Connecting by Empowering

In Confidence, Therapy, Uncategorized on September 3, 2015 at 7:44 am

Confirm or Empower. I never considered these two words as opposites before I was the parent of a twelve year old. I grew up a pleaser. I come from generations of them. I can be who you need me to be and you don’t even have to know what you need from me. I can intuit it. I think that is one of the reasons I am a good therapist. I will “get you”. Addiction, self esteem, anger, trauma, guilt, hopelessness… I rarely fail my clients and if they don’t feel understood, I work harder until they do. That is why my twelve year old really threw me for a loop.

Not in the way he is a perfectionist. Believe me, that part I get. Not in the way he doesn’t want to disappoint his teachers or he strives to make his parents proud. I get that too. It is with his peers that he is a whole other kind of animal. When he began styling his hair a certain way several months ago (and when I say “certain”, I mean different. I mean combed to the side in a a self-described “professional businessman” look), I asked him in my most casual way possible “Do other kids in Junior High wear their hair this way?” knowing full well the answer was no. Hs answer surprised me. He said “I’m not like the other kids mom”.

My instinct was to cringe and protect. Being an individual in Junior High? Wasn’t that what I strived NOT to be when I was 12? Wasn’t it a recipe for social outcast or a life of being bullied, or worse… lonely? But I am learning that not conforming is OK when your child is empowered. I empower my clients on a daily basis. Why did it take me longer to figure this out under my own roof?

He is so confident in who he is and what a complex combination of intelligence, sensitivity, athleticism, competitiveness and kindness he is. He thinks swearing is pointless. He thinks bullying anyone is hurtful. He stands up for the bullied despite consequences. He turns down R rated movies claiming they would overwhelm him. He studies for tests and sets his own bedtime. He empowers me every day to do what is right instead of what is “pleasing” or “common” or “accepted by others”. I envy his self esteem. I am proud of him. He knows that being the only one voted the “ stand out student “ all three trimesters by his peers does not necessarily make him the most popular student, but that is because of how popularity is defined at his school. He knows that his happy ending awaits him. His confidence reassures me and amazes me. And I will continue to empower him.

Connecting Lovingly

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Marriage has been on my mind a lot lately. Not only because of the couples I see who work hard to better theirs, but also because I am in one. I learned in college that 50% of marriages end in divorce. I also know that some marriages are far from happy. What makes a marriage good? Enjoyable? Fulfilling? Heidi Stevens wrote an article in the Chicago Tribune in 2014 about Chapman’s Five Love Languages. I even mentioned this in my recent interview for the North Shore Weekend ( as it really resonated with me.

The Five Love Languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. You can find your own love language here: It really helps when you are trying to better your relationship to know what is meaningful to your partner and not to assume that just because one language is meaningful to you that he/she agrees.

Heidi Stevens also wrote about a breakdown of kindness. She talked about how much easier it is to rush in when things are not going well for your partner, but that we also need to be validating and celebratory about the other things. “That’s great” doesn’t cut it; Rather, “Wow! You worked hard for that. I am so proud of you and can’t wait to celebrate” goes a lot further.
But this article also had me thinking back to the languages again. The above example, the words of affirmation, would work for me. Someone else might want a hug or a gift or a dinner.

In my office couples are easily able to identify what hurts their feelings. However, they are rarely able to express what their spouse feels with empathy or take responsibility for their own hurtful actions with out a lot of processing and guidance. Then to work on meeting halfway—that’s a whole lot more work to still feel heard and validated while at the same time to listen and validate their spouse.

I have such good intentions with my husband and my marriage. I wake up each day knowing that quality time with him is crucial. But then emails, calls, work, kids (the list goes on and on) all seem to take precedent. I wrote him a letter as part of a New Years Eve activity. I made promises to him for 2015 and he will get the letter mailed to him in December. I’ll see if I came through on my intentions. Will you come through on yours?

Connecting With Focus

In Uncategorized on October 23, 2014 at 6:52 am

I am my toughest critic.  It took me a lifetime to figure that out, but yet it still doesn’t stop me from continuing to be just that.  I am also quick to recognize self-critics in others, especially in my clients who are often given my own special diagnosis of “hard on yourself”.  I am fortunate because my clients are willing to be reflective with me, and work towards change and practical solutions. 

What about those out there who only add fuel to this inner fire?  I thought about this as I read another article about attachment parenting.  Another article about how parents are fixing everything for their kids so their young adult children are then lacking in coping skills and resiliency and consequently find that anxiety overwhelms them regularly.  Parents are providing so much these days:  Sports, lessons, tutors, electronic games and gadgets, transportation, spontaneous treats and anything else they can provide.  But are they providing quality time?

Ill never forget when, as a new mom, I read that young children only need 10-15 minutes a day of good quality time.  Whew, did I breathe a sigh of relief.  Because whether it’s the walk to school or the tucking in at night, or making time to sit and really talk (and listen!), ten to fifteen minutes was all I could find in my day.  I still strive to find that time.  Because driving them to practices or rushing around with other mundane chores does not build relationships.  But my closed laptop, phone-less, genuine listening, thoughtful guidance and focused attention are what shuts up my inner critic.  And if I can be that person for all my clients, I can certainly find 10-15 minutes a day for my sons. 


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