What the Pregnancy Apps Don’t Talk About

Photo Courtesy of Commons.wikimedia.org, Creative Commons

By: Rebeca Meyer LPC-Intern Supervised by Beth Ann Contreras, MMFT, LMFT-S, LPC-S.

Pregnancy is a time to enjoy the beautiful miracle of creation taking place within a woman. It is truly remarkable to wake up every morning to this living being inside me, kicking me so that he can get his breakfast. I am stilled by it and moved by the fact that pregnancy can take place at all.

The other side of the coin is a plethora of pregnancy problems that can cause a woman to lose that precious life within and it can happen to anyone at anytime. What to do then?  None of my apps have covered this. Many people don’t acknowledge this, but stillbirth, or miscarriage or the death of a child in utero have rocked the lives of countless women and their families. There are no funerals, eulogies, flowers sent, food prepared for the families who lose a baby in miscarriage.

Yet, why don’t people talk about it? Why do women feel like they have to hide the cold and painful fact of losing a baby? A friend of mine recently lost a baby. She was past the supposed “risk period” of 12 weeks. Naturally, this loss is shocking, painful and will take time to work through, regardless of how long the baby was there. To women facing this loss, I say get help, gather your true supporters about you, talk about it, get counseling, join a group, write about it, cry about it as much as you want to and treat your loss like a true loss. You should not be expected to be ok after a loss like you have faced. Help others understand where you are in your grief. Maybe you are not feeling a great deal of grief. That is more than ok too. Every person faces loss differently.

What do you say to a woman who has lost her unborn anyway? I can tell you what not to say. “Don’t worry you can have another baby.” Here are some  things you can practice with those who are facing a loss of any kind.

1. Acknowledge the loss. Usually grieving people don’t offer up their pain as a subject of discussion.
2. Don’t say, “you’ll be ok.”  This forces the griever to be in an emotional place they may not be in for a long time.
3. Open the door to communication with a statement like, “I’ve been thinking about you.”
4. Don’t say “Call me if you need anything”. This is just a vague conversation filler. Try offering something concrete like mowing their lawn or call and ask about what they need specifically.
5. Be there for her. Physical presence and contact offer what words cannot.
6. Talk about your losses and what helped you, but don’t overwhelm them. Leave room for them to speak or not speak with the art of silence.
7. Don’t rush her through the grief. It takes time for a person to heal. Imagine being in their place.
8. Be patient with her story of loss.
9. Don’t say “I know how you feel”. You actually don’t; you are not them.
10. Listen 80% of the time, talk 20% of the time and be genuine in all your communication.

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let’s Talk Sex: 5 Pointers to Turn Sex Back Into Sensual, Fulfilling Lovemaking

By: Julie Weaver, MA, LPC

How is your sex life going these days? How would you say your spouse would respond to that same question? Let’s talk about it……. Do you remember when you were first together intimately? Back then, was it exciting, sensual and fulfilling? Chances are it was all those things and more. The relationship became new and different when you made love for the first time. As a couple you were new, excited and more than anything else, you were in love. I hope you still believe you are in love. But as we all know, some of the sexual feelings can fade, and along with it, some of the natural responses. Sometimes sex can become routine, and sometimes boring. This can be a problem in your marriage. It can lead to feeling your needs are not met, which can lead to issues like addictions, affairs, and bitterness just to name a few.

Let’s talk about some things to bring you back to the loving, fulfilling lovemaking it was once for you.

5 Pointers to Turn Sex Back into Sensual, Fulfilling Lovemaking

1. Begin with gentle caressing. Spend time on this area. Kissing along the way, staying connected to each other is vital. Showing love here will go a long way toward pleasing your mate. Smooth over other areas, (the whole body when time allows) before going toward the primary sexual areas.

2. Enjoy -Allow yourself to enjoy your spouse’s body. Focus on enjoying the view and the feeling of the action. Remember you are not only pleasing your mate here; allow yourself the sensations as well. Watch, listen and enjoy your spouse’s pleasure.

3. Don’t rush– Be patient. Wait to begin intercourse until the anticipation has built. Allow both of you to wait for the buildup of anticipation. Media’s portrayal is hype and all about the rush. Everyone likes a quickie sometimes, but the quickie is not what lasting relationships are built on. Let’s face it junk food/fast food does not provide long-term nutrients to our bodies and a quickie does not nourish long term health in our relationships.

