Viewing entries in

Keep on Keeping On

We live in a quick fix society. You are hungry and you want food now? No problem, there are a billion fast food places that will serve you up a full "meal" in under 2 minutes! You need info and you need it now? Just pull out your smart phone connected to the World Wide Web and you'll have any info you need at the touch of a button, in seconds! You need something to wear and hate your current wardrobe? No problem, ...

Raleigh Weekend Family Fun

There's plenty going on this weekend in Raleigh for those of you that are not on Spring Break or returning home from your break! It's First Friday tonight so there's always lots going on this night every month. Lots of art galleries to explore and new restaurants to try! I like to look at the Downtown Raleigh events calendar often to see what all is happening downtown. There's a Make It -Take It event at the NC Museum of History. There's a Family Science Fair at Marbles Kids Museum. There's always the Farmer's Market to peruse as well as many parks around the area to play at and explore! Get outside on what looks to be a beautiful weekend. Grab your spouse, family, friends or pet and get moving!

Rules & Consequences vs. Relationship & Connection

I work with many families and their teenage daughters in family counseling. One thing we spend some time discussing is home rules. Typically teens do not like rules, think they are too strict, stupid, or that they need more freedom. The parents feel they are not being unreasonable and truly want the best for their daughters...

Don't Wait!

I see so many clients who have waited so long to start dealing with their heart wounds or relational conflicts. By the time they come to counseling patterns are deeply ingrained, relationships are on the verge of tearing apart, and hearts are badly broken. We wait to get help for so many reasons. Perhaps it's because we are ashamed to need help or scared of reaching out. Maybe we wait because we don't know if therapy will help or if it'll make things worse. Whatever the case, I encourage you to go ahead and reach out now. Waiting will most likely not make things any better. There is no shame in reaching out for help. When we are sick, we see a doctor. When our heart or relationship is broken, we see a therapist. Read about therapy, do some research; you'll find it's not as daunting as you might think! Call or email around to various therapists; find one that seems to fit your personality or values. Set up a few initial meetings after you've narrowed down your selection of counselors. Choose wisely! Counseling is a great thing. Don't wait!

Navigating Independece

I work with many older teen girls and their families; many of the young adults I work with are college students. Navigating independence is difficult for families; it's difficult on the teen as well as the parents. Developmentally teens need to be gaining increased independence and responsibility. They need to be learning ways to manage their new liberties. Parents are learning how much freedom to hand over and how to ensure healthy accountability. This can lead to a power struggle, to a tug of war between teen and parents. Arguing often ensues and relationships get wounded in the fight. Many families end up getting quite torn apart during this lifestage. But it doesn't have to be such a difficult time. Family counseling can be a great way to help open a healthy dialogue about the desired independence and the necessary accountability. Compromises can be reached and healthy communication can be the open door to those compromises. Accountability is necessary for the new responsibilities teens are facing, yet it's important to establish trust in your teen so they feel they are capable of exercising their new liberties. This is a crucial time developmentally for teens; they way they learn to manage independence can set them up really well or really poorly for their futures and parents play a crucial role in that process. By parents consistently offering encouragement and healthy boundaries, teens can successfully navigate to a healthy independent place!

Hectic Holidays

This is a busy time of year! There is the rushing around shopping for all the perfect gifts, the Christmas parties, wrapping all those presents, decorating the house, all while trying to balance work and family. This can easily lead to forgetting what the season is really about. For me this season is about celebrating when the Lord sent His son in human form to the earth to redeem us, to make a way for us to be in intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father! But it can be easy to forget that with all the input we receive about holiday shopping! Perhaps this year you and your family can find new ways to focus on the deeper meaning of Christmas. Perhaps you can give gifts that give back such as gifts from Ten Thousand Villages in Cameron Village. Maybe you and your family can put together an Operation Christmas Child shoe box for a child in another country. Maybe your church partners with organizations that help needy families have gifts for their kids on Christmas. Or perhaps you and your family can do something together that helps others - maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit the elderly at a retirement home. These are neat ways to keep our mind focused on others and on Christ this Christmas. I'm sure you can think of other ways too! Brainstorm with your family and come up with a special tradition! 

