November, 2013

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Is Your Relationship Ready for Online Counseling?

Gina Lorenzo

Gina Lorenzo

All couples experience some problems with communication, intimacy, beliefs, personality-conflicts, etc. at one time or another. Are the differences strong enough to create chaos or even the inability to co-exist? There are a few ways to assess whether your relationship needs and is ready for on-line counseling. The underlying initial question is Do I want to continue the relationship?

1. Do both partners agree that the relationship is worth saving?

If one partner has made up their mind to leave the relationship then long term therapy is not the answer although a session with a therapist to close the relationship is worth the investment. If each person wants to continue the relationship then therapy is for you.

2. If each person can admit that the issues in the relationship have not been solvable together, then a third party needs to help.

Arguing, tuning out or just existing in the same house are no way to live together. If the communication problems won’t go away or if the same argument repeats itself then a counselor will help to mend the issues.

3. Can you embrace the fact that accepting a therapist’s help isn’t a sign of weakness but a positive step forward?

Friends and family are a great resource- a good outlet if you need to share problems but they will always give subjective advice no matter what their intentions are. Often times they will be surprised and perhaps judge why you would seek a professional. Keep in mind that their judgments may have deep personal roots and that you are making a positive step. Your decision will only result in a happier partnership.

4. Do you each agree that you are responsible for the problems?

Relationships are a partnership. Placing all blame on the other is counterproductive. Even if a specific event or personality trait is what is leading you to therapy, both participants will need to explore their feelings, behavior, and reaction.

5. Are your expectations for the therapist positive and realistic?

While the therapist will help guide you, explore the origins of your behavior and feelings and give suggestions for better communication, child-rearing, intimacy, etc. it is you that needs to complete the ‘homework’ and take ownership. The therapist cannot ‘fix’ you or your relationship without your participation.

6. Are your expectations for change in the relationship realistic?

Are you ready to accept and adopt changes in behavior? Are you ready to change while (and not wait for) your partner also takes steps forward? Tell your partner that you are willing and hoping to do this for the relationship and agree that this will not be an overnight process.
The advantage to on-line counseling is that you can speak or email a counselor when the time is convenient and complete homework and experience change in a timely way.

Congratulations and enjoy the positive process.

Contact Gina

Take Online Family Therapy or Relationship Counseling for marriage and relationship problems now.

The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology

The Five Ingredients of an Effective Apology

Why our apologies don’t work and how to fix them
Published on November 21, 2013 by Guy Winch, Ph.D. in The Squeaky Wheel

Apologies are important in any society and children are taught to say “I’m sorry” pretty much as soon as they are capable of constructing a full sentence. Unfortunately, our skill level does not improve very much from there. More often than not apologies made by adults are just as insincere and unconvincing as those made by children.

Why are we so bad at apologizing?

Effective Apologies as the Antidote to Guilt

Ask yourself (or someone else) why you (or they) are offering an apology in a given situation and the answer is likely to be, “I’m apologizing because I was wrong/mistaken/at fault,” or “One should/must/is expected to apologize in such situations,” or “It’s the right/mature/responsible thing to do.” And therein lays the problem. Because while such motivations are well and good, none of them reflect what the apology actually aims to achieve.

Consider that if you’re apologizing you must have done something to distress, hurt, offend, disappoint, frustrate, upset, anger, startle, or disrupt another person’s emotional equilibrium in some way. Therefore, the primary goal of your apology should be to ease that person’s emotional burden and garner their authentic forgiveness. As a bonus (and an important one), and only if your apology is effective, your own feelings of guilt or regret will ease.

However, for apologies to be effective, they have to be focused on the other person’s needs and feelings, not your own. This fundamental misunderstanding of who should be the focus of the apology is the reason so many politicians, athletes, and other celebrities sound blatantly insincere when offering them publically, and why so many of our own efforts are ineffective—because we’re not trying to make the other person feel better, we’re trying to make ourselves feel better.