4. Focus -Keep your focus on the experience not the mechanics. Intercourse, as with the whole lovemaking experience, is not about performance. Allow yourselves to truly feel and get lost in the experience. Watch, listen to the sounds, allow yourself sounds, and enjoy the movements, the weight of your spouse’s body on yours, the feeling of skin to skin contact.

5. Acceptance– Be ok with things not being perfect. Remember, this is about being together more than anything else. No one’s perfect and no one expects you to be perfect. Just relax & enjoy.

What does our society say sex should be? Does that even matter? What does God say love should be? (I Cor. 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind……) What does God say sex should be? Read Song of Solomon to find out. What do you want it to be? If you are a married couple and/ or believe you are in a long term (forever) relationship, I assume you want your sexual experience to be fulfilling. And I imagine it still is at times, but there can be some issues that do arise that can hinder your relationship in this area. Some minor issues can become major problems if unattended. Many assume it is normal for their sex life to become mundane after many years. I hope to have changed your thoughts on that and possibly bring some fulfillment back into your marriage.

For more help within your relationship please consider talking with a counselor who specializes in this area.

 

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let’s Talk Sex: Foreplay in the 5 Senses

By: Julie Weaver, MA, LPC

Have you talked about sex with your spouse in the last year? How about in the last 5 years? How about foreplay specifically? Is this the elephant in the room for you? How much have you talked with your therapist about these topics? I imagine not at all. Is there a need? Often times there is great need. So……. let’s talk about it. What do you and your spouse define as “foreplay”? Let’s consider pleasuring all five senses.

Taste-

  • Be sure to be prepared with cleanliness, oils etc, if you are hoping to use the sense of taste.
  • Taste, kisses etc. is an area that can be pleasuring for the giver and the receiver.

Smell-

  • This may be obvious, if you smell good, you will be more appealing. Take a shower so that you are clean, shaven, teeth brushed, nice smelling. To be smelled can alone be pleasurable.
  • But there are definitely certain smells that can be an aphrodisiac. Ask your spouse which smells are especially affective for him or her. Use scented candles, air fresheners with those specific scents.

Sight-

  • Men are initially turned on by sight. Gals, what are you showing him? Hint: The lights on creates more pleasure for him. Are you letting him see how your body is responding? Allow your body to move with the feelings you are experiencing. Guys, let your pleasure be known in your facial expressions, sounds and your body movements.
  • The environment: are the lights, bedding the way you both like it?
  • Think of what you are wearing. Remember, the frame makes the painting even more beautiful.

Hearing-

  • Prepare the environment with music, natural sounds or a sound machine to block out distracting sounds and to set the mood.
  • Verbal affirmation is a form of foreplay.  A man will feel more in the mood if he feels you see him as your awesome lover. She will feel more prepared to show and give of her body once she knows it gives you pleasure. Tell her what your eyes love. Be very descriptive. This will also be a self-esteem booster to counteract the media’s message of body image.
  • Allow yourself to make the pleasure sounds that are coming naturally, the sense of hearing will be working to the advantage of both of you. You will be positively affected by freely vocalizing.

Touch-

  • Women are initially turned on by touch, so kisses, caresses and gentle touch at first.
  • The manual (or oral) stimulation should increase in intensity when you see the responses showing preparedness.
  • Men warm up fast and women are slower to warm up but stay warm longer even after a climax. To paraphrase my pastor- “In the area of sex men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots”. So guys, that means you will need to plan to take time to use touch to warm her up. Women, understand that your husband may be ready sooner but that does not mean he won’t enjoy spending time preparing you to be ready.

Ask yourself “who invented sex?” and “who created our bodies?” I hope your answer is God himself. The Biblical book of Song of Solomon talks openly about the sexual relationship. I would encourage you to read it. Remember, God created sex for our marriage, for our pleasure. When given the right circumstances, our bodies will respond as created.

For more help within your relationship please consider talking with a counselor who specializes in this area.

 

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let’s Talk Sex: Obligations vs Initiation

By: Julie Weaver, MA, LPC

We are well aware that sex is something that not all couples talk about and for some, initiation is another one of those sort of taboo discussions, is seems. Is initiation everything? No, but it is nice and makes us feel wanted, right? The feeling of obligation is another topic that not many want to voice out loud to their spouse. This is not a pleasant feeling and I hope to help you change that feeling into a desire for initiation instead.

