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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Today I am writing to all of you with a very heavy heart. Paula’s daughter Adrienne and husband John have asked me to post this message as her friend and her colleague. This special place on the “net” where all of you came to know her was one of her greatest joys. She loved her work and was a dedicated Marriage and Family therapist for over 25 years. 

To our great sadness, Paula lost her struggle with an aggressive cancer on Sunday, August 4th  2013.  However her lovely spirit lives online in “A Therapist’s Thoughts”. Paula was dedicated to  sharing her years of experience as a therapist and to providing people with this forum for supporting each other.  I quote from Paula’s own comment about her hope for this Blog.

“Primarily though, the intention of this blog is to provide a place for self-reflection and, also, to augment the process for anyone who is currently in therapy.”

She gave of her time freely here. She shared with us, she cared about us, and we felt it through her words. Her wisdom was ever-present. She frequently expressed her great joy and excitement over new visitors, commentary, and peaks in blog activity. Her inspiration for new posts was never-ending.

Paula cannot be replaced. Her soul has traveled on to other adventures and we are left with an empty space but with so much gratitude for having known her in this way. From my own perspective, Paula was a guiding light in my personal growth as a therapist and she was a loyal friend. There is no doubt in my mind that Paula Young was a “special” human being. Reading over the Blog postings makes me feel close to her again.

Paula’s final struggle was heroic and she chose to keep many details of her illness from others, I believe, to protect them. So don’t wonder too long why you may not have known how seriously ill she was. Paula would want us all to continue our lives in the best way we know how and to remember her as a wise and delightful personality. Please continue to post your thoughts and messages to each other as the family plans to leave the Blog active for awhile.

Carol Law 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From The Hospital

 Have you noticed I've been absent?
 I had to go to the emergency room about a month ago and was admitted from there to the hospital where I've been ever since.  I was diagnosed with kidney failure and am hoping to get well, to re-build my stamina, and return to my life as it was.  I the meantime, I won't be able to write new posts-at least, not for awhile.  I am squeezing this one out for those of you who have just been left wondering------ 'What happened to Paula?', for those new followers who thought they had found something for their own inspiration and then it may have seemed to semi-disappear, and for those who have been supporting me  so faithfully for so long as I have been building the blog.  I miss you!  And, you deserve an explanation.

~~~Thank you for your loyalty~~~
I do have a few posts I had written, before I got sick, which are in draft.  Would you like for me to publish those?
One is about anger and self-righteousness, one is about inviting new members, one is about the members we have, one is a link to someone else's idea of how to choose a therapist, one is about how the licensing process has changed during the time I have been a therapist.  Which of these would you like to read?  
I won't be able to create new material for you here until my energy improves. (much as I want to).  The other thing you can do is what Sebastian has been doing,  making it a quest to go into the archived posts and read all of those that interest him.  You can also still comment to me and to each other, on the posts (I will be reading what you write).
Above all, don't give up on me.  
Getting back to my blog development is one of my primary goals!

I'd love to see some notes from you right here in the comment section.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Question For You?

A question for members and readers who are or, who have been, in therapy

Our newest member, Michal has introduced herself and asked a question. It is in the comment section, on the post, Michal Has Joined Us.  If you are in therapy now or have been before, you may have some suggestions for her.  Thanks!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Calling Cards of the Soul

How to activate your own transformation

 "Our medical and psychological problems, our complexes and relationship tangles, our accidents and synchronicities are the calling cards of our soul." 
 Ashok Bedi, M.D.

Part of healing and personal growth is dependent on listening to our own inner voice.  We will limit ourselves if we count entirely upon another human being-be it a doctor or a therapist-to do this for us, to us, or without our active participation.
Yet, it isn't always so easy to decipher that inner voice of guidance and wisdom.  So, to give ourselves the best opportunity at wellness and self-development, we have to listen for it.
~Paying attention to fleeting thoughts.  Those odd thoughts that  pass quickly through your mind at random moments that we tend to ignore, should not be ignored.  Instead, stop for just a minute and ask, why did I think that?

 ~When you are in the fortunate position of being with an attentive, sensitive therapist, let your feelings emerge, and put them together with your thoughts.

~If a relationship quandary comes up in your life, don't jump to conclusions; don't make assumptions about the other person and leave it at that.  Instead, ask yourself if there is something to be learned from the dilemma.

~An accident might be more than an accident.  Ever heard the phrase, 'accidentally-on-purpose'?  At the very least, an accident may have happened because you were preoccupied-so, what was so important that you didn't keep your eyes on the road, or forgot to pick up your child after school, sent a damning e-mail to the wrong person or any of many other accidents one can have.  When it happens, take just a moment to introspect, look into it.  Why did that happen?

~Synchronicity is a fascinating concept introduced by Carl Jung which identifies the coming together of three unrelated things (actions, object, people) which, when together at a particular moment in time, have meaning.  If that ever happens to you, don't cheat yourself.  If you shrug it off as a simple coincidence, you will have missed an opportunity.

