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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Connecting Effectively

In Uncategorized on May 14, 2017 at 11:55 am

I have had some opportunities in the past few months to represent myself as an expert. I don’t shy away from these opportunities because out of all the times in life I fall, the one thing I am most confident in is my work. Which is why it is sometimes so difficult to apply what I know to be true and best and effective in my personal life.

Because when I am being clinical, I am not being vulnerable. When I am intuiting and guiding and suggesting and validating and empowering, I am not taking a personal list.

This is why, I think, I can go to the next level in my office. I can empathize as well. I can acknowledge, in words, why some of those suggestions I make to clients might feel impossible. I can speak the “what ifs” before they are fully formed as a question in their heads. And I can taper back the ideas until they feel safer and more possible.

I know my practice did not start this way. But in the years that I have done this, I have learned a second language. It is the self-talk that so many of us do. The disagreement in our own thoughts even as we nod along agreement fact to face. The self doubt shouting in our heads as we speak words of confidence. I had to learn this second language that I myself am fluent in in order to hear clients’ languages. And I had to re-interpret and then develop my own third language that is kinder, friendlier, and absolutely wiser.

I loved putting this together into words with Sarah Fader when I was (fortunate enough to be interviewed by her). We talked about how an anxious person KNOWS that people hat them, but learning why they tell themselves these details, figuring it out in my office, the shame triggers behind it, is on of the biggest life changing self-caring things we can do. Because it nurtures that third language. And then it becomes truth.

Connecting During Therapy

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Why would someone go to therapy?  Because of significant traumas, severe depression, a personality disorder (borderline, bipolar, schizophrenia)?  Or because of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks?  Oftentimes it is not so severe.  Perhaps it is more of a feeling of being stressed and overwhelmed, or a little sad and not sure why.  Maybe it’s grief, or figuring out a big decision, or developing executive functioning skills or digging out the buried self-motivation.  Body image issues.  Low self-esteem.  Feeling like there is nothing to look forward to…

If I asked each of my clients that question, I think I would get that many different answers.  I used to try to simplify those answers under the big umbrella of “to make life better”.  While that may be true, at least on some levels, there are so many other reasons. 

Some may say my (mom, dad, spouse) said it would help me.  Others did a whole lot of research and decided what kind of therapy they wanted (practical, cognitive behavioral therapy usually) and what specific goal they wanted to work on (depression, stress, anxiety, parenting, anger).  I think others would say they have a whole lot going on in their head and don’t want to burden their loved ones with all they deal with, so they use their therapy time to unload (one of my first blogs was titled “Empty Your Head”).  But in today’s consumer-driven world, combined with my own personal impatience, I think most of my clients are looking for some immediate change and success.  And as most of you know, change is not always driven by logic (because if it were, nobody would smoke, overeat or do excessive drugs) but it requires emotion. 

And to really make changes, the kind I can help you make, we need to do emotional work.  It is hard, but it is good.  We figure things out.  “Things” being strategies and insights.  We go deeper.  We figure out even more.  And then change happens.  And life gets better. 

Connecting Without Regrets

In Therapy, Uncategorized on February 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Three years ago I lost someone close to me to cancer. Jenna was my friend of 20 years and also my sister in law. I came back from her funeral and looked at my week ahead. I had more clients that week than ever, and as much as I love (LOVE!) what I do, I got scared. I was turning 40 and my kids were growing up, and my husband and I were basically talking logistics when we saw each other. Life was passing me by. I made a list then, that night, a list of changes that I promised to myself—in honor of Jenna, but also in honor of my family and of myself—that I was going to change. What a process these past three years has been.

Those of you who work, you can relate. Those of you who parent, you can relate. I read the book “I Know How She Does It” by Laura Vanderkam and found that there was reason behind my changes. I became even more determined. I used to think of my day in snapshots. Morning, work, dinner, bedtime. She has me looking at my week, at my life, as not just happening, but as looking the way I want it to look. And the gift I have is the same gift everyone has. Each week we have 168 hours.