Husbands and wives both want that same thing. Shocker! I know, right? We each want our spouse to want to be actively involved not out of obligation but in true desire to be physically intimate, to be sexual, sensual and passionate. Let’s be honest though, that is not always the reality, is it? This is where the “I have a headache” comes in. Side issue, did you know that the adrenaline pulsing through your body can actually get rid of that headache at times? Ok, back on track. Let’s talk about some things that would put us in an emotional position to be ready to initiate.

7 Ways to Change from Obligation to Initiation

1. Be emotionally close all day. For women especially we are wired to be interested physically if we feel emotionally close. Some examples of this are:

  • treat each other well
  • share information of your day
  • keep in touch throughout the day when possible
  • Show genuine interest in each other’s day.
  • Listen for the sake of listening only, not to fix it. 

2. Change your approach – Guys, don’t try talking her into it. Instead, try telling her why she is desirable. Complement her. Fill up her emotional tank. Remember we all want to feel desirable. Not as an object, as a person. Watch how you speak to each other and how you speak of each other.

3. Change your perspective – Remember sex is about connection with each other. Gals-It is not a tool to be used as a reward or withheld as a punishment. It is about love and emotion more than the actual physical piece.

4. No pressure or guilt trips. Your pressure for sex will equal obligation in your spouse heart. If your heart is not in it, your body will respond in kind.

5. Lift the load. Women especially, who are tired, depressed or anxious often have difficulty focusing on intimacy. Men on the other hand, seem to be ready whenever and they often would rather give up sleep (or food). Sex can be a stress reducer for them. Women, don’t forget this as it means that you should tell your spouse when you are thinking of it or in the mood. I’m sure, your hubby won’t mind.

6. Communication – Here is the kicker: talk to each other about sex. I do not just mean as a method of foreplay, while that is true too. I am encouraging you to talk about what is working and what is not, likes and dislikes. This is an area that is rare for couples to talk about. Do you talk about it with your spouse? You should. If you want things to go well in this area, you should. Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet, these are some things to keep in mind that will help things go well.

7. Change things up, try new things.The reality is that we all change over time. Our likes and dislikes change at times. The same thing you tried last week will not necessarily work this week. That one fabulous dish you love so much would get boring if you made every day. In a football game you would also not want your team to run the same play game after game. This would not be productive. You will need to go back to the playbook and mix things up, try something new. Try new recipes and find out if you and your spouse like the flavors. Ask what is working.

We each want to be desired. The perspective is just different. Husbands experience emotional closeness because of physical intimacy to their spouse. For women, because we feel close emotionally close we want to be physically close. Initiating is something that men especially equate with sexual desire toward them. Women forget this and often have been taught this is not a lady like behavior. Honestly, there are so many things that can contribute to one spouse not feeling comfortable initiating, these are just a few. Please consider talking with a counselor who specializes in this area for more help within your relationship. I feel all couples should talk about sex, not many do. Sex is God created, God given and for our pleasure! Hmm… What an awesome God we serve!

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Setting Logical Rules, Consequences and Rewards

By: Madelyn Murray LPC-Intern Supervised byMeredith Ivey LPC-S, RPT-S Setting up rules for a child already struggling with authority figures can be really difficult. What can be even more difficult is giving your child a consequence when a rule is not followed. Often times, implementing a consequence leads to even MORE of a meltdown. Here are a few simple tips for keeping a peaceful home and still enforcing healthy rules and boundaries with your child.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Francis, Creative Commons

1. Communicate Expectations This is important as your child reaches new developmental stages and milestones. For instance, the transition between middle school and high school brings a natural change in social activities, responsibilities, and freedom. Make sure you set the expectation before it becomes an issue. For example, communicate curfews expectations prior to your child even asking to go out for a social activity with a simple, “Now that you are 16 and driving, we expect you to be home by 9pm on weeknights and 10:30pm on the weekends. If a special event comes up, we can work out a compromise, but this is our expectation.”  This is the time to communicate what the consequence for the offense would be as well.