There you have it,  5 ways that you can facilitate your own personal growth.
You can  search under the label, psychotherapy, for more about personal growth. 

Have you noticed any of these experiences or used any of these techniques where they have led to insight?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Michal Has Joined Us

About self-actualization

 When you join this blog,you are joining a group of people who regularly expose themselves to helpful, encouraging information.  Here can be found growth-provoking suggestions, guidance for new ways to cope with difficult things, and inspiration.  

Many readers have asked for a look at the inner workings of the therapist and I have responded to that and will if more interest is expressed.  Primarily though, the intention of this blog is to provide a place for self-reflection and, also, to augment the process for anyone who is currently in therapy.

Each of you, who is bent on improving yourself and your relationships, will naturally contribute to a better world.

"butterfly effect - the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere, e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago"

 Welcome, Michal!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Our New Member, MiLo

Welcome to MiLo who came on board today

This is a  picture that I took of a display I saw in the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.  I chose it to illustrate MiLo's welcome post because of the eggs, so beautifully and painstakingly decorated.  
Eggs are some times seen as a symbol of potential or a container of possibility.  
This is what this blog is for all of us, a place to help each of us reach our potential, and a place to stimulate the possibilities for all of us.
Welcome MiLo!  I am so glad to have you.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I want to recognize the contribution of those supporting this blog

~Your donations are appreciated.~
 At this point, there have been a number of donations by you, the readers and you the members of the blog.
I do this blog as a gift.  I feel I have been privileged to come from a family that encouraged education.  I feel honored by all the people who have come to my practice and trusted me with their most personal concerns.  Because of these 2 things (well, I also have done a lot of hard work for a long time---got to give myself credit!), I have a tremendous inner resource. 
Look at how much I have written---and, still going strong!

This blog is my offering but it is so heartwarming to me when I receive a donation.  I can do a whole lot on my own steam but I need encouragement just like anyone else.  So, thank you for your contributions.

This blog shows a lot of promise.

This is a user supported blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gladly Announcing a New Member to the Blog

 It's a pleasure to introduce our newest member.

Welcome, Sebastian!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Your Advice, Please

Looking for your thoughts and suggestions

Dear Readers,  Something has been coming up here on the blog and I would like your ideas about what to do.  The problem is that visitors are putting advertising for their business/product sales/websites on the comment sections.  This began happening about 6 months ago.  
What I have been doing is removing them if they are blatant or, if they are quiet and subtle enough, I leave them there.  Lately, I have had some with links put on (I don't even know how they did that...!) and some sell jobs that are repeated on 3, to as many as 6, posts.
If it were a member I would feel like helping out since I have been trying to create a friendly, generous venue here.  Even then though, I would wish that the offering would be in context.
What bothers me most about it is the work I put in here, only to have someone come along and hitch a free ride!  This is not in  line with my feeling and intention about doing this.  The other thing is that I have made a commitment, which I have also discussed with you, my readers, to write this blog with no advertising on it.  This was decided when I put up the donation button---some of you who have been following for some time may remember that.
So, you can see the the quandary there:  I have given up the subsidization that advertising might provide me in order to avoid compromising the integrity of the blog.   So, it kind of rubs me the wrong way to have advertising appearing anyway, advertising that doesn't benefit me.
I am in favor of sharing information and of helping; does this situation align with those efforts?  Or am I just being used and allowing an annoyance to effect my readers?  

I am asking for your feedback.

Friday, May 3, 2013


How night dreams can help us

"Dreaming is a universal and well-documented human phenomenon.  It has now been proven conclusively that not only do we dream every night, but we must dream in order to maintain a healthy psychological equilibrium.  This fact did not escape the ancients, who devised sacred places, rituals, traditions and guides, all designed to employ dreams as one tool to foster a degree of healing for those suffering physically and mentally.  Most people are very familiar with those nocturnal nightmares that command our attention in a dramatic and disturbing manner.  Other dreams are less frightening, but no less perplexing.  What meaning do they carry for one's life?  How is one to understand their cryptic symbolic and often seemingly nonsensical language?  Can they really bring a sense of healing to someone who is hurting?  At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the advent of modern psychology, C.G. Jung was rediscovering the scientific and therapeutic value of dreams."  Howard Tyas, Jr., D. Min., PhD
I come to dream work with an assumption that dreams are good, that they are there to help us, that they can serve a positive function.  Dreaming is built into us; it is in everyone's sleeping experience (though some people are able to remember more than others), so I think they have been incorporated into our psyches to serve a purpose.  I think that the overall purpose is one of balancing or regulating our psychological functioning. 
One example of this is compensatory dreamsThis kind of dream occurs when, in some aspect of our life, the balance has dipped too heavily in one direction.  One simple example would be of a person who has committed to an overload of work dreaming that he is running freely on the beach.  
