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Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

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.

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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 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 With Our Children

In Uncategorized on December 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I wish I had a dollar for every time a client said to me that my children are so fortunate to be parented by me. They have benefitted from my practical suggestions themselves and at times even marvel (to my delight!) at my wisdom. I then promptly remind them that when your heart is involved, so much of what I do in my office is out the window. Am I always consistent with my children? Do I never nag? Do I pick my battles and always understand? Am I never, ever, ever passive-aggressive?

Fortunately, in my office, I do not have to come clean with any of those answers. I read with interest “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb this summer because so many of her points and stories were what we consider “good parenting”, but they are never really spelled out the way she did in her article.

In many ways, I believe that providing therapy to your child is a gift- sometimes a luxury- a way to help your child be expressive, deal with worries or sadness or anger, help him/her process situations and better themselves. But are there things we as parents are doing that will destine our children for years on the couch trying to figure out what is wrong?

Consider some of Gottlieb’s points in her article:
• Why do young adult patients feel less amazing then their parents constantly told them they were/are?
• If these young adults describe their parenting as wonderful, is it possible that all the car-pooling, family activities and open communications have been “too much” parenting?
• All parents have wanted their children to be happy- but nowadays, how do we define happiness? Is happiness not enough if we can be happy-er?
• By protecting our children from unhappiness are we making them unhappy adults? Because if these young adults experience typical frustrations or something does not go according to plan, do they become too unhappy? Isn’t experiencing disappointment, failure, poor performance and unfairness a lot easier to handle at six than twenty-six? If we need to expose our immune system to pathogens to develop and respond to attacks, do we need to expose our children to hardships and frustrations to develop resilience?
• Are parents today relying on their children in ways to fulfill their own needs? Are our kids fulfilling a void in our personal lives? Are they our pals? Do we need them and miss them and want them to think of us as their friends? Thereby when we make them happy, are our intentions to make ourselves happy?
• Will all this feel-good we are teaching to our children make them narcissistic and unhappy adults? Will non-competitive sports, stickers for good-tries and constant praise lead to a sense of loss when these things disappear in adult life?

A wonderful mom and colleague once said to me “If I don’t spoil my children, who will? Life is hard enough and I want to make it easier for them”. I appreciate that thought and think she is a wonderful parent. I think she believes that, but only to a point. Always parenting our children completely selflessly, responsibly, safely, and perfectly is impossible. In a world of self-blame for autism, addiction, anxiety, depression and any other way your child may be less then perfect, allow yourself to make mistakes, because you will make mistakes, and know you are doing the best you can.

Connecting Social Skillfully

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 6:30 am

There is no question that those with better social skills have an advantage. How are your social skills? What are social skills exactly? And are they a skill that can be improved? Looking at the literature and books, one would believe so. You can practice, role play and learn how to better communicate, express yourself, deal with feelings, deal with anger, care for others, listen, solve problems, be assertive, follow directions, improve your self-image… The list goes on.

I have run many social skills groups, first in a school setting and now clinically. I have worked with adults who have asbergers, and children who have difficulties with impulse control. People who are shy and people who are angry. As a therapist, it is important to have goals and to help develop strategies to meet these goals. While some issues are more difficult and more challenging than others, I have never failed at helping a client develop better social skills.

In a group, the experience is nothing short of powerful. Helping children and adolescents learn how to interact effectively and positively, assertively and respectfully in a group gives them a whole new confidence individually. Individually, having clients take risks, as small or insignificant as they may seem such as following up via phone on a resume sent, attending a work happy hour, or joining a “meetup” and practicing and using the skills we have worked on is again, powerful.

So what about the article I recently posted on my facebook page (Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW) “Personality Set for Life by 1st Grade” to be published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science? They examined four personality attributes (social skills): Talkativeness, adaptability, impulsiveness and self minimizing behavior and found that those with certain traits in first grade behaved similarly as adults. Are social skills part of our personality, difficult to change? Perhaps. But one of the funniest most outgoing adults I know today was the shyest person I knew as a child. And as a therapist, I am often celebrating positive growth and change I observe in my clients. I am not convinced that we are set for life by 1st grade, and while there may be similarities observed in our adult personality, I still believe that social skills can be taught, practiced, and finally adapted, as a new part of our personality.

Connecting During Change

In Therapy, Uncategorized on May 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

This time of year it seems that everything is changing. Not just the seasons as we look to summer, but the school year ends, there are graduations, there is gardening to do, barbeques to plan, weddings to celebrate. There are also things changing that we don’t plan for or count on. There are diagnoses given, deaths to grieve, good-byes to say. Change is hard…. Change is good. We hear both of these phrases often, and they both ring true.

I recently spoke to some groups of high school seniors about transitions. Defined, it means the passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another. While they are transitioning to college, literally moving from one place to another, they are moving from one state to another in the figurative sense. From being a high-schooler to a college student. Oftentimes, this means from being a child to being an adult.

We transition from one state to another many times in our lives. Sometimes as simply as making a new decision, re-connecting with someone, or strengthening a bond. Other times more significantly. Our role as the baby in the family might have changed when a sibling was born. Our role as student class president ending with a loss, or our identitly of “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” abrubtly ending with a breakup. Similarly, our role as wife or husband expands to become mother or father. Our role as unemployed becomes breadwinner, or as addict becomes sober. Transitions. Changes.

How well do you cope with change? Coping with change is a theme in most therapy sessions and coping skills are invaluable. Oftentimes, it is the fear of the change that immobilizes us and that the change itself is never as awful as the “what ifs” that surrounded it. Shel Silverstein wrote a poem titled “What if”, Marvel comics published several series titled “What If” exploring the road not traveled by some of their heroes, and in the clinical world, the “what ifs” are another word for worries. Silencing the what ifs is challenging for everyone. Embracing and overcoming change is also challenging, but at the same time, you should ask yourself “what if I am successful/happier/more at peace” once the change and transitions become an event of your past.

Enjoy your summer. Enjoy your transition. Enjoy your change.