2. Offer Logical Consequences Logical consequences are very valuable life lessons. There are some life lessons that are learned by natural consequence, such as, not studying leading to failing the test. Consider offering logical consequences to the broken rule. For instance, your child not cleaning their room by the expected deadline should not lead to taking away a smart phone, iPad, or other device. The consequence should center on getting the room cleaned. The consequence needs to be something that is immediate. In this example, a logical consequence would be no screen time until the room is cleaned, rather than removing the phone for a long period of time.

3. Rewards Positive reinforcement is a great way to build your child’s self-esteem as well as encouraging them on the right path! Set goals together with your child. This bolsters your relationship with them and offers opportunity for their voice to be heard. It also builds trust with your child that you are not wanting to simply punish them, but wanting them to succeed. If your child is struggling with respect, chores, or grades, this is a great way to help them toward their goals. Set realistic goals, give positive reinforcement, and then raise the bar each time the goal is met. Celebrate success with your child and work through the not quite successes. Although these tips may seem more lenient than traditional parenting techniques, they are centered around preserving your relationship with your child, bolstering self-esteem, and building trust with your child.   © Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 Things Therapists Want Their Clients to Understand

1. We care about our clients. Each and every one of you.
There are ethical boundaries (which are there for good reasons) that prevent us from showing you we care in the same way your friends might, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care. We don’t exchange gifts, emails, or texts. We can’t go up and hug you if we see you in public, or for that matter even acknowledge you (unless you acknowledge us first). We can’t send you a birthday card, or Christmas card, but we do care, and we don’t forget you. This just means that when we do think of you we hope that you’re doing well, and possibly say a prayer for you.

2. You are not going to hurt our feelings.
Please be honest with us. We will not be upset if you decide you no longer need counseling, that it’s not working for you right now, or even that we aren’t the right therapist for you. You may feel that contradicts #1, the fact that we care about you. But as mentioned before, we care about you as a client, not a friend. We want what’s best for you and if it’s not counseling, that’s ok. It’s always bitter sweet when it’s time to terminate. Yes, it’s sad we don’t get to see you on a regular basis, but more than that we are happy to see that you have grown and healed. We are happy that you are strong enough to recognize you might need something different for the time being.

3. We are as frustrated with your insurance as you are.
For me at least, money is the worst part of the job. If I could counsel for free I would. Insurance can be extremely frustrating! We know it’s a hassle; it’s a hassle for us too! For us it can be very frustrating knowing that not only are you dealing with whatever it is that you are coming to counseling for, but you have to deal with insurance on top of that. Please know that we try to make it as easy for you as possible.

4. We don’t judge you.
Our job is to listen, not judge, and to earn your trust by keeping things confidential. We have “heard it all”, well pretty much anyway. We know everyone is unique with a different story, but no matter what, we won’t judge you.

5. We often get the question “How long will it take?”
We want you to know that the length and outcome of your counseling is largely up to you. I have told many people that I believe the healthiest people are often in counseling the longest. Why is that? Because healthy people want to be healthier. For example, a man might come in because he is grieving the loss of his mother. Then he realizes his grief has affected his marriage and takes time to work on the marriage. Then he begins to be concerned with helping his children’s grief and he begins to work through parenting a child who is grieving. Each person is different and each issue is unique. You are the one who determines how many issues you bring to the table, how hard you work outside of session, and how honest you are inside of session.

No, it’s not like it is on TV. And we don’t expect you to lay down on the couch.

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Donuts: A Lesson in What You Already Have

One of my very favorite things I learned during my counseling training came from my Filial Therapy class. Dr. Gary Landreth created “Rules of Thumb” for parents when beginning filial therapy. This first “Rule of Thumb” is to focus on the donut not the hole.  Simply put, don’t focus so much on what’s missing from your child that you forget to see what they have going for them.

While Dr. Landreth meant that rule for parents’ working with their children, I think it is applicable to anyone.

When we are sad, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, etc., it is very easy for us to focus on what is missing in our lives. And while it is never bad to set goals or focus on accomplishing them, we can get too focused on what’s missing and forget to see the good.

People wouldn’t look at the donut and wonder why the pastry has a hole in it. During your pursuit of self-discovery and growth, don’t get so wrapped up in what’s missing that you forget to see what you have going for you. Cultivate a habit of gratitude and positivity.  Create a gratitude journal. When feeling overwhelmed, think about what has gone right that day. This is excellent practice in reframing your thoughts. Not only that, but it will also give you the motivation and drive to continue pursuing your goals.