When a person is encumbered by a very dark problem in their life, they may have a dream of flying in a light-filled sky.  An investigator once interviewed nuns about their dreams and found them to have an abundance of dreams about sexual activity while living a chaste life.

These are examples of how our own unconscious is trying to balance out our outer life; I see it as an effort toward health.
                                                                                                                            Art piece at Montalvo Arts Center
We can learn about ourselves by examining our dreams.  My approach to dream interpretation is Jungian so I subscribe to his notion that archetypes can be expressed in dreams.  For example, if you are a woman and an important male figure appears in your dream, it may be an image portraying some aspect of your animus (your inner  masculine side).  Thus you can learn about a part of yourself that may ordinarily be difficult to see.  Ask yourself, what qualities does this character in your dream portray?  Maybe you need to  be more assertive in your life and this character shows you that you have it in you.
Sometimes dreams contain signs---I once had a dream that literally had a sign, posted by a road that had a message written on it!  Other times, the unconscious expresses itself, less directly, through symbolism (this is also used in Sand Tray work in therapy).  It's best not to look at some one's list of the meaning of symbols to help you interpret your dream.  While we all are subject to being led by archetypal patterns, at the same time, we have our own symbolic system.  Thus, it will be more fruitful if you were to ferret out for yourself the personal meaning of the symbols and actions that appear in your own dreams.
The meaning doesn't always come easily but it is still beneficial to put some attention on your dream.  In so doing you encourage and validate your own unconscious self.  You will learn to trust yourself more and enlarge your sense of self-acceptance.
You can do this by thinking about what you recall of the dream and uncovering your own personal associations to its contents, by drawing the images therein or, by noticing the feelings the dream provokes.  If you have the materials, you can fashion your own dream symbols in clay.  If you have a cooperative group of people, you can act out a dream.  I was once  in a training seminar, led by a therapist who used psychodrama in his work (Peter Morfin, MFT), where we did this with cases---the trainee would set up the scenario where he/she was stuck with the case; we would act it out and spontaneously develop the next step.  It was a remarkable experience!
You can have a dream journal or just put a little effort into trying to remember more of your dreams.  Working with your dreams can be elaborate or just the simple matter of pondering  them a little.  Either way, I think it is therapeutic.
Dreams are a rich, individual, and uniquely personal resource.  Dreams are a way to tap into your own wisdom.  This post is an introduction to the idea of working with yourself this way.  I talked about two parts of dream work, the balancing nature of some dreams and the ability of dreams to reveal to us, parts of ourselves.  There are more.
If you are interested in learning about Jung's approach to dream interpretation and his theoretical approach, Man and His Symbols is a wonderful book.  Full of illustrations, I would suggest you get the hardbound copy.

Do you work with your dreams?  Or, has this post make you think you might?  Has dreamwork been enlightening for you?

Thursday, April 25, 2013


This blog is like a reference book

There are now 419 posts on this blog.  Unlike some blogs which focus on current events, the posts on this blog are almost all, timeless.  There are some on new research findings and a few that have time limited announcements.  But, for the most part, you could look anywhere in the archives and find a post that is relevant now.  This is because most of what I write comes from my own experience, present and past - with my patients and also with myself. 
It is a blog written about real life, as we all know it. 
~There are posts on happiness, on depression, on personal growth, on addiction, on relationships, on therapy, on psychological theory, on families, on communication, on therapists, on boundaries, on anxiety, on aging, on societal problems, on health; there are quotes from actual therapy patients of mine (used with their permission, of course), quotes from other therapists, inspirational quotes from friends and from the famous, there are synopses of lectures, and there are ideas for you to try.~
I write what I am inspired about or what is on my mind at the time.  All of it is intended to be helpful.  I have worked a long time with human dilemmas and suffering as well as personal joy.  I want to share what I have learned.  This blog is an outpouring of my knowledge and experience.  It's a reflection of what I offer my patients in the office.  I put it here in the hope that you, as you read here and think about yourself and your life, can benefit.   Because of the "butterfly effect", the possibility of you offering something positive to another, as a result of considering yourself in relation to what you read here, is something I believe in, and  it makes writing the blog meaningful to me:   I feel I may be contributing something positive to the world.

"butterfly effect - the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere, e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago..."

There are a number of ways to access earlier posts:  You can simply type a topic into the search bar.  Or go to a year and look at the list of titles.  You can click on a label.  Etc.  Take a look around---you might find something you like!

A related post:

Did you search,find a post,not on the landing page,that you liked?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Disconnect to Get Grounded

A very interesting article by Ariana Huffington about how the use of technology affects us*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=who_to_follow-b

Other unrelated to the above, but good information:
  If you are looking for a counselor in California, here is a good list with basic info:               
A good discussion of a difficult topic, infidelity:

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Clarification for Therapy Consumers

Some problems that come up for people paying for therapy with health insurance

 Surprisingly sometimes clients in therapy are confused about who the insurance company is and who their therapist is...  Somehow the fact that they are 2 different entities escapes the understanding of the client.  When you pay for therapy with insurance (usually it is the bulk of the fee paid by the insurance and the patient pays a small co-payment), the insurance comes with you, not the therapist.  You are a subscriber to that insurance; your employer has made an agreement with them to pay a certain amount per employee every year to them and, in exchange, they will pay for a certain amount of therapy for any employee who chooses to use it.