The Keys to Constructing an Effective Apology

Apologies are tools with which we acknowledge violations of social expectations or norms, take responsibility for the impact of our actions on others, ask their forgiveness, and by doing so, repair ruptures in our relationships, restore our social standing, and ease feelings of guilt. This formulation implies that for an apology to be effective it must have the following key ingredients:

1. A clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement.

2. An expression of regret for what happened.

3. An acknowledgment that social norms or expectations were violated.

4. An empathy statement acknowledging the full impact of our actions on the other person.

5. A request for forgiveness.

The most important of these five ingredients and sadly, the one we tend to omit most often, is the empathy statement. In order for the other person to truly forgive us, they need to feel as though we ‘get’ the full implications of our actions on them (read How to Test Your Empathy here). Doing so convincingly is harder than it might seem. Let’s see how you do with the following example:

Setup: You had a horrible day at work, you’re in a terrible mood, you get home late and feel too wiped out and irritable to go to your very good friend’s birthday party. Besides, you figure your presence will only be a downer, so why ruin the event for everyone else? You wake up the next morning flooded with guilt and feel even worse when you realize you didn’t even let them know you weren’t coming.

Apology: What points do you need to cover in order to convey you ‘get’ the full impact of your actions on them?

Make a list of points you would mention before you continue reading. When you’re compiled your list, check key #4 to see how many of the necessary points you identified. Here are the five key ingredients an effective apology should have:

1. I am so incredibly sorry…

2. …I didn’t make it to your birthday party last night.

3. I had a terrible day and was in such a bad mood I just went to bed—but there’s no excuse for not showing up and for not even calling to tell you I wasn’t coming.

4. I can only imagine how (a) upset and (b) hurt, (c) disappointed, and (d) angry you must feel. (e) I know how much work you put into the party. (f) You must have been wondering when I would show up and (g) where I was. (h) I’m sure people asked you where I was and (i) I feel terrible for putting you in such an awkward and embarrassing position. I hope you weren’t worried (j) and that you were able to enjoy yourself but I feel awful that my (k) selfish behavior affected your (l) mood, (m) your night, or (n) the party in any way. I am so sorry I (o) wasn’t there for you as a friend should be and that I (p) wasn’t at your side to celebrate your birthday.

5. I know it might take you a while, but I just hope you’ll be able to forgive me.

Although it might seem intimidating to ‘own up’ to bad behavior so completely, doing so will not only help mend important relationships and ease feelings guilt, but taking responsibility and doing the right thing can feel extremely empowering. That said, be aware that effective apologies and especially empathy statements require practice, so plan for a learning curve.

And if you know any politicians, athletes, or celebrities who screw up or put their foot in their mouths—feel free to give them these five keys—they could probably use them….

For more about repairing relationships check out the chapters on Guilt and Loneliness in, Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries (Hudson Street Press, 2013).

Staying engaged

Ryan’s love [for his girlfriend] was audacious. It was whimsical. It was strategic. Most of all, it was contagious. Watching Ryan lose himself in love reminded me that being “engaged” isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee and puts a ring on his true love’s finger. Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about – full of abandon, whimsy, and in love. I want to be engaged to life and with life.

5 Ways to Stay Engaged Once You’re Married

Lack of sleep linked to higher risk of illness in teenagers

Newly released findings from Bradley Hospital published in the Journal of Sleep Research have found that acute illnesses, such as colds, flu, and gastroenteritis were more common among healthy adolescents who got less sleep at night. Additionally, the regularity of teens’ sleep schedules was found to impact their health. The study, titled “Sleep patterns are associated with common illness in adolescents,” was led by Kathryn Orzech, Ph.D. of the Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory.

Orzech and her team compared three outcomes bSleep disturbanceetween longer and shorter sleepers: number of illness bouts, illness duration, and school absences related to illness. The team found that bouts of illness declined with longer sleep for both male and female high school students. Longer sleep was also generally protective against school absences that students attributed to illness. There were gender differences as well, with males reporting fewer illness bouts than females, even with similar sleep durations.

Orzech’s team analyzed total sleep time in teens for six-day windows both before and after a reported illness and found a trend in the data toward shorter sleep before illness vs. wellness. Due to the difficulty of finding teens whose illnesses were spaced in such a way to be statistically analyzed, Orzech also conducted qualitative analysis, examining individual interview data for two short-sleeping males who reported very different illness profiles. This analysis suggested that more irregular sleep timing across weeknights and weekends (very little sleep during the week and “catching up” on sleep during the weekend), and a preference for scheduling work and social time later in the evening hours can both contribute to differences in illness outcomes, conclusions that are also supported in the broader adolescent sleep literature.

