Everyone said if 2020 would just end things would all be back to normal. Well, here we are nearly a quarter of the way through 2021 and things are not quite what any of us would consider “normal.” If you live in a blended family, chances are that this past year has been difficult in ways you could have never anticipated. But we cannot go another minute without stopping and saying: “YOU DID IT!” Whatever this last year looked like for you as you juggled working from home, home schooling your kids and/or step kids, navigating who-gets-who when they are quarantined-YOU MADE IT. Well done!
While we are hopeful about this pandemic being officially behind us, it is not quite time to burn those masks and gaiters yet, so let’s talk about a few tips to crossing this pandemic finish line strong as a blended family.
Yes, celebrate. Celebrate your successes this past year. Seriously. Sit down as a family and talk about the things each person accomplished, did well or learned. There is not a person on earth who has not accomplished or learned something during this pandemic. Take this time to go around to each person and ask them to name something that they have learned or accomplished and then ask them to share one thing they noticed another person in the family did well or learned. This will give everyone a sense of feeling included and it also gives the opportunity for all of you to think about the good. When you have overcome something together, it is important to recognize all the hard work it took to get there, and so, take the time; recognize yourself and one another. Then cap the night off with a cake, movie night or s’mores by the fire. Goodness knows you all have earned it.
Empathy is often mistaken for sympathy, or feeling sorry for someone. However true empathy is simple putting yourself in their shoes. When your 15-year-old stepdaughter hardly grunts at you when she comes downstairs, try empathy. Stop for just a moment and think about what this year has been like for HER. She has likely missed friends who are doing virtual school. She misses her mom because her mom was quarantined with COVID, which caused a cancelled visit and now she is not sure when she will get to see her again. Her first official high school dance was cancelled. She must wear a mask all day long at school and is getting “mascne,” and she is self-conscious about it. Now how do you feel? Maybe a little less offended? It is not about making excuses for someone, it is just about taking a minute and thinking how you might feel if you were wearing their shoes for the day. It allows us to be less easily offended, to show more patience and grace. Try it, and I promise you will not regret it.
NOVELTY IS LIFE
The movie “Groundhog Day” really should have been dedicated to this year. It is like we have lived the same day 365 times and that makes anyone feel like they are losing their mind. One final tip to surviving the last months (hopefully!) of this pandemic is to find novelty in the day to day. I am not talking about taking a big trip or buying new things. I am talking about seeing the world, your house, your neighborhood, your town, with a fresh set of eyes. Find that random trail you have thought about going to and go! Take the dogs for a walk…in the RAIN! Take your family to the creek down the road that you pass 100 times a day and see what you see. Bring sticks from the outside inside and let your younger step kids make Lincoln Log style houses. Anything out of the ordinary is extraordinary, especially now. When we experience new or “novel” things, our brains give us a reward in the form of dopamine, a hormone associated with happiness. So, get out there. Do something different. Before long, we will be back to “normal,” and we will all be wondering where the time went.
It seems pretty obvious to have a blog post about why counseling can be helpful on a counselor’s website. But sometimes the most obvious things are most often overlooked and so I wanted to slow down a bit and take a minute and talk about this. We live in a culture today where busyness is prized and intentional self-care is seen as selfish, or at the best, not the noblest use of our time. Self-care can happen in a lot of ways-many we have heard about for years: exercise, eating good, getting good sleep. When is the last time you have seen “counseling” on a list of suggestions for self-care? I can't think of a time either. We go about our lives thinking, “I mean, I’m fine.” People ask us how we are, and we respond, “I’m fine.” We have this internal dialogue of all the reasons we are “fine”…or should be ”fine”…but…there is something lacking. Something missing. We have good, fulfilling-enough lives filled with careers we tolerate well enough, family that gets along well enough (at least others think so), we are healthy enough, have relatively enough stuff…and yet, it just does not seem like enough. And not in the materialistic sense of the word. As in “there has got to be something more to me…to this life…to my marriage…to raising kids…to my career” sort of enough. The longing, the knowledge of something more that is planted inside of us that will not be silenced, no matter how much we have told it to hush and be fine with “fine.” Counseling is the roadmap to more. Even if you are “fine,” these are some reasons to consider counseling, because, afterall, we are meant for more than “fine”:
Nothing is private anymore. I am not taking a position on social media and whether it is good or bad, but I am simply stating a fact-there is little that is personal or private anymore. AND YET, research tells us that people feel more isolated and alone than ever. Why? Because a lot of people know a lot of THINGS about us, but few i people actually know US. Counseling can bring an authentic and genuine relationship to our lives that results in us being fully known and fully accepted. Counseling provides a place and the relationship that is deeply personal, yet objective and highly confidential so that you can talk about things that you do not post on social media. Just because nothing seems private anymore does not mean that we do not have things are very private and personal that we need a safe place to talk about those things and their impact in our lives.