 It has nothing to do with the therapist:  The therapist doesn't make their rules nor determine how they do business.  The therapist is independent.  They have created and built their practice; it belongs to them; it is an entity on it's own with nothing to do with your particular insurance company.  (In fact, sometimes some of us feel like the insurance companies have taken advantage of us by inserting themselves in between us and our patients)

Most insurance that therapy clients present with are called HMO's. This means that the company will only pay "providers" (this is what they call therapists) who are on their list.  To be on that list, a therapist agrees to their conditions, primarily to be paid at usually about half their normal rate.  For a new therapist, just building their practice, this is helpful to them as it brings patients to their practice.  For a seasoned, established therapist, they are doing you a favor to agree to deal with your insurance.  That's because for the therapist, it is extra paperwork, tracking, and phone calls-so, they do more work for less money.
The reason I am bringing this up is the occasional odd and unpleasant interactions I have had with some patients over insurance issues.  Somehow, they think I am responsible for what their insurance company does!  And the insurance companies, for their part, do seem to set it up that way, i.e. to make it look that way.  (They leave it to us to do their dirty work as you will see in the following 2 examples).
For example, recently one of the companies a few of my patients use, decided to raise the co-payment on some of their subscribers.  They didn't inform anyone---not me, not the patients.  It wasn't until I sent in my claims that I  saw this discrepancy.  Since I usually bill for a number of sessions at a time, usually about 6, there were some debts accumulated.  In this case, they had more than doubled the co-payment.  So, I had the unhappy task of telling my patients that they owed me money.  Some of them reacted angrily to me as if it were my doing.  One patient said:  "It sounds like the old 'bait and switch' to me."
Another time, the company decided that the patient had used enough of their benefit and, basically, didn't want to pay for anymore therapy for that patient.   When I told the patient, word for word, what the insurance representative had told me (basically that a limited number of sessions could be used going forward and that they had an end date), he thought that I was throwing him out of therapy.  I was able to straighten that out with him but, then, when I suggested that he could continue, paying himself for his sessions, he immediately and unequivocally refused.

Maybe you can see that these kinds of incidences can be hard on the therapist.  From our point of view, it is unfair.  Sometimes we feel devalued.  These examples I gave are but 2 of many things like this that happen.  So, I just thought that, for the sake of all of us---patients who want to use insurance to pay for the bulk of their therapy, and all therapists who agree to accept insurance---that I would try to clarify how this works.
Insurance is just an alternative method of payment but therapists are independent entities and are not the insurance company and have zero power over them.  (Most health insurers are for-profit businesses and so, naturally they have their eye on the bottom line; they are not helping professionals; they are in business to make a profit, not to help people.)
The therapists are just as subject to the whims of the insurance companies as the clients are.

Was this explanation useful to you?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

It isn't often that anyone thinks about what it took for someone else to achieve what they have

Sometimes I get the impression, from clients or from others, that they think that becoming a therapist is easier than it actually is.   Once a client said to me:  "You must have an easy life!"  The opposite is the case; I've worked very hard, all my life.  The only help I had was from my Dad with paying for my college education, although I also worked part time and contributed that way myself. After that I did everything on my own steam! Clearly, I can't make that kind of response in a therapy session; I include here as an example of comments that have led me to this impression.

To become a licensed professional, the first requirement is a graduate degree.  So, first you must graduate from college, then apply and get accepted to a graduate school (no small task:  got to get good enough grades in college to be considered, usually have to go through an application interview and, depending on the institution, fulfill some other requirements), then follows anywhere from 1 to 3 additional years of education, including a practicum.  To graduate at my institution, there was a choice of a 4 hour comprehensive written exam and, once having passed that, a one-on-one interview with the dean or, writing a thesis (25% of graduate students finish the program and then cannot graduate; either they can't pass the exam or they can't finish their thesis).   The training is slightly different for each license but for my license, in addition to the master's degree, this is required:  3000 hours of supervised (unpaid) internship hours, and an oral and written exam from the state.  It's one thing to read through this but, just imagine doing it.  It takes fortitude! Once the license is awarded, it has to be renewed every 2 years.  To do this,  36 hours of continuing education must be completed by the therapist every time.

To be fair, we all don't know what is required for every profession.  Sometimes we assume that to do any particular job, it may take the same approximate qualifications as for whatever job we do ourselves does.   This is natural.  I know, for example, sort of what it takes to earn a medical license, but not exactly.  I do have a sense of how it is to do the work for a PhD, the next degree up from mine.  A high school graduate may not really have a sense of what has to go into graduating from college.  Most college graduates will probably have some appreciation for what graduate school entails.  And, of course each profession has other requirements, such as those I wrote about above, that will be unique.  Most people won't know about them.