Being Active Together (even in Winter)

When I'm working with clients in counseling for stress, anxiety or depression, we discuss how good nutrition, sleep and exercise are healthy coping skills towards managing their symptoms. I've blogged about that here, here, here and here. Staying active is important! And if you can incorporate activity in relationships, then that's even better! Doing something good for yourself with a member of your support system is a double dose of healthy coping skills! There are great ways to be active even in Winter in Raleigh! Raleigh Winterfest is going on Downtown right now and ice skating is a fun and active way to spend some time with a friend or loved one; I talked about that more in detail last week here! When it's not too cold outside, there are great places in Raleigh to walk or hike or run together. Even if it is cold, bundle up - the hat, gloves, scarf and all - and head outside. The Capital Area Greenway Trail System has trails all over the city. Umstead State Park is another great place to walk, run or hike. Lake Johnson is one of my favorites; it has some good hills to get that heart rate up! Plan some time this week to get outside and get active with a member of your support system; I bet it'll have a positive impact on your mood or stress level, or both!

Raleigh Weekend Activities: Date night, Family night, Girl's or Guy's night out!

There are so many fun things going on in Downtown Raleigh this weekend! Often times when I'm meeting with clients for counseling and we are discussing ways to enhance their relationships (whether it be their marriage, family or friendships), I hear people say, "there's just nothing to do in Raleigh." That is completely untrue! So clients end up sitting at home with their spouse, family or friends watching TV or movies. Now there's nothing wrong with some occasional TV nights or movie nights but it's good to mix things up a bit and try new experiences together. There are lots of options to take your friends, your spouse or your family to experience some winter fun together this weekend! Try a new experience together and see how it impacts your relationship, your conversations and your feelings towards one another. It's First Friday, so as always, there's lots to see this Friday night downtown in so many of the art galleries and local businesses. First Friday makes a great (and as cheap as you want it to be) date night! Also, Winterfest is going on, so there is outdoor ice skating too all weekend! Check their schedule to see all the fun options; Friday night they have a DJ and music! On Saturday at Logan Trading Company in Seaboard Station, you can shop for a Christmas tree, sing Christmas karaoke and get your kids' picture with Santa for free! Also on Saturday at the Museum of History there is a "Make it, Take it" event where you and your kids can make your own traditional NC Christmas ornament; my husband and I have done this with our niece and nephew before and it was so fun (and free!). For a little bit of cash you can see some gorgeous historic homes all decorated for Christmas on Saturday or Sunday for the 41st Annual Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour of Homes! This is a great way to see an amazing historic neighborhood, tour some homes and spend some quality time together. Take advantage of what downtown Raleigh has to offer this weekend and share an amazing experience with your loved one(s). This is a great way to build into your relationships and make fun memories together. 

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is a great reminder to take time out and count our blessings. There are many positive things in our lives we easily and often overlook. This holiday season is a good time to slow down and take the time to think of things in our lives for which we can be thankful. Often times when I'm working with clients who are experiencing depression or anxiety, I encourage them during the course of their counseling to keep a gratitude journal; keep a list daily or weekly of things which they are thankful. This helps us to realize that we do have positive things in our lives and takes the focus off the negativity or fear. The more positive things we are filling our minds with, the less negativity can rule our thought life. This practice can help improve your mood and decrease your anxiety. Take time out this week to consciously think of things in your life you can give thanks for; make a list and share some of them with the loved ones you are with for Thanksgiving. You could make that a family tradition: to share things you each are thankful for during the Thanksgiving meal! Happy Thanksgiving!

Winter Holiday Family Fun

The Raleigh Christmas Parade is happening this Saturday morning! This is such a fun event to celebrate the holiday season. Bundle up and head downtown early to get a great spot to sit and watch the Raleigh Christmas Parade. Maybe you can make this a family tradition and each year watch the parade? Family traditions are a great way to foster good memories and enjoy each other. The holiday season is a great time to institute some fun family traditions. Let your kids come up with some ideas that would be exciting to have as yearly traditions and let them plan! When I'm working with families in counseling, we talk about traditions and family rituals that bond them together. What makes your family unique? What fun things do you do or can you start to do that will create lasting memories for you all? 