There is no “wrong” reason to go to counseling and it’s up to you the amount of time and money you invest. But ultimately, if we will not first invest in ourselves, how do we invest in the lives of others? There is better than “fine” and I hope you do everything you can to find it. If any of this resonates with you, please contact me or any number of great therapists in the area.
Teletherapy , online therapy, video counseling, are all synonymous with a relatively new way of delivering counseling services using technology. A quick entry into a google search bar will show that video based counseling is by no means a newfangled, untested approach to counseling. While services run the spectrum of everything from intensive live video (like Journey Clinical Services) to text/chat support coaching, it is easy to see that people are interested in accessing mental health care online. This really speaks to the need that people want counseling that is convenient. It simply utilizes technology and brings the counselor into your home or work place, or car, where it is convenient and private for you. Some key things to know about video counseling are:
Other key benefits to video counseling to consider:
It was too much. I thought there had to be a better way. I know there are other people like me. Other people who desperately want counseling for themselves or for a family member, but do not have the time for a 50 minute session, an hour round trip drive, and childcare for their kids while they are there. So often others find they are between a rock and a hard place of knowing counseling could be beneficial, but are simply unable to meet the demands that it requires, along with everything else. With online counseling like Journey Clinical Services, you need a high speed internet connection (wifi or 4g), privacy and 50 minutes. You can have a live, face to face video counseling session from your couch or kitchen table at home while your child naps, or from your office on your smart phone during your lunch break or from your car while your kid is in soccer practice. It makes counseling as convenient as possible. Online counseling aims to fits into your life, rather than asking you to fit your life around counseling.
Online counseling provides a great alternative to in-office counseling and is another avenue that enables us to get the help we need. I see clients who reside anywhere in Alabama, from the convenience of thier work and/or home. I'm happy to answer any question(s) you have about online counseling in general or as it pertains specifically to Journey Clinical Services. I'm here to help.
Truth: For most people who have not tried counseling before, this is often an image that comes to mind. Now it is true, some counselors have leather sofas. I suppose it is up to you if you lie down on it or not. As far as Journey Clinical Services goes, it is completely up to you where you sit, because you will be at your home, or anywhere else you choose. As far as asking or requiring you to share all your dark secrets to a stranger, that is not the objective of counseling at all. The objective of counseling is to work on your goals and to provide a safe and supportive place for you to be able to achieve your goals. It takes time to establish trust and rapport with the counselor. Oftentimes the first few sessions are spent doing just that, the counselor building your trust through seeking to know you and building a foundation of understanding. A counselor knows that trust is absolutely required for a client to have a transformative experience and counseling cannot be truly effective if the client does not have absolute trust in the counselor. Sometimes reaching goals does involve talking about difficult things, but you decide what you are comfortable with and your emotional well-being is being continually assessed. A counselor should NEVER process a difficult issue with you if they do not also have time to ensure you are feeling emotionally safe and stable to leave the session. Everyone has secrets of sorts, and difficult things in life but honestly, they are just not all relevant to your counseling experience. We focus on you and what you want to get out of counseling, and certainly uncover some things in that process, but it is at your pace and comfort level.
Truth: Therapy is for everyone and besides we do not use the word “crazy” anymore, unless you are talking about my child’s hair in the morning. Therapy or counseling, whichever you prefer to call it, is simply healthcare for our minds. No one bats an eye at anyone for getting a physical, going to the doctor for a cold, yet for some reason we still raise an eye brow when we find out someone is in counseling, or we feel weak to admit we probably ought to go ourselves. This is a soapbox I could stand on all day long, but instead I will sit here and write about. Therapy is a useful, clinically proven method of helping us deal with past and current life circumstances in order to live full and content lives. Do we necessarily HAVE to go to therapy to live full and content lives? No. Is it very beneficial sometimes? Absolutely. Counseling is a great way to carve out space for ourselves and the things we want to work on in our own lives. We can spend hours perusing websites on how to work on relationships throughout our lives, or we can invest a handful of hours working directly with a therapist to learn insight to ourselves and new ways of thinking and relating to others to improve our relationships. Counseling is for everyone at different times. If we live long enough, we will experience some stress, some trauma, some way in which our own coping skills have reached their maximum capacity. These are the times we can really benefit from the supportive, unbiased relationship with a counselor and the skills they can introduce.