References: Bratton, S., Landreth, G., Kellam, T., & Blackard, S. (2006). Child parent relationship therapy (CPRT) treatment manual: A 10-session filial therapy model for training parents. New York: Routledge.

 

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Feeling Sad? Change the Lightbulbs


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One of my best friends in college switched all her college-issued 60-watt bulbs to environmentally friendly, 100 watt bulbs, bought more lamps and kept her blinds open all day.

Puzzled, my friends and I noticed other changes too; she joined a few clubs off campus, made time for enjoyable activities and made a few other distinct changes in her life because she was sad.  She was suffering with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

At the time, I didn’t understand her, or what she was going through, but the more I listened to her, the more I realized that she was right. The bubbly, energetic person I first met in college was not the same. The harshness of the winter, compounded by the short hours of bleak winter light in Massachusetts was taking its toll.

We were both native Texans, although she had grown up in Austin, where winter is scarce. Being from North Texas, I had experienced more of “real” winter than she had. Although it was different for both of us, we had similar experiences Sadness lasting most of the day nearly every day, low energy, problems sleeping, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating and other symptoms. According the Mayo Clinic and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM IV), these are symptoms that occur for SAD, which is a sub type of Major Depression. A more comprehensive description may be found on the Mayo Clinic website:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20021047

Before you decide you have SAD consider the following:

1.  Think about your personal experiences.
Are you facing one or more major life changes, good or bad? Are there any medical factors that could be contributing to your emotional state?  Is there a family history of depression? There are many factors that should be reviewed before you tag yourself with SAD. A mental health professional is best equipped to review your history and make a determination about what is going on.

2. Don’t try to handle it by yourself.
For me, simple changes to my routine, and yes, changing my light bulbs helped tremendously. For others, including my friend, she needed more than the simple changes.

3. Note the changes in your life.
I applaud my friend for noticing the emotional changes in her life and then seeking the help she needed, which is a very difficult step to take. It takes courage to face the truth about inner sadness. Sometimes putting into words what one is feeling is just as wearisome. The best move toward living a healthier life is to note major changes to behaviors, emotions, thoughts and physical symptoms and then to proceed with getting the right help.

4.  Make a decision to seek help and act on it.
My friend realized that SAD and other life changes were affecting her classwork, her lifestyle and diminishing who she was in general. She made her choice and acted on it.  To know what is best for you, see a counselor who can help you work out a plan that fits your situation and your needs.

(This blog is NOT prescriptive and does not replace what a professional counselor provides. This blog post and other posts found here are general bits of wisdom that should be applied to your life with careful consideration)

References
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

 

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem in 6 Easy Steps

 


Photo Courtesy of Ryan Hyde Creative Commons

It is extremely valuable for your child to develop a healthy self-esteem. Here are 6 steps to helping your child build self-esteem.

    1. Help them be proud of themselves
      If you are constantly seeking to be affirmed by others, you will be let down and discouraged.  Help your child find their self-worth from within.  They can know they have weaknesses as well as strengths and still be proud of who they are.
    1. Quality time
      This is so important for children.  Quality time with parents builds trust and security, a strong foundation for positive self-esteem. Spending 30 minutes of one-on-one time each week with your child allows them to feel loved and important.  During this quality time, as you play with your child, allow him/her to guide the play.
    1. Value their opinion
      Find opportunities for your child to teach you something. Ask them questions such as “How did you do that? Or “What do you think?” Provide opportunities for your child to help and share their feelings. Encourage children to articulate and express their feelings, not stuff their feelings.
    1. Allow them to make choices & decisions when possible
      Don’t do everything for them. Encourage and allow your child to make decisions. Saying “You can decide” creates a feeling of competence. Help your child develop problem-solving and decision-making skills.
    1. Don’t compare them to others 
      Parent each child individually. Be careful what you say or imply. Children listen to what you say and based on your tone they may think words such as “shy” or “quiet” are negative.
    1. Improve your own self-esteem
      Your child is watching you.  You are an example of how they should treat themselves.  Is it an example you want them to follow?

© Compassion Counseling , 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Compassion Counseling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.