Fall Family Fun

Fall is here according to the calendar and some days the weather says it's here too! There are lots of fun fall activities you and your family can do together. When I'm working with clients in counseling, we discuss activities and outings as a way to build relationship and create memories. Whether your family has small kids, teens or whether your family consists of you and your spouse or you and your friends, doing a fun activity together is a great way to deepen relationship and make memories! Decorating your front porch with items from the Raleigh Farmer's Market is one fun activity. Carving a pumpkin and roasting the seeds are a few others! It could be a great family tradition to head to the Farmer's Market and pick the perfect pumpkin (or two)! One year we learned how to make homemade pumpkin pie using a real pumpkin; now that was a memory maker! Something fun we've done with our niece and nephew is visit a pumpkin patch where we got to "pick" our own pumpkin and do various other festive, fall activities! There are several pumpkin patches around the area like Hill Ridge Farms, DJ's Berry Patch and Porter Farms. Do something festive and fun this fall with your family! See if it doesn't create great space for the relationships as well as some great memories to look back on!

Being seen and known

The following quote from a book I'm reading (and really enjoying!), Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture, really highlighted a point I make often with clients I counsel. He says it much better than I can.

There were three people in the rows in front of us who had their cell phones open during the entire movie. They were text messaging and surfing the Internet and otherwise annoying people. As I aw those cell phone screens open during the movie, I observed that the people using them were not fully committed to being anywhere during those two hours. They were physically sitting in the theater, even sitting with others who accompanied them, but their minds and hearts were scattered all over the place. They were not fully present, in terms of their attention, to the visual and auditory experience in front of them, they were not fully present to their friends and family that they were sitting next to, and they were not geographically present to the people they were text messaging. They had a hand and foot in several different places that were disconnected, leaving them as some sort of radical amputees. They were everywhere and they were nowhere. Aside from how piercingly bright a cell phone screen can be in a dark movie theater and how bizarre it is to text message during an intense and complex spy movie, I got to thinking about how handheld technology affects our sense of personal identity. So many people walk through their lives as ghosts, not fully present to anything, gliding through places and around people but not really seeing or experiencing or being seen or experienced.

We discuss the idea of vulnerability, of being known and knowing another deeply. This can be such a scary thing to do, to allow, to pursue, but is so deeply needed and desired. It's what we were made for: deep relationship. Our culture continues to find newer and faster ways of keeping us distracted and occupied and away from real, deep relationship. Do you allow yourself to be seen, experienced, known? Or do you drift through life like "some sort of radical amputee", never really being fully present anywhere? 

Raleigh Family Fun this Weekend

There are several fun events this weekend that sound fun and family-friendly. When I'm working with teen clients and their families, we focus on building family relationships, increasing healthy communication and family togetherness. We talk about creating time for conversation and creating time for fun. Here are a few ideas going on this weekend if you're looking for something to do with your family in downtown Raleigh. Staying healthy is important and how fun would it be to do that together; Marbles Museum is having "Family Fit - Zumba" this Saturday for an hour. You could take your family to that event and then stay and play at the museum! There is also a Caribbean Carnival downtown at City Plaza; this sounds like a great cultural event with lots of fun entertainment and food! Marbles is also having a day at the Mudcats. This is a great way to support the museum, meet other families, and enjoy some baseball as a family! I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone; do something new and different with your family this weekend. New experiences can be a lot of fun and connect you together as a family in unique ways!