We may also, on the other hand, give more credibility to a particular title than warranted.  Sometimes we make assumptions that a medical technician, because he has on a white coat, has more knowledge about medical matters than he really does.  So this can work the other way too.

Perhaps because we therapists don't, in fact, wear a white coat, we are thought of as knowing less than we do.  We dress in professional style work clothes.  We are in an office with no special equipment.  In fact, most of us have an office that looks more like a living room.  They are designed to be comfortable and inviting, not intimidating.  But sometimes I wonder if these cues are misinterpreted---if some patients think that a session is just a visit almost like what one does with a friend.

Obviously , everyone is going to be different about the assumptions they make---about any of us in any job.  But, over the years, I have had enough comments and indicators to know that the level of training and expertise that I and my colleagues must have is often not understood by the very patients who seek our help.  Sometimes when we work with a patient, we seem to be simply engaging in a conversation, sometimes we sit in silence; these are times when it is easy to see how someone new to therapy, (or, even an on-going client), may have no idea what the therapist is thinking, much less what  has gone into putting that therapist in that position.

I don't mean to imply that I feel unappreciated. Not at all.  I feel very valued by my patients.  I have a unique relationship with each one.  Trust has developed.  They recognize the benefit of their therapy.  Nonetheless, I find that the other part, the huge amount of work and determination that goes into becoming a therapist and maintaining that license is  not always recognized.                                                           
We all know that we each have areas of more fragile self-esteem.  But, after all my training and experience, I do have a sense of self value in my work.  So, sometimes I have had the odd experience of being treated, by a patient, with less respect than I have for myself.

I have seen some therapists become irate at paraprofessionals and at practitioners whose title is "coach"(some certified, some not) because they see them wandering into counseling areas that really require the professional expertise of a licensed therapist.  Not only do they feel that it is an incursion but they also worry about the welfare of the clients.  However, despite some apparent lack of information on the part of consumers, most states do have a state board that licenses many professions and business people.  Those boards are in place to protect people.

Part of the reason I wrote this post is because you, the readers, have indicated that you want to know about the behind-the-scenes aspect of a therapist's practice.  I do have some readers who are studying to become therapists so they and, of course the other therapists who are also readers, know all about this.  But those readers who are in therapy themselves or considering therapy or are just interested in this subject may not know.

Was this information you found interesting?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A New Member Today

A new member is always a pleasure

It was lovely for me to get up this morning, putter over to check in with the blog and discover our new member, Wendy.
In the large picture, it helps all of us when a new reader joins the blog.  It means they will probably read more here and, hopefully feel encouraged as a result, a message that will then transfer to others in their encounters.
Welcome Wendy!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Top Ten Therapist's Traits

Which characteristics make for a good therapist

 Many people have the idea that therapists are 'a breed apart'.  Usually I am writing to say that therapists are in fact just human, they are not perfect, that they experience the vicissitudes of life like everyone else.  Of course this is all true.
However, in my opinion, there are some qualities that an individual may have that make them more suited to this profession:
Focus.  The ability to focus, to block out extraneous sounds or sights or, at least to not be distracted by them is pretty basic and important.  Some people are quite distractable  and require a library-like environment as well as a mind that isn't preoccupied, to be able to maintain focus.
A therapist has to be capable of maintaining the focus despite what else may be happening in the waiting room, the hallway, on the street outside, or in their own mind.  
In addition, the therapist has to be able to track which means that, if there is an interruption, they should be able to return to the thread of the session.
Sometimes even the patient themselves produce a distraction; they suddenly exclaim that they remembered something they forgot earlier in the day, they failed to turn off their cell phone at the beginning of the session and it rings, or they begin bringing in related but off the course topics.  The therapist has to be able to field these interruptions and remain focused on the task at hand.
In addition, it takes a lot of ability to concentrate in order to clearly get what the patient is communicating.  The kind of listening required is not just to the topic but, also to nuances, tone of voice, attending to body language and trying to sense the unspoken parts.
Enjoying the unknown.  Therapy can be a mysterious process and so an individual who enjoys the intrigue of the unknown will be happier at work.  Sometimes a person comes in presenting a problem for therapy and it turns out that the real problem is something completely different.  A therapist who can be interested in following a sometimes winding road and enjoy the surprise, or surprises while proceeding, will do better.  The course of any therapy process is unpredictable; the therapist has to like following the signs along the way and let go of controlling the outcome.

Willing to take risks.  Again, the unknown plays a part.  When a new patient walks in the door, the therapist has no idea of who that is or what they are bringing to the table.  
Also, therapists sometimes pick up an unarticulated aspect of a problem being presented or an apparently out-of-awareness trait in the patient that is pertinent, and once having decided it will be useful, has to be willing to take the risk of communicating that to a patient who may be caught off guard.