Living in Alabama, considered part of the “Bible belt” I hear this one a lot. I am a Christian and believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and He alone is capable of saving me and He alone gives purpose and meaning to our lives. And I have been in counseling at different times over the years. This myth saddens me in particular because I think it is at the root of why one person commits suicide every 16 minutes; because it makes people who are already struggling feel like they cannot even seek help because they feel it is further proof of their insufficiencies. Nothing could be further from the truth and we must do everything we can to eradicate this myth from every circle. Does anyone tell a person with cancer they need more faith or should just pray more rather than seek treatment from an oncologist? Does that reflect a lack of faith in God because they choose to seek treatment instead of SOLELY relying on God to heal them? Certainly not. And yet, with mental health issues, people tend to take the stance that if they prayed more, or read the Bible more, all their problems would go away. The need or desire for counseling in no way implies a lack of faith, or a lack of fellowship with God. All throughout the Bible are stories of people who sought counsel from others AND were people who loved the Lord. The reality is because of God, and the way He has designed us, we all have a need for connection and significance. He has made us all for a purpose, which is ultimately to glorify Him. It is the bravest thing someone can do to reach out for help-whatever the thing that ails them-to take a first step toward fighting cancer and getting chemo, or a first step to healthier emotional wellbeing by making a counseling appointment. Acknowledging the need for help displays faith that there is hope-and hope always points Jesus Christ.
Truth: Counseling obviously involves a lot of talking. But there is a lot more to it than that. It depends on the issue at hand, but it can involve concrete education and learning. It involves practical exercises to do at home to continue learning and progress in between sessions. It can involve activities in the session that are designed to get you thinking about things in new ways. It can involve writing and exercises and experiences all designed to help you. It always involves unbiased and non-judgmental listening and dialogue. The focus is always on you. The counselor does not tell you what you want to hear, but rather what will get you to where you want to be. They will know when to challenge you and when you need to be coddled a bit. It is literally their job to know you and how to help you. Friends are fantastic and much needed. To say you do not need a counselor because you have friends is like saying you do not need friends because you have a counselor. You always need friends; and sometimes you need a counselor too. We can benefit from the confidentiality and the unbiased perspective our counselor offers.
Truth: Counselors or therapists do not prescribe medications. You must be an MD or a nurse practitioner to prescribe medications. Anyone with LCSW, LICSW, LPC, LMFT or PhD after their name is not someone who can prescribes medications. I can refer to psychiatrists based on your particular needs and situation.
With the prevalence of divorce being around 40%, it is no surprise that nearly 1 in 5 children are currently living in a blended family. Unfortunately for many of those children living in a blended family, the reality is that second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages with 60-70% of second marriages ending in divorce. Given that, it seems especially important to enter into a second marriage very carefully and thoughtfully for many reasons, but particularly to be a permanently stabilizing force for the children being raised in these blended families. So before you even think about marrying your significant other, and bringing your families together here are a few things to honestly look at before you say, “I DO”:
People who live in blended families have a wonderful opportunity to create something whole in its own right and new out of parts of something that usually came from a loss like from divorce or a death. It is certainly possible to have a thriving blended family, and picking the right partner is the first and one of the most important things to get right. Pick the one you know will hang in there with you through all the challenges, who is someone who puts others first, someone who knows themselves and someone who WANTS to be with you, not someone who NEEDS to be with you-pick that person. And also, become that person yourself. I am here to help with relationship issues, couples counseling and premarital counseling. I am in good company of many excellent counselors in the area, so if you need or want help to ensure you are setting your new marriage up for success, please contact me ([email protected]) or another counselor in your area.
It is estimated that 1 out of 3 people live in a blended family-that is, they are either a stepchild, a stepparent, or have step or half siblings. In most people’s lifetime, approximately half will be part of a blended family whether by inheritance or marriage. Given the prevalence of blended family homes, my hope is that families and individuals will move beyond the survival mode, and look at ways that they can truly rock this blended family thing. Here are some do’s and don’ts to make this blended family life a thing you are truly proud and something you would not trade
If you are looking for a counselor to help navigate the blended family scene, please reach out to me any time. Whether you are about to be part of one, or are already in one, Journey Clinical Services can help no matter your stage or situation