Longing to be Heard

Working with teenage girls in counseling takes up about a third of my practice. I have been working with teenage girls in a counseling setting since April of 2007. If you would have told me while I was in graduate school or in my first job as a counselor that I would be spending the next 5+ years of my career working with teenagers, I would have laughed out loud! The thought of working with teenagers was daunting to me, scary at best. But I had a great supervisor during the years I was working to become licensed who kept encouraging me to think about working with teens. I wanted to get back to NC after living in Georgia for 4 years and of course the job I found was working with teenagers! It was quite humorous to me at the time. Now that I have been working with teenage girls and their families for over 5 years, I cannot imagine anything different for my practice. I love counseling teen girls and love working with them in a family counseling setting too. OK, out of story mode now. What I hear consistently from the teenage girls I see in counseling is that they want to be heard, they want their voice to matter, and they long to be loved deeply after being heard. Once I realized this crucial piece of information, counseling with teenagers became a powerful process. When I took time to really get to know them, to hear their voice, and to know who they were (as much as they knew who they were at the time), something happened. When I kept working to hear them, I earned their respect and our therapeutic relationship grew. They allowed me to speak into their lives and call them on unhealthy behaviors, and sometimes they actually listened to me and changed their actions. Wow, that's the power of relationship! Knowing someone deeply, being allowed to speak deeply into their life, and then seeing them make deep changes as a result. I have truly been honored to walk alongside some amazing teen girls over the past 5 years. I encourage the families I work with to aim for these deep kind of relationships too. Aim to listen long and hard and deeply. And then don't just rush to correct or share your point, just wait, be, sit. Let the teen guide you; they are struggling to know who they are and where they are heading in life. They are grasping for independence they don't yet fully understand but more than fully desire. Listen to them, let them ask you into their world, and when they do let you in (and they will!), listen well and make sure they know you love them so deeply! They long to be heard, known and loved deeply. If communicating with your teenager is difficult at best, consider family counseling. It can be such a powerful experience to improve upon your communication and deepen your relationships within your family!

Conversation Starters

When I'm counseling couples, I often find that they don't converse much at all (or much anymore). After time of not deeply conversing together, it can be hard to pick back up with great conversation. Where do we start? What do we talk about? Those are questions I hear a lot. It can be difficult to come up with conversation topics when things in the marriage aren't going well or there are tension and hurt present. I like to point couples towards conversation starters; that way they don't have to do the work of coming up with topics of things to talk about, they can simply choose questions from the list and start talking! Here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here are various links to conversation starters; these are all geared towards married couples but couples who are not married will find that many of the questions can apply to them as well! For families and friends, these conversation starters can be great for getting to know you conversations or for deepening relationships as well; you may just have to cut some questions out and/or tailor some to be age-appropriate if you are using them for family conversation! 

Face-time vs. Facebook

Face-time: the act of spending intentional, relational time with another face to face (definition/word-use is mine for the purpose of this post and not to be confused with the Apple product FaceTime). Often when I'm out, I notice how people are together doing something (coffee, lunch, dinner, etc) but aren't really being together; their face-time is minimal. They are typically both on their phones - perhaps texting or checking Facebook or maybe posting something on Twitter. Sometimes I just watch (non-stalker-like) to see how long they go without talking to each other...sometimes it's a long time! As a counselor, a lot of my job focuses on helping clients have stronger, healthier, deeper relationships - with themselves and with others. I wonder what role technology and social media has on decreasing our awareness of ourselves as well as decreasing the quality of our relationships. Many of the teenagers I see for counseling have a lot of difficulty telling their peers things in person; they are much more comfortable sharing via text or Facebook. What does this say about future generations' abilities to form and deepen relationships as our society becomes more dependent on technology? Where has all the face-time gone? People have become so accustomed to spending time with their phones rather than engaging in face-time conversations; when there is a lull in conversation, rather than thinking of something else to ask or share, they grab their phone and start browsing around. Technology and social media seem to have become quite a crutch; Facebook is much less risky and vulnerable than face-time. Rather than journal and increase awareness of personal thoughts and feelings, people turn to their email, Facebook, blogs or Twitter. Rather than dialogue and intentionally get to know someone better or resolve issues in relationship, people distract themselves with their technology or social media; in essence they avoid or delay relationship/face-time. What impact would individuals experience if they took the first 30 minutes of every day to think, pray, journal, read and did it without any technology? I wonder what would happen if friends made a commitment to sit at lunch or coffee and put their phones away completely; turn them on silent and put them away (totally unseen and don't check them)! What would happen if families had a technology-free time each day or each week where they focused on their relationships without any technology distractions? What impact might couples feel on weekly date nights if technology wasn't allowed? Would people talk to each other more, face the discomfort more, or become more aware of their thoughts and feelings? Would we learn more things to share about ourselves or think of more questions to ask others? There are links to helpful conversation-starters on my blog here and here if you want to have these printed out before hanging out! :) Is there a relationship in your life that could use more technology-free time? The benefits from focused relational face-time would likely far surpass any semi-interesting fact you might miss on Facebook!