Be an idea person.  Therapists need to have some skill in conceptualizing.  Idea people who have an imagination and who are prone to think inventively will make good therapists.  This usually arises from the intuitive function.  Therapists still need to have some practicality.  After all, some problems brought to treatment have practical aspects that need to be sorted out.  It can't all be about ideas and concepts but, the capacity to conceptualize and think creatively is valuable.  Many patients present an array of material and the therapist has to be able to take those disparate parts and feed them back to the client in a cohesive way---or, at least that ability will be very helpful.

Artist Unknown
 Finds other people interesting.  One who is interested in the variety that is represented by knowing a number of people well will find doing therapy ever challenging.  Not being bored by hearing another try to explain their point of view, wanting to know what is behind the public mask, and being really intrigued by that is a good characteristic for a therapist to have.  One cannot feign this interest; if attempted, not only will the client  sense it but, also the therapist will lose focus, concentration, and connection.  If the therapist is genuine about wanting to learn about the person before them, it will contribute to an involved, alive, productive dynamic between therapist and patient.

Have a compassionate nature.  Someone once told me, "You have a big heart".  Being able to offer true compassion can go a long way in the therapy relationship.  This characteristic is an asset for the therapist and the patient; compassion can be healing. 

Curiosity.  Having a curious nature will make a therapist feel and appear engaged.

Mental organizing.  An aptitude for mental organizing is an asset for a therapist.  By this I mean things like being able to prioritize, listening to a lot and finding the essence in the message, and scanning verbal material for signs.

Ability to manage the self.  A therapist has to learn to be able to put their own personal concerns aside when they are in a session.  This is a skill that takes practice.  It helps with the first quality, the ability to focus.  
Things happen in life, to everybody, but when the therapist comes to a session with a patient, they need to be able to leave those things of theirs for later.  The more their own personal life is settled, the easier this will be.  This is why, as I've said before, we should all be willing to go to therapy ourselves.  But, if something difficult and unexpected does occur, the therapist has to be able to self-manage.  It just isn't fair to the patient to not be fully present.

Sense of humor.  I didn't count this on my official list because I don't think it is essential.  A therapist who is of a primarily serious nature could do just fine.  But, some patients like to joke around a little and sometimes humor is also good for the therapist's state of mind.  A little levity in a session is a good thing in my book.  Depending on the therapist's style, humor can add a little but it isn't a necessity.

Confidence.  I think this one will occur naturally if the therapist has the others on the list.  That list will contribute to successful therapy episodes and, thus, will contribute to the therapist's confidence.  A therapist who is a confident person will impart a sense of ease and encouragement to the patient.

This particular post just begs for input from other therapists.  Some of you may think other qualities are more important, some may think some of these are not of primary importance to an effectively functioning therapist, some may have additions to the list, some may heartily agree with my list.  Please comment.

All readers, please share your opinions and experiences. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A New Season Can Impart a Sense of Personal Rebirth

Today is the 1st day of Spring in my part of the world 

 Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes
of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives.

Author Unknown

                                                                                                          Artist, Vanessa Sorensen

Another Voice on the Privacy Issue

The unnoticed exposure

"Well, except for the diagnosis issue, are there any other reasons to avoid filing insurance claims through the office?
Perhaps the most important issue to many clients is the lack of privacy they sense when their therapy records are open to their insurance company. While the old-fashioned stigma of visiting a mental health professional has largely disappeared, most people do not want others having access to their therapy files. Therapy is, typically, a private, personal process and confidentiality is a concern of all professionals. However, to maintain tighter control on mental health expenditures, third-party payers may insist on having full access to client records."
Andrews and Associates

Here is a link to the post that introduced this topic: 
Another related discussion:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Considering Medication?

The decision to begin using psychotropic medication warrants some thoughtful consideration

 An excellent article on the pros and cons of using anti-depressants:  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End Goal

Seeing clearly what you want to accomplish can help you to formulate the steps you take to get there

"If I see an ending, I can work backward."

~Arthur Miller

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dial 411 for Information

  If you would like to see an interview done with me by LoveAnswer, here's the link:  This site has also published an E-Book about mistakes that men make with women and some suggestions to men on what to do about it.  I wrote some of the pieces for this book but the contributing authors are not named.  See if you can recognize my work!
* * * * *
 Dial A Therapist's Thoughts for 411 posts on learning and memory, the butterfly effect, transparency, 1st therapy session, how therapy works, true intention and how to use it, feelings, dream boards, fear of death, children's imaginary companions, and many, many more.  Isn't even that little sample list interesting?  If you just landed here, doesn't that sound inviting?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Then and Now

A follow-up post to the post, Search Keywords/It Takes Two To Tango

In this post, I mentioned, in passing, that part of the therapist's job of learning about a patient is done by observation.  The reference is in the 6th-7th paragraph and is about the "clinical" aspect of a patient's behavior toward the therapist.  One of the readers, who especially liked that post asked me to expand upon those few sentences.