“Some news reaches the general public about the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation, such as the links between less sleep and weight gain,” said Orzech. “However, most of the studies of sleep and health have been done under laboratory conditions that cannot replicate the complexities of life in the real world. Our study looked at rigorously collected sleep and illness data among adolescents who were living their normal lives and going to school across a school term.”

Article continues here…

Mending ruptures in client-therapist relationship during PTSD treatment has positive benefits

Online Counseling ServicesIn order for prolonged exposure therapy, an evidence-based psychotherapy for PTSD, to reach its full potential, any misperceptions or ruptures in trust and communication between therapist and client need fixing, according to a new Case Western Reserve University study.

The study, reported in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology online article, “Patterns of Therapeutic Alliance: Rupture-Repair Episodes in Prolonged Exposure for PTSD,” is among the first to examine how ruptures in the relationship between the therapist and client can damage a patient’s treatment outcome.

An alliance rupture may occur when there is a break in the therapist-client bond. For example, ruptures in the therapeutic relationship may occur when therapeutic progress stalls, negative feelings arise between the therapist and client, or when the work in therapy becomes challenging.

“We want therapists to know that a rupture in the therapeutic relationship isn’t a bad thing, as long as the therapist tends to it,” said Stephanie Keller, one of the study’s researchers and a Case Western Reserve doctoral student in clinical psychology. “However, if the rupture is not repaired, then your patient may not do as well in treatment.”

The research study included 116 people who experienced a traumatic event such as childhood sexual or physical abuse, physical assault, or combat exposure, and had a primary diagnosis of PTSD. Participants engaged in a 10-session treatment program called prolonged exposure (PE) therapy.

To help therapists chart progress and examine the therapeutic relationship, each client assessed his or her own PTSD symptoms and perception of their relationship with the therapist during treatment. This helped researchers to identify those clients who experience no ruptures in the therapeutic relationship (a stable relationship), clients who experienced a rupture that was subsequently repaired, and those with ruptures that went unrepaired.

Article continues here…

We are on the First Page!

first pageProvenTherapy.com is listed on the first page of Google for keyword ‘online counseling services’. The site was on the seventh page since the latest Panda update by Google in May/June 2013. Site traffic went down drastically since. However, with the support of some very active Therapists we could achieve this goal. At the moment the site is showing at position 10 on the first page of Google. We are trying to fine-tune our SEO at the moment in order to improve the site ranking further.

Divorce Elevates Risk for Depression

Divorce is associated with an increased risk of future depressive episodes but only for those who already have a history of depression, according to a new study published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

marriage and relationship problems“Stressful life events like divorce are associated with significant risk for prolonged emotional distress, including clinically-significant depression,” notes psychological scientist and lead researcher David Sbarra of the University of Arizona. “At the same time, we know from considerable research that the experience of divorce is non-random. Some people are much greater risk for experiencing a divorce than other people.”

This led Sbarra and colleagues to wonder: Is it divorce, or the factors leading to divorce — such as marital discord, neuroticism, or hostility — that increase the risk for depression?

To investigate this question, the researchers took advantage of data from the longitudinal, nationally representative Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) study. The researchers matched each participant who had separated or divorced during the study to a continuously married person in the study who had the same propensity to divorce, based on a number of previously identified factors. By comparing participants to their match, the researchers were able to account for the fact that it’s impossible to randomly assign people to divorce or stay married.

In line with previous research, the results showed that divorce had a significant effect on subsequent depression.

But, as Sbarra and colleagues found, the full story was a bit more complex.

Specifically, divorce or separation only increased the likelihood of a later depressive episode for those participants who reported a history of depression. In fact, nearly 60% of adults with a history of depression who divorced during the study experienced a depressive episode at the follow-up assessment.

For all other participants — including those who had a history of depression but hadn’t divorced, and those who divorced but had no history of depression — there was no elevated risk for a future depressive episode. Only about 10% of these people experienced a depressive episode at follow-up.

The magnitude of the difference between the two groups — 60% versus 10% — surprised the researchers.

“These findings are very important because they affirm the basic notion that most people are resilient in the face of divorce and that we do not see severe disorder among people without a history of a past depressive illness,” says Sbarra. “If you’ve never experienced a significant depression in your life and you experience a separation or divorce, your odds for becoming depressed in the future are not that large at all.”

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