Sharing New Experiences

Looking for something fun and different to do? Bogged down with the same old routine for your fun nights out or date nights? I always encourage clients I see for counseling to try new fun things, to spice up their nights out with family, friends or their significant other by trying a new experience. Sharing a new experience together helps increase connection and gives you something new to converse about together. When we share a fun new experience together, we feel closer and more connected to that person. It creates new memories also. So get out there and try it! Carolina Rollergirls have a double header this Saturday April 14 at Dorton Arena in Raleigh. If you haven't been to see the Rollergirls yet, it's quite the experience and a guaranteed good time! Take your significant other, a group of friends or your family to this exciting event and enjoy sharing a new experience together watching the Rollergirls! 

Great Teen Workbooks

I see a lot of teens and their families for individual and family counseling. The teenagers I see struggle with various issues; some face anxiety, depression, stress, family issues, self injury, self esteem issues, bullying, etc. Many of them are in some serious pain and are looking for an outlet for that pain but do not have healthy coping skills. Some of them have difficult family situations or struggle with being bullied at school. I have found some great resources that I use with many of my teen clients; several of them have had great success using these resources! These workbooks contain short exercises that are geared towards helping teens cope in healthy ways. Stopping the Pain is a workbook for teenagers who cut or self injure. Beyond the Blues is a workbook for teens who experience depression. The Anxiety Workbook for Teens helps teenagers cope with anxiety and worry. Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens teaches teens Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills that can help them manage mood swings, control emotional outbursts and get along with others better. The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens teaches teenagers mindfulness skills that helps them decrease stress. The Bipolar Workbook for Teens helps teens learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills for mood swings they may experience. Think Confident, Be Confident for Teens teaches teenagers Cognitive Therapy skills to increase their self image and improve their self esteem. These workbooks may not be helpful for every teenager but I find many teens respond well to the short lessons they contain!

St. Patrick's Day Parade in Downtown Raleigh

It's St. Patrick's Day this Saturday and there will be a fun parade and festival in Downtown Raleigh to celebrate. Spring is in the air and it's time to come out of hibernation and start enjoying the warmer weather. This parade and festival will be a great way to get outside and do something fun and different with your friends, significant other or your family. Doing fun new things together creates connection and closeness in a unique way. We all tend to get stuck in ruts and do the same thing each week and each weekend or for each date. Break up that routine and try some new things as a family or in your marriage. This creates a new kind of closeness because you are sharing in a new experience together. You're learning new things, seeing new things, doing new things and that allows you to connect in new ways. Plus it's a great way to add some new energy into your relationships. So whether or not you decide to take part in the St' Patty's Day festivities (don't forget to wear green if you do go!), I encourage you to grab your family or your spouse or a good friend and get out there and try something new. It's a great way to deepen your relationships, relieve stress and say goodbye to those winter blues. Enjoy a new experience together and increase your connection to each other as you do something new and different. If you struggle with anxiety, stress or depression and despite the longer days with more sunshine and the warmer weather you are still feeling bad, it might be time to consider counseling. Or if your family or relationship is struggling and though you try new experiences, the relationship is still tense then counseling can be a helpful thing to try.

I feel ______ because __________.

Communication is so important in friendships, family relationships and romantic relationships. It's also important in professional relationships. How we communicate says a lot about us and also contributes greatly to how others view us. Healthy communication contributes so much to positive self worth and healthy conflict resolution. Healthy communication can also assist in decreasing stress, anxiety and depression. You don't have to spend long in counseling with me before you learn this tried and true phrase in healthy communication: "I feel (insert feeling word) because (insert reason, situation, etc)." For example, "I feel disappointed because you told me you would take out the trash and didn't follow through". That sounds a whole lot better than, "You didn't take out the trash and I'm so upset." When we start communication with "you", it puts the other on the defense. It typically results in the other person automatically raising their gloves and getting ready to fight. However, when we start communication with "I feel", we are simply sharing our feelings, our perspective, our opinions with another person. That kind of initiation will more often get a positive response than a negative one. Monitor your communication this week when you are interacting with coworkers, friends, family or significant others, especially when it's about something negative or involves elevated emotions. Notice if you tend to start off saying "you" or "I". The "I" statements will more often elicit positive responses from the other than communication started with "you". Practice starting communication with "I feel (insert feeling word) because (insert reason). Here's a brief article that gives emphasizes this point too!