I feel blessed and grateful with the many clients I work with. I cherish the moment when they begin to feel a sense of safety and trust and their most personal life begins to emerge. But for most, it doesn’t begin at the first meeting or two. As they sit across from me I hear the basics of their family, their childhood, and their friends. I then hear about their co-workers, peers and neighbors. I see the dance happen as they talk about everything except what they really want and need to share. I can feel their pain much before they realize it.
Many of my clients share they feel comfortable with me quickly but the more difficult part is getting the guts to bring it all up - the real story. Most fear if they dredge it all up it’ll never end. They fear they will cry and never be able to stop. They fear the ugly past will rear its head more vicious then before when all they want to do is forget about it. There are so many fears when one considers the choice to open up the past. I understand that and I give my clients as much space as they need – to a point.
At the beginning of therapy with me I hone in on goals. What is it that you, the client, want to accomplish? Some say, “I’m tired of feeling sad all the time”, “I want my out-of-control anger to end”, “I just don’t feel right and not sure why”. The reasons vary why people come to see me. But they walk in my door because they know they need to make a change. They know they have a story to tell. As I tell many of my clients, we all have a story. Every single person we encounter has a story. Please tell me yours.
The stories that many of us live with are often deeply ingrained in our unconscious. We carry that unconscious past around daily, which creates anxiety, depression, resentment, prejudice, anger, hurt and much more. Our stories dictate how we view ourselves, how we view others, and how we perceive life in general. Even though life may seemingly be going well now, our life stories can weigh us down, keep us angry or sad, and prevent us from feeling joy, happiness, or even content.
It isn’t until we open up the past, talk about it, purge it, dig in deep and explore it that we begin to feel some freedom. Living with our past stuck in our unconscious can be life draining. Remaining in that place affects our daily decisions, how we judge others, why we hold on to resentment or jealousy.
In therapy, as you sit across from me, we can discuss your life story, the ugly past. I want you to share it all with me. It’s when we bring the unconscious to the conscious the freedom and change begins. Trust me when I say, you won’t cry forever and you won’t be stuck there by dredging it all up again. Rather, it’s the dredging it all up again that can be freeing.
By default our brain likes to go to the negativity. So together we work on re-writing your story to shift that focus. What statements are you telling yourself? “My parents always told me I was a loser, therefore that must be true and I will never amount to much so why try?” “My uncle abused me so I will never be happy and will always feel depressed.” “I was blindsided at that business meeting, others judged me just as I’ve always been judged in the past.” “My spouse left me for another person therefore I should never trust anyone again.” Statements such as these all relate to your past and present. Using small steady steps we can begin the process of change.
It might be time for you to make a change, make a move, confront the past and search ever so deep for some good that may have come out of it. Change is difficult. And re-writing or retelling your story toward better mental health is more complex than looking for the bright side of our past situations. That’s why we work on this together and recast “I’ll never forgive” or “I’m stuck with who I am,” into a new mold.
It’s probably difficult for you to imagine finding anything positive out of your past but it’s there. Look at your options. You can stay with what you have, and you know how that makes you feel, or you can be open to looking at your life from a different lens. Maybe you can find many benefits from your experiences or maybe only a couple. But what’s important is that you grab any benefit there is from your life experiences and focus on it. When you look at life from a different perspective you will be surprised how much better and empowered you can feel. So, are you ready to tell your story?
Liz Birch is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who provides services in her office in Orange, CA but also has options for home-based psychotherapy. Her areas of expertise are in communications, relationships, marriage strengthening, stress reduction, depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, personal growth, and ptsd (civilian and military). She can be reached via LizBirchTherapist.com, email at LizBirchMFT@gmail.com, or by calling 714-614-0612.
I enjoy music. Music finds its way into my day when I'm working on reports, driving in the car, and at times at the end of my day when I want to slow things down a bit. I think everyone will find music sneaking into their lives. Maybe you have the car radio on, you might hear it via the television or you might be in the grocery store and hear it in the background.
How does music affect your moods? Do you turn to music when you need to calm down or reduce anxiety? Do you put on faster music when you feel like partying or being more active? It's amazing how it controls how we feel.
Music, to many, is a reward. A certain song may trigger a certain memory. That memory may remind us of someone important in our life or a special past event. Just today I was watching a documentary when I heard a song I hadn't heard in years and immediately an image of my mother popped into my head. She used to sing this to me when I was very young. I recall her trying to teach it to me. The connection was “immediate” and then a long flow of memories came back. So you're wondering what the song was? Here's a youtube of it. I think you'll enjoy it.
At times we all get songs stuck in our head. We hear the same song over and over. We makes jokes about it happening. But it also can be very distracting in our lives. The music that gets stuck in our heads is generally just simple verses of a song. Research indicates that these loops of music play over and over when neural circuits get stuck. Sometimes if we just listen to a different song it will break that neural circuit from getting stuck. But sometimes it just creates another loop with a new song.
I found this handy image on Bing images.
See the “Memory of Sound”? That is the area of the brain that works with sound... and music. So when we listen to music our brains begin to change. When the music we are listening too brings us pleasure we begin to release dopamine. Actually the dopamine is released seconds before we experience the peak of pleasure. The brain actually knows what’s coming next. It can predict the pleasure. We like that!
When you are feeling tense, anxious, angry, rushed and you want to slow down try listening to some relaxing music. Something slow and easy. You will notice how it affects you. Turn off the news, hard rock, etc or whatever you feel speeds you up. Sit comfortably or lay down. Listen to some relaxing music. Take the music in, enjoy the notes, control your breathing to a slower pace and when thoughts or words come in just gently push them out and before you know it you'll feel the tension leaving. For that moment in time you should feel some peace and relaxation.
If you need some assistance in slowing down I do progressive relaxation for my clients. Sometimes we just need a session to wind down and relax. We deserve it. In the end, we can take on the next day with a renewed vitality.
Youtube, Chris Pikal, Jan 10, 2009 The Lawrence Welk Show: Mairzy Doats
CNN Health Elizabeth Landau, May 28, 2012 http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/26/health/mental-health/music-brain-science/
Home-Based Psychotherapy: a Fantastic Convenience
How many times have you thought about seeking out the services of a therapist but just can’t seem to fit it in the schedule, or want to keep it more private, thus avoiding going to a “therapist’s office”. Maybe you are feeling too depressed or anxious to even think about getting in the car and making the drive. You’re home with the kids and one of them needs therapy services. You dread getting all the kids in the car for the one who needs the appointment. How would you feel if you had a therapist come to you? You think…. Really? That can happen?
I enjoy being a Home Based Therapist. I feel like I connect with my clients on a very different level... on equal ground. I enjoy the process that takes place outside of the clinical office. I feel privileged entering my clients home, sitting on their sofa or at the kitchen table. I listen as they describe the change(s) they are looking for. With some clients we sit for coffee at a local coffee venue, others it may be a park bench. For teens, home based therapy works very well because we can meet on their turf. For businesses, I provide staff with some relaxation techniques or assistant with relationship issues such as conflict resolution.
Benefits? Nerves seem to dissipate quicker. My clients seem to open up sooner. Less cancellations thus leading to better outcomes. Convenience for my clients.
Home-based therapy has been happening for many years and while it may not be heard of very often, and it may be hard to find, it is available.
The fees for home-based therapists are not that much different from traditional in office therapy. It may be slightly higher to account for the cost of the drive.
Feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed? Seeking out a home-based therapist may be what you need.
Let me know what you think and if you've ever worked with a home based therapist. Comments are welcome.
*photo found on google image search
I'm a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who works with individuals, couples and families. I hope I inspire you to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. You might be surprised what you discover.