Ok, so take away sleep. If you are like me, that number is higher than most. I sleep 8-9 hours a night. I still have 108 hours a week. When I logged my week, all 168 hours, I found some really great things happening, and when I found the parts I didn’t like, I changed them. I like to exercise 6 times a week, so that leaves me with 102 hours. Work is of course a big one, and when you include phone calls, scheduling and consulting time it adds up, but not to the point of filling every hour. I still have close to 60 hours left. Sixty hours! What would you do with 60 hours? Shower, car pool, do some laundry, clean…That still leaves you with 45-50. Time to read, see a friend, walk the dog. Walk the dog with my sons, or with my husband. watch a movie, get a haircut, go out to dinner. I found myself determined to cut back on the computer hours in order to increase my hours elsewhere. Listening to my kids’ days, getting a manicure with a girlfriend, talking and enjoying my family. More reading. What would you do with 40 hours?

It’s not easy. I’m pre-wired with a strong work ethic. When I relax, my mind wonders what I should be doing or what I need to worry about. Reprogramming myself to being there in the moment is something I had on my Jenna list three years ago. It’s still hard. But it has definitely improved.

I took a Healthy Lifestyles Assessment last month. My score was nearly perfect. It amazes me to think of what it would have been three years ago. And I’m not “doing” anything different in this life. Nothing has physically changed. I’m prioritizing my time differently. I need to like my life to enjoy it. And so far, these past three years, no regrets. Mostly.

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 (http://dailynorthshore.com/2015/01/02/resolutions-for-couples/) 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: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ 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. 

Connecting through Change

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Why would someone go to therapy?  Because of significant traumas, severe depression, a personality disorder (borderline, bipolar, schizophrenia)?  Or because of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks?  Perhaps it is more of a feeling of being stressed and overwhelmed, or a little sad and not sure why.  Maybe it’s grief or figuring out a big decision or developing executive functioning skills or digging out the buried self-motivation.  If I asked each of my clients that question, I think I would get that many different answers.  I used to try to simplify those answers under the big umbrella of “to make life better”.  While that may be true, at least on some levels, there are so many other reasons.  Some may say my (mom, dad, spouse) said it would help me.  Others did a whole lot of research and decided what kind of therapy they wanted (practical, cognitive behavioral therapy usually) and what specific goal they wanted to work on (depression, stress, anxiety, anger).  I think others would say they have a whole lot going on in their head and don’t want to burden their loved ones with all they deal with, so they use their therapy time to unload (one of my first blogs was titled “Empty Your Head”).  But in today’s consumer-driven world, combined with my own personal impatience, I think most of my clients are looking for some immediate change and success.  And as most of you know, change is not always driven by logic (because if it were, nobody would smoke, overeat or do drugs) but it requires emotion.  And to really make changes, the kind I can help you make, we need to do emotional work.  It is hard, but it is good.  We figure things out.  “Things” being strategies and insights.  We go deeper.  We figure out even more.  And then change happens.  And life gets better.  

 

Connecting with your Inner Voice

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2014 at 6:58 pm

You know that voice I am talking about. The one that never blames, criticizes and guilts… anyone but yourself. Oftentimes when I talk with clients about their inner voice, tears come immediately. Whether they are fifteen or fifty, they know exactly what I am talking about. Their harsh critic. Their unforgiving words. Their denial of good work. It is that voice that thanks publicly but chastises privately. So many people have this, but so many are unwilling to talk back to it.

I was reading a magazine article about questions we should be asking ourselves. The questions ranged from caring too much about what other people think, to asking am I strong enough, helpful enough, reflective enough, to how do I want to be remembered. While tough questions for most people, these can be torturous for others. Enough is a really tough word, and I admire those who ever feel “enough”.

