keyword list that Google provides for me.  And, oddly, it was there more than one day.
Usually I don't do anything about these search words as I can't know what they mean.  That's why I am always encouraging you to comment  on the blog---because I do want to know what is on your mind.

This cryptic phrase stuck with me for some reason.  It made me think.  Usually, of course, we all naturally view the psychotherapy relationship as pretty much one-sided.  A person who seeks out a therapist is not looking for someone to take care of; they are hoping to find help for themselves.  And, yet, as I continued my work with my patients and this mysterious shred of a sentence stayed with me, I began to notice something.
While the lion's share of the attention in a session is going from me to my patient, there is, in fact, an exchange.  It isn't even or equal and it shouldn't be.  But, it is definitely there.
And, I have been noticing that there is a real range:  There are people who pay attention, consistently, and with great consideration to how they treat the therapist-----all through many versions of everything in between-----to people who will rip off their own therapist.
This last, every time it happens, utterly amazes me.  It just knocks my socks off!  How can a person  finagle a way to not pay either their fee or their insurance co-payment to someone who has given them their compassion, their attention, and their best thinking?  Never ceases to amaze me.

When this happens, it feels de-valuing to the therapist.
Yet, while therapy is on-going, many therapy patients, if not most, can hardly get out the door.  Some are still talking, in the doorway.  They find it very difficult to end the session.  Why is that?  That's because therapy is therapeutic.  It feels good.  It is nourishing to the soul.  To have an intelligent, thoughtful, kind listener is enough to be hooked.  But therapy gives that and a lot more.  It's hard to leave when receiving that kind of attention.  I still don't know how to reconcile this oft-repeated occurrence-of not wanting therapy to end, with the one of cheating or defrauding the therapist.

The last time I was in therapy, I did everything I could to support the relationship with my therapist and to treat him with regard:
This includes simple things like making it to all my appointments, getting there on time, being ready with the payment-whether it is cash or a check and quickly giving it to him at the very beginning of the session, preparing for my session personally, i.e., thinking beforehand about what I wanted to focus on, never bringing my cell phone into the room, staying involved, open, and personally engaged throughout the session, not bugging him too often with in between-session phone calls, listening when he had something to say (not interrupting or cutting him off), occasionally thanking him, not taking it for granted if he did something extra such as get me a referral or talk to my doctor, and giving him specific feedback if he did or said something that had been particularly helpful to me.  If I brought up something or someone we hadn't talked about much or, for a long time, I would cue him in with something like, "My cousin, Ellen, the one I spent a lot of time with growing up..." in case he didn't immediately remember.  Usually he did, but, I just felt it was considerate not to expect him to recall every single little reference I had ever made.  One time, I paid with cash because I forgot my checkbook.  He was so pleased!  Said:  "That almost never happens!"  So, just note that some therapists in private practice find it helpful to be paid in cash.  The point is, just a little attention on the patient's part, can make a big difference.
Some of these things are simple courtesy, a few are coming from a deeper level.  But, it all added up to treating him with regard.  Of course, as a therapist myself, I know what it takes to do what he does.  I don't expect every patient who goes to a therapist to know how they (the therapist) got to that position nor what it takes to stay there.  (And, in fact, I do realize that what takes tremendous effort can, in an experienced person, look quite easy).

But I would hope that, over time, the patient would take in the wonderful combination of caring and thinking that a therapist offers to them.  And yet, it just doesn't always happen.  For some, either it goes unrecognized or unappreciated.
Of course, at the clinical level, it tells the therapist something about the patient's own self care, about how they've been treated previously, and also how they currently function in their relationships with others in their outside life.  Behavior is information. But, for the purposes of this post, I'll not stray off into that kind of analysis and just stick with the therapist-patient relationship.

Some of the things that happen are not quite, but are almost, shocking.  When a long-term client leaves the therapist in the lurch, owing money by tricky means like no-showing the last appointment and not paying for it or not having the co-pay the last few visits, promising to mail it and then becoming unavailable without having settled the account as promised, writing a check on a closed account, and so on, it simply leaves the therapist with a sinking heart.
I used to try and try to get the payment and then, ultimately, after a ridiculous number of attempts, would turn the account over to Collections.  I haven't done that lately as, for me, no matter what the client has done to me, I just can't muddy up the helping relationship with something so punishing.  The intention of therapy is to shine light into the darkness of life, not to add bitter experiences.  So, I absorb the loss.