One thing that I said was that current action-on anyone's part- can reveal how that person was treated in the past.  (A related post is  For example, someone who was scorned as a child or ridiculed a lot---sometimes this can happen at the hand of other kids, siblings or peers but, it is most potent when it comes from a parent---can grow up to be a person who interprets many things from others as criticism.  It may sometimes be entirely incorrect but it is heard through the filter of the past.
A child of a parent who has lots of their own need for attention may learn to stay in the background, to not rob the parent of the limelight.  As an adult, they may be obsequious.  
There's but 2 of many examples possible.  A therapist can notice things like this and draw tentative conclusions.  In other words, the therapist will keep such observations in mind as possible avenues to explore.  In addition, the therapy relationship itself can be healing for this type of historical problem.  In the 1st example, the therapist is going to take a position of acceptance from the outset.  That will also usually be the fallback position.  Does the new client come in and begin to open up or are they very cautious and guarded?  This can tell a therapist something about their ability to trust.  Does the patient do a lot of scanning, trying to determine whether or not what they say is landing well with the therapist? This would be an indicator of possible substance abuse or addiction in the patient's family of origin.  I could write many examples; suffice it to say, the patient's behavior is information to the therapist on how to help. 

The therapist is not there to judge but to try to understand.  This attitude will provide a healing experience for that patient.  Also, if the therapist gives some feedback and the patient, through that
distorted filter, takes it as criticism (as in the 1st example), that can be worked through in the therapy process.  
It becomes an opportunity to mend that psychic tear.

(There is a post that mentions this topic from the patient's point of view:;postID=4634973442525805532)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Poll Results

Formatting the blog for your convenience

The results of the poll (thanks for voting!) were surprising to me, and interesting.  I would never have guessed that the Archive is the most used access to posts that lie beyond the landing page.  
I have rearranged the side bar information to reflect the poll results:  The Search bar and the Follow by e-mail tied at %44 and Labels came in last.  
If you have other suggestions for how the blog is set up, please let me know. Your collaboration with me gradually creates a better blog.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Rings Your Bell

Hitting the mark or falling short, in attempts to love and be loved

You send her flowers and she says thanks but that's the end of it.  You sneak into his apartment while he's away and clean it 'till it's immaculate and he barely notices.  
Why are you doing these things?  You are trying to make your loved one feel loved.  But, somehow it didn't work.
 How about you?  You hear lots of declarations of love and that's nice 'n' all but it doesn't make you glow inside. 

Here's a true short story of success in this kind of effort.  The grandmother of my daughter's friend worked in a department store with a big parking lot.  While she was at work, her boyfriend came and put all new tires on her car, unbeknownst to her.  I don't know what happened when she came out from work and found that surprise but, I do know that everyone heard about it more than once!  It became a story we all remembered.
Another one:  An employee had a nice looking handbag.  I asked if she had bought it at a discount store we all frequent.  She said, proudly, as she lifted it up for display:  "Oh no, this is a Louis Vuitton.  My fiance got this for me!"  The pleasure and pride in her voice were a dead giveaway.  This guy had hit the mark!
So why do you sometimes feel so delighted and loved by others' efforts to make you happy and other times the effort just seems nice but falls short of a home run?  We each have our own language of love (there is a book by this title, Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which discusses these ideas in detail).  
You may just jump for joy and have a big smile on your face when you receive a gift.  And, yet, when you thoughtfully try to please your mate with a surprise gift, it gets a bland, "Oh, thanks honey, nice of you." 
~For each of us, there is the one thing that really rings our bell.  If you pay attention to your own reactions, you know what that is.~

 Some, like the lady with the new tires really feel cared for when their partner does something for them, a favor, a helpful chore,  works to solve a problem they have or even, just thoughtfully brings them a cup of tea.  Some, like the woman who was so on-goingly happy with her designer purse, just have a big response to gifts.  

A gift doesn't have to be an object, by the way, it can be tickets to the game, or treating your significant other to a night on the town.  Some people find gifts to be a loving act and some see them as a perfunctory ritual.  
There are people who react very positively to hearing the words, "I love you." or "You mean a lot to me." or "You being there with me meant the world."  I have had 2 clients who were actually in a not so good relationship all because the partner called them sweet names ("Honey",  "Babe", "Gorgeous")  And, again, others will nod politely but not necessarily feel loved by verbal statements. 

Maybe, instead, they really feel cared for when they receive affection. 
So, here you have four very common actions meant to convey love:  Gifts, helpful efforts or doing for the other, affection, expressing love verbally, and what else?  Can you add some other typical acts intended to express love?  
~The important point here is not only to figure out what works for you but also to pay attention!  Notice what makes your partner glow.  Try one of these or, another  that I haven't listed here, or each of them, and notice when your partner lights up, as a result.~
 As you learn about the language of love-your own, your partner's and, even, others who are in your life, you will be happier and your relationships will benefit.