I joke that a diagnosis in the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) should be “hard on yourself”, because that is what afflicts many. It is said with a smile, but often felt with sadness. If that voice is spending an ordinate amount of time questioning and judging and criticizing yourself, then how can you make better use of your time? There is a difference between quieting that voice and actually confronting it. Can that same energy that is used to listen to that voice now be used to sing your own praises? Can it forgive, and finally say “yes… enough”?

Connecting Bluntly

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

“You’ve gained some weight. Is everything OK?” “I saw your son’s name in the paper for a DUI. How is he doing?” “Your son told mine that his dad has a bad temper. I thought you should know that.” “You lost a lot of weight and look different. How are you?” “I heard you have to sell your house after your husband lost his job. I hope you are doing alright.” “You mentioned treatment and you have been MIA lately. What’s going on? What can I do?”

I could go on and on. These are all the things we think but rarely if ever say. Instead we say, “Hey!!! You look great”; “How are you?”; “Good to see you.” The you look great comment is often our reflexive reaction when we notice different but we don’t always meant great.

What is culturally and socially acceptable to say to people? What is crossing a boundary and privacy line and what is genuine caring? I will admit that in my personal life I ask a lot of questions. It is an integral part of my professional life and my job really defines who I am. I ask because I do care. But I have to always remind myself that questioning people can come off as invasive and nosy. And on the other hand, I find myself feeling let down when friends don’t ask about my recent life event and have to remind myself that they are respecting my privacy; or possibly would feel it would make me uncomfortable to bring up a sad situation.

The clients I see are by and large the nicest, most considerate, loving and caring people to walk this Earth. How do I know? Because each session they tell me their thoughts about others and their desire to reach out, connect, listen, support. But it is impossible that they are the select few. More likely is that we all hesitate. They have the desire, but don’t always follow through. We hesitate to ask, connect, support because we are too concerned with being rejected or seen as invasive.

What we need to remember is that genuine is genuine is genuine. As humans, we can get on board with genuine intentions and love, and if we can remember that, we can say what we mean and then reap the benefits of the consequences.

Connecting with Working Moms

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm

As a therapist, I have to always be conscious of countertransference. Over identifying is a caution we learned about in grad school, and during sessions I make sure to catch myself and keep it in check. Fighting with your spouse? Yep, been there. Concerned about your children? Always. Just plain hard on yourself? Often. The one that really gets me, though, is the working mom guilt. Gratefully, I have been able to keep it clinical and professional in my office. It’s those times when I read the chapter in Sheryl Sandburg’s book Lean In called “The Myth of Having it All” where I find myself nodding and saying “Yes, me too”. I think the last time I did that was when I had a fussy infant and I read Dr. Weissbluth’s (aka the sleep doctor) book.

These working mom books, articles, and blogs are coming up more frequently. My friend just sent me the link to this article in the New York Times, http://nyti.ms/15H4VL8, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In” by Judith Warner. Originally I thought I’d post the article on my Facebook professional page (www.facebook.com/lynnrzakerilcsw) and share it with those interested. But once I read it, there I went, nodding, underlining and thinking about how it pertains to me. I went from working at a school, to working at a school and beginning a private clinical practice, to cutting back at the school and doing school and private practice 50/50, and the past five years I have been full-time private practice. In my vision, that meant part-time therapist and part-time stay-at-home-mom. In reality, it is full time both.

Judith Warner talks about educated, professional women who stay home with their kids and all the “others” that come with that (keeping house, organizing birthday parties and other activities, and planning meals). But she also found that oftentimes these women are so used to being busy and productive that throwing themselves into PTAs and soccer schedules is coming up short on their fulfillment stick.

There is an old quote by Caitlin Flanigan “when a mother works, something is lost” but Judith Warner also found that 75% of Americans agree with the statement that a working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work. I believe this statement. In fact, I believe there is a very short period of quality time needed with your child to have a satisfying quality relationship. I just need to practice what I preach, let go of the working mom guilt, and continue to nod along with these statements.