On the other end of the spectrum, are people who are always responsible for their part, live up to any agreements they've made with the therapist, are considerate of the therapist's time, and pay regularly:
They are generally courteous and show that they are aware that the therapist is a person too.  There is rarely a patient who doesn't miss some appointments (although some never do, without a proper cancellation) but the people at this end of the spectrum always pay for my time.
I've had some who voluntarily gave me a raise (raised their own fee)-yes, believe it or not-and people who have paid, not only the fee for a missed appointment but offered to pay extra for making me sit there and wait not knowing what had happened.  Usually this comes with a sincere apology.  
It is clear, this group has a value for the therapy process and respect for their therapist.  They leave no doubt.

~The world has become a harsher place in recent years.  But the holding experience of a good therapy relationship is a respite from that competitive, confusing world outside.  The therapy office itself can become a container (a confidential container, with boundaries) for your dreams, hopes, fears, worries, wishes and secrets.  It does seem, like the search keyword the writer wrote, to some degree meant, it is fitting to take good care of your therapy and your therapist.~

A good therapy relationship is key to a productive therapy experience.   Most therapists will try to meet you more than half-way.  But, they can't do it all for you.  
Your contribution will be key to the best experience and outcome for you. 

"Psychotherapy is a two-way street:  Both the patient and the therapist must take responsibility for their part in creating the healing relationship." Quoting myself from the post, A Two Way Street

The more that you honor your therapy relationship, the more fruitful your therapy will be.

Pleas write in the comment section about how you feel about how you treat your therapist.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Life Before Death"

Cultivating aliveness

 "What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Mary Oliver

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Turn To Be Grateful

About donations

The 4th donation has come in.  It is from a faithful follower of this blog who has been steadily checking in from the beginning of the blog in 2009.

It means a lot to me.  The donations are essential to supporting the work that goes into creating the blog.  But, more importantly, it tells me-in an unmistakeable way-that someone has found value here.
I feel blessed today, I really do.
Thank you, Sue!
Tomorrow I will be posting a short, but provocative post.  It poses a question which will, hopefully, just give you pause and make you think a bit about your own life course.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Repeating History and Expecting a Different Outcome

We all do it
 "Remember the old Chinese handcuffs thing," a friend reminds me when I get stuck doing the same thing over and over, even though whatever I'm doing doesn't work.

A Chinese handcuff is a toy, a small bamboo tube, about four inches long. You stick an index finger in each end. Then when you pull, you're trapped. The harder you pull, the more stuck you get. Your instinctive reaction, not the handcuffs, keeps you trapped. To set yourself free you have to take certain steps. Letting go isn't enough. You have to relax, then gently push in before you can pull yourself loose.

Sometimes taking action means relaxing and doing the opposite of what our instincts tell us to do. If we have tried to do something a hundred times, and the way we're doing it hasn't worked, it probably still won't the next time. It may be time to try something else.  From Hazeldon publications, courtesy of Christian Jackson.
  Here is a situation that we come across in the therapy office often.  And we are all subject to it, aren't we.  We develop habits over time; the habits evolve into patterns.  And so, we repeat the same coping mechanisms, the same attitudes and approaches, the same interpersonal style, the same problem solving process and ways of dealing with what comes up in life, even when it isn't working.
Sometimes a coping process was created because it was, in fact, effective for you---at an earlier time of life, or, for a different set of circumstances.  And yet, like draught horses, we continue repeating our determined walk down the same old path or, worse yet, around the same circle.  
This is where your natural human ability to be creative can be put into play.  When you notice that a problem in your life is persisting, despite your dauntless efforts to solve it, it's time to rethink your actions. This requires self-observation.  Or, you can ask others what they see you doing.  But, in this case, you will have to work with yourself to be ready to accept their feedback as constructive.  Let's be honest, neither of these start tips is easy.  However, repeating a behavior that is undermining your goal is worse I think.
Those ruts we get in can be pretty deep.  I've seen people in therapy work and struggle with a problem and finally change what they are doing, only to fall back into the same old rut.  It's a slippery slope! 
It may take many tries.  (Circumambulation is a post that talks about the process of repeatedly returning to a sticky topic in the course of therapy:  But the reward at the end is true change, not to mention a problem solved.  Or, even if the problem still isn't completely solved, it will have shifted.  That shifting jostles all the old patterns out of place and leaves room for more movement, improvement and potential for resolution.  
I especially like the 3rd paragraph in the quote at the beginning of this post.  It reminds me of how the Buddhists think.  It sounds like something Pema Chodron would say.  It makes me remember when, years ago, for a brief time I lived in an area where it snowed in the winter (Utah).  I was given the advice that if you were driving and got into a spin, to go with it rather than trying to stop it with your brakes. 
Don't be stubborn.  Don't close your mind.  These attitudes, while they might feel temporarily safe, usually don't serve you well. 
If you make, even an internal shift, not consciously changing your behavior, the other parts of the problem cannot, by logic, stay the same.  Think about it.
              Do you feel encouraged by this post?