Did you experiment?  Please share what happened. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Request

My requests for feedback are a wish to include you in the formation of the blog

Some bloggers are just sounding off or, dumping or, writing a diary to a public audience.  That's not this blogger.  I am creating something here that I want to be a resource for anyone who cares to make use of it.  It is a better resource for you, the more feedback you give me.  
There is a new poll:  It's located to the right.  
The results may affect the configuration of the landing page-to make it more convenient for how you are actually using it.  It will also tell me how I can most effectively provide you with access to the many wonderful posts and interesting comments that are waiting to be enjoyed.
Please answer the poll.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friends and Lovers

Joy in relationships

"One of the deepest pleasures is being truly seen, and loved anyway. 
And being seen in a false way---what could be lonelier?"
Author unknown

We all have  a  persona, (a Jungian term for how we present ourselves to the world).  We need this.  We can't go around exposed all the time to anyone and everyone. 
But with some people, those who are in your inner circle, , it is worth revealing your real self.  Why?  Because this opens the door to emotional intimacy.  This is an experience in life that is both exciting and peaceful at the same time.  It contains the feeling of true acceptance by the other as well as deep empathy on your own part.  
Actions such as those below, offered to a loved one, can put us on this path:  
  • authenticity
  • transparency
  • sincerity
  • openness
  • respect
  • warmth
  • prizing
  • concern 
  • liking
  • understanding  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Both intensity and great comfort can be found in an emotionally intimate relationship.  The moment of emotional intimacy can be just that, a moment, or it can be a long exchange or, it can happen even in a time of no words, a time of only being in each other's presence.  It can be fun, funny or profoundly serious.                 
If you want to grow in this way, that is, in how close you are in your primary relationship or how deep your friendships are, you can begin considering taking off your mask with certain people.  Take note---we must be selective about whom we share with in this way.  Try to choose the people you open up to, carefully.  You want to share your inner self with others who will honor that, who will see it as a privilege, and who will also be honest with you. 

Have you felt either of these---popular for a false self or, conversely, loved for your true inner self?   I invite you to share your experience in the comment section.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What It Takes

Primary requirement for a solid relationship

For a couple to feel satisfied and secure, for a marriage to be firm and enduring, there is, in my opinion, an essential requirement.  That condition is that both people are fully there.  Neither are reluctantly there.  Neither are only partly in it.  There is no sense of, "I'm here unless something better comes along"; there's no scanning the horizon for the greener grass on the other side of the fence, no roving eyes.  
Evaluation time is over; there's no longer any score keeping nor tallying of who has the better deal.

This position is deeper than commitment.  Somehow that word sometimes implies a discipline.  At this level, the decision has been made and is no longer pending.  It is experienced as a profound knowing of the one about the other and about oneself.
It can become a state that is beyond confidence and that imparts a sense of safety.  Doubts are rare.
If questions surface, they can be checked with the other, openly and honestly, simply and immediately and answered in the same manner.
This is a part of the foundation for a true partnership.  It usually takes time and experience to reach this state.  It is one of the blessings of consistent effort on individual, personal growth and  thoughtful, conscious attention, to the relationship
All in.

Are you in an all in relationship?  Will you write a little here about how that is?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Your Request

 Response to Poll

There was a request from one of our readers re. the poll, expressing an interest in posts on several topics.  One was for posts about the patient-therapist relationship.  While I am holding that in mind for future writing, I just want to mention that many of the posts here do say a little about this; here are 2 examples.

 A Healing Relationship

  The Imperfect Therapist

For now, I will offer this:  My patients mean a lot to me.  I learn so much about their personal lives and their own interior experience in the course of therapy.  As I mentioned in one post, paying the level of attention that I do to a patient leads to involvement which leads to caring.  At the same time, I must maintain certain constraints.  A professional demeanor is expected and deserved by a client who comes for therapy.  The frame of the therapy provides a sense of safety and a certain predictability which allows the therapy patient to freely express themselves.  Do I think about them outside of the therapy sessions?  Of course!  Do I worry sometimes?  Yes.  Does their new learning, their insights, their making some movement toward resolution, their accessing a deeper understanding of their concerns  matter to me?  It does.  Am I happy when a client of mine reports an achievement?  I am.  If a client has to move away in the middle of treatment, do I miss them?  Yes, I do. 
 When they complete a satisfying therapy for themselves and conclude their treatment, however, I may feel a moment of sadness but mostly I am gratified; I am prepared for this and am working the whole time to help them feel more actualized in their own life and to take, eventually, a happy leave from me.  So I don't mourn a client leaving under this circumstance, I see it as a success.

I am one therapist.  This is how I feel.  Each therapist is different as discussed in the posts about selecting your therapist.  Some may feel as I do or, similarly.  Some may take a different view.  I know that some therapists read this blog---maybe they will comment on this part of being a therapist.

What else would you like to know when you wonder about the client therapy relationship?