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Cool!

It's All Good

A new member has joined us during my birthday week. 
 Welcome Constant Facade---so happy you joined!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Survey Results

Here's what you said you want to have here

 The most votes were for posts about therapists.  I have done several focused on us and now have a Label (on right hand list) which allows you to access any post that mentions therapists, or their point of view.  I will keep this in mind and try to write more about it.  What would you like to know?
 Stress management and relationship issues were evenly voted for and were second to the wish for posts about therapists themselves. 

I asked if you preferred short or long, in-depth posts and it seems you like both so I will continues to present a variety of both with some medium length ones too---variety is the spice of life!

The puzzling thing about the poll is that no one voted for more posts on the subject of addiction.  And, yet, my all time most visited post with 1036 pageviews---and counting, is on the subject of alcoholism and substance abuse... (?)  Every day this particular post is being read!
I don't know quite what to make of this.  But I already have some very solid information in several posts on drug addiction and alcoholism and 14 that mention these topics.  So, for now, I will leave those for you to peruse and not add to that topic.

I am very responsive to those of you who write comments, check boxes and vote in polls.  I want this blog to be useful and meaningful to you.  So, speak up!  I'll be listening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Note to You

Update on blog news

Reaction Boxes
 More of you are checking the little boxes at the bottom of the post after you read it.  Thanks!  That helps me to know what you want to see here.

Most Popular Posts
 You read my letter to you about my frustration re. the Popular Posts list and you have been exploring and looking deeper into the blog at posts that were not listed there.  This is very gratifying to me!   
As you can see, your footprint is reflected in that list.  Now, there are several posts on the list that were not there before.

 The poll has only one day left.  Three people voted.  One vote was for longer, in-depth posts, two were for posts about therapists, themselves.  I have a post in draft that is in-depth and is about how therapists view one of the aspects of the business side of conducting a private practice in therapy.  It is also information for the consumer from a perspective most never realize.  That will be posted tomorrow. 

The Slide Show
 The slide show had been highlighting the countries who participate in this blog.  Since the U.S., my own country is consistently my largest readership, I decided to dedicate the slide show to showcase one state every couple of weeks.  Watch for yours!

Last, But Not Least
 I have mentioned a couple of times that three might be my lucky number here (one example: )
Yesterday afternoon I received my third donation, from Teresa, a faithful reader.  It's the 3rd donation since I put up the button.  Now, we're on our way!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Oldies But Goodies

Some posts I like

Shyly is a post that touches on Jungian theory, discusses Western culture in comparison to others and, includes a personal note from me.

"I've Lost 38 pounds..." describes how therapy can actually be a magical process at times.

The Delivery is about how your communication style can make all the difference in how well you are heard

Depression Prevention talks about how sometimes depression in adult life can be rooted in an earlier stage of life---how to understand this in yourself and to avoid seeing it develop in a child

                                                                                   Maybe some of these will be of interest to you.

Frustrating For Me

Wasted Posts

You all, the wonderful people who come to my blog seeking something, seem to me to be missing out.  When you come here and see something you like and want to explore more, naturally you click on one of the Popular Posts on that list. 
So, what happens is that------Google counts the visits to each post and, thus, the same posts get listed and re-listed as being the most popular because most visits are limited to those posts.

There are 360 posts here (there are only 10 on that list), probably at least a few of that other 350  are better than those on that list.  Or, maybe there are some that will be of more interest to you, in particular.
So, please try some other search methods:
  1. Click on a label that sounds intriguing
  2. Type a word or topic into the search bar
  3. A 3rd way is to go to the Archive and click on a month
I promise, there is more here, much much more than just what shows on that list of 10 "Popular Posts". 

Besides that, you don't want me to be